Episode 43: Do Differently, Better with José González
Be the good medicine that is needed in the world. Get ready to be blown away by this week's guest, José González. José is an educator, conservationist, artist, and founder of Latino Outdoors. José shares his unique perspective on the word revolution, how to reconnect to nature in our modern world, and why having the courage to express fear and have uncomfortable conversations is the way to create change.
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Lisa: What's going on all you marketing managers and photographers and writers and creative human beings who love to get outside? Welcome to episode 4.6 of Outside by Design.
Iris: Welcome. Thanks for being here.
Lisa: Yeah, it's Lisa and Iris and coming at you live from our office in Whitefish, Montana.
Iris: Today we're really excited because we had a pretty incredible guest. I think when you finished recording with him, you said that he's one of the smartest people you've ever talked to you and I'd say that's probably right.
Lisa: Yeah. I think I could follow this guy around for like a month and just listen to what he has to say and never get bored. He’s very very thoughtful. Our guest this week was José González, and he is awesome.
Iris: He is an educator, conservationist, an artist, and also the founder of Latino Outdoors. And we're really excited to have him on the show. He talks about Revolution and what Revolution means to him and he had some really unique perspectives on the word revolution, as well as using our communication tools for good in the outdoors, designing for experience in the outdoors, and being brave enough to have uncomfortable conversations.
Lisa: We first met José because we were filming an event for the North Face and Camber Outdoors, and he was one of the speakers on the panel and he was amazing. He rocked that panel and so we knew we had to get him on the podcast and I think the conversation is phenomenal.
Iris: Yeah, José did not disappoint. So get ready. It's gonna be a good one.
Lisa: Cool. Well, first of all José, thank you so much for being on Outside by Design. I'm thrilled that you're here. And I'm just so excited to talk to you about who you are and what you do around the context of this word revolution. So, yeah, go ahead and... kind of, the first question we ask everyone is to describe what they're looking at physically and where they are in the world.
José: Oh great question. So saludos, everybody, I am... today I am in Northern California in Sacramento, the capital. I'm in a nice room in Midtown. I have a window that overlooks a garden with a cat outside. It's a sunny day. I got in my morning jog and it was windy. It was sunny. It was a really nice combination of, just, day. And then most immediately in front of me apart from a laptop and some headphones I have some of my favorite books that I use to inspire me around art, illustration, design, meditation, philosophical readings and so forth.
Lisa: Wow. That sounds beautiful. I'm curious, you have your hands in a lot of things. So how do you describe yourself and what you do?
José: Great question. So... how do I describe myself and what I do - they do go hand in hand, but I sometimes have to think about them a little separately so that they don't take up each other’s spaces so to speak. What I mean is, you know, who I am is not necessarily everything that I do and I don't want anything that I do to necessarily be limiting in defining who I am. And so in terms of how I describe myself, the two easiest ways to start which leads to deeper conversation are: I am Mexicano by birth. I am a US citizen through naturalization. I am Latino by social cultural identity. I’m am a Chicano by social political identity and I'm Hispanic by Census count. And I am a conservationist by pursuit. I am an educator by training. Let me rephrase that. I'm a conservationist by practice and I am an educator by training and an artist by pursuit.
And in terms of how I think about holding the multitudes of identity. I went from this question of... you know, being an immigrant into the U.S. And there's this phrase in Spanish, ni aqui ni alla, neither from here nor from there. Right, that the more time you spend in the U.S., you're still not quote unquote American enough, but you're also less Mexican or less Latino, so you don't seem to fit in. So I took that to go from being bicultural to my idea of being ambicultural, which is that, just like you're ambidextrous, you begin to like use both cultures in a positive and informative way, to what I now described as kind of a Quantum identity. That I can hold all of those pieces of who I am, but understand that what’s gonna collapse is the experience that gets shown in the experience of my identity will determine on the interaction of where I am and who I'm having it with. But it doesn't limit, like, who I get to be and I don't have to prove that I have to be everything at that interaction.
And so the great thing about how that layers into what I do is I get excited about the overlapping fields of education, art, and conservation. And conservation broadly, you know, like I use that broadly defined to include the nature movement, outdoor industry, outdoor Environmental Education, general environmentalism, but then digging deeper into looking at all other ways of knowing and relation to the land. So with that I get to do equity and inclusion trainings, I get to partake in my own writing and artistic practice, I get to do pedagogy and curriculum training, especially around outdoor science, I get to do nonprofit, kind of, support based on my learning my own learning of trying to get Latino Outdoors off the ground. I get to do speaking engagements, and a mix of other kinds of fun stuff and that also includes science communication.
Lisa: Wow, so you have this super interesting dynamic of a very emotional connection to everything that you're doing and then kind of... how it fits in the world at large and really big perspective. Where do you think that comes from?
José: Good question. I... You know, there's a sense of… and I use the term evolution broadly, in that fundamentally, I think of two things right? Like, when I think about being able to interact with others, like, I try to ground myself in the simplest words that have a lot of power. But then I look ahead of those, unfold and unpack, and what they look like as practices, right, at what they look like as doings for the day. And what I say that is, I think of words like compassion and empathy. We use those a lot. But then I have to think about, what does that look like to me to be able to, like, do that and be that, embody that? Because it's easy to say, but all it takes... it's like a frustrating moment on the freeway. Right? All it takes is like a sour interaction with another person and it's like, you quickly are challenged by that. And if you don't hold that practice you lose it. So I say that because I know that I had the benefit of being born and growing up in Mexico and all these components about just being outdoors, having a family that cared for me, and like a lot of the things that we think about culture and cultural relevance were just around me. But I didn't really have an awareness of them. And it wasn't until migrating to the US that I began to experience some of these reflection moments that made me look back and say, what have I been blessed with? And the great thing is, I had many things that I could reflect back on and less trauma that I had to unpack. But then because of my Natural Curiosity and then just wanting to know so to speak, I had to transform that from wanting to know to simply experiencing and being which... that came through my spiritual practice. And I think that has just allowed me to really expand the way in which I, not just think about, but see and kind of experience the world as a grounding piece, but also understanding the daily realities and practices of being human in a modern, capitalist, consumerist, materialistic world.
Lisa: Wow, I think that I could talk to you all day. All the things.
José: Yeah, all the things.
Lisa: All the things at once. And on the podcast we're doing this word of the month thing. And so your word is Revolution, you know, so where did you take that when we told you that your word was Revolution? What did you start thinking about?
José: I love it. It's fantastic because I think of... Well, two things. One is the word itself, Revolution, right, and how it has this... at least the connotation of overturning, right, of like undoing. Of redoing. In science, a revolution merely is something that goes around, right? That's not a rotation. It's a revolution. But... so the great thing is that it has this idea of cycle. And if with all due respect to revolution in terms of the activist face, right, and the need to be able to change power relations and kind of systems of oppression through those means - I also think of revolution as being able to look at, how do we reconnect back to the idea of cycles and rhythms for balance? Because that's one of the things that... you know, I was having this conversation with a friend that we've lost more and more of, right. I think our ancestors from all backgrounds, through necessity but I think also curiosity and study, paid attention to what cycles and rhythms were in relation to the landscape, to the Earth, to the skies, to everything. And most of us have lost that, right. At best, we can look outside and see it’s spring or whatnot. We read about, like, new moon this, new moon that, but we don't really have as good as understanding as we used to, as to what cycles and rhythms were for us as humans. Even though we can proclaim to be part of the natural and ecological landscape, but we've done so much detachment, right?
So hence I think of an associated word for me for revolution, which is radical. And I've spoken about this... is like the root of that word is root. So, how do we go back to the root of things, not as a way to kind of... I think people misunderstand, like well, that means we got to go back and give up out all of our modern creature comforts. It’s like, no, let's look at what it meant to have a connection to the outdoors in relation to the land and how can that be a lens and filter through which we can move forward with all of these other things that we are doing and we're going to do. So, it's really about the root so to speak of our connection to place and space to guide us in how we make modern decisions. At least from my perspective.
Lisa: Mmm, that reminds me of my favorite word topophilia, which is connection to place. And not necessarily knowing why you have a connection to a place. And one place that you may feel no connection for no reason and it reminds me of that. And I'm curious, I love what you're saying about cycles and rhythms and this idea of reconnecting. But do you think that as humans we can reconnect with something that we haven't directly experienced?
José: I would say... I would say yes. It's… you know, I've always remembered that a place can speak for itself, right, and sometimes in traditional conservation stewardship and protection we would say if you really want to get somebody to care, like, take them to the place. Don't, you don't have to do a lot of the explaining, you don't have to do a lot of the communication if you can just take people to the place and experience it, right? So like, oh we want to pass this legislation or do this work. Let's take the legislator there like, let's have them experience the things that we're talking about.
I also know that that's can be challenging and unrealistic in some cases. Right? So take the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We can't, just, logistically can't really take everybody there. We can't take all of the American public right there and say here, experience this. This is why it's important to protect it. And so... and we still need that support for protection. So I think to be able to look at all the happenings in between, like the here and there are important because the way in which we can relate to place through each other, the way that we can relate to place through a lot of the ancestral mechanism set the connection which includes story, and something as simple as a story around a campfire has very deep roots in what gets us to connect. I think if we can do this in respectfully meaningful ways through emotions and basically using for good a lot of the communication tools that have been used for less good in the commercial, consumer sector, right? That piece of society has been extremely good at getting us to care for and want things that we may have never seen or don't have. But that's a very different purpose and intent. And so I use that as an example to say we can do it. We just sometimes have been less attentive about how we can use these tools for good.
Lisa: And this is really going to resonate with our audience of who listens to our podcast, which is a lot of people in creative and marketing and journalism. So, what does it mean to you to use these tools these communication tools for good? What does that look like? And what does that mean?
José: Mmhmm. So one of the things is that I, you know, early on in my career I struggled with certain aspects of management and what I mean by that was not just like having supervisors or being in a managerial structure. But also when I was in charge of a team, right, or when I had organizational development responsibility. And part of that was because my own internal learning and unlearning of the purpose of some of these structures, right. And some of them exist because they're designed for a certain level of efficiency while in a certain level of outcome and intent right like if you’re classically making widgets, you just need to make the same widget every single time. But in terms of creative spaces, I learned pretty quickly, a friend helped me as through conversation. She said, well you just, you’re just a creative. You like to create. And that helped me understand my role then. My ecological design role, I guess you can call it, of how I could best be of use and of service to a space.
So I think for all of the designers out there and all the creatives, one is to know that you have the ability and power of creation - meaning to bring something forth that may have never existed before. And we all do this, first of all, but I think those of us who choose it as a profession and have specific tools around and you can say when I say like, how do we do this for good, I would say, well, some simple questions. One is what is my intent behind this creation? Is that clear to me? Why am I making this? Not to get you too philosophical around it, but be able to say, will this increase good in the world? Will this perpetuate joy or things that I'd like to see rather than things that already exist and we're trying to undo? Because you can create something that can perpetuate inequity for example. So that's the thing. So I say, in service of what?
And then lastly is... I had to challenge this through my own writing, which was, in the intent of creating something. It just it helps me to be clear if it's like for writing. It was, am I doing this purely for the discipline and the craft of writing? Meaning like, I’m going to write everyday and creating every day because I want to exercise that muscle or am I doing it because it’s for an intended audience. Right? And so that means I have to be attentive to, who is it for? And if sometimes I need to not write it for somebody, because that's a challenge for me to be able to think about what I'm creating and designing. And then lastly, is it for the creativity component which can't be forced. But you do have to be able to support environments in which that happens.
José: I hope that makes sense.
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Lisa: Wow, that was very enlightening.
Iris: Yeah, José talks about reconnecting back to the cycles and the rhythms of the earth and of our ancestors. And that's such a unique way to look at the word revolution that we haven't heard yet on the show. And kind of an eye opener for us in the outdoor industry because we all play in the outdoors and we work in the outdoors and kind of our lives revolve around the outdoors, but maybe we're not necessarily connected to those cycles. And we still live in a modern world where we’re disconnected to Nature a lot. And it reminded me of what Sallie said on her episode last season about how our modern world and the business world is built around like a 24-hour cycle versus like a feminine cycle. Which is with the moon and the tides and the oceans the ebb and flow of everything. I thought that was really interesting and it reminded me of that… that connecting to the Earth can be kind of connecting to our feminine side as well.
Lisa: Yeah, I like that connection you just made about cycles and rhythms of the earth and everything. And I talked a little bit about topophilia which is a connection to place and that's something I've been kind of obsessed with throughout my... well, throughout my entire 20s. I was very obsessed with place and like going to a place and feeling it and wanting to live there or going to a place, looking for a place to live and driving around the country trying to find a place that resonated with me for no reason other than I just felt it. And so it's really quite fascinating to hear someone talk about reconnection and connection and, you know, how you can connect to something that your ancestors experienced that you never experienced. And I think a lot of… sometimes you just can't explain things you just feel things. And I think that's kind of what topophilia is.
Iris: Yeah, so let's get back to José while he explains what it means to create to increase good in the world.
Lisa: Yeah, I think I’m totally feeling what you're what you're talking about. And I'm curious, what does that look like to you, kind of like thinking about will this increase good? Like, what does that look like? How do we figure out this definition of good, because it is subjective and you keep referring to intent as well. What does that look like to you?
José: Great question. So, you know, I'm also a science nerd, and so I say that because I was just enjoying an article about a quantum physics, you know, quantum physics experiment that says congratulations, there is no objective reality. And I was like, oh great. That's what I need in the morning. So, you know, so I say that when you said it's subjective. I know there's a level of subjectivity that is true, right, and so I say this because often we can get into these philosophical discussions or arguments and to me there is validity in them and then I say, that's great but like quantum mechanics, it operates at its levels and it has much less influence and impact on a human level that alone at the you know, the planet level. It's great to know about it. But at the end of the day, I still have to pay rent. I still chose to be in a place where I pay rent, I still chose to like have agreements with how I live in this day to day. So I say that because then I think of operational forms of intent and good are the daily practices rather than getting too stuck in like defining what is good. And I'm not going to recreate or win arguments that have been going on for hundreds of years.
So but I can say this is what works for me and this is why and then we can have a discussion around that. And what’s good for me is to be able to create increased joy, increase good is to be able to look at the ways in which people... if they have daily stressors, if they feel restricted or limited in the ability to be able to express themselves, or basically, if they are looking for someone, something, somewhere to connect with that lets them know they are worthy, they are valued, they are seen, they are heard, and that they matter. To me that's important. So I've been trying to be a lot more intentional about things that I put out there, some of my poetry, some of the things that I share on social media. And it does affirm for me, it's not the reason I do it, but at least it lets me know that I'm aligned in that purpose when people respond back and say, “I really need this today” or like this is what... really, you know, “I haven't thought about this” and like “this is what I needed to like help me through something” or maybe “nobody has told you this but like I really look forward to XY and Z like every week when you share this” and so that's helpful to me.
And the intent is this sense of what's going to guide my actions and the purpose for the day? And you can do that through so many different ways, you can go and you know, you have your own spiritual practice. You can do meditation. I look at it as how do you create ceremony and rituals to help remind you of where you are, who you are, and why you choose to do the things you do.
Lisa: Wow. If it's too personal you can say no, but what are some ceremony and rituals you bring into your life? And your practice?
José: Yeah, great question. That's actually something that I've been writing up to try to express. And I said I think about ceremony... it’s important to, like, choose your rituals that are healthy habits, right, of practice, and part of that is to have healing be an outcome of or intention to this practice. So I look at the ways in which I can practice grounding, gratitude, presence, prayer, and intention setting. So the easiest one for me that I that I have committed and begun to share more is my daily jog. So every day I go for a jog and that I have determined that for me that helps me clear my space, it helps me be an informal meditation. So that's a ritual that's really important to me. I think expressing gratitude, those come in from when you wake up, something as simple as expressing gratitude for your body and that is around you and that is happy to have you. So, like, yeah. Some of these sometimes sound silly to some people or they don't feel normal. As I said, that's because you haven't done them before. But when you do those experiments where like you're crossing your arms, and then you're asked to re-cross them differently, like, this feels different! Like, it's the same arms. It's just, it's a habit. It's looking at habits. But I say, you know, “hello day.” “Hello home.” “Hello body.” I love the phrase by Maya Angelou. I'm paraphrasing it, but it's along the lines of like, “what a beautiful day. I have not seen this one before.” Right, and it's just, that tells me that the intention of like... you're right, this day is here. It's going to happen, and then it will be no more. So what do you want to do?
And then the last two pieces around intention, prayer, and presence. For prayer, this is very separate for me from any religious connotation. It's not connected to a specific religion for me. I look at it as, how do you experience sacred and listen for ancestor guidance? And for you to practice that, because you’re a future ancestor for somebody else. And so that also includes coming into connection with the natural world, putting my hand on the earth, taking my shoes off and putting those on the earth. I take pictures of flowers, for example, and I greet them, those of you who follow me on Instagram know that. And then lastly, the being present is, choose an activity that will have you reflect on patience. So for me, making tea, for example. Because I can't I can't rush it and if I try to, the tea reminds me, what are you doing? So those are some examples.
Lisa: I love that. I really love how you're taking these big concepts and explaining them in your personal context but it's so... I think like big ideas that lots of people will connect to, so relatable and that's awesome. I think that our listeners are going to really be excited about this conversation.
Lisa: Yeah, and before we started recording you were talking about your idea of design in the outdoors, and I would love for you to expand on that from your perspective.
José: Yeah, you know, it's interesting that I think I woke up this morning with that with that word in my mind, design, and I was automatically thinking like, oh, yeah form and function and all these other words. But it made me think about designing the outdoors in that... we have design in the sense of product. Right, like you design a specific product for the outdoors, whether the piece of gear for example is backpacks, shoes, and whatnot. And the classical thinking around design between Form and Function are important because you want things that are useful, you want things are not going to fall apart. You want things that are going to be safe, right, we want things that are going to quote unquote work, you're going to have the utilitarian aspect to them in the outdoors. And you know, like, I remember when I went to go get some shoes and some boots for hiking and the attendant was very informative and helpful. To ask me questions around, well, if you want it for the full day hiking, do you want it for, you know, multi-day hiking, for backpacking? All of these things, and I was asking, like, why, what's the difference? And getting explained, well, you know, you want these to be sturdier for this, because of this weight and so forth.
So that was I thinking about that in product design, but then the other two pieces that I love to expand the thinking into is design in terms of experience. And what is the experience of being outdoors and going outdoors? That's where all the communication comes into play, right? That's where the marketing comes into play. In terms of the brands, that's where the infrastructure comes into play from whoever is providing access to the to the landscape. It might be through a state park or national park or some other steward of the space. It's the way that the trail is designed. It's the way that the markers and interpretive signage... it's there. But then the other thing is the participant experience. What are we bringing in? And how do we respond or react to that space? Often there is the way in which exclusion can happen by not being thought of in that design experience. And that's based on who gets to do the designing. In tech this has shown up in the ways that… we say we try to create these objective algorithms, right, something like what you type into a search engine in theory isn't being filtered or decided by a human component, but it is. And that comes up in biases. Something as ridiculous and as silly as like hand sensors or things that don't recognize you by skin color because those that it was tested on and those are designing our of a predominant demographic, right? And so that's when you get this reminders of like, well, people are still doing the programming. But the excitement and the opportunity then becomes into... this space at minimum is designed to allow for that participant experience to contribute, then that's great because you get to see things that you haven't thought about. And so you get to see how people bring their own experience to co-design the outdoor experience, you look at the way in which they want to relate to each other, you look at things that they're sharing on social media what they see as valuable.
There was a great... I can't remember now, that there's some mapping that Statement designed to this studio and that they are in San Francisco Bay Area was looking at mapping where people were sharing their social media photos and hashtags to traditional landscape preservation maps. So land managers could look at where are people going and where are they taking pictures and how does that map and relationship where we think they were going and where we have signage or don't have enough infrastructure to support that? And then lastly that comes with responsibility because I think that makes me think about the participant experience we are sharing with each other and that we're co-designing. are we reinforcing these ideas of who belongs outdoors through our participation or a we really expanding and opening up what is possible in terms of having a thoughtful joy-increasing wellness-giving outdoor designed experience.
Lisa: And so this idea of co-designing and contributing rather than like owning or doing is super interesting and it feels very collaborative. Where do you think as an industry the outdoor industry could do better?
José: Good question. I think... Well, at least the two to three pieces in terms of what I said is, one is open up your... part of the design experience is kind of the story and the narrative, right? If we don't... beyond the product, I think. Across the board is just, look at the way in which you can open up the spaces to bring more quote unquote diversity. By which I mean by that is individuals, creatives with a different perspective gained through different lived experience in different cultural relationships with different communities. And so, bring them in. Like, look for… hire them, right, but push the ways in which you go beyond the barriers that say, the self-imposed barriers in my opinion, that say there aren't enough, you know, creatives of color for example, or we don't have enough, you know, women designers interested in this, whatever might be. Like, they’re there. We're here. It's so you have to think creatively about how they can be a part of what you're doing. And that means not just having them be on one side of the camera so to speak, right, not just being on the receiving end of the design experience. But also see how they are included behind the lens and as part of the co-designing of these experiences in terms of... you might get some participants to be you know for a photoshoot. But then you ask, well, who are the photographer's we also brought intentionally in to do that, who are the product managers that also get to do this, right? So, but that's the internal logistic piece that I think is exciting.
And then through that is being able to look at what gets communicated out. So I think if you look at the way to say we want to put this out there and we wanted to connect with more communities and just diverse engagement so to speak. The simplest thing I can think of is, don't say well, how do we make it more relevant for... and then insert a community? I would push to say it out because the norm is multicultural, because the norm for the demographics of the country are moving, think about, how do we take that... the value added by diverse experiences and then just put them in the programming and do that. We don't, you know, and I think some commercials and a couple things that are coming out just make it look like hey, if you're a black american family you can also just enjoy the outdoors. And we don't need to like go through tokenizing we don't need to go into like all these problematic issues when we try too hard to make it relevant in that way and we have limited the ability of people to just see that as a quote unquote normal thing.
Lisa: What would... this is a harder question I think, but what's an example of positive intentions that come out as tokenizing or like positive intentions gone wrong.
José: I’m trying to think of a good example in the outdoor industry... there, you know there's terms like hispandering that if people are not familiar with its kind of self explaining. But I would say... I'm trying to think, a lot of times tourism communications don't do this well, because I think.... and I can't think of a good example right now for the outdoor industry, but I would say is there was one... when we were doing communications for a park engagement a couple years ago. A lot of the work was around, you know land agencies and specific companies and other organizations asking well, how do we increase... how do we increase you know engagement with latino community? And how do we get more Latino families to come to our events and do all of this stuff? And I often say, well, culture is about what's comfortable and familiar. And so what are you providing in terms of that? And they said oh great. Well, we can put on the flyer that food will be provided and then we're going to have tamales. I said, well, that's that's an example of, don't do that. And so they felt confused, like isn’t that something that would be comfortable and familiar. I'm like, yeah, it is, but you don't get to make that decision. I said, like, that's... you jumped, you took that extra step into from presumption into assumption about what you thought would be comfortable and familiar rather than allowing the participants of the communities to bring that in.
What you can say is that food will be provided or you will provide the space to welcome participants to bring their own food and then you can help them with that, right, or maybe you want to first ask what they want and then you can pay for it. And then that way if we have families do bring tamales that’s great right, but I came from them being centered for that participating experience rather than rather than you. But, you know, the other thing that this a couple years ago, I'm sure everybody saw that was the backlash with the Pepsi commercial, right, about kind of, you’re appropriating essentially black lives movement. The components of what it means to... speaking of Revolution, right, these kind of like revolutionary practices and challenges against the system. And you made it seem like all you need to do is just give the police officers in riot gear a can of Coke and that's going to fix it. And so that ignores the lived reality that by being a specific skin color, and in this case being black, is... it’s not something that gets resolved with a Pepsi can and that it's a real lived experience. And why we have phrases such as... so in the blank will being Black, right: driving while being black, being in your own yard while being black. It's like almost anything that you can do. It's a reminder that being black in itself it is what's problematic for the system. And that's that's a hard thing to do if you've never experienced that and you, you know, make it worse by asking, well, we're all human, you know, this shouldn't be about color. It shouldn't be... it's you saying I refuse to acknowledge that what you go through because I don't go through that.
Lisa: Right and that I think is extremely common and people do try to brush it off a little bit.
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Iris: So José talked about different rituals and ceremonies that he uses to ground himself and something that he mentioned was he does a daily jog to kind of wake up his body. And give gratitude for his body. And this is really common to find a spiritual practice in running or jogging or some sort of physical movement. For a lot of people who don't necessarily follow an organized religion, it's extremely common for them to find spirituality in nature or in an activity like running where you're outside, you're by yourself. You're typically, like, in your own thoughts and it's actually very similar to prayer, in some way. You’re kind of separating from your day, reflecting over your day, as well as getting endorphins, it makes you happy, makes you feel better when you're done. Yeah, you can definitely find spirituality or ritual in the outdoors, which is really interesting.
Lisa: You know how I believe in manifestation and I think that the more you think about things the more power you give them? It's very interesting to me that this concept of ritual is flooding my life right now.
Lisa: And you know, I keep hearing about the importance of rituals in relationships, and you know, doing things with your partner that become your own little miniature ceremony, whether it's just saying goodbye to each other in the morning or whatever. And then having rituals at work, like, how I start every single Monday morning meeting with “welcome to the Monday morning meeting. Thanks for being here,” and like having these rituals is a very healthy practice. It's fascinating that right now my life is inundated with this concept of rituals. I think I’m trying to form more of them, but I don't know if a ritual is something you can form or a ritual that like you… you mindfully form it or it's something that organically grows and you keep repeating. So I don't know. I've been actually thinking about it a lot.
Iris: Probably a mix of both, but I think that ritual and seeking out ritual in your life is very human and something that is our nature. We always seek some sort of religious practice or spiritual practice I think since the beginning of humanity.
Iris: Should we get back to José?
Lisa: Yeah, let’s get back to José, because he's really got a lot to say.
Lisa: What we're encountering… and I want so badly to honor everyone and in a good authentic way, you know, but we keep getting asked by brands - I own a creative agency - and it’s rooms full of white people saying, “Hey, how do we do this? What can we do?” and like people are wanting to do something good. What's your response to that? What would be your answer?
José: That's a great question. I mean, first of all, I do want to acknowledge and recognize that they're not all easy conversations to have, right? If they were, I often say that we'd be done! We would have, if we were to fix this every time we try to address it through legislation or like a real good speech or whatever, like an election of some kind. But we get these reminders that it's not done. And that requires everybody on board to do this with their specific power and privilege and tools afforded to them that may not be afforded to others. So everybody plays a part. And so I say this because the question that I often start with when I will do equity inclusion, like workshops or trainings is, I say, this is one of the hardest questions you can at least ask yourself or confront and then see how do you walk back from that, which is what power you willing to give up?
And I say that because, on one end it begins a reflection question of saying well, what power do I have? What does that look like, right? Have I not thought about it? I didn't know that me being able to do x y and z was power. I didn't know that having these resources is power, like those kind of things. And then two is, if the answer is no, then that's a different set of steps and conversations. And saying I'm willing to give up A, B, and C but I'm just going to struggle with you know, D E and F. Because at least you're being honest and genuine about it. And so I say this because one of the easiest, and it's increasingly coming up is, do you pay your talent that are people of color for example? Or any other marginalized or oppressed identity you want them to be included, you maybe want them for the photoshoot. Maybe you want them to be part of some engagement. Maybe you thought about bringing them as a consultant. So I'd say, are you willing to pay them or not? You know, if the answer is no then again, that's a different series of conversations and steps to have. Versus yes, and then we can look at, what does that look like? And I say that because in some cases, you know the default answer, well, you know, you're going to get more exposure, or this is going to be really good for... like I get it, but. You know, the landlord does not take a rent exposure check. We really wish they would, we all wish they would right? Or not even, they don't even take a doing good in the world, which is you know… but you don't understand! I did I did so much good in the world! Okay great, but that’s still twelve hundred dollars.
And so, because at least we can have that conversation and reflect back on... would you be doing the same, right, to say well does that mean nobody in your team is getting paid? Or if you get a contract from a specific brand or if you contract out, is that how you have those conversations? Do you say well, nobody's going to get paid but it's going to be good for you to work with us? Right, or we're only going to pay the the producer but we're not going to pay any photographers or pay the editors, you know, you don't do that. So, why would you do that when it comes to individuals and leadership of color who have a lot of value to bring into the space?
Lisa: Absolutely. Absolutely, and investing emotionally, financially investing and making change.
José: Like I said, I know it's not easy, but it's just being able to look at what the defaults are and why those are normative defaults rather than how to redo, rethink and do differently. And going back to the word of Revolution, to me that's pretty revolutionary for you to be able to like, not just do differently, but do differently, better.
Lisa: Absolutely and knowing that, I mean, you can almost look at photography as a practice in a way, you know, that every day you have a camera or you're sitting at your computer to design something. Like how are you going to be better? Or do better? Or, you know, differently? You know, so I think I think that really resonates with being able to like put intention behind our creative work and do something bigger than because it looks cool or oh, because it fits on that sign post right there or whatever.
José: Exactly. Yeah, and it's just, you know, beyond just being good business so to speak. Yeah, I think that's a given, I'd like to think that people know that that's a given so to speak, but I don't use that as the primary factor or motivator. Because I think creatives know this right? Yeah, it's nice to get paid. But you also just want to create, you want to have these things exist. You can't always explain them. You can, sometimes you can, often you cannot. And I think that for me, work around equity and inclusion is the same. It's just, it's the reality that I wish to be able to have and see because I believe in it. And I then can think about people that tell me why not? Right? And I want to understand the why not to see if… can you articulate saying, well because I don't want you to have a good life. And that's hard because then I really know where you stand. As opposed to you're confused. You're hurt. You are not sure how this works or you're afraid basically of what you think you can lose and you haven't had the conversations to look at how this is the collective win.
It's not like the old phrase around climate change that’s like, what if we did all this work to make the planet better for nothing?
Lisa: Yeah, I've never heard that phrase. That's that adds humor to a darker situation. Yeah, huh. Well, what have I not asked you about that you think our listeners would like to hear about? Or that you want to say.
José: I’ll think of two things, right, one is to honor what you mentioned around Revolution... a couple of things. One is, sometimes It's relatively Revolutionary to have these conversations. Because there's many spaces in which individuals, the spaces where institutions don't like the discomfort. They don't tolerate it, they don’t accept it, they don't welcome it. They see it as a threat. And so questions around, well, why does it always have to be about race? But why do you always have... you know. So it's revolutionary to be able to express, maybe, your fear and concern while welcoming it in. To be able to say, you know, I feel really scared about this. I feel so unsure. I might even, like, I think come across angry, but really this is just because I'm afraid and I just don't know. But I would like to know, and I don't know how to proceed. Right, it's very different than trying to shut it down. Because the shutting it down defaults the status quo and revolutions are about changing the Status Quo. Ideally with the right alignment and attention, it's for the better. I think people then like to say, well, but isn't it pretty good right now? Why would you want to change this pretty good? I said, well it's not. If it was we wouldn't have these conversations.
And the other thing is acts of Revolution or revolutionary acts are also about doing things that are not radical in the sense of what people may mistake activism to be. Or only limit activism to be. By which I mean is, you know, people can get those stereotypical visions of like, marching on the street, holding a protest sign and so forth. To me there will always be a place for that. Because there just... there still is. But also revolutionary acts of self-care, revolutionary acts of knowing that by you being well, you lead and live as an example to others, right? Beyond just the quote of you know, be the change you want to see or be in the world. I think you also need to be the good medicine that is needed, and a lot of those teachings and learnings are things that have existed and in all ancestral knowledge from all communities, but the process of colonization tore up a lot of that. It undid a lot of that and so, they still there though. They still exist. And I think that's why the sense of connection and things that resonate for people to want to do good and be good in the world can still connect us in that way.
And then the last component is that some of the words that I use... I continually have to do my own learning forward, right? I acknowledge that I'm going to make mistakes, right? It's important for me to like recognize my own power and privilege as a hetero cisgender Latino male that's you know abled in many different ways. And while still operating we often say, as a Latino I get to be colonizer and colonized, and that's an important identity to acknowledge. Because it means there's work I’ll always continue to need to do while also trying to be the best person that I can be for myself and knowing that I'm human. So it's not if I will make mistakes and fail, but rather when and how it will navigate that. So I say that because I will always try to catch myself on those and for many astute listeners will have probably caught me trying to catch myself and a couple of times that I'm trying to restate my words and readdress them. Because at the end of the day, those three words that I shared with you as well that are pretty revolutionary to me and the way that I think about perspective and framework and how I see and choose to engage with the world are those. One is choice. That if I reframe things as a choice it re centers the power on me but also makes me accountable for the impact that I have on others. So, you know, I say, well I have to - well, do you really have to? Well, no, but you chose to or you have set it up in such a way that I know your choice is limited but it's still a choice.
Second is agreements. That when I rethink of things around agreements, which is similar to choice, it allows me to think about well, why was that agreement made? Why is it being honored or not honored and if we don't have an agreement, why? And how do we restate it and why? I think that's always helpful so that it's clear, to go back to the agreements and rather than putting the venom or the hurt on each other. And then just realize we actually didn't have an agreement on how to do this. Can we try that?
And then lastly is the intention, which is we say presume good intention and tend to impact running for me. The intention is to choose and have agreements that I think like I said, bring joy and do good in the world. And for me the outdoors does that, the outdoors in itself will both teach you and humble you and welcome you, right, it provides so much. Nature is not afraid to like, remind you that you’re just this soft pink hairless human that needs all this protective gear to like to be out there while a Marmot is just walking by or like you know, Jays are just doing their thing. But it's also just, it has the power of awe, it has the power of wonder. It rejuvenates us, it does a lot of… it connects us spiritually, it has a lot of wellness and health benefits. So it's all there.
And in many ways nature's never been the problem. The problem has been what we put on it, right, as these human systems, the social infrastructure that have disconnected us. So I can close with that.
Lisa: Well that was amazing and I'm just so honored that you were on the podcast. And I think that even through just words, and you're in Sacramento and I'm in Whitefish Montana, like, you radiate warmth and I think our industry is so lucky to have you.
José: Thank you it is good to be here.
Lisa: Yeah, where can people follow you online? I'm sure they're going to want to.
José: Yes. Thank you. I forgot about that. So I am my handle is @josebilingue [spells handle]. It's Spanish for bilingual and that is on social media, that is on Twitter as well. And Facebook if you choose to follow me there, but usually Instagram and Twitter seems to be the most easiest and popular spaces. And you can also... my website is josegagonzalez.com.
Lisa: Perfect. And what can people find on your website.
José: So my website, which almost sounds cliche it's almost like every creative says this right, so it's being updated. Yeah, perpetually updated now, but what people can find there is definitely a way to contact me, some of my art’s on there. Some of my old writings are on there. And then also I've been making some of these shirts, so if people see some shirts that I wear on my Instagram account and want to get them, they're there as well.
Lisa: Awesome. Well, we will put links to those in our show notes as well. So people can just click on those. And thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
José: Of course. It's a pleasure. May you have an awesome day.
Iris: So, thanks so much to José. What an incredible episode, I think I might have to listen to this one more than once.
Lisa: Yeah, I like... there's so many hidden gems throughout this episode that it would be a good one to repeat.
Iris: Yeah, lots of knowledge bombs are dropped.
Lisa: Or listen to it while you're running.
Iris: Yeah, there you go. Start a new ritual. Listen to the Outside by Design podcast while you’re running.
Well hanks so much for being here. So make sure you subscribe to our show so you don't miss our new episodes which drop every Thursday morning. And if you have a second leave us a review on iTunes, we really really appreciate it. It takes like two seconds and it makes us happy.
Lisa: And you want to see Iris happy.
Lisa: You don't want to see her mad. [laughs] Just kidding. All right. Well, thank you, we’ll see you next week. I guess you'll hear us next week, we’ll be in your heads next week.
Iris: You can imagine what we're doing. We're wearing matching beanies.
Lisa: We're wearing matching beanies, we’re adorable.