Start With What You Believe: A Conversation With Justin Foster

Start With What You Believe: A Conversation With Justin Foster

This post is part of our podcast, “Freeality: What It’s Actually Like to Be a Freelancer & How to Succeed as One.” Freeality is a weekly, ongoing series of interviews with experienced freelancers, where we dive deep into the tactics and tools that helped them build a successful independent career. This post has been lightly edited from the interview transcript for brevity and readability. Do you know someone who would make a great candidate for an interview in this series? Let us know by emailing

The guest for this episode is Justin Foster of and Root & River. He's interviewed by Shelby Stephens, co-founder and CEO of Jolly

If you prefer to read instead of listen, the transcript is below, edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

Shelby Stephens (SS): Today we're interviewing Justin Foster, a brand strategist and writer. I've known Justin for a while now. I've worked with Justin myself and really, really appreciate the depth of his thinking—and the way he approaches his work. So, Justin, thank you so much for joining us today.

Justin Foster (JF): Thank you, Shelby.

SS: If it's alright with you, just introduce yourself and tell us a bit about where you are in your career and what brought you here.

JF: Okay. Yeah. So the roots of my career really started as a kid. I grew up on a 60,000 acre cattle ranch in Eastern Oregon, and that's where I learned about entrepreneurship, work ethic, and fending for yourself. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, to the point that I dropped out of college, partially because I was a young father, I had Logan when I was barely 22. Then I ended up in brand strategy, somewhat serendipitously where my career prior to then had been in business-to-business tech sales. In 2003, myself and some other guys from a company decided to start our own marketing consulting firm. I was primarily the Rainmaker, I was the deal closer, I wasn't a strategist. And then through a series of events, we had to let one of our partners go for some of his behaviors. And we were like, how are we going to handle these client sessions? And I was like, I'll do it. And that's where I sort of found my home of my skill. It was a combination of intuition and understanding the sales process and being uneducated in a positive way, in the sense that I had no formula and so that was 18 years ago. The most recent iteration of my career is seven years ago, I met Emily Soccorsy, who is my business partner and co-founder of Root + River and we just celebrated our sixth birthday.

SS: Very cool. And can you tell me what's the balance in terms of work you do on your own and work you do through Root + River?

JF:  I would say that it's 95% Root + River. Unless I'm doing advisory type stuff where it's not really straight up brand coaching. So kind of an advisory role or, on occasion, I will do personal coaching for entrepreneurs as well. As you know, as an entrepreneur, sometimes you are the last person on the priority list of yourself. So I do enjoy, when the opportunity is right and the fit is right, to provide personal coaching for entrepreneurs. But that's a pretty small amount of the work that I do. Most of it is Root + River.

SS: How did you and Emily come to form your business partnership and start that business?

JF: We met at a conference that she was the emcee of a private conference for our behavioral research company. She brought me into her business (she was the head of corporate communications) to do a brand strategy and we just realized we had this chemistry about us. We just thought we saw the world similarly when it came to what the use of branding was and its inherent good rather than it being used as a blunt force instrument or a manipulation tool. And in October of 2014, I had a new client and I asked her, “do you want to do the session with me?” And she said, “sure”. And so we met and had this client session in a damp and mildew smelling conference room at the Quality Inn in grapevine, Texas. The owner of this industrial fan company from Chicago, he was just like this classic Chicago industrial guy, cried. He wanted pictures of Emily's sketch notes. He told us at the end, “I would have paid you 10 times your fee if I would've known how this would have gone.” And then at that point, we were like, well, we got to do something with this. So we have matured and our relationship has grown but I find it remarkable how much stuff that we first thought about branding and marketing and our partnership and all that still is very much what we're doing today. We've gotten better and we've got new systems and we've added a few things here and there, but the essence is still the same from when we first worked on the brand of the company she was working for.

SS: And I know you all approach your work in a very different way, or at least it seems to me, from what most folks think of when they think of branding or brand strategy. Do you mind talking us through that a little bit?

JF: Yeah. So the first principle of this is that you already have a brand. It's inside of you, it's what we call intrinsic branding. It's your soul, your purpose, your spirit, whatever that part of you that said, I'm going to go do this. I'm going to start a business. I'm going to build a company. I use the word “soul,” but anybody can use whatever term you use for that part of you. We tend to, in kind of our Western minds, view that as a separate part of the business. Then people tend to view marketing and branding as external activities, but a brand is how other people experience what you believe. That's what a brand is. So if you don't know who you are and you don't know what you believe in, and you don't know what your standards are and you don't know what your message is to the world, that's all being manifested consciously or unconsciously in the brand experience that people are having with you in your personal brand and with your company.

So we really focus on three things that most branding and marketing people don't really focus on at all. One is your purpose in life: what are you here to do that only you can do? I know another area that we focus on is related to identity. Who are you? What's the core of who you are? The third thing is what's the language, what's the definition? We use a lot of ontological structures, like we get to determine what meaning is. When you know who you are, and you know what your mission is, you get to determine the language that you use to describe your brand. At some point, traditional branding and marketing advice comes into play related to what's your message and who's your audience and how are we going to get the word out and what's the strategy and all that's true. But it’s based off of those three tenants of intrinsic branding.

SS: Yeah. I want to dig into each of those, especially in the context of the folks who listen to this podcast and read the posts that come out of it, who are mostly freelancers. But before I do that, one question; as an entrepreneur, if you're a freelancer or if you're building a business, it can be super tempting to jump to those later stages where you're thinking about how are we going to get the word out there, how are we going to get eyeballs, how are we going to get customers, inquiries, leads, sales, whatever. How do you respond when someone is kind of antsy to get to those later stages without doing this initial work upfront?

JF: Yeah. That's a good question. Our philosophy on this is you brand slow, so you can market fast. If you don't brand at all, then you'll market fast, but a lot of that doesn't work because it's not rooted in anything, it's sometimes referred to as cut flowers. There's no root system so it just wilts and you have to do it again and again, it's really expensive in time, energy, and money. So when you brand slow it’s to stop and pull the vehicle over and do the work so that you don't have to do it again. So when we take a client through a root session,which is our primary experience for developing your brand, the things that we come up with in there, 80% of it's going to stay with you for the life of your business. Or if it's your personal brand for the life of you. Only 20% of it is all that flexible to tactics.

I'll give you a very specific example. When the lockdown happened and the pandemic really kicked into full gear just under a year ago, a number of our clients had to pivot their business models and that was to be expected, but they did not pivot their brand. They use the same message, the same mission, the same belief systems, the same root system. It remained the same and it actually gave them a boost of confidence that in a crisis moment, they were able to be themselves. And as far as I know, every one of our clients has made it through to this day which is a pretty remarkable record.

SS: Interesting. Yeah, it makes a ton of sense. I love the cut flowers metaphor. So most of the folks who listen to this podcast are freelancers, consultants, they're entrepreneurs, but in many cases they’re wanting to build kind of a "business of one," right? They're wanting to build an independent career. So for an entrepreneur like that, let's just go kind of one by one. It can be really daunting to think about my mission. What's my purpose as an individual, when I go out to the world and do my work. What advice do you have to someone who's wanting to tackle that question?

JF: I would start with understanding why it's important. Your mission is like the taproot of your venture, your endeavor. You look at the drive, you take any adventure story, Lewis and Clark or the space program, all of the various exploration—the entrepreneurial spirit as it were, has a taproot, and that taproot is mission. It takes a couple of things to tackle your mission. First is you have to believe that you have one. A lot of people that we work with are like, Oh, I don't really know. I'm not all that special or anything. And it's like, no, that's not true. You’ve got a set of gifts and experiences that nobody else has. So the way to tackle it, I recommend, is that you need a contemplative practice as a foundation. You don't have to do this very long, but you need to learn how to sit quietly and listen in an empty room, even if it's for five minutes. So that could be a meditation practice, it could be a journaling practice, it could just be a sit on the front porch and be. It's very difficult to find your mission if you don't have a contemplative practice. If somebody hires us, we can guide you through that process, but it's so much more difficult if you don't have a contemplative practice. So I wouldn't necessarily rush out and try to figure out your mission if you don't have a contemplative practice. Build your contemplative practice and your mission will come to you. I almost guarantee it.

What’s difficult about that is that entrepreneurs, especially if they've got a family, when carving out a little bit of time for contemporary practice, the left brain and the ego brain is screaming. “You got to get to work,” or “this is time you can spend with your kids.” But if you're a solo entrepreneur, or even if you're in a small partnership, you are the product. This is why it's important to take care of yourself, but you’ve got to take care of your inner world first.

So there's a lot of different ways to tackle that. I'm a big fan of Sam Harris's Waking Up app, which has 10 minute meditations, there's a process called Morning Pages where you journal for five minutes, just free flow, bullet journaling, gratitude journals. The whole point is to go inward and once you're inward, you're in your heart, and then you can start to examine what your mission is. I would say that it's impossible to find your mission when you're up in your head, because your head is like, nobody cares about this stuff. Go back to work.

SS: So what's the opposite of being in your head?

JF: Being in your heart.

SS: Got it. So contemplative practice, I'm in my heart. What am I looking for? If I'm trying to answer this question of what's my purpose, what's my mission, as like this foundational building block to ultimately building an independent career. Am I looking for a statement?

JF: Eventually. What you're looking for is an answer to a question. And the question is, “what am I here to do that only I can do?” That's the question. It’s the dash in between when you were born and when you die. What am I here to do that only I can do. And that's what throws some people off is that you have to suspend this idea that you're not unique. You have to understand that you have something that is unique to you, and it's going to be found in either your gifts or your experiences or a combination of the two.

So that's one question, there's some other inquiry questions, like, what problem do I want to solve in the world? What would I be willing to commit civil disobedience over to defend? What is important to me that other people know about me? What I want my children and loved ones to know that I believe in? Those are all going around to this idea of this understanding that there's a point to your life.

I mean, the opposite of this is ultimately nihilism where life doesn't have any meaning. Unfortunately, in entrepreneur-ism, especially in the hustle and grind culture of entrepreneurism (which is mostly unnecessary, to be honest with you) where you work in the endless hours and burnout and running on Red Bull and that type of stuff. That approach is based on the assumption that if I don't work and don't pour out my blood into this business, then then there's something wrong. I can speak firsthand 18 years of being an entrepreneur on how detrimental that thinking is.

Buddha said everybody should spend 30 minutes a day in nature, unless you're busy, then you should spend an hour. And it's a similar thing here with contemplative stuff and your mission. It's an investment that pays off with compounding interest, but only if you do it. That's why it's a practice, only if you do it, and you have to basically override your analytical brain's chatter that it's unnecessary and you don't have time for it.

SS: Has your purpose or your mission changed since you initially realized this was something you needed to articulate for yourself?

JF: It has evolved, I would say, and sharpened. The language has shifted a little bit, but the core of it hasn't changed. Ultimately, no matter what iterations it goes through, my mission is to teach what I learn. Which means that life for me, is an experience of learning and failing and coming back and going, all right, this is what I learned.

So I'm writing an essay today about boundaries, well, that's new for me, so I teach what I learn. And what I hope happens is that people will extract some value from the experiences that I had related to whatever topic. Root + River, we've had the same mission and it remains to this day and it’s very important to us, which is to inspire leaders to go inward. So you have your personal mission and if you're part of a team, then you have the team mission and they should be aligned. If they're misaligned, then you might have the wrong team or not know clearly what your personal mission is. But that [mission] hasn't shifted at all in the last five plus years.

SS: I don’t want to spend a ton of time on this, but you mentioned a second ago, this idea of kind of hustle and grind culture, that a lot of entrepreneurs and freelancers find themselves caught up in needing to work more and more hours.

A writer and thinker named Joe Edelman, who I respect a lot and has become kind of a mentor to me in a way, we were chatting recently and he brought up this notion of making a deal with the universe. And I'm just curious to get your reaction to this idea. Basically, he was saying, look, when you go out to do something to do some work or create something, it might be helpful to think about it as you kind of making a deal with the universe, where you're willing to do so much if then the universe does a little bit back. And then you're willing to do a little bit more if the universe does a little bit more. But if you find yourself in this kind of one sided deal where you're doing all the work and the universe doesn't seem to be doing anything else or bringing anything else back to you, then maybe that's a bad sign. I'm curious what your reaction to that is?

JF: Yeah, I think I agree with that. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, about the balance or finding the harmony between grace and effort. Grace being the universe, it's the mystical side of life that is often overlooked in entrepreneurism. Entrepreneurism is an art that is supported by science and therefore if it's an art, it has a mystical side to it that is often relegated to unimportance when it's extremely important, it's half of the equation of being an entrepreneur. The other half is your own effort. And a lot of that is about efficiency and productivity and energy management, way less about time management than it is about energy management.

I think there are times when you do have to hustle and grind. And all it should do is reduce the amount of time you have on self-care or contemplative practice. It may be instead of doing a 30 minute workout, you do a 15 minute workout, maybe instead of doing a 20 minute meditation, you do a 5 minute or 1 minute meditation. And that allows it to be flexible because what will happen, is if you are in all effort mode you will be in fight, flight, or freeze. Your nervous system will be fired and you will miss the mystical stuff. You will miss the opportunities. You'll miss something because you're so linear and literal and working the plan that you've left no room for flexibility or nuance or possibility. And some of this is epigeneology. It's related to how all of us in this country are immigrants with the exception, obviously, of indigenous people, but everybody else we’re immigrants. We have that pioneer immigrant blood, which is, I'm just going to work my ass off and that's going to be enough. And certainly you need to work your ass off, but you also need to make room for the mystery, make room for the mystical, for grace, for the universe to have your back a little bit.

SS:  I love that. So we're deep in the heart. We are exploring this question of what is my purpose, trying to articulate a mission. Meanwhile, there's this other thing that you called identity. Who are you? Can you tease those apart for us and talk about the latter a little bit about how we can explore that?

JF: Yeah. So your identity is your core self. So I'm using Jungian, Carl Jung based psychotherapeutic terms, which there's a core self. Thomas Moore and other more meta psychotherapists, all kind of call it different things. But your core self is your identity and what happens with really every person, and it's just a matter of deconstruction, is in order to make it in the world you take on basically a hologram, a persona of what you think you need to be in order to be accepted, and successful, to please your parents, to get good grades, get a good job, attract a good partner, all that stuff. And the issue is that none of it's actually you. It's a construct, not necessarily in a bad way, but this is especially true for trauma survivors. If you're a trauma survivor, your mind will produce a series of parts that protect your core self from trauma.

So when, when we talk about identity, it comes in two fronts. One is your identity as a leader, as a human being, who are you? Because if you know who you are, if you know your identity and you're secure in your identity, you'll make clearer decisions. You'll be more confident. You'll be more calm. You'll be more creative. You'll have more compassion. You'll have all of these benefits that only come from the core self that do not exist in the false self or the constructed self.

In a company, even if it's a small two person firm or a 2000 person company, there is also an identity of the business, which is what is the soul of our business, which is the collective culture, the collective consciousness of everyone involved. So when we're doing a root session for a bigger company, we are looking at core values as a collective and extracting the most important ones as a way to say, okay, this is who we are. In essence it's the collective core self. That's what a brand's identity is or corporation's identity is. We call it things like “culture” or “spirit” or something like that, but ultimately that's what it is. It's the collective core selves of everybody in the business.

When an entrepreneur is separate from their core self, they end up making very short-term decisions. They trust their gut when they shouldn't, because the gut isn't an accurate thing when you're in your irrational mind (which is what you are when you're not in your core self). Arrogance kicks in, despair kicks in, you become very binary and dualistic, black, white, good, bad. I think this is why you see a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with the reputation of being assholes, because sometimes they are. Which is a symptom of not being connected to your core self. And it's a survival strategy to do that because your brain is processing being an entrepreneur as a traumatic event. So if you're a trauma survivor and now you're an entrepreneur, your brain is processing that as a traumatic event, which means that it's very much warping the lens of what's real and true.

SS: So as a business of one, as a freelancer or consultant, someone building an independent career, this is ultimately going to be a single thing, right? This is not a scenario where you might have a different identity associated with your work. Is that correct?

JF: That is correct. You have a different way that people experience it, but you are you. Compartmentalization is a survival tool leftover from being on the low end of Maslow's hierarchy where you're trying not to die. But we carry those behaviors with us into the various levels of Maslow's hierarchy. And in the middle, we primarily use survival mechanisms to hold on to safety and relationships and things like that. But compartmentalization is an illusion. You are just you and I very much believe that whatever you are and wherever you're at in your own relationship with yourself is going to show up in the brand experience. If you're a solo brand, then there's a direct correlation to that. We give it words like, well, they had weird energy or the energy was off, we just didn't vibe. And sometimes that's personality, but a lot of it is that they haven't done the work to figure out who they are. And therefore there's a ring of inauthenticity, a ring of being calculating in how you experience someone that has created a separate persona for the business version of themselves that's distinctly different than who they really are. Now, there is some nuance here, there's a difference between public and private, but there shouldn't be a work version and a home version and a social version because that eventually leads to a type of cognitive dissonance, which is fancy talk for losing your mind.

SS: Right. So, similar question to what I asked earlier about mission is if exploring this question of core self, or who am I, identity? What am I looking for?

JF: That's a difficult question to answer because it's different for every person. So it's reverse engineering more than anything. It is examining what you assume to be true. What you believe to be true and testing it. One of the prompts is, what have I always known to be true? Or what is a belief that others taught me?

Well, you can unravel this then, if you start to examine your beliefs and your narratives and your biases and all that, and you start to realize, well, actually I don't believe that. Oh, that turned out not to be true. Well, if that one wasn't true, how many others aren't true? It sounds negative, but it's the use of reverse engineering to get to the core self. It's not so much what you're looking for. It's what you're eliminating.

SS: Does this usually land in like an identity statement of some sort?

JF: No, it usually lands as a set of core values. That's usually what people come up with. And those core values become boundaries then, or standards, how they behave in the world and how they expect other people to behave and how they treat each other. When you know your core self, when you can peel back all the stuff that isn't actually who you are. It's terrifying, but it's also freeing because one of the things that's in your core self that does not exist in your constructed self is confidence. The constructed self gets confidence in data or somebody telling them they're doing a good job or validation. When you meet somebody that's like a Navy seal or a bull rider, or like a surgeon or they do martial arts or they've done a lot of inner work to find out who they are, they have a quiet unshakeable confidence about them.

SS: Yeah, 100%. So for an entrepreneur who has done this foundational work of understanding their mission and purpose, understanding their identity and being able to articulate that in the form of values. What then becomes possible that wasn't possible before. What unlocks for that person?

JF: Creativity and innovation. When you do this work, you will come up with ideas that you would never arrive at without it. Entrepreneurs are famous for the use of substances and plant medicine to try to have these epiphanies about things. And that's fine. I don't judge anybody that does that, but  that you are tuned in to the creative muse on a very regular basis is a tremendous advantage.

The second one is you will know what to talk about because you're talking about your mission of why you're doing this. Simon Sinek’s classic, “start with why.” You'll know how to talk about it, and you'll be excited about it to talk about it. Excitement is contagious.

And the third thing that will happen is it will transform your relationship with others. One of the things that entrepreneurs get in trouble with is they tend to view their employees and customers in particular, as abstracts ,as objects, as means to an end. And when you are in your core self, and you know what your mission is, you see the soul, not the role. You see, wow, I'm having an impact on these people's lives. And it's an enormous privilege at this point, which you get into sort of the servant leadership stuff. So the short version of that is it changes how you see people. Largely because life is a mirror. Because when you know your core self and your mission, you've changed how you see yourself. That alone lends to all kinds of things related to building trust and  building loyalty in a positive way. Other things that are the natural byproduct of someone that is treating other people with respect and dignity.

SS: I love that. That's really beautiful stuff. I asked a question similar to this earlier, but I want to ask again. For a lot of freelancers and entrepreneurs setting out one thing that really characterizes folks like this is courage. It's incredibly daunting to launch out in an independent career. It often involves quitting a job, learning how to do a whole lot of things you haven't done before. And I can see how doing this foundational work could create some grounding that I think would be really helpful to a lot of folks. What else do you think is really helpful for folks to do in addition to or beyond this type of work that we've been talking about?

JF: I think one of the areas and you sort of embody a lot of it, you and Zach both, is there needs to be a practice of sharing your ideas with the world. We would generally call it “thought leadership,” but it's more “idea leadership” or “philosophy leadership” than it is “thought leadership.” And getting good at writing, whether it's on your own blog or on LinkedIn or medium or whatever you're doing, and get great at having conversations around these ideas is a brand building tool. It's a brand building resource. I think that another’s area, it’s developing essentially a writing practice or a communication practice in some way. Otherwise, it's all sterile and it's either not done at all or it's sterile or it's pitchy. The content that you produce when you do this inner work, the outer story you tell the world is suddenly interesting. If you don't do the inner work, the outer story might be interesting if you have a super cool, unique product, but the most interesting part of what you're doing is you and your people. It's not the product, not the platform. It's not the business model. It's you.

SS: So I want to think back about five years ago to when you started Root + River, and you're clearly a very deep thinker, very introspective, and you share your ideas in your writing on the web, on medium, your email newsletter. What do you know now that you didn't know then that you wish you had?

JF: Another great question. Humility. I'm a lot more humble and a lot more of a beginner's mind. I’m a lot more comfortable talking about my failures than my successes now. And that comes from confidence. By the way my confidence has increased because I've worked on my core self and it allows me to be humble, which is to be aware that I got here because of grace and great friends, and that it wasn't all just dumb luck or something like that, I worked on it.

Creativity as a practice. Back then five years ago, I viewed creativity as either a natural gift, like being athletic, or a business activity. Like, well, we need to get creative with how we're going to get the word out as opposed to creativity as a practice, which is more of a spiritual discipline.

I know a lot more about my heart than I did five years ago, like 10,000 times more about my heart. And trusting it as the primary leader, and I do believe this is the way we’re actually set up and we just have it kind of backwards in society. Which is the heart is intended to lead and the mind is intended to support. And we know that because the mind really isn't good at anything other than recall and logistics. All the awesome stuff comes from the heart.

So those are some areas, but it's every day it's iterative, it's art. It is art. It reminds me of Van Gogh, he said, “I've never finished a painting. I just stopped painting it.” So there's a sense of never done, but still satisfied. I'm always growing, but also growing down into my root system, but also up into the world. But I would say those three things are the biggest jumps for me. Humility, creativity, and empathy, are much more important, much more robust, than they were five years ago.

SS: For the listeners, my co-founder Zach and I, at Jolly, worked with Justin for a period of several months to dig into our purpose both as individuals and as a company. One of the things that came out of that work was what Justin calls this root belief, that “true freedom means creating your own rules”. And I want to reflect that back to you, Justin. And now that it's been a while since we developed that and just ask, what does that mean to you?

JF: When I hear something like that, I mean, I have a little bit of the curse of knowledge because I was in the room when we came up with it. But if I step back and look at it from a not attached way.  The point of being an entrepreneur is to purchase your own freedom and the point of being free is to make your own rules wherever you can. Now, certainly there are rules within society related to compliance and taxes and don't be an asshole, things like that. It's sort of like eff the formula, is another way to look at that—Which is just because somebody else did it a certain way, you know, “here's the eight steps to building your own online business,” and it's all super formulaic and it’s presenting entrepreneurism as a recipe book to follow. And if you don't follow it, you're going to fail. When really entrepreneurism, because it's spiritual and art in its nature, is a book of mystery. It's not a recipe book, it’s a book of mystery. And the thing about mystery is you're going to make it up as you go. You're going to make up a lot of the rules, the way you do things. Like if you've set it up where it's important to you to not do work at a certain time of the day or go for a walk or spend time with loved ones or whatever it is, it is something I even shared with a friend this morning, which is being an entrepreneur is a system to have the life that you want. But the system works for you, you don't work for it. I mean, that's why you've got out of the W2 job cause you were working for somebody else. Well, if you just transfer that to working for your own system that you created, then are you really free? Maybe more free, but are you really free if you're not sort of making up the rules as you go.

SS: Yeah. This idea of purchasing your freedom or purchasing the ability to create your own rules or purchasing the life that you want. One of the things that's so interesting about doing all this foundational work is if you don't do that, if you don't understand your mission and your identity, then you can't really define the life that you want. In a sense, you're kind of directionless, right?

JF: Correct. You're reactive. At a biological level, you're reactive. You're in left brain fight, flight or freeze, which means you're in a defensive posture. So even your offense that you're in is defensive in its nature. You miss opportunity, you miss creativity, you miss the magic. I think what you said there is a pull quote that everybody should consider. It’s like if you don't do those inner things, you don't know what kind of life you want. I think that was a very profound statement on your part.

SS: Well, it started with you. Before we wind up, I know that you read a lot, you obviously write a lot, and I'll make sure that we include some notes to your writing. So I want to ask if there's anything that you want to suggest or plug here to the readers and listeners, but in the off chance that you don't bring it up, I would like specifically to ask you about the substack membership that you launched that I recently signed up for and have really been enjoying. Would you mind describing that for us?

JF: Yeah. So on the brand side, you can go to I highly recommend signing up for our email list, we produce really good non pitchy content. We also have a book out on Amazon, uh, called Rooting Up: Essays on Modern Branding by myself and Emily. And those are both two resources to start. We were pretty generous with how we share our ideas with the world. So to your question about substack, I launched (after months of avoiding doing it because I was insecure about it) a subscription model for my personal brand called The Third Way. And The Third Way is a way for me to produce something that's very important to me, which is to promote non-dualism and entrepreneurship and leadership. To promote the idea that not everything is binary and that a lot of stuff that's presented as binary is presented as binary because it benefits someone else, not necessarily yourself. Back to making your own rules. It's $8 a month and there's four essays, one on one every Monday, and tools, office hours, recordings and a mastermind, which some of this stuff is launching in February, but it's all around this conversation of embracing what I also called mystical leadership. Which is that half of the entrepreneurial experience, maybe more is unknown. And instead of fighting the unknown and trying to get everything in a spreadsheet, embrace the unknown because that's what explorers and adventurers do, that's what inventors do. But it's basically impossible to embrace the unknown with a dualistic lens. It's too scary. It's too rigid. And so it's a philosophy combined with a sort of practical application that if you balance out your soul and your practical side, you're going to have a different experience as an entrepreneur and therefore how other people experience you will be different as well.

SS: Yeah. I love that. Well, I've been loving the content so far. So thank you for doing that. Well I think that's all we have time for today, although I'd like to keep talking for the rest of the afternoon, but let's wind up for today. Maybe we'll have you back again at some point. Justin as always, it's an absolute pleasure to speak with you. Thank you so much for sharing with our listeners.

JF: You bet. Thank you for thank you for the great conversation and the great questions.