TIP 009 | Be Flexible

Welcome to Influencers!

We have Jason on the podcast today. For those of you who were paying attention in last week’s episode, there were a few critical hints. He grew up in Coral Springs, Florida and he stumbled into what he loves doing through blogging before the word blog existed. And as a hint, if you are a close watcher of the magazine rack, you would’ve noticed a major visual change on the cover of a particular magazine in the last couple of months and you might have a sense of where he works.

Then, the second interview is anonymous. If you can figure out who it is before we reveal it in the following podcast, you could win a coveted invitation to the Influencer Salon.

Listen To The Podcast Here:

Be Flexible And Have A Goal with Jason Feifer

Welcome back listeners. I’m so excited to have one of my favorite people, Jason, with us today. Jason, through some random series of events, actually led to a huge amount of my success and status in life. Before we get into any of that, Jason, please give us your full name, company, title. Introduce yourself.

The big reveal. My name is Jason Feifer. I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. I have written for the rounds on national magazines: New York Magazine, GQ, and Popular Mechanics. I worked in Men’s Health and Fast Company and Maxim. Boston Magazine was where I got my magazine start. I am probably best known to a random segment of the internet community as the guy who created Selfies at Funerals, which was a 2013 Tumblr, one of the most viral Tumblrs of the year, Tumblr told me, for whatever that accolade is worth. It was really, really cool to see the cultural resonance of that. It showed up in a Weird Al song. It was talked about in Good Morning America. It was really, really funny that kind of wacky stuff you could stir up in the internet. I’m also the host of a podcast called Pessimists Archive. It is a history of unfounded fears of technology.

When people discover what you’ve accomplished, what’s the most common question they have?

That depends on whether or not they are in media or not. If I’m talking to journalism students, they’ll have a lot of questions about how I got there and what I did. People outside of that generally fall into two categories. One is that people don’t understand how the media works, so often they don’t really understand what an Editor-in-Chief is. They know it’s the top job but they don’t really know what it means or does. That’s about that. It’s really fascinating actually to be in a position to explain my entire industry. I feel a responsibility to do that because the media is so misunderstood, particularly in today’s cultural climate. There’s that. The other thing is that people expect me to be an instant thought leader on entrepreneurism, which I guess I am by dent of my job and profession here. Though that’s, to be totally honest about it, something that I’ve had to adjust into that role because my background is in journalism. I take over this magazine and I think of myself as a journalist who’s going to use all of the skills and knowledge that he has picked up to make this a better magazine. In addition, I’m in this amazing totally cherished role that I cherish to be a speaker for a community. That’s very, very cool but it’s such a different experience from what I’d ever done before. It’s been a big, big learning experience over the past couple of months.

For the listeners who don’t know what an Editor-in-Chief does, do you want to give a description so they can get a sense of it?

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Be Flexible: The Editor-in-Chief is the person whose job it is to shape every part of a magazine brand.

Every publication functions a little different but generally speaking the Editor-in-Chief is the person whose job it is to shape every part of a magazine brand. I am from front to back on the magazine, not just thinking about what goes on in there and the structure of the magazine. I totally cleared out the old structure of the magazine when I took over and I brought in a new direction, new kinds of stories, new writers, and a new cover look, all that stuff. Then very critically, it’s also just the direction of the brand in total. You create the personality almost for the brand. I’ll give you an example of what that sounds like over here. When I took over Entrepreneur magazine in September, the magazine which is about 40 something years old, had been a magazine for small business people because the word entrepreneur meant small business person. That’s just for decades what it meant. You really didn’t use that word unless you were a small business person. That’s just not true anymore. When I take over this magazine in a time in which the word entrepreneur has become a really strong cultural identifier. People use the word entrepreneur as a badge of honor. Anybody who makes things happen for themselves, anyone who’s a hustler and takes risks and puts themselves out there, calls themselves an entrepreneur now. We needed to really think differently about what this magazine is and who it speaks to.

I got rid of all of the nitty gritty service that used to be in the magazine for small business people, your tax tips and so on and so forth. I thought hard about what is the thing that all entrepreneurs across the entire spectrum of people who identify as entrepreneurs, what do they all have in common? I ran this by lots of entrepreneurs and so far everybody agrees, which I’m gratified and relieved about, the answer is the experience of entrepreneurism. It’s that risk-taking and that feeling lonely and crazy at times and that sense of problem-solving and throwing yourself to the fire and all that stuff. No matter where you are, whether you’re just a kid making money on Instagram and calling yourself an entrepreneur or you’re running a heavily venture-backed company, you’ll experience the same things. They’re important to talk about. They’re a never-ending source of great stories and inspiration. That’s where I’ve steered the magazine. It’s so far been a really awesome experience. The response has been really supportive.

The common experience that I have with everybody, anything from a side hustle to trying to do something new with their office, is that throughout the day, I feel like a total and utter failure. A massive success that’s untouchable and then a complete disappointment to everybody I interact with. Everybody wants a piece of me for something I don’t even know what. It’s confusing and wonderful and terrible and awful experience all at the same time.

The crazy thing is, the experience just doesn’t change no matter what size company you’re running, what success you’ve had, everybody goes through that. It’s very cool from my perspective to be able to sit down with people along all parts of that spectrum and have that conversation. The great thing about people who identify as entrepreneurs is that they’re all really open about this because they all understand in some way that they’re having a shared experience and that that shared experience is made better by sharing it. You can sit down with people who are running giant companies. As long as they’re not so media-polished that they won’t be human with you, which is frustrating and I don’t really like having those kinds of conversations, but everybody else, everybody who’s willing to be human will acknowledge these really tough times and feeling crazy. You can have the greatest success in the world but still feel like you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. That’s awesome. Everybody should feel a little off-balance. It makes you work harder.

To get back to your career side of things, there are a lot of people who want to get into journalism writing. You hold a very prestigious position in the publishing world at a really young age. What are three tips you would give people who want to succeed in your industry, especially today when things are changing so rapidly?

TIP 009 | Be Flexible

Be Flexible: You can’t pick one spot on the map and then just spend your entire time trying to get there.

The change thing is really so important because you can’t pick one spot on the map and then just spend your entire time trying to get there. I really strongly advice against that. I know that people will do that and can be successful at it. Congrats to them if you can, but this is a really rapidly changing landscape. You need to be really, really flexible. I’ll tell you what that means. I’ll give you some background and maybe we can start numbering the tips as we go because the thing is, it all melds into one big takeaway. Here it is for me. I had a lot of goals as I developed my career, both in terms of the places that I wanted to work and the kinds of work that I wanted to do. I continue to discover that trying to get to that one spot would be way too limiting. For example, I started out in newspapers and I imagined that I would want to be a newspaper columnist. If I had just hung on to that, I would have turned down the opportunity to go work at Boston Magazine. Boston Magazine taught me how to think like a magazine editor and write like a magazine editor. Magazine writing is totally different from newspaper writing. Because of that, I got a job at Men’s Health. Men’s Health taught me packaging, which is a specific kind of magazine editing.

Ultimately, I stopped thinking about the destination and I started thinking about skill sets. What skill set can I pick up in each job? I really strongly recommend thinking like that because what you’ll end up doing is seeing the value in working at places and doing things that you may not have envisioned you doing but those skills that you pick up are transferrable wherever you go. I find that I rely on skills that I learned in my community newspaper days. I hated working at those newspapers but I am so thankful that I did because I write faster than a lot of my peers, I find sources faster than a lot of my peers. That’s not because I’m some special guy. It’s because I had daily newspaper editing experience and I’m working with a lot of people who only worked in monthly magazines. Picking up different skill sets just matters so much.

Another thing that is really important to think about regardless of whether or not you’re going into media or not is to hold two different, completely competing, ideas in your head about where you want to go. Every job that I have, I can’t remember when I started doing this but it’s been a long time, I always have an idea of what could come next, like a specific goal of what I could do next. Also, I am entirely okay with that not working out. Years ago, I was working towards becoming an Editor-in-Chief at a magazine. I really wanted that. That was a goal. I was also thinking if that doesn’t work out, the skill sets that I’m developing can lead me to other awesome things. In fact, the last job that I had prior to Entrepreneur was Maxim. When I left Maxim, I thought, “That’s my last print job. I’m done. I feel like I don’t need the Editor-in-Chief thing. I have all these awesome other ideas that I want to do. I want to write books. I want to start podcasts. I want to be a freelance features writer. I’m just going to do them all and it’s going to be awesome.” Then the Entrepreneur thing came along and I was, “All that’s on hold. I’m going to pursue another print job and I’m going to become Editor-in-Chief.”

Now, in five, eight, ten years, I don’t know how long I’m going to hold this job, I’ll hopefully hold it for a while because I really like it, but I’m thinking maybe the next thing I’ll do is I’ll become a professional speaker and I’ll launch podcasts and I’ll write books. At the same time, I’m thinking that may not happen, something else may happen. Anyway, the idea is just be really flexible but at the same time, have a goal. Have a goal but don’t be married to it.

A way to describe it might be you can be committed without being attached. Move towards a specific thing but not have the emotional ups and downs if that’s not where you end up.

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Be Flexible: You just have to figure out what deep down is the thing that you love, the singular thing.

That’s a really great way to say it. Think about the wider roadmap. I love the way that you said that. What drives that is that you just have to figure out what deep down is the thing that you love, the singular thing. The thing isn’t going to be like working at a particular job or doing the particular kind of thing. To me, the thing that I found that I love is storytelling. I love telling a story. That story can be in an individual article, it can be the story of entrepreneurship, which is what I feel like I’m telling through the magazine as a whole. That’s what I love. Once I figured that out, I can do so many different things with that.

What are the pitfalls that nobody talks about or that people are completely unaware of?

One of the harshest lessons you learn in media, and I’m sure that this applies elsewhere as well but media is what I know, is you forget the power of your own voice and you forget that your voice is louder than other people’s and that you can damage people unnecessarily or unintentionally. I learned this in college. I went to Clark University in Western Massachusetts. I had to take, as every student had to take there, what was called a language perspective which was a one semester of language. I hated having to do that because I just felt it was ridiculous. In one semester, you’re not going to learn a language so why are you making me take this? I did Spanish. I was frustrated. At the time, I was running the student magazine. It was a news and satire magazine. While still in the class, again this is a dumb college kid, I wrote this piece, it was called No Habla the Goddamn Español.

I was trying to rant against the perspective, the qualification for the school, but what it ended up doing is basically coming off as me making fun of this teacher the whole time. She was crying in class. She made me try to apologize to her only in Spanish which didn’t go well. For a long time, people were coming up to me on campus, “You’re the jerk who made my teacher cry.” That’s not what I wanted to do but that is what I did because I didn’t understand the power of my voice. I didn’t understand how carefully I needed to use that voice. Anyway, I wrote an apology and I had it photocopied 2,000 times and I had it distributed in every mailbox on campus. That seemed to calm things down. I learned an important lesson that you still have to relearn over and over again when you’re in media, which is that you have a bullhorn that other people don’t. You need to really use it responsibly.

TIP 009 | Be Flexible

Be Flexible: You have a bullhorn that other people don’t. You need to really use it responsibly.

I did some research on the history of that quote that’s ascribed to Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It turns out that it wasn’t made up by that. It wasn’t made up by Stan Lee. People thought it was a war hero. It’s actually a commentary on the press from the 1800 or 1700, that it is the responsibility of the press to inform and educate responsibly. That is the power.

I did not know that. That’s so true. It’s just really, really incumbent upon people who have any kind of voice to use it responsibly.

What’s something completely unexpected about reaching this level or status in the industry, being an Editor-in-Chief of a major magazine?

There’s quite a lot that’s unexpected, from the trivial to the significant. From the trivial; the minute that you’re named Editor-in-Chief, a billion random people start friending you on Facebook. That was so weird.

That happened to me when my book came out. I still get these messages that are super awkward and flattering. One guy sent over a picture, he tattooed my logo on his wrist. It was awesome. Because I wrote a book about living an adventurer’s life and this guy totally embraced it. His tattoo looks nicer than my version of it.

Your version of what? You have the tattoo as well?

Yeah, of a clock that points to 2 AM on my wrist. It’s the unexpected stuff that totally catches you off-guard that you would never even think would happen.

Yeah, it’s really, really weird. I was like, “Should I accept all the Facebook friend requests?” These people will click on the links when I post Entrepreneur stuff. That’s valuable. But then it’s like, “You got access to all my photos of my friends.” It seems weird. I don’t know what to do with it.

The secret is you turn your profile into followable so that people can follow you, and then when you say no, they turn into followers.

What do you mean? Like automatically if you decline they’ll become a follower?

If you have the follow option active then you can start building a following on there. They’ll get your public posts, but they won’t get your private ones.

I’m going to do that. That’s the tip of the day. Another thing that’s just been really fun and strange to adjust to is that people treat me with a level of importance that I have not myself necessarily ingested. You just think of yourself as this idiot who managed to stumble their way upwards. I was at an Entrepreneur Magazine conference a few months ago and somebody Facebook Lived the adventure of walking across the room to give me their business card. It was so cool. I’m going to say this only because of the ease of the metaphor, not for the ridiculous flattery of this word that I’m about to use, but it’s like when somebody became king or queen, they just inhabited a role, they inhabited a title. The respect that people show them is really just a respect to the title. It’s a strange and awesome privilege to be able to step into the little box that everybody looks at. You have to realize, at least I keep reminding myself, people are really excited to talk to me because I’m the Editor-in-Chief of this magazine that they love but they may not know me. I want them to get to know me and I do everything I can to serve that role and to serve it well and to make sure that when people interact with me they come away satisfied. It’s strange to suddenly walk into it and then the next day everybody treats you like you’re some cool guy.

I don’t have a title like yours or anything, but people stop me on the street sometimes and they’re like, “I’m a huge fan.” I’m like, “Am I being punked?” I’m pretty sure my friends are around the corner and I’m being videotaped right now because this doesn’t happen to me. In our day-to-day life, the changes are so incremental that we lose track of the progression of our career and the knowledge that we’ve gained and the experience and the achievement. When somebody’s young and starting out and they’re 23 and they’re entering media, what you’ve accomplished is so mindboggling to them that they’re in awe.

Once you go through it, it feels totally different. I have never celebrated a new job, or for that matter getting a piece into a big publication. I imagined when I was a little community newspaper reporter, I would think of myself, “Years down the line, I would get my first magazine job in New York and I would get it and I would just start running through the streets screaming.” But you don’t because it just feels incremental. It feels ridiculous to celebrate going from step seventeen to step eighteen. I don’t feel like I ever made a giant leap.

TIP 009 | Be Flexible

Be Flexible: It just feels incremental. It feels ridiculous to celebrate going from step seventeen to step eighteen.

To put some perspective, earlier listeners, I mentioned that Jason indirectly changed my life. The story goes that Jason had attended an Influencers dinner back when you were working at Fast Company. I’m super happy to have him there. When I invite people to the dinner, there are no ulterior motives. It’s not like I had some big mission to get into Fast Company or anything like that. I wasn’t. Jason told his wife about the dinner and she’s a journalist as well and said, “This could be a really interesting story for the New York Times.” I said, “No, I don’t think so. I’m really not looking for media.” Then she said, “I spoke to some editors, they’re interested.” I’ve never met her before. I hosted her at the dinner. All the people who attended knew that one of the guests was a journalist. She ended up writing a piece. As a by-product of that, it seemed that overnight all of New York knew who I was.

There was a big photo of your dinner table on the Sunday Styles or whatever it was.

It never occurred to me because I didn’t understand the power of the press at the time. I’d never looked for an article. I never celebrated that until about three weeks ago I finally had a plaque made of that issue. It’s up on my wall now.

The further backstory to that, which you’re not aware of based on the way you told that story, is that, I cannot remember who it was, I think somebody who had been to one of your dinners previously had told Jen, my wife, about them. She was like, “That would make a great Styles story. I have to figure out how to get over there.” Two days later, I got an invite to your dinner. It was completely coincidental. It was really funny because I was like, “Guess where I’m going?” She was like, “Go and now you’ll be able to tell me what it’s really like and what it’s all about. Then I’ll be able to pitch it to the Times.” I actually went into that dinner already thinking this could be a Times story because of this bizarre coincidence. I don’t think that I talked to you or I mentioned it to you briefly, but that was because Jen had already, just based on hearing it through the grapevine and thought that there was a story there.

We’re going to go a little rapid fire now. Is there a certain book or books that have influenced you the most?

Books by Dave Eggers. I read everything of his from college and afterwards. His writing style just amazed me. It inspired me to work really hard to become a better writer.

Is there a quote that inspires you a lot?

I’m not really much of a quote guy, but lately at this magazine, because I really want to absorb the way that really smart entrepreneurs think every time I see somebody say something in my magazine, which is really cool. I’ll send a reporter out to meet with somebody awesome and then they’ll come back with this whole interview. Recently, I read a story that I was editing in which Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and a venture capitalist, said that, “Entrepreneurs should live in ‘permanent beta.’” Which is to say, you should never think of yourself as a finished product, you are always constantly reinventing. Permanent beta. I saw that and literally, I took a piece of paper on my desk and I wrote “Permanent beta” and I taped it to my wall.

That’s absolutely true. I believe in constantly iterating or being in a constant state of iteration. Who’s your hero?

I don’t think in terms of heroes. The lame answer is my parents because they raised me excellently and now they’re amazing grandparents and all that. That’s what everybody says. Over the course of my career, I would find people who I didn’t know all that well and I would follow their careers because I wanted to understand the trajectory. I wanted to see how they went from this thing to that thing. They would be random freelancers who I would never meet or even interact with. Just investing in someone else’s career and seeing how people grow inspires you to try to do the same. My hero is lots of small people who I’ve never met. It’s a weird answer.

You get a random email in your inbox for somebody to meet you for coffee. What is it that they said that would have you say yes?

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Be Flexible: If you reach me on a human level, I’m a lot more open.

I do almost arbitrarily say yes to meetings. I say no to most meetings. In an interview I did with the guy who started Dogfish, amazing beer, I interviewed him for GQ about how he was productive and one of his tips, which you’ll get from a lot of other people, was just say no to most things. You can’t say yes to everything. I do say yes randomly. What do people do? I’ll tell you what they do, they just charm the pants off of me. They write an email that is so human and interesting and they’ve clearly spent some time getting to know my work and they therefore have a sense of me and therefore they have a sense of why I would like them. If they’re just really, really human and I feel like I could learn something just by sitting down with them for half an hour, I’ll say yes. I’ll say no to the opposite, which is some formal business-y letter or some publicist reaching out saying, “Will you have coffee with my client?” I always say no to those things. If you reach me on a human level, I’m a lot more open.

On that note then, is there a non-profit organization that you’re really passionate about or have some commitment for?

I give to a lot of organizations but I don’t give to one more than any other, to be honest. I’m just a regular NPR donor, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood.This is something that people who are really passionate about causes should do, is convey that passion to the people who are close to them. Joe Keohane is the Executive Editor of Entrepreneur and I’ve known him for many years. He has gotten involved in this school in Brooklyn called SLP. He’s really, really involved in it. It’s an awesome school that teaches underprivileged kids and sends them off to college with an excellent graduation rate. He is so passionate about this and he draws you into their events. He does running those fundraiser things. It’s amazing to me that this school that I’d previously never heard of, I’ve now given a large amount of money to because somebody who I trust is really passionate about it and keeps announcing that. For people who have that one cause, share it and share it and share it. You’ll find that it can be other people’s causes too.

Earlier we talked about how entrepreneurs that are very human end up telling this tale, “I feel terrible here. I have anxiety.” There’s all this very human characteristics that they deal with. What’s something very human, a secret that you’d feel comfortable sharing on the podcast?

This is something that I think is important for everybody to acknowledge, which is that they don’t feel that they entirely know what the hell they’re doing. Even though it sounds like a harmful statement like, “Hello. You have given me control over this large brand that people love. I don’t know what I’m doing.” I don’t, and I think that that’s good because if I felt like I knew what I was doing, I would come in and I would do one thing and I would never change it. If it was the wrong thing, then we’re all going to sink into the ocean. Instead, I want to come into this and say, “I get it. I feel like I really understand the audience and I feel like an entrepreneur myself. I’ve taken a very entrepreneurial approach to my own work and my own career. Do I know exactly what entrepreneurs are going to want out of this magazine and brand now and in the future? I don’t. I wish I did. I don’t.” That forces me to talk to everybody and to learn from people and to feel influence-able where you can sit down with me and convince me of something and I’ll make a change because of it. I’m really, really open about that and I want to hear what people think. I want to never think of myself as the smartest person in the room. I don’t know if that qualifies but it’s a really important thing to say.

Last two questions, super rapid fire. If you could be a comic book hero, who would you be?

Silver Surfer. I subscribed to the Silver Surfer when I was a kid. You know what I loved about Silver Surfer? He was always trying to figure himself out. He was not totally clear on his background because his memory had been wiped and he was able to go between worlds. He could pop down on Earth and he could go check out something else and then he’d go on some important task. I just loved him because he was on this constant quest for everything, for himself, for other people. He also gets to ride a flying surfboard.

If you could meet any three people and have dinner with them, they must be living, who would they be?

I’m going to tell you a dead person because I can’t come up with a live person, Emperor Joshua Norton. In the mid-1800s in San Francisco, he was a businessman, he lost all of his money and he disappeared for a little period of time and then he walked into a San Francisco newspaper and he handed them a slip of paper declaring himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. They ran that and for about twenty something years, he just acted like the Emperor and people treated him like the Emperor. He was basically a homeless person but he dressed up like the Emperor. He was given free food and free drink and he was invited to city events. He lived like the Emperor. I love the self-proclamation turned real in some way. I would love, love, love to sit down and understand that guy.

I am in awe of this human being and kind of jealous.

I tried to write a book about him. There are just not enough surviving materials to create lovely scenes. But there are a lot of material out there. He wrote a lot of proclamations. He’s a fascinating character.

Jason, this was an absolute treat to host you. Thank you so much for coming on.

Thanks, Jon. I really appreciate it.

For everybody who wants to discover more about you, obviously they should be subscribed to your magazine. Besides that, where can they get a hold of you on the internet on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook?

I’m not on Instagram but I am on Twitter, it’s @HeyFeifer. JasonFeifer.com is where you can find my work. Also, please check out Pessimists Archive. You can do that on any podcast platform or at Pessimists.co.

Jason, this is a treat. Thank you so much.

Thanks, Jon.

Stay tuned for the anonymous interview. It’s going to be awesome.

 

About Jason Feifer

TIP 009 | Be FlexibleJason Feifer is the Editor­-in­-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, and host of the podcast Pessimists Archive, about the history of unfounded fears of technology. He has served as an editor at Fast Company, Maxim, and Men’s Health, and has written about tech and business for Slate, New York magazine, the Washington Post, Popular Mechanics, and other national publications. 

Anonymous Guest Interview

 

Listeners, I hope you’re excited to try to figure out who our anonymous guest is. I have the absolute pleasure of hosting Joan with us. Joan, welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be here.

Joan, I couldn’t be more impressed by what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve dedicated your life to. It’s absolutely incredible. The listeners are now going to try and figure out who you are based on a series of questions. If they can, one lucky person will be invited to attend The Salon. Let’s start off with the basics. Where did you grow up?

I’m a Westchester, New York girl, partly in Briarcliff and partly in Yonkers, so I’m a New Yorker all the way.

Was there an incident, a teacher, an experience that really inspired you to do what you’re known for?

I think it was a confluence of things. A lot of it had to do with frustration about what was not being done, which spurred me on to keep looking and looking and looking for some answers.

Your work is predominantly in the field of medicine that people have generally given up, isn’t that true?

In some ways that’s true. In terms of certain solutions, they’ve given up. In other ones, they’ve plowed ahead, but since there’s so much uncertainty about the nature and the ideology, people have put it on the back burner for now.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done, like a bet, stunt or a dare, that caused your success?

I spent time looking at treatment, healing, medicinal solutions around the world. Probably, one of the most extreme things was that I actually had an opportunity to sit on the Dalai Lama’s bed at the Potala Palace in Tibet.

Through your work you’re really focused on, is it one specific disease?

It is. It’s a group of them but we started with one.

What’s the disease that you started with and what’s the group?

It’s autism. It’s what we started with. We have other solutions we believe are potential treatments for Parkinson’s and Schizophrenia, addiction and other conditions.

In the exploration in search for solutions or treatments for autism, you ended up on the Dalai Lama’s bed. Did he know about this?

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I searched around for mind-body connection to understand healing and how other cultures looked at the body.

No, hopefully one day I’ll get a chance to tell him. I searched around for mind-body connection, things to understand around healing and how other cultures looked at the body and that illness and that treatment and that change and that healing, and found that there’s many different ways to look at the body and to understand how it becomes ill and how it becomes diseased, and therefore maybe some potential ways in how to treat it.

Was there a certain moment or experience that made you feel like you had arrived to some degree, not that you don’t have to work, but rather that you’ve achieved a level of clout or respect from your peers?

When I first started this journey in terms of my discovery, it was deemed to be pretty far out there, because we were looking at a GI issue or a gut issue and how that could impact the brain. While there were some people who had talked about it, had written about it, some really fine researchers had speculated about it, there really wasn’t anything definitive that said, “If you make a treatment here, that maybe you can affect the gut, you can affect the brain.” It was the moment when I saw that the first children that I looked at actually had a GI deficiency that said, “There’s something here.” Of course, today, this is now almost twenty years later, it’s like everyone’s talking about microbiome, everyone’s talking about how the microbiome can affect schizophrenia and all kinds of other things. Now, it’s much more mainstream. Of course, we’re way down the road in testing. Once that started, which was really two and a half years ago, it was like, “I’m now not only mainstream, but I’m cutting-edge.”

What’s that famous phrase? “First, they laugh at you. Then, they…” How does it go?

I think it’s first they laugh at you, then they’re intrigued by you, and then they acknowledge you. Then, they’ll say, “Yeah, I knew that.”

It seems really consistent with your journey.

Very much so. I follow the physiological journey of the body actually, where the physiology took me. There are certain things that we didn’t know when I first started this that we know now. For example, certain amino acids actually control gene expression. No one would have thought that. When I was in school, we thought amino acids build proteins. They don’t express genes, but now we know that’s true. There’s a much greater window for the kinds of effects on certain things have in distant parts of the body. Parkinson’s, for example, we now know that the pancreas is one of the first D innovations in the body. We look at it as tremors and falls. Those are actually later than the original nervous impact that Parkinson’s has on the body.

Just to give the listeners a few more hints about you. Who would play you in a movie and why?

Lots of people have speculated about that. It would have to be someone who probably lies in between Meryl Streep and Melissa McCarthy. I think that would be a fair statement, because I’m very serious and very not serious. It’s someone in between there maybe.

What hint or riddle would you give people to figure out who you are?

Let’s see, I have three loves in life. They are medicine, children and baseball.

I’m not sure I’d be able to figure out that riddle, but good luck, listeners. If you can figure out who Joan is between now and the next episode, I hope I get to host you at The Salon.

Good luck, everyone.