Bart Garrett on creating a common good for your startup

Mitos Suson · August 24, 2016 · Short URL:

Vator Splash May 2016 presentation by the founder of Christ Church

At our Vator Splash Spring event in May 2016, Bart Garrett, Founder of Christ Church, shared his presentation: "Fear, Anger, Apprehension, Self-Loathing..."

Hey you all, it’s great to have this opportunity. Thank you.  Ryan, I appreciated your talk a lot and what you’re saying about EQ in particular. I think is a great segue with what I want to spend my time talking about. And you may be asking the question that whenever anyone stands up in front of you, you always ask why am I here? 

Why is this person here? And if you read my bio and saw that I am a pastor and you may be also saying, “Why are you here?” Listening to a pastor.  In fact, my first interaction, I was a neighbor when I moved to Oakland 11 years ago is asked me “what I did?” the dreaded question and I said, “Well I am a Presbyterian minister,” and he said, “Are you shitting me?” And I said, “No, I actually, I am.”  Well he said, “Forgive me Father for I have sinned.”

So I don’t know what that meant, but I had a first grader in my congregation just this last Sunday bringing me up their handout which we give to a lot of our kids in our church with 3 questions on it and the 3 questions were, “Why are church building so big?” “Why do microphones make your voice so loud?” and “Why are pastors not normal people?” So you have to listen to a pastor for the next 15minutes. I will say that my vocation does have its perks. If you are working really hard on an airplane and you don’t want to talk to the chatty “inaudible” that is sitting next to you, you cannot do what I can do. Which is to say when they ask me what I do, “I am the ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ” because that shuts up all conversations at that point and so I just carry on what I am doing.

But I do need to give you just a little bit of my bonus few days, I think Bambi has had me share 3 or 4 of these because I actually did start Christ Church, which is one church of 3 locations in 2006 here in the Bay area and in 2007 we start a non-profit called Project Peace. So I’ve had a lot of experience in the startup culture both starting these 2 entities but also our church is full of entrepreneurs so I love the opportunity to of sharing a room of entrepreneurs and talking about -- really matters of EQ for lack of better way of describing it.

So what I love about you as an entrepreneur and aspiring entrepreneur is your self-driven, you’re a thinker, you’re innovative, you’re creative. I love that many of you have a deep desire and a relenting passion to pursue that idea you really feel called to pursue. And then you put your sweat in your work into your idea and I might call this in the beginning stages, the ride of your life.  And you enter into this startup and it’s the ride of your life. But what can also happen along the way, is you begin to kinda’ push down and hold back your emotions. And our emotions are actually crucial thermostats when it comes to “How do we know ourselves?” and “How do we know others?” And so what happens is, you begin to create this outside perception but then as you move forward into this inside reality, you keep creating this outside perception. You keep feeling this inside reality.

And your investors and your employees and your customers and your friends, and your family and yourself start experiencing one part of you, which is not really you. And so what I want to focus on, if there’s a thesis here or threat, I want to tease out the next few minutes is this one: you must address the inside reality, so that you can healthily relate to yourself and appropriately relate to others. You must address the inside reality so you can healthily relate to yourself and appropriately relate to others. So, I am talking about your emotions. If you’ve seen the movie, “Inside Out,” I’m a huge fan. The five emotions displayed there. Many experts when they distilled the seminal emotions have usually landed on 5-10, 5 of them throughout this movie are fear, disgust, sadness, anger and joy. Paul Eckman is the psychologist that’s underneath this, should you be interested.

But I think what I would like to do is actually take our discussion and our remaining moments -- below the presenting emotions which are the simple ones to understand to more complex emotions that can be easily dismissed but they are often underlying these things. I want to just look at 4, We’re not going to look at disgust but I want to look at fear, if you’ve seen the movie. One of the fear’s comments are, “Alright, we did not die today.” I’ll call that unqualified success. When it comes to your role as an entrepreneur and a startup, I think what is really underneath that fear is often this deep sense of anxiety. I would describe it as being the skinny kid in a wrestling ring; in a college wrestling match. And what happens with this anxiety is too scary to admit to others and you start feeling very small in it.

And I would think about it this way. This would be a good a time as any to recommend a book to you called “Emotional Equations,” but Chip Conley some of you will know that work. He’s an entrepreneur himself. He actually draws from Dante, believe it or not, and his work on the “seven deadly sins in the inferno.” But he began to put some equation to some of these emotions we may be experiencing and he thinks about anxiety this way. He says, “Its uncertainty times powerlessness so when I think about that in my own life. I think about it, this way. It’s what I don’t know, multiplied by what I can’t control. And that’s not a sum game. It’s a multiplication game because the more you don’t know, and the more you can’t control. The more you feel this complex emotion of anxiety and something that’s been helpful for me and others, is I have kinda’ walk through this in my own startup story is this little chart here.

It’s just taking out a simple piece of paper, apparently these slides will be posted but it’s asking on the left hand column, what is it, that I know? What is it that I don’t know?  What is it that I can influence? And what is it that I cannot control? Just putting words on page there. As you deal with this complex emotion, it’s called anxiety. It’s crucial. The second one I want to look at the is the 4, is sadness. So if you’ve seen “Inside Out,” you hear this character say, “I’m too sad to walk, just give me a few hours.” Underneath that sadness, I think is something much more complex, is disappointment. There was an interesting in psychological study done in the 1990s where they studied people’s engagement with the 13 most unpleasant emotions. And by a factor by 2 disappointment reign supreme the most unpleasurable emotion to experience and of course it wouldn’t surprise us that we score highest in disappointment in the lieu of middle age or if you’re an entrepreneur, your multiplied by dog years probably in your year 2 or year 3 when it comes to your startup.

And you know, when I think about disappointment, I think about an equation for this way, this is the way I would write it. It’s what I hope to accomplish minus what I did accomplished.  And the gap there is disappointment.  So it’s the unicorn you want to be and the Shetland pony that you feel that you are and the disappointment that you have to process somehow along the way.  And what I found helpful for myself and other entrepreneurs that I have exposure to, is putting this chart on this piece of paper and asking myself on the left. What pleasures do I feel that I demand? And then on the right, for what am I thankful? Because believe it or not I think disappointment is actually connected to our sense of gratification or gratitude. And when I sort of unpack all the pleasures that I might not experience as attainable on one side and then I sort of, if I may, proverbial count my blessings on the other side? I really began to see that disappointment is not always is as severe as I might have thought that it was.  The third thing I’d like to point to look at emotionally speaking, is anger. You’ll remember this Lewis Black in Inside Out, “Congratulations, San Francisco, you find a way to ruin pizza,” and that was the broccoli pizza, if you may recall.

I think if we get underneath anger, this may be the hard one for you. It’s certainly is for me. I think we might find a more complex emotion in its envy. So, in agreed times this is where the expression arose “you are green with envy” which is to suggest you are actually over producing bile or in our vernacular, you are full of shit, okay? To be green with envy is essentially to live out of this equation, is to find your rival, is to watch your rival succeeding at what you want to succeed in. And watching that happen is usually when envy begins to percolate and breed multiple eye in our heart.

Bertrand Russell said it this way, he said, “If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, but Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander and Alexander, I dare say envied Hercules, who never existed.” And what I found helpful and this is a little bit of a fault experiment is kinda’ playing the 0 sum game where we kinda’ work against the assumption that life is not a 0 sum. And we start imagining that rival who has succeeded in the way that we wanted to succeed receiving this great reward or award for the fruit of his or her labor. And you watch her in your mind’s eye come up to the podium, accept the award and then you begin to feel that he or she may be feel experiencing in that moment, deep fulfillment, deep satisfaction, joy and happiness. And if you allow yourself to go there with your rival believe it or not, it actually engenders a degree of empathy for that person because you begin to say, “Oh yeah, I could see how they may feel in life the way that I feel in life.”

So lastly, Joy. I’m actually going to work backwards or antithetically joy in Inside Out says, “Aren’t we happy?” “Who’s having fun?” Underneath it, I’m actually going to put the word, workaholism because if you’re like me and a lot of us in the bay area live like this, we tend to seek to attach our life’s greatest pleasure or joy to the work that we’re doing. Here’s some questions to think about and this gets posted later. Do you often neglect family, friends, or your health and other important elements of your life because you get so wrapped up in your work? If you were to create a pie chart of your sense of your esteem and confidence as a person, what percentages of that pie will come through your work as suppose to the rest of your life?

Couple more, at social gathering with non work related people, what percentages of your time do you end up talking about work? Or are you good at making excuses for why you have to work so hard? I bring this thing up primarily because I would like to see you get in a habit of routinely emptying out your emotional jug, I’ve heard it said. I have a commute on my bike from my workplace to our home and the end of the commute is a hill and I’ll often stop at the bottom of the hill, get off my bike, push up the hill because I am tired but also to do the exercise of saying, “you know, what is it today that’s making me angry? What is it today that I’ve been afraid of? What am I feeling sad about? What am I feeling joy over?” To get a bit more complex, “Where am I finding deep disappointment?” “What’s making me really anxious?” I am watching my time so in my last couple moments, let me say the real reason I’m giving this talk to you is I have an ulterior motive.

And the ulterior motive is to proselytize you. No, no, it’s not that at all. The ulterior motive is, I live in the bay area and you live in the bay area, most of you and I am deeply convinced that if you’re a better person that you will create a healthier culture in your startup and in your organization and through that you’ll actually seed common good from the very beginning. And so as you think about being a better person, I think you need to pay attention to your emotions as a thermostat that is forever giving you a reed on how you’re doing? How you’re doing in relationship to yourself? How you’re doing in relationship to your family, your friends, co-workers and I think that emotional jug thing may need to be for you if a daily process, a weekly process, it’s putting a date on the calendar from 4pm -5pm on a Friday afternoon and doing some journaling.

It’s seeing a therapist or a life coach which was alluded to earlier. I thought, Ryan’s point was well taken. We spend a lot of time developing our management team and our board team but not our personal team. I think if you’re able to do that then secondly, when you build this culture because you as the entrepreneur at least for the first 2 or 3 years, you’re creating the culture of your startup. It is an ecosystem that you created and you were the watershed so there’s either going to be toxicity flowing into it or there’s going to be health flowing into it. That’s going to start with how you are appropriately addressing your emotions but then thoroughly I think for all of us, it will build common good. You’ll be able to seed common good and social health from the very beginning of your startup.

So I conclude with one biblical allusion to this. There is this book in the old testament, it’s the book of Ruth. It’s in the Hebrew scriptures and if you know anything about the story. Ruth would glean from the fields and one of the prescriptions, the laws of the land was that, you needed to leave 10% of the crop on the exterior parts of the field. Leave it there. So when you were gleaning from that field, that 10% was left over to whomever may come and glean: the poor, the widows, the disenfranchise and I feel like as we think about seeding common good in our startup, there’s a lot of ways thinking about leaving that extra 10% for some of you that might be a monetary thing. I just yesterday learned that the organization is mentoring those that have been formally incarcerated and getting them placed into living wage jobs.

Some of you may   be thinking in your staffing structure, “I can give 10% off my staff to that.” Whatever it may be, be a better person so that you can create or help your culture so you can see common good from the beginning. I did that in 17 minutes. I beat my time. Thank you.



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Mitos Suson

I produce Vator Events and enjoy the challenge. I am learning and growing a lot, being involved with Vator and loving every moment of it!

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Bart Garrett

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Bart is the Lead Pastor at Christ Church ( and the founder and now board member of Project Peace (