David Elikwu speaks with Bob Gower, a consultant, speaker, and author of two books.
He also frequently contributes to publications like the Huffington Post and Inc. magazine.
They talked about:
🗺️ How Bob’s upbringing shaped his trajectory
💰 Cults and the contradictions of Prosperity Gospel
❓ The role of intuition in decision-making
🔓 Positive and negative freedoms
📚 How to pursue an unconventional path
🗺️ How to build intuition for navigating life
This is just one part of a longer conversation. You can listen to the earlier episode here:
🎙 Listen in your favourite podcast player
📹 Watch on Youtube
👤 Connect with Bob:
Books: Radical Alignment | https://amzn.to/3vNnNYX
Agile Business | https://amzn.to/476hvos
📄 Show notes:
0:00 | Intro
02:23 | How Bob’s upbringing shaped his trajectory
06:26 | Cults and the contradictions of Prosperity Gospel
11:48 | The role of intuition in decision-making
15:06 | The conflict between positive and negative freedoms
19:58 | How to pursue an unconventional path
24:13 | How to build intuition for navigating life
🗣 Mentioned in the show:
Pentecostal Christianity | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentecostalism
Zen Buddhism | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen
Daniel Kahneman | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman
Escape from Freedom | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_from_Freedom
Ernest Becker | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Becker
Eric Fromm | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Fromm
Emotional Agility | https://amzn.to/3y1KKKH
Descartes' Error | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descartes'_Error
Denial of death | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Denial_of_Death
Social Conquest of Earth | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Social_Conquest_of_Earth
EO Wilson | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._O._Wilson
Radical Alignment | https://amzn.to/3vNnNYX
Antonio Damasio | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Damasio
Susan David | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_David
👨🏾💻 About David Elikwu:
David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.
🌐 Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com
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Career Hyperdrive is a live, cohort-based course that helps people find their competitive advantage, gain clarity around their goals and build a future-proof set of mental frameworks so they can live an extraordinary life doing work they love.
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[00:00:00] Bob Gower: And I think a lot of the turmoil that I've experienced in life has been like finding the answer, committing to the answer, realizing it wasn't the answer and then moving on to the next thing, right. And doing that again and again.
[00:00:09] Bob Gower: And now I've just realized like, here I am in my mid fifties. And I'm like, I think I'm just much more comfortable with life doesn't always have to make sense. And there's always going to be some, some questions. And you're always trying to just kind of do the best you can given where you are. And in many ways, like that's the human condition, that's life, everything else is just sort of like a trapping on top of that.
[00:00:34] David Elikwu: This week I'm resharing part of my conversation with Bob Gower.
[00:00:38] David Elikwu: One of the things we've started doing on the podcast is revisiting some of the longer and more popular episodes that we've had. Essentially re releasing them in shorter segments to make them more digestible for a broader audience.
[00:00:49] David Elikwu: Now, Bob is a consultant, speaker, and author of two books, and he also frequently contributes to publications like the Huffington Post and Inc. Magazine.
[00:00:58] David Elikwu: Now, what I love about Bob is that he's obviously incredibly erudite and has a very active intellectual life, but simultaneously he is also deeply empathetic, deeply relatable. And all of that resonates when you consider his work, which revolves around helping organizations and teams to operate more effectively.
[00:01:16] David Elikwu: So you're going to hear Bob and I talking about his very interesting upbringing and the multiple facets of his early career and how that shaped his trajectory. You're going to hear us talking about cults and the contradictions of the prosperity gospel.
[00:01:30] David Elikwu: We also talk about the role of intuition in decision making and the conflict between positive and negative freedoms.
[00:01:37] David Elikwu: We talk about how to pursue an unconventional path, and finally how to build intuition for navigating life.
[00:01:44] David Elikwu: So you can get the full show notes transcript, and also read my firstname.lastname@example.org Now, if you love this episode, please do me a tremendous favor and share it with a friend. I very often get messages, emails, YouTube comments of people saying, first of all, how much they love the podcast, but also they think it's tremendously underrated. And I, completely agree, but it's completely within your control to share this with anyone that you know that you think might love it.
[00:02:11] David Elikwu: And particularly if you're listening on Apple Podcasts, please don't forget to leave a review because that helps us tremendously to find other listeners just like you.
[00:02:23] David Elikwu: Let me set the stage. We had a conversation the other day, and I think I was asking you a few questions. Just, I don't remember exactly all the questions I was asking you. We were talking about, we both run courses that are on Maven. And we were talking about the synergy in terms of, I think so my course is on helping people to take their careers to the next level, but largely from kind of like mid level to getting towards senior level and your course is for senior leaders. So it's kind of like, I am teaching the people that will end up being in your course.
[00:02:51] David Elikwu: And we were talking, we're going down a few rabbit holes and you were telling me about some of your background, which is what I want to get into today. And you were sprinkling in all kinds of like random things. At one point you worked with newspapers and then at one point you joined a cult.
[00:03:06] David Elikwu: That part hasn't left my mind since since the conversation that we had, so I hope you don't mind me asking you to, let's dig into your, background as a whole and yeah, where would you say things began for you?
[00:03:18] Bob Gower: So, you know, I was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. They're upper middle-class suburbs. The community I was raised in actually has, how to put it? It's a very class conscious community. And we were not of the upper class in that community. So we were middle-class upper middle-class.
[00:03:32] Bob Gower: But it's a community that has, at least at that time, it still did the sort of the debutante ball thing where women would be, you know, they would come out, they would be presented to society at like 15 or 16. There was a social register, so you know, who was who? And in my neighborhood where I grew up, there were people who were running large corporations. There was even a purported mafia boss who lived in my neighborhood, you know, this was Philadelphia in the seventies, so the mob was still a big thing. And actually the government there was in Philly was very much still controlled by the mob and certain industries were at that time too. So it was a very sort of colorful area and an old Italian neighborhood.
[00:04:10] Bob Gower: But my family, my mom was from West Virginia which is an impoverished area. She was wealthy in West Virginia. She came from a family of basically hillbillies, right? So her family had been coal miners and all of this and her father had managed to kind of get out of that by becoming a dentist in, in, during the first world war.
[00:04:29] Bob Gower: And then my father was raised without a father in coastal, North Carolina. And so he was also raised in poverty and, and his generation was the first to go to college. So it was very much my parents had me late in life so even though I'm a Gen X-er, they were more world War II, sort of what they might call the, either the greatest generation or the silent generation.
[00:04:49] Bob Gower: So it's sort of an odd world to be born into, I suppose, right. There's a lot of social upheaval. I was born in 65, a lot of social upheaval in the seventies. And then my parents were both conservative, but also encouraging of me to be myself. You know, my dad had been in the military and he definitely didn't want me to go into the military. And he definitely wanted me to kind of like be myself. So I grew up as this, as this sort of like liberal hippie in the midst of conservative, you know, like I worked at a recycling center. I wanted to do good, I wanted to make the world a better place, I was interested in Eastern religions, I took Tai Chi classes in high school, right.
[00:05:25] Bob Gower: I felt sort of like an odd misfit in that area and like, many people I think I just couldn't wait to leave. And I'm still surprised when I know some of my best friends from high school stayed and I'm like, how did you stay? Of course, they're retiring now really wealthy, and I'm still, still doing my thing.
[00:05:41] Bob Gower: But, but yeah, but it was a, it's sort of an interesting, a very interesting world, I think, to grow up in. And one where I learned to spot hypocrisy at a very young age, because I would see people who I thought were doing really bad things for their work come to church each day and then sort of like pray.
[00:05:58] Bob Gower: And you familiar with the prosperity gospel basically that says, if you do good, you will be rich. And which then gets inverted. Whereas if you are rich, you have therefore done good. You are therefore a good person. And I grew up around a lot of that and it just sort of, like that's what Trump grew up in actually, frankly.
[00:06:14] Bob Gower: And I say, I saw that hypocrisy and it just annoyed me to no end. And I think, and frankly, it still does, like, I still kind of really deeply dislike the social system of where I grew up. So that's where it started,
[00:06:26] David Elikwu: That's a great introduction. No, the prosperity gospel part I empathize with that a lot. So I'm originally Nigerian and I came to the UK from Nigeria, but we have a huge culture of kind of Pentecostal Christianity and well not the whole of Nigeria, but you know, within the Christian part there is a lot of prosperity preaching. And it's so interesting how, I don't want to use the word like insidious, but I think it is very interesting that, like you say, it's almost the reverse. You see far less examples of the people that do the things that they say you need to do in order to get the wealth and more people that already have the wealth telling you that, oh, this is what you need to do.
[00:07:07] David Elikwu: And part of what you need to do is handing over your wealth to them in the promise that at some point later down the line, some of it will come back to you.
[00:07:15] Bob Gower: Yeah, you know, it's funny. I see this a lot. This is something I've become very aware of myself, even in myself and in my own attitudes, as I've gotten older, because I think prosperity gospel gets then converted into the, are you familiar with like the secret and this idea of Manifestation and abundance and all of that, that comes out of sort of the personal development world, which I was also embedded in for a long time in the bay area.
[00:07:38] Bob Gower: And, you know, I also studied Zen Buddhism for a long time. Like I was very much embedded in these like how do we make ourselves better people world, but then that gets infected by the prosperity gospel idea as well that, and then being good, gets very much conflated with having a lot of money or doing well, right. So, and I think that happens in all sorts of places, like also like thin people, you know, and fit people are seen as somehow morally better than people who struggle with their weight or their you know, or who consider themselves fat. You know, And the same is true of I think racial distinctions and gender distinctions and all of these different things.
[00:08:11] Bob Gower: But to my mind, most of that comes down to luck, right. And so, like, I feel like I had the good luck to be born into a wealthy family that valued education. And that messed me up, it did mess me up so much, right. Like I did get so messed up that I ended up you know, like I had my share of childhood trauma and I have a certainly a strained relationship with my family, but I also managed to, it was something that didn't take me down. I've seen people's family systems really, really kind of like hurt them over the course of their lives and set up patterns that were unhelpful.
[00:08:39] Bob Gower: But again, I count this as all a lot of luck on my part. It's not that I haven't worked hard and it's not that I don't continue to work hard, but from the place from which I work is a place from which I can have an impact, right. It's much easier. I'm a tall, white male, who's able-bodied. I'm, cis-gendered, I can easily sound like I belong in most sort of executive boardrooms and other places. I understand the language I look like I belong. I look like, you know, and I don't ever have to like, worry about that thing. I still had to show up and work once I get there, but I, I honestly feel like I don't have to work quite as hard sometimes to be as successful. And sometimes that is even worked against me, right. It's made me not try so hard in some things as well, so.
[00:09:18] David Elikwu: What do you think it was that made you able to pull away from the potential trappings of your background.
[00:09:25] Bob Gower: You know, it's funny. I almost don't even feel like I had a choice, and maybe at some degree of luck. I've always been kind of a sensitive person, right? Like, so when I would see, you know, an animal hurt or when I would see, I felt it very deeply and I'm aware that maybe that's almost like a neurological disposition, right. That I just sort of happened to like, empathy is a thing that sort of is more available to me. And I also had a very strong sense of fairness, I think, from a young age. And it really, really upset me that people in other parts of the world or even other parts of my town didn't have the same opportunities or the same access to resources that I did.
[00:10:01] Bob Gower: I always had this like sort of deep sense of injustice, right? That the world is this unequal, unjust place. And I don't have like a theory of justice. I went off into college and I studied, I studied Rawls, I studied, you know, like I studied philosophy and looking at different theories of justice. And I saw I have these, now I have a little more language to put around it, but I honestly think I've always cared about making the world a more equitable and more sustainable place, right. Because I grew up thinking about actually at a young age, this is a sort of formative memory of mine. If you have you ever heard of the three mile island nuclear accident?
[00:10:33] Bob Gower: Three mile island was a new, is I think it may even still be active as nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which is far from where I grew up. But that weekend I was supposed to be with the boy scouts hiking nearby. And so we actually had to cancel our trip because there was this potential nuclear accident. There was a sudden release of radiation there. And that was it like just the right age where I was like, well, wait, what is nuclear energy and why is this dangerous? And then I became sort of anti like, this was the, the eighties or late seventies, early eighties. So being anti-nuke was, it just sort of made me feel like, so I became very interested in like sort of the environmental impact of things and the social impacts of things. I sort of tried to understand capitalism and like, why do some people have more and some people have less. All of these questions have always been sort of central questions for me. They've always been things that have kind of bugged me. And I think I've always been looking for answers to.
[00:11:21] Bob Gower: And I don't know exactly why, because it's not necessarily from a position of like, it's not like I was, I came from wealth and power. I came from a certain amount of wealth, but I know some people that grew up, you know, the people that grew up extremely wealthy who then dedicate themselves to sort of social justice on the other side of that and that, and they have resources to throw behind it. I don't ha I, you know, I never had that.
[00:11:40] Bob Gower: I always felt at both limited by the financial system that I grew up in and a critic of it, right. So.
[00:11:48] David Elikwu: Yeah, the church thing you mentioned was interesting. It made me think of just yesterday. I was listening to a story a, well, not a story in the literal sense. It was a historical event. I think it was quite a number of years ago, probably I think sometime in the eighties, but there was a church in the US I can't remember exactly where. But it blew up essentially. And the time at which it blew up was at 19:05 and the choir practice was meant to start at seven, exactly. So that the church was meant to be filled with about like 30 plus people. And every single one of them was late by some stroke of luck, just a complete miracle. Every single person was late and they all had their own individual reason for being late.
[00:12:28] David Elikwu: Some people maybe they were reading, some people lost track of time, but it was just incredibly interesting that coincidence. And what I find interesting tying that back to your story is also that, I think it's interesting how some events can happen in our lives and people can take that almost a striking point in very different directions. So there are some people that can see that happen and say, wow, this was the hand of God. Everything we were doing must be right. We must go even further in this direction, but for you in your circumstance, it's also a point where you say, okay, hold on. Why did this happen? What were the causes? What might we want to look closer at and deeper at? And what maybe should we change to avoid ending up in that kind of situation?
[00:13:09] David Elikwu: Because I think the reason why this church blew up in this scenario was I think something to do with carbon monoxide. They were just releasing some gas inside the church. And I don't think it actually led to any kind of change. I didn't see anything about like policy change or anyone investigating. The cause in serious concern, it was more about this miracle and this fantastic thing that happened, which is why we should continue exactly the way that we were doing things.
[00:13:33] David Elikwu: So I did want to ask, Oh go on, sorry.
[00:13:35] Bob Gower: Oh, no. I was just thinking I was listening to something yesterday about I think it was Daniel, Daniel Kahneman you know, who wrote Thinking Fast and Slow. He won the Nobel prize for something a few years ago. Anyway, he talks about like the uses of intuition and that if we use intuition to make decisions like our feelings, we will almost always lead ourselves astray because we're going to mistake correlation for causation.
[00:13:56] Bob Gower: And I think that's sort of an example of that, right. And I don't want to diminish anybody else's faith at all. I'm not here to do that, but I will say for myself that like I spend a lot of time in these let's call it alternative and wellness spaces and yoga spaces and meditation spaces. And there's a lot of sort of magical thinking that invades those spaces, right. And so we end up thinking, well, I have this intuition about this thing. Therefore, that thing is right. I can't tell you how many people have told me about myself, right. And I think it's pure projection most of the time, and I've done it to other people as well. I was like, I'm sensing this from you and therefore this is happening.
[00:14:28] Bob Gower: But I think what I've gained real appreciation for the older I've gotten is just kind of like how little I know about myself, how little I know about the world, how little I know about like, what will actually have the impact that I wanted to have if I'm working with an organization, sometimes just the smallest thing that has the biggest impact and I eat for good or for bad. And I don't like, I can't even Intuit that, or I can't see that ahead of time. And it's really created this kind of humility in me. I hope anyway, he says, I'm so humble. I'm like the most humble person now ever, right.
[00:14:56] Bob Gower: But I do have this sort of sense of like, I don't really know what's going on most of the time. And I try to like approach the world and I find that if I approach problems from that space, I just tend to do much better, so.
[00:15:06] David Elikwu: I completely agree. And I know you mentioned before about that you, well, two things, one, you getting into this maybe wellness space and all of the positive affirmations, a lot of that kind of thing. And then also you going to Japan, I think, and looking into Buddhism and a lot of other things.
[00:15:23] David Elikwu: And the question that I'm interested in is was this a case of where you running to freedom or away from freedom and to paraphrase where I'm getting that from. So Eric Fromm is a psychologist and he has a great book called Escape from Freedom. And what he talks about is that there's two types of freedom. And sometimes we're looking for freedom from, so freedom from the things that we feel are imposed on us. And sometimes we're looking for freedom to, in terms of freedom to do other things and to explore a lot further beyond our current constraints. So what do you think that was for you.
[00:16:42] Bob Gower: Yeah, yeah you know, it's interesting. I think sometimes you think it's one and it turns out to be the other. And I'm trying to remember like, I was actually phrasing this to myself the other day. I don't think it wasn't quite in like Fromm's framework. It was more like thinking about you remember with Ernest Becker and The Denial of Death. It's this wonderful book of philosophy where he basically says, basically everything humans ever create is because we're afraid of dying and we're trying to create something that's going to last be honest.
[00:17:06] Bob Gower: So any book I write or any, any money I amass or anything I do. And I feel like I've spent a lot of my life, I'm going to answer it in my own way and maybe it'll fit with the Fromm framework and maybe it will, but like, I feel like there's been a lot of times in my life when I've been trying to let's say, oh, actually it's funny. I'm gonna use a very, very solid example.
[00:17:25] Bob Gower: I was just talking to my wife about this, this morning. So, you know, like any family, especially those in New York city like we think about money a lot, right. We think about like, can we buy a house now? Can we afford this vacation? Can we not afford this vacation? And we've, you know, we do pretty well financially, but we're far from, from financially independent and far from our own interpretation of incredibly secure, right. There's always this sort of sense of insecurity around, around finances. And one of the things I've noticed is though that I much, much better now than I was say, 10 years ago, with my finances. Like, I know what I can afford, I know what I can't afford, I know how much money is coming in, how much is going out. I've got really good systems in place. And I also noticed that I tend to buy things less, right. Like I tend to do less impulse buying because I think in the past, what I've done is I will go out and buy a new pair of sneakers because it's going to make me feel better. And I'll kind of ignore the financial implications of that. I'll kind of, you know, because I'm like, cause I really want the sneakers cause I really want to feel better. But what's interesting is the more sort of like in control and systematized, I feel about my money and the more modest I've become, the more like, I don't need to like flash money to make myself feel better. I don't even need to like demonstrate that to the world that I'm wealthy, right? There are times when I have to like dress up and go to a fancy restaurant in order to make myself feel like I'm a part of the look how fan, you know, New Yorkers, right. We're always status, so status conscious. And I'm like, look at me, I'm at the Plaza hotel having a, you know, having a martini because I'm fancy. But inside, I don't feel like quite like I am.
[00:18:50] Bob Gower: And I think kind of like, this is sort of maybe it's freedom from and freedom to, but like, I think much of my life, there are times when I have, I felt like I've been seeking a new experience. I've gone out for a new experience or a new skill set or a new yeah, just a new experience. Like I've gone out to kind of like, and I'm very much experienced focused. Like I enjoy collecting people, I enjoy collecting experiences, trying new things, I enjoy these things a lot. But there have been times when it's been a running away from something inside of myself. It's been times when it's like, I'm doing this to distract myself from this very uncomfortable thing I'm feeling and what I find now is that I'm much, the pandemic has helped honestly. I developed a kind of stillness because I'm at home so much, and I have a very strong, like journaling practice where I reflect every day on my life.
[00:19:34] Bob Gower: And what I notice is that sometimes it's that those sort of quiet practices given me a much more real freedom, just like the money, like the mundane money practices. Give me a much more real freedom in life, rather than this illusion of freedom that comes from going on a fancy experience or having some big distraction come my way.
[00:19:53] Bob Gower: I don't know if that resonates. Well,
[00:19:54] Bob Gower: I don't have if that fits in the front brain work at
[00:19:56] David Elikwu: No, No, it. does.
[00:19:57] Bob Gower: Yeah.
[00:19:58] David Elikwu: No, it does. One thing that I'm interested to know is I'm not sure what the exact timeline is between some of these more exploratory phases of your life and whatever the traditional route might look like in terms of the time at which you were expected to go to college or the time at which you're expected to start working. How do you find that delineation?
[00:20:17] David Elikwu: And I guess as a consequence of that, was there something that you learned from that period of exploration that maybe changed your trajectory in? someways
[00:20:25] Bob Gower: Yeah, a hundred percent, you know, so I've had anything, but I think a traditional trajectory, I certainly did go to college at the right time, the right time, right. But I also went to three different colleges and had like four different majors and took five years to get out, which was uncommon in, I think it's more common today than it wasn't in the eighties when I was going to college.
[00:20:43] Bob Gower: And I also studied things kind of pointedly that had no value, you know, like, or no, no material value. I had my degree was in essentially philosophy at its core and then I also, I went to a school where you could kind of like write your own degree. It was a sort of this very experimental college is where I graduated from in Arizona.
[00:21:02] Bob Gower: And so I also did a lot of traditional, I'd call it a traditional craft, which sounds very, very hippy now, but I was doing furniture making and doing pottery, like traditional pottery on the wheel and then making traditional furniture. And then I was also writing papers on on different aesthetic traditions around a special, I was especially interested in the shakers, which were 18th century religious movement here in the U.S that created a whole style of furniture, which you still see all over the place in the U.S shaker tables and shaker chairs are still very, very common.
[00:21:30] Bob Gower: And I was very interested in sort of the aesthetic traditions and how the philosophical and religious foundations of those communities informed the aesthetic traditions. That actually led me into wanting to go to Japan and study Buddhism for a variety of reasons. But I felt like I saw the same thing in Japan that there was this, this religious tradition and this cultural tradition of around Buddhism that really informed an aesthetic tradition around sort of furniture and architecture, which are the two main things I was interested in, in Japan.
[00:22:00] Bob Gower: But I think your question was more about like these areas of exploration and like what they led to otherwise, am I like, so I had this sort of intellectual study. I made college work for me. This was the eighties I was when people did not have ambition to start your call. you know, like if you were interested in money, you were studying finance real estate law, very, very traditional, very buttoned up. And I wasn't interested in that at all. So I was like, just even pre Cobain like, we were grungy. We wanted to like work in coffee shops, have bands, argue about philosophy in our spare time and not have any material possessions. Like that was the, that was more of the ambition of the communities that I was sort of part of.
[00:22:37] Bob Gower: And so then I went to Japan and sat Zen studied martial arts also, you know, got into trouble with chasing women and, and drinking a lot as a, you know, as a youngster and kind of doing those things as well.
[00:22:48] Bob Gower: What I found is I think, that I've always had this sort of restlessness inside of me to find the path, the tradition, the person, the community, the perspective that was somehow going to fix me, because I think I had, this is going to get a little, maybe a little more personal, but like, I think I've always had this sense. I don't know if you're your listeners or if you will resonate with this, but I almost had this sense that like, I was going to do it wrong. Like if I wasn't careful, I was going to somehow do life wrong.
[00:23:18] Bob Gower: And so I was always looking for the, the right way to do life. I was looking for the, the map or the thing that was going to tell me what was right. And what's interesting about that is I think the more I studied things like moral philosophy, especially recently, I've kind of returned to my study of philosophy and looking specifically at moral philosophy. I'm like, it's really more the quality of question that matters than the quality of answer that matters. And I think that's something that's taken me a long time. And I think a lot of the turmoil that I've experienced in life has been like finding the answer, committing to the answer, realizing it wasn't the answer and then moving on to the next thing, right. And doing that again and again.
[00:23:50] Bob Gower: And now I've just realized like, here I am in my mid fifties. And I'm like, I think I'm just much more comfortable with life doesn't always have to make sense. And there's always going to be some, some questions. And you're always trying to just kind of do the best you can given where you are.
[00:24:04] Bob Gower: And in many ways, like that's the human condition, that's life, everything else is just sort of like a trapping on top of that. We just got very philosophical. I think.
[00:24:13] David Elikwu: No, I love it. Honestly. I think so much of what you just said was perfect because it lines up with so much of what I think personally. Even some of what I talk about on, on my course and in my newsletter is this idea of maps. And it's so interesting cause I think it intertwines with quite a few things, but one is that there's this perception of time that we're kind of born, and it's almost as though we are on a conveyor belt that is speeding us slowly or quickly towards death however you feel about the speed at which you're moving. But we are so concerned with making the right choice and making it at the right time. And It's like, oh, I'm at this point in the conveyor belt, if I don't make a decision, if I don't take this turn on the highway, I'm going to miss it. I'm going to miss whatever the destination is. And you don't know what the destination is because you haven't gone there. But we feel as though if we don't make the right decisions and we don't make them at the right times, then it's almost like we'll never be able to find it again.
[00:25:11] David Elikwu: And we become very obsessed with this idea of maps. I think we look around us and we build the maps of the world based on what we see of other people. And I talk about this idea of everyone around us being like data points that help us figure out our place in the world and understand what our conceptualization of the world is. And I think the mistake is relying on maps instead of trying to find a compass and trying to find a means of navigating that helps you directionally, but is not concerned with telling you exactly where to go. Cause I think the issue with trying to find exactly where to go is that typically you're following the paths of maybe other people giving you their advice from their own position. And there are so many other nuances, so many other variables that may have impacted their trajectory that won't apply to you.
[00:25:57] David Elikwu: And so yours might still be different and human life, as you know is so impossibly complex, that it's really hard to unravel all of the different variables that play a part in setting you on a particular course, like even if, for example, when I think about the question of oh, if you could go back, would you do everything again in some ways? Absolutely, yes. In some ways probably no, because I could not guarantee with any element of certainty that if I did every single decision that I've ever made, I would have the same outcome I probably wouldn't because so much still changes. And also there's so much that is outside of your control at particular points. And I think all you can do is just, one is maybe gather as many data points as possible and try and understand where you are in the world. And then just have a strong sense of direction that propels you in some direction with a certainty of who you are and how you want to act in that environment.
[00:26:50] Bob Gower: Yeah. There's a writer and researcher named Susan David who wrote a book called Emotional Agility. I don't know if you're familiar with it. I think she's got a new book coming out right now, too. But one of the things she talks about is like using your values as your direction point, right. And you lean into discomfort in a complexity and you also use your emotions as data points as well, right? Like what angers me, what excites me, what upsets me, right. But she always points out that like, emotions are data, but they're not directions, right? Like just because something pisses you off doesn't mean that it is something that you should be pissed off at. And it doesn't, you know, like that could be as much about you as it is about the thing. But yet ignoring your emotions and saying emotions don't matter and trying to be a purely rational human, is also gonna lead us in the wrong direction.
[00:27:32] Bob Gower: I'm really fond of the work of Antonio Demasio who wrote a book called Descartes' error, he's a neuroscientist. And he does a lot of stuff around emotion and the way emotion sort of constrains, like he has this idea and actually comes from, it actually corresponds to some cult research that's very interesting as well. Well, actually, I'll start with a cult stuff.
[00:27:49] Bob Gower: So like when you look at cult members, what's often very interesting is let's take a a cult-like the Rajneesh or Osho cult, which was kind of the wild, wild country they made a movie about, or a series about it in a Netflix. There was a cult that I had interactions with long, long time ago. Though I never, I was never really part of it. I never went to their events, but I knew many people who are part of it.
[00:28:08] Bob Gower: What you saw there was you saw people who were very wealthy, very accomplished, and very intelligent, all become a part of this, crazy cult and what Demasio would point out and what cult researchers point out is, what happens is our emotions can kind of constrain our intellect to only operate within a certain area. So you can still be a great lawyer, but it's constrained within this idea that my leader is an enlightened being who is going to save the world.
[00:28:34] Bob Gower: And so like that becomes the container within which my intellect operates. And I think we all do that to greater and lesser degrees depending upon the groups we're part of. And so I love you, like the way you're describing your orientation towards the group is that like they're data points that I'm using to do my own wayfinding and to navigate my own way through.
[00:28:52] Bob Gower: And I think the sort of the danger of organizations, and this is like where my work comes from frankly is, I'm very interested in how do groups of people come together to do things? Because it's such an important part of human life, right? Like, every single thing that I've ever done that has been meaningful and satisfying and exciting with my life, every single thing. I've done with other people, right. It's raising a family, it's creating an an artifact, you know, doing some art. Doing a work project that I'm proud of, creating a home that I'm proud of, right. All am I, my wife, you know, like we're, she's curating an event tonight that we're setting up for artists here in New York city. And like, all of these things happen with other people and yet, so often other people are also the source of so much strife in our lives.
[00:29:34] Bob Gower: And also so much of the source of social dysfunction when you like, not to get all, what is it? Rule 34. What about Hitler about it. But like, hitler by himself, he would have been just this crazy dude, right? Like, but when he got this group of people around him to do stuff together, that's where the problem really develops. And so not only our thing, our maps the problems, but gurus are also become the problem, right? Like, thinking that somebody else has the right and it's so tempting having fallen into it myself, it is so tempting when you are feeling vulnerable, when you are feeling insecure, when you're going through a diff you know, like I joined a cult when I was going through a divorce and had lost a job all at the same time, right. So I was kind of like insecure in a couple of different ways. And in steps, this group saying, Hey, we've got the answer, we see your idealism, we're going to harness that, and we're going to help you save the world and give your life meaning. Plus we think you're amazing. They do this thing, this love bombing thing when you first come in. And then all of a sudden, you kind of find yourself, your whole life is sort of wrapped up in this path that doesn't really at the end of the day serve you because the charisma, because the story, because the narrative, because the surety has all kind of pulled you in.
[00:30:37] Bob Gower: And I think the work that I'm trying to do is trying to understand, how do we create people coming together to do things in ways that are healthy for all of the people within that system. That really feel, and that also are healthy for society as a whole, that create a more equitable society that create a more just society and create a more sustainable human presence on the planet.
[00:30:55] Bob Gower: And I think these questions as you use the word complexity, these are very, very complex questions, right? Cause I've seen really great teams do really horrible things, right. And at the same time I've seen really dedicated people, people who are like at their core, trying to do something really good in the world.
[00:31:12] Bob Gower: And then they create a nonprofit, which is this very, very toxic workplace and has all sorts of like crazy stuff going. And I so, I see this all the time. And so like, what I'm trying to understand is like, how do we come together? How do we actually leave the world a little bit better than we found it? And how do we do that together without stepping on each other without hurting each other in some way.
[00:31:32] David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time.