Alexis Ohanian on Setting Boundaries


Five years ago we were having this conversation. And i got some the highest praise of my life Earliest i thought it was because serena told me she's like you work even harder than me and i was like a right. Yeah doing it right. And she was like that was not a compliment. You need to understand you need boundaries. Hello everyone. I'm marie anna housing done and welcome to what i've learned on this episode. Alexis hanan on the difference between prayer and meditation and why we really need to get rid of hostile culture. Pioneer is a word that so over used in the tech world but alexis truly is pioneer and in so many ways in two thousand five. He co founded ready now the third largest web site in the us since then. He's been an investor and venture capitalist and last year he launched a new venture fund call seven seven six named after the year seven hundred seventy six bc the year of the first olympic games because as he says the olympics are the pinnacle of sports and of equity the ideas to bring a new level of empathy and industry knowledge. Not to tech and startups. His been a pioneering voice against hostile culture in the startup world. Saying that our culture of posturing that glorifies working every hour of every day is one of the most toxic and dangerous things in tech right now he also has his own podcast business dad who she explores how shaving dad's manage the work and family lives. She's own family. Including his wife serena williams and they're amazing daughter olympia so alexis all. Thank you so much for doing this. Of course thank you. I just love everything you are doing. I love reading you listening to podcasts. Looking at all the things you are investigating both financially and in terms of your heart and so so let me start with a question. You tweeted recently asking if breyer was it farm of meditation. Then you started googling it and you found that it's actually an contentious question would have thought. So what did you find out. And what side are you on. Okay so i still don't know what side i'm on. It was very interesting even in the replies to my tweet people who had very strong opinions about what the difference was and you know some people talk about the duration. How they believed for really to be meditation it had to be for some prolongs period whereas if you're just doing some good night prayers for thirty seconds or a minute. It doesn't quite count. But the thing that i liked about where that ven diagram overlaps that i found really interesting was a kind of mindfulness and centeredness and focus on really this sort of essence whether it was an absence of or a singular word Mantra that you're repeating or a conversation with a higher power. And what i liked about this and what i've started bringing more than my life. Frankly only when i had a kid was finding time in the day to take moments of appreciation. Both my wife. And i are doing this because we want our daughter to be appreciative. That was the intent from the start. Right let's make sure we're doing prayers before a meal because it's a moment to just say like hey we're grateful for what we have and likewise in the night. When she goes to bed and candidly. It wasn't something i did as a kid. As at our minion it is impossible to have an armenian identity without religion because so much of armenian identity is tied to the armenian church to persecution. So i understood relationship to religion. But i didn't have regular prayer but through olympias is now. It's something that i enjoy doing with her. Not just for the appreciation. But actually for the peace. And i'm trying to now find moments in my own day or i can build routine for me now. It's been in the morning. I walk around the yard here. Usually with a cup of coffee and find a place to just hang out and sit and just listen and absorb a few minutes before the day. really takes off and i don't know it. It's because i'm older. Maybe because i'm a dad now but these are the things that i'm really trying to do just as mindfully as i do. Think about what. I eat and what i drink. I really do believe it actually makes me better at the work i do. It makes me better being husband and a father and especially after this last year. I've been really really grateful for the times that i get to. Just frankly have to myself and to have even a few minutes to take a breath and pause and reflect and meditate or pray or whatever we were gonna end up calling it. I've been saying this loudly for awhile. And i'll say it one more time because i'm on your podcast. This has gotten very in vogue of -ly first silicon valley last couple of years. We've really started to see a lot of folks even building businesses around it and really hyping it up and even vc's like me you're talking about it very actively but you were really one of the. Oh jeez in the space who is talking about this writing books about this building businesses about this kind of mindfulness thoughtfulness in the value of sleep. And all this stuff long before. Silicon valley broke crowd before all of us were were hip to it. So i i applaud you for that as a greek your menia. I'm green so we were brought up. Were cousins and with religion. And god kind of all around us and just on sundays. But my passion always was to find the ash sums. That already josephine. All wisdom tradition. Share the so. I ended up not seven dane studying comparative religion in washroom ram in india that was founded by rabbi drove off that gore. You know the indian poet and this changed my life and in a sense. Everything i've done scenes is about. How do we find that. Santarinas that every religion and whether christianity are judas maurice's lahmar that tower in china then in japan you know. Basically proclaims as the esoteric truth. Which is that. We all have that place in as of wisdom peace and strength and most of the time we're disconnected from by this therefore us to connect when you talk about these moments of stillness these moments we'd take to connect with nature or ourselves are really foundational in terms of how we do the rest of our lives and did you find that this pandemic year made it easier to connect with yourself in that deeper way. I think it did my normal year. I could be traveling to three times a week and with the nature of the work that i do. It's nonstop and i think like a lot of folks being forced to be in one place being forced to really assess where you're spending your time in your focus opened up the opportunity to do it. I also know how lucky i was to be in south florida. We've got a big yard. We've got space so having the ability get some physical space and some time myself made it all happen and then i think the biggest trend that i hear from employees i hear from founders now is because we have obliterated the boundaries between work life and home life and coming out of this now the ways that we're going to change our attitudes and support for parents and we know women have taken on disproportionate share of parenting during this pandemic to be able to get this time for self care for mental health restoration out. We in the united states starts to be more candid. Be more open about these conversations around at the health starts to as business leaders invest in more things for our employees for our team members to support this and really really acknowledge the fact that women carry a disproportionate share of that burden on top of the physical side of it but the mental side of it. Because that's that's real emotional work right worrying about and the stress and anxiety and the everything about the family. The work everything. It carries a heavy toll. And i hope we can get more support. We need to get more support. Because it's it's for the good of society but also i mean our economy. Frankly yeah that's you're so right. That's one of the big changes that's happening now. And that will stay with us past banda. Make the other big change that you were one of the first to speak out about was about hassle culture as you call the hustle. Porn is the first live hassle porn. It's kind of the bragging about how busy we are. And how relentless we are you know you snooze you lose asleep in her bed. I asked john javale to writes those lyrics. Sleep when i'm tired. You're there ahead of the curve pointing that out and how has that changed. And because of the pandemic this speaks to the fact that there's not really been an off switch over the past year. It has been nonstop even weekends. Holidays periods of time. Where we're used to having a bit of a respite there hasn't been and in a way. Think if we've been wrapped up in our careers during this time. We either just didn't even have the time to be bragging on twitter about how busy we were or maybe also we acknowledge the fact that it's really important to not be plugged in. It's really important to get some time to unplug. It always struck me as being disingenuous just because as a founder as an entrepreneur as an investor in founders and entrepreneurs it is a given that one has to work hard in order to be successful at anything. It is a given if you don't think you have to work hard to be successful founders ceo. Then you're not discussing. You're very very misled. So the conversation should be about this made up bragging of just how hard you're working or grinding are pushing it. It should be about. Actually how when you are working working very diligently and very effectively and very hard fine but more importantly when you're not hire refilling that how you refilling that battery. That's why like posting on instagram. About my chickens. I've had investors asked like. Don't you think you should be posting a little bit more seriously about work that you're doing. I've had channel other venture capitalist. This is about four or five years ago. Seda employs of mine like hey. Don't you think alexis should be like posting photos of taking time with his family or looking like he's not working hard that's amazing and it's funny because like if we check the receipts i know i've outperformed all of them but i think the culture is so twisted simply because we've spent a long time being obsessed around the wrong stuff in part because people make their livelihoods on at third lots of great businesses. The make their money making us feel insecure about not working hard enough or not having a nice and of car and having a nice enough yada yada yada and so. The pandemic has shifted a lot of priorities for a lot of folks and and i also think as fist level goes up as more and more people really start to understand what it really takes to build a successful business or be a successful athlete or be as accessible whatever you want to be. What their understanding is the greats. The very best people are all talking about recovery and rest and time away whether provides inspiration or recovery. it's valuable insights. i think it'll be a relic of the past. I lexus. I'm learning so much talking to you today. Hall that thought and pick up with more in just a minute. Sleep is the foundation of every aspect. Our physical and our mental wellbeing. That's always true but in extraordinary times of anxiety and stress. Getting this league we need is more important than ever. Sleep is essential to both a strong immune system and do our mental resilience very things. We need to navigate these uncertain times. That's why we've partnered with audible the sponsor of this podcast to create the audible sleep collection. It's available for free for members and includes bedtime stories. Meditations extended soundscape from nick. Jonas sean diddy combs kiki palmer and more to help you fall asleep. Stay asleep and wake up fully recharged and ready to take on whatever challenges. The day brings you and stay tuned for a preview. One of my favorite audible sleep experiences at the end of this podcast. So alexis you described about people in divinely alarmed that you were showing pictures of you not wear game but being with your family or your chickens it shows you know how prevalent that culture has been and why stick ending so long to change it. Why has been paradoxical this year. Is our relationship technology because in one way it's a lifeline. We wouldn't be able to do anything without it but in another way. It's made us. More slave stood acknowledging. You've talked eloquently about technology being a tool and not a master and cannot hans grey line. That has never been easier to run away from ourselves because they saw much. We can be addicted to in social media and binge-watching. So how has your own relationship with technology changed over this year. I you know. I like a lot of folks. I get that zoom fatigue. At the end of the day started playing background. Music started playing. lo fi. Beats a spotify playlist during my zoom calls just to give a little bit atmosphere and a little bit more of a just like a casual mood to even pitch meetings or office hours and folks who like it. No one's push back on it yet but you know by the end of the day. Yeah it's like let's just let's just camera off can make this a phone call can we. I wanna walk around while. I do this like tenth call of the day inside that. It's incredibly ebeling. Because it's it hasn't a lot of ways allowed us to be way more effective way more productive but for those very reasons that's a lot harder to shut off and and frankly the tools we have right now for remote. Work are bronze age tools because no one made them a priority the story of zoom in this sort of miraculous growth. That world has not seen any innovation in ten fifteen years because it was like an addition. It was like okay if everyone can't make it we'll just dial in and we'll use skype. Google hangouts Zoom but going forward now. We're going have brilliant teams. Who now have had the lived experience doing this fulltime for year. Innovating way better ways to do this kind of work. I mean shamelessly riverside is i. Think an example of that bo. We're gonna see a lot more for better. Collaboration doesn't make us feel as bad as a full day of zoom calls does today. it certainly reevaluated. The way i look at companies building software for remote work. Because i think that's an amazing open space now for for better tools and made me way more aware of my daughter's relationships technology as well. I- uninstalled youtube on her little family ipad. It's a weird cultural baggage but growing up. There were a fun at number of television shows. Which austin is not as good as infinite which is what you to provides however as a parent especially with a three and a half year old i really want full control over her content and the comfort of just knowing okay bubble guppies is on like i can pass out for fifteen minutes and i don't care and i'm fine and i'm like i'm being a good enough. That is fine in the world but if that ipad has youtube on it. I don't feel that way. And i realized that recommendation engine is designed one for human brain inside. I don't like the idea of giving all those dopamine hits to my child's little brain and also somebody's video pop up and i don't feel great about them and i don't know what it is. I think we've accidentally built some really effective tools for entertainment and distraction. I'm just picking on youtube particular but there's a whole nother layer of infrastructure that we've not invested in and then you combine that with everything we saw with school closings and this frankly a reinvention of education. That's happening now. Because everyone had to learn how to teach their kids via zoom this past year or or of hack a- curriculum at home and those tools terrible and noticed respect to the companies that are doing. It's just there wasn't the clear and burning need of millions and millions of people saying please give us better and so that's another area where this sort of children's education slash. Entertainment is due for a major overhaul. I do think there are huge. Upsides technology can provide because it can create a more intimate classroom setting. It can make a teachers life way more efficient because they don't spend a majority of their time building lesson plan or doing work that software can do better. Educators should spend more time doing the pathetic creative work and not the sort of wrote grading or assignment driven work. But we haven't really built those tools out yet and that's another one. That's getting a huge sleep. Thanks to this pandemic frankly. So that's a great summing up of the paradox for the future and building awesome amazing deck tools quietly protecting our essential humanity and protecting those moments of stillness in the morning. One of the things that we are working on zoom wish to do it with riverside to is integrating sixty seconds between zoom meetings to be able to take conscious breaths remember what we are grateful for basically reconnect with ourselves before we go back to the next meeting and you know what i love alexis that this neuroscience that shows that it takes sixty to ninety seconds to car scored act from stress. That makes me feel so optimistic about the possibilities. He doesn't take a twenty minute meditation practice. That's great in itself but during the day this kind of short bursts of disconnecting from the world reconnecting with ourselves are amazing accessible. And we just need to make sure i remember to practice them. Sixty ninety seconds. Yes sixty to ninety seconds sir saying where. My favorite football team loses a match. I should be able to get over it. Sixty to ninety seconds. You should be able to at least get the stress. Carter is out of. you can agree little. Yes i the cartel harmon can be out of your body. And i the same way that you are learning a lot from being a dad and then you bringing it to the world. I bet your are also learning a lot from being married to a an amazing athlete including about recovery and peak performance right of time. Yeah and i'll tell you the best hack that i learned five years ago. We were having this conversation. And i got some the highest praise of my life or at least i thought it was because serena told me she's like you work even harder than me and i was like a right yeah. I'm doing it right. This is amazing. This is the nicest thing you could have ever said demands. She was like that was not a compliment. And and that that's how distorted my worldview us and she said. Now i love that you are hard and you clearly love what you do. And you're great at it and that's awesome but you need to understand you need boundaries. You need to have ways to turn off and unplug or else. You're not going to be your best. You're not going to be the greatest and hearing that from her. I'm like oh okay. Like i need to listen right because an athlete needs to not just be their best mentally but also physically whereas i could show up. I'm not showing up for this thing. Hung over and onto hours asleep. But i could probably get through it well enough but when you're doing work at that level both mentally physically. You can't phone it in. You can't take a date like you're there you're not and then you know it's also the most objective industry there is we make up numbers in business for like our i are as investors or our valuation is founders but in sports wins and losses and rankings and grand slam titles in the open era. The ones that matter but hearing from her this is what it takes. Am i so arrogant. To think i'm the serena williams of business no are you kidding me so i really took this the heart and even to this day. She'll still call me on this stuff and she'll just be like yo unplug. It's going to be fine and so it's one of the things that i still work on to this day but i know it makes me better as a result because she said straight up. It's not a compliment that you work harder than me. It's just not. I love that said. Do you sleep with your phone. Not literally with it. It is my alarm clock so it is bedside but we have pretty strict phone boundaries in the bedroom. So that's another one. That was not an easy move at all. Silex is. I'm going to send you a little phone bed for your phone a little bit and it has a little blanket. You can put your phone under the blanket. You can say good night and reconnect and when olympia guests have first phone She we know that it doesn't sleep with her phone. Jayme in the little bed with daddy and mom is phone has not a punishment cute. I really liked that. It comes in mahogany and in light hood. Where do you prefer Let's go with the rich mahogany okay. Rich mahogany on. Its way you know. I love the way you're describing learning from your wife your daughter including about racial justice address so important to see your reaction during the george floyd killing and their response to me and racial justice reckoning to see you and hear you talk about your responsibility your black daughter as you said as a father. I want to be able to have an answer when she asks me. Why did you do so. Where are you with that now. Well i've really been making all of these business decisions since that through that lens so i was pleasantly surprised and delighted to see a few weeks. After i resigned a read it banned a few thousand eight communities. They created a policy against hate on the platform which was great to see and feel like okay. This is definitely was the right decision. And now what are the things that i can do to make sure that everything i'm building going forward is as intentional as possible. So that when. I have that conversation with her in ten years could right now. She's three and she doesn't know any better. She thinks some great but in ten years she'll be a snarky teenager and she'll have had people her entire life telling her how amazing her mother's total strangers will say. Your mother changed my life for this reason. There was this moment it changed everything. She's done so much for so many people and that's good and i'm very proud and happy that but i'm also very competitive and i'm like all right. Well i need people be telling you about papa to and my goal. There is to do this work now. It's venture capital with seven six to do this work as thoughtful as i can. Because it's something. I'm good at and it's something. I have some unfair advantages in and i think probably the highest leverage way. I could spend the next few decades to empower founders to support founders to build businesses that have far reaching impact that is helping create a better world for her. I can feel like this is really important. I want this to exist and so those the kind of businesses that i would like to invest in and i want to be as thoughtful as we can be about the people we hire. It's a chance to do something where i really feel like. Every little bit of my energy's going into something that i know is going to be proud of. And then the part we haven't launched yet is the seven seven six dot org when some liquidity happens from it. We're going to have money coming from that. Actually go to a nonprofits in the form of grants. I already pledged the first million to capture knicks organization. But i actually wanna take what we do at seven seven six for founders of four profit companies which is provide guidance and software and resources to help them build billion dollar businesses and provide that to founders of nonprofits who are sort of software or technologically minded right. And i've gotten to know nonprofits like wasi new story. these are amazing nonprofits. They're very much technology i. They're having big impact on global health or housing. In those two cases and i want to fund more of and that's what i want the legacy of seven seven six dot to be and i want them to have the same resources that we give our for profit companies as well. This is a ten year fifteen year plan to impress my daughter. And we're were early into it. But i'm really proud of the team. We built so far. I'm proud of some of the investments. We made this is going to be my life's work. So i'm i'm grateful to be able to do it. Well i'm grateful to for everything you're doing and Thrilled to be an investor in seven seven six and watch and not just the amazing investments but they incredible fish both for profit and not for profit. That is the key. You not thrive we talk about how giving is part of self care. We tend to separate the two but in fact when we give when we're part of something larger than ourselves it has such a huge impact on our side alexis. Thank you for everything. You are really living out the by on your website about being acknowledging deborah narrate investor who wants to be known for making this world. Better much matter. I would just add their word pretty chair. You are also preacher. South please cape breaching thank you have cut. He's still. I'm gonna have to do some good preaching with that. I love the. I've not been assigned that title yet but i will take it because i'm trying to build the movement harrison. Thank you for all the support. I'd like to leave you who the micra step inspired by our conversation about recovery and how each chasta's necessary for us non athletes as it is for athletes. Neuroscience tells us that we can cause scratch from stress in just sixty to ninety seconds. So after your next meeting or after you've been engaged in some focused work set aside just a minute to focus on the rising and falling of your breath this can lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol and allow you to reset and recover and be ready for your next meeting or whatever challenges you have waiting for you during your day. Thank you so much for being with us today us next time on whatever learned we all need had sometimes saying by the day and allowing ourselves to drift off to sleep. That's why thrive blah global teamed up with audubon to create the audible sleep collection a series of guided meditations and stories from nick jonas shaun d calms and many others including kiki palmer. Who are about to hear from now. The stories have now beginning middle orion. So you won't stay up to hear what happens next. In a bedtime story called the story of the ojibway dream catcher geeky shares the oj boys story of the dream catcher and how its message of our connection to the natural well is still present with us today. Hello tonight i'm going to share with you. The story of the agip way dream catcher. But before i begin take a moment to unwind and get comfortable. Close your eyes and slowly. Take a few deep breaths with each exhale. Let the trials of the day fade away. Continue inhaling and exhaling until you feel completely relaxed when an ojibway baby is born a gift that is traditional in many families and communities is a dream catcher intricate web within a circle that is placed near where the baby will sleep. Train catches have their origin with the ojibway. A large tribal group of extended families and clans who live in northern woodland's ab- boreal homeland above and below the border between united states and canada. If you're not a sleep yet and want to hear the sleep tracking its entirety goto audible dot com slash thrive to start your free trial tonight.

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