Khemit Bailey quit his role at Apple to pursue development of a methodology that helps people discover their core values through mining insights from their favorite movies. Learn how it works.

Myths are humans’ attempts to answer timeless, fundamental questions. Khemit believes movies are the modern day vessel of these mythological stories and that our emotional reactions to them hold the clues for unlocking insights about our true purpose in the world.

Khemit developed The Character Arc Academy to enable us to excavate our core values via analyzing our reactions to our favorite films. In this episode we dig into his technique called “Smart Streaming” for extracting these insights through focused movie watching. We discuss the nature of the societal “mythological crisis,” how to implement smart streaming to re-establish alignment with our core values and the power this can have for unlocking our natural potential. Enjoy!

Show Notes

Time   Topic
0:02:39   Welcome and context
0:04:16   What is the Character Arc?
0:07:04   Why are you advocating people discover their values through fiction?
0:10:13   What does the Character Arc program consist of?
0:12:14   Can you talk about the 3 phases of the Smart Streaming technique?
0:15:15   At what point did you have the epiphany while watching a movie to develop this technique?
0:17:35   What is mythology to you?
0:19:33   What is the mythological crisis of meaning?
0:21:49   How would you link inspiration and values?
0:24:41   Does this method apply to other mediums outside of film?
0:25:24   How are people are “stuck in a value structure determined by friends and family?”
0:27:30   Can you talk about the re-emergence of magic as a theme?
0:32:00   How influential has the work of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and James Frazer been?
0:34:14   What does your course help people do?
0:38:46   Can you share any success stories of people having revelations or transformations due to the course?
0:41:37   Can you tell us about your time at Apple and what that was like?
0:44:15   Why did you leave what would many people would consider to be a dream job at Apple?
0:48:01   Your thoughts on mortality?
0:50:54   Are hardwired as humans to assign meaning to situations where sometimes there is none?
0:52:57   What is one book that profoundly affected you?
0:53:22   What is your favorite tool that saves you time, money or headaches?
0:54:18   One piece of music or artist that is speaking to you lately?
0:55:20   Which martial arts have you practiced?
0:56:57   What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
0:59:14   Are you aware of any books that are summarizing all myths or stories ever told?
1:00:18   If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 20-year-old self?


Character Arc
Lisbon Digital Nomads
Simon Sinek
EP 5 with Matt Dunsmoor
Fight Club
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Ultimate Guide to Smart Streaming
Star Wars
Harry Potter
Game of Thrones
Carl Jung
Joseph Campbell
The Golden Bough
Jordan Peterson
Maps of Meaning
Big Fish
The Denial of Death
Journey to Ixtlan
Peter Cetera – Glory Of Love
The Karate Kid
Steven Segal Aikido demonstration
Above the Law
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Khemit’s Instagram



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Sean Tierney: 00:02:40 All right. Hey everybody, this is Sean with the Nomad Podcast and I’m sitting across from Khemit Bailey. Khemit is founder and CEO of The Character Arc. In a previous life he was the global security risk assessor to a small company you might have heard of called Apple. He is a United States Air Force veteran, fluent in Mandarin Chinese, a lifelong martial artists, a very well traveled, having been to 32 countries. Khemit graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Hawaii Pacific University and has an MBA from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Khemit: welcome to the show!

Khemit Bailey: 00:03:01 Hey, thanks very much. It’s a mouthful.

Sean Tierney: 00:03:05 Definitely. Um, so let me, let me kind of cue this up. Uh, in terms of how we met. We met in a park, I think that parque da Estrella.

Khemit Bailey: 00:03:22 We did, yeah. One of our, our park picnics.

Sean Tierney: 00:03:24 Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, we’re both here in Lisbon and met in a park. I’d kind of seen your name through the Lisbon nomad meetup group but I think that was our first real meeting and when I learned about what you’re doing, Khemit of has a podcast, which we’ll get into. Uh, I listened to that episode about the mythological crisis and then that was just like, all right, lightning bolt. I got to get this guy on the podcast. So let me kind of, first of all why I am so fascinated about what you’re doing and then I’ll let you explain the characters. Okay. Uh, to me, I’m a huge Simon Sinek fan and for those people who don’t know what that is, episode five, I interviewed one of their facilitators. I’ve gone through the program, I’ve recommended it. I’ve, I, I’ve just, it’s amazing. Uh, and I think it does something similar to yours in that it really helps people figure out their why and what they’re all about. And that helps clarify a lot of stuff. Um, what you’re doing I think is fascinating cause you’re using fiction basically as the vehicle to do this. So can you explain, just tell people briefly like what is the character?

Khemit Bailey: 00:04:22 Yeah, yeah. Well, the character arc is, well, it’s many things to me, but, uh, I think the thing that’s most relevant to probably your audiences, it’s an idea based around, um, the concept of using fiction for more than just entertainment. And so that has implications in various domains. But, um, I like to apply it to the field of personal development because I really think that when you look at stories as just kind of a, a way for you to waste time or you know, to do something that takes your mind off of whatever’s important, you’re missing the point in fiction. Like there’s a lot more to it. And so, uh, the character arc is basically just has the mission of bringing fiction back to people so that they realize that their residence has some function in their lives. So, you know, resonance being basically the emotion attached to it, to inspiration or sorry, inspiration being emotion attached to residence, um, is really important to the character arc submission. So,

Sean Tierney: 00:05:15 yeah, I think you said in one of your episodes, like that feeling when you binge watch five things on Netflix and you feel crummy, like you just sink into the couch and like, what did you just do? But you’re almost like revitalizing that and giving people a lens through which to see that differently and get some utility out of it.

Khemit Bailey: 00:05:30 Right. Well, so, so the thing is, right, what do you see in movies and fiction and like, you know, when you’re been with binge-watching, what you’re binge watching is important because generally it’s something you care about. You know, you’re not watching something you hate, hopefully. But if you are, uh, you know, watching something, you care about the reason that you care about that matters. And so I don’t think that, um, it’s generally thought of in that way. Usually we think, oh, well we’re watching this because it’s entertaining, but you know, what is entertaining, what is resonant? And what that is to me actually is something that reflects your values to some degree. And it actually changes by individuals. So it’s not like a generic thing that everyone feels to the same magnitude for everything they watch. It’s very specific to you. So it can kind of tell you specifically what matters to you outside of that work of fiction. So it’s kind of using fiction as like a, an interpreter for, for, for yourself.

Sean Tierney: 00:06:20 Yeah. So it’s like, I dunno, I guess if this is maybe an a valid analogy, but it’s like you’re drawn to certain paintings, what is the theme in that painting? And then you can tell something about yourself through whatever you’re seeing in that.

Khemit Bailey: 00:06:30 Exactly. Yeah. I mean, if you think about like, you know, what’s the common denominator of all the fiction you love, it’s you, right? And so, so there you are actually in what you resonate with. So your choice of movies, your choice of books, your choice of TV shows, all of that starts to say something about you in the aggregate. Um, but in order to learn to do that, you have to figure out, you know, what individual stories are saying to you. And so I kind of help. What I like to do is help people form relationships with individual stories in such a way that they can start to pull that information out for themselves.

Sean Tierney: 00:07:00 Okay. And higher level, like what is the value? Why is this important? Or why do you advocate people doing this exercise and getting better in touch and discovering their values through fiction. Why is that important?

Khemit Bailey: 00:07:12 Yeah. Well, I’m, I mean I can tell you why it was important for me and maybe that’ll kind of, um, give you an insight into where my head’s at. So I was working for apple as you as you said, and um, before that I was in the military and I’ve had lots of different careers over the course of my life and I’ve constantly found myself running into the same wall with all of them, which was, I’ve reached a level where things are fairly stable. I should be happy. I’m not, or I’m not satisfied with where I am, not because I don’t feel like I haven’t achieved enough, but because I’m not sure this is in alignment with what I wanted to life. And so I realized that I should probably do more exploring in the arena of what do I want out of life. And one of the things I’ve had always felt a very strong kinship with was fiction movies especially, but really everything animated comic books, Manga.

Khemit Bailey: 00:07:56 So I had an experience while I was in Grad school where I watched the movie and I had like basically a breakdown afterwards and I was like crying in the bathroom’s tall and this movie theater, um, after this movie was over and it just brought home to me the fact that something was happening there that was important to my psychological life. And so I started to delve into it more and started reading some of the things that other people had said about fiction and you know, stories and archetypes. And through that I realized that what I was missing was the fact that the fiction was actually guiding me. And it was trying to tell me about what I found meaningful by kind of formalizing that. I managed to make a, basically a structure for myself that let me figure out what I wanted to do.

Khemit Bailey: 00:08:38 And it was undergirded by my resonance with fiction. And so I think that that situation that I found myself in really is something that lots of people find themselves, um, you know, at some point in their lives. So lots of my colleagues at Apple, um, lots of people I know who work in corporate and work in places where they should be very happy, but they’re not, um, are all facing this challenge. And so I like to think of it as a mythological crisis because it’s, it has to do with us falling out of alignment with our stories.

Sean Tierney: 00:09:06 Yeah. I, I for sure see it, uh, at least in the nomadic world, a lot of times people’s motivation for thinking, oh, I’m just going to go travel is when they feel some of that frustration and they’re looking for what’s next and they’re not sure where it is. And going nomadic can be kind of a nice bridge to like trying to start to figure that out. Um, but absolutely, like, I think this is like far more common than we’re willing to admit as a society. I think this plagues a lot of people.

Khemit Bailey: 00:09:31 Yeah, for sure. And I think we’ve tried to find different solutions for it. Like I, I had this cool, it was like a meme, one of the earlier memes and it had a guy with like one of those bindle like a little stick with a bag on the end running off and it said a, I seek geographical solutions to deep-seated emotional problems. And I used to really identify with that because I was always a traveler long before I’d heard of digital nomads or anything like that. I was, I always liked to travel, but I really felt like, um, and I didn’t really let myself acknowledge this until later in life that a lot of my traveling was to escape. I was always running away from something. I don’t like this, I don’t like that. And so I was leaving it, um, as opposed to going towards something. And so making that shift was part of the creation of the character arc and part of my realization of what I, what I should be doing. But yeah.

Sean Tierney: 00:10:14 That’s awesome man. Can you talk about the method by which this works? Like, what is, what does the character arc of the program consists of?

Khemit Bailey: 00:10:21 Well, so there there’s, there’s smart streaming, um, as a technique which maybe we can talk about a little bit later. And then there’s the character art course. So smart streaming is, that is a technique that I teach that I kind of formulated. It was what I was referring to earlier. Um, that basically gives you the tools to delve into fiction in a way that lets you pull out things that are important to you. And so in the character art course, I use that technique, uh, over the course of five weeks to help people get in very close touch with their values, their underlying values, the ones that they pull out of the stories they care about. Um, and then the, you know, because that’s a very abstract thing to do, right? You say, Oh, well, I’m very, uh, uh, I, I’ve, I’ve watched movies and whenever I see characters acting graciously, I, I start to tear up or I start to see characters.

Khemit Bailey: 00:11:05 Actually with humility, I start to like really feel like a strong resonant feeling. And one, it’s hard for people to start paying attention to that. Um, and to once they do, it’s still kind of a very abstract concept. And so what we do in the courses we take, um, all those different traits that they’ve accumulated and start to attach them to very real world things that are happening in their lives. Um, first by saying, okay, what are the actions in the movie that you saw that made you feel that this character embodied that trait? And then say, okay, what actions are you taking in your life that are in alignment, in alignment with that trait or out of alignment with that trait? And, um, when people start to do that, all it really does is start to focus their attention on the areas of their lives, where things are going right and where they’re going wrong. And, uh, from there, it really is kind of a, uh, it’s a very self-guided program. Uh, my goal is not to tell anyone what to do because I don’t know what people should do. But I do know that when people start to get in touch with their values and what, what underlies all their motivations, they’re very good at finding direction. Yeah.

Sean Tierney: 00:12:06 So I know there was three parts, like I downloaded this smart streaming pdf inserted, read that, and you break it into a tension inspection and extraction. And it’s like the three phases there. So can you talk about each? Are Those sequentials so you’re basically attention what, like watch the movie and be aware of what you’re seeing.

Khemit Bailey: 00:12:21 That that basically is, uh, is, is turn off your cell phone. That’s basically what attention is, right? It’s like puts your, your clothes, you can put your laptop, turn off your phone. Um, honestly I think it’s better to watch movies sometimes alone when you’re, when you’re doing this pro, during this process. Um, although it’s not necessary. Um, for me, I like it better that way. Uh, but it really is just saying pay attention and there’s two things to pay attention to. It’s not just the movie, right? It’s also your response to the movie because that’s the piece that’s missing for most people. You know, you watched fight club and you’re so enthralled by what’s happening that you’re, you’re only, you’re along for the ride, right? You’re feeling the emotions, but you’re not really paying attention to them as they come up. So what attention says is, okay, start to just notice when a feeling arises in relationship to a scene, a particular scene in a movie, right?

Khemit Bailey: 00:13:05 And then you move to inspection, which is to say, okay, well the night that you have felt that emotion in relationship to that scene, start to inspect it and start to inspect it for what it’s made up of, right? What are the words that the character said in that scene? What are the things that they did? Um, what are the actions taken that made you feel that way? Because here’s the thing. All movies are, is just a collection of pictures of people moving around on a screen, right? So that’s all you have to go on, but it makes you feel something. So you have to pick out specifically what, which of those actions, uh, were the ones that made you feel whatever you felt. And then you can move onto the screw extraction, which is where you pull out the actual trait that classifies all those actions. You know? So if you notice across the movie that every time a character does certain things, you resonate and at the end you realize that all of those are tied to bravery. Well then there is a trade for you, right? There’s a, there’s an underlying trait and it’s kind of a nugget of gold because when you know that, then you can start to see what actions you’re taking that align with that trait or are out of alignment with it.

Sean Tierney: 00:14:05 So, so the attention is kind of like the preparedness and getting ready and like devoting yourself to this inspection is the real time as it’s happening. You’re, you’re monitoring, uh, basically what’s going on, what actions are responsible for these things, and then the extraction, something that happens that happens after the fact. It’s, it’s basically an analysis.

Khemit Bailey: 00:14:24 Yeah. It’s usually, I mean, you know, it can all happen in different, in different, at different times during the watching of the movie. Um, I like to pause movies a lot while I’m watching them. So when I’m, I mean I’m smart streaming all the time. It’s what I do now when I watch movies. So if I’m, I’m watching something, I, um, I’ve gotten very attuned to when an emotional reaction pops up and if I’m not sure exactly what the trait is that it’s popping up in relationship to, I pause and I take a minute and said, okay, wait, what just happened? What did they do? And then when I figured out, I said, okay, what? Well, what does that indicate about them? You know, they just jumped off a cliff for some reason. That in itself doesn’t mean anything to me, but I felt something. So what does it mean in relationship to me? And then I can pull out a trait. And so I think sometimes there’s a fair bit of pausing. Once you get really good at it, I think you can just go on the fly. But, but yeah.

Sean Tierney: 00:15:12 At what point, like I guess what I’m thinking about is like, at what point were you watching your first movie where you were aware enough to stand back and say, Huh, I wonder if my response to this could tell me something about my values? You know, like

Khemit Bailey: 00:15:24 it is kind of a, it is interesting. I mean, I can’t say at what point, I mean I’ve been having strong emotional reactions to fiction for most of my life as I’m sure most people have. Um, the first time I noticed it in that the sense that you just mentioned was the story I told earlier. I was watching actually the movie was called beasts of the southern, of the southern wild, which is one of my favorite movies. And, um, it’s, it’s kind of like a fantasy, a drama adventure. And, um, yeah, at the end of that movie, I remember I was having this such a strong emotional reaction, which doesn’t always happen because, you know, not every movie is of equal quality, but because I was having such a strong reaction, I started, uh, it, something about it just made me introspect more, you know, and, and I was also having a really tough time then I was in Grad school, but it was my first couple of months I had just moved back from China. I was completely off kilter. I hadn’t made any friends yet. I didn’t know what I was doing, why I was even there. Um, I was really off balance. And so I guess I was more emotionally raw and so that all those things combined to make me say, okay, something’s happening here. What is it? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was 2000. That was 2012.

Sean Tierney: 00:16:28 Yeah. It’s interesting, like it’s, it’s almost like fiction as like this spirit guide that’s out there and you’ve kind of figured out some bridge that connects people with that

Khemit Bailey: 00:16:37 it. Sure. Yeah. I mean you can look at it that way. I think that it’s, I think that it’s, that’s a good way of putting it and it also can be looked at as something that’s inside of all of us, you know? Right. Like stories. The structure of stories goes much deeper than just the story. You know, that, and this is the, I guess a young Ian idea of archetypes, which is like these, these archetypes of the human unconscious. They’re like features of the human experience that are so fundamental to our reality that all of us are familiar with them. And because we’re all familiar with them, we all relate to them in some way. And so when you see expressions of those things, you have reactions to them. And so whichever one is the most relevant to your situation at any given time, the more the reaction will appear. And so that idea is incredibly deep because it says that our stories are being produced by this kind of unknown thing within us and we’re reacting to it. So it’s kind of a feedback loop.

Sean Tierney: 00:17:28 Yeah. Can you talk about at one point, I forget exactly the words that you use, but you’re basically saying mythology is talking about these questions that we can’t possibly know the answers to. Like all mythology is kind of attempt to answer these like mortality in these big questions that societies have had forever. And like what is in your opinion, like some mythology is kind of like fiction that has existed for ages and there’s themes of it that we see in the current movies and whatnot coming out today. But what, what is mythology to you? Yeah, yeah.

Khemit Bailey: 00:18:03 Well I think that mythology is an attempt to answer the questions that are most important to us as human beings. So there’s two sides of, of the world, right? There’s the rational side of world of the world, which is concerned with what is, what is true, what exists, right? What is this made of? You know, what are all the structures around us, um, composed of and it’s, it’s, and science is basically an attempt to separate all of the emotional, um, value that’s related to objects from them so that you can look at them passively, objectively rather. Yeah. Um, and that’s great. I mean, it’s an amazing tool. Um, the other side of that, the flip side of that coin is that things do have value to us. Things do matter to us, and that the way that they value is not very rational law at all.

Khemit Bailey: 00:18:55 It has to do with how we’re structured as human beings has to do with how our societies are structured. And so mythology is aunt’s trying to answer, answer the question of what is it that, how do we best live with the least amount of suffering over the longest expanses of time? And the answers are the stories that have come out of mythology and religions. So when you look at those stories, I think looking at them as, uh, inquisitions into what is best in life is a, is a good way to think about it. So, uh, I guess that’s what I think mythology is, if that’s not too vague an answer.

Sean Tierney: 00:19:28 No, no. But when you, when you talk about the crisis of meaning or the crisis of mythology, what is that crisis thing? Is it losing touch with those stories or what?

Khemit Bailey: 00:19:36 Yeah. Well, I think a lot of people have talked about, you know, this current era that we’re in as, um, being characterized by a crisis of meaning. You know, people can’t find their meaning. It’s kind of what I was talking about with regards to some of my colleagues at apple and people in jobs they hate are lives that they aren’t satisfied with. I think that a lot of times that comes from the fact that our society doesn’t put any emphasis on the mythological side of, uh, our experience. All of what we care about is, um, you know, how to do well in the domains that we are working in, but not how do we make ourselves, um, as a species, as a, as, as humans and, and as individuals, you know, better. And by better, I mean, uh, less prone to, you know, meaningless suffering.

Khemit Bailey: 00:20:27 Uh, and so because of that, we get very good at, um, thinking about things rationally. We get very good at creating things without, uh, let’s say regard for their intrinsic value. But then the problem is that the value reasserts itself, and at some point in your life you realize, okay, I’ve made lots of money. You know, I’ve met, I’ve, or I’ve, I’ve done all the things I wanted to do. I’ve traveled to all the countries I set out to travel to. Um, but at the same time, you’ve never come to any realizations about what it is that really satisfies you because we don’t think like that. And so I think the mythological crisis, and it’s basically trying to say, look, sorry, I think that the character arc, right? What I’m trying to do is say, mythology has something to tell you about the reason that you’re suffering.

Khemit Bailey: 00:21:14 And a lot of people don’t like to hear it because it’s scary, right? It indicates there’s a whole domain that you haven’t been paying attention to for your whole life. And that’s very tough, but by doing it, I think that actually gets you back to a place where you can start to answer those bigger questions. Got It. Um, okay, so I did my homework. I’ve listened to every podcast that you put out on. Wow. I read the smart stream. You guys. Okay. I just picked out some quotes that resonated for me. Okay. So I’m going to just like ask you to talk about each one of these, but um, okay, so inspiration is the emotional response to things of value in the world around you. Can you talk about like make the link between inspiration and values and fiction? Like just kind of chain those together if you can.

Khemit Bailey: 00:21:59 Yeah, sure. Okay. Well, if we think about inspiration as, as, as an emotional experience that people have, the first question is what causes it? Okay. And if you ask people what causes inspiration, you get a lot of different answers. You can say music, right? Or some abstract thing. Art, sometimes very abstract things, but more regularly what you hear people say is people, right? So they’ll say, I got really inspired by this guy that I heard talking on this podcast. Right? Or The guy got really inspired by this person I saw on TV doing this thing, or I, I watched a movie about someone, you know, whatever. It’s, it’s people. Um, but it’s not just people, it’s not just individuals, right. When you look at Bill Gates and if you think he’s inspiring, it’s not because like of the guy standing there with his jeans and his pants, right?

Khemit Bailey: 00:22:43 Yeah. It’s not that. It’s something that is attached to that. Right. And what’s attached to Bill Gates is the story of Bill Gates, right? What Bill Gates has done, it’s kind of a point a point B of Bill Gates, right. Where he started and what he made out of it. That’s impressive. And that can be inspiring, right. To some people. Um, and so when you’re looking at the emotion of inspiration, generally it’s attached to a story. You know, even music is a story, right? It starts one way and at the end it reaches some kind of crescendo that is emotionally satisfying to us as humans, which is very strange. But that happens. And so what inspires us is the stories of other people. Okay, where are the places that we see stories where other people in real life, of course, but also in fiction and in fiction, those stories are distilled to make that inspiration, uh, occur for us in the most salient possible.

Khemit Bailey: 00:23:34 Yes. And like the most, like the most salient way in like the strongest way that we ever experienced it. Right? Because people’s goals to make you feel that emotion as opposed to just live their life. You know, Bill Gates isn’t just, isn’t trying to fire people, right? He just does it because he’s been inspirational. Right? Right. But when you look at a movie, all you have to go on is what’s on the screen. So they have an hour and a half to make you inspired. If that’s what the movie’s about. And if they want a character to be compelling, you know, even in a movie that’s not about inspiration, something about the asked inspire you. And this is, you know, W I’ve, I watched a lot of movies and I still talk about a movies a lot. And one of the things that, one of my pet peeves is when you have a movie that has no likable characters, um, and it’s not a pet peeve because, you know, I’m offended by it.

Khemit Bailey: 00:24:13 I, I’ve like, I’ve actually enjoyed some of it’s like that, but I think that we generally only are able to connect with people that we have some of the affinity with. And when you have a movie that has no characters that you care about, what happens to them? It kind of is a failure of a movie, in my opinion. And so that’s kind of the same thing I’m just talking about, which is that inspiration comes from the stories of other people. And so that’s fiction. Okay. Or it can be fiction, you know, obviously you can be inspired by other real life people.

Sean Tierney: 00:24:38 Yeah. Well, and I think it’s important to note that this method that you’re proposing I think is independent of the medium, right? Like this can apply to books, but it can apply to movies and to comply to plays and whatever form you’re talking about.

Khemit Bailey: 00:24:49 Yeah, yeah, yeah. I use movies in my course and I aim smart streaming and like the guide at movies just because it’s kind of the most compact, you know, it’s like bite size. You can spend an hour and a half watching a movie and get the gold from that. Um, you can do with TV shows of course. Right? I mean, you watch breaking bad, that’s 60 hours of, of just whatever you want it to be, you know, or, or the wire or something like that. You can, you can pull so many stories out of those, but they just take much longer. Same with books, but yeah, like you said, everything that you feel residents with, any story that you resonate with, it can be used for.

Sean Tierney: 00:25:22 Um, all right, well here’s, here’s another quote that I liked. People are stuck in a value structure that’s determined by their friends and family. Um, what do you mean by that?

Khemit Bailey: 00:25:32 Well, um, more or less exactly what it says. Uh, most people derive their values from their family, which is not a bad thing. We all do to some degree. Um, a lot of times from our friends that aren’t a lot of times from our jobs. Even my contention when saying that is that those are not the only place that values can be derived from. And that if they are, then the person themselves is a bit stunted because they haven’t, they haven’t delved into their internal sources of inspiration. Right? The things that motivate them specifically. So you as a person are very different than your parents and they love you unconditionally. Let’s hope. And so they want the best for you to have tried to teach you the best they can. What, you know, values, what things you should value. But at the end of the day, you have your own temperament.

Khemit Bailey: 00:26:19 You have your own experience in the world. And so all those things combined to create what it is that you value. But if you’ve never asked yourself that question, you might not have a concrete image of what that is. And so I kinda think of that as like a character. You know, it’s like, it’s like the aggregate of all the traits that you find valuable, like really valuable in the world. Um, your friends can’t tell you that either. You know, they can tell you what they think about you, they can tell you what they think, but they can’t tell you what you think. Right. Um, and definitely not your job. I mean, your job has its own value structure that’s very separate from your own. So all that saying is that if you haven’t delved into what matters to you, at some point it will emerge.

Khemit Bailey: 00:26:57 You know, it may happen when you’re 50 and you look up and you think you wasted your life, you know, or you’ve been in a relationship that didn’t work for a very long time and never thought to figure out why or what you should do about it. Like that’s what that is. That’s your values. Re-Emerging that cause you know, most of us try to suppress them because we say we figured out what the value is in life and just make money. Right? It’s become successful. It’s gain prestige. It’s do the things that everyone tells us to do. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with it in the absence of also knowing what it is that we care about.

Sean Tierney: 00:27:26 Awesome. Um, all right. I want to talk about reemergence of magic as a theme because I thought that was pretty cool. Okay. What is it about now that is bringing that back, do you think? I think that,

Khemit Bailey: 00:27:37 I think it’s something to do with what I was talking about a few minutes ago with regards to the mythological crisis, right? Like the fact that we have not been aligning ourselves towards meaning towards the meaning of the purpose of what we do. For a very long time, we’ve been worried about the mechanics of it. Like how do we do not, why do we do, you know? And so we’re doing lots of things that are extremely powerful. We’re creating at a, at an amazing rate, like progress is happening in one way, but we’re also becoming kind of emotionally and philosophically stunted, you know? And so that’s why I think you start to see in the world the reemergence of lots of patterns that we’ve kind of gone through already. You know, we started to see this popular shift happening, you know, in various countries, you start to see this growing divide between right and left in places like the u s like all these things I think are happening because we’ve been ignoring, uh, the part of us that is concerned with why we’re doing what we’re doing. And we’ve started playing power games instead. And so, um, what was your question?

Sean Tierney: 00:28:40 Um, so is the reemergence of magic, right?

Khemit Bailey: 00:28:43 And so what that means is to a certain extent to me is that the value, right? The meaning of everything, the valence of like, our actions has kind of been lost. And so we’re living in this just materialist world where everything’s deterministic. We’re running down the clock to, to the end of humanity, whatever that is. And a lot of people think that way. And I think it’s, it’s the logical answer to our experience of the world, right? We don’t have any underlying stories to guide ourselves by anymore. No one believes in religion, right? Because it’s obviously silly. If you look at it as a body of facts, nobody believes the mythologies, right? That’s archaic. Um, and so we’re not really using any story, right? Any underlying story to guide ourselves. And without an underlying story, you can’t really make sense of things. And so the sense you make of things is that nothing makes sense and that leads necessarily to like a nihilistic point of view. Um, and so I think

Sean Tierney: 00:29:34 so magic is kind of like the wild card, like just to, it can be a win, whatever it needs to be to explain what’s happening. Yeah. Yeah. Let me tie it so

Khemit Bailey: 00:29:42 tied to magic. Like if you think of that as something you can’t see, right? That this, this mythological aspect of life is, is the value aspect. It’s not a physical thing. It’s not tangible, just like magic. Right? And so when you look at movies like star wars, right, or Harry Potter or um, game of Thrones, even all of them have this, that theme reflected in them. Like magic has gone out of the world. It’s leaked out and things are falling apart. But someone comes along to hero. Usually you have your, your Luke Skywalker who like finds an old master who tells him about the forest. Like, Hey, you know, back before you were alive, there used to be this thing that like kept everything, kept the balance. And you’re like, Whoa, really? And I mean, this is like the conversation that every adult kind of has with their children. It’s like, yeah, there was a time before you were here and we can learn something from it. And there’s power in that. But the power is, is a power of wisdom and it’s a magical power to some degree. Magic is used to represent that idea in fiction. So the archetype, you know, if you’ve talked to talk about archetypes, the archetype of magic is wisdom, right? Magic translates to wisdom if you’re thinking about it from an experiential standpoint. Cool. Does that make sense?

Sean Tierney: 00:30:45 Yeah. It’s just interesting that it’s reemerging now. And what your interpretation of that is that essentially we’ve kind of lost our way as a society. And so this is stories expressing that basically saying that a kind of, there is no roadmap anymore. And so then this reappearance of magic kind of swoops in and there needs to be something to explain.

Khemit Bailey: 00:31:12 Yes. Yeah. Well it’s, it’s, it’s like in all those stories, I think the reason those stories are the most popular cause those are the biggest stories I just named three like series. Those are the biggest stories right now. Right? I think the reason those are the bigger stories is because we all recognize that to some degree and there’s an unconscious element to all this stuff that I think is, well, it, it’s unconscious and so people don’t recognize that that’s what’s happening, but they’re drawn to the stories that tell them what they want to hear. Right? Because what they want to hear is, no, we’re, we’re not just going to die. And several billion years and none of it matters. Like there actually is something deeper. There’s a, there’s a power, there’s a force, right? There’s like there’s magic behind the world. And if you do the right things, you can rediscover it. That’s what those stories say every time. And so we’re drawn to those stories because that’s what we want. Yeah. Yeah.

Sean Tierney: 00:31:56 Can you, so you brought up, uh, the young Carl Young and I’m assuming Joseph Campbell is probably important to you. Can you talk about their work and what, how that has affected your thinking?

Khemit Bailey: 00:32:06 Sure. Um, so I think Joseph Campbell’s work was very largely just based on Young’s work and there was even earlier works by was the Golden Bough by George, uh, James Frazier Fraser. Um, which is another word, kind of trying to take all of these world religions like Joseph Campbell didn’t world stories and say, Hey, so these all actually follow a specific pattern. Like, so if you look at Buddhism, it kind of is telling the same story as the Bible. It’s kind of telling the same story as this tribal story from, you know, somewhere Africa. Like they were trying to draw these connections between all the stories and the reason they were doing that. Well, the reason why young was exploring that was to say that these are archetypes of the human unconscious mind, right? There are things that reappear. No, regardless of race, color, creed, everything because of our shared humanity, right?

Khemit Bailey: 00:32:56 It’s part, it’s part of what’s built into us. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Jordan Pearson, but, um, so Jordan Peterson is a Canadian, uh, clinical psychologist, but also kind of a public figure now. And he’s actually talked to quite a bit about this. Um, he’s, uh, he wrote a book called maps of meaning and I think it was 1999. And that book was kind of reformulating all those same ideas into, um, into a really clear picture of exactly what the architecture of belief is. Um, so that’s what the book subtitle is, the architecture of belief. And it’s basically saying, why do we cling to our stories so well, so much, and why when we lose our stories, do things go bad? So catastrophic, really badly. And so all the reading, all of those things really helped me to f one understand the importance of what it is that I was doing to understand my own situation.

Khemit Bailey: 00:33:48 Right. Because for me it wasn’t obvious when I started crying in that bathroom what was happening to me, you know, I was like, why is what’s going on? Um, or why I was suffering so stupidly all the time, you know, I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing. Um, and reading all those things really help tie it together for me. Cool. So let’s get like toxical this, the smart streaming guide is out there. It’s available. Anyone can download it and start applying these concepts to watching a movie. Um, what else? I guess you got the course. So maybe talk a bit about what is your course hope people do. Sure. Well, I think if the course is kind of like a transition aid, so people are transitioning all the time. I’ve transitioned a lot. So I kinda think of myself as a transition expert.

Khemit Bailey: 00:34:28 Um, and the course basically helps people to go through those transitions with their eye on what is most important to them when they’re making that decision, right? So making sure they’re not making decisions based on lower order factors in their lives, right? Don’t make a job decision based on just money. Don’t make a relationship decisions based just on looks or whatever it is. Right? There are lots of factors that go into making a powerful transition and I think they’re all tied to understanding what you’re aiming at. And so finding your value is the same as finding what you’re aiming at. Um, and so the course basically helps people to figure out what the aim is within the, within the value structure that they’ve created. And by doing that they can actually move towards it more systematically and with like the full knowledge that, that that’s where they want to go.

Khemit Bailey: 00:35:12 And just knowing that extremely helpful people. So it starts off by smart streaming moves into a phase where we pull out from smart streaming, all of the, let’s say all of the more, more important traits that you know, resonate with each person. And so then the person has a very specific image of like what they care about. It’s interesting. I what I do the course with like I’ll, I’ll have 10 people watch the Lion King, right? Every single person pulls out a different scene that they resonate with and that, that scene is always tied directly to something that is either lacking in their lives or something that they really value. You know, and it’s really telling when you, when you, when you hear what people pull out of these movies and so once they’ve done that, then it’s all about structure. It’s all about saying, okay, great. How do we build a structure around moving you towards the traits that you admire and moving you away from the traits that you don’t admire. Right? Because yeah,

Sean Tierney: 00:36:05 W I’m sorry to interrupt you, but judge in hearing you describe this, I can’t help but thinking like, can you just make a dating app that uses this? He was like, what an incredible way to match people, right? Based on if they both go through this process and to like surface their values and align on those. Like, I could see this being like either a couples therapy or a way to match people up and make incredible relationships.

Khemit Bailey: 00:36:26 Yeah. I mean, I think that it has implications for literally every area of life, you know, because every area of life is influenced by your values. And if you don’t know what they are, then you don’t know what’s influencing every area of your life. And that’s really disorienting for people. Yeah. Um, so yeah, I mean, they dating definitely could be. It can be applied to that. Yeah. Um, but yeah, so the course, uh, you know, by the end of the course, the goal is to have people have taken it their next big step, right. And so every big step is comprised of many small steps and taking one of those small steps, right. Or taking a few of those small steps eventually leads you to taking the big step. And so of course it helps break the whatever your next big task is into bite sized chunks based on your values.

Khemit Bailey: 00:37:11 Right. And so, you know, people come in saying, I have this problem, and like, okay, great. Let’s figure out what’s important to you. And okay, now we figured that out. Let’s figure out what you want to do next based on that knowledge, right? And then it’s like, okay, what’s the thing, the smallest unit of changes you could make that you would make, right, that you can, that will push you forward on that path. And so, um, by taking that step, it, it creates momentum or momentum of its own. Um, a friend of mine calls that, uh, kicking the snowball down the hill. You know, you start the top of the hill, you kick a snowball and just by the fact that it started moving and starts growing and gathering, and then it’s got its own momentum. But the first step is always the biggest. And I can’t tell you how many people are here, you know, before they do the course or who haven’t done the course, we just say, oh, well I have a million ideas that they have all these ideas.

Khemit Bailey: 00:37:58 They’re like, oh, I want to go do this. I want to, I want to leave my job and do this. So I have this really good idea for this thing. And by doing that, they were actually really harming themselves. Yeah. The problem of, and they’re also, they’re teaching themselves the lesson every day. That lesson is, I’m not going to do what I say I do. I’m not going to follow through on what I say I’m gonna work on and it’s, and nothing bad is happening except that I suffer. Right. And then it just slowly kind of gets into an entrenched thing where they don’t trust themselves. Other people don’t trust them. So then they’re looking out at the world and people say, Oh yeah, you always have these ideas. You never do anything about it. Right. Wants to live in a world like that. So the course, I try to break people out of that stagnation where it’s like, okay, if you are really wanting, if you really want to do this, let’s make sure you really want to do it and then let’s make sure you actually do something about it.

Khemit Bailey: 00:38:41 And that’s kind of the, the goal of the course. Do you have anyone that you’re able, obviously anonymously of course, but anyone you can talk about like a, a success story of someone who came through the course and how to like a revelation or a transformation because of it? Yeah, sure. Um, I guess I will leave it anonymous. Um, but I, one of my earlier clients, actually, he, uh, lives here in Lisbon and he was working at a call center when we met and he was a, he actually wished him at a speaking event. I was doing a true stories told live event and I met him afterwards and he talked to me about, um, some of the problems he was having and he decided to do the course. Uh, and he hated his job at this call center and really wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, but he had some aspirations, but they were vague and undefined like most people’s are.

Khemit Bailey: 00:39:23 So, you know, he went through the course, he watched all the movies. One of his movies was big fish. Um, yeah, it’s a good, it’s a good one to give otherwise. Um, so he watched that one. Uh, and we went through the process for that and for that and for several other movies. And, um, by the end of it, he really had gotten kind of clear on exactly what he wanted to be doing. He was kind of an athletics guy, so he was like, you don’t want to be doing something more in the athletics arena. I want to be helping people. And so we started kind of brainstorming around ideas around that because there is a one on one aspect of the course right now. So we have weekly calls where a, we talked through the process of smart streaming, which you got out of it and then what are, what are we doing next?

Khemit Bailey: 00:40:00 Um, anyways, fast forward to about six months later. Um, we still, we still talk quite a bit and he left his job at the call center. He’s got a new company up and running that he started maybe two months ago and he’s still in that early stage, right? I mean, a lot of us are, but he’s Ma, he’s moving forward powerfully. Like he’s, I can really see it in him. And when I talked to him about it, he, he’s been very grateful to me, which is really gratifying to be honest. Like he’s been really grateful to me for helping him kind of start to make that change. And I think that it’s not like I have some superpower, it’s just the fact that one, you start to have a very clear picture of what you admire, what you value. You can either look away from it, which causes you to suffer or you can move towards it.

Khemit Bailey: 00:40:39 That’s the only two options you have. And so I think the course really helped him crystallize exactly what that vision could was. And then, you know, he, uh, he obviously founded himself to take those steps and, and I, I tried to help him along with that. Right? Yeah. I was like, we were talking before you can lead a horse to water, but I mean, you can’t force anybody to make positive change in their, in their, in their lives. One of the, um, the axioms of, of therapy or behavioral therapy is that you have to get people to, you have to expose your exposure therapy, right? If somebody is afraid of something and they’re avoiding it, you expose them to it. But it has to be voluntary. You know, if you’re like, if you opened the door and like let a barking dog into a room with someone who’s afraid of a dog, they’re going to be traumatized. Right. But if you like slowly expose them to dogs and you let them make the decision to go closer and closer to it over a period of time, then they start to acclimate and eventually, you know, maybe they can’t even touch the dog. So like, that’s the behaviorist maximum and it’s pretty, pretty straight forward. But it’s very difficult for people if they haven’t made the choice to, to attempt it yet, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Cool.

Sean Tierney: 00:41:38 Um, all right, well, I don’t want to change gears here. And you worked at Apple.

Khemit Bailey: 00:41:41 What was happening? That’s amazing. Yeah. Apple was a interesting, my department was a weird department, you know, because, um, like I said, global security, um, nps was the department, which is a new product security. So our team’s goal was to make sure that, um, nobody found out about the newest version of the newest thing coming out or the new program that wasn’t even announced yet. And so that was a interesting experience. I worked for them for three years and I’m one of those years I was in China. And then I was kind of headhunted by internally by a team in the u s and then I managed to get a kind of a, a lateral raise position, uh, to another team that had lots of travel cause I wanted to travel more. Uh, and so during my three years there, I got to really experience the corporate life.

Khemit Bailey: 00:42:29 And to me it was very similar in some ways to the military life. Um, cause I’d been in the, I was in the air force before and um, obviously, you know, big differences, but the structure of it is very similar. Right. You know, like you have your, your tasks, they’re assigned to you from on high, you have a certain amount of ability to make change more so at apple than military. Um, and that changed, you know, that kind of stops. There’s a ceiling to that and only thing that gets you past that ceiling is time. I don’t like organizations like that. That kind of structure is never really worked for me.

Sean Tierney: 00:42:58 Well, yeah. In your interview questions, you cited China as the low point. When I asked that question, like what’s the high and the low points, was it the corporate aspect or was it something,

Khemit Bailey: 00:43:08 it’s China centric that was, it was more something China centric. Yeah. Actually when I worked at, I lived in China for four years, three years in Beijing, and then several years later I went back to work for apple and Schengen and I actually enjoyed living in Schengen and working for apple. That was, that was not the low point I was talking about. Okay. I met my previous years living in Beijing, but those were like, that was in my mid twenties and those were my floundering years. That was when I was kind of at the lowest point. I had no idea why I was doing anything I was doing. I could live indefinitely, you know, on the money I was making there. Cause as a foreigner you can find jobs that pay you a living wage in China, but you know, wasting my life, going out drinking and like, you know, all these go out to clubs late at night every night and just like permanent hangovers. It was really a terrible time. And um, it was made worse by the fact that I didn’t know, uh, you know, I didn’t really believe there was anything other than that. I was like, okay, this is it. I guess this is my life. And that was a tough time for me. Yeah. Yeah. But uh, but apple, apple was, well, what do you, what do you what specifically? Uh, well it’s, it’s funny though,

Sean Tierney: 00:44:10 a lot of people would consider that like a dream job and like you, you were there for three years, but then made the decision that like, you know, there’s something more, I don’t want to be here. Like, can you take me back to the moment in which you came to that decision and like what, what was weighing on you and then what was the final piece that decided like, you know, I’m going to go do something different?

Khemit Bailey: 00:44:30 Yeah. Um, well, you know, I came to apple fairly, I wouldn’t say late in life, but, um, I was, I had been through some things up at that point that had given me a bit more focused than I had when I was younger. And so when I went into apple, I did so knowing that my eventual goal was not to rise up the management chain and you know, become an executive there, it was really kind of a, something I thought I wanted to do cause it was an adventure. Um, I knew it would pay really well. Uh, I knew it’d be interesting and it was all those things. Um, but I also have, and I think this is partially as a consequence of my really getting clear on my values and, and what I want. I’ve gotten very good at knowing and acting on what I want to do.

Khemit Bailey: 00:45:15 And so for me it was more, when am I leaving apple than am I leaving apple? Um, the fact that once I got there, things were good and I had a good, some, a lot of good experiences and I had some really great colleagues and, and it was like, you know, it did well for me financially and things like that. But aside from that, I mean, despite that I still knew I wanted to leave. I, I’ve always wanted to be entrepreneur. Um, I’ve always wanted to work for myself. I always wanted to have that autonomy and I’ve always wanted to be doing something in the world that mattered. Right? And I don’t mean that just in a grandiose sense, like, oh, it has to matter and I have to leave a mark. I don’t care about that. But I personally, I suffer when I’m not doing something that I find to be meaningful in the world.

Khemit Bailey: 00:45:53 And so I’ve been doing the best I can and like over the last 20 years to move myself away from patterns of action that make me suffer. And so working at a job like that, despite the, you know, all the good things about it, um, will start to make me suffer because I don’t care about consumer electronics. Um, I cared about my colleagues and I, I did my best for them, but I knew that I wanted to do something else. And so when the time came, uh, after I had, you know, and I planned it to, I didn’t just like up and say I’m leaving my job and I never recommend people do that. But I did. Uh, I didn’t know it was coming and I prepared for it. Yeah. I, I love the deliberateness with which you’re evaluating things and it’s just like alright suffering outweighs the, the not suffering.

Khemit Bailey: 00:46:32 Like this is the logical thing. Let’s do the logical thing. Next thing. Well it’s like kind of like a, it’s weird because the logical thing often seems to be like, no, no you stay aware its most safe. It’s most comfortable. Right. And like that’s what you do. Cause that that is logical. Yeah. What I’m doing is, is, is logical from the, because of the way that I’m looking at it, I think it’s logical from a mythological perspective. I was just gonna say like inherently represents that or it’s proof positive that your value is this meaning because you just did what clearly shows that that’s the case. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, here’s the thing, like you know, any decision you make to stay to leave could end with you. Like, you know, dead in a ditch, you know, and, and for all of us and then ends up with us dead somewhere.

Khemit Bailey: 00:47:13 Um, and so for me, I guess I’ve never really had too much, I said more recent years, I haven’t had too much doubt about the direction I want to be going in. And so that’s, that’s been such a load off my mind. I, I can’t tell you cause I think when people hear me talk now they think, oh well you’re like you said like your very directed and you kind of know that is the of how I was when I was younger. Like I was suffering terribly in college and I had like long darks, years of depression and, um, and I really, you know, it was really like a climb up out of like a volcano to get to where I am now. So I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m glad that I’m able to now share that with other people.

Sean Tierney: 00:47:47 Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome. Um, okay, well, before we transition to this final segment, that’s the rapid fire stuff, um, on that subject of mortality because it is, you know, it’s morbid, but at the same time, I think I listened to one of your episodes where you, you’re, you built it up and you’re be like, okay, but here’s the good news. So like, help me understand. How do you think about mortality and what is the good news, so to speak?

Khemit Bailey: 00:48:09 Well, I think the thing about mortality is that, um, it’s inevitable, right? So it’s, it’s the one thing that you can’t do anything about. Um, and so the question is, what do you do then? You know, what do you do in the face of the fact that something’s going to happen to you, that you don’t want to happen and you can’t do anything about it. You know, we were basically living under a death sentence. It sounds, it sounds really horrible. Um, but I also think it’s freeing in some ways because well, it could mean that, you know, nothing you do matters cause you can disappear one day. But I think the opposite of that is actually more true. Um, and that said, everything you do matters and that if you spend your life doing things that don’t matter, then at the end of your life, the world would be a worse, worser place for it.

Khemit Bailey: 00:48:58 I think. I think of the story of people, you know, and there’s plenty of people like this. I have people in my family like this. I’ve seen many people tell stories like this where, you know, they have someone they know who spent 50 years doing whatever job that they, that define them and then they, you know, they never got married and they never had a family. And then they went off to live somewhere on their own at the end of their career. And they get sick and unhealthy and, and they die. Right? And, and those were always sad stories to us. And you know, it’s like, why is that a sad story? It’s a sad story because you can tell that person wasn’t really engaging. I mean, if you know, you’re gonna die as the one track tack you can take is, oh, well, you know, I guess that’s it for me.

Khemit Bailey: 00:49:34 But that tack makes everyone else suffer and you suffer, right? Because there are people who care about you. And so for me, it’s an opportunity. It’s like, okay, I can get out there and I can like kind of fight this battle. You know, it’s an adventure. And so I think of life as like as a, as an adventure because there’s not futility in it. There is opportunity. And so I think that when you look at the, the, I think when you look at things that way, which is difficult to do, you know, and it’s not obvious. Right? And that’s why I think stories, this is why I think stories are so powerful. I think when you look at a story, right? The person that you admire in the story is a person who acts in the face of futility and they act heroically. So why do you admire that, right?

Khemit Bailey: 00:50:12 If it doesn’t matter why you, why do you admire that? I think that’s a good question. I think if you asked yourself that question, if you realize that it’s because that way of behaving, that way of behaving actually makes life better for you while you’re alive. It makes life better for everyone around you. And it has a chance of actually making the world a better place. And I think that’s what humans have been doing over the course of history. You know, not every individual human, but look at us. I mean look at me and you were sitting in this room, got lights on, says it’s air conditioned. It’s amazing. And I think that that shows the power of like what we can do when we actually get out and try to make something of ourselves. And so, so I think that’s important.

Sean Tierney: 00:50:49 Do you think as a species, we’re fundamentally hardwired with this trait where it’s like we do want to make things better, like we yearned for that deeply as a society or is that,

Khemit Bailey: 00:51:02 yeah. Well, uh, well, so we’re, we’re, we’re in time, right? We’re the only creature that’s in time. I mean, we, we recognize that. We recognize that we’re going to die. We’re talking about it right now. Right? Other animals don’t have that, you know? And so there’s, there’s not as much impulsed weapon. So the one thing that means that we’re pet, we’re panicked all the time cause we know we’re going to die. There’s a good book called the denial of death by the sky. Ernest Becker, I think it was written in 77. And in that he lays out this really long, uh, very eloquent argument about why the fundamental driver of, of all human behavior is the fear of death. I don’t think I agree with him on that, but I think that that is a huge factor, right? I think it’s one of the, the major ones because we see, you know, we don’t, we’re not like elephants where we see an elephant graveyard and we may be more over other elephants.

Khemit Bailey: 00:51:46 We actually know that it’s us who’s going to be in that graveyard. And so knowing that takes a big psychological toll and it also makes us want to improve our situations as best we can. It makes us, it makes us, it makes us an exploratory creature, right? Because all we’re trying to do is like get ourselves out there and figure out a solution to the death problem. And this, I think this is what I was talking about in that podcast in mid fall school crisis, it’s the problem is death. It’s the ultimate problem. And so you can go about trying to fix death, which a lot of people in like silicon valley are doing. We’re gonna freeze ourselves. Yeah. Like an extension, right? You can go that way, but you can also go the other way and say, okay, well what makes it okay that I’m going to die? And I think that’s the better way to go about it. Because it’s one more likely to succeed. And, um, two, it actually tells you something about how you should act in the world and so, so, so. Yeah. Cool.

Sean Tierney: 00:52:34 All right, well I think that’s a good place to wrap. Hopefully we didn’t end on a morbid note, but we’ll, we’ll turn it around. Yeah, that was very positive. I mean, I do feel positively about that, you know? Yeah. Yeah. I, uh, I think it’s a good message. I think that’s a good way to look at it. Um, okay, so this is the rapid tactical questions. I call it the breakdown. Are you ready for the breakdown? I hope so. All right. Let’s do it. Break down baby. What is one book that has profoundly affected you?

Khemit Bailey: 00:53:03 Um, can I name two? Okay. One was from when I was 16. That was a separate reality. No, sorry. Journey to Ishilan by Carlos Casta data. Okay. And then, um, several years ago I read the book I just mentioned earlier, maps of meaning by Jordan Peterson, and that book profoundly changed my life. Awesome.

Sean Tierney: 00:53:23 What is it one tool or hack that you use to save time or headaches or money?

Khemit Bailey: 00:53:29 Uh, if you talked to my girlfriend. You’ll get a lot, cause I, I’m kind of a hacky minded person but they’re all transparent to me. Once I start doing them, they stop being a hack. That just how I do things. I’m really frugal and uh, even when I’m doing well financially, I’m very frugal. I don’t know if that’s a hack, but I don’t spend money on anything that’s not related to experience or you know, obviously like necessities or other people I care about. And so by doing that, I’ve really managed to keep a tight hold of my finances even when things get rough. I, I’ve managed to do pretty well there.

Sean Tierney: 00:54:01 That’s a trend that I think amongst nomads we tend to elevate experience as pretty much the only thing that we want to pay for. Right? Like we don’t really, material goods obviously are just for various reasons. Not practical when you’re a nomad, but like a, yeah. That’s cool.

Khemit Bailey: 00:54:15 Yeah, that’s true. It’s, I think it’s a, it’s like the nomad personality to a degree.

Sean Tierney: 00:54:18 Cool. What about, what is one piece of music or musical artists that really speaks to you?

Khemit Bailey: 00:54:25 Hmm, that’s a tough one. Um, because I love music like everyone, right. But I, I’m not a seeker of music. The only time I really hear new music is, um, in movie soundtracks or if someone’s playing it for me. I’m much more drawn to stories. Like I’m more kind of focused that way. Yeah. But, uh, at one point in time, my favorite song under the sun was a, the glory of love by Peter Sitara from the karate kid. Two soundtrack. So I’ll use that great movie. By the way, all the karate, I was actually in one of those, the remake that even they did the remake with will Smith’s kid, are you talking about the Cobra Kai or what? No, no, it was called [inaudible]. It was called, it was called karate kid. They filmed it all. It was, but they shouldn’t have been because it was in China. So it should have been come through. But it was a karate kid. It was starting. Jaden Smith, will Smith’s whole family came out to produce the, they did the production in China. It was with Jackie Chan and I was an extra in like the beginning of the movie. So Nice. No claim to fame there.

Sean Tierney: 00:55:21 Well by the way, what martial art have you, you said you’re a long time practitioner. What specifically?

Khemit Bailey: 00:55:26 Uh, well I started out with karate when I was real young in like elementary school. Um, and then I was training a Japanese Jujitsu in high school. After I got out of the military, I started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I was about 10 years ago now. A little more. And I’m, and in there mixed in with their eyesight, some types, each trend and some, uh, Ikea also did like Kito for a few years. So a big mix. And master one I’ve probably done for the longest, most consistently was a Jujitsu developers engineer too.

Sean Tierney: 00:55:58 Aikido is the one where they’re like arcs and throwing people in. Is that the one that [inaudible]

Khemit Bailey: 00:56:02 yeah, it seems like kind of using your opponent’s weight against them. So it actually came, comes from the sword stuff from sword fighting arts where you know from an opponent has a sword and you don’t have a sword, how do you get inside of there, you know, balanced range, disarm them and then throw them in in some way. So a lot of the strikes are set up from [inaudible] angles. It’s really cool. It’s like it’s a great like it’s like a masterclass on keeping your balance and taking someone. Yeah. Although it’s not necessarily the only martial. I used to train if you want to be practical as a fighter.

Sean Tierney: 00:56:28 I’ve seen some, I think it was Steven Seagal video where he is just throwing people around like rag off. That guy was legit back in the day and he was like six foot two, you know? Yeah. He’s a big dude to be throwing people around like that. I’m going to link that in the show notes. Like if you’re listening, you’re going to watch this video that’s just Stevenson gold tossing people like racked off for about a minute. Just watch that. Just watch any of his early movies like above the law or under seats, like those movies where he’s at his prime, he’s not going easy on those stunt guys mean it’s break. It’s pretty fun to watch. Uh, alright. Uh, this is a take your time on this because this is a, maybe a more thoughtful question, but what important truth do very few people agree with you on?

Khemit Bailey: 00:57:05 Okay. Yeah. Give me a minute. I generally think that religion is inevitable and a net positive in the world. I think that’s pretty controversial position in some of the places. Definitely in Silicon Valley.

Sean Tierney: 00:57:20 and the inevitable meaning that I’ve had to spring to life to address the mythological crisis or what?

Khemit Bailey: 00:57:27 Yes, to some degree, although I think that the mythological, it’s a precursor to the mythological crisis because I think that the loss of belief in stories, you know, and I’m not saying belief in any particular story, but belief in the ideas that stories can transmit wisdom and that there’s something transcendent to stories, right? That they transcend any individual human life because they’re the collected knowledge of, of all humans. I think something about losing that has caused a mythological crisis. Um, and I think that religious thinking is a part in something I got from maps of meaning. The religious thinking is a part of the makeup of, of the human animal, right? We’re, we’re, we’re in time. There’s a point, a point B structure to our thinking that means that everything has to be viewed in terms of a story. And so if we pretend the stories and important or we disregard the, the, the, the stories that have guided humans in the past, I think we’re setting ourselves up for tremendous disaster.

Khemit Bailey: 00:58:21 Um, I think a lot of people view the dogmatic elements of religion as a big, uh, problem. And I think that’s true, but I think that it’s, uh, not necessarily problem because I think there’s something more to religion that actually is a hugely positive. And the more importantly, um, I think that when you think you’re not being religious, that’s the time when you’re probably being most religious. Like I think religion actually is the way the structure of our mind works. So there’s always a fundamental axiom at the bottom of what we believe in. There’s some ultimate value, right? And then religion, let’s say it’s God or whatever your God’s name is, but if you’re not, if you don’t have a story that guides you, the axiom at the bottom, it’s still there. We just don’t know what it is. And I think that’s what causes a lot of trouble in the world today.

Sean Tierney: 00:59:10 Is there a book? So we were talking about sapiens before we started recording as being like a really nice kind of compact summary of history. All told. What, is there an equivalent of like a summary of all myths? Are All stories ever told? Are you aware of anything like that?

Khemit Bailey: 00:59:28 I th you know, so Joseph Campbell was kind of trying to do that with a hero with a thousand faces. Okay. Is the golden bow was trying to do that to some degree, although earlier and maybe not quite as good. Um, all that stuff kind of came from a lot of Young’s work. So I think you can slog. You find way through slogging through Young’s work. Then, um, there’s a lot on stories in there. Um, I think that, you know, instead of there’s one approach, right, to read all the stories and then try to figure out the connections between them. That’s fascinating to me. I love doing it. That’s why I watch like 4,000 movies or something cause I just like seeing the stories over and over and, and seeing the connections. But I, the great book that talks about the connections in themselves, you know, using the stories but more about what is actually being transmitted to them. Yeah. Is that book maps of meaning that I talked about. Cool.

Sean Tierney: 01:00:16 Check it out. All right, last question. If you had one piece of advice, if you had a time machine to go back to your 20 year old Khemit-self and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?

Khemit Bailey: 01:00:26 I would say, uh, talk to people more. Um, I’ve always been, I always was when I was younger, especially extremely shy and, uh, had really low self confidence, uh, as maybe as a result, but maybe it was, you know, it’s a chicken or the egg kind of thing. Um, but I was terrified at people my whole life. I still feel, you know, you don’t ever get rid of these things, these three features of your personality. You just learned to kind of transcend them if you’re lucky, if you work at it. Yeah. So I can push past it a lot now, but I still feel that I still feel this, this disconnect from people, this shyness, it’s really overpowering. And when I was young, I don’t think I did enough to confront it. I think I let it drag me around a little bit, you know, have I made it into like a, a cool thing where I was like, I’m too cool to talk to people. I’m going to sit over here and like look tough or, you know, sit back and, you know, and not, not smile at people and not talk to people. And I thought I was doing it to be, you know, tough, but I was really doing to protect myself and I didn’t need that kind of protection. I could have used a little bit more, uh, interaction with, with people I didn’t know.

Sean Tierney: 01:01:30 Cool. Good advice. All right, Khemit, I think we’ll wrap there. What is, uh, so the course, the best way to connect with you, how to, what, where do you want to send people?

Khemit Bailey: 01:01:39 Uh, well you can find all the information about, um, the course and smart streaming on a, the character that’s arc by the way. It’s not ar k arc. Um, and so yeah, there’s a pop up there but backslash resources. There’s the smart streaming guide that kind of walks you through the technique I was telling you about. Um, I also have the character arc podcast, which is on all the podcasting apps that I know of. I mean it’s apple, Spotify, stitcher, so you can search for that fairly easily. Um, I also have a little known Instagram that’s uh, the character arc with underscores between the words. Um, it’s really, it’s kind of a fun project for me. I take comic book pedals cause I read a lot of comic books. I take comic book panels that are kind of inspirational or have like some unique message. And, uh, I, I posted one there with like some little sayings that are maybe, hopefully useful with people. Cool. Uh, that’s really it. Yeah.

Sean Tierney: 01:02:30 Cool, man. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. It’s been a blast.

Khemit Bailey: 01:02:33 Yeah. Hey, thank you very much for inviting me, man. This was really a good time and a thank you. All right, cheers.

Contact Details

Khemit Bailey
Blog or Personal Site
Articles you’ve written (or recorded)
The Character Arc Podcast:
In particular this episode called The Mythological Crisis:
Current Company
The Character Arc
Current Title
United States of America
Countries Visited
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Austria
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Czechia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Myanmar
  • Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan, Province of China[a]
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Viet Nam
Where in the world are you now?
Where were you living when you decided to start a nomadic life?
California, USA
What were the initial set of circumstances or motive(s) that led you to experiment with a nomadic life?
I’ve always lived and worked internationally, but the first time I set out to start my own business was after finishing my MBA when I decided to start a small PR/consultancy firm for international businesses looking to attract Chinese tourists. Moved to Costa Rica to start it up.
Was there something specifically you were looking to gain or escape from that you’re willing/able to share?
What was it and did that play out as you were hoping?
It definitely started as fleeing the normal routine, but it evolved into more of a quest for sustainable, meaningful work. It played out once I figured out what I was doing (psychologically, that is).
What did you do for income/work while traveling?
lots of odd jobs over the years. Investements and savings at times.
Did that situation change at all during the course of your travels?
Are you still doing the same work today as when you went nomadic?
Did you find it challenging to do your work from abroad?
What type of personal or business growth did you expect to experience and how did that turn out in actuality?
I was never traveling for growth. But it happened in both arena’s as a consequence of all the moving around
What was the highest high-point and lowest low-point of your travels?
High point: Now. Low point: China
Was there ever a point at which you gave serious consideration to quitting the nomadic journey?</td>
What made you stick it out?
I didn’t! I stopped being a nomad for several years when I was at Apple (though I still traveled a ton for work)
What did you learn from your nomadic existence that was unintuitive or unexpected but obvious now in retrospect?
How much I actually thrive on stability.
Was it hard to re-integrate back into society after your travels?
I’m still traveling!
What can you not “un-see” at this point?
The birds eye view on political discourse (or lack thereof) in the US
How and to what extent has your group kept in touch after the experience ended?
Not sure what group this refers to
How do you think you’ve changed as a person from the experience?
wow… I’ll save it for the podcast if we get there 🙂
What would you say to someone considering taking a leap like this?
Know what you’re aiming at before you leap.
How (if at all) has your idea of work changed from the experience?
I’m way more disciplined than I once was.
What’s your best travel hack?
Streamlining airport security experiences; airline points; compact long term packing
Is there a piece of gear you could you not live without at this point?
Any particular routines or rituals that kept you fit/healthy/sane throughout the year?
Wake up early. Work out. Get to work. Rinse and repeat
What resources (if any) did you use in preparing to go abroad?
friends and network mainly
If you were to do it again, what would you go back and tell your former self to do differently in order to get more out of the experience?
Talk to more strangers
Any ideas for a product or service to solve a pain point for nomadic travelers you believe should exist?


Sean is host of Nomad Podcast, author of the Nomad Prep eCourse to help others successfully transition to the nomadic lifestyle. Sean is also founder of Problemattic, a global movement to mobilize knowledge workers for good. Read more from Sean on his personal blog or his business blog.

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Nomad Podcast is a series of conversations with nomads, founders and domain experts to help get more people unstuck through transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle. Add your email to get special access to private AMA sessions, pre-release products and other VIP shiz.