SFN136: Managing Human Relationships and introducing the Concept of Circling with Decker Cunov

The key to success for a business is in the human relationships that we hold. It could be between founders and managers and staff, as well as in networking and securing work. Decker Cunov is a leader in the ever evolving world of ´circling´, continuing to uncover new ideas and concepts as well as teach those which have already been developed. It is something that Andy and Dane have been training for over a year, and now Decker uses circling, amongst his other skills to help Silicon Valley companies as a consultant to boost their success.

Circling is all about interpersonal relationships that can be seen as an art form and part meditation, which can be used in all areas of our lives. Just ask Andy how much circling has changed his life – not only in his personal relationship but also with Dane and other people in his life. Today Andy talks to Decker Cunov – a leader and innovator in the world of circling, and Silicon Valley consultant.

In This Interview You’ll Learn:

  • 00:55 – About Decker´s Silicon Valley consulting and Andy´s introduction to circling
  • 03:25 – Using circling in business
  • 08:00 – Using circling as an entrepreneur or in a small business
  • 13:07 – Using circling in an exit interview
  • 21:30 – Intimacy in business
  • 26:08 – How circling has been so impactful for Andy
  • 29:16 – Social media and the need for communication
  • 31:00 – How Decker uses circling in his consultancy work
  • 35:17 – Why trusting in yourself if essential
  • 39:45 – Making decisions
  • 41:50 – The importance of vulnerability and track record
  • 44:10 – Using circling to move your life forward and build better relationships


Show Notes

Podcast transcript:

Starting from Nothing – The Foundation Podcast
Guest Name Interview – Decker Cunov
Introduction: Welcome to Starting from Nothing – The Foundation Podcast, the place
where incredible entrepreneur show you how they built their businesses
entirely from scratch before they knew what the heck they were doing.
Andy: Welcome everyone to another episode of Starting from Nothing, The
Foundation podcast. Andy Drish here, coming at you from Boulder, Colorado
today. It’s been a while since we’ve aired a show and I’m so stoked for
today’s interview; and I’m going to tell you why in just a second. We’ve got
with us today Decker Cunov. I don’t even know if that’s -- is that how you say
your last name? It’s never actually come up.
Decker: I’ve always been satisfied with how you say it.
Andy: Decker right now is doing -- normally we do the whole bio thing. We’re going
to skip most of it. He’s doing consulting right now in Silicon Valley for some of
the hottest startups out there. A lot we can’t really talk about. One we can is
Founders Fund who is one of the early investors in Facebook, SpaceX, and a
handful of other companies that you had probably heard of. But let me tell
you the reason why I’m super stoked for this interview.
I’m super stoked for this interview because over the past year, almost a year
and a half, Dane and I had been doing training that has been kind of
completely under the radar in terms of most people have never heard of it.
It’s called Circling. For almost one weekend a month for the past year, we’ve
been getting together in a community of 20 to 30 people to spend four days
practicing this practice so to speak.
It’s called Circling. Decker is one of the original people who came up with it
and started this somewhat -- It’s not really an underground movement
anymore but it is a movement of sorts. What’s so fascinating is when you --
we’ll talk a little bit about what it is -- but what’s really fascinating is when
you take this and start applying it to your life; the exponential results that
you will see in every category. I’ve seen it in relationship, I’ve seen it in
business, I’ve seen it in Dane and I’s relationship.
That’s a little bit of the high level of what we’re going to get into. It’s not a
typical story of like how did Decker build this business. We’re actually going
to be getting into what is the practice and why are these executives in Silicon
Valley so hungry for this practice and how is it helping them in business. With
that, Decker.
Decker: Nice set up.
Andy: Yeah.
Decker: I love the tone of your voice when you said, “A weekend per month, for a
year.” It really is so important for us to pay attention to the quality of our
relationships. It’s epic for an entrepreneur to spend a weekend a month.
Andy: A weekend a month is so much and we just committed to a year, a two-year
training. I haven’t committed to a two-year thing since we built the business,
The Foundation. It just doesn’t happen often. That’s like how important this
type of work I believe is.
Decker: Yeah. I’m also appreciating knowing you and what you’re up to. This is, in a
way, an example of it is -- The best thing about Circling as a application for
me as a mediator, facilitating pitches, or board meetings and all that stuff is --
I’m not a tech guy at all actually. I’m starting to get the idea by just osmosis
but they know that. It’s not like I tiptoe around any of this.
We’ve noticed that the meetings go really well when you have no idea what
we’re talking about or what we’re working on which is their way of slowly
getting -- even though they’re extremely left-brained people generally --
they’re picking up on that I am helping them pay attention to how they’re
coming to consensus or how they’re disagreeing. The ‘how’ more than the
‘what’ which is a lot of what the relational practice is about.
I love that with you because I didn’t even know the name of your podcast
until just now. I appreciate just knowing who you are and how you relate
with people. I just tell that you were not fucking around [unclear 00:04:11]
you guys are there. Like that’s who you are is how you’re being. I actually
really treasure not knowing what the hell you guys are doing.
Andy: It’s kind of neat because we have these relationships like this that go really,
really deep really quickly and we skip tradition. Most of the traditional small
talk that you would have about what you do and where you come from and
all that and just --
Decker: Get around to that afterwards. I think it’s a great name for a podcast --
Starting from Nothing. So help me out a little bit because I could just riff or I
could just go and you’re right. But who are we talking to right now? Why is
someone still listening to us five minutes in?
Andy: Totally. So we talked about covering all the stuff ahead of time but we want
to cover it during the interview because sometimes this is where the greatest
material comes up.
So the people that we have listening are generally starting entrepreneurs.
That could be either first generation entrepreneurs with their families, didn’t
grow up with a business like their parents were employees or working for
someone else. They’re generally in the starting phase, like wanting to get
somewhere between just getting started to maybe making a couple grand a
month and wanting to scale that.
Generally, you’ll see these people also wanting to get to $10,000 a month,
wanting to get to $200,000 a year; somewhere in that space.
Decker: Our people.
Andy: Totally. The bootstrappers, the scrappy, just go-getters.
Decker: Yeah. Awesome.
We might have to pause for just a second.
Andy: Cool.
Decker: Make sure I have -- tech is still here. Let me check. I have to switch meeting
rooms right now. Hold on.
Andy: Cool. This is all part of the interview. I’m not cutting any of them.
Decker: This is absolutely relevant actually.
Andy: Where are you at?
Decker: The company that I’m with today is in San Francisco. I just switched rooms
because they’re in major transition. And the runway is in sight for them and
their best hope is acquisition at the highest price tag I can manage without --
Hopefully before they’re so desperate that it turns into a fire sale. Which
through what I’m doing in terms of optimizing negotiations and stuff it can be
somewhat relevant but minimally because most of the work’s already been
done. In terms of training managers and Exec teams and all that, it’s like
what’s the point if they’re just going to sell?
So in some ways it’s like being [unclear 00:07:05] for a hospice care; like
there’s a sacred time of getting to be there for the last phase of life for a
person or a company where I’m just learning tons. It’s really amazing.
I mean I have to be transparent with them. “Look, I’ve never seen this phase
before.” I’ve been with companies who were acquired when they wanted to
be acquired. I haven’t been with a company whose like, “Ah, shit! This is not
what we want but our best hope is to be acquired.” They’re like, “You have
good energy. Right now we just … Anybody who’s really positive and likes
being here, we want them here. Even if you don’t know what to do, we still
want you here as much as possible.”
Andy: Awesome.
Decker: Yeah.
Andy: Let’s dive back in.
Decker: Yeah. Here’s what I’m thinking about. Anyone who’s starting a company or an
entrepreneur whose maybe even at the level you’ve taken in some
investment but probably not anything huge. Like you said, I guess more
I’d say there are two major applications of the Circling practice. Imagine
there’s a meditation practice which meditation generally is really hard and
pays off very little at first. Some people immediately get high off of it but
generally the real good stuff that comes from meditation practice, you got to
kind of have a leap of faith thinking that it will pay off. You hear about monks
who can stop their respiration or whatever and bury themselves in snow.
“Alright, that sounds cool; real superpowers.” You try it out and then it’s
really a major hill to go before suddenly you’re on fire.
Suddenly, two hours a day, it was no big deal for me because I was sleeping
about four, five hours a night. The meditation was more restful than the
sleep anyway. It more than pays off for itself but it’s a real bitch to get to the
pay day. Kind of like a company.
The Circling is a relational meditation practice and it’s very focus, very
restricted in some ways where you can go and where you can’t because like
any meditation, you’re not even supposed to look at anybody, let alone talk
to them in a standard meditation. So when it’s relational, it gets messy.
So just imagine a very structured way to talk and communicate and kind of
get where each other are coming from that suddenly like Karate Kid Mr.
Miyagi, suddenly you’re not just waxing cars and painting fences. Bam! You
take the practice and you apply it to a meeting where somebody is pissed off
and there’s a lawsuit coming. Or someone’s leaving and you’re just doing an
exit interview but it turns into them suddenly having hope for the company
after all and staying. The application is massive.
One thing that popped in my head immediately for those of you listening,
how expensive it is to have so many great ideas for a company or for a
product for your company or a joint venture with somebody and that never
actually comes to completion.
I don’t know if you’ve had [unclear 00:10:19] but there’s so many
conversations. “Oh dude, it’s destiny that we met each other. We got to
come together and build this thing together. You’ll promote this and I’ll …”
And some fraction of them actually turn them to any cash or any actual
profit. Yeah?
Andy: Yeah. Totally. I think the beginning phase when you’re just getting started so
much of it is characterized by people’s skills. It’s all human interaction. The
beginning stage of any business is sales and marketing, and getting in front of
the right people, getting them on board. Whether you’re trying to recruit
people to work with you or trying to get customers to sign up to buy your
stuff. It’s the core of everything. This is like ninja training for it.
Decker: You could say that some combinations are just going to be more synergistic
than others. This one seem like a good idea but we were just kind of
networking at some entrepreneur conference, whatever -- we spend a lot of
time doing. Some are just meant to be and some aren’t sure. Some of them
are great ideas that would have absolutely work, we just don’t see them
Really, one of the biggest things that had me really just stick it out and see it
through and haven’t really pay off is when I just really enjoy somebody and
know where they’re coming from. Even if they’re not my type of person, like
we’re going to be best friends or something like that. The practice where you
really get in the moment what someone is made of, what they’re really
about. I can point out, “Hey, this is the way you just …”
Like when I had to switch conference rooms just now and you didn’t even
flinch. You’re like, “[unclear 00:12:06] this.” That way you used to stay totally
calm is something that reminds me of something I appreciated about you
from the moment I met you, right?
That Jedi skill of being on the notice who someone is and what they’re made
of, not just theoretically but in the moment while it’s happening is the
beginning. That’s just the very beginning of a whole practice that has
relationships forge in fire, and then you see it through, and then these
projects actually happen.
Andy: So this is great. If I’m listening, there’s part of me that’s like “What the hell
are you talking about still?” There’s like a little bit of that. You could feel it a
little bit when Decker went into the experience with me of being right here in
the moment, of like how I didn’t react and stayed just calm and cool as things
were transitioning which made me feel like -- I’m like, “Yeah, thank you. That
feels good.” How does it apply in the heat of a moment where somebody is
ready to quit or there’s a big lawsuit that’s happening. Or someone’s like
really on the edge of just being furious. How does this apply then?
Decker: I love it.
Yeah. Rather than actually defining what the hell we’re talking about, we’re
just demonstrating it. Like bring out the big paint brushes and we’ll slowly get
the little teeny details.
In a practice where we’re getting to know who each other really are and you
getting that I get who you are, let alone what we’re committed to out in the
world. I not only notice you staying calm and yet focused. Your feather is
ruffled but you also don’t just -- it’s not because you’re just like surfer dude
easygoing, you’re also right back on my ass right now. [unclear 00:13:49] and
with humor so it never stops. It just keep getting more and more exclusively
aware of how each other work and that is crucial. That seems like just paying
[unclear 00:13:59] and waxing cars until say …
Andy: Let’s pause for just one second before we go into that.
If you’re listening, this is kind of a trippy interview, if you’re listening. This
happens when we get into the Circling realm where it’s almost like a
psychedelic experience of what is actually happening. So stick with us if
you’re having that experience.
But what’s neat is that Decker has the ability to call out these really little
subtle things that most people wouldn’t notice or that they wouldn’t actually
call out. Something magical happens when you start attuning to these little
subtle movements of how people are being and what’s happening with them.
Decker: Well said.
Andy: And I’m curious what it is that actually happen -- Where my mind is going
now is what actually happens. Like there’s an element where you get more
data about them and there’s a deeper sense of interaction that happens that
cuts through a lot of the airy stuff that just doesn’t matter. A lot of like the
either status games that people are playing or like the roles that they’re stuck
in, you kind of cut through that and go to something more real.
Decker: Yeah. Well, in this psychedelic interview, one thing that happened is we
refuse to go into some sound bite to make a good recording, a good
interview, without first bring attention on who are we talking to and why are
they here. So there’s an emphasis on the personal and having a sense of what
motivates people and why are we all here.
The second level is like being a wine connoisseur except it’s a connoisseur of
people and of ways of being; personality traits, values, etc. The surface level
is just a nice way to give a high five, right? You said, “Oh, you feel kind of
good.” Like, “Oh, you appreciate something about me.” You can’t
underestimate that shit. A narcissistic little boost for each other, especially
when you’re in startup phase, really can go a long way.
Andy: Yeah.
Decker: But then on the more practical, concrete side, it also helps -- it’s like having a
user manual for each other. I’ll pick up on things and like, “So under stress,
the thing that you need to watch out for with me and when you need to
cover my ass or firewall me from my own company is X, Y, Z. With you it
might be A, B, C.” Somewhere in the middle is where I can give an example.
You don’t need to spend a weekend a month like these guys are for years but
it didn’t hurt, To be able to catch things while they’re happening and just say
them, just say the elephant in the room, in a way that just has everybody chill
the fuck out.
This engineer was crucial for the company to even move towards acquisition.
He was clear he was leaving no matter what we said. So he was willing to do
any meeting we wanted to benefit -- to interview him to get value for the
company. So you can imagine one of your own employees whose crucial to
you and you’ve invested tons in. Now they’re jetting.
The only way you’re going get any time with them is to play his game which
is, “Alright, the only reason I’m not out the door now is to be respectful to
you guys.” Yet they call me in. He knows what I tend to do in this company.
Immediately he goes right at me, “Look, dude, I don’t want any convincing.
This is all I’m up for.” I’m like, “Totally, me too. If you happen to change your
mind, I’ll be stoked, obviously. And I just want to know why you’re leaving
and I want the founder here while we talk about it.”
Within a few minutes, he started sharing his opinion about something and
the founder immediately cut in with basically an assertion about what is
absolutely true. So the conversation went from a tone of, “Well, here’s my
take. I imagine what might be better is this or that,” and he comes in with
like, “Clearly that’s not the case. This is absolutely the case. But if you just
want to give up on us then fine.” So he comes in with a completely different
cultural -- this attitude and non-verbal communication.
But I was able to speak it for layer one. I was like, “Oh, you seem totally in a
different mood right now after the founder just said that.” He’s like, “Yeah. I
feel tight, I feel [unclear 00:18:26].” I was like, “You don’t seem surprised. It’s
almost like this is familiar.” He’s like, “Totally. This is a great example of why
I’m leaving.” which he wouldn’t have had the resources to say or the balls to
say until I pointed it out and got curious about it.
The weird thing is I adore the founder. I feel like I’m on everyone’s team. Like
part of your role, even as a CEO, is to -- even though the interest of your
company might be in jeopardy is when you’re working with people and
there’s a conflict, your role is to actually be on everybody’s team and want
the best for everybody involved.
Because as soon as I do that, I can call out the founder, in that moment and
be like, “Yeah, this reminds me of what you did in that all hands meeting
actually. But I know when I actually go right back at you, you’re happy to be
wrong.” He’s like, “Yeah, totally.” I was like, “But when you said it, it sounds
like there’s no possible way you could be wrong.” He’s like, “God! That’s a
good point. I can see that.”
And then he starts tearing up and saying, “Yeah. Well, if I don’t just know for
sure then I feel just more emotional and I’m really broken up that this guy is
leaving and I don’t want you to leave, man.”
As he tears up the engineer’s like, “Holy shit! I’ve been here for years; I’ve
never seen this side of the founder. I think I want to stay. I’m open to staying
if Decker promises to stay in a consulting role through the fall.” I will stay to
see if we can change the relationship with the founder which will might bleed
out to changing the culture with the entire engineering team.
Andy: So in that moment, what happened for the engineer? Like what do you think
happened for him that wasn’t there before?
Decker: What did not happen was any promise that the founder is going to behave
any differently or any better, whatsoever.
Andy: Not at all.
Decker: But what he did get is that the founder could see the way that he was a
jackass and could be honest about it and even acknowledge that there might
be a better way. He didn’t say he was going to do it a better way, he said
something about, “You should know, I’m one of those ocean birds that just
flies by myself. It’s really exhausting to even talk to other human being. I
probably will always be a bit obnoxious, but I see what you’re saying and I
could get how that would be annoying to somebody.” So he got no promise
of anything different, but just knowing that he knows that you know, the
shared reality about these dynamics changes everything paradoxically and
that’s the beginning.
Andy: Nice.
Decker: Yeah. It didn’t hurt that he got -- A lot of times when you identify habitual
pattern that is not as connected with each other, there’s usually a lot of --
there’s a lot of heart, there’s a lot of emotion, or tenderness, or care, or
conviction right underneath that; an autopilot pattern. It is nice even if he
never feels connected intimately or vulnerably again, to have one little
moment of seeing him in tears and getting he gives a shit about people.
That’s another two years of loyalty right there.
Andy: Totally. If I were to zoom back to five years ago when I was just getting
started in business and the ideas and projections I had about business and
how it operate and how it worked, I would have thought that intimacy isn’t
something that is often welcomed in the business context. Like keep personal
lives separate from business and business life separate. It seems like you’re
actually flipping that on a [unclear 00:21:40] and bringing a depth of intimacy
into these situations in these context. Is that accurate at all?
Decker: Well, I don’t throw out … So any of the old school paradigms that we are
ideally evolving from, I rarely see as just completely ditch the old way for
some new way. There’s usually some core wisdom that we want to keep.
They don’t want to throw the baby out with a bath water. So I’m sure that
there are going to be points where there’s too much vulnerability, or too
much focus on connection with each other. We’re enjoying working together
so much that we’re not willing to suffer when we need to suffer. Just pull
[unclear 00:22:20] we need to pull. I don’t know. I haven’t seen it happen yet.
So I’m sure we could go too far. There’s a polarity here between results and
relationship between intimacy and connection versus just get the job done.
So far what I found, especially in these tech companies where these brilliant
people have very low social skills, especially at work, we can swing way on
the side of connection and still not be Kumbaya at all.
People are just more stoked, less sick days, catching each other when we’re
procrastinating faster because we’re communicating better in a more playful
way rather in a just talking shit way, all those things. We actually chew each
other up faster.
Andy: Nice.
Decker: Yeah, it’s great. It’s fun.
I feel very -- especially in the business side and personal relationship work
that I’ve done over the years, I’ve come to some -- I still keep grip on it but
some “conclusion” just seem pretty universal around what’s crucial to have,
sustainable loving, ever deepening relationships. But business, I feel open.
And, yeah, so far I’m finding the people who --
Andy: Wait. What have you concluded in the relationship side?
Decker: On the relationship side …
Andy: What are your conclusions?
Decker: There’s a list of them.
Andy: Give me like one to three.
Decker: Conclusion number one is that being aware of what’s happening between us
is better than not being aware of it. Whether you like it or not is irrelevant to
just -- In general rule of thumb number one, being aware of anything that’s
actually happening between us is better than not being aware of it.
Number two is that appreciating whatever is happening is “better than acting
like it shouldn’t be happening.” Even if it’s unhealthy, even if I wanted to
change to actually smile and welcome it as absolutely perfect because it’s
what’s happening. Without trying to like white wash it or paint a smile on it,
to find a sincere compassion, and patience, and humor to welcome whatever
is happening, is better than acting like it shouldn’t be here.
I’d say third one is better to -- it’s better to get to that place where -- I don’t
even know what I’m saying next. I don’t assume I know what you’re going to
do or say next because I already “know you” but that self-transcendent place
where we’re finding out.
I’m listening to what’s coming out of my mouth as you are and vice versa.
That place of flow is better than trying to modify my actions and behaviors
and yours to make it look like something that would be charming on
Facebook. For everybody to like, “Wow! What a great relationship they
Andy: Nice. I like the simplicity of the conclusions. It seems to be common that
when somebody spends a lot of time on one topic, the general conclusion
they come to is something profound and simple.
Decker: Distilled to something very simple.
Andy: Totally.
Decker: Yeah. Thanks.
Andy: Yeah.
Decker: It’s funny that you asked, I thought that was going to be a huge rabbit hole.
But, yeah, those are three of them. Those three basically are translating
perfectly over to business as well; different mood, different situations, but
basically the same essential components.
Andy: Nice. I don’t know where to go with you.
Decker: If we just imagine, just feeling to the people listening and what we want for
them. If there’s one thing so far that you’re glad they heard -- assuming they
stuck with this LSD [unclear 00:26:23].
Andy: Actually what came up as you’re saying that is I really want you guys, who are
listening, to know how profoundly impactful this work has been. In my life
and in my relationship with Dane, in my intimate relationship with Libby, the
way that I operate in the world and there’s this -- I have this strong desire for
you to get something so awesome and profound out of this interview that
makes you want to go dive down this more because it is --
I personally believe it is on the edge of evolving the way that we interact as
species, as humans, and it’s all happening right now and so few people know
about it and I want more people to. That’s why I want to do this interview
and I want all of you to know that. That’s what’s most alive for me right now.
Decker: I’m touched by that. It’s a good reminder. I’m thinking of -- for any of you
who are -- especially if you have three or four, five-person teams, small
teams where you can invest early -- we’re talking about some of the specific,
kind of linguistic patterns that you can get better at it, whatever. But all those
things do is just for you to feel real. There’s actually a visceral sense of being
connected of contact with somebody. You know it when you feel it. It’s like
the sweet spot of a tennis racket. You get the physics down, understand what
the hell that is, you know it when you feel it and it just works. Even people
who are anti-social phase of life or more introverted versus extroverted,
whatever. I have not found anybody who doesn’t working better together
and enjoying it more. Know when you feel it. As you were saying that, I felt
more gratitude for you. That’s why I’m here.
Andy: That sense of connection almost feels -- I think one of the things about
Circling that was so refreshing to me is that it was a deeper sense of
connection that felt so true to me and it felt lost in our society a little bit. If
you guys have watched Periscope -- you heard Periscope?
Decker: Uh-huh.
Andy: Periscope’s like -- it kind of feels Twitter in ‘07. A lot of people are really into
it and it’s basically -- You can start a video and broadcast from anywhere a
video of you. Me and six friends, we’re out on a boat in Santa Barbara a
month ago and we start up a Periscope and we had like 60 people tuning in,
watching us hang out on a boat through this Periscope.
I don’t really understand it yet but I was wondering what is it, like Facebook,
Twitter, Periscope, what is causing all of these technologies to grow so
quickly and I think it’s a sense of connection. It’s a sense of connection that
people are desiring but it’s like fast food connection. Facebook and Twitter,
it’s like going to McDonald’s. It’s not actually like a true sense of it. This work
can give you this profound, deep sense of it in a way that I haven’t found with
other stuff.
Decker: Yeah. That becomes handy later. [unclear 00:29:49].
I think it comes down to -- For men’s culture especially it’s like if we have a
sense of brotherhood with each other, we don’t say that. But we do, “Hey,
let’s go watch the game” or “Let’s go shoot some pool,” or whatever, and our
attention is on the game of pool or is on the TV screen when there needs to
be a third point for the triangle to feel comfortable. It would triangulate
some there.
And then as soon as attention comes to you and me, it’s awkward. It’s like
“Yeah, no. Seriously, you know I really care about you, bro. Fist bump.” back
to the game. Like it’s weird to be paying attention to the connection here.
The two points is awkward and missing. The moment we find a way to do it, it
goes from awkward to “Huh.” Like the cold water is really uncomfortable the
first moment and then you’re so glad you jumped in.
Now I will say one other thing. Connection is crucial and it’s necessary but not
sufficient condition for the best partnerships that I’ve been in. There’s
probably consultants out here as well, and the more you’re in business, the
more you’ll have opportunities to also consult for other companies.
I just want to throw out there the two reasons that I’m working with
investors and supporting their portfolio companies in the Bay. It’s a pretty
paranoid, very difficult to get close to these CEO’s and founders and they’re
[unclear 00:31:10].
The reason I’m there if you see is even more so. Everyone who I meet is
wanting something from them. I have noticed it through the Circling practice,
through just the fundamentals of the [unclear 00:31:23] authentic
community work that we do.
One, I build trust and, two, I build respect. The respect one is more obvious in
business, right? Like deliver a result. There’s no fucking way these guys are
going to invest in us. The CEO doesn’t trust him and he knows he doesn’t.
And then you come in, you facilitate a meeting where they get on the same
page, and then they’re stoked to move forward. You got to be able to deliver
a result. It was going to go one way and it went another way, and you got to
do it fast.
So that’s the respect part. You’re with me?
Andy: Yeah, totally with you.
Decker: You got to get good at this. And there’s some wisdom too just not paying
attention to relationship. Because if you don’t do it well, sometimes it’s
better not to do it at all. If you’re not going to actually really see it through
the point where you feel like you’re on the same page and on the same team,
then this better not to even stir up shit in the first place.
But the trust part, that bleeds over in the trust part which is I ended up
supporting investors because I had worked with two of the founders years
ago and ended up refusing to work with them because I wasn’t being wellutilized.
This is back when $10,000 a month was crazy amount of money for
me to be making. That was like my retainer to be their bitch. There really
even full weekends I would consider canceling or at least postponing to drop
everything to fly wherever to help with the pitch or whatever.
For me to drop that much money because I just didn’t -- It was my first test
and I knew that I would rather be putting my attention somewhere where
they’re actually appreciating what I can bring and actually utilizing it well
rather than just habitually being able to check the box. “Hey, we have a
relational consultant” and not really using me. It was huge for me, it was also
huge for them because they knew, “Oh, this is the guy who is actually
committed to something beyond dollars.”
A lot of people you’re going to work with -- I don’t have a term for this but,
you know, if you read a book, there’s some people who’ll read a book and
right afterwards, the next conversation they have, they use whatever they
read in the book as if it’s true and that’s what they want to talk about.
Everything looks like relevant to what they just read until they read a
different book and it’s different perspective and then they’ll
Andy: Totally.
Decker: … flip flop the -- They’re very versatile and they’re very dynamic and they can
grow fast but they also can just be really easily influenced by whatever
perspective they’re exposed to.
So there’s a lot of entrepreneurs like that. Because of that, they have to learn
the hard way to be very cautious about who they’re near. So when they’re
near someone who they realize is more committed to what’s true for them,
then smuggling in their own agenda, or their own biases, they will cling to
that. I have people wanting me to work for them because of that trust
reason, much as for the respect reason.
Andy: Fascinating.
Decker: There’s a purity to it where I will ask somebody in the fund. I think I have
different perspective on that, I have a couple of questions, but do you want
to hear a different perspective? I’m actually asking. There’s no like -- and
assuming I’m going to just tit for tat, go back and forth, and debate. Until
they actually want to hear a different perspective, I don’t give it. And if they
say, “Oh yeah, of course.” I’m like, “That’s like auto-pilot there. You’re talking
out of your ass. Do you actually want to? Because I seriously maybe a waste
of your time. I don’t know if it’s a valid opinion or not.” They’re like, “Well,
why do you disagree?” They’ll ask a question before wanting to know my
opinion and we actually slow down. So never skip a step so that we can speed
Andy: Totally. Hearing that there’s this slowness to how it works, but it can also go
quicker. What I’m imagining is a deep sense of trust that you have in yourself.
Does that land at all?
Decker: I never saw that coming. You’re saying that I must trust myself deeply in
order to go that slowly and not [unclear 00:35:28].
Andy: Yeah.
Decker: Oh, that totally fits in the sense that I don’t need someone to validate my
Andy: Totally. I think what happens is especially when people get around people of
status. Like these types of entrepreneurs where they’re in their own little
chaotic space and they’re probably going 100 miles an hour and I think
people just kind of like whatever they say goes.
Decker: Or I need to argue or make a counterpoint so I can prove that I’m valuable to
validate myself.
Andy: Yeah.
Decker: I can’t believe I’m in the same room as a billionaire, let alone -- I was living
with two of them for the past year. I’m from the Ozark Mountains. I’m from
Missouri stock, just hillbillies where I don’t give a shit how -- A person is a
person and we talk the same time. I’m not getting in any fancy stuff but I
even found myself not totally myself because it was just like, “Goddamn,
these people are changing the planet a little bit and I had to [unclear
00:36:31] that.” I think that’s part of why I’ve been able to work closely with
a lot of those people is because I refuse to relate to them as anything
different than someone I respect and someone I expect to be respected by.
Andy: Did that happen overtime? I’m curious how you arrived at that point.
Because I think you said a lot of people get swayed. I think a lot of
entrepreneurs in the beginning phases are … it’s like hot on this idea, hot on
this book thing, and a lot of jumping around. So there’s a rootedness and a
crowdedness and I’m curious how.
Decker: Well, I have a personal meditation practice. The old school like you’re asked
down for hours of time and hit you with a stick if you even kind of peak over
to the girl’s side of the monastery or whatever.
Andy: It’s awesome.
Decker: It doesn’t hurt.
Circling is not something that I just believe in and teach. The reason I teach it
is because people ask me how I build the relationships and partnerships I
have [unclear 00:37:30] the answer, the thing we’ve come up with so far and
I live it. So I have people who I debrief meetings with and they circle me.
And so I had people -- you know, Bryan Bayer you know well who would be
like “Yeah, it’s funny because you don’t sound like yourself right now. The
way you just role played out how you were in the meeting with them, you
seem not totally yourself the way I know you to be.” I’m like, “Holy shit! I
didn’t even notice that. What is that?” Oh, I only do that around people --
I wouldn’t be talking that way if I didn’t know how much his net worth was,
right? It was a slow process, relational process [unclear 00:38:04] me back
up. And just [unclear 00:38:06]. Come on now. Which, ironically, the less I try
to make sure I’m providing value and just slow down and catch any biases
and help them catch their own biases, the more valuable I become.
This goes for any of you with your own company. As you’re going to get bias
with what you already think you know is the right product for your company
at this time, or the right hire or whatever. And then someone else doesn’t
want is [unclear 00:38:32] telling you’re hire and like, “The fuck, I don’t even
want to be here.” will get attached to a [unclear 00:38:37] conclusion all the
The moment you can wake up out of that and co-explore -- to get to the
point when you’re sincerely ready to learn that you were completely wrong
and they are as well. That’s the first point that is actually a sincere coexploration
and that’s where a team actually helps each other get better
answers rather than arguing over the one you’re already attached to. It’s
Andy: It really is. Because when people are arguing, they’re almost not even arguing
about the issue. They’re arguing about some sort of social construct that’s
happening which is why bad decisions happen.
Decker: Yup. Not to mention that we end up not enjoying each other as much and
then dragging our ass to work after a while.
Andy: Totally. Oh man. I’m thinking about how many conversations since we started
Circling, how many times when Dane and I are in conflict or in some sort of a
decision-making thing where we actually -- The issue of deciding gets paused
for a moment and we kind of go into, “Wait, what’s happening for you,
what’s happening for me.”
Decker: Nice.
Andy: And then go back into the thing afterwards. Always the decision [unclear
00:39:35] is better.
Decker: So do I. Totally.
Even if it’s the same conclusion, my rule of thumb is like if it doesn’t feel like
we’re on the same team, if I can’t feel that we’re actually allies, I do not trust
the conclusion we’re going to come to. Even if it’s the same answer we would
have come to as friends, the fact that we’re in the dynamic of opposition or
somebody conceding to somebody else. Usually means that one of us is going
to sabotage the conclusion we came to. It was subtly, right?
Andy: Yeah.
Decker: Yeah. We got to get to that place. It’s worth it. Especially when there’s a
deadline and like, “We just got to fucking decide this thing.” That’s exactly
the point where you got to stop, slow down, and get back in resonance with
each other.
Andy: Totally.
Decker: Yup.
Andy: So you said something. You said connection isn’t enough. Like connection
isn’t all there is.
Decker: Just feeling connect with them. I could feel intimately connected with you
and feeling appreciated by you. That you wanted people to get the value of
this work, that’s like my life’s work. And yet still not have that safety thing
with you, right? We can feel intimate in the moment and yet still -- There’s
also a sense of character necessary for partnerships to thrive over time.
[unclear 00:40:52] is integrity. Even if I think in integrity there’s -- it’s an
infinite game. You can keep tightening that up. The longer we know each
other, the blind spots get louder.
Andy: Yeah.
Decker: One example in Circling, in a lot of relational practices, we become
worshippers of vulnerability. As long as somebody is crying or their heart is
cracked open or something, it must have been a good practice, right? Wow,
this feels so good. And if that’s all we do, it doesn’t lead to people actually
thriving more in their lives as much as I wanted to.
Andy: Yeah?
Decker: Because you can be vulnerable about something that didn’t even happen. I
can be so emotionally touched by a complement you gave me to someone
else that I overheard you say to somebody else, but I misheard you. You
didn’t even say what I thought you said but I’m still vulnerably touched by it.
Andy: Yeah?
Decker: Or really hurt that you didn’t call me back when actually you did call me back,
I just didn’t see the missed call. Vulnerability without discernment, that’s the
Kumbaya of trap. That’s the thing where connection is everything.
Connection is absolutely crucial. It’s a necessary but not sufficient condition
for -- especially a business to thrive.
Andy: I love that you’re saying that. I hate that stuff. It’s like a turn off for me.
Decker: I get that about you.
Andy: But I’m wondering. There’s something like -- there’s the connection piece and
then you said something like character or integrity. It seems like there’s a
moment to moment thing that’s happening but there’s also a track record or
a longevity. Is that it?
Decker: That’s a good point too. Yeah. I don’t know how much we’re going to go into
that but there’s so much to this. It’s in our form. It’s in our form especially as
an entrepreneur where there’s no company [unclear 00:42:40] to plug into or
something. We’re making this up. The marketplace is changing so fast, yaddiyadda.

But I will say that the temptation to be so … Change or die. Innovate and
network and stay ahead of the curve or die is absolutely crucial. And if that
becomes frivolous, like we don’t even give a shit about loyalty and then we
have shared history with people, that is, again, you’re throwing out the baby
with the bathwater. Yeah, there is something we said for a track record and
knowing that someone’s going to bath for each other.
Yeah, it has this -- Be able to go through a merger where we may have been
competitors. There’s a lot of things that normally we’ll just split and leave
things fragmented in a lot of ways that goes with it or we’ll see it through.
Sometimes that just comes down to having some history together. No doubt.
But like you said, the flip side to that is we can skip a lot of the fluff and go
right to serious loyalty and bond fast when we put attention on it.
Andy: Totally.
Decker: I feel that with you. I barely know you, dude, and I don’t do interviews, but
here I am.
Andy: Yeah. Decker’s been doing this training -- We only have been in one of the
trainings together, right?
Decker: Yeah.
Andy: Yeah. We’ve actually only hung out one time in person. That’s wild.
Decker: It’s always [unclear 00:44:05].
Andy: [unclear 00:44:05].
What do you want entrepreneurs to know about this work?
Decker: I don’t know what I want you all to know about this work in particular. It’s a
work in progress, always, but I’ll say … What I want you to know about how
to put attention on relationship in a way that has you enjoying the work more
and be more effective is everything we already talked about on the fly in this
call. Let me see if there’s something fresh that comes up. I’m trying to
imagine one of you out there.
Andy: Think of this guy who’s sitting in his cubicle right now working for a boss that
he hates, or just super frustrated with; feeling this lack of control over his
reality, feeling dependent on somebody else for income.
Decker: Oh, wow.
Andy: And see no end in sight to that.
Decker: Wow! So he’s on that shit or get off the pot. Either with or way or …
Andy: Yeah. It’s like will this ever work for me is the question.
Decker: Dude, that’s a whole [unclear 00:45:29] there.
Any of you who even partially relate to that, if you think you can just flip the
bird and fuck this place and start something fresh, I have not seen that work
so well very often. In general, how you transition … If you make the leap to
running your own business and you do it in a funky way; that funky energy
bleeds over to your own company.
Find a way to feel great about where you’ve been working. Find a way to feel
great about your relationship with your asshole boss. Who is actually more
open to being called out if you point it out in the moment while it’s
happening. If you do it with a smile and totally wanting the best for him, you
might be shocked at how much you can manage up -- you can manage your
When you take the time to actually have it feels good as possible, that’s the
point where you choose rather than react and like fuck this place. You
actually are making art out of whatever situation you’re in. That’s the point
where you are most equipped to choose to start your own company.
Not from this disillusioned place but from a -- Yeah, I can make art out of
anything. I can enjoy working with this asshole. We can laugh about me
calling you an asshole. That is the place where you’re ready to rock out with
your own company.
Andy: That is super, super wise insight.
Decker: Although as the entrepreneur leap is just the next shiny thing on the other
side of the fence and then you throw your hat over there, and then you
create the same shit show that you had when you’re with a boss.
Andy: You’re the only one responsible now.
Decker: Totally. Totally.
Andy: Dude, thanks for coming on, man.
Decker: My pleasure. This is fun.
We could re-record this right now and it would much more coherent, I think,
for you guys listening. But it might be great for them just to hear us just
riffing like this because I think you can get the sense of what we’re talking
about by us just [unclear 00:47:26] dive in like this. This feels very familiar
with me.
Andy: Me too. I’m actually really curious, if you guys are listening, text me at 515-
229-6242. Text me and tell me what you thought about this interview
because I actually have no idea how it will be received. I’m really curious.
That or email me, andy@thefoundation.com.
If you want to get in touch with Decker, they’ve been quietly teaching this
stuff -- how many years now?
Decker: Formally for the past decade.
Andy: Formally for the past decade and it always had to be in person, like you
would actually have to come out to Boulder which would be cool. We actually
had some Foundation students join this training from seeing the interactions.
We’ve done Circling at our live events so we’ve had some people join it. But
you would actually have to fly to Boulder every weekend. For the first time,
they’re putting together a training online around some of this. Where can
people find that, Decker?
Decker: That is not my -- If I answer that question, you shouldn’t trust the answer I
give you because I know my shortcomings and so I firewall myself from any
product launches.
I mean integralcenter.org is the spot to access us and whatever is hot. You
may want to voice over the best link for them to get.
Andy: It’s relationalos.com. I just got that from Robert’s stuff. So Decker and
Robert, Robert’s the other trainer that’s here. We brought Decker on because
of his experience in the business startup world and why we thought it would
relay to you guys.
Decker: But not his organizational …
Andy: Not his organizational stuff. That’s one thing. Find out what you’re really,
really good at and only do that.
Decker: And be honest about it. [unclear 00:49:23] incompetence in the other arenas.
Andy: So relationalos.com, check it out. They’ve got some pre-training videos that
are there. If you’re really curious about diving deeper into this stuff, either
email me, text me, let us know and we’ll get you hooked up with them. At
least introduce to the right people because, like I said, some of this stuff is so
potent, we didn’t even go into the intimate relationship realm or like any of
that too much because of the nature of this podcast. But that’s where a lot of
juices too; at least what I found.
Decker: There’s a lot to this.
Andy: There is a lot, man.
Decker: This is fun. So if you guys are texting Andy and you’re like, “Dude, you lost
me. You got to organize your thoughts a little better.” Be honest and I’m
happy to do another one. We’ll do it again.
Andy: Yeah, please be very, very direct. You can call me out too. Thanks for coming
on, man. It’s so fun.
Decker: Right on. Alright. I’ll see you in a couple weeks.
Andy: Alright. See you soon.
Closing: Thank you for joining us. We’ve taken this interview and created a custom
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