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Intentional Living with Jon Yarian

George Grombacher May 11, 2023

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Intentional Living with Jon Yarian

LifeBlood: We talked about intentional living, what it means to live life on your terms and how to do it, why so many of us justify where we’re at instead of doing something to change it, and how to know if you’re ready to get started, with Jon Yarian, two-time founder and author.    

Listen to learn how to get started living an intentional life!

You can learn more about Jon at, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Get your copy of Spark HERE

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Jon Yarian

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
leopard. This is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guest strong and powerful John Jaron. John, are you ready to do this? I’m ready. All right, let’s go. John is a two time founder and entrepreneur. He is the author of Spark 24 concepts to ignite, unstick supercharge your work life. It’s a book that explores workplace productivity trends, limiting beliefs, burnout, John, I’m excited to have you on, tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do.

Jon Yarian 0:33
It was a pleasure to be here. And like some folks, I’m only good at a few things.

And so the explanation, in part is like, this is what I can do. But I’m fortunate to spend most of my time working with high potential high performing professionals to identify what’s in the way, or what’s slowing them down, remove those barriers and optimize performance. And in the in the context of that work, George, that means we’re removing words like personal life, professional life, and some of these sort of false separations. And we’re just dealing with people as they are. And so I find that work really rewarding. And it, it almost required me to write about it, it seemed weird. To limit it to the room or the individual, when there was so much interesting stuff that I’ve had the pleasure of learning or being exposed to that I wanted others to get to.

george grombacher 1:33
I appreciate that. How long did the book take?

Jon Yarian 1:38
Let’s see, I, the actual writing process probably took six months, five or six months, but spread out over a couple of years. What I discovered which is interesting is I used to think of myself as a very, very difficult to disturb easygoing guy, I could work in a coffee shop, I can write, I can do anything anywhere. And I sat down and committed myself to this book. And what I learned is, I’m a huge diva noise, I can’t deal with this, I can only write in one kind of remote place. And so that part of the reason that the time it did to put together is just too precious to write, you know, anywhere that’s like, you know, crowded or anything like that.

george grombacher 2:23
Yeah. All right. So what is this one remote place,

Jon Yarian 2:27
I’m fortunate enough to have a house in western North Carolina, in the mountains, where I could go alone. And I would get up and write for a few minutes, and then just paste around like a lunatic stand on the porch stare at the trees come back in. And it was just it was a forced self limitation. That was joyful, and immensely frustrating all at the same time. Because the way I set it up, there was nothing to do but Right. And so it did, I wasn’t, you know, hugely productive every single day. But it did kind of force me to get through it.

george grombacher 3:06
I appreciate that. You construct a figurative, somewhat literal, literal prison of you and your thoughts and your words to try to get this book out.

Jon Yarian 3:19
That’s right. And part of it was dictated by the the idea for the book itself, which is what if we wrote a book that didn’t have an ounce of fat on it? What What if we were like, ruthlessly committed to the idea of just delivering value on every page. And so that impulse to pad to just write in circles to write something that you know, was maybe a little self congratulatory was kind of intense and had to be managed every day. And what you find is when you when you limit yourself to only saying what is useful to say, there’s far less there than normal conversation or normal writing. So that was again, joyful, but also a little bit, kind of broke my brain a little bit.

george grombacher 4:04
Yeah, I certainly appreciate that. To try and just reduce everything down to is this useful? Is this necessary, or, you know, my fallen into my very human trap of just adding extra fluff to it so interesting, that a big part of what you’re trying to do is remove barriers that we construct in between this is my work life, this is my personal life. Yet we at times do need to separate and say if I’m going to get this book done, I need to remove myself. How do you think about that?

Jon Yarian 4:41
Um, I don’t know that I think of it as much as separation, more reconciliation. What’s available to me or anybody else is to act with intention in all areas of my life, to be to be conscious and connected and able to see what I’m doing You know, really just feeling impulse or instinct and govern that with a higher purpose or goal. And while that, you know, that produces something called work, that would have me at my other house to write, write that you could put all those other terms to it, it’s really just a consequence of getting something of significance done. And that’s applicable in every part of my life, and also helps make it make sense, right, it removes what otherwise would have been friction, because it brings me closer to what I authentically want to do, which in turn produces me like the guy my wife wanted to be married to in the first place, right, it reconciles those elements, and has something looking a lot more harmonious than what you typically find, which is somebody juggling these kinds of different personas, neither of which are really real. And that’s why they’re in conflict. So I think understanding that or finding a process to manage it within yourself, tends to level up your work. And whatever you’ve created for yourself outside of work

george grombacher 6:02
like that, that’s all super powerful. So reconciliation versus separation, and making sure that you are consistently progressing towards doing work that is significant that is meaningful to you, in service of becoming the person that you really want to be and that the people who you care for need to be?

Jon Yarian 6:26
Well, it’s exceedingly difficult to be partially purpose driven. That’s not a realistic proposition to me. So acting from a place of purpose, and true commitment is going to show up everywhere, like you’re not going to unring that bell, you’re not going to create the career you really want for yourself, and live in a super mediocre marriage, like those things are not going to mix. And so in getting into this kind of work, that’s both the promise and the the, almost like a warning, it’s like once you start to see what’s possible for yourself, you’re not going to contain it. There’s either going to be an acceptance of like mediocrity or neutrality everywhere, or you’re gonna start to to to be awake and alert. And I’m sure you can see this, and I can hear it in the show, when I tune in the way you are with guests and how you are in your work. It’s like, no, that’s just who he is. It’s not like he clocks out from that. Right? I don’t think you’re different at 8pm. It’s just who you become, which is cool.

george grombacher 7:33
I appreciate that. And I think it is true, and and a relatively new phenomenon. So for people who are listening, and do you think that everybody wants that? Are we just not aware of it?

Jon Yarian 7:53
I guess I would ask the question a little bit, like if the question is do people consciously want it? Maybe not, we’re all faced with the problem of self awareness, we’re all kind of stuck knowing that we’re alive. And then at some later date, we won’t be everyone has that problem. Right. So there are different ways of resolving it. So in that respect, I would say everyone wants this because it it kind of aligns these two things. Like, it has me having an experience of my life that feels meaningful and worthwhile. versus just a series of instinctive reactions that have me just kind of like acceptable to the people around me. What can be difficult as we get more habituated to certain ways of living, we’d be very committed to the idea that we don’t want to change. Because in reality, we just don’t see a way of doing it. And so if we wanted it, we would be disappointed. If we don’t want it, that’s better. Because that makes us okay. And that’s I think, where a lot of people occupy that space. If you gave them a survey, they say no, I’m good. Thank you.

george grombacher 8:57
Victor, that makes a lot of sense.

Is it? I don’t know why I keep trying to pick it this. It’s almost like we resign ourselves to that.

Jon Yarian 9:12
Yeah, I mean, I’ve resigned myself to my hair color. I mean, like anything that we see as permanent or unchangeable. We’re pretty quick to adapt to because that’s part of survival. Right? That’s, you know, that’s how you move forward. The process of you know, radical transformation is, you know, finding that little opening, where you see something that could be different, building on that and living into it. And over time, realizing that everything could be different, nothing has to be the way it is. And now that’s both an exciting and a terrifying prospect. You know what most people fear is not that agency or freedom, it’s the responsibility that comes with it. If you really were Superman, what would that mean? What, what comes with that do you now need to defend Metropolis from Lex Luthor? Or can you just hang out with your friends?

george grombacher 10:06
Love it. So how do we start looking for those little openings? How do we find those little openings?

Jon Yarian 10:12
Well, the you know, the book, Spark is intended, you know, the it’s named, it’s meant to have something kind of get going. And the the premise of the book, The best analogy I could use is like, I know what a quiche is the dish. I’ve had it before, I know what it tastes like, and I have a station of knowing it, I don’t know how to make one, you could put me in a kitchen with all the ingredients, you’d never get a quiche out of it. Unless I had the recipe unless I had the instructions. I think that’s pretty much how it works. For a lot of folks, when we talk about concepts like leadership, or collaboration, or co creation, we kind of know them, we’ve sort of been around them, we know how to put them in a sentence, we don’t have a recipe, we don’t actually know how to do it. And so what we set out to do in very short kind of essay formats, is offer you a recipe for 24 different concepts that we think are really meaningful. And then some ways that they could combine with each other. And it’s clear enough and quick enough that you could actually go out and do it, it’s like go try it. Like just see if it works. Don’t take my word for it, try it. And the beauty of that is that even if what we’ve laid down doesn’t work for you, you will be on the journey of discovering what your own definition of the thing. And then you would have something versus simply acting like you know, something that you don’t, that we hope would be a way of creating that little crack or opening that has someone noticing possibility and other areas of their life.

george grombacher 11:47
What’s an example of one of the 24th

Jon Yarian 11:50
leadership is a pretty obvious one. And that word gets used constantly. And it’s typically a reference to just a position of authority, right? Like I’m in charge of you. That’s not leadership. That’s hierarchical, it’s circumstantial. That in no way motivates you to follow me, it just means I could make something bad happen to you if you don’t seem to participate with what I want. So then what’s leadership? Well, leadership to put it really succinctly is identifying something outside myself, that isn’t about me, and then committing myself to whatever is necessary to accomplish it. And then engaging you in a way where I would look for how to serve you, so that you would help me in this effort towards this thing. And now we would have something called leadership, we explain it a little further in the book. But the idea is that you could get that you could get that into your head enough that you could start to practice it, or notice the times in your life when you experienced authentic leadership. But when it happened to you at that time, it looked like oh, here’s just a great thing that George and I are going to do. Right, then I’m excited about. That’s leadership. That’s one small example. And obviously, there are many more. But the idea is to make it specific enough that you could road test it, see if you liked it.

george grombacher 13:15
Got it. So I can take and put that to work and apply it even if I don’t have a hierarchical hierarchical position as a leader.

Jon Yarian 13:26
Absolutely. Absolutely. And this is this is starting this is where we’re like living into possibilities. like wait a minute, you’re saying I can be a leader, even though I don’t have a piece of paper that says I’m in charge of George, like, Oh, now that’s the first step towards a relationship to actual leadership. And what you notice is that when you live into being a leader, those titles and authority will show up later, because you will occur for other people as a leader who ought to be in charge of something. What’s more often the case is we are waiting around to be invited into a position of authority, and then we will become leaders. Meanwhile, we don’t look like we’re leading anything. And we’re not making a big impact. Ergo, were treading water in middle management, or something else and feeling dissatisfied and discouraged when in reality be a leader right now. You can be a leader today. I

george grombacher 14:23
think that that’s such an important and powerful thing right there is that we wait to achieve something, and then we’re going to start feeling like it or identifying the way and it’s totally the opposite to your point.

Jon Yarian 14:34
Yeah, well, we want permission, and we want to be asked, right? And that way we know we don’t run any risks, right? I can’t offend anybody, so I can’t be rejected. And so what it really prefers to get, you know, an invitation in the mail that says, Okay, today’s the day John, you get to be a big leader, because that’s what we all want you to do. That’s how we would want for these things to work for us is by popular demand. is not how it goes. At least my mailbox He’s pretty empty. I don’t know about yours, but for sure, patients do not show up.

george grombacher 15:05
Yeah, it’s, it reminds me of the famous Steve Martin quote, it’s like be so good that they can ignore you kind of a thing. If Steve Martin had waited around for Senator alive or anybody else to just ring him up and say, Hey, we think you’re great. Would you come and be funny on our show, he probably we would be unaware of who Steve Martin was.

Jon Yarian 15:23
That’s right. It works like what we’re doing right now, it’s setting out to serve your audience with something called a podcast. If you get really committed to that, what you’ll end up with is something called a good podcast. If you set out to like, seem like we’re doing a good podcast, you’d end up with a mess. Right? It wouldn’t matter when. But the one thing always precedes the other. And that’s not obvious to us, certainly not as we get older and develop all these terrible habits in school and at work gets harder to see.

george grombacher 15:56
So leadership, and looking for these little cracks or little opportunities. So how to identify a crack in opportunity of, of living into that that leadership role.

Jon Yarian 16:18
Well, you know, for most of us, for most listeners, that’d be pretty hard to do, or to identify, what you probably have is just kind of a rumbling, indeterminate desire for something to be different in your life, that’s probably about as specific as it’s going to get. And from there, what that gives you the opportunity to do is really just start to explore. Be open minded, and be ready to react as things resonate and take shape. Part of the reason we created the book the way we did it, and by the way, you can read the sections in any order. There, it’s completely modular. Right? The notion is to kind of construct it like a Spotify playlist, so that you can sample and survey, skip a chapter, we don’t care, you’re going to find something in there that resonates or speaks to where you’re at, just like you would from any number of other books or people that that you want to emulate, and look to them, or look to these resources and see what connects for you be very difficult in a vacuum to say, Oh, well, this is how, or this is what I need, or this is what’s missing, I think it’d be really challenging.

george grombacher 17:26
Yeah, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. You can flip to any one of the 24 and and find value in it and something you can actually actionable be put to work immediately. And I also like how you described, if you just go looking for opportunities to be a leader in your life, it might be tricky. But finding those rumblings say, You know what, I’m I’m dissatisfied with the way that this is happening. And that’s where you might have your opportunity to be able to accept some responsibility and that area. Yeah,

Jon Yarian 18:03
well, even even that acknowledgement within yourself to say, I’m dissatisfied with the way things are. That’s a little bit hard to sit with that goes back to that one question we talked about earlier. That’s a really useful first step. What most of us spend most of our time doing is justifying whatever’s going on as like the way everything just needed to be, right. I want to explain everything, so I can make certain for myself that this is the way my life had to end up that way. I’m not disappointed or discouraged. So that’s the first problem. Just being present to that discomfort, which doesn’t, you know, that’s not really fun at first, but just saying, hey, you know, I can see more for myself, that gets you going, right? That would have you reading this book or tuning into a podcast like this, and then it’s gonna get moving. And what you know, from interviewing incredible people and doing the work that you do is like, there’s a lot of help out there. There’s a lot of incredible stuff. You just have to be open to it. It’s not like this crazy Easter egg hunt. It’s about opening your mind not just identifying some perfect obscure resource for yourself.

george grombacher 19:12
super powerful. We do spend a lot of time just find things so we’re not disappointed. So and resources and smart people do abound, John. I love it. Well, John, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with you and where can they get their copy of Spark 24 concepts to ignite unstick supercharge your work life.

Jon Yarian 19:39
You can go to spark It’s pretty easy spark does not require you to remember that huge subtitle. My name is a little unusual. It’s why A r i a n so if you Google me I’m pretty much it or close to it. Or me with Spark you’ll find a bunch of stuff and So I would say, check us out, you know, preorder the book, look through the website, if something starts to land for you, you know, go for it. Don’t close up. There might be something there. So you know, you’re you’re worth it.

george grombacher 20:18
I love it. Well, if you enjoyed this as much as I did show genuine appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, get your copy of Spark at Spark find John by searching for John at Jony A r i a n. And you do everybody who is listening, John and I, you who are listening, you have the opportunity and you are absolutely worthy of having the life that you want. And the only way to find that or to get that is by starting to look for it and starting to explore. And I think that John’s book sounds like an awesome way to start that process. So check it out. Thanks again, John. Thank you. And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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