How to Use Focus and New Habits to Get More Accomplished
Elan Marko is the founder of Deep Work Sprints. A co-working world that helps Entrepreneurs accomplish goals faster. He’s facilitated over 1000 Virtual Coworking experiences for entrepreneurs and has figured out how to build an online work culture that’s easy, fast, focused, and fun. He’s also rock climbed over 400,000 vertical feet and is currently converting a sprinter van to a tiny home on wheels with his love Caitlyn.
Blake Fly is a Husband, 8-Time TEDx Speaker,
Co-founder of Deep Work Sprints.
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: Hello, everybody. We’re back with The Nonprofit Exchange and have two guests today who each do their own thing, but they do stuff together that I find very energizing. One day, I’m looking on LinkedIn, and this guy Elan sends me a note, “Join our workathon.” I was thinking I do enough work; why do I need to join a workathon? I took him up on his offer and met Blake. Man, it’s an energy field.
We are talking about getting things done, how to form good habits, how to focus on what’s most important. I’ll let our two guests introduce themselves. Since Elan made the reservation for the day, I’ll let him introduce himself first. Elan Marko and Blake Fly, we have done a few events together. Now I’m the host, and I will ask you to share with people. I’m sure there are a lot of people who are struggling with how to be more productive. Elan, tell us about yourself and why you choose to do what you do.
Elan Marko: I’ll give the short version. This is wonderful that we can chime in here from Toronto, Canada. Whereabouts are you, Hugh?
Hugh: I’m in Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Elan: Productivity spans countries; it’s something everyone in the world is trying to figure it out. We’re in the middle of a pandemic right now. Sans pandemic, maintaining focus is something that is important.
Where did this come from? There is a long backstory of Blake and I meeting back in university on our first day in the dorms. He was walking the hallways, and he had a guitar. I said, “You with the guitar, let’s jam.” He jumped into my dorm room, and we started jamming and formed a band. From that day forward, we were “a band,” which meant we could strum a few notes together and laugh and chuckle. I bring us back to this time of university because there is something deeply profound we learned in university culture: the value of community and the value of having fun while doing what we were doing.
Fast forward to years later. We had moved away from university and were living in Toronto. We found that all of the fun vibes and lessons of community were gone. Everyone was just doing their work, which is good, but it was missing the fun vibe and the real community feel that we had back in university. For the past decade or whatnot, Blake and I have been trying to infuse community culture and fun in all the projects we were doing. Productivity is a theme that came up because we had real ambitions and goals not only to have wonderful businesses but also have healthy lives and great relationships with the people in our lives.
All that being said, we started doing a lot of co-working together as roommates. I convinced this sucker over here to move in with me years after school to bring back a lot of our lessons that we learned. Sure enough, here we are.
Blake was hosting a thing called Project Finish. It was an activity to finish a goal in 30 days with a group of other ambitious people. I did that back in 2018. It was the most productive month I had all year. That set the seed for what is a deeper story. I was battling some serious health issues, and I needed to show up and do great work myself and be productive. That is how the format and structure was born. Over the past decade of reading every book about forming great habits and productivity I could get my hands on, there was something to maintaining a real deep focus and infusing it with community and fun that helps accomplishing goals way easier. That’s my long-winded story.
Hugh: Let’s see what Blake has to say about all this.
Blake: I could talk about this forever, not because it’s related to productivity but how human this whole experience is. Essentially what excites me and what motivates me and what has led to this work is I think people are better together. That is not some sitting in a circle, kumbaya, group hug when it’s not COVID statement. I see what goes on when people do things by themselves, and I see what goes on when people do things by themselves in company with others.
One of my main life experiences is I worked and lived in university residences. I lived in those buildings for almost a decade. I had over 6,000 roommates during my 20s. I didn’t live there and hang out; it was my job to run events and lead programs and supervise these student leaders, deal with the highs and lows and middles of student life, things as wonderful as planning birthday parties and things as devastating as abuse and sexual assault and deep despair from students struggling with mental health. I thought that was a thing that went on for residents in university.
Over time, I realized when I moved back home, and Elan and I met up saying it’s not as fun as it used to be on campus. There was all this humanity at play on campus. I realized those same issues happen every single day, but when you’re out of the bubble, of the container of a building of fellow students, you feel alone, or you can feel alone. I was always excited with Elan to think about how we can replicate the feeling of everyone is under one roof doing their own individual thing. For Hugh, it’s in the nonprofit world, in the conducting world, or in the hat selection world. You have a lot of goals, Hugh. When we’re all under one roof, either physically or metaphorically, things get done more easily, and people can have more fun.
All we’re really doing is helping people feel safe and seen with something as simple as when someone logs into a workspace virtually, we say, “Morning, Hugh.” Hugh says, “Morning, Blake.” Then we do our thing. At the end of the worktime, I say, “See you tomorrow, Hugh.” You say, “See you tomorrow, Blake.” It’s those bookends to the daily relationships in our lives when we don’t have it, everything suffers, and when we do, everything is more likely to be successful.
Hugh: My experience with you is the workathons. Let me explain a bit. These crazy dudes are both wearing hats, so I got my Scottish hat. It’s quite amazing the energy that happens together. By the way, SynerVision is the combination of synergy that you get through the common vision. It’s that energy field. It’s like a musical ensemble where people play together and perform at a higher level because they have this thing they do together. You guys jam together. This works. We can do more together.
The energy in the community that SynerVision hosts. We have energy sessions every week that people can come. What I love about the workathon is people can come and go as they please. I stay for four hours and get a lot more done than if I am sitting here by myself. We’ll talk about the philosophy behind that and how we can be more productive.
Running a nonprofit is a lonely place to be because there is a lot of alone time, even though you’re leading a community in most cases, even though you’re serving others. What I find in what you have created is there is an energy field of focus and intentionality. It was Elan who invited me to a free workathon. I don’t get that much on LinkedIn. People want me to buy something. People pitch me about delivering traffic. I say, “I already get 15,000 visitors a month. How many more do I need?” They don’t check it out. Elan invited me to this space. I was paying attention that day, so I showed up.
You each have your own enterprise. But what birthed this thing with the workathon? You ask people their experience, and it’s quite amazing. Everyone has the same story. I am more productive than I am by myself. What birthed this, and what is the purpose of this?
Elan: We are on a mission with Deep Work Sprints, our company. The mission is to help entrepreneurs who are amazing people accomplish goals faster. We want to do that in a way that is more easy, focused, fast, and fun. Those are our values. We have two more, which are being financially fruitful and with friends. We want people to experience what it’s like to work together online effectively. Most things have moved remotely right now. We’re in the middle of this pandemic. A lot of people are working from home. I have been working from home for years, and so has Blake. We have learned a lot of great things along the way.
Over the past two years, we have led close to 2,000 virtual co-working sprints. A lot of that started well before everything in this world went online. When COVID hit, we thought, You know what? We have our daily members showing up. We are doing all this virtual co-working together. Blake and I were chatting and saying, “How can we help other people experience this?” Because we know during the pandemic there are financial restrictions, we decided to create a free online experience. At the very least, they will get some good focus in and meet some great people through the networking component after the sprint sessions.
The hope of that event was initially to give people access to this because they will either end up joining the free one. Maybe they are leading their own team and can get some ideas about how to work with their teams in this way. We have discovered a lot of subtle nuances of what makes a difference between something that is boring and working together with the team versus something people pay to be a part of.
Obviously, we hope it makes sense and that people want to join our community as daily members. Blake and I are givers. We want to give our skills to the world. For those who this will benefit, great. We’d love for everyone to pick up on that.
Hugh: Blake, you guys switch back and forth. One of you takes the lead, and you switch. There is a real synergy in how you function together. Since I learned you have done 2,000 of these sprints, you’ve had time to rehearse your thing. We are musicians in fact, and we do understand the value of perfect practice makes perfect. I’m impressed. I’m there as an observer, but I’m a beneficiary of the productivity. There is a number of things I’d like to talk about that it addresses. The space of playing the music and setting the mood and setting accountability and asking about feelings. Talk about the sequence of how you help people be productive, especially in that workathon. It’s similar to what you do in your business as well.
Blake: I love the musical references because that’s how Elan and I formed a friendship: through guitars. You and your expertise, music drives your life in a massive way. I have a story about that. When we do the workathons, people doing the work who come as attendees are there getting work done on their business.
Elan and I are there as well. But while people like you are doing your work, Elan and I are debriefing the thing we just did in the workathon. At the top of every hour, we lead a 5-10-minute experience so that we reengage the community in the workathon. We energize them and check in to find out what they finished in the past hour and celebrate that. People in their own businesses don’t necessarily remember to celebrate the successes.
We make sure to cue up the next hour by asking the question, “What do you want to finish? How do you want to feel?” It’s that second question that stops people in their tracks. Some people haven’t been asked that question in relation to work that day or that week or that month. Or maybe it’s the first time in their life they’ve been asked, “Hugh, while you’re working today, how do you want to feel during your work experience?” You get to work for the rest of the hour at the workathon.
I phone Elan or Elan phones me, and we literally go, “How was that?” We’re now at a stage where we’re refining the seconds. At the last workathon, Elan and I made a discovery, which was that if we say to people, “What will you finish in the next hour? Type it in the chat,” we’ll get answers and ideas. But we refined it recently to, “Fill in this blank. I will finish X.” Instead of seeing all these random sentences, some people writing one word, and it’s disorganized, some people are clear versus unclear, we see the whole chat blow up with, “I will finish editing my podcast.” “I will finish filing my taxes.” “I will finish taking my dog for a walk because I need to take a break this hour.” “I will finish closing a deal.” “I will finish depositing these checks.” It’s all this productivity.
For Elan and me, once upon a time, we had a three-hour discussion on how to find ten extra seconds and make it more clear and specific at the workathon. For you, Hugh, and anyone attending, you feel like you’re on a train, and there’s cool music playing, and there’s cool people. You know where to sit and how to feel. It’s non-intrusive. You’re doing your work in a far more beautiful experience than you would have alone at home. We don’t want to get in your way; we want to complement your day.
Hugh: There was a great performer who spoke about Mozart’s music, how he is open but transparent yet sounds simplistic. He said, “Mozart is very easy for the student but very difficult for the teacher.” The teacher is looking at those nuances. I am referencing in that whole workathon, besides focusing on the work I need to get done, and it’s really an energy field of productivity. It does not have to be complicated. The myth in our mind is we have to create content and structure, making it difficult and not fun. But it can be fun. Fun actually prompts creativity. Einstein says that intelligence and having fun is where you are creative. What that fosters is a sense of creation. We are entrepreneurs. We are social entrepreneurs. We are creating value for the people we serve, just like community organizations that are cause-based charities, just like entrepreneurs creating a service or product to make people’s lives better.
You just clarified a lot for me. What seems simple on the front end- I once heard a difficult piano sonata done by Van Cliburn in a live performance. I realized even though it was very difficult, he was so skilled that he made it look easy. The gift of being very qualified at what you do is it doesn’t look hard so people can be fully engaged in the concept or the conversation.
I lead board retreats for nonprofits. A bunch of people are serious about the work, but you also have people who are divided into committees and are charged with specific deliverables. What are we going to accomplish this year? The model I am reframing in my mind is how are we going to come together as an organization? How are you going to do breakouts? How do we set the intention? How do we come back and report? How does each of our jobs relate to one another? I am 74 and learning new stuff every day. When you stop learning, you’re six feet under the ground. My friend Bob Hopkins said I have 20 years more to live and will be productive. That’s a call to action.
We sit in an office. We surmise how we ought to do things. There is an energy field in working together. How does this work in real life for instance? We’re basically working alone in this space. How do we do this in real life and make it fun and productive?
Elan: It’s a deep question. Blake and I are being polite of who will go first because we’re Canadian. It’s interesting what you say around the collective energy. It’s palpable. People know, especially for those who are with a team, there is a collective energy that happens there.
As you were talking about your board retreats, I was thinking that would be such a blast. When Hugh joined our workathon, first off, he had this amazing hat. Secondly, he was throwing amazing banter back and forth. I went to a breakout room with him. He has his conductor baton. The fun you were bringing to it, I was thinking, this guy, we can get along really well. You like doing really great work. I can see you take your work very seriously, but you also know the best work is done when you’re having fun. Clearly you’re putting it into practice. I think we have similar values on that front.
Blake, what are your thoughts around Hugh was saying?
Blake: When I think of these specific communities where people are doing their work in running their business and leading their community, but it’s kind of a silo, I think of some basic, straightforward ways to connect to the greater community. My dad told me how he read a book a while ago that had this quote, “You have to do it alone, but you can do it together.” I probably messed that up. No one can do your pushups for you, but you can absolutely join a club and do your pushups in a group. That’s what it comes down to.
If there is someone tuned into this conversation who feels like they are isolated by themselves doing their own thing, what are some basic ways to create a ritual that lets everyone else engage in the same activity at the same time? That’s where a lot of this was birthed from. The workathon, Elan and I would do work together. We used to be roommates. We had an apartment in Toronto, which was because we were best friends who played music together and sometimes worked at a coffee shop. Elan had this brilliant idea of moving in together, so we did.
When we moved out, we were on our own again, so we used Zoom as a place to hop in and work. A few of our friends would meet on Zoom. Elan and I noticed we were the most passionate about this concept. Others were kind of into it, but Elan and I were obsessed with it. We built a ritual around starting our workday together and getting our most important work done. Maybe there is a ritual you need to do each day in your business. Maybe there is a ritual you need to be doing in your community or congregation. Maybe it’s something mundane such as- Hugh, what is a mundane activity that someone in your community probably needs to do a few times a week in their work?
Hugh: Someone has to post social media. Someone has to write letters to donors. Someone has to follow up on the committees and talk about the action plans. Those are the mundane things people have a lot of joy in doing most of the time.
Blake: Letters to donors. I wouldn’t have thought of that. Thank you for that specific activity since that’s not one in my world. Letters to donors I imagine might not be the most epic activity to be doing over and over again. If you don’t write letters to donors, you’re running out of money. Donors make the world go around that you’re in. Letters to donors is key.
If it were me, I’d be thinking to myself, letters are important. Maybe I’m not as excited as I should be to work on them. I would form a letters to donors ritual where maybe I on Tuesdays at 10 write my donor letters. I put a call out to see if one other person wants to do donor letters with me on Tuesdays at 10. I might text you or call you or meet up with you on Zoom first. Then we take it up a notch and make a community around it with some spirit and emotional DNA to it.
My brain feels alone with donors to letters. Donor Loners meet up Tuesday at 10. We make it a T-shirt. Donor Loners. Letters to donors will be written every week Tuesday at 10. Then it grows because that can equate to actual dollars collected. That can equate to relationships formed in the Donor Loner Community guarantees the activity gets done. The emotion is captured because people are in the same moment. The sky is the limit. You can build in as many communities as you want.
For me, I don’t like running. But I like the concept of being healthy and the feeling of it. Elan and I were running partners and made a high five run a few years ago. What does that mean? We made T-shirts that said, “Free High Fives” and we ran all the way down the main street in Toronto and high fived every stranger we passed. This was seven years ago. We invited friends and more friends. At one point, it grew from two dudes who wanted to run but hated running to eventually becoming a corporate team builder where we were hired by companies like Microsoft and LinkedIn to lead high five runs for their people. It came from two dudes who wanted to run but hated running. You can write your donor letters not as a loner.
Hugh: It’s not really considered a joyful activity; it’s something we have to do. But it’s joyful getting the money. It ought to be joyful telling them about what we have done with their money. It’s valuable to have this monthly touchpoint. By the time you get to this time of year next year, they will say, “I am ready to donate again because I know you’re good stewards of the resources I have provided for you.”
Because I joined the American Leukemia Society, they coach you on running. I run three half marathons because I had to show up and run with this group and make a commitment to raise some money for this disease. It was the accountability of showing up. That’s really good. That’s so helpful. Did you want to add more to that?
Elan: I have a personal question to ask you. My sport is rock climbing. I have it in me that I’d like to be able to rock climb when I am 100 years old. I won’t climb at the same skill level. I am curious: When was the last time you ran a half marathon?
Elan: This is beautiful. These are the stories I need to hear to keep going. No one in my life, I don’t know people who are over 50 even and are active. This is an inspiration. This is good.
Hugh: I could be your grandfather.
Elan: You could be. Are you going to adopt me now?
Hugh: No. We have lots of mountains. If you want to come to Virginia, you can stay with me. We have six bedrooms.
Let’s talk about Deep Work Sprints. What do you get out of it? How do you help people address procrastination? How about intimidation? A lot of people are smarter than me when everybody on your team ought to be smarter than you if you’re a smart leader. How do you attract revenue? How do you make sure your goals are happening? Is there some way to have peer to peer accountability where people don’t feel like there is a bat they will be hit with? You address those things in a subtle way in a workathon. Especially today, there is so much work that needs to be done, and we are the people called to do it.
Elan: Our model in Deep Work Sprints is a pretty simple one. As we say, there is a lot of thought going into making it simple. The first part is getting clear on the goal. Any leader knows that is incredibly important for the organization to be clear on their mission and the goal they are going after in the next 30-60-90 days or year or few years. Where are we going? When people join our daily membership, I will share these details because I think a lot of them can be applied to nonprofits. The first part is getting clear on the goal.
Once there is a goal, figuring out what are the obstacles, I go through that with people in a coaching session, like how you probably do in your strategic planning. When people show up, there are daily work sprints every single day. If you think about a group fitness class, you probably need to do your pushups. If you are going to run a half marathon, you need to jog. No one else can do your jogging for you. You need to do it yourself. What we have found that is really simple is when you work with others, it tends to be more fun. I suggest any of those leaders on there to join a workathon to see how we’re doing virtual co-working and experience it because we’re leading remote teams right now. Even if you apply this to when you’re running remote teams, I’m sure there are ways to apply it in person, too.
When we run these daily sprints, people come in with a clear task of what they want to finish. There are two questions at the start of the sprint: What are you going to finish? How do you want to feel? More important is that one. The feel part is the part that is often missed.
A few years ago, I used to run a retreat every year for 40-50 entrepreneurs where we would leave the city, reflect on the past year, envision the new year. There was one exercise showed to me that we implemented. It was called a goal walk. It was a walking meditation that helped me vision out the progress of my goal. In what ways would I need to grow as a person and what resources would I need to accomplish this goal? You have magic stones, like sheets of paper that you step on, and the things you need to show up to get to your end goal could come to you in this meditation.
When I got to the end, being in a meditation moment is being centered on how you’re feeling and thinking. I noticed something very interesting. The feeling at the end of the goal, I didn’t really care as much about the accomplishment as much as, “Wow, we’re all chasing the feeling of success.” Our staff, they all want to feel successful. Leaders want to feel successful. But if it’s a thing you’re chasing, only once you accomplish the end goal, then you have missed the whole process. You have missed the joy of creation. In that, I realized that it’s not about the end goal; it’s about showing up with that energy throughout the whole process.
That’s why we ask people to set an intention for how they want to feel. It sounds simple, but there’s a real magic to it. If you need to make decisions, maybe your energy is to feel decisive. But if you’re crafting a post online, maybe you want to feel creative. If you’re writing donor letters, maybe you want to feel loving and connected. When we are in tune with our intention, think about it. We’re writing donor letters. For it to feel like a chore, we are disconnected from the beauty of this letter we’re writing, to thank these wonderful people who are supporting this amazing mission you have.
That intention piece, which sounds so simple, can bring people to the intention of what they are trying to produce. That makes all the difference. When you reflect back on the end of the 100 minutes of the sprint, that is one of the measures that is overlooked. It’s really the process of setting a very clear goal of what you want to produce. Especially in intellectualized work, you can think about things all you want. But you want to show an outcome. The second thing is setting that intention and being true to it.
Hugh: We have a hand up. May I call them for a question?
Elan: Go for it.
Hugh: Bob Hopkins is the author of Philanthropy Misunderstood. What’s your question?
Bob Hopkins: I saw you in a hat, and I have never seen you in a hat before. Then I saw Elan in a hat. I thought, Oh God, this is hat day, so I better get a hat. I have a hat here. Unfortunately you can’t see me. Blake doesn’t have a hat. Blake, shame on you.
Elan: Shame on you, Blake. Bob, thank you for calling him out on that.
Blake: Give me 10 seconds. I’ll get a hat.
Hugh: You shamed him into getting a hat.
Elan: I am so happy that you did that, Bob. That hat has a story to tell.
Bob: This hat came from Haiti. It’s made out of burlap and sugar cane. I have never worn it before, but it’s been hanging on my wall. It’s the closest hat I had. Thank you for letting me show it off today.
I love what you’re doing here. I teach college, and I’m at home. I don’t have any students. I haven’t seen them, and I don’t know them. I make them come on Zoom. How can you teach speech if you can’t see them? The college doesn’t care; they just want me to make sure I go through my materials regardless of whether they have learned how to give a speech.
I started a magazine in this office, one person. That was me. Then I had a second person come in. Then I had a third person. We ran out of space. The third person who didn’t have a chair or table went in my bedroom, brought the ironing board in, and set it up as a standing desk. She brought a chair from home. A fourth person came in. They said they weren’t doing this. They rented an office and said we could come with her or not. We all went with her to her massive office where we all had offices. It was a magazine that fell apart because we weren’t together. We weren’t listening to each other talk and sell and accomplish. That’s not really the reason the magazine fell apart. But it was a different deal. You’re giving me some interesting things here.
How do you want to finish? Got that one. How do you want to feel? Everyone wants to feel good. How many feelings are there at the end of the day? I see satisfied, successful, excited. Nobody wants to feel bad. Nobody wants to feel denied. What do you mean here by feel?
Blake: Beautiful. What a question. Thanks for being here, Bob. I want to go on a road trip as a foursome. This is amazing.
Sometimes we cheat the system with the question of how do you want to feel? For this example, in our Deep Work Sprint in our member community this morning, we wrote our intentions of how we want to feel. Someone wrote the word “capable.” Someone wrote the word “inspired.” I don’t know if capable is a feeling. Inspired is a feeling. We might cheat it because we may go a little out of bounds from feelings because I’m seeing people write intentions and share intentions that are more around reminding themselves that they have the capacity to be successful, much like our new friend who just joined. Your intention based on your viewpoint is to have the coolest hat on the internet right now. This is amazing.
Hugh: This is Mr. Rash from Bedford, Virginia. Bob is in Dallas. I shamed him into bringing a hat. He wanted to make a comment, so I told him to bring a hat and he can come on screen. Bob, are you through?
Bob: Yeah. I didn’t get the answer that I was waiting for though.
Blake: I was in the middle of it before the epic hat moment. I was sharing that I don’t know if we legitimately only have feelings. It’s a pep talk to the self, a speech to each worker from them to them. They want to get in the zone of work, reminding themselves they are building something awesome instead of “I hope I’m productive,” “I hope I stay focused.” It’s a pep talk. Sometimes we don’t use words that are actual feelings, but we use words that we hope to see written on the bathroom mirror and put those in the Zoom chat.
Elan: In our daily membership, there is the moment. We get people to write it in the chat box. We do a few breaths to center on that intention. By the way, we have some fun background music to set the tone for the whole thing. We have everyone go around; picture one after another, they declare their intention with their voice. You can hear the intention and the intensity behind it. It gives them a moment to step up to the intentionality of what they feel. No one puts a negative intention. No one goes to work purposefully trying to have bad feelings. It’s giving them an intentional moment to be reminded of how they actually do want to feel. With those donor letters, if you were saying “loving,” we will be able to hear it when you voice it. It gives you a chance to start embodying that feeling that you want. Sometimes it’s decisive. Sometimes it’s bold. We’ve had dozens of feeling words come up. It would be interesting to look back through the data set of all the emotions people bring up and with what frequency. That is a project for someone in your university to help us with.
Hugh: What I see you all demonstrating is leadership is not about telling people. It’s about enabling and empowering and influencing people. You influence results. You don’t micro-manage anyone. You don’t tell us what to do. You push the energy out so they can push it back. Mr. Rash, do you have a comment or question?
J.E. Rash: I can take up ten of those seven minutes left if you want. I want to thank you gentlemen for your presentation today and tell you how important it is and how it resonates with me. For 41 years at our organization, Legacy International, we base everything on our understanding of community. We are one of the oldest spiritual communities in the United States that I started over 50 years ago as a Sufi-based community. What we did is transfer that into a 501(c)3 secular nonprofit called Legacy International. We work all over the world. This is from Kyrgyzstan by the way. It’s very warm.
I think that you have touched on very important core values, especially for the world we live in today. This is a blessing of COVID. That forces people to face their realities. In our organization, we have been using this format for 10 years internationally along with in-person exchanges all over the world, focusing on State Department philanthropies. There are certain concepts you have captured from your own experience that are core. One is that we share universal values. When we begin our work, we talk about universal values to help us realize how to become humane human beings. That is a foundation of the community building we do online or in person. Right now, we have probably done 40 online community processes since COVID.
What I find is what you have also talked about. You use the word “community.” This is the foundational principle. I commend you for doing that. And looking at what we have in common: compassion, a sense of justice, love, a sense of mercy. It is often thought of as soft or spiritual terminology, which it is, but it’s also practical. It gives creativity to people. There is a saying in the Middle East, “Actions follow intentions” from Muhammad. That was 1,430 years ago. Working with universal values, it seems to me to be a real basic principle of helping people create their intentions and actions.
If there is a question behind this, I’ll frame it in another saying I use in my lectures. Instead of talking about unity in diversity, we talk about diversity in unity. The question is: What is your next step? What are you contemplating? What is your vision?
Blake: The next step in my mind is Elan and I have thought what we were doing is creating a virtual co-working experience. I’m realizing we’re just becoming really excited to create a virtual culture where people choose to work. The culture inherently provides a space of belonging where people get to do their work. We thought this was a productivity thing, but it’s becoming a belonging thing. People get to get work done in the process. It’s on the path of more people feeling like they belong and getting work done in the process. It stemmed from let’s be productive, which is ancient history to us now. Elan?
Elan: It’s amazing what we have started and where it’s evolving to. It’s evolving into really becoming the most successful accelerator of virtual co-working for entrepreneurs to accomplish goals faster. As we build into the thousands of entrepreneurs in this community, we’re trying to actively figure out how to curate that, how to create this environment that helps them all succeed in a way that still makes it feel small and communal and connected. It’s about maintaining the level of smallness in the bigness of everyone and what they are accomplishing. I’ll end it there.
Hugh: You don’t need a lot of words to be profound. These guys have wisdom past their years. What is a challenge that you’d like to leave people with today?
Blake: Take something so basic in your everyday activities and invite others to join you doing the same exact basic activity. There is magic in that, especially when applied to business.
Elan: I do extend an invite for you to join our virtual workathon like Hugh did. Experience this firsthand because we are talking theoretically. Once you’ll experience it, you’ll find some interesting way to apply this with your teams. And how to bring more life to some mundane things you are trying to accomplish.
Hugh: Thank you for sharing your time today, and I can’t wait for the next workathon. This has been a great interview.
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