Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Sean Li for the Vortex Show 01.
Sean Li is a serial entrepreneur, having launched and sold multiple businesses over the past 10+ years. He has founded a co-working space in Downtown Los Angeles, multiple e-Commerce companies focused on inbound content marketing for DIY products, and numerous podcasts. Most recently, he completed his MBA from the Berkeley Haas School of Business and co-founded a new business called Clever FM.
He talks about his entrepreneurial journey, which he believes happened out of necessity. Having graduated during economic downturns in 2008 and during last year’s pandemic, he continues to pursue his passion to solve problems and provide job opportunities.
I highly encourage you to listen until the end of the episode. The conversation covers various topics such as making tough decisions (like turning down 300k offers), setting a timeline for your dreams, knowing when to quit, lessons we’ve learned after becoming dads, and great tools under $150.
Welcome to the Pierre T. Lambert Podcast where Pierre interviews the best creatives in the world to share their tips and stories.
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Pierre T. Lambert is a travel & adventure photographer & YouTuber followed by over 600,000 people.
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Sean Li on Saying No to 300,000$+, Restarting the Podcast, Building Your Business, NFTs and Lessons from Becoming a Dad
Welcome back to the show after a "short" break. Today we're diving into topics like how to make hard decisions (like turning down 300k offers), what I have planned for this podcast reboot, how to build your own business, brainstorms around the world of NFTs, lessons from becoming a dad and much more with Sean Li.
Sean is a serial entrepreneur having launched and sold multiple businesses over the past 10+ years. He has founded a co-working space in Downtown Los Angeles, multiple e-Commerce companies focused on inbound content marketing for DIY products, and numerous podcasts. Most recently he completed his MBA from the Berkeley Haas School of Business and co-founded a new business called Clever.
▷ Discover Clever: https://clever.fm
▷ Full show notes on https://pierretlambert.com/podcast
I hope you learned something out of that episode! Now go crush it out there and remember to be nice with our planet – we only got one!
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Pierre Lambert owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.
This interview was transcribed by Descript.com.
Welcome back to the show after a “short” break. Today, we're diving into topics like how to make hard decisions (like turning down 300k offers), what I have planned for this podcast reboot, how to build your own business, brainstorms around the world of NFTs, lessons from becoming a dad and much more with Sean.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Pierre Lambert: Good morning podcast, and welcome to a new episode. My name is Pierre T. Lambert. I'm a travel adventure photographer and the host of this show today. We have a special guest, and my guest today is Mr. Sean Li. Sean is an entrepreneur. He started his life in the corporate world and decided quickly that it wasn't for him. He started a few businesses and right now is working on Alumni.FM and Clever.FM. Is that correct, Sean?
Sean Li: That's correct. And thanks for having me on the show.
Pierre Lambert: Sean, it's an absolute pleasure to have you. So, guys, if you don't know, Sean and I met back in Paris, I think in 2014. I was beginning my entrepreneurial journey, and ever since, we've been really good friends. He was kind of my first entrepreneur buddy. When I thought I was a little crazy, but now I met someone else that was crazy. And I was like, “Oh my God, this guy is amazing.” He has a business, and he actively lives from it. He's not employed by a corporation. I didn't know we could do this. So ever since we had a friendship and every time we want to talk about very long discussions about stuff or nothing, sometimes, that's who I call. So, Sean, I wanted to have you on this podcast because this is the first episode of the reboot of the podcast. If you want, I took a little break, and I thought we could dig into interesting topics, random topics, activities, where you add in your journey, and what's going to happen with the podcast. So, before we go any further, I'd love for you to tell us a little bit more about your story. What's your background story? How did you end up in that interesting world of turning down 300k offers to pursue something very unsecure or seems insecure in life?
Sean Li: Yeah. So, I started as an entrepreneur, I think both times out of necessity in many ways, and I say that because I kept graduating. I went to school twice, once for my undergrad in finance and then once for my MBA also in finance and entrepreneurship. And I graduated both times into a downturn. The first time was around ’07, ’08. This time was around, you know, 2020, right into the pandemic, Ashley too. And, you know, during these times I just find it's very opportunistic too, new opportunities arise because the world is kind of falling apart in many ways. Right. So, there's a lot of room for new things to grow. So, that's what I think started the entrepreneurship journey for me, or propelled it at least. I've always been interested in entrepreneurship ever since reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, entrepreneurship books like that. And I've always been just passionate about problem-solving. You know, that's what entrepreneurship is to me, trying to solve problems and create jobs and opportunities for other people. And so, you know, just driven by that. The first companies were around e-commerce. We sold, you know, automotive after-market accessories and things like that. But I feel like our core competency was actually in education. So, you know, we were able to ride the first wave of YouTube back in ’08, ’09.
Pierre Lambert: You’re like the original YouTuber.
Sean Li: I don't know about that, but you know, it wasn't about, back then, at least for us, we had never thought to build a brand or identity around ourselves. It was leveraging as a platform to sell our products, right. And so, we shot hundreds of DIY, do-it-yourself, how-to videos, showing people how to change light bulbs in their car for every single car.
Pierre Lambert: That’s funny. For some of the listeners, like, “Oh, I've seen those videos.”
Sean Li: Yeah. If you want to check it out, and they're still out there on Xenon Supply and Precision L.E.D. So yeah, you know, that’s how I've, I've been in the media world through and through. And even opened up a co-working space in downtown LA to further promote and build a community around entrepreneurship and media. That’s kind of my little background before I got into the podcasting world.
Pierre Lambert: Was it easy for you? Like when you were working, maybe when you got your first job? Were you instantly, like, “I need to quit.” or did it come slowly?
Sean Li: I think it came slowly, especially my first two jobs out of college. And I worked in finance and business development. I would say it came slowly because, and this is kind of my advice. When a lot of entrepreneurs ask me if they should quit their jobs, right? You know it really depends on your personal financial situation. For me, at the time, having been right out of college, I needed a job, and I couldn't afford to dive into a startup. And so, we were building the startup, the e-commerce business, for 18 months before I quit my job. And, during that time, you know, I would work, you know, my regular nine to five. Come home and then continue working from six to, you know, one or two o'clock. And then sometimes, during my lunch break, actually all the time, this was like 14, 15 years ago, during my lunch break, I would answer customer calls, you know, call them back or email them back. And it was fun, though, at that time. You know, I was single. Uh, we didn't have a kid like we do now. Uh, so it was, it was totally fine.
Pierre Lambert: You and I basically had our kids almost kind of like within like six months. So, we're very much into the same kind of journey when it comes to parenting.
Sean Li: Yup. That's right.
Pierre Lambert: So, were you doing that out of your room? Or…
Sean Li: Yeah, we're doing that out of my apartment. Funny enough, Facebook…
Pierre Lambert: There wasn’t any drop-shipping in ’08, ’09? No?
Sean Li: No, no, no. I mean, I'm sure there was some sort of it, but not at the scale that Amazon had built or that exists today. But yeah, we were just doing that in my apartment, and if there's one thing that Facebook is great for, it's reminding us of the photos that we took like 10, 12, 15 years ago. And the other day, this literally last week, it showed me a photo of the first time we moved the inventory and like the racks into my apartment, and I had written the post you know, this is how you build an empire one box at a time.
Pierre Lambert: Would that still apply today?
Sean Li: Uh, yeah. I mean, I think it definitely applies. You build an empire. You build a business, you know, one step at a time. People, I feel like, sometimes get too far ahead of themselves. Yeah.
Pierre Lambert: We'll talk more about that later. Yeah, we definitely.
Sean Li: You know, I actually want to ask you a question, Pierre. You know what, in terms of rebooting this podcast, you know, what have you envisioned for this reboot? Will it be very different from how things were before, or dramatically will it be a bit different?
Pierre Lambert: Well, that's a good question. Um, I think I've always loved the podcast. Like really because it's a great way to connect, listen to other people's stories. And I dive into stuff that you wouldn't talk about in a five-minute video or 10 minutes. And what I create for YouTube is very catered and very niched out, in a way it's just photography. What I really want is just to expand that a little bit, go a little broader to my interest. And it already happened with the first 55 episodes, where it really started as just photography. But you can't really talk about photography with them without talking about their life and what tools helped them in their life, and what was the turning points and how they got there. So, I'm really much more interested in the stories behind and sharing that. And bringing on guests that, I think, can add into our own journeys, whether it's as creative, whether it's an entrepreneur or, you know, whatever you're doing in life. I feel like there are so many tools that can be helpful. And I really want to focus on that. So, I'm bringing you on, and if you're cool with that, I think we'll do a few throughout a year or two together, maybe to check up on how things are going on both sides. And we'll talk about your new business and how that's going because I think it's cool to document that. And also, in terms of tools and what, I realized that a lot of people think creativity is just art, but it's so much more than that. You know, it's like how you cook. It's how you design your own life. It's how you run a business. It applies to everything. It doesn't have to be just photography. So, the tools that we use as photographers or artists can also translate to other places. And so, I want to dig into some of those and, uh, just to give you a sneak peek. I'm actually searching because you probably know, but psychedelics have become very mainstream in a way, or like, especially lately. And we know, but without knowing, that it's always been used creatively, Steve Jobs talked about it. But, I feel like it's never been expressed with some experts saying like, “Okay, this is how it works, or this is how it can be used creatively.” So, I'm actively searching, for example, for a few guests around that topic. So, I can explore that because whether it's the French, you know, poets who used to drink certain drinks or certain wines back in Paris and Monaco to write. Or like others in different places of the world. I feel like there's always been a lot of tools, good or bad. Whatever you want to see, to accurately bring up some emotions to translate into creative work. And I'm just kind of curious around that space. I want to hear it from people who actually studied that and worked in that field for a very long time. And not just some, some dude who's like, “Oh yeah, I took mushroom in the woods, and then I started painting on my wall.” I'd like to have a more thorough approach, especially because there are a lot of things that can go great and bad about things like that. So, I think it has to be important. And then, I want to bring out other entrepreneurs, also people in their own different space. And I have a few other guests scheduled that will also be around the ward of NFTs or not just NFT. It's more like them as artists, but using a new medium to share their art. I think that's important. You know, it's something that came up. It's fairly recent. I already had one guest before, in March 2020, I think around that. Ted Chin. And what's the status now that it's almost like nine months later, how does it work? How did it work for them? And did it change their lives? How do they see the future? So, I want to really dig into that, and we'll bring other guests that I feel are interesting. I want to keep it very wide and, and I wanted to take people on that journey of you and me. You know, very much like how diverse our interests can be. It can be anything from geeking around music or photography to suddenly we're talking about, I don't know, psychology and child development. And then next thing it's cars or travel or, money, or like minimalism. Like how should we not buy stuff, or should we buy stuff? I don’t know. And hopefully, people are interested. I don't expect people to be interested in everything, but if they can get something out of every episode, or at least one person can get something out of it, I think it's a good way to go.
Sean Li: That makes sense too. And I love how the show is called the PTL show. So, really it's not, you know, limiting to anything.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. Well, that's what's difficult to, to choose the title. You know, back when I started 2018, I was like, what's going to be the title. And I was like, it could be Pierre, but then it's going to be my name. You can't really; if you think like a business, you can't brand it. For example, pass it on or like expanded it differently. It's still tied to your name, which is just like if you're a photographer, do you want to call yourself studio X, Y, Z. Or do you want to call it just your name? You know, more like artist's style, but then you understand that you can resell your studio. If it's your name, you can sell maybe some branding around it, but that's it. Um, again, I'm thinking more like, a startup because you think about how not to exit, but like how do you expand, or how do you scale? So, yeah, I thought it was a good way. Keep it for me.
Sean Li: Okay. I just want to close that door. Yeah, I think that's great. That's amazing that you think about these things because I feel like, in many ways it's good that you think about the branding, right? But at the same time, it can become a curse for some entrepreneurs in the beginning. And I have firsthand experience of this is, you know. That becomes kind of the excuse for not starting something because you can't figure out what’s my logo. Yeah. What's my name? What's my domain name? What's my logo? So, I definitely think people should be more thoughtful about it. But my advice around that if people find themselves being stuck on that, then they need to move on from it and just pick anything.
Pierre Lambert: Quick, secret guys, Sean probably has a hundred domains from every time he has an idea. He's like, “Hey, I just bought this domain.”
Sean Li: That's a fact.
Pierre Lambert: Now you need to buy them on dot Eve for eight years.
Sean Li: Is that the new thing? Oh yeah, it is. And actually the program, how do you call that? The protocol that’s ETH that they launched? Um, a little while ago, I actually just started giving out tokens to holders of domains to reward the first user. So, we're going a little like blockchain here, but it allows you to have a domain name on the Ethereum web 3.0, basically. And they gave out tokens, and those tokens were worth a lot of money on the launch, which was crazy. So, you bought a $50 domain name, and because you were so early, they rewarded you, and they gave out the tokens. But the tokens gave you a right to vote on how the protocol will work in the future and how it should integrate with the current DNS protocols, and it's very interesting. They're trying to make it like a decentralized, autonomous organization a little bit by giving out those tokens and giving people the right to vote. Obviously, you could sell them. And they were, they were trading between like, I think they start at 30, and they went up to 80 on the day of lunch. So if you receive, I think if you had a domain that wasn't linked to you, you would receive maybe 180 tokens? If you do that time, 50, that's a lot of money. Anyway. That's besides the points; I was like, “What?” But Crypto war is very strange. I can't really speak too much about it because I'm looking in it, but looking more like from outside. I'm not an expert in anything, so I don't want to put people on the wrong tracks. Yeah,
Sean Li: Absolutely. I think NFTs are something we can talk more about too.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. Because I'm very interested in how you think about that for new business, for Clever and like how it could potentially. I don't know how much you've looked into those things right now. But I think it could be interesting. So, why don't you tell us? We have a few topics that we listed that we want to go through. I think the first one we could do is simply talk a little bit about Clever and what Clever is. And how it might help. Because if you are listening to the podcast right now, I think it's 70% chance you're listening on Apple podcast. Probably 20% chance you're on Google podcast. Oh, no, 20% on Spotify and 10% on Google podcasts. I think something like that. And then there is residual other apps. So, tell us, what is Clever, Sean?
Sean Li: Yeah, Clever was born out of frustration with existing podcasts. And the frustration was focused from the host’s perspective. From the creator’s perspective. You know, I started a podcast a little bit before I think you started yours back in 2017. Uh, when I was doing my MBA at Berkeley and, you know, I remember very distinctly applying to Berkeley and looking for podcasts to listen to. And I was just shocked that they didn't have a podcast, right. This school being in the Bay Area. You know, top brand name school. And so, once I got on campus, I was additionally frustrated that it was horribly inefficient to network. You know, the purpose of going to the MBA is networking. At least for me, it was. And you know, I was doing these one-on-one intros. And so, I ended up thinking, you know, I have this experience with YouTube video production, how hard could producing podcasts be? Right with audio? And so, I just started recording people that I was meeting and sharing their stories with the community to be more efficient about the whole process. I continued creating podcasts just as a side passion project for the next two, three years. And then, the university asked me to do an alumni podcast focused on just interviewing alumni. I thought, you know, this is amazing and all, but, you know, I didn't come to the MBA to do podcasting. I came to the MBA to network, and you know, up in the Bay Area specifically to figure out a tech-enabled business to build right. Cause all my prior businesses were very much lifestyle businesses, not tech-enabled businesses. So, this is kind of where I was looking at all the pain points around me. And I noticed as a podcast host; there's no way to interact or engage your audience right. For people listening right now, you know, the fact that we mentioned NFTs, we mentioned psilocybin, you know, we mentioned a bunch of things already. There's no way for you to go quickly, click through, and read up on these things, right. You literally have to go Google search it. And we mentioned a book. You have to go find it on Amazon. If we mentioned another podcast episode, you have to go search for that. And it actually bugged me that you're listening to podcasts on a smartphone or smart device on a dumb app. Yeah, right?
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. It's like a radio. Yeah, it hasn't changed from the radio. It actually just happens between. I heard the change about the internet like someone was explaining on Tim Ferriss' podcast. That changes, between web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Basically, what 1.0 is they would put up magazines from the real world, boom, and show it on there. And I feel like podcasts are; they're taking radio and putting them there. The only differences you can choose, what, what, which one you listened to?
Sean Li: Yeah. So, that's what we initially set out to change, was just to make it more interactive. How, you know, we've built the business so far in the first six months now of our startup. You know, we fundraised back in June and, now, we're just continuing to build on this. We launched the app, you know, two weeks ago, publicly on the Google and Apple app stores. And our big push right now is thinking about how we can help podcasts. Hosts activate their super fans. Being a platform, think about Reddit, or Twitch, or Instagram in the early days, right. These platforms prefer superusers, people who are creating and curating content, right? People were actively posting their amazing photography on Instagram. Like these are the people we want to activate in the podcast community. Like they don't have a space right now. They have to go to Reddit. They have to go to Discord. They have to go to all these other places to help kind of curate or moderate the podcast and build community. We're thinking, why can't you just build the community inside a podcast app, right?
Pierre Lambert: So in a way like YouTube for video, where I have the community and with the comments, where we can exchange around it, which doesn't exist. It's true. It's true. I'm just going to give a few teasers to everyone here because I've been using the app for a while. Right? And if I fully disclosed, I supported the project a little bit. Also, and I love the app for several reasons. So, you're talking about the community aspect, but the first thing that I love personally is that I can take highlights at any point during your podcast. And if you've ever listened, no matter what we mentioned, you're like, “Oh, I have no clue what they just said here.” Like, “What did it talk about? How do you even like to go back to it?” I don't know, I might be driving, or I have no clue to know where it was. And if you've ever tried to scroll through a podcast is just, it just doesn't work. So, here you can actually take smart notes, and right from the app, it's going to highlight it's going to transcribe. So, it's even better than audible. If you've used audible, where you have bookmarks, this is accurately transcribed automatically. And then, you can highlight the part that you want later on, and then you can export your notes. And that is so helpful because I go to my highlights, and then I'm like, “Oh, those are all my highlights from the different podcasts. Then, I can send it to Sean and be like, “Dude, listen to this podcast.” I don't have to send you the whole episode. I can send you the excerpt. That, I think, is interesting. All the timestamps, and that part is, is fascinating to me and for the community. even with my podcast. Yes, I'm actually interested to see where people engage the most or what triggers the most discussion. You know, not in a bad way, but if you're building the community behind it or like that ability to have a community, people will be talking about certain parts in the podcast. You know, it's like you go to a show with a bunch of friends, and then you come out of the show. You're going to be, “Oh, this, remember when he did that or when they talked about it. It's just so interesting.” You know, that part is cool. Yeah.
Sean Li: I mean, it's funny, you mentioned these highlight features, and they are amazing for people to use, to be able to bookmark and highlight and go back to. But one thing that I think a lot of people don't realize when they first come in the app and look at, how does this feature actually enables community, right? Is that when you look at Kindle, when you look at the Medium, right? If a hundred people highlight the same part, it gets surfaced as, “Oh, this is a popular moment.” And it's that kind of social proof that also helps drive the platform, and the medium, right. It is so that you can share things easier.
Pierre Lambert: You can share your highlights with the community, which then shows you like, “Oh, that really hit a bell with a lot of people.”
Sean Li: Exactly. Right now, as podcasts hosts, we have to guess what might be interesting. And then, we will highlight that part and create an audiogram and share it on social media. Right? What if we could get the community to do that, right? They decide what's interesting.
Pierre Lambert: Right. Which is what Gary did for a while. He was like, “Okay, timestamp, what part on Twitter, or whatever.” Which part was the most relevant? But that's like so much work as a listener versus just tapping a button. I also love the smart cards. It’s basically a lot easier. So if you go to a show, we've got the temporaries, for example, it just shows you all the things that were highlighted, like books and stuff. And then you just tap on one, and it's just going to give you all the details you want about it, which I found fascinating. Because you just go to a book or whatever, and you're like, “Okay, cool. This is finally the book. See, I tapped on the book, and it takes me straight to Amazon or whatever. And you were, I don't know if that's still the case, but you were talking about allowing people to actually earn, maybe. Yeah?
Sean Li: You this is, this is part of our drive to help podcasters activate their super fans. Right? You go to a Twitch show, you go to a Reddit forum. There are these, you know, moderators just like Yelp elite. There are contributors, people that volunteer their time. Go out of their way to help contribute and help curate the internet. Right? These are the people we really want to activate in the podcasting world, and to the extent that we're actually even willing to pay them to do it. I'll tell you why we pay. You know, as a podcast host, I pay anywhere between $50 to $60 for an hour to transcribe the episode, right? To have it white-glove transcribed by a human. And the thing is that, why can't we pay $50, $60 for our community to help us find interesting moments and highlights and links to like interesting things? I say this because what this ultimately does, is it surfaces what this content is about, right? When people on YouTube in the comments list out the chapter markers, right? Before YouTube actually introduced the chapter markers themselves, right? That helped curate what was in this 10, 15, 20, 30-minute video. Right? So now, you know, what's in there so that you can make deep linking possible right now. Podcasting is the black box. You don't know what's in this 30-minute episode, right? All you have to go off from when you search all, you have to go off, from when your search is just the title, the description. Right? And so, another thing that is a new feature. It's a little bit hidden because it's not activated for every podcast, is that you can actually search in transcripts in our app. If the show's host gives us a transcript, when you go to that show, you can actually search the transcript in addition to the title and description.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah, that's interesting. That's super helpful. Because, for example, I liked him for this part, and he mentioned that a few times now, there's just so much content. Sometimes, I have to go to his blog. I will go to his blog if I'm looking for something specific and look through the transcript, which is good that we go to the people's blog. But if you can make it a little faster, especially through the app, that's really good. I'm excited about this. I'm excited about this. So if you're listening and you're excited, I think the app is public now. Yes, it's public. Okay. So, it's called Clever.FM on the app store.
Sean Li: Then you can search for Clever Podcast. But, if you just searched Clever.FM, just like the radio, you know, FM radio, you will find it.
Pierre Lambert: The radio killed the radio. The radio killed the radio stars, right?
Sean Li: Yeah.
Pierre Lambert: That's awesome, dude. I'm so excited. I don't know. It's still early in the game in that journey that I feel like there's going to be so many episodes around that journey for you. Was it difficult to build your team around it?
Sean Li: Yes, I think it wasn't very difficult finding my co-founder. Um, it was very serendipitous in some ways, and you know, a lot of things happen, I would say, by chance. But I'm not a huge believer in chance and luck. Right. I am one of the people that believe, you know, fortune favors the prepared. So, you know, I was networking a lot and making a lot of connections. I ended up meeting my co-founder because I'd interviewed his wife on the Haas podcast three years prior because she was another fellow Haas student. And so, in many ways, you're just like, “Was that by chance? Was that by design?” Because I was very intentional about creating a podcast for the community. I just, I've always been a big believer that, you know, you just keep doing things that make sense to you. Don't second guess yourself too much, and just be consistent. And I think I learned a little bit of that from you as well. When you were doing your initial, I think it was initially I started maybe as a 30-day challenge for your blog, right? Two years, I think, not three. And then, and then you push me to do like a 30-day vlogging challenge. You know I shot a daily vlog for 45 days straight, and many times. You're just like, “Why am I doing this?” By the third day, “No, one's watching, right?” So, when the podcast, in the beginning, it’s like, “Who's listening to this? Right?” But you just keep at it because you realize that this is interesting. I want to learn something new. I want to challenge myself in new ways. Then you know, magical things will come out of it. What that magical thing is, you never know. But I think you just got to have faith that everything that you do in life will accumulate and will add up to something amazing. As long as you are active and learning new things.
Pierre Lambert: Do you need to be active, or can you be passive?
Sean Li: By active, I mean, you know, responding.
Pierre Lambert: Responding.
Sean Li: Or, yeah, being present. Yeah. How do I put this? It's yeah. Being, I think being responsive and present is actually the best wording for it. I see like, if an opportunity presents itself, you know, you take it?
Pierre Lambert: Yeah, it's a little bit like Michael Singers’ book. When he's talking about just going with what the universe can have once or like what is presented to him, that is saying, “Oh, you need my help on this. Or you need me to do this.” You know, like people, “Hey, we want you to hop on that.” Then not going against it, saying, “No, I don't want to. I don't have time.” But actually going like, “Well, that opportunity presents itself. It probably means I might have to go in that direction, for now, you know, and going with the flow.
Sean Li: You just reminded me of actually why I started the podcast. I listed a bunch of reasons earlier, and those are the reasons of my own head as to why it justified it. Right? But the actual catalyst for it was that there was this new position in the MBA program called Inner Program Relations- V.P. of Inner Program Relations. And the whole idea was, you know, we have, for most M.B.A.s. There are three programs. There's a full-time program, there's a part-time program, and then there's the executive MBA program. And across all three programs at Berkeley, there are about 1500 students. Right? So, my role taking that on was to help connect the different programs. You know, a lot of ideas were thrown out there. You know, “let's create parties or create big events.” But then I realized like, for any kind of event, you need a catalyst. You need a reason for people to show up, right? You don't have to say networking event. And it's like, cool. Right? Most people don't show up to that cause there's no purpose to it. That was actually the catalyst and the opportunity to say, all right, maybe a podcast might be a great way to do this, to record people's stories so that they can hear about each other in different programs. Well, forgot.
Pierre Lambert: Which came in really handy was COVID, after, yes?
Sean Li: Three years later. Yeah.
Pierre Lambert: But that's you know, it's the same. Like if I have students who participate in a 30-day program to get photos, it's the same thing. You don't know when you're going to take that stab, just maybe for fun. You don't know what it means a year or two later, you know? And that's where it's beautiful in a way. And that's why I highly recommend to anyone to always tap into that curiosity. I think it's more curiosity than anything else, you know, and feeding it. Like, “Oh, I wonder what happened if I did this? Well, let's just try, you know?” You don't have to go like quit your life and go live under a rock for six years. You can just, “Why don't I podcast on the side. I'll do it a little later. I'll drop maybe one or two TV shows”. And, and while not saying that everyone watches TV shows. I don't think I've watched much, I've watched Ted Lasso lately. I think we picked Trina, one TV show every six months or every year that we're going to watch. And that's pretty much it because since we have a kid, I mean, you know, it's like downtime is very scary, and you're like, wow. Yeah. Oh, by the way, do you feel like you became more efficient with work since you, became a dad?
Sean Li: I don't know. I've been struggling a lot with fatherhood lately. You know, Miles is, I think, three months behind Kira. And so, I'm like, always feel like I'm three months. Like when I talked to Pierre, and I’m calling you in the third person that when I talked to you. I feel like, I'm talking to someone in the future. Right. It's like when you're talking to me in a day, it's like, you're telling me what the future is like with this baby, right? Three months from now. I feel like I've been struggling a lot lately about fatherhood because, you know, Miles is 22 months as of this recording, and I just really want to engage with him more and play with him more. He's so much more playful, interactive. I probably shouldn't say this, but you know, 12 months ago, he was more like a potato, you know.
Pierre Lambert: They're very cute potatoes. You can move them around.
Sean Li: That’s really what I've been grappling more with is, uh, just my desire to want to spend more time with him. Am I becoming more efficient at work? Hard to say. I definitely become more accepting of what I can and cannot accomplish at work in a day. Not in totality, just for this day. Right. And not beating myself up for it. Giving myself grace, that looks like I'm working, not for the sake of working. I'm not building a startup for the sake of building a startup. I’m building a startup too because, you know, I want to spend time with my family, and I'm very fortunate and lucky that I have a business partner who also values, you know, personal time. And, even though, yes, this is like a high-intensity tech startup, right. We are investor-backed. There are a lot of expectations, and there needs to be a lot of momentum that we also balance it out that, you know, you can have a family, you can have a life and still have a startup. So, that's something I feel like we've been able to balance out well.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah, it's important. I get the way you want to spend time with them. You know, honestly, they're just very fun. And the biggest lessons I've learned so far is just observing what a human is before all the filters and the certain crap and non-crap that we integrate into our operating system. And that's something I wanted to talk about. I actually shared that. I think I talked about it a little bit on Instagram the other day. I talked about it on the newsletter. It's the whole concept of earned learning behaviors, you know? And when you look at a child and when I look at my daughter, I'm like, this thing is so pure, innocent. You know, like up to a certain point, but you just see it's like a mirror. And every time you do something, she would do the same thing. And whether it's good or bad, and it's literally a mirror that doesn't care, doesn't judge in that sense. Where they just do the same thing, and they have no concept of like, this is a good thing, bad thing. So then suddenly you're like, oh, maybe that's not how I want to present myself. Well, that's not the thing I want to do, you know, and it just questions. Also, everything that you've been doing. It’s almost like you were shooting with the camera, or you were like cooking a certain way, your whole life. And suddenly, someone comes in and is like, well, “Why don't you use your left hand to do it?” And you're like, “No, no, no, that's bad, or that's not right, you know?” And then you're like, “Well, actually, why isn't it? You know, it looks like it's working fine for you.” Like, “What makes me trigger so much? Like, who told me, who made me believe that there was only this way? I find it so fascinating.
Sean Li: No, it's true.
Pierre Lambert: Okay on learning have you, have you noticed that it's something like the older I grow, the more realized, how much, I call it my operating system, that layer of filters we have drained responses to stimulus. If you want, if someone tells you something, you're going to respond a certain way. If that triggers memories of your parents responding to each other and where. Most likely, we'll go there or maybe mimic that, just like our kids mimic us. I just become more and more aware of how much of that we have, Sean. And I'm sometimes a little worried, not worried, but I'm like, “Oh, wow.” So, I feel like there's a lot to unpack, personally. And, I'm wondering if you've gone through that unlearning process on certain things also and how you go through it.
Sean Li: Yeah. I, when I saw this question, I put some thought into it and what I realize is that at least how I operate my M.O. is that I don't try to unlearn something. Because then I'm putting attention and time focusing on something I don't want. Right? Instead, I will immediately try to figure out how do I replace this behavior? What is something that I do want? What is a behavior, a habit, that I do want? And I'll focus on, what's the word, growing that aspect, so, that's how I approach it personally. And I don't know when I learned to do that. Yeah, I, I have no idea. I can't think of that too, you know, how I learned to do that. But that's, that's just my, my approach to it. And so, so yeah, so sorry. That was a very, very concise answer because I've really put a lot of thought into it.
Pierre Lambert: No, but I think it really sounds exactly like you're telling someone don’t do this versus, “Okay, do this.” You know, and it puts in faces like, “No stop, stop doing this.” versus accurately, “This is how you could do it.” And I think it's great. I like that.
Sean Li: I think, maybe, I learned this a little bit from you as well, at least from a parenting perspective. You know, when Miles acts out, right? When he has a tantrum or when he does something we don't want him to do, you know it's less about, “Hey, stop doing that or don't do that.” It's more, “Hey, look at this other thing now.” And then they forget it, right? Or like when they literally throw a tantrum, I think the funniest thing because I don't know if I learned this from meditation, but I just look at it. I take a step back and look. This is the funniest thing. Right? Versus being annoyed, like, “Oh, you're not acting the way I expect you. I want you to act, which is like, “Stop crying. Stop doing this. Stop doing that.” Right? Because that's what I want.
Pierre Lambert: Adults actually pay thousands to go into therapy, to cry with their kids.
Sean Li: Exactly. Yeah. And I just like, take a step. I'm like, dude, this is hilarious. And I look at Mink, and we both laugh. We're just like, this kid is acting so funny. Like he is just like throwing himself on the flopping on the floor, like a dead fish. And, so anyway, you know, coming back to the conversation, it's like, “Yes, it's not about what we don't want them to do.” It's about what are some behaviors we would like for him to switch to, right? That is more than just not throwing a tantrum. And we find it's quite easy. Like, you know, kids are very present, right? And that, that's the one thing that, you know, you've told me about that. I didn't know that kids don't have, at least, toddlers. They don't have a sense of time. That five minutes or five hours is quite, you know, it's the same to them. So, they're just literally in the present. And that's something that I keep with me every single day. When I think about things, I want to change, right? Things I want to unlearn. It's like, yeah,
Pierre Lambert: I love it. I love it. I'll probably change my phrasing after that conversation about unlearning because you're right. It's not about unlearning. It's obviously unlearning for me. It is more like this is what I want to deconstruct and reconstruct in a way. But it's more about, I don't even know if we need to deconstruct and estimate. I don't know. But if I think like a computer, and sometimes you need to defragment that hard drive. Although, with that, I don't think you need to do it anymore.
Sean Li: No. You need to upgrade SSDs.
Pierre Lambert: Let's just change the SSD, and then it's fascinating because I think it translates in every aspect. It also transpires creativity and creative work because it's almost like. “Don’t do this. Don't shoot with your right hand.” You know, “Don't use that button to trigger something. Don't incorporate. Don't do this.” No, instead, it's like, you can't start a business. If you want to be independent, you can't be independent. If you're thinking don't be dependent, you know, you have to be like, “Okay, start a business, work on the business.” It's not like, “Don't work in that company.”
Sean Li: It's like, like telling yourself to not be depressed. It's like, yeah.
Pierre Lambert: And there is a huge thing around that, which I've learned. I got to experience really understand. Finally, you know, it's one of those concepts you can read about it. I don't know if you read Tara Brach, which was about Radical Acceptance and stuff, but I've started to see patterns where a lot of people will talk in mindfulness. It's not about controlling or like an emotion, or it's not about putting it down or avoiding it or like saying bye to it. It's more about the first step is just recognizing it and just accepting it. You know, and just accepting that you might be angry, you might be depressed or whatever. Just accepting what is right now. It’s not judgment. We all judge in the way, but it's more like accepting what is. You know, it doesn't matter where you are, whether you think it's good or bad. It's just like, “Hey, recognize that he is here, that he is here at the moment.” I feel like I recognize that it's almost like there was an elephant in the room that's been dancing for six hours that wants your attention. Just like your kid is having a tantrum, and you're ignoring it. What happens? It just gets louder and louder until it breaks everything. And it's like, “Hey, I'm here, you know, just freaking look at me and say I exist.” So then you're like, “Oh, okay. You're here. I see you. Cool. I see you now. What's up? What do you, what do you want me to put attention on? You know, what are you trying to tell me here? You know, I see you, maybe we can work. We can act on this. Maybe we can't.” But in either case, “I see you, I hear you. And that makes you feel good.” If you've ever been public speaking, or if you've been in a classroom, and you're reading a poem and everyone looks in other directions, it's very frustrating. A public speaking experience. Right. You probably think it sucks. But if people give you that attention, suddenly you feel better about it, you know, or if they give you too much attention, you might feel shy, but that's different. So, I think it's a little bit the same. So, I'm going in like a different world here, but I think it's the same if whatever you're trying to do a knife or whatever triggers you deeply. It might be just something that needs your attention at that moment.
Sean Li: Yeah, I agree.
Pierre Lambert: So, we can unlearn that. Uh, no, I'm joking. We don't have to learn it, which is bringing attention to what is and what, and then shifting towards something we want. I think that our kids are the best example of that. So, sorry guys. This is turning into the dad’s podcast, but this is great.
Speaking of, I wanted to, okay. I wanted to take a little stab at something that we wrote down, which was the most useful tool under a hundred or $150. And your cat cannot be one of them. Sean’s cat just walked into frame. So, Sean, I'll let you go for it first because it was a very challenging question for you.
Sean Li: I was telling you it's very challenging because I, the only thing I bought recently that was a tool was my, was a new MacBook from one MacBook store. Maybe the most useful thing that I bought that was under a hundred dollars was a pair of climbing shoes. Something, you know, to help me be more active. You know, pursuing something that, I think, is very physically challenging. The thing I love about it is whenever I have a big problem at work, you know, with a startup, especially, I just think this is like, this is a mountain of a problem. I go to the climbing gym, I get on the rope and three stories off the ground. I'm like, all my problems seem so small right now compared to this.
Pierre Lambert: Exactly. Yeah,
Sean Li: My grip is falling apart, and you know, even though I'm safe, I want to make it to the top. That really puts a lot of things in perspective. So, that’s probably the most useful tool that I've purchased lately. I mean, there's one tool. If we're talking about software, by the way, and I have to promote this company because I think that they're freaking awesome. It's this Japanese developer who makes this tool called SteerMouse for the Mac, right? Mac is a very enclosed ecosystem, but steer SteerMouse it’s like a $30 utility tool that allows you to map any of the Mac features, right? Like opening up the desktop that you would have on the pad. You can map it onto any mouse with multiple buttons. So, I can use a different mouse. I thought that was like something I bought recently, and it was really good.
Pierre Lambert: I actually loved this thing, the pad. What is it called? I don't know. It's the magic pad. Is that what it's called?
Sean Li: It's just magic out of magic to it. Magic keyboard, magic mouse, magic pad.
Pierre Lambert: It's basically the size of the pad that's on the computer, on the laptop. And ever since I went to a Mac and used their pads, even for, for like editing photos, anything, I've never ever gone back to a mouse. I just find the mouse so cumbersome in a way.
Sean Li: Well, definitely for when I was doing audio editing a video editing. Yeah. I would love the magic pad. But without any of that stuff, it just, for me personally, just too much like restraint. Now, this podcast is turning into the Apple Fanboy.
Pierre Lambert: ‘Cause I’m an ex anti-Apple in a way.
Sean Li: Tell us about your tool. What's the most useful tool you've purchased?
Pierre Lambert: Okay.
Sean Li: Under a hundred dollars. I mean, inflation is pretty high as, I don't know how you, how you cut that hundred dollar number.
Pierre Lambert: I don't know. I think it has to increase every, every two weeks whenever the fed prints more money. Okay. So, definitely, my magic pad was really cool. Although Trina got it for herself, my wife for her work, and then she didn't like it. So, I'm like, this is for me. It's perfect. I love it. Um, I will say under a hundred dollars, the most useful thing that I've found recently was just my photography backpack clip that I use every single, single time. I've mentioned that tool so many times. I just bought one more in New York. That's why I mentioned it again because it's something that I use every single time I go to shoot; it just clips under the peak design one. You can find the reference on pierretlambert.com forward slash gear or type “Pierre’s gear” or “Pierre T Lambert gear” on Google. You'll find it, too. It's a clip. And then I attach my camera here, and it frees my hand. But also, I shift it to a tripod. And I don't know if it's literally one of those tools that I move on every single camera. So, I finally got an extra once a night, three, which sounds very overkill when you sometimes, but I have two backpacks, one for traveling and one for like date day things. And I'm having to unclip them and move them around was just a hassle. And I forgot one when I was in New York, so I'm like, “Let's go, let's go buy one.” That was very, very helpful. It's maybe around 70 bucks, I think 70, 80, it's not cheap, but it's one of those tools. Like, I use it so much that it is worth every single cent that I spent on it, you know? It’s always so surprising how your perception of value changes depending on how you use it before you use it. You're like this way. And then you use it. You're like, “Oh, wow, this is, this is so well-made. I love it.” And recently got I got this activity yesterday. But, this is more than $150.
Sean Li: Is that molecule thing?
Pierre Lambert: Though it's a Bose smart speaker, they call it. So, it also has the Google Assistant and everything built-in. So, it's like a speaker, like a book, a great boost speaker, but it can act as your home. How do you call it a home assistant? If you want a Google Assistant or Alexa, whichever you prefer, the sound is insane. Just like with every Bose product. I absolutely loved the sound. I received it and got disappointed, though because there was no oxygen really input for Jack Plug. But then I was like, how many times do I actively use the Jack Plug? But I realized even if I go through the Bluetooth because it's on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. So, I was like, you know what? That may be okay –quick hack. If you want to buy those things, always look for refurbished ones. They're the same, but they're like a hundred, $150 cheaper. And then you're like, well, you don't need to wait for Black Friday.
Sean Li: If you listen to this podcast on the clever app, we'll have all those things linked out as well. Uh, really, for real.
Pierre Lambert: Wow.
Sean Li: I mean, since we're talking about things over a hundred dollars, and I'll tell you what I bought that I really love lately here from Levoit. This, this is Levoit, it's like $200. You can buy an Amazon or Best Buy. It was like $220. No, it was $220 on sale. I think it's the price on Amazon now. Maybe it was like one $190, by the time I bought it. And it's an air filter, but it’s smart. It connects to your Wi-Fi. It’s just really quiet. It knows when to turn up because it can detect the PMI, like the amount of particles in the air. I don't know, it's just like an amazing quiet air filter.
Pierre Lambert: Do you feel different because do you feel like your air is not clear? I mean, your house is new, so you can imagine there is a lot of…
Sean Li: Aside from the house being new and the dust settling, we do have two cats, and that's sitting right next to you. You can't see off-screen, sitting right next to the cat litter. So, it is, yeah, definitely.
Pierre Lambert: So, yeah, I always wondered, like people say the air is cleaner outside than inside the house, which I completely understand. But it's always very surprising. And we moved recently, maybe very few of you know, unless you've watched a few recent videos where I mentioned it. So now we're in kind of house, and we're renting, and this has been so much like the house makes zero sense. Like, the construction of the house does not make sense in my mind at all. Especially because I'm an engineer by training, I'm like, nothing makes sense yet. The walls aren't really flat; they're a little crooked. They have angles. Like people like put boards in random places for apparently no reason. There are like nails in places. I'm like, “This house is, it's very much challenging my organized mind around this.” you know? But it also made me realize the air that goes in and out. You don't always understand how it flows in your house. If you didn't build a house or if you're not into the system. And I think it's very important to keep it flowing from outside, but you're in California. So, you can open your windows here. It's like around zero right now. Celsius. Cold.
Sean Li: Yeah. Well, ours is open most of the time. I've also been thinking about installing an exhaust system. So that it further poles and draws in air from the outside. Oh, yeah. Yeah, because it's supposed to be very efficient cooling for the house.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. Yeah, for sure. Especially if you open your windows at night, I mean, if you go to the south of France, it gets really hot, but no one has AC ever, and you walk into the house, it's very cool. This always makes me think that the construction of houses here in the U.S. is not, it's not very efficient, to say the least. This is a topic I could go way, way too far into.
Sean Li: Yeah. I was just about to go into another topic about why the homes here because I actually wondered why the homes here are built with wood and not stone or with concrete. And I should go away, answer. Yeah. It's because of earthquakes.
Pierre Lambert: Is it? But what about these for this region in the Midwest? There's a lot more brick.
Sean Li: In Midwest, there’s a lot more of brick. I don't know about Chicago, but at least we’re at Michigan. Where I'm from, there are a lot more bricks and stone homes where it's more efficient. It has better installation.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. Especially the white buildings, but I feel like the new buildings just use plywood and then like thinly.
Sean Li: Here’s the interesting thing. Right? So, when they built this house, they had sealed off every single floor. Like all the wiring that runs through the floors, they actually sealed those holes, and it's like a good thing and a bad thing. Right. It's a good thing in the sense that in there and the way they designed it, they were thinking, “Oh, like we're going to prevent bugs from traveling across the floors, right?” Or moisture or anything. Really. But the bad thing is, then your house is sealed. Literally, like all the outer walls, like the outlets behind the wall, they're actually all sealed. Um, and so then you don't have good airflow. And so if mold starts growing, let's say there is a water leak, mold just becomes pervasive in there. There's no way to air it out to dry out the area, really…
Pierre Lambert: Quickly and wind…
Sean Li: Wind like exactly. But, sometimes you don't know if it's wet behind the walls. And so, long story short, this is the thing with everything I've learned in life. Um, there's just no right answer. Like, if it's too sealed as bad, it's not sealed, it's bad. It's like, there's just no right answer. There's no absolute truth.
Pierre Lambert: And a lot of things. Well, speaking of living in houses, do you think, how long before we're all living in virtual worlds and like literally you wake up, and you go to your virtual metaverse thing because art is going virtual right now. Right? We've seen it happen with NFTs. We'll talk about more into other podcasts, but how much have you looked into that? Especially because you're in your startup now?
Sean Li: I mean, it's an interesting question because in many ways, as a video gamer, in some ways, you know, I don't watch TV. I don't watch sports, but if I do have downtime, I do enjoy a video game here or there. The video games that we have available to us these days are so immersive, you know, Red Dead Redemption, God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, you know these are, these are expansive worlds, right? That is an open world. There's no loading screen. There's nothing, you're literally just a character running around in this massive world. Then even before this, World of Warcraft, right? One of the biggest, I think in my opinion, Metaverse, before even metaverse became a thing or popular…
Pierre Lambert: I remember, like my parents or like all parents, were super afraid of their kids playing that because it was so, they would get sucked into it.
Sean Li: Exactly. Yeah. And so, I mean, my view on it is it's already kind of there it's just, is it enticing enough for you to stay in it? Hmm, is it just something that like, you know, second life back in the mid-2000s? I had tried something like this. The second life ended up just turning into a porn site. Right. Because did it everybody on there. Yeah, because everybody, all the kinds of vendors in second life forges porn sites, that that's what I heard. So, the world was populated.
Pierre Lambert: Here is a reflection of the world.
Sean Li: Yeah. And so in that sense, like yeah, in that sense, that would have been one of the earliest iterations of it. So, I think what's more interesting and what's more media is NFTs, and you actually gave me the best use cases, rent, and NFTs when we were talking about it before. And that aside from just, you know, allowing, you know, web 3.0, allowing people to own assets, right. Own property on the web. It actually can be used as a form of just transaction, right? When you're talking about art, how often is it traded? Right? Let's say you sell one of your photos, right? It's statistically, it's going to be traded that much in comparison to like a Gary V conference ticket, right. That is brilliant. Like that is using NFT in a way where it does not only have a value that can increase in value, but it's transactional. Actually, one of my classmates called me this week wanting to talk about this, and he had this crazy idea. And I don't know if I can share it, but it's around NFTs, and end games. So yeah.
Pierre Lambert: Well, there is a lot of application and NFTs and games they're already working on. So, where you wouldn't have objects that you, that you get that's basically an NFT and that object is transferable across different games and being reused and resold. And you're basically creating a marketplace that's not laying to necessarily just a game. It can be several games. What is it called again?
Sean Li: The CryptoKitties?
Pierre Lambert: No, no, no. The big game that's going on. I'll link it. No, it’s web 3.0 game fully. It will come back later, but basically, everything is built around web 3.0. People can go find objects, resell them as NFTs to other people. Because when you think about it, if you've played Diablo II or whatever, you would go on runs to actually find rare objects. Right. But that rare object was with you. And if you died or if you got it got lost or whatever, that's fine, though. Also, it wouldn't, it wouldn't go much further than it. Wasn't very disco.
Sean Li: That is the exact example I used when I was talking to him about it. I was just saying, “When I played Diablo, I don't actually own anything that I collect.” Right? Like it's not transferable to anything else. And why not?
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. You know why not?
Sean Li: Yeah. I spent all this time, you know, in the gaming geek worlds, you know, farming for free things. Right? But I don't get to keep it.
Pierre Lambert: Um, yeah. And if you resell it to another one, that you can never convert that currency back to something you can use in the real world. Whereas with tokens, with NFT, you can. Because now there are those exchanges that exist, and you can be like, “Oh, it's called Axie Infinity, the game. You can check it out. It's so you could, technically, you can actually trade the token from Axie Infinity and get USD for it. Right? Or Ethereum, or Bitcoin, or whatever. So people actually make a living with the game, becoming, in a way, farmers or like runners or whatever you want to call them. And a different game for that. Or like growing characters and reselling them. It's fascinating in a way. But what I really love also, and what I always talk about when it comes to NFT, is transferring or creating just like all the property titles that we have around, so many things can actually just be a simple, smart contract that is passed on in the NFT world. And that doesn't need liens. Doesn't need the Tories. Doesn't need you to buy your house. You know, for example, you could buy it as a smart contract, and that's it. You, you wouldn't need to go through all the troubles of signing this and that and going to that bureau. It could literally be taking like five seconds, and everything's aligned and built into that- my contract. Yeah, I think it's an interesting world we’re in now. When are we going to become fully integrated with a metaverse? I don't know. Part of me is very not anti, but I'm like, “Nah, not interested.” And another part of me is also super curious, so I don't know if you've ever heard, but Facebook is changing its name?
Sean Li: Yeah. To meta. I wrote about it this morning actually, such a good PR move. I was reading about this morning too, but someone is just kind of hating on it. They’re also, it's interesting, right? Facebook also launched its new service called, oh shoot, what is it called? It’s tied to their live service. Let me find it real quick. Someone was asking me about this the other day. It's called Super (.) events. Oh, that's what that site, it’s like, they're trying to build into, you ultimately their AR strategy, right there. Augmented reality VR, virtual reality strategy, where they allow, let's say, you as a creator, as an influencer to be on stage for a live Q and A, a virtual stage for live Q and A. Then, your audience members can join you on the call and whatnot. And then they can also take photos with you virtually and stuff like that. It's called super events. You can check it out afterward. But, I think it's going to happen. And when it does happen, if, and when it happens, it's going to happen very quickly. It's going to happen. Like, you know, it's going to be very seamless, and I think it'll happen when AR becomes very mainstream. Okay. And I know that's a big hardware push for Apple and Facebook, right? It’s the AR space. And once that goes, and it becomes mainstream, you know, smartphones have become ubiquitous for us. Yeah. Then, step two towards a metaverse will be very seamless.
Pierre Lambert: That's interesting. I'm curious to see how that's going to work, but there's a lot happening in that space. And I feel like it's evolving superfast, probably way faster than we can follow as one individual. I don’t know, it's way too fast for me. I felt like an old man after a week. You're like looking at it one week, and you'll get it another week. And you're like, but I thought it was like that. And it already changed a quick break.
Pierre Lambert: Welcome back, Sean. We had to take a little bathroom break for two and a half days for you to go pitch. How did your pitch go with Techstars?
Sean Li: It went really well. It was a pitch to Techstars music group, and it was just a great experience overall.
Pierre Lambert: You want to know more, guys? That’s a great experience.
Sean Li: That's it. That was a great experience. I mean, I could, I could share more in that sense that people are interested in that sense. You know, the audience that we were pitching to were all executives from the music companies like Sony Music Group, Warner Music Group. Then you know, other music labels, Amazon Music. The only one that wasn't there was Spotify.
Pierre Lambert: Surprising, considering they have their things going on but, it’s exciting. So, I've just seen, Sean, you were pitching Clever that we, we just talked about. I'm going back to the little notes that we had, like as to what we could discuss. I want to dive into one very, very shortly, in a way, but it's a deep topic. Some of us listening might be, or might become in the future or have been dads or moms. And I'm curious for a big reason because you're an entrepreneur, you're doing your thing. You're kind of at home. So, you don't go places because of COVID. Actually, you're probably one of my friends who stayed the longest at home and all my friends. So, how do you manage that life with being an entrepreneur? Especially, I struggle a lot when it comes to. Because part of me feels not guilty, but like almost could feel guilty that I could spend more time. And the other because I have a free schedule, like floating schedule and yeah. There's so much I'm wondering, like, have you found the recipe?
Sean Li: Yeah. I think the advice that I got from a buddy of mine, who's also a dad. I'm a new dad, and you know, has a packed schedule as well. He lives by his calendar. And so, I, I guess for someone like me who lives and dies by my calendar, the best way to do it was just to schedule events. So, we have this, we have gym time twice a week, or just him and I. I'll drive him to this local, like kids gym. And then, you know, that's our time together, or I'll drop them off at school, and I'll block those times out so that no matter what, nothing can come during those times or times to put them. So just, I think scheduling things in my calendar and blocking times out is a great way for me. And I think psychologically though, the biggest challenge is just, is overcoming that guilt that, you know, I'm not spending enough time with him. Because now he's getting older, and he's more responsive. He's less of a baby. He's more of a human adult.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. Full-grown to six months.
Sean Li: I mean, it's just fun to interact with them, uh, more and more. And so, I think it's still a struggle. That's probably one of my biggest struggles as an entrepreneur, is balancing it out with fatherhood. But I also just accept that nothing's going to be perfect. And that there will never be enough time to spend with somebody. You'll always feel like you're coming short. I mean, even as a friend, right? Yeah. Between you and me, we'll never be like, oh, I've spent enough time with Pierre. No?
Pierre Lambert: We must be hanging out.
Sean Li: Except we hang out.
Pierre Lambert: Remember we did that in Taiwan? Work slash enjoy time in Taiwan on the East Coast? And we'd just chill there for a month. And I was coding. You were reading tons of books and chatting with people, and yeah. After a while, we're like, “Okay, we need to see other people now.”
Sean Li: But, you never have enough.
Pierre Lambert: That's a good point. I feel like. I actually heard something. When you just talked about it. It reminded me of something another entrepreneur, whose daughter is like 20 plus years old, told me. I shared some of that advice with you. If you want to build a relationship, don't expect them to be interested in what you are. But also, he mentioned that spending time also ebbs and flows through life. And there are spirits. He’s like a high-level entrepreneur; I would say, involved in so many things. Sometimes, I would spend a year off. I would take a year off because I just wanted to spend time with my daughter, you know, and stuff. And there was another time when he, his wife would, you know, or they would make one of their trips. Way more flexible than the other, but it depends on it. And it changed over time. You know, it's not always the same. It changes, maybe Sean, you're going to get really into spending time with your son in two years, you know, and you're going to take a year off. You guys are going to backpack through India. I'm sure. Yeah. But I never know. Yeah. But what he was mentioning is that it's not consistent, you know, it doesn't have to be scheduled day by day for forever. It's a thing. And I guess that's where the pain comes from, where you're at the moment. You're like, “Oh, maybe, maybe not.” I mean, for me personally. You know, I'm like, and then you feel guilty if you leave too much of the responsibility on the other also.
Sean Li: I mean, at the end of the day, it's always a work in progress, as with most things in life. And I think just having, giving yourself grace is the most important thing that I've had to learn and relearn. And then the other thing is just that, you know, like the kids going to turn out fine for the most part. I mean, I'm not, you know, I can't speak for everybody, but I think they'll be fine. I think for like people who, you know, speaking for ourselves, you know, we're very privileged, you know, situations in the sense that we have family nearby, you know, we have just…
Pierre Lambert: From the countries, we were born in.
Sean Li: Well, they called it the sperm lottery, right? Like just the fact that you were born in this country. And, I think just our mentality, family situations and, how you know, we spend time with them, how we talk to them. Right? Because financially, again, I feel very fortunate. It’s like, this is not to say like, you know, people who have it worse have it harder. But in many ways, like, we definitely don't have it that hard compared to a lot of people in the world. So, and their kids turn out fine, you know?
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. Sometimes adversity helps build strong characters, but I don't know if that's something I would wish anyway.
Sean Li: It's interesting to say that because that's what we wouldn't want. You know, something we wouldn't wish for our kids. Right? But going back to your earlier point, it's not about what we want, you know, it's what they're going to have to face and deal with them. Naturally, so…
Pierre Lambert: Well, there are two concepts that have been challenging me in a way recently, which was a dozen around the philosophy. And one was from Sam Harris, and he was talking about the fact that we don't have a choice and that we have an illusion of choices, right. That our mind tries to make up reasons as to why we decided on something. When, at the end of the day, if you go back to the source of your thought, you never chose your thought? It just came, it appeared, your thoughts appear you're on the side, which one should appear. And which one should not? Because the moment you decide which one should not, it's that's the thought in itself, right? So, it's almost like your choices are made, but you don't know by what. You can call it God, the universe, whatever consciousness, whatever expanded, but your thought is made. And you don't actually really decide if you want to make an experiment. If you're listening, and you don't get the concept. Just think of three movies. And try to remember how you chose those, how the first movies came to your mind. Did you decide on how they should come to mind? Did you decide on what movie would come to your mind? You know, so you're like, “Okay. I picked three movies.” And then you're like, why did, for example, Jurassic Park come first? You know, why not the alien or why not another movie? Or why did the movie I have never seen come to my mind. There are so many interesting things happening without us understanding it or even being aware of it. Or you can be aware. It’s just happening. So, a little illusion of control in a way. I find all that to say we're doing our best. And the present moment, there is nothing else but the best that we are doing at every single second or moment. From moment to moment, we are always doing the best we can with what we know and what we decided on some truth.
Sean Li: I froze because there has to be some element of choice evolved. Right? And what I mean by that, you can choose to live in the past, for example. You can choose to live in the past, present, or future. Can you? And that is a choice.
Pierre Lambert: How do you choose?
Sean Li: It's an active choice. Like, do I want to live in the future? Like for some people, they live in the future, and the future is typically, either living in the future is very stressful for me. For example, because there's a lot of uncertainty. But, I can choose to live in the future in the sense that like, I can, I want to keep worrying about what's going to happen next. Like I was talking to someone who is hyper-paranoid about COVID-19 and, you know, they, they're constantly worried about, well, how they could get sick. Right? So, that, to me, that is someone living in the future, um, the possibility of getting sick. Right. And then there are people who do choose to live in the past, right? Where they're clinging onto things, like they hang on to things and that they can't let go. They feel like they live in the past. And then there are people that live in the present, which is what we strive to do. I think it is a choice. It is absolutely a choice.
Pierre Lambert: I don't know. Oh, I don't know. Because if you ask anyone, Hey, do you want to have very thoughtful, stressful thoughts that will keep you up all night? And will make you have a miserable life and not travel and not see people? What do you think the answer would be?
Sean Li: It would be no. But if they don't realize that they have a choice, so there’s I think there's this key distinction. There's a realization that you have a choice. And I think a lot of people don't realize they have a choice because once you realize that you have a choice, once you have awareness—I'm talking about awareness. What is the point of awareness? Awareness is to give you a choice. In my opinion, if you don't have the awareness that you don't know that you have choices.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. And how do those choices come to you? That’s the question. That’s where it did take it to level.
Sean Li: I mean, I think what Sam is getting at is that everything is building off of something, right? Like, let's say the fear of the future, right. It's building off something from the past, like some knowledge that we obtain. But in many ways. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, maybe you don't have a choice as to what information you come in contact with, right? That you ultimately receive, but you do have a choice as to what you expose yourself to. So, I don't know if I completely agree with that. I mean, sure. You can say you don't have a choice in a sense. You didn't have a choice. There's a big bang and like all this shit happen. Then, you're here today. Your parents are mad, and they did all these things and then now you're here. Yeah. I didn't have a choice around that. But as long as I'm alive within the universe of things in my life, right? I do feel like that is under my purview. I do have a choice. And I think that. I think the key thing is like, does that choice match? Do my choices matter? In the grand scheme of things, none of my choices matter. But for me personally, you know, even if it's the illusion of choice, it does matter. It does impact where my focus is and how I will live my life.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. So that's why it's so interesting. I agree with you on that. We have a choice when it comes to when we're presented with options. Right now, the question, and that's where it goes. It's like, on the ground floor, you're being served different options, and you choose. That's where you have awareness of those options. Right? You're on the ground floor now. What is below the ground floor? How do those options actually come up to you? You know that's a field that, in my experience, has zero control. Mainly, you can never dictate what should come next as a thought or as an option for a choice. For example, you can never dictate that. Try to choose two books and try to choose your choices for books.
Sean Li: But when you take the movie example, right, this is where like I get where Sam Harris is going with this, but what is the purpose of that thought experiment, right. Sure. Because it is a thought experiment in itself. Like where, where does it get you? Um, does it make you feel helpless and, you know, feel like life is futile because, you know, because you have no choice in this life? But going back to the movie example, what I want to say is that I come up with a list of movies because I ultimately did choose to, you know, watch or not certain movies. And it's hard for me to come up and movies because, for example, I don't watch that many movies. I don't watch TV that much. So, I actually, the only movie that came to my mind was Terminator for some random reason, but I get your point. How did that come to be? But that's the only movie I could think of.
Pierre Lambert: That’s a beautiful part. It's like Sean, it's like we program the computer, and when you type in the terminal a comment, right? The thing would just come up randomly, versus when you program the computer. So, you know what sequence it's going to be using to determine what reason it's going to give you, right? But here, it's almost like it taps into something that you have no awareness about until it comes to your awareness.
Sean Li: Well, but that's the thing. I mean, if we're going to look into how the brain works, I mean, we look into how the brain, this is what Pierre and I talk about all the time if we look into how the brain works, like everything. If we look at how computers work, how does the brain work? Everything is a relational graph, right? That's why a graphical database. It is a huge thing these days for machine learning. It’s about degrees of separation, degrees of relation. And there's a huge aspect of how we are designed in my opinion, as human beings are, there's obviously recency bias, right? That's a huge factor in things like how recent was this thing in your mind. And so, the connection to that link is probably the closest thing in your brain or just to happens to be, time of day or where you're at, and sure you don't have the choice as to when you think about something at a time of day, but I still don't understand what he's trying to get at.
Pierre Lambert: I think it, I mean…
Sean Li: That’s the purpose of making a statement.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. I think it's very vulgar for me to try to sum up like probably two and a half hours of thoughts around that into a five-minute explanation. But I think when he's trying to come at is simply understanding that there's a field that your awareness cannot access in a way that you feel the awareness is like, limited to your field of view. But just because you're looking, it's like you're looking at the landscape, right, Sean? Just because you're looking straight doesn't mean there is nothing behind you, right? And so, once the cloud comes into your field, It doesn't mean the clouds didn't exist before, right? The cloud came from somewhere else, but you never looked that way before, and then you can. You can actually take the quantum physics with string theory where they're like, well, actually there might be multiple dimensions where you could have a cat in a box. You close the box. Does a cat exist until you open the box accurately? The cat doesn't exist in this dimension. Right? In a way because you don't have any knowledge of it. Is there a cat in the box until you open that box? I mean, the cat might make sounds and stuff, but that's beside the point.
Sean Li: Again, what, what is his purpose of sharing this? Like, does he mean
Pierre Lambert: It's thought-provoking and just trying to help people chill on thinking they have control over everything because we have an illusion…
Sean Li: That context makes sense because yeah, I mean, they're just taking broadly. I think a better analogy would be. Because it is such a deep multi-layer thought, right? About controlling thoughts? I think a better analogy would be like, there's so much stuff happening in the world right now, at the second that you have, you'd know nothing about that may have some kind of impact on your life. Right? Because let's say, you know, something when you think back to World War II. Like some guy got assassinated right. On a bridge and then like, it's like, boom, like that, affected a whole chain of events that affected like millions of people globally.
Pierre Lambert: And families who it is because of that event. I mean, in part, thanks to that event, you know? Yeah. Deep here and there is no definite answer, but it's good to question, you know, I think it's important to question the guy who lives in the future. He’s really worried. I shared with you that recent nation called– The Work by Byron Katie, where you just basically questioned things a little bit. I think it's good to question and understand why we believe the lies we tell ourselves, you know, and do this serve a purpose in a way. Is it really true? Well, we can talk about that a little bit later when I've practiced it way more and integrated it, but I feel like it can be a very freeing experience. So yeah. I want to jump on a totally different thing here, Sean. Recently, you have presented a really good opportunity to get into the V.C. world, if I'm correct. And financial aid sounded amazing on paper, it's probably what every single MBA wants. And you probably thought you wanted it, maybe for a while. How did you decide to say no to a job that was, maybe you can share numbers or arrange just to give people an idea, but that was extremely well-paying, and that had security in a way and was really well-perceived?
Sean Li: Yeah. Uh, I mean, you're talking about the job in finance, you know, six-figure 300 over 300 salary jobs With, you know, potential other benefits and fringe benefits and upsides, especially I think for the investment world. And I think it was a personal decision in the sense— that it's— and again, this is just from my perspective. I think I've gotten so used to working for myself that just the thought of working 12 to 14 hours for somebody else, I realized I'd rather work for myself for those hours. I know I can do it because I've been doing it. So, it was easy for me to say that part of it; get that out of the way. But more, so I don't see anything wrong with the investment world or the VC world. Because you know what? Entrepreneurship is two sides of the same coin. You need both sides. You need the investors, you need the entrepreneur. It’s just that I think for me personally, I felt like I wanted to create things and build things still. I wanted to solve problems, not to say that investors are not solving problems. They're just doing it more reactively. What do I mean by that? Well, they're actively pursuing a problem, but some are actually, some VCs they're investing in sustainability and things like that. But for the most part, you're reacting to what is the problem that an entrepreneur is solving, right? It's like, “I want to invest in this field.” Versus like the entrepreneurs, like, “What is the problem? What is the root problem? And I'm going to go try to figure out how to solve this problem.” So, that's more of a proactive approach, in my opinion. So, it was just a proactive versus reactive kind of personality decision. And I think in my head, I still wanted to be proactively solving problems. Do I want to switch to the other side, somewhere down the line? Yes, I probably will because then it's not a question of proactive or reactive for me. How I frame it in my head to be scale and impact, right? Because the beauty of being an entrepreneur is I can be proactive, but the downside is the potential impact is. Yeah. Potentially, because as a V.C., as an investor, you're messing with a lot of companies, right. You're betting on a lot of horses. And so, your investments, your support, right. Your advisory or mentorship would be just, you know, exponentially more impactful potentially.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. Because you're impacted company that impacts people. Right, interesting.
Sean Li: Right. Yeah. That's, that's how I think about it.
Pierre Lambert: Do you have tools you go through when you make those kinds of decisions like, well, or is it like, take two hands on your, like option A, option B and you just sit and look at them?
Sean Li: I don’t know if I have tools, I just look inside, and I meditated on it a lot. And then I trust my gut a lot, and I think these days, I feel like, I don't have the time to look inward enough, check with our gut. To check, like, what are you feeling? And then just going with that field and being okay with your own feelings. Maybe going back to some Harris thing, maybe this is where, accurately, you don't have control of things. But I think maybe you don't have control because you don't know everything that's going on in your inner workings, right? Yeah. How decisions are being made. Because as I say in psychology, like your consciousness, it is only like the tip of the iceberg. That's like one of my favorite posters, this iceberg, and like your consciousness, it's just a tip. And then, like the rest of it, you have no idea what's going on, supposedly. And people say we only use 10%, 15% of our brain actively. But, in my opinion, false. I think we're using a hundred percent of our brain all the time, so we're not aware of it.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. And there's just multiple ways to use something, you know?
Sean Li: It's like the 32 gigs of RAM that I just bought on my Mac.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. You can use a hundred percent of it for nothing. If you want it to just let it run really fast just to stream videos or whatever you want to do, you know? Or you can try to solve complex problems.
Sean Li: But I guess, as I'm thinking more about your question, I think it's a really good question because what are some other considerations that I had to make. One big one was financial, right? I had to look at my finances, my family finances, and say like, can we afford to do this? And if so, for how long? Yeah. And the most successful entrepreneurs I've come across and interviewed have told me kind of the same story. They looked at their family’s financial situation, and they said, all right, if I were going to do this and take this risk, “I can do this for six months. We can do this for 12 months.” Right? And that is the time span I'm going to give myself. And that's actually exactly what I did. I said, you know, I'm going to give myself 12 months based on our kind of financial situation at the time. And that decision was made in June. So, I had until June of this year, and I think setting that boundary was really, really important. What I wanted to make sure that, you know, the milestones that I hit, and I get to, in terms of revenues or, you know, stability of the business and things like that. I'll tell you the stories that I've interviewed and heard of entrepreneurs who've failed and not only failed but felt like they wasted, not wasted. They spent a lot more time than they should have on a business. Right? They'd spent four to five years on a business, and it never went anywhere. And it was both a financial detriment and just morale detriment. Yeah. Yeah. And part of that is what I didn't hear from them was, they did not set a timeline. Say this is a time limit that I'm going to give myself. They're just like, I'm just going to try to do this until it's successful. No, definitely don't do that.
Pierre Lambert: I see that. I love that because then it also removes a lot of pressure from turning down another opportunity. Right. Because you're like, I'm not, I'm not saying no for life that I have to do this or die. You know, it's not do or die. It's “I’ll try to reevaluate in a year.” Are you making progress? Did you hit your milestone? If yes. If no. By how far are you out? And then get back to it.
Sean Li: Yeah. It's a whole Seth Godin thing. You know, the dip, right? I think being a good entrepreneur is also knowing when to quit. Because think about it, if you don't set any kind of parameter, then it's going to be really hard to quit something. Because, maybe just the next day or the next month, we're going to turn the corner and figure out this business? Right? And that's the beauty of doing Clever as a venture-backed startup versus me bootstrapping the business. It’s because we actually have a literal timeline, which is the amount of cash we have in the bank that we have fundraised. I remember when I think about, when you're doing vlogging very early on, I remember you were pretty intentional about, you know, doing X, Y, Z for a year? And then you set this new goal is like, that the 12 by 12? You know, a world tour with Trina. And it was like that had a beginning and end. And that's actually, now as I'm talking through this, I realized, I remember someone gave him this advice that everything should have a beginning and end. Because, just like a subscription doesn't mean you can't renew it, but you should set an end. And I forgot, why? Should we do that with marriage also?
Pierre Lambert: Should we do that with marriage also? Not, not in a bad way, but almost like none. Okay. Recommit. You’re still as committed to the relationship as you were when on five, ten years ago.
Sean Li: I think that's a great idea. We should pioneer that. Nobody's got…
Pierre Lambert: I don't think we’re pioneering this. I'm pretty sure this is the kind of thing that comes from my unconscious field of stuff I’ve heard. Where people recommitted? I don't know. If we got remarried or re-expressed their vows to make sure, just like, “Hey, do we still want to work on this together?” Yeah. Is it therapeutic to do that?
Sean Li: Yeah. Maybe, but I really liked that idea because again, you know? What I disliked about marriage was this false sense of security, right? Just like this thing. Yeah. Just like a good job. Like everything is, you know, it's permanent, right. This idea is that things have permanence. And I think permanence as a word is the biggest illusion because nothing is permanent.
Pierre Lambert: The biggest driver of stress in this world.
Sean Li: Yeah. Nothing is permanent. Nothing is.
Pierre Lambert: So, yeah, I think that's good. Well, I liked your process. I honestly like your thought process when you're like going through difficult situations, and we've talked a lot about different stages in your life. And I love that you actually take the time to really sit with that question, and how does it resonate inside? Because I feel like it's very easy to go both ways or where you're either going to be analytical, you know? Literally, you're going to put a spreadsheet with plus or minus points for each decision, which can help. But if one still doesn't sit with you, when you're sitting down, and you're taking your shower, and you're still, you're dreading a little bit that decision, then it might simply mean that this is not the one that's meant for. I believe in more like frictionless versus friction, you know, it has happened with like projects that felt so much friction about, and I said yes to it. And then the timeline came to like, and I'm like, “No, I can't do this.” So then I changed the timeline, and it seems a lot less friction or less, but actually, the new timeline is coming up, and I still feel a little bit about that friction, but that may be my procrastination also. So that might be a balance of things. I think it's so important. Like it's almost something we should teach kids how to make decisions. Like how do you feel good about your decisions? How do you make the decisions that you don't regret, in the sense that I should have done that? Like, you know, don't go back to that thought, like it's not a question of should. The reality is you did, now, what do you do the next moment?
Sean Li: Yeah, that's how I make some of these difficult decisions. I mean, obviously, talk through it with friends and family to talk through it with you, just having people that you trust to just bounce ideas off of and then committing to yourself for a limited amount of time and that being persistent.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. The limited amount of time is, is good. I mean, I see it was K-Mart, my first business in a way, or like a startup. I didn't really have the time, and I kept shifting, and it was very self-rewarding because I was coding, and that's something that's very easy to get trapped into where you just keep coding and coding. But then you're like, “Okay, the business isn't going where it was supposed to go.” Either take actions or change, you know, but it took me three years to change, but I did even till, you know, sort of those things. That's awesome. Sean, I think again, I think we're going to have a second round of those discussions in probably like a few months, where we can look back on there and get into other topics. Maybe people have some questions, feel free to drop them in the comments on the Clever App because it's supported, right? Yes. You can now comment on the podcast. Wow, amazing. I sounded too excited. Not that I want to have more, I'd like to have engagement. It's just impossible to track after a while. So, we're going to have…
Sean Li: That's one of the challenges where you're looking to figure out how to help you moderate and help you, just make that process easier. One of the things I mentioned in the interview that I just did was, can we pull in different sources? Right? So, that's one place where we can deliver it all to you in one place and introduce it to manage your community.
Pierre Lambert: Because, I feel like it can be very quickly up into span floods, you know, flood tunes. We'll see how it goes, but I'm excited. Anyways for Clever. I'm excited about the podcast to be. I've recorded with a few guests now. So, it's going to be interesting. And I have a bunch more that are listed. I'm reaching out to get them on, and hopefully, you guys will get a ton of value. Like you got for the first 55 episodes. I think, so exciting. Sean, are you ready for the next session? Maybe your app will have billions of downloads or just a thousand be ready or just, or just me using it every day.
Sean Li: I'll be ready either way.
Pierre Lambert: That's the beautiful thing about life. No matter what your business does, you're still there.
Sean Li: Yeah.
Pierre Lambert: All right, guys. Thank you so much, Sean. Thank you so much. Where should people find you? Do you want to send them somewhere?
Sean Li: Yeah. Find us. For the Clever app, just go to @getcleverfm on Instagram, or Twitter, or go to Clever.FM, the website. Just https://clever.fm/Pierre Lambert: Everyone, see you in the next episode.
The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast is where Pierre interviews the best creatives in the world to share their tips and stories. Enjoy & spread the word to your friends about this podcast! Pierre T. Lambert is a travel & adventure photographer & YouTuber followed by over 1,000,000 people. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.