Amazing People Doing Amazing Things: A Q&A with Ari Andersen

iBme Ari AndersenAri Andersen, co-founder of the podcast, Millennials Don’t Suck, is a producer who works with people who have interesting ideas to help execute them. He recently launched a podcast network, Curious Audio, which houses a collection of podcasts “for the curious, by the curious”. Ari has also traveled to 50+ countries, lived with a devout Muslim family in West Africa, and was once a Jeopardy alternate.

We recently spoke with Ari about his experience as a counselor on an iBme retreat, the challenges of practice, and what he’s learning from his podcast guests.

What led you to an iBme retreat?

I met Jessica [Morey] when I was 22 or 23 at Wisdom 2.0 in San Francisco, my mother introduced us, and we stayed in touch. A couple of years later, an opportunity came up to be a counselor on an iBme retreat in California. It was incredible, a truly amazing week. I had so much fun. I think it was as transformative for me as for a lot of the younger people.

I am such a huge fan of iBme and I think the world would be a better place if more young people had an experience of what iBme offers.

What did you see the teens experience?

Some kids had never had the opportunity to be vulnerable before, to just be seen and not judged. It’s rare, especially when you’re a teenager, to be able to talk about what you’re going through and feel like you’re safe. I think that’s what iBme does such a great job of, creating that container of safety and allowing kids to feel what they’re feeling. I found that week to be so special, the rarity of a circle of people being real together.

How did you come to meditation/mindfulness?

My parents are huge hippies [laughing], so it’s just something that’s been in my life since I was young.

Do you have a formal sitting practice?

My practice has moved more into Taoist meditation, qigong, and kung fu. There’s an aspect of the physical connection that is really attractive to me. You get a direct understanding of your own limitations. It makes you develop humility. I see that as one of the major lessons in life.

What’s currently challenging you in your practice?

To me, and I think to a lot of younger people, the challenge is always routine. The challenge is habit, maintaining that discipline. Discipline and personal responsibility are where I’m consistently working my edge. Honestly, I’ve found that what works is just doing something. I find that doing the dishes or cleaning can be meditative. It’s one of the few things that you can be unconsciously competent at, and I can easily achieve a zen-like state. It’s how I get back to center. And then I want more of that meditative feeling — and that feeling of accomplishment, of having done something.

I think that personal responsibility and self-esteem go hand in hand; if you care about yourself and want to treat yourself well, then you take responsibility for yourself in a very sincere way. When the personal narrative gets negative, it becomes easier to lose that discipline.

Tell us something about Millennials Don’t Suck.

My buddy Matt and I got the idea to do a podcast first, and then after hearing a lot of negative stuff about millennials (they’re lazy, they’re entitled, they’re financially irresponsible), I thought, “That’s stupid. Millennials don’t suck. Let’s interview millennials who do cool shit.”

We created it and launched it and pretty quickly got some press and got into the charts on iTunes. Then Matt had a massive stroke about 8 months in, which changed the trajectory. [Editorial note: Matt is on the road to recovery. It’s just a slow road.] I relaunched it about a year later and have done around 60 episodes on my own — we’re about to reach 100 total!

One of the things I like about podcasts is that they allow us to get into longer, more nuanced conversation, in contrast to the barrage of media sound bites without context or depth. Having a natural conversation with these amazing people and hearing about the amazing things they are doing, it makes me a better person. It counters the onslaught of bad news, the negativity. It makes me more curious, more present, more excited about the world.

Do you see any commonalities among your guests?

It is incredibly inspiring to listen to how people can go from an idea into action, to hear them talk about their success — and to really get that there’s no right answer. There’s no framework. Every person I talk to has found success in their own individual way.

What is the same is that they trusted their gut. And they had enough self-belief to follow it. For most people, for whatever reasons, that’s not always the easiest thing to do. And then, of course, the most important thing is hard work. That is the common element among people who are successful. You work your ass off.

Which episodes would you recommend we listen to?

The first episode is always a fun listen; it was an interview with Prince EA, an incredible spoken word artist and thought leader. There’s an episode with Khalila Archer from iBme, which is super inspiring. Also, the episode with Radha Agrawal, who wrote Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life on the necessity for community and is just an amazing person.