Peter McGraw continues his conversation with two friends, Darwyn Metzger and Chester See.
Listen to Episode #96 here
I Love You Man – Part 2
Welcome back to the second part of a conversation with Chester See and Darwyn Metzger. If you want more of this conversation and are a member of the private Solo community, check out the bonus material in which we discuss alcohol. You can apply to be part of the Solo community at PeterMcGraw.org/solo.
Finally, I know that some of you don’t review things. To be honest, I rarely do. If you think the show will be helpful to your fellow singles, please rate and review the show on whatever platform you use. The two most important being iTunes and Amazon. Reviews help others discover the show. Thank you for that. I hope you enjoy part two of this wonderful conversation. Let’s get started.
We’ve spent a lot of time on the foundational stuff. Let’s talk about the flourishing side of things. I’m eager to talk to both of you because you’re flourishing. There are three ways that you can flourish according to this model. The first one is through purpose. We know this because the pursuit of meaning or achievement is often top of mind when it comes to people who are thriving and are living remarkable lives. The way I think of this is, “Are you doing something bigger than yourself that helps others?” That’s the pursuit of meaning.
The work that Darwyn does with miracle messages, for example, is a meaningful endeavor in his life. Achievement is to do something bigger than yourself but do it for the self. That could be, “I’m going to get a PhD and MBA. I’m going to build a business. I’m going to win gold medals.” Under purpose, meaning or achievement, and they could go hand in hand.
For example, this is a controversial thing but you could build a business that makes you fabulously wealthy but also makes the world a better place. That’s the first one. The second one is not about outcomes, which purpose is but rather about the process. This is what I would call engagement. A pursuit of flow, solving problems, and creative endeavors. When you, Chester, write music or working on a screenplay, you’re engaged in a creative process and it can light you up. It can create this flow state, even if you never put the music on Spotify or never sell the screenplay. You do it because it compels you to do this.
The last one is, and this may seem a little bit counterintuitive but the research bears it out, the pursuit of positive emotions. We are living lives that are delightful, filled with laughs, perhaps orgasms, good food, good company, the goodness of life. That could be amusement, pride, joy and so on. We know that positive emotions help us flourish because they fuel our immune systems and they help us with creativity. They help us be better people in that sense.
What I like about this is there’s no one remarkable life. There are remarkable lives. It’s a matter of it matching up. The other one is, this also is fluid. What made me flourish at age 27, it was an achievement. It was about getting a PhD and about playing a sport at an incredibly high level. That has now turned more into purpose, for example, with the Solo project.
It can change. Someone can have kids, meaning it crowds out almost everything else, then they become an empty nester and they decide they’re going to go with their partner and travel the world, go to Tuscany, and eat great food. Suddenly, they’re leaning into the positive emotions. What I’m looking for from you folks are your reactions to these ideas. I’m also curious how do you see yourself fitting with these different paths to flourishing.
In talking to a lot of my friends about what it is that they find that provides them with purpose. For one, I don’t think that you necessarily need to know what your purpose is. Sometimes, you don’t.
According to this model, you don’t even need purpose necessarily. That’s just one of the ways to do it, although it’s a common one.
The first three that you listed for me, I get fulfilled with one thing, which is the songwriting part of it. There’s a lot of songs that I’ve written that connect with people in a way. I’ll get messages every single day on a few different songs where it’s bringing them comfort. I do have the sensation and feeling that is for others. At the same time, I’m feeling fulfilled in achievement because it gives me a sensation of success.
You made something great.
It’s a part of the creative process. I feel like I can tap into a lot of those as a musician that is writing songs for whatever reason, ended up connecting with a large group of people.
Clearly, when you’re working on a song, you become immersed. You have this what we call flow state. Time melts away and so on. When you’re working on a song, do you know it’s going to hit? Do you know going to be meaningful? Is it something you get to discover later?
What I realized is that it’s always the songs that I’m writing that are for me, so it’s the songs that I’m writing authentically for me that ends up being the one that relates the most for other people. We can sniff through and we know the difference. We know authenticity. If I were to sit down and I’m like, “I want to write a song that says this,” for whatever reason. “I want to write a love song now.” That’s different than an intention of saying, “I’ve got to write a song about this girl because it’s killing me. I wish I could say these words to her. How do I convey this to her with this elevated language that is music?”
When I do that with that true intention, that’s when that song ends up being more relatable. The song that I wrote that is connecting with a lot of people was when I realized I wanted to write a song for my own funeral. If I were going to pass away, after I’m gone, I can’t write the song anymore so I better write it now. I was writing a song that was for my own funeral from that perspective. At this stage, I imagine it has been played at hundreds of funerals.
What’s the name of the song?
It’s powerful. I hope you insert a little excerpt from the song right here because it’s a magical song. It’s a gift to people who are going through this rough time. You’ll get a sense when you listen to it that you could imagine this helping people process and mourn death in a powerful way.
“I’ve lived without reason and I’ve loved in vain. But then I met you and I knew that this world had plans for your name. So I’ll bend my knee, amazed at your grace. And I promise if death tries to take you, that I’ll take your place. Oh, Till the mountains all crumble, till the rains never fall, I will be yours, I’ll be yours through it all. Till the sun never rises and the moon disappears, I will still love you even when I’m not here. Yes, I will still love you even when I’m not here.”
The first thing you had mentioned is doing something.
Bigger than yourself for others or bigger than yourself for yourself.
There is a part of me that doesn’t feel like that completely fills that. I’m meeting up with Seth, who is the Founder of Thirst Project, which is an organization that builds wells in parts of the world where they don’t have access to clean drinking water. I was attaching myself to that a few years back and trying to build something around that.
It’s this thing that I know I’ve dropped the ball on. There is something about a more direct line of knowing my actions with intention are directly helping people. That fulfills more so than me writing something for myself. A beneficial outcome is I see that there is a response from others, whether it’s brought them comfort. There’s a different feeling I have for those two things.
I do feel like I’m lacking in that sense. I am living a more remarkable life when I’m balancing these things a little bit better. That happens when I am attached to that. Doing something like helping build wells in parts of the world where they don’t have access to clean drinking water, I don’t know how to describe the feeling. There’s something about knowing that is there. It’s almost a cop-out sometimes to say, “Look at the response on these songs. It’s helping people.”
Why would you say it’s a cop-out?
It’s not attached to the intention. There is something about doing something with intention and knowing that the outcome of the intention is directly going to affect people in a meaningful way. It doesn’t have to be building wells. It could even be doing something for somebody that day. One person buying a meal for someone that needed it or volunteering and spending some time doing some volunteer work. For me, that’s extremely important.
I’m going to do something and my actions are directly linked to an outcome that I can see is making a positive outcome. As we brought up the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, the reason I attach myself to the wells is that things get complicated as soon as we start saying, “I’m making the world a better place or I’m helping the world or I’m doing something for others.” If we get beyond that lower realm, it gets complicated fast. I don’t know necessarily if my actions are making the world a better place if I’m building a school. It becomes complex.
Are you afraid like, “Am I indoctrinating them? Am I switching?”
I don’t know.
Everybody needs clean water.
Everybody needs food, water and shelter.
There’s no need for somebody to die from dysentery. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve looked at this, we get tricked a lot of times. We think we’re doing something positive for the world. Once it’s too big and it’s too complex, at least for myself, in the past, I have had a tendency to pat myself on the back because I don’t need money to do a charity or something.
I have no idea where the money went. I don’t even know how much money is going toward the logistics of it. “Are the employees are getting paid? What’s happening? What’s the actual outcome of that?” That’s the way to turn my head and not truly be connected to my actions as I try to do something that benefits others.
Before we get into yours, Darwyn, I want to ask you a question about what Chester said from your perspective. It sounds to me, Chester, that you’re saying that you may write a song that creates meaning or you might help build a well that creates meaning, and it seems to me that you’re seeing those are slightly different. Darwyn, do you think of them as different?
Yes. Version one is helping people in the abstract, which is his creative piece of art that is in scalable level might help people deal in an abstract way with their life and improve their life. Category two is he’s helping people in a specific, objective, tactile, and concrete way. “You didn’t have clean water before. Now you have clean water.”
What I hear listening to Chester is where he feels often most fulfilled in serving a mission is where whatever work he has done, it’s with that person at the moment and he gets to see the immediate reaction and benefit from his volunteering or his philanthropy. This makes a lot of sense. I don’t split everything up along those same categories. Help is help.
Chester’s point about when you go above the bottom rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy, I agree that it can become sticky. When I think back about most of my volunteer work, it definitely is with that bottom tier except for relationships. Not only a big part of my work with Miracle Messages, but I also mentor with Big Brother Big Sister.
In both of these examples, my job is to build connections. I’m not exactly sure where the hierarchy connection is but I don’t ever do it from the stance of, “I need to change them.” It’s like, “I will accept you how you are. You’re going to get to learn who I am. If you see something in my life that interests you and you want help to try to figure out how you could participate in that way in your old life, I’m happy to do that. I have no problem with you being exactly who you are now.”
It’s a coincidence that both of you have a big am with regard to your flourishing, I’m glad you do because that we need examples of people who do this. I’ll be honest, the part of my flourishing is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the early part of my life, I was just in the foundation. I was struggling to take care of myself, I couldn’t even think beyond that.
When I did, it still was self-focused. It was achievement-focused. It’s helpful because a lot of times, the work that people do, the charity work that they do, the good people don’t advertise it. They don’t talk about it and yet, we need to hear that folks are involved in these kinds of things because it can be inspirational.
I’ve always been torn by that. You see people post where they are recording themselves giving somebody money on the tourists. They’re total clowns and they’re monetizing it. At the end of the day, as I’m analyzing it, the true outcome is if it helps other people reanalyze their own like, “Are they getting back?” It’s probably better that it is shown. The fact that I ask this weird and icky feeling is because we can see that it’s not genuine.
The utilitarian in me says, “That was a net positive experience.” The Kantian version of me says, “It’s cringiness.”
We’re on the exact same page. I’ve always struggled with that. One of my favorite charities that I always try to join every three months and it doesn’t take a few hours is called The Compton Initiative. I drive down to Compton and they tell me what to do for 5, 6 hours or whatever. A lot of it is painting murals or cleaning up garbage or doing everything. It’s all set up. It’s set up so easily. It’s great. I’ve gone there and I’ve met people that have said, “I’m here because I saw your post about this.” I’ve had people and friends that reached out to me and go, “What is that thing you’re doing? Please let me know. I would like to go next time.” Before I post, I always have this feeling, “Am I that douchebag?”
If you have the feeling, you’re not.
You have self-awareness.
If you have the twinge, you’re not.
If you’re excited, you can’t wait to post.
“This is going to get a ton of likes.”
“How many comments am I going to get?”
There’s a spectrum there. You’re not wrong. That is something I’ve always struggled with.
That’s fair to say. For you, Darwyn, how do you flourish?
For me, it starts with the process and my daily work around the flow. I have a lot of freedom and autonomy. Some of the things that I’m going to mention, I understand many people are not going to be able to set their day like this because they have commitments like children or a traditional 9:00 to 5:00. I start my day by waking up when I feel fully rested. Not to an alarm, not to a schedule. I’ve scheduled my day so that all of my meetings or things that have to be done at a certain time are going to happen well after that moment.
Most of my day, I get to eat when I’m hungry. If I need additional rest, I can take it. I get great fitness. All of my personal needs are well taken care of because I do subscribe to the model of, “I can’t put my oxygen mask on anyone else until I have it on my mouth first.” For starters, I have a day that completely fulfills my needs. It’s because of that, I have all of this extra emotional and physical bandwidth to take care of other people. In some ways, that can be contributing to other greater missions or to other greater achievements.
If I don’t take care of those needs first, if I don’t feel fully rested, if I don’t feel like I’ve had good food, good fitness or the other things I need to thrive, I want to get in the fetal position and shy away from diving into other projects. It’s because I feel so good, I have more ability to help elevate other people if that’s what the day or week calls for. That’s the first part.
In terms of achievement and mission, I never get caught up in having a specific concrete goal that’s 5 years or 10 years down the road. I just like seeing progress. For my missions, I want to see that I’m getting closer with my A Little. I want to see with my work with Miracle Messages that, as an organization, we are becoming a more important part of the ecosystem of helping reunite families. We can measure that objectively in numbers of families that we’ve reunited or other types of work that we’re doing.
I don’t have this idea of, “I have to do X, Y or Z at a specific time and date. If I didn’t achieve that goal, then my mission work was a failure or my achievements were a failure.” Beyond that, I tend to do interesting things. If that leads to achievement, which it often has, then so be it but I’m not doing it because I’m trying to think of achievement. I don’t need medals. Infamously, my company will not accept any awards. We do not apply for awards and when given the awards, we generally deter.
Your company is called Phantom and it has multiple meanings. It’s almost impossible to figure out what Phantom does. Phantom does not have a publicist and does not do media.
We don’t even have a sales team. We don’t market ourselves. You either know about us or you do not.
Only the cool people know about it.
You didn’t have a website for years. Darwyn labeled something that I had been doing for years called SMonday. A lot of successful people fight what’s called the Sunday Scaries, which is they kickstart their workweek Sunday late afternoon, early evening. They knock out some emails, and take care of some busywork so that Monday morning, you can do the most important work, the creative work there.
During my time in Los Angeles, Darwyn’s have been kind to let me come over for SMonday and hang out in his apartment. It’s half social, half work time when the two of us are there or more. Sometimes there are 3 or 4 people. It’s fun to see how he works because all of the foundational stuff is clear. What Darwyn likes to do, and I hate to out you for this, is he loves to hack things. He’s a professional decoder.
He’s the best of this that I know.
This is not hyperbolic. Darwyn is the most creative person I’ve ever met. Not the smartest but the most creative. It’s not that he’s good at solving problems. He loves solving problems and solving puzzles, and then he uses that knowledge to achieve and help others with any number of things. What lights him up is not the investment he makes or the project that he’s finished. It’s the insights that he’s having.
You have this process to make yourself feel good during the day but then you have this process that pays all these other dividends. It’s the process that lights you up. It’s that engagement side of things. It’s akin to you writing a song. To write a song is to solve 1,000 problems. For you, you have 1,000 problems that you’re solving 1,000 different ways.
A girl isn’t one.
I’ve heard Eminem talk about that he describes his brain as constantly thinking in raps. No matter what the situation is, he starts to think in raps. I bet Chester, in some way, has a similar process where everything he’s doing, he could see the song or the music at that moment. For me, I can’t help but think in terms of marketing, monetization, and decoding. No matter what I’m doing, it’s completely natural. While we’ve had this conversation, I have had 25 separate side conversations with myself about things in your apartment and how I would organize them, ideas I have for Chester, and ideas I have for you for future show.
It’s a little Rain Man-like.
I have one for you for this podcast that popped into my head.
We’ll take care of this after the show.
I was like, “I might send you some mic stands.” That’s the only thought.
They’re cool. I like them.
I was like, “They’re not.”
We have seen this up close where Darwyn notices things that other people won’t notice. What’s nice about it is it’s a blessing, not a curse. It makes your world a better place. I’m sure there are times where you want to shut down a little bit and maybe that’s what cannabis is for. I have a hard time switching off. It’s an amazing skill to have but it’s one that you’ve cultivated and you give yourself space to be able to notice.
If I was trying to cram as many little tasks into my day as possible, there’s no way that I could take enough time to read, listen or think. It’s one of the reasons why I like SMonday because while we are working, we are doing it at a pace where our brain is able to think in a creative manner or not on a deadline. It’s Sunday, the world is essentially closed.
You don’t have to be doing what you’re doing.
There are not twenty people trying to call you at the same time. Sometimes on Monday, you start sending emails and you get two emails to come in for every email that you responded to. That makes it tough to slow down enough to start to see connections. You’re right, the THC does help slow me down eventually because you can’t do this for too long.
At some point, where my day usually ends during the week is I’m at the end of all these little different dots I’m trying to connect. I’ve solved as many as I can and now I need to fall asleep. What happens to me a lot is while I’m sleeping, all the dots that I could not connect while I was consciously awake, my brain starts to go through the process to connect them. I will wake up from dreams all the time. I bet happens to both of you, whether you realize it or not.
I am replaying the same scenario 10 or 20 different times until my mind finds a conclusion that it’s satisfied with, and then I will wake up and that conclusion will come to me. Most people have something like this that happens to them. It’s because I’ve given myself enough space for this process to unfold, it probably happens to me with greater frequency. If you’re trying to pile on to your day and you didn’t give yourself any rhythm, you’re selling yourself short.
We have different worlds. My struggle has been that I don’t have dots that are laid out or T’s to cross.
You have so many dots to connect and so many T’s to cross.
There’s no pressure. There’s no email.
Fair enough. There are pressures in my day that Chester does not have.
Even though you have this freedom, you still have deadlines, meetings and business activities. Chester, your life is more that of the pure artist. You have a studio. If you decide not to go to the studio for the day, does anyone notice?
He’s even more untethered than a standard artist because he’s done so well that he could just mail it in if that’s what he wanted to do, whereas most artists are starving.
There’s studio time. You would think it sounds great but in the last few years, for lack of a better way of describing it, I feel like I’ve been retired. I dive into something artistic and I’ll try to create a goal because I need to. I’ve had moments where I’m calling up friends, “Let’s go to the batting cages.” “Let’s go to Mexico.”
They’re like, “It’s Wednesday at 10:00 AM.”
I’m like, “Okay. All right.”
I’m being facetious here for some people. Do you know what it is that provides that structure?
A relationship. “This is what I need.”
By the way, that’s not the right reason but I would do it.
It was one of the mistakes I’ve made in that past relationship. I made her the center of my time. She was my purpose in my life and I didn’t even do it well. I’m calling myself out on that relationship. There’s blame to go all around. The way this spirit man points this out, I agree. If you put your actual essence or your purpose on the backburner and you make your relationship about them, it’s the wrong move.
That’s not an attractive trait. I get that now. I don’t think I truly understand that in the past. You want someone to be passionate about something. You want someone to be striving to achieve a goal that they’re passionate about. It’s probably overwhelming if somebody is focusing on you as their number one thing. That sounds romantic when you’re fourteen but it’s not the same.
Love is a powerful idea, especially this particular form of love. If you also are in a state in life where you’re untethered, then you put those two together, and then it’s easy for that person to become the focus and it’s easy for it to be a little bit much.
That’s a good topic. That should be its own episode, by the way. There’s a lot to unpack there. The idea on how to deal with that relationship or a relationship.
Especially if you want to maintain some wholeness while with that person, there aren’t good models for relationships in which both people view themselves as whole and complete. It does exist. It’s called friendships but they’re not a good model for romantic relationships. I’ll give you an example of this. I talk about it a lot. This idea of merging is so powerful. You’re supposed to become intertwined. I call it the Bennifercation of a relationship. Not only is it that your lives become intertwined. You live together but your identities, too. You’re not Ben and Jennifer. You’re Bennifer.
What ends up happening for those type fours, for the unconventional folks, people who diverged from the relationship escalator, at best, people respond with curiosity, maybe a tinge of jealousy but most of the time, they judge you negatively. “What do you mean you don’t live with your husband?” The expectation is that you are in mesh with each other. If you don’t do that, at best, you’re a sideshow.
I’ve talked about this on the show. I have two friends and they’re married. Their relationships are healthy and good. They sleep in the same bed. It’s not even like they’re in different beds or different rooms but they use different blankets because one of them is a hot sleeper and one of them is a cool sleeper. One of them, her mother thinks it’s strange that they have different blankets. It’s not even okay that you’re not sharing the same blanket. In some way, that’s a weird indictment of their closeness, their love or whatever.
You think it’d be easy to understand if someone sleeps better when it’s cool.
That’s a sacrifice for the relationship.
Wait until she finds out they wear different underwear.
She could design a half comforter, half sheet thing.
My point is we don’t have good role models. Part because if you live apart together or you sleep in separate rooms, that doesn’t come up at the dinner party. People feel embarrassed and weird about it because it’s unconventional, deviant and strange.
My buddy told me that he sleeps in the other room.
How did you think of that one when he said that?
I’ve heard him snore and I was like, “I get it.” Honestly, at the end of the day, people need to sleep. You can be intimate. I’m a cuddler but if you’re not a cuddler, “Don’t touch me. I need to sleep,” I can totally understand that. I can see that.
“It doesn’t mean I’m not a cuddler. I’m a cuddler up until the moment that I’m going to go to sleep.”
I want the whole time.
My initial reaction if somebody were to tell me they sleep in two different bedrooms is at first, I’m like, “I wonder if everything is okay in their relationship.” What I remind myself is that how many completely unhappy people sleep in the same bed and realized, “That has nothing to do with one another.”
Might they be happier if they slept in different beds?
The weirdest thing about modern society is how hard it is for people to be happy for someone else who is happy in a manner that it’s not how they would feel happy.
We’re always projecting constantly.
Why does it matter so much to us what everyone else is doing if they need privacy?
It’s because we need validation for our interpretation of the way things are. As we walk through this world, I need to know that like, “I’m doing it right.” If I see that you’re doing it differently, I’m going to get a little confused.
We’re too worried about trying to copy one another and then we get mad when we’re not being copied.
There’s a lot of status games out being played. This has been a wonderful conversation. We didn’t get all the way through the poo-poo platter, but I’m going to make one request of the two of you. I’m going to leave this in as a teaser. We’re going to wrap this up and I’m going to do a quick little bit of bonus material for the Solo Slack channel. People can sign up for the community at PeterMcGraw.org/solo. You get access to this little bit of extra information and we are going to talk for a few minutes about alcohol.
That’s a good teaser.
I’m looking at Chester as I say that. With that, Darwyn, Chester, thank you for doing everything that I asked you to do with this, which was to indulge me as I run some ideas by you.
I don’t understand the whole not-wear-pants thing. You ask, we do.
I asked you to be fun and I also asked you to be authentic. I thank you both for how delightful you were but also how vulnerable both of you were.
My pleasure, Pete. Thank you for having us.
- Chester See – YouTube
- Darwyn Metzger
- iTunes – Solo – The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life
- Amazon – Solo – The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life
- Even Though I’m Gone – YouTube
- Thirst Project
- Miracle Messages
- Big Brother Big Sister
- The Compton Initiative
About Chester See
Chester See has been nominated for 6 Streamy Awards with one win for Best Original Song. He has starred on Broadway as Rock Star Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages. He has sold over 2 million downloads of original music without the help of a label, and was one of the first 100 people to gather over a million subscribers on YouTube.
About Darwyn Metzger
A former star of America Now and an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist, Darwyn Metzger is the founder and CEO of Phantom, a digital marketing and social media strategy firm. Darwyn works with Brands, Political campaigns, TV shows, Films & Celebrities including Nike, Trident, DirecTV, AT&T, Fox, and BBC America.
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