What if the boredom of your corporate job led you on an unexpected journey of self-discovery and entrepreneurship? Welcome to an episode brimming with excitement and inspiration, as we sit down with our guest, Ken Stearns, who shares his transformative experience of quitting his corporate job and embarking on an audacious entrepreneurial venture. He narrates his life-changing journey, which saw him travel across 111 cities, interview 444 people and eventually, create two compelling podcasts - 'Mental Health Today' and 'The Jar.'
Venturing into unfamiliar territory can bring unforeseen consequences, and for Ken, it was an encounter in a guitar store that changed his life. A commitment to buy a guitar took him down a path filled with passion for music, writing, and an undeniable zeal for life. Ken's story is a testament to the transformative power of following one's heart and taking seemingly trivial decisions that can lead to life-changing results.
By the end of this episode, you’ll be deeply inspired by Ken's journey, how he redefined his life's purpose, and created a unique space in the world of podcasting. He emphasizes the power of intention and the momentum it generates, urging listeners to take that brave first step towards their dreams. His journey serves as a reminder that the universe conspires to help those who dare to dream and are open to new possibilities. So, tune in, let your imagination soar, and remember, we all have the power to elevate other people's stories.
This episode is NOT sponsored. Some product links are affiliate links, meaning we'll receive a small commission if you buy something.
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Welcome to the Elevate Media Podcast with your host, Chris Anderson. In this show, Chris and his guests will share their knowledge and experience on how to go from zero to successful entrepreneur. They have built their businesses from scratch and are now ready to give back to those who are just starting. Let's get ready to learn, grow and elevate our businesses. And now your host, Chris Anderson.Speaker 2:
All right, welcome back to another recording of the Elevate Media Podcast. I am Chris Anderson, your host, and today we're going to dive into another successful, interesting individual story, and so I'm excited to share with you his journey from corporate to traveling the world and traveling the country, to burning the boats and just finding his new path. And so today we brought on Ken Stearns, who's going to share about his journey and how he's overcome obstacles to get where he is today. So, ken, welcome to the Elevate Media Podcast today.Speaker 3:
Chris, thanks, thanks a bunch. Really appreciate the carving some time out for me. It's great to get a chance to tell my story.Speaker 2:
Absolutely, and I'm excited for you to share it and for us to be able to dive into that. And so, yeah, I guess, to start, you know, tell people what you do right now and then what kind of backtrack as to how you got there.Speaker 3:
I love this. I've been thinking about this as a kind of a way the story sometimes is, you know, backwards, and it just makes it's a lot easier to tell your story from what you're doing today. I'm a bit like yourself in some ways. I have two podcasts right now that I'm working on. I have one that's newer and it's called Mental Health Today and it's an opportunity for me to learn a lot about mental health industry or you know how people that are involved in helping people in various ways around mental health and addressing the crisis, and I formed that. You know, after being on this journey, that I'm on with my main podcast and the first one I started, which is called the Jar, and you know the concept behind that is I travel to 111 cities and interview, sit down with 444 people and ask them, allow them to interact with the jar that I have created, where we had this jar, built these four custom jars and we crammed them filled with 444 questions about life, and so it's just kind of this interesting concept of a self-driven interview and people get a chance to kind of peel their own onion and tell their own story through interacting with the jar, and I know I did about 200 something. Of those, I visited about 100, almost about half the cities, about 50, 60 cities, and took a little break and that reflection. In December I looked back and I was like man, there's a mental health crisis. You know all the stories. So many of the stories, really deeply intertwined into people's life story, was some mental health, you know, traumas along the way and how they assemble those traumas later in life or at that point that I met them and how they were looking back on those and kind of reflecting what the life lessons were and what they were supposed to do with that going forward. Some people obviously a little bit more mature, older and they're seasoned I got called myself well-seasoned, so they're a little bit more seasoned and they have a different. They're looking back at it differently. So maybe they're at a place where it really is how to look back at life. Some people it's halfway through my life and how do I adjust my where I'm at? So doing the jar podcast led me to this mental health side and so I'm now kind of carrying this double identity as I interview people and it's kind of an interesting, a little confusing for me, but it is really intertwined with hearing people's stories on both sides, and so it's a great chance today to kind of try to peel back my own onion and share with the audience what I've learned up to this point, you know, with my regular corporate career and then now becoming an entrepreneur and creating a couple of shows from nothing and seeing what's going to become of it.Speaker 2:
Yeah, and it's always something that you know to look back on our journeys and see where we've come from. And you, like I said you're in the corporate like 30 something years, so like what was?Speaker 3:
What was it like doing in the corporate world and what like once they kind of get out of it?Speaker 3:
It's a crazy story. I was an insurance guy and I was just and really not a hyper successful insurance person by any stretch of imagination small companies on the west coast and I really did a lot of corporate to corporate sales and then talked to the employees about insurance, kind of a voluntary, kind of a very casual approach to it, very, you know, at work, in a very relaxed environment, and turned out that there was a large American company that had operations in Asia and they wanted to bring in this type of sales approach into their markets. So I moved to Hong Kong in 2001, took my family, so packed up, you know, packed up my boats, put all my stuff in storage and took a couple of suitcases and moved family to Asia young kids and was there in Hong Kong for about 12 years. In Hong Kong, and you know, from there you're traveling to different markets and you're helping support local companies that are partially owned by the American you know the American conglomerate and helping them build their business and helping, you know, the young executives learn how to run an insurance company, trying to transferring a lot of that skill and that knowledge. It's really training and skill transfer. You know your job is to, as I used to say, I'd show up somewhere and be like my job is to fire myself. So what was that job is to get out of the way.Speaker 2:
Yeah, like that had to be a huge like on top of going over there and trying to do your job. Oh yeah, you're transitioning children, your partner. What was that transition like? What was that like overall when you moved over there to Hong Kong?Speaker 3:
You have to be pretty hard, you know, or you learn to be hard very quickly. Everything's different. You know it's. You're not hard Because everything is challenging. Going to the grocery store now is difficult. You got to find a new dentist. You go to the grocery store. It's nothing like a grocery store you've ever seen right and you know, even finding something or communicating at this point early on, in that when we went, it was still a little bit, you know, a little bit rough. The brands are all different, everything is different. So you know, I say hard, you have to be, you get hardened or you go home.Speaker 2:
Honestly, you're being like thick skin. One of the years.Speaker 3:
Yeah, thick skin. Okay, communication is difficult. You get driving. You know. If you do drive a car, you know planning to go somewhere is very difficult. Finding the roads, you know it's not everything's in English, it's marked different. You're driving on the wrong side of the road. You know, like I said, you have to open up a new bank account. You know moving money from here to there, how do you manage your stuff back home, your life back home, travel is crazy. So you know, put your kids in school, find doctors, everything is, you know it's just upside down different. And going to corporate life, a lot of times you're working through translators. You know you're traveling here and there, you're eating weird foods. So you do develop a real sense of just kind of, you just go through life and you accept what happens. Right, you show up in a meeting or you show up at a dinner and you've just kind of rolled with the punches, and so you kind of learn to just take life a little bit easier. And I think it's kind of strange. I traveled around, I worked in about 15 different countries over the time, maybe even more than 15. And I would rock up to a city, get out of the car. We'd go to some player. I'd meet some strange people. We'd have a conversation. We'd go, maybe have some food. I'd get back in a car, go to a hotel. I'd end up in another plane, another city, another office. And so, strangely, I ended up designing the Jar podcast, going to 111 cities, interviewing 444 people. I'm uniquely qualified for this job. I'm like the only person qualified for this crazy job to show up to towns, get settled, meet four strangers, sit in their home and ask them really deep personal questions. And it's funny because insurance I used to talk to people and I would literally ask how much do you weigh? How old are you? What medications do you take? Oh, you take this medication, how long have you had X? And sometimes very personal questions and insurance. And so I think that this whole it's strange how life I think a big God plays a big role in your success and your life and I think it's whether you call it God or the universe. It's strange how I ended up designing something like I said that I'm qualified for in a very interesting way, and it's been a blast really listening and hearing people's stories like you've been doing. It's magical, it really is magical, and sharing them with the world is really a lot of fun. It's really a lot of fun 100%.Speaker 2:
I think, yeah, you're right on. I mean, it's crazy to see how, like, looking back again, looking back on our journeys again, for me how God has orchestrated everything and in the moments back then it's like no idea what was going on, or like what the purpose was or the reasoning for certain things. Being kind of in retrospect. Oh, that's what he was doing, that's where he was leaving me, or what he was trying to get me to learn or grow through. And I've been to China in the past for about a month. And it is, I mean, such a culture shock. But I went over to lead or be one of the leaders on a leadership thing for college students and so that was a little bit different than, I'm sure, the corporate world, because when we went over there, like it was just they were all excited, energized to see us. We were from America, not that we're better or anything, but just the differences in culture.Speaker 3:
Oh yeah, you're interesting.Speaker 2:
You're an interesting person Is the corporate world the same way when you come over as an American? Or are they more like? I guess, would they be more? Standoff has sure closed off.Speaker 3:
All the countries I worked at went from India to New Zealand to Japan, everything in between. All lovely people. Honestly, I can't think of a memory where I met a nasty person who wasn't welcoming and kind. I'm sure that happened but I can't remember. I just it's overwhelmed by the great experiences and you are in a bit of an anomaly. I mean, look, for sure you're a foreigner and for sure the company does, and even your own job is to promote yourself as an expert. So you do get a little bit of reverence for that. And there is a boss culture in Asia and globally as well. If you're a boss, you're a senior person, you're gonna get some gratitude or latitude of respect. Now you gotta hold that, like anywhere, you've gotta hold it, and you're also under a microscope because you are a foreigner. You're given a lot of grace, but you have to hold that and you can mess that up very easily. There is also a little bit more pressure to behave differently and to do things the right way. They hope that you manage differently in an American kind of a way or a Western way, which maybe they think might be different. But you just, at the end of the day, we're all you find I think you saw probably in China, to pipe the languages and some cultural differences. We're all humans, we all need that recognition, we need to be led, we're hungry to learn.Speaker 2:
You always stuck out to me of like how, with all these countries you went to like the general consensus is that they're welcoming, they're nice, they're and that's what I've experienced in my travels too, and even traveling around the US the same kind of thing and a lot of people who haven't traveled they take what a country is or what the people of a country are like based on the media, social media, and sometimes that is all just painted in a negative light and I think we focus so much on that instead of getting out and actually meeting someone from that country and seeing how they act, or going to that country. Cause I think we will see, majority of the time most people truly are welcoming and warm and caring, like I think it's unfortunate we get the negative connotations and people outside of the US probably get it for us too, but like, until like the problem is we actually meet people. Like, obviously, majority of the time, I mean most people I have met in a different country, in a different state, have been welcoming and nice and, you know, open. It's just a crazy thing, unfortunately.Speaker 3:
So a few years ago and it was before COVID I had started. You know, I think a good note for people part of my story is, you know, especially people who are in corporate or people who are considering a change. You know, I think for your podcast you're going to have a lot of people who listen and are thinking about how can I become Chris? Or how, you know, is this possible? Or just to hear the story of how it happened. And I call it unintended consequences. And it starts off by doing something. It's a strange thing. You have to be intentional in a way and you have to plan out kind of a flag somewhere and that's intentional and you have momentum in a direction. You may not know where that's going to go, but the unintended consequences of that step can be so impactful. And this is so easy to do. You don't have to have a grand plan, you don't have to have this supervision of where you're going to go, where the road is going to lead or what road is going to rise up to meet you as you do something. You know, and I did, the simplest thing was I wanted a Blurred Guitar at 52. And to do that, the magic for this was I committed to myself. I said I'm going to two years. I'll buy a nice guitar and to buy the nice guitar I have to commit to play it for two years before I put it down. And I'm going to get lessons. I'll get a professional to sit with me every week and so I'm going to spend this much on a guitar and I can just double that down on how much I'm going to spend on lessons. So it's a pretty decent amount of money. I'm going to invest in myself. And that led down a strange road. I mean, before I even bought the guitar I should have known, looking back, this was going to be a magical journey. So I I'm with my daughter and I'm coming back from Arizona, coming to California. I'm going to head back to Thailand. I just moved to Thailand. I had just gotten let go from the high, crazy level of leadership. I was managing a country with 400 sales offices, 250,000 salespeople and we're about a $3 billion company in Indonesia, 300 million people. It's a big company, it's a big place, crazy job. And they put me into a very soft role in Thailand and I thought I'm going to buy a guitar, I'm going to commit to myself for a couple of years and I'm just going to, I'm just diving to myself for a little bit. Well, because I I'm just PTSD after this crazy corporate stuff. And I walk into this guitar center in Las Vegas and I'm looking around this huge room with, you know, 100 beautiful guitars, a couple of people walking around playing them I don't even know what a left guitar, right guitar is I get super intimidating, yeah, and about after five minutes, or just like walking around the circle is this like semi circle, with all the guitars in the middle, and then they're all on the walls and I'm like this is probably a mistake. You know, like what do I do? Like I don't even know. I want to buy a guitar but I have no idea what to do and I'm going to make a mistake. And this is one gentleman. I see him and he looks a little bit like me and he's kind of walking around and he looks kind of cool and he's playing and he would pick up a guitar, very intentional, grab a guitar. And he's just not fancy, not crazy, but just comfortable in his hands. This guy knows guitars. And out of my corner of my eye and eventually like boom, we're right in front of each other and I'm like hi, like this awkward like you know, hi, and I just go, I told him my story, I just blurted it out, like hey, on this 50 year old, you know dorky dude, I want to learn guitar. What do I buy? And it was like that awkward. And he just looks at me straight away, goes, get the red one. And you know you're like, oh, what the hell does that mean? Right, sorry, sorry, you know what the heck does that mean. And then he explains, he says get the one that in a crowded room you can only see that sitting there, the one you want to hold, the one you don't want to let go. And I mean this is a random stranger and a rent like that was powerful words on so many levels, like so many things in life. Get the red one, do the red thing. And I just was like wow. And as soon as he said it, that guitar, that was the red one for me, like I knew which one he was talking about. And I just went over there and I didn't. I really looked at the price tag. It didn't matter what it was, $400 or $2,000. That was my guitar and I still have it and I did the two years. Because of that, I met my guitar teacher and my guitar teacher said, after a few lessons, we should write a song. We should write a song every Sunday. Come on, we should write a song. Dude, I can't even my fingers hurt, I can't listen to myself play, I stink so badly and I don't know what I'm doing. I don't even have blisters yet. But all of a sudden it reminded me I had written some words on airplanes. I had started a couple of books and they were just like outlines and I'd written some words and I went in one Sunday. I've said you know what, let me hold on. And I went and I got my notes and we pulled out these scrap papers that I'd written on airplanes a few years before and the first song was out of a book, a concept book I had called Dear God, letters to God. And If the one I had the most written down was a chapter called faith and the idea my book is Dear God, what is faith? Because, you know, is it this, is it that? And so I, you know, I looked in that and we just highlighted Parts that I'd written. That sounded like word, like a good chorus. No reverse, and so we cobbled together some verses and then we had a chorus and after a couple of Sundays we wrote a song. Huh, I Got so infatuated with writing music that I had to write the book. So I started writing the book because I was pursued the red one and the book, ultimately the completed parts. It's kind of worth sharing this construct of it. There's four parts, four parts to it, so it took me about another year to put the construct together and so really came down to four parts. I called the book of self, book of others, book of all and book of you, and First part is three letters in there, three chapters. It's your, it's your yesterday's, your today's and your tomorrow's, hmm, and that's the book of self, meaning Everything inside in your brain matter, all the stuff we think about, yeah, the battlefield of the mind. And the book of others is a skill, christopher, between you and I, between you and another person, and that's acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, hmm, and Using those in your interpersonal relationships. And you know what can that do for you. And the book of all kind of a humanity approach. You know, going out to the world with love, karma and a service mind. Yeah, so you know, got a loving heart as you go out there and for people listening. You know, go out today with a loving heart and Leave people and places better than you find it. You know that's my karma. Yeah, you know my karma. Tagline and Service. You know, be service-minded, you know, go out there, look for the opportunities to help somebody else today. You know in your life, you know in general what does that look like. I think you'll know this. As you said, the signs we get. If you have that in your intention, you will be presented with those chances. No, if you don't, if you're not thinking about it, it may be there when you probably miss it. Right, if you have it as an open, like I'm out here to see what's the universe going to show me today, how can I help somebody? How can I help? You know, and it'll have, you'll see it, the universe will show it to you. And the last one is a book of you and that's God, or the universe, or a higher power, whatever your spiritual language is going to be. And that was faith, hope in prayer. And you know prayer could be mindfulness or meditation, whatever, but you know the faith and hope part is your faith in what? Faith in yourself, faith, and that's something to bigger. You know, the faith part's great, and so those 12 topics are then somehow, as as I built out, that his podcast called the jar. Somehow it came to me. It's not my idea, I can't really remember how it came together, but I use that book to create 444 for the job. So those are the top covered in the. John is kind of an interesting conversation because there's just 12 topics but there's 400 questions, and so people get a chance to. As we sit down and they're peeling these questions back, there's this, you know they've read kind of Feels like it's digging and digging in certain places for people, and so the truth really comes out. It's quite interesting being on the other side of the table.Speaker 2:
Yeah, that's cool, like just again seeing how our journeys, you know, again, look back on your journey, like a lot of you listening, or just starting out trying to build a business or you know, grow your side hustle, whatever it is, and don't forget where you started, because a lot of times, like You'll see these little pieces that fell together that if we're just trying to focus and rush the next thing we're gonna miss and we're gonna miss the beauty of the journey. And I think that's the important thing is to remember, you know, enjoy the journey. It's not about the destination necessary, because that goal will always change. We're never gonna be satisfied if we're just focused on On the destination. So if we can enjoy the journey and see the beauty of it, like in sharing about, like just his red guitar that led to everything and just all the connections there, even through the struggles of, you know, losing positions and things of that nature and intrusion into different countries. So, you know, ken has we're wrapping things up on this episode. I would love to kind of hear, you know, maybe if you're talking to someone you know who's listening to this show right now, who's out there. You know, they got the nine fives, they got the family they're trying to build this side hustle until full-time thing. What three takeaways you'd want them to, you know, take from this episode, from your journey so far. What would those three things be?Speaker 3:
I think that first lesson really is be intentional, mm-hmm, and you don't have to know the outcome. Be okay with the unknown. It's one of the big questions I've got early on. The question is faded quite interestingly now that I reflect on, but a lot of people early on were asking me after this what are you doing? What's next, what happens? You know? Early on I had this kind of defined idea of you know 111 cities, 444 people, and actually the first time somebody asked me I was like I don't know I had right, I hadn't thought that far ahead and Over time a couple people as I had this conversation the main Common people gave me was well, the path will rise to meet you, mm-hmm, and Such comfort in that and I think that's a great takeaway for people. You don't have to be a hundred percent certain what's gonna happen next, you just go and start. And I've also got one of my kind of my belief systems in business is momentum, and so you know, I think, be intentional. And the other one you know from that would be I would just say follow that which is momentum, and that intentionality Will create this momentum, and I kind of like that one of my analogies and I have no idea if it's scientifically even remotely true, but I say it anyway now, and one day I'll look it up to try to prove it scientifically. You know, but I imagine hooking up an F 150, a 1972 Ford truck. You hook that sucker up to a giant train with, about you know, a freight train with, you know, 50 cars behind it. And you know you put a rope on that thing. You can pull that. Eventually you're gonna get that train moving, yeah. And then when it's moving, you turn that Ford truck around and try to stop that train. Good luck, yeah, exactly Good luck. And this is the power of momentum. It may be slow rolling but it's gonna have a lot of momentum. And again, ask that question is my third one is ask people. You know, like you said, people are so friendly, they're open and there are people around you. When you're intentional, when you start taking that first step, again, the universe, god, will open those doors and put those people in a place for you to meet. I truly think the guy on the chair playing the guitar, the red one, I'm not even sure he's a real person. I mean he could. Honestly. I look back at his like I'm not even sure he was like real, like who says that right, right, who says pick the red one. It's just not a normal, it's just not a thing that happens, right, unless you're putting yourself out there and you've got that intentionality. And then, you know, in my search For a guitar teacher, I met a very unique, interesting person and also somebody who shouldn't exist. He's the son of a priest, you know, and his father was on a long fishing trip for a couple of years, came back and found out he had a son. Turned out that son was a priest son, small island in the Philippines. He's not supposed to be here, but I met him and I was supposed to meet him. I mean, he's works on my show, he's helped me write songs, we're best friends and this is all because I picked the red one. And so I just encourage people to you know, be intentional, look around you to see who's in front of you, who's being presented to you to help you on your journey. Once you make that decision, the universe is going to go absolutely to work to make it happen for you. So be brave, be intentional, take that first step, get some momentum going and Then just follow the path.Speaker 2:
I love it. Yeah, I think those are great things. Be intentional, get started, get moving. Gain that momentum and the trust that somebody will.Speaker 3:
There'll be that. The path will be there for you.Speaker 2:
Yeah, and then just look who's around it, who can feed into your journey and whose journey can you get into, and I think that's a great one. It's all about people, and so can this been a great conversation. I've really enjoyed our time together today your story, your journey, what you learned through it, and I'm sure that someone listening can take a lot away from this and start, you know, implementing things in their lives or just be motivated to continue on your journey, and so thank you again for being on and sharing. Where can people find you, connect with you to hear more about your story? I see what you're up to.Speaker 3:
Yeah, you know, real easy place to find us is the jar dot live. So wwwtheg jar dot live. Everything is on there. You can find her in all of our channels there and hear a little bit more of the story, the backstory and everything else. And, chris, thanks so much for having me on as a guest, love it.Speaker 2:
Yeah, absolutely so everyone. Yeah, make sure you get connected with the can just continue to learn and hear his story and the stories of others. And, yeah, go out, share this with somebody who we can make a difference in, because together we can reach more people, make a difference, help elevate other people's stories together, so can. Again, thank you so much for being on the elevate media podcast today. Yeah, thanks so much.Speaker 1:
Thank you for listening to the elevate media podcast. Don't forget to subscribe and leave a review. See you in the next episode. You.