My friend Helen Shi is a brilliant woman from China with many interests. We used to sit down at the dining room table, and I’d put my iPhone between us, and just record. The quality was not great — but it was surprisingly okay. I got to discuss my economic philosophy.
Moving from Mass-Scale Economic Vision to Local-Scale
Chris Burbridge: When you leave the mass indoctrination, the mass indoctrination is massive scale. Right? Massive indoctrination is I have to be a billionaire. Or a hundred millionaire otherwise I am not happy or successful.
And there’s many aspect of it, but that’s one aspect of it is like your personal dream of how much money they’re going to make before they feel successful or before the company feels successful . But this is such a problem. This creates mass scale, of course the internet is capable of creating that more than any other thing in history.
And this is the thing that venture capitalists want. Yeah. Yeah. Which I think they’re very, I think it’s very destructive though. Then you create almost monopolies, like Amazon, Apple, et cetera. But it’s interesting that it’s actually very interesting that the same platform, the Internet that’s capable more than anything else in history of collecting power in one place, is also the platform that is more capable than any other thing in history of creating tiny little niche, specific businesses or communities that would be impossible in the past. And it’s possible of creating many, many, many, many, many, many, multi hundred thousand dollar a year businesses for individuals, that create several jobs, satisfying lifestyle, increasing community diversity, you know, and this is what I’ve been interested in for several years.
And one person talked about it, like the difference between solar power and nuclear. Okay. Right. Solar power, you can have, everybody can have their own local, whatever they want, and nuclear power. It’s, you know, a lot of state control, massive scale, massive investment. No human individual could do it.
And it’s all controlled centrally. Yeah. So it’s the same thing that I’m always thinking about. Like instead of inventing a business model that you control centrally, you invent business models that are open sourced ideas that you distribute all over the world that people can adapt anywhere. Right. So, it’s interesting to think that the same platform that makes it more possible to collect power in one place, is also the same platform that lets you have this diversification power.
Helen Shi: Isn’t there are one. Oh yeah. Like at least multiple, a lot of companies are like that.
Chris Burbridge: Are like what? Well yes, there’s a lot of companies like both examples. But I guess my point here was that when you leave the idea that success equals domination either economically or emotionally or any other way, socially you’re liberated into an incredible new world of possibilities.
Helen Shi: I was just reading about the old money, new money thing. I know things that’s the way old money thinks, and like you see all this animation, they have a big boss and they become very big, big, big, big, huge. Then they were defeated. It’s kind of become huge is a pre- indicator of be defeated. (Laughs)
Chris Burbridge: Okay. So, for example, venture capital is very much in online businesses. But this kind of online business that, you know, has this kind of return because has certain effects like that. But, but if you let go of all of that and you look at the different scale, the scale of we can call it the micro success business or whatever, then there’s other effects that kick in that are completely different effects, because there’s a virtually infinite number of little markets at that micro scale that are possible, that are incredibly interesting and unique. There’s so many different markets that are possible, if you need to just have enough fans to have a good life for you and your family, that you can have the weirdest most interesting different business, and if you make the right connections with the right people could be anywhere on earth, you have a good life.
Passion Economy Scale: Different Behaviors
Chris Burbridge: So it’s a completely different set of effects. So if you let go of the idea of mega success, you can look at a completely different set of, of effects that happen at the micro scale. That would be irrelevant at the macro scale.
Like, you know, the macro scale demands, constant concentration, the macro scale demands constant siphoning off of as much power as possible to the one central place where the venture capital can eat it. I’m just thinking out loud, but so like the micro scale, it’s utter ly liberating to people… actually it’s incredibly liberating.
And the big difference between the macro scale and the micro scale is if people have a fantasy of, of needing a hundred million dollars to be happy, versus they need a million dollars, say, or whatever. And so if you realize that the the delta between what you actually need to be happy and have a good life, and the mega fantasy scale is all irrelevant. In other words, once you have the million dollars or whatever it is that you need, all the extra is kind of irrelevant to your happiness. Right?
Helen Shi: Right. I don’t think that was the only indicator. The whole value system is not, it’s like call your venture capitalist is investing in a chicken. And your angel investors are investing in a regenerative community-based ecosystem. But these people are tailored to different types of audience. So your entrepreneurs can be like organic farmer or type of can be like a factory, like a scaling up. And there investor can be show can be totally two different kinds of people are investing triple bottom line impact investing, or people would just want to scale, I want money.
I want a return. Tell me what’s hot on the market. We just chase that. So it’s just two different kinds of value system.
Chris Burbridge: Yes. Right, so I think we probably have to move a lot of people from one to the next. So the whole conversation here and why I could turn this into a video, a book, whatever is the whole conversation is about trying to stand up for the value of Model Number Two, right? Model Number Two is viable. Because people don’t know that it’s viable, people are still locked into this fantasy. I guess my whole point when I talk about the delta is like, people think they want to be successful; of course they want to be successful. I want to have freedom; of course they want to have freedom. I want to have creative control; of course you want to have creative control. I want to have the ability to have a little house in Costa Rica or see friends or make a party or do whatever. Or, I want to be recognized. Of course you want those things, all those things are equally possible in Model Number Two really, the only difference is, you know, you’re not famous for everybody in the world, like in Elon Musk, you’re famous to the people that matter to you.
Helen Shi: Well, it’s kind of too hard to balance it out when… so I have a friend she works for Finding Purpose.
Chris Burbridge: Finding Purpose, that’s a great title.
Helen Shi: Finding Purpose, because a lot of people, they achieved Goal One, the first goal they become millionaire, or almost millionaire, I don’t think she knows billionaire, but some people like almost there, but they can not stop it, right?
Chris Burbridge: And because of the behaviors of capitalism, it’s like, it’s a system and it rewards certain behaviors. Those are not necessarily, the most wonderful behaviors or the most happy behaviors or the most, whatever they are, just whatever the behaviors of that machine likes, you know? So if the machine likes it and likes it, in other words, proof of who’s the happiest person, or the most truly successful person can not be measured by the number on the, on the bank account.
Helen Shi: Well, so it’s a different story. They might be so stubbornly believing in what they want and they have all the blessings to do so, but then their network, everybody’s in the network, their network will pay. So you will see a lot of families, wealthy family have children having psychological problems. So their kids paid for it. Or somewhere else.
A Key is Bringing Consciousness to What You Really Want (Specifically)
Chris Burbridge: That’s one of the core tenets of my stuff, and when I’m working with businesses is to create a more conscious system to evaluate what your success actually looks like . Because a lot of people are blindly… it’s unconscious that they think the number in the bank account equals success. It’s unconscious. So it takes more work to actually look: “Well, what do you want to have in your life? What do you want your day to look like? What do you want your family to look like? How do you want your time to be?” That takes more work, and you’ll get a much more holistic sense of what you really want your makeup to be. So that’s one of the first steps I do. in all of my work is to infuse people to start thinking.
Helen Shi: Start from kindergarten level.
Chris Burbridge: Well that would be wonderful.
Helen Shi: I’m not saying you should start with kindergarten kids.
Chris Burbridge: Oh, but start very basic.
Helen Shi: I just had a talk with another friend of mine and we were chatting about he was talking about the option things, blah, blah, blah, like all fancy technique of option trading, and okay, I said, I’m at a high school level. I am doing security license and I know pretty much a lot of investment vehicles, but I said okay, this is a graduate school level. And I said, okay, most people are just kindergarten level. So I feel pretty good about that.
Chris Burbridge: I think the videos I started making are kindergarten level. It’s like start with someone, has a dream in their business and then they end up finding they have to do all this boring work, but how could they do more of the dream work they want to do, and just giving them tips. And it’s gradually, gradually moving them towards the dream work.
Helen Shi: And like it’s harder to open. They say they are open and they’re fine. So you can be on your own. It’s just, they don’t know. They just like, okay. They are stuck in my bubble, and the bubble was not even created by them altogether. It’s kind of like all childhood memories and blah blah blah.
Chris Burbridge: Yeah. And then when people open up new possibilities, it revolutionizes everything. When Tim Ferris, wrote this book The Four Hour Work Week, it blew everyone’s mind open, even though now it seemskind of a baseline for a lot of people.
Helen Shi: Making sure you’re as grounded as their current reality, because it’s totally harder for a Chinese people now in China to, like they have 996, and the boss is just like, “or you wouldn’t have any job”. Then people have a crisis when they’re 35 because no company will a train you from new, if you’re 35. So either you stay and compete for middle level management position, or you get dispensed and then they were kind of doing all this Uber style jobs. And then it’s like you have aging parents and middle age kids. So kind of squeezed in the middle it’s disaster. So, yeah. Then you’re talking about .
Chris Burbridge: Yeah. I don’t know how, I mean, if you were in China, I don’t even know how you would apply these thigns.
Helen Shi: I don’t know. But the things are not, it’s slightly better, but it’s not significantly better here. People are still paycheck to paycheck. Most people, people don’t appear as worrisome, but in reality, the stats shows people do not have that much savings. So they might face, like the lady I mentioned to you, she’s from a wealthy family. She still has this panic attack from insecurity of not enough savings. Now, no job, then she completely collapsed because of that.
You don’t believe that?
Chris Burbridge: It’s not that, you’re just approaching it from a different lens. So it takes me awhile to adjust. I’m not disagreeing with anything you’re saying. So it’s like the potentials that I’m talking about are realistic for a lot of people to work on. So that’s the point, not that everything is perfect now or everybody’s in a rosy position, but that these potentials exist and are very nascent, very, very able for many, many people to improve things.
And how, how this all ends up. Who knows? Because it’s impossible to guess, right? But if you unleash the power of loving your life, if you unleash the power of having more fun, if you unleash the power of people feeling more free, and if you unleash the power of people being more happy and less stuck in jobs they hate, then, you know, if you unleash all this power, I have a faith, some good things will come out of it. But of course I can’t predict exactly how it will go
Helen Shi: What I’m talking about is that for kindergarten level people, if you don’t give them stepping stones and even very shallow stepping stone, they cannot jump, and they wouldn’t believe in you like your dream is really far away. And they were just stuck in their reality.
Chris Burbridge: I think our stepping stones are very low now.
Helen Shi: What’s, what’s the 101 your kind of training?
Chris Burbridge: We have a series of five videos that I’m making now as first videos, it’s just like a little story about a gardening business and I have four other stories, but the first one is about the gardner, and the advice we will give her. And she has five steps. One step is, take a walk. We know you’re very busy, but even Saturday morning steal to two hours, one hour, take a walk and imagine, remember why you started the business and what your dreams were and what your biggest vision is. And just note that down and, and your values and just think about it. That’s step one, because it starts to stir up the vision again and not getting lost in there in your, in your rat race.
Step two, vision is very important. So we’re also asking her look at your system. Start to gradually change the business towards what is working most. Look at your feedback. What your customers love most about you, because we’re often pushed to do things that are generic, from fear, but actually it turns out there’s more potential from the special thing that we do is maybe more valuable. Then you’ll see, what do you love? Where do you get most excited, but also where do the customers get most excited as well? Where do you both get most excited in your work? Where are you not generic? Where are you something different?
Helen Shi: Can you elaborate on more like will be generate generic when we’re fear, in fear? Why is that?
Chris Burbridge: Yes. So, she has a business. She has 12 employees. She’s been successful in the sense of in 12 years she followed all the steps that were recommended to her and she grows and grows, but actually like a lot of small business, she’s actually not making a lot of money. Low margins, right? So she’s running, running, running, running, like building building, but not really building anything very much. Right.
And she’s constantly in demand for doing this. Like, ” Will you do my maintenance?” “Yeah, I’ll do your maintenance.” So then, her really good stuff that she’s excellent at, is building special gardens â€” a fantasy space. They get paid much more money, much more artistic, much more special. And that’s where she actually has much higher margins, this is her passion, that’s what she loves. And many of her women clients love this, but she’s buried in doing everything.
So she’s not even able to take a step back and look how much lower margin she gets for this generic work that anybody can do. And she is terrified, because two thirds of her work, she would lose, if she said I’m only doing the special stuff, even though The higher margins on the special stuff, and much more fun and much more positive feedback loop. If you act doing only the special stuff word spreads more quickly, you have more fun, you get better at it faster, et cetera. There’s a lot of business logic to it.
Helen Shi: Cool. Wow. Okay, Chris, I can see how we can play collaboratively in a team. I think my specialty is how people streamline those kind of already generic part. Yeah. And so she can apply the 80/20 rule. So maybe she still allocate 80% of current resources. And, but her attention can be 80% attention in the new new part..
Chris Burbridge: So even from childhood her dream was to build these magical garden spaces. This is even why she started landscape school. But then they didn’t tell her how to build that business. They didn’t say, okay, great. So you have. Skill now. .Here’s how you build this unique business around this skill to market a specific thing and tell the right story, and get very excited about this specific thing. No, nobody ever told her how to do that, but they told her was, do a generic landscaping business because that’s the formula, everyone’s following. That’s the formula. It’s like when we were talking the other day about immigrants come and they follow the formula. Nail business, donut business. They just follow the formula.
It’s like that with a lot of businesses actually. So then nobody showed her how to build that. So before she knew she was almost such a hard worker and such a diligent worker that she created a successful â€”Â but generic business, 12 years later.
Helen Shi: Most of America is very generic. It’s like, like chain store almost. You didn’t feel you are in another town. Everything is the same. Maybe that’s how things are operated here. I may sound like not many cities can afford boutique stores anymore, do you feel?
Chris Burbridge: Well, that’s a a touchy question.
Helen Shi: Where there more when you were growing up than now?
Chris Burbridge: No, no, no. It was less, less. Yeah, there was less giant stores, but there was also less boutique stores. If you encourage people to have a specialized business, I know that you can help them get more of what they want.Money and satisfaction. How this plays out in the entire economy, that’s beyond my knowing, right? But I think I could go to Bend Oregon or I could go to a town in Indiana, and I could still help somebody to do this. Even if there’s three companies that shovel snow… I know somebody that has a company in Indiana that shovels snow and does gardening actually. I think he’s pretty happy with his company, so it doesn’t have to become more boutique-y. He’s actually quite successful. He has a team of people and tractors and things like that. And he’s got a good life, actually, he made a good life.
It’s just about being right for you, right? For you scale, not feeling us a servant to the money system, understanding how to use the money system. This is what is interesting is that. You’re studying that in a different way, but there’s a way to look at it in terms of business, which is to right scale, how to, how to use business dynamics in your favor. Not to be, not to be so rich necessarily that you’re sitting on a beach in Costa Rica every day. But that you have a happy life.
Helen Shi: I want to have both.
Chris Burbridge: But then okay. But then that’s fine. I mean, great. But I’m just not so interested in that as I’m interested, it’s like so much of the freedom business stuff is about the idea of being free from being able to having to do any work. And it’s not my approach. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe that that’s… the best thing to encourage people to never have to do any work.
Helen Shi: So you don’t have to do any work for money, but you do work for your purpose.
Chris Burbridge: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s a great thing. I love that. It’s just that the focus that I have right now is more around people getting paid well to do their purpose. So the focus I have happens to be merging the two.
Helen Shi: When you mentioned that I’m learning as well different perspective. It’s quite interesting because I learned about regenerative agriculture and like healthy eating and all that organic movement from pharmaceutical perspective. I learned from this financial freedom and things from insurance perspective. Interesting.
Chris Burbridge: When you were at your old company, someone talked to you about the agriculture stuff, or?
Helen Shi: Well, I was just like, a coin face, like the coin has two faces, but I had the fist one side is where I’m doing for a full time one side is what I’m doing. Like, in my spare time.
Chris Burbridge: And I mean, the reason my focus is on blending the two is because that’s my personality. Some people would be happy to say work for a dumb company they don’t care about and make some money, and then they get the money and do that purpose. But I don’t like that. I’m always thinking, how can I do both at the same time? That’s just my personality. Some people would care less about doing your thing. They don’t like.
Helen Shi: You’re doing, you’re trying to do both at the same time. There is also enough on intra-preneur in both system because eventually everybody wants the same thing. So I believe there’s enough entrepreneurs. The system will collapse from inside of that.
Chris Burbridge: I think there’s something secretly powerful about encouraging people to have what they want, and I want to help them show them that simple kindergarten methods to do it, because the shadow side of all this conversations is all the BS of bullshit that people. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. They try to get people so excited about these promises that it’s bullshit. It’s too simple, too obvious. And it’s like, everyone get everyone to do the same thing. Like here, you just follow this simple formula to sell things on Amazon, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then you have another boring, stupid business and thousands of people trying to do the same boring, dumb thing.
Helen Shi: Welcome to China. This is how we grow up. Only one thing, just like follow the structure. Now you don’t have to think.
Chris Burbridge: Yeah, very appealing. That’s one of the things we’re working against is in our company is, it requires more thought.
Helen Shi: So how do you find the people? When they bend down to this generic form, what makes them jump out? What, what gives them the courage to jump out?
Chris Burbridge: There’s often lots of people that are struggling, miserable and trying to move for different reasons, all kinds of reasons. They run into become. Now they’re alive, then they want it to become a coach, they want it to be. They want to stay at home with their child. So they want to sell something online. They want to do this. They want to do that. It’s like everywhere now. And the number of people that want to do that versus people to succeeding to do that is, you know, huge difference. But that’s the gap. That’s people already, there’s millions of people trying to figure it out.
Helen Shi: Trying to figure out, but then you said this like they might fall into some generic coaching system.
The Danger Of Over-Hype
Chris Burbridge: Yeah. And the danger with that, that really bothers me, is that all of those systems use hope to get people to buy in. A lot of those systems are not bullshit then. I mean, they’re not like trying to trick somebody, they’re genuine, but they’re still trying to be at scale to like, get everyone. They still like have a formula and it’s still more from the outside. Not from inside of you, what uniquely you want. And so they inspire people and then they can have massive disappointment. So if you run this online class, let’s just say you charge $1,000 for your program and you have a hundred students, then you may $100,000 for your program.
And let’s say 2%, let’s say no, let’s say 5% of people have some success. Then you get five excited testimonials saying “I was so poor and broke and now I’m making $120,000 a year. I’m making $300,000 a year, thanks to Chris’s program. Now you have five exciting testimonials, right? Do that three more times, you have 15 exciting testimonials that looks to everybody in the world, you are amazing. “Wow, 15 people. He must know what he’s doing. I’ll sign up.” Forever. You can do this with a 5% success rate.
Helen Shi: Great. Oh, you know, I heard some kind of marketing in Amsterdam. They claimed they’re the worst hotel in in the world, and those like a backpacker, they just love to go there. I don’t expect your other luxury luggage will arrive on time or whatever. So you can say, oh, 95% people will fail this program.
Chris Burbridge: Yeah. Yeah. Actually that’s a brilliant idea. That would be honest. Yeah. But they want, they want to wave this magic spell of belief, that’s a little too much, that’s saying, oh no, just believe. And then if it’s not working for you, it’s because you didn’t believe hard enough, you know. And then the thing that really upsets me about this, Helen, I think that the resource of people’s hope to do something better for themselves, more unique and more special and more in from their heart is extremely important right now on this planet. We need that. And when you take it and you squeeze it out and use it up, because you destroyed their hope, from disappointment, cause it wasn’t a really realistic program, that’s very destructive.
Helen Shi: And they don’t trust again.
Chris Burbridge: Exactly. Then they give up say, oh, that was stupid. I shouldn’t have paid all that money. I shouldn’t have done that. And I’ve seen this many, many times. I’ve seen people, they paid $10,000, $20,000 for these programs. And then they were so hopeful. They knew it was going to work. Then their life was going to change and it didn’t change. So they asked for the money back. No, they can’t have the money back and I’ve seen it and it breaks my heart. So this is, it’s the problem. That’s a problem. Yeah. So we want to make something that’s much more honest and it’s piece by piece, person by person, individual by individual. There’s really no formula. The only formula is like: look at yourself. What do you love? Let’s help you move gradually, gradually.
Helen Shi: How have I been from the two almost two years you been here?
Chris Burbridge: Yeah, two years. It’s like this month, two years, I think almost exactly two years.
Helen Shi: Right. It’s like I have you in my network and you play this magnificent role. I mean just like, also Nicole, that’s a big part of it. It’s like I have my own tribe, but a lot of people, even their family, I don’t have my family here. But connection is tight. So I have my excellent lady. Kay. I have a lot of people in my life. So Linda, so it’s the connection is tied that to you, you can just pick up a phone. I even feel like even my classmate like same cultural background, they were very busy and they felt distant. They distanced themselves from the network, not volunteer to join this kind of conversation. It’s like, what I meant by kindergarten is that a lot of people are not really prepared. They haven’t been polished. You cannot even see what they’re thinking is like they’re piece of mud, like a piece of fog there. They don’t expose themselves. They’re in the corner. They don’t talk to anybody about what they actually think. So it’s like, I don’t feel, and if you want to really get a fact, then it’s like a lot of pre-work, have to scrub the surface off, off, off of them.
But then it’s not somebody’s job. It’s somebody ‘s in their network. Like, why don’t you solve this in your close network already? It’s just sad to see, also because of COVID this, should it be already solved in like a tribal setting, like no brainer. This is how we solved it for thousands of years this way.
Creating a New Spark
Chris Burbridge: Yeah. Well, the only thing we can do is we create the beginning of a new force, a new movement, you know, we’re creating part, we’re part of a new movement and all the previous work and previous thinkers were helping us prop up a positive thing in the world as the most positive thing I can see, or in fact for me I’m encouraging this, to feel the spark inside of you, what you love, it’s the same with me. My spark inside of me that I love is, I can’t stand to do work that I don’t love and care about. So I have to take that path, right? And encourage people. So I’m just following my own spark, wherever comes from. I don’t know exactly it’s from me and you create a movement of possibility.