How do you leave a high-stress position and change your life completely? Just ask Ben Feder, the author of Take Off Your Shoes. He whisked his family away to Bali for a sabbatical year, which changed all of their lives. Discover the power of making deliberate choices, the struggle of detoxing from an aggressive environment, and why he doesn’t believe in balance.
Bio: Ben Feder is President of International Partnerships for the U.S. at Tencent, the Chinese Internet conglomerate, and formerly was CEO of Take Two interactive, the publisher of the smash video game hits, Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto, and NBA 2K. He serves on the boards of directors of public and private companies in the media and entertainment industries and is a director of Save a Child’s Heart, a nonprofit that works globally to rescue children with congenital heart defects. A Harvard Business School graduate, Ben lives in New York City with his wife, Victoria, and their four children.
Book: Take Off Your Shoes
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This transcript is unedited.
Peter: Hello, welcome to the Bregman leadership podcast. I’m Peter Bregman and I believe that the best leaders don’t try to do it alone. As the CEO of Bregman partners, my mission for over 30 years and the mission of this podcast is to help successful people like you, close your leadership gaps, grow as leaders and inspire your team, inspire all the people around you to get great results.
Peter: With us today is Ben Feder. He has written of super interesting book called take off your shoes. One man’s journey from the boardroom to Bali and back. Uh, he is the president of international partnerships for the U S A at 10 cent, the Chinese Internet Titan. And he formerly, he was the CEO of take two, uh, interactive and uh, Ben is here first of all, I know Ben and I know his family, uh, but Ben is here because he is, he and his family made this sort of very interesting and unusual decision that many people fantasize about. But few actually followed through on and that was, he and his family went to Bali and they took a sabbatical and it was about an eight months about sabbatical and Bali. So, um, I thought it would be fun to bring him on and to have a conversation about what it was like to make that decision to leave what it was like to be there, what it’s like to come back and, and sort of glean what we can both in terms of the sort of leadership decisions that we make that might bring us out of leadership roles and then back in as well as just the very human, uh, decisions that we make.
Peter: So Ben, welcome to the Bregman leadership podcast.
Ben: Thank you so much for having me, Peter. It’s really a joy to be here and to be here with you, especially.
Peter: So, so Ben, you made this decision and you’re in Victoria and, and I guess along with the kids to, uh, made this decision to got the kids. We made it, you made the decision why? Why did you decide you had this very, in fact, first paint, a brief picture of your success or your role or what your life was like before you decided to, uh, to go to Bali?
Ben: Um, you don’t have any kind of a, uh, Securitas route to a what’s commonly defined as success. Um, uh, and I became, so I kind of had an MBA from Ivy League school, did the jobs, did um, you know, had an ambition to be a superstar. Like everybody else wanted to be a superstar. Right? Um, I did a start up before it was sexy to do a startup. Um, and just as I was leaving my startup, one of my board members who was very successful, uh, media executive was leaving his gig and he was on my board and I had sold my company. And, um, we were both looking at deals and he sort of said, well, why don’t we do this together? Let’s hunt as a pack instead of being lone wolfs. And, um, we started, uh, we started a firm and we knew, we know how to run companies.
Ben: We didn’t know to run a capital, but we had this ambitions were on capitol, was the fray. It was a private equity firm. We started as kind of a fun, what we call a fundless sponsor, and ultimately became a private equity firm. But two minutes before we actually raised the fund, we did our last, what we call a fundless sponsor deal. Um, and it was a hostile takeover, what I’ll call a non-hostile hostile takeover of, um, take two interactive, um, it’s ancient history at this point. That happened 2007, 2008. Um, and, uh, and I became not quite the accidental CEO, but it was, uh, it was kind of a deliberate action, right? But I became CEO. The idea was that I’d worked there for six months and until we find a CEO who actually knew what he was doing, um, and it was you ever been CEO of a company before? You have, yes. I had a kind of, yeah, I was an entrepreneur, but this was, this was 2000 people, you know, or just under a billion dollar market cap, right? Um, today it’s a $15 billion market cap and it’s a very, very successful turnaround story. But the company was in deep trouble. We don’t have to go into it but as in deep trouble and it was a very uh, difficult turnaround.
Peter: So I want to read a passage from your book and tell me if this actually, I mean you wrote it, but you know, if this, as I read it, if it brings you back to that time and if it’s representative in the corporate world, I had been both Predator and prey working in that universe. My amygdala was set to full throttle. I acted with aggression, even hostility when I saw opportunities when a large competitor aggressed I fought intensely for a maximum outcome even when not in direct battle. I was always looking for a strategic advantage just as any CEO should. But in the process I lived with a constant rasp of anxiety because I was always on high alert, always on the lookout for hazards.
Ben: It’s a true alternative cause you wrote it. But you know, like that’s the, that it’s very evocative that that both image and the feeling of it. Well, I imagine you know, any number of, uh, cos and um, ambitious men and women feel that, right? They’re out there everyday fighting it, it feels like a fight every day. Right. Um, that’s not to say there aren’t immense moments of joy and satisfaction for what you do. Um, and I literally, when I say I was both Predator and prey radio, I got into take two as part of a hostel bed. Um, and then very shortly afterwards, while we’re in the middle of a turnaround, we took a hostile bid from la, from a competitor. Right. And so, you know, I literally, I was kind of, I had to protect the company as a, as a, as the prey and also got in there as the Predator. So how
Peter: decide let’s fast forward now to like, you make this decision to drop out for something,
Ben: a period of time. Yeah. I don’t know if you even consider it as dropping out, but a to certainly drop out of this life. How did you make the witness as well? The way I say it, cause I just, I realized that I needed to take myself out of the game. Right. I don’t want to say drop out. I just need to take myself out of the game for a period.
Peter: That’s a very scary decision that a lot of people kind of feel, but very, very few people make. Did you feel like you couldn’t correct
Ben: in the game? Uh, I think I probably reached the point where it was one or the other. I felt that I had reached a point in my career where I’d followed my ambition. Right. Um, and it took me to a place that I wasn’t comfortable with and it was at that place that I described or is it something I just kind of, you know, you know what I’m saying? In the book, I’d reached a point, I said, I kind of said to myself, this is where men become the husbands and fathers. I never intended to be. You follow your ambition, you follow your career. And before you know it, like me, I was on an airplane, you know, all year long, all the time. I didn’t know my kids anymore. And I had this recognition that my youngest didn’t know who I was. My oldest was onto the way to high school and he was a serious student and had this one moment where I kind of, I walk into his room and I come back from work and he sequestered in his room.
Ben: He’s barricaded doing his work. He’s a serious student. I said, hey Sam. And he’s kind of mumbled something to me and he mumbled some more at dinner and I just, I had this, this, this realization, I don’t know how to know where that is going to go to. High School is going to get worse, right? I’ll be circling the globe. Right? And he’s off to college and it’s kind of over. I had this moment, it’s like it’s all going to end sometime soon, right? And what are we doing here? So it’s not that you were uncomfortable with the sort of Predator prey and the anxiety and the role that you were playing. It was maybe, maybe that played into it somewhat, but it sounds like the driver was much more like, there’s this part of your life you can’t access while you’re doing that other stuff, that you’re not going to be able to spend the time with your family and with your kids, and you didn’t want him.
Ben: And that was a window, frankly, and frankly, a little fear that I would actually lose them, you know, as a result of not paying attention. Right. Not being deliberate about how I was spending my time. Right. Right. And I didn’t want that. I really didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be that dad. And you and I both know people who’ve had parents or fathers that were committed to their careers and not to the family, and, and what the knock on effects of that could be. Right. So, um, like, you know, I didn’t want to be that person. Right. And I just wanted to make a deliberate choice. And yeah, it was, it was terrifying and I totally terrifying you cause you have so much at your, so much of your identity is wrapped up in this, right. And to walk away from it in the name of something that’s really kind of unknown and there was a lot of unknowns around and I was like, you know, I remember telling my wife, Victoria, just what am I going to do all day long?
Ben: This is all the stimulation coming at you, all the ugliness. You’re in New York, you’re running a big company, it’s global operation. What do you do with all that stimulation? And so, you know, just to fast forward a little bit, it’s not that, you know, that description that you read is no longer the case. And we’ll talk a little about it in the course of this discussion, but it’s the, what I have done since taking sabbatical at Sabbatical and since taking sabbatical to allow myself to be in that situation without being completely swallowed by it. Right. To be in that situation where you are responding instead of reacting. Right, right. And I’m being, um, you know, to me these are kind of matrix moves, right? And, um, but when that passage that you read, I was in the Matrix, I mean outside the Matrix. So what you sent it was terrifying, which I believe. What, what was it that scared you? Like when you think of like the top thing. So one of the things you said was, what am I
Peter: gonna do with all my time? Like I’m the middle of all this activity and action. Where, what else scared you?
Ben: Uh, look, you know, I had a small partnership with, um, I want to say men and women. It was actually just men at the time, um, that I felt very close to and connected to. And um, you know, out of the personality types of the enneagrams or whatever you focus on, I’m a loyalist, I’m a total loyalist and doing something for myself instead of for the benefit of the company or, uh, um, or my partnerships are, the people I was involved with is anxiety provoking because it’s just not who I am. Right. I am a very, very loyal guy. Right. And, um, and the drives me right? And sort of say, you know what, I just can’t do this anymore. I need to do this for myself and for my family. Right. Um, in an odd way, it’s kind of like, you know, most people sort of say, well, good for you. Right? Do you do it for yourself? But it’s just not how I’m wired. I’m much more about being a loyalist than anything else.
Peter: Right. I’m curious if like, when I think about making a move like that and, and I’ve sort of considered it, I think, you know, I’ve got this very successful career. If I, if I did that, can I, can I get back into it? Can I, would, would, would people forget me. I mean, I remember once I was leaving, uh, for a month I was going to go to France for a month with my family and one of my clients who was a close friend and he was ripping me, but he goes, don’t worry. You know, you’re going to go, we’re going to forget about everything that we’ve learned and we’re going to slide back. We’re going to kind of forget about you and we’re going to find someone else who’s going to replace you and you know, do the work with us as a firm. And I’m like, congratulate, like, great. You just hit my three, like scariest parts about like leaving. Like you got it.
Ben: If it all [inaudible] right. And I’m still friends with them and I still work with them a lot. And that was just a month. A lot of that’s true. Oh, that’s true. Right. You know, the expression of the cemeteries filled with people who are replaceable. Right. And I’m ostensibly replaceable. Right. And so nobody’s irreplaceable. Um, and I took comfort a little bit that, um, you know, take two as, you know, as the CEO, as leading the company, but you know, my partners were in there also, so I knew that if I left, there wouldn’t be the disruption right there. We’ll launch a search. It’s just in fact, that’s not what happened. My partner stepped into the role, so there was continuity. Right. Um, and, um, uh, and the, the, the odd thing is when I will come, I know we’re not doing this chronologically, but when I came back, the on thing was like apropos being forgotten. I’d come back. People say, you back already, it’s over yesterday. You know, everybody’s kind of caught up in their routine. Yes. This is kind of the other truth about most people are not thinking about you. Most people are thinking about [inaudible].
Peter: Right, right, right, right. There’s this great experiment where they put people into waiting rooms with a big stain on their shirt. Right. And they went and they sat in the waiting room and, and then they talked to the people who were in the waiting room and, and the people who had the stain on their, and the people in the stands, the shirts that I felt I felt kind of ashamed or I felt so like it was so obvious. Everybody was looking at me, you know, like, and the other people who were like, who are you talking about? Like I, you know, like people just didn’t like, we, we think we’re much more noticeable than we actually are. Yes. All that is true, right? Um, okay, so, so then you guys decide to go, uh, and you know, I kind of want to bypass the, how do we choose Bali over other plays, et cetera. That’s sort of interesting and it’s in the book and people can read about it, but I’m curious now you’ve gotten there, what’s your experience? What are you like, what do you do with all of your time? You suddenly have all this time. Do you, are you still checking email? Are you, you know, are you blissfully relaxed for the next eight months? [inaudible]
Ben: first of all, the detox for me took any talks, probably the wrong word. Um, but just to clear the cobwebs from my mind probably took six to eight weeks, like almost two months of just, you know, that process of detaching. What was that like for you? Like, what was it like to have this moment in the book where I kind of felt like, you know, at the time there was like, blackberries not even i-phones to sell, I’ll go with this. But, um, but I have this moment where kind of reaching into my pockets for my phone and like, it’s almost like this amputee with a phantom limb. It’s just like you’re trying to scratch it. There’s nothing to scratch. Um, and uh, so it was, it was hard at first and I really hard was just the habit or was something else hard. Uh, it was hard letting go.
Ben: It was hard detaching. He lost his start accepting that I had done this right. I cut that. Um, you know, in the moment I could not have the articulate, I couldn’t articulate what I just articulated to you about why I left. Right. I kind of, I wasn’t sure why I left. I knew I needed to leave, but I wasn’t exactly sure. And I was trying to understand that. Um, and that residual fear that you described, similar elements are still in my mind. It’s like, you know, what did I just do? What did I, what did I do? Why did I do it? Right. Um, and I was still, uh, you know, I was in the video game business, which is very, at the time it was kind of very release oriented. There’s always kind of a game developments getting released at Christmas or whenever it is. Right. And in my mind, I’m still kind of thinking about like, you know, what’s going on in the game, what’s going on in the company. I still felt very attached to it because the truth of the matter is I love the people and the company. I loved, uh, uh, being a leader in that organization. Right. Um, I was really, really into it. Right. And cause I w I, which is another way of saying I actually sacrificed a lot.
Peter: Were you worried like that competitive piece, like other people are surpassing you other like, like your, your standing in the industry as a business leader that like, did that enter your mind or concern you at all?
Ben: Uh, a little bit. I, you know, if anything may be, uh, you know, my standing in the partnership ready to go, still part of leading a company, but I’ll also part of private equity group. So, which I guess also might’ve been a comfort, right? Cause you knew at least at that time, and you’re thinking this is something you can go back to, like you have their approval that you, it’s true, but there’s there, you know, but every partnership, there’s colors, discussion about economics and who’s getting what and all that carved out. And you kind of, you’re so, you’re so holding on to the, um, you know, the incentive systems and the money and the benefit you’re holding, you’re grabbing onto that. Right? And so one of the greatest, um, freedoms that I got out of Bali is sort of this process of letting go of that.
Ben: And it’s like, you know what? I’m living my life, right? Forget the incentives, forget all the, all that stuff that the world puts around you to motivate you to do certain things and behave in certain ways. Right. And that, you know, I put in place for my company, right? It’s like, here’s a compensation scheme, you know, we want you to behave in certain ways. And all of a sudden being released from that is this great liberty and this great freedom. So once, once that released, right. And once you got to sort of a new status, somewhat, I don’t know if it was, you know, probably always changing to some degree, but what was there, what was left when you let go of, you know, the comp schemes and your role and your identity and you’re in Bali now with your family, what’s left? So let me take a brief segue to ask that question.
Ben: Um, uh, the name of the book comes from a poem by a guy named David White and um, and he evokes Moses at the burning Bush and, um, and he says, take off your shoes. And Moses realizes that he’s standing on holy grounds. And there are two insights that come from that I got from this poem. One is that, um, the way David White described it, this poem, right? Moses discovers his holy ground at that moment, any discoveries that he has been on holy ground, his entire life. And so one of my great discoveries was that, uh, with the people that I loved and reconnected with on my own ground of being and kind of removing myself from all of the corporate stuff, kind of allowed me to find my own holy ground, find myself back again, which I think had gotten lost in the process of my career development.
Ben: Um, and the other thing he says is there is this, he, David White describes this moment where he’s kind of reading this poem in public and somebody comes over to whom he knows Hebrew and sort of says, you know, the word for takeoff in the Bible and the Hebrew word for that as the same word the Bible uses for an animal shedding its skin molting its skin. And the insight is that you kind of have to shed in order to renew. Right. And, um, and that’s kind of a feeling I had that I was, I have had the sense of renewal, the sense of metamorphosis emerging out of something. Um, old and needed needing to be shed and I can’t quite describe as kind of sounds a little bit spiritual, but it can’t quite describe what that was. But I, I know today if I just kind of before and after, if you take the photos before and after, I’m a much different person and I, and I operate in the world in a much different way and people in honest moments, especially in, um, in the business sector, we are very involved and still, I say Europe, you’re a much better person now.
Ben: You’re a much nicer person now. You’re a much less of a jerk now than you were back then. And I attribute all of that to this moment of, of renewal and um, you know, after you get past that six to eight weeks, right. And what’s involved in that? There are practices that I developed and, and not all of that is by accident. Some of it’s still a lot of it’s deliberate, right?
Peter: You talked specifically a lot in the book about both meditation and Painting, Meditation, painting and Yoga and Yoga. Three of them
Ben: actually. Um, and they’re all, they all come to me in very different ways, but they’re all kind of at the end of the day, reconnecting with my ground of being right and, um, letting go of my ego. Right.
Peter: Before you left, would you have ever said words like reconnecting with my ground of being, I don’t even know. I wouldn’t even know what I bet. I bet all of your audience, very few people will know what that means. Right? But I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe. I mean, because look, here’s the truth. My truth is that, you know what? I think
Ben: it’s kind of like my dirty little secrets. I think it goes on in everybody’s mind. Right? Right. Everybody has the sense of like, okay, I’m not, um, you know, a part of me is what I do for a living. Right? It’s not 100% who I am. Right. There are all these other elements. It’s a smaller part of you now than it was maybe 10 years ago. Work. Yeah. Maybe not. No, I don’t. I don’t think so. I think I have a much different balance. I kind of, I don’t really believe in balance, actually. I think I believe in fierce engagement in all of it, right? Whether it’s yourself, your family, your work, you know, I feel as involved in your work now as you were before you left. I do. And in many ways I actually think I’m achieving more and accomplishing more. Right. Um, but, and I, but I do it with a much softer touch.
Ben: So what is the ground of your being? Uh, well, I was hoping you wouldn’t make me define that. Um, it’s hard. You know, it’s hard, right? I mean, certainly in an interview like this, it’s hard to kind of really get into it, but, um, uh, I think the simplest way to understand that is, you know, while I’m there really understanding kind of, uh, who I am with, my priorities are, there’s a lot of talk about mindfulness and in mainstream, at the time when I did it, it wasn’t mainstream at all. It was just like, how do you be mindful about how you’re spending your time, how you’re talking to yourself and your own inner monologue, um, how you are, uh, dealing with others, um, interacting with others and um, and feeling like you’re being honest with yourself in the way you are making a living and the way you’re having relationships. Um, it’s a much more honest way to me kind of feels more authentic than in just kind of like I just want to go out there and kill it. Right? I just want to go out there and you know, make my millions.
Peter: And have you found yourself now in situations where you make specific trade offs? You say, you know what, this might be the more aggressive business decision or business choice I might have made, but it’s not feeling right to me or it’s not connected enough to my heart or it’s not connected to the ground of my being in a way where I’m not going to do it. Have you found moments like that?
Ben: Well, there’s actually a moment in the book that I described of, um, when I come back and there is a similar opportunity to take to have a hostile takeover and then taking over the company and turning it around. Um, and the way we did it to take to actually was, I call it non-hostile, right? It was very, um, very subtly done. There was no proxy fight. There was no nasty stuff in the press. It was very quick and very, um, almost, it was orchestrated. It was, it was somewhat not, not, there was an in person meeting, but it wasn’t the whole thing. It wasn’t in person. Um, and this, this other, this new opportunity would have been a little bit much more of a fight. And I knew it was the right thing to do and I knew if, if it didn’t get, if somebody didn’t intervene in the company, would continue to circle the drain and ultimately go down the drain.
Ben: Um, and uh, and so I had the sense of indignation, right? You know, someone’s got to fix this company. I don’t, you know, and I got gotta do it and I can do it. Um, and then I just thought for a moment, you know, what it would take for me, that kind of hostility is just not something I want it to feed. Right, right. This notion, you know, there’s a lot, I talked a little bit about neuroscience, which I’m interested in and um, you know, the, the more you behave in a certain way in the morning, behave in that way, red, you set these, these patterns in your mind and if you behave in a hostile way, you begin to just behave in a hostile way and you can get more and more. And I just didn’t want to feed that process of being hostile that way. So you stepped out of it, you chose not to. So I, I stepped back. Right.
Peter: Um, what have you discovered now that you’re back, right? I mean, you’ve been back for a while now, right? What, what year did you come back? It was Tuesday, 2011 2012. Okay, great. Okay. So you’ve been back for, you know, eight years, seven years, what, what do you notice now, right? Not, not right when you got back. I mean, I’m kind of interested in that too. Like what the transition was like. Yeah. In fact, let’s go there for a second. Okay. Like what the transition was like, what’s it like getting off the plane and coming back and you know, there’s this, I think I have it written down here, quote from Victoria, um, where she says you’re still on sabbatical. She said, once you get into the work mindset, it’s all over. Right. And I’m curious if that’s true. Um, or, but it doesn’t sound like it’s true. Oh, this is what it is. No, it’s not true, actually. Yeah. Well, first of all, the, I mean, there’s not a vacation that might be a vacation versus what happened. Immediate transition,
Ben: uh, for my kids was really straightforward or they just got back into their friends, into their schools. They were kind of returning heroes. They were the cool kids for about a week. And then there were like everybody else,
Peter: right. Um, though I want to just, I want to just read just for the fun of it cause it’s kind of fun to read this there. Um, this is from Sam. I think leaving volley, my oldest child, your oldest shot, I believe it was him. Um, you’ll correct me if I’m wrong. Leaving Bali sucks. He said it’s the mood and the family we built over the last few months. Now we’re going back to our regular New York thing. I knew exactly what he meant. This is you talking now. How would we keep our sense of adventure going? How could we maintain our closeness once we reintegrated into the structures and responsibilities of work, school and extended family? I didn’t have good answers to those questions. Can you carry the mood inside you? We both, we both you, that’s the question you asked. We both knew it was a trait line.
Ben: So here’s a, so eight years later, looking back, I would say that this sabbatical still is kind of this defining a foundational thing for our family. Right? It’s something we all know we did together and we still talk about, in fact, Victoria and I went back to the summer. Um, and you know, those kinds of as joke in the family and my kids are older. Right? So where are you guys coming back or are you staying, you know, are you ever coming back? Um, and Bali is kind of a magical place generally, but it’s especially magical for, uh, for us as you can imagine. Um, and um, but there is this, this just the idea of, of the sabbatical is important. The message that, um, I as the breadwinner in the family or the kind of the guy who was kind of at work all the time, made the decision in order to be with my family is not in any way lost on my children.
Ben: Right. Um, as they’ve grown up, they are exposed to any number of kinds of parents, kinds of family situations. You know, it’s a really, really broad range, especially in New York City. Uh, and they’re very thankful for what they have. So there is this tip, there is this understanding among all of them. And me and Victoria have the gift that this was to them and to us. Um, and how important it has been ever since. Even my youngest who probably has the Vegas memories at the time, she was seven, um, understands all of that. And it’s part of the lore because it’s part of, it’s part of, it’s part of the Lord of the family. And if you walked into our apartment today, you would see artifacts of volleys still there and we’d go back periodically. And so it’s part of our lives. Um, and I don’t want to leave this interview without mention of this amazing ex, um, experience we had at green school in Bali, which
Peter: it’s possible that your children went to and that there were a lot of ex pat kids there, a lot of ex bad kids. It was, it was only three years old
Ben: when we went, but it’s a school dedicated teaching kids about the environment and it’s a school dedicated to global citizenship and love of learning. It’s the most extraordinary place I’ve ever been to. Uh, and the teaching about global citizenship and the environment has stayed with all my children to this day. My kids will never under paint, almost under pain of death, right? Drink water from a plastic bottle cause they know the evils of it. Um, my daughter was, uh, involved in the band of plastic bags in New York City. Um, and, uh, and there’s this great sense of kind of doing something for the environment generally, right? Um, all of which I attribute to green school. It’s helped that it’s kind of in the, in the air now anyway.
Peter: Well, it’s interesting too, because your kids and your family has a very, very strong Jewish identity. And this sounds like they have beyond that, a very, very strong global identity. Right? Which is, which is a value of, of Judaism. It’s not a duty of, I’ve gotta say it’s a value of Victoria. It’s a both and value and a struggle for Victoria in a right. Because on the one hand, we don’t want to, you know, the, the culture is important, but we don’t have any, any way we want them to be parochial. Right.
Ben: And, um, uh, and kind of this kind of this expression of, you know, you yes, instead of valley of Judaism to repair the world, but it’s also value of ours to kind of have this balance of you who need, you need to participate. You can’t just withdraw into your own, uh, integral culture in New York. It’s really, you are there whether it’s such a rich Jewish culture, right. It’s very easy to just withdraw onto your own bubble and not engage in the rest of the world. Right. And it’s, and I think they understand that it’s a value in our family to utterly engaged in the world. Right. Why did you write the book? Uh, it’s a good question. You know, like most achievements in my life, I credit my wife, um, and she, uh, she encouraged me to do it. There were kind of a few ghosts that I needed to work out.
Ben: And what I found was, you know, like y your, your questions, you know, why do I do it? I didn’t quite understand it and I found something really interesting in the process of writing the book. Um, you know, she said, I’ll write a book, it’ll be, it’ll help you. It’ll be Cathartic. It wasn’t cathartic at all. I’ve found it actually very hard. Um, but we know we all have, uh, these narratives in our lives. We have multiple all this information in order to write a book that’s readable. Any tell a real story, right? You need to have, and it was very deliberate thing on my part. Like I’m going to tell a story about my quest, right? This is my story. But to do that, you’re deliberately leaving out all sorts of parts and you are deliberately setting up the sequence of events in order to fit into the narrative arc, right?
Ben: It needs to fit into the arc. And the really interesting part about that is once you kind of fit all the events in your life to tell something and a really cogent, can we say I, it’s like, okay, I get this story. It’s very clear at least to B to c and D and nobody’s lives are actually like that. But when you tell the story that way, right? You begin to focus on one particular narrative arc, there are many in your life and the story that you tell others, one or two, the stories that you tell other becomes the story you tell yourself and becomes, and it’s clarifying, right? It kind of gets rid of all the noise and focuses on the signal and it’s clarifying about what you believe. And I think that’s true in personal lives. I think it’s true in business also.
Ben: You know, you could have business school and you read a case, right? It’s, you know, they pick certain facts to tell a story and we all do it all the time. I just think it’s human nature. Right? And, um, and I found that very, very, first of all, I found the editing more than the writing to be super creative. Super interesting. Um, and then, but also kind of helped me tell a story to myself, right. Because I’m telling it to others. Did that help you reintegrate? Uh, somewhat are the push and pull? There was on the one hand, yes. On the other hand, you know, while I was writing it, while I was integrating, I was like, why am I writing? I still be so beside the point, why am I doing this? No interest in being an author and a career? Um, but I just felt, I don’t know, I just felt compelled to do and I kind of like, I questioned while I was doing, and yet every day I get in front of a computer and write
Peter: sounds to me like it’s one way of not leaving the experience totally behind, right? Not saying like, okay, now I’m here, now I’m going to focus on this stuff. And, and, and not that stuff. And it’s, and for me too, I want to,
Ben: to be clear to myself more than anything else, that this wasn’t a big long vacation. This was not a long vacation. Right. There was meaning behind this and there was, um, there was kind of deliberate choices that I made along the way. In fact, people ask me, you know, what are the lessons of the book? And I was like, first of all, if there are no lessons in the book, right, I just tell my story, you draw whatever lessons you want, right? But if I have to, if I was forced, right. One of them is, you know, living, making deliberate choices along the way, right? Right. Living Life deliberately. Right. And um, and so that’s kind of an eye. That’s what I, so this is the message that I wanted to send to myself, if not others. This wasn’t a vacation, right? This was an exploration and this was life changing, right? And, um, um, in a very, very important way. And I think some people find that inspirational, aspirational, motivational, whatever it is, it’s my story. You can take what you want from it.
Peter: Well, and I’m also hearing you say, and this is actually very instructive, there’s like a lesson of writing in the book, you know, not just the lesson in the book with the lesson of writing the book is that you, that that sometimes you can have an experience which has any sorts of numbers of meaning, but to really create meaning, like you actually create meaning by writing the story. Yes. Like you create the like, so this is what it meant. Yes. But you create them.
Ben: So that I would argue at the irony of the book is that, you know, so much of the story is about finding this kind of um, uh, non achieving non Hago kind of way. And the art is like
Peter: course you wrote a book about right. Yet another [inaudible] might know. So. Right, right. Interesting. Um, so that’s the irony of the whole thing. Well, I’m glad you wrote the book. It’s a, it’s a book. Well worth reading. Again, the book is take off your shoes, one man’s journey from the boardroom to Bali and back. Um, and Ben, I just want to tell you like in, in closing, I, um, the reason I re picked up the book because I, I got it when you sort of first put it out, but the reason I re picked it up is because I was, you know, in California with a friend of mine from Toronto who told me that she was going to go live in, uh, Spain, I think Barcelona, you know, for a year starting in 2020. And I was like, really? That’s so interesting. What, what gave you, you know, the idea or why are you deciding to do that? Well, I read this book by this guy who went to Bali. Oh, he was from New York and he went to Bali and I’m like Ben and Jewish guy and I’m like, Ben fetter. And he’s like, she’s like, yeah, how do you know? I was like, just shout. I should’ve guessed that. I don’t know. Jewish in New York. I’m like, there’s a lot of Jews in New York. Like that wouldn’t be the reason. But I do happen to know him and I haven’t, no. So I do get this every now and then
Ben: an email. Recently, some guy sort of says, I’m just back. I traveled the world for a year with my kids is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. You inspired me. Thank you.
Peter: Well, no one’s cause out of nowhere. Right, right. It’s great. It’s like the bell waiting for the emails. Like, I hate you. You destroyed my life. Still stuck in Bali. I kick it out. My family left. Right, right, right. Well, thank you. Thank you for writing the book and thank you for being on the Bregman leadership podcast. Thank you for your interest. It’s really been fun. Thank you
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