Episode 52 – Under the Surface: Josh Barinstein

It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 52 - Under the Surface: Josh Barinstein

“Something I would urge people to do, just to try some of these things that are difficult, that are painful. We can handle pain, we can handle discomfort more than we think we can. When we allow it, the gains are so much more than we think.”

Jump down to listen to the podcast

I was going to start this essay by asking, “Have you ever had a life event that felt painful or challenging enough that you had to step back and reflect for a moment who you were or what you believed?”

Then I remembered, oh yeah, we’re all human, so the answer is Yes.

That friendship in middle school that all of a sudden felt problematic. The selection of a school or job that provided an ethical challenge to that to which you were about to dedicate many years of your life. The opportunity to participate in a social media experience, a movement, a group or a project that was to be lucrative or bring attention to you – but that somehow just didn’t feel right.

And perhaps even more challenging, because more centered in our identity, invisible to us until exceptional moments: our family relationships. In the last few years, “exceptional moments” have more than ever been thrust onto us through political, ethical, medical, and other stresses. Confusion, conflict, and even estrangement have been results.

The path to healing and wholeness is through language.

We say we feel anger, brokenness, confusion, loneliness: we need to go under the surface of those labels to discover what we experiencing and – here’s the key – how we participate in, how we even set up the situation for, the experience of that pain.

We talk to ourselves, using language. We find words to illuminate our feelings first, and then our discoveries. When we find those words that teach and guide us within ourselves, they are like small candles that light the way to better paths, ones that can bring healing for ourselves, those around us, and ultimately, the world. WE have to do that work. No one can do it for us.

Let’s go under the surface of our lives to find the language that brings us back up to the light and air of the world. Let’s apply that language to bring peace to our lives.

Share that language journey with others, as Josh Barinstein does in this podcast, and the healing expands into the family, community, and world.

We need to do this work for ourselves and the world.

Enjoy the podcast.

Click to listen:

It’s About Language – Episode 52 – Under the Surface: Josh Barinstein

Scroll down for full transcript.

Thank you for always focusing on the possibilities, opportunities and the power of language and what it can do for us individually - and collectively!

Elizabeth Mack

If you've never done #cliftonstrengths, yourself or with your team, don't wait any longer.  Norah Jones of FLUENCY CONSULTING is the one and only to do it! It's all about your super powers: finding & using them to affect positive change in the world. What's not to love?!

Elizabeth Mack
Founder and CEO / Freestyle Languages


Yes, @NorahLulicJones definitely has the talent of "bringing out" the best in others or allowing them to showcase themselves in the best light! Thank you for directing the spotlight on others who have great stories and talents to share with others. 

Lisa Fore


Your podcasts are exceptionally relevant and applicable, thought-provoking and insightful, easy-to-follow and enjoyable!  

Paul Sandrock
Senior Advisor for Language Learning Initiatives / ACTFL


You have an immense talent to draw the best from your participants. 

Richard Brecht


Norah knows how to LISTEN - she really "hears" the message - and the interview is richer because of it.  New questions come from the hearing. 

Terri Marlow

Want to hear more? Access previous episodes, and get to know the wonderful people I talk with through the It’s About Language page, or by clicking on the Podcast tab above. You can also find this week’s episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

As a certified Gallup Strengths coach, I can provide you or your organization personalized coaching to discover and build on your strengths.

I provide workshops, presentations, and talks that inspire and engage through powerful language insights, and I pair those insights with practical applications for the lives of educators, learners, businesses, and faith-centered organizations. I’d love to share ideas with your organization or group, and develop an event tailored to your objectives.

Click here to start a conversation.


Josh Barinstein:               It’s so great to see you, Norah. I’m glad we are making this happen-

Norah Jones:                    Me too.

Josh Barinstein:               … finally.

Norah Jones:                    Well, I’m really glad that there’s a reason why we can make this happen again, where you want to make this happen again. That speaks volumes.

Josh Barinstein:               Yes, indeed.

Norah Jones:                    That speaks volumes.

Josh Barinstein:               Well, the timing felt right this time around. I think we spoke about six, eight months ago. Some things were still raw, didn’t quite feel ready and then suddenly this video release and just, yeah, just how things unfolded, right?

Norah Jones:                    What do you think, Josh, made the difference in how it felt raw before and how it feels different now?

Josh Barinstein:               I think before it was … I’ll tell you this much. I would’ve talked about it for the wrong reasons. I think it felt like I needed attention around my issues, which to me is the wrong reasons if you’re trying to attract attention because you just want to express and be heard and it’s about, “Oh, look at my stuff, my story.” It’s different than, “Okay, I worked through a lot of things, I traveled finally with my son, I had this great experience because I worked really hard at it, let me share it.” There’s a wanting to share it with a different energy to it. I don’t know if I’m making sense, but-

Norah Jones:                    Certainly.

Josh Barinstein:               … that’s my best answer.

Norah Jones:                    Certainly. With the release of it, I mean, we’ve taken a look, I’ve taken a look at it as have others on the YouTube channel and I want to ask you about your YouTube channel too, Beneath the Surface. Let’s go to the specific video though that prompted our opportunity to talk once again together, that video about you and your son traveling through his invitation in Iceland, one of my favorite countries on the planet by the way. I don’t know, perhaps even at the beginning, connect up to why it is that channel of yours is called Beneath the Surface. As you wish, link those two.

Josh Barinstein:               Yeah. Well, I had to come up with a name. There’s so many Beneath the Surfaces already. It’s incredible how many people exist with names you want these days. You’re allowed to have, I was allowed to select it and it was one that I landed on that meant a lot to me. In that video and anything that I want to show through that channel and anything in my life in general as a theme, I’m looking under the hood, if you will. That might have been another name, I don’t know, but just beneath the surface. I’m interested, I articulated it as best as possible in the about for the channel that I’m a guy in my 50s exploring life as I always hope people do that. Not everyone does, but I’m exploring life. The more I search, the more it becomes about me, my internal experience of anything, because there’s no other interpretation of what’s out there other than what I see, how I feel and what I do with it.

                                           The video, the trip to Iceland, which has become one of my all time favorite countries on the planet and I never thought it would before going, I had no idea because I had ideas about what it would be like.

Norah Jones:                    Well, in fact-

Josh Barinstein:               It blew me away.

Norah Jones:                    … in your YouTube you said that you thought it was going to be boring. I remember that part.

Josh Barinstein:               Yeah. I thought, oh, too much nature, I’m not a nature guy. I’m here in Oregon, I never go hiking. Silly me. By dropping a lot of, just by letting it flow and be it was such a wonderful experience, but it was a great way to kick off the channel and say, look, I had to look under the hood of myself and look at all my habits, my ways of being, how was I going to go into this trip with my son? It was kind of a make up trip, a redemption he called it. He wanted me to work around the theme of redemption in this video. I said that’s a little too much, but it was a second chance. Can we travel and connect? But to do so I had to take a hard look at myself, do all the things that I talk about. Again, going back to the theme of the channel, it was really looking beneath the surface of me and what did I need to do in order to reconnect with him.

Norah Jones:                    Thank you, Josh. Now, I happen to be privileged in knowing a little bit because of our work together, you as the owner and creator of a variety of films and working with film development through Zenergy and I’d like you to talk about that some too. When we’re looking at, there was a Zenergy project, was it not, a company project where you and your son went to do some filming for a Spanish higher education teaching materials, correct?

Josh Barinstein:               That’s correct. To answer your question about how all this second chance of traveling with him really happened is, as I talk in the beginning of the video, we traveled for the better part of 100 days in 2018 throughout the Spanish speaking world. It was just an amazing trip. Looking back it was just incredible what we did in those months of travel. We would travel for, we did 30 days, came home for a week or two, did another 45 days, came home and then ended up in Spain to finish the shooting. It was so much work for two people. Two people meeting up with a sound guy in each of the cities and then McGraw Hill provided a language coach at each stop, but it was just too few people doing way too much.

                                           The tensions and the conflict between my son and I, we have this dynamic of father and son, also of employer and employee and just all this stuff coming to a head day after day after day. You can imagine. We look back on it and it was, as wonderful as it was, exhausting and hard. I don’t know what other word to choose, but it was just hard stuff. Coming out of that we needed time, we needed space from each other and things got redefined because I got to see myself in a real way. Okay, who am I in the context of all this? It broke me down to my bones, the bare bones of Josh. It allowed me to see who I was, what I was capable of, what I really wanted. What were my priorities? What was I doing in a fantasy world that I had set up for myself? Out of that came a lot of growth. Obviously there was a lot of growth.

                                           He and I went on and he went on to do his thing, of course I did too, then Iceland was a way of reconnecting on different terms in a different context obviously. It required that, for us to connect in a rich way, I had to do the things that I did. It was just a long journey from getting hired and being so excited about it back in 2018 to this transformation that happened really for the two of us and then ending up connecting in such a wonderful way.

Norah Jones:                    Thank you. Josh, in the clip you have, and I’m going to plum those three points that you make at some depth here today in our conversation because they are very powerful, but what I’d like you to do please for the listeners is provide those three points and, as you best desire conversationally, tie them back to when you hadn’t gone under the hood yet. When you traveled with your son and you came up with these three key items on this video, on your Iceland trip and your reconciliation if you will, you were thinking back to things that had created the prompt. Provide these three please and tie them back as well as us talking forward.

Josh Barinstein:               I just want to say that question alone shows how insightful you are, Norah, and how you know how to dig in. Plum, I love that word. I mean, yeah, you’re getting at the heart of how could I have come up with those three things without this evolution of Josh, right? I had to arrive to them. The first one involves a not very appealing word. I’m not sure what my language restrictions are.

Norah Jones:                    I would say that-

Josh Barinstein:               It’s raw in the video. It’s not an awful word, but it is the word dumb-ass. I say in the video I had to allow myself to be a dumb-ass. I can list the three and then talk about them, or do you want me to just focus on that one?

Norah Jones:                    I think the three and then focus back would probably show people the evolution even among those three.

Josh Barinstein:               Yeah. The first one, I wanted to start the video, I wanted to get to that first as soon as possible because it does have punch. What do you mean be a dumb-ass, right? I’ll talk about it. The second was to drop expectations and that’s a big one that a lot of viewers walked away being very impacted by, one that people can really relate to. The third is just taking more risks, which I think we all wish we could do. I’ll talk about, yeah, all three of them. Oops, excuse my drawer here.

                                           Being a dumb-ass, I explained that it’s not about being jokey and fun and, “Oh, look at me, son, how great I am. Let’s laugh at my jokes.” No, it’s actually the exact opposite, it was to allow myself to make all the mistakes with the camera, with what I said, with how I was being, being that old dad figure that just feels this way, right? How I feel. Who knows how he felt or what he saw. He’s in his under the hood experience, right? I’m dealing with me, this is how I feel. By allowing those feelings to happen, I was less concerned about making mistakes. That’s the beauty of that, right? If you can let go, how bad you might look or how bad your mistakes might be, you can then just expand the spectrum of what you can do because you’re allowing more to happen. That’s what I try to articulate.

                                           Now, if you rewind back to the Spanish trip, that was a no-no. I was going to direct. I mean, eventually I had to give up directing, I handed that over to him because he was going to do a better job. I just couldn’t do it. I was breaking down, right? That’s what was really hard to talk about last year. I was not allowing myself to make mistakes, I was not allowing myself to look bad. Everything had to look so great that it didn’t. I actually created my own destruction, which my therapist says that was a good thing. You broke down, you learned a lot, excellent. Breaking down is not a bad thing because I broke through some of those illusions that I had about myself. That’s what I was trying to explain earlier. That’s where being a dumb-ass comes from. I love the word and maybe you need to beep it out, I don’t know.

                                           Anyway, I believe through Zenergy and through those videos from the Spanish world and through my channel, I believe in being raw and being real and authentic. I think if you’re not doing those things … the older I get, the more I want of that. If you’re not doing those things, I think you are lying to yourself in some way. You can’t expect it or demand it of everyone, we’re all different, we’re all each on our path, but I want that for me. One big thing I’ve gotten out of the last few years is to bring that on as much as possible. It’s not always easy, but bring that out because it’s the real stuff, man.

                                           Number two was the dropping expectations, the volcano experience was so perfect because we went the first day gung-ho and it was pure … you couldn’t see a thing. We’d get to the place, we’d park … because we don’t know anything, we didn’t look this up. We were kind of dumb, foolish travelers. We get to the parking lot, we go up, there’s some not security people but those people who are at the entrance, whatever, directing traffic and whatnot and they go, “Yeah, you could go see the lava formations, but no, you’re not going to go see anything if you go do the hike.” You couldn’t probably even hike because you couldn’t see anything. We’re like, okay, time to rethink. We rerouted the day, we had a great time, came back the next day. The universe awaited us with a wonderful day. It was just a matter of letting that happen and not get too uptight about really any one thing happening a certain way. That was the huge theme of the trip.

                                           I think, tying it back to the Spanish trip, it was, again, that tight fist around expectations that I was going to run the show and I was going to be wonderful and I was going to direct and I was going to everything and my son was going to be proud of me. I mean, that’s a big one for dad. Oh boy. Expectations around recognition. Oh boy, I mean, the list goes on. If I had allowed myself back then, which I recognize I was not anywhere near ready to do any of these things back then, that’s why they weren’t happening, if I could have dropped so many expectations of holding it together, of trying, of efforting and letting myself feel … I mean, I didn’t have a choice but to, again, break down and feel so much, but if I had dropped expectations, what an incredibly richer experience it would’ve been.

                                           Now, I don’t look back and regret. It was what it was. It was still just incredible in so many ways, but that’s how it was back then, then expectations, fast forward to now. I still have to remember, I talk about this in the video, it’s not just about going, “Okay, what are my three things I’m going to do? What are my affirmations?” I don’t believe in affirmations, I believe in letting things penetrate us in a certain way where we feel them. Then, from that intention, bringing ourselves back to it. Over in Oregon I had to remind myself. It was a mantra. Drop expectations. Okay, you’re doing it again. You’re expecting a great meal, drop expectations. It’s like we’re programmed to do things in certain ways. We’re grooved. If we don’t counter it with equal energy or greater, we don’t change, we don’t do anything differently. That was true for all three items. That was the expectations bit.

                                           We got into conversations about what is happiness? I think you saw that video, right? Happiness is having a tight grip on expectations or that’s what creates unhappiness, right? That we are trying to force things to be a certain way. Well, they’re not so I’m unhappy. Well, what if we just open up the hands, let the grip go and let things be? Then you find so much more joy and fulfillment.

                                           The third one was taking more risks. The older I’ve gotten, the tougher that’s been. When I was younger I feel like I took more risks.

Norah Jones:                    Interesting.

Josh Barinstein:               I was never really the risk taker, but just allowing myself on the trip to go, “Yeah, I’m going to trek forward. I’m going to, let’s get to that volcano.” Boy was that incredible. I’m so glad that we did. There were just different examples of being in front of the camera when he would shoot. In the past I would shy away from the camera. I would be embarrassed and hold back and not take a risk to look dumb in front of the camera. Well, that went out of the window and I just allowed myself … you see moments of that, I just allowed myself to just be, just, “Go ahead. You’re running the camera, what are you asking me? Let’s go.” I didn’t go too deep into that, but it was fun because, by allowing it, I had a great time. That’s the bit about taking more risks.

                                           I think during the Spanish travels the one thing, I worked on a behind the scenes of the first 30 days that no one but Nathan has seen. I don’t think any of that will see the light of day ever because it’s so private and personal, but I talk about not shooting enough. That would’ve been a huge risk to take for me because at the time I was not much of a shooter, whether photography or video on a professional camera, but the few times that I did it was a blast. I have regrets about that because that would’ve been taking some risk around connecting with him, having fun, contributing footage, but I was afraid because risk taking then meant I might not shoot well, he might criticize me, I may not look good. That’s the whole thing.

                                           Yeah, fast forward to now, it was time to … and I speak to that in the video. I could have done things the old way and it would’ve been 2018 all over again in many ways. Sure, minus the work. In Iceland we weren’t working, we were hanging out, but a lot of things would’ve repeated because that’s what happens.

Norah Jones:                    It’s interesting, it’s existential what you experienced as you describe the recuperation, but I’m thinking there’s a real shattering and existential experience. Because I am older than you are even I can look and say, that sense of watching you talk about how you will look to your son, what is the meaning of looking like this to your son? What is the meaning of who you are with the way that your son then believes who you are? That’s very deep stuff. I go then to the language about it.

                                           You started with the first one, I do have to say I did laugh out loud when I started your film. To go ahead and be a dumb-ass and to use that word, that caught my attention. I have to listen. In general, you’re talking about, in those three, vulnerability. The vulnerability about self as far as being willing to be vulnerable in front of the camera, in front of your son, in front of the world’s expectations for what a film person is going to be, to drop the expectations on others and on the world. When I was attempting to reconstitute your three without looking at the video, I noted that, my first time, Josh, that I wrote it, I put lower expectations, but then when I watched it again you chose the word drop expectations. I believe the language that you use here as a crafter of messages in film is critically important, that choice of a word that gets my attention as far as my behavior, that drop which is much more radical than lower that I had picked back up.

                                           In general, you have to express, you as Josh, the person that puts together these excellent films and so forth, has to know how language works visually, verbally, the choices that you made. Tell me about the intentionality of how you went about discovering those words. Again, just tease on that a little bit. How did you talk to yourself about what you were going to say? Potentially that’s another way for me to ask this question.

Josh Barinstein:               It’s funny what you just said, how was I talking to myself? This was an internal discussion as I was scripting it to decide what am I going to say? It took me, Norah, forever it felt like to finish a script that outlined what I wanted to say and how I wanted to present it. Little do people know what content creation looks like because it does take a lot of polishing to figure out, okay, what’s my story? Then you’ve got to go film it and all the stuff that happens on top which takes forever as well. I’m reflecting on the language. Honestly, drop expectations sounds very severe. It sounds very … it has a real weight to it, right?

                                           The funny thing is that, I think in the video, speaking to myself, because I’m audience number one, I think I was saying also that, or I do say that, because these are mantras, you have to bring yourself back to them, right? You have to go drop expectations. Well, it’s an hour later, I’m not dropping expectations because I’m human. Okay, try again, try dropping. Gently, gently to yourself. These should not be harsh processes. I think maybe I was a little harsh with drop expectations, but, to my defense, in the video I talk about that in a way I was lowering, keeping my expectations low which is another mechanism for-

Norah Jones:                    Protection.

Josh Barinstein:               … fooling ourselves. Just keep your expectations low. If you can’t drop them, keep them low because you increase the chance of being surprised which is exactly what would happen. I would drop my expectations, go out to a restaurant, most of the time I would be blown away anyway and the other times I would be like, “Okay, that didn’t go well, but my expectations didn’t demand it, therefore it’s okay.” I think in selecting the words, maybe there’s a little bit of drama infused in to trying to get someone’s attention. I think we’d all love to drop expectations so, okay, what does he mean drop expectations? How? My hope is that I can explain it in as real a way as possible that’s doable because none of the things that I talk about are easy. If they were easy, we would be doing them. They are things to know about and to understand that we need time and practice to break them down in a way that enriches our lives.

Norah Jones:                    The word practice that you just used there was a word that was coming to my mind the whole time you were talking. There’s another part too that you have not alluded to yet. It’s a smaller part, but I would love for you to address it. You were eating a meal I believe and you made an interesting observation about the lack of necessity to be judging things all the time. Sometimes we just experience and don’t have to place it in some kind of a judgmental level. Can you bring that piece back out a little bit and share what you had in mind when you talked about that?

Josh Barinstein:               Well, I think the mind is an incredible tool and it can also work so against us if we allow it to. I think there’s so many things, things that just run an automatic in our heads that we’re not watching, we’re not giving attention to, we’re not considering options or other possibilities. The immediate thing to do is to judge anything. We need black and white. We need to look at things. When a meal comes out … was I eating? I don’t remember the exact moment.

Norah Jones:                    I believe you were, yes.

Josh Barinstein:               Yeah. I mean, a meal comes out and right away you’re judging the waiter, the way that the plate is put down, the way that it looks, the first bite. How are the people I’m with reacting? Everything’s a judgment all to compute am I happy? Am I having a good time? Is this okay? Am I safe? Whatever the algorithm is that’s running in our heads. That’s all we want. We want good times, we want control. We want happy, balanced situations. I mean, we’re judging because we’re trying to, I told this to Nathan once, restore balance, what we think is balance. In doing that we are so limiting ourselves because judgment is getting ahead of the experience. We’re not having the experience as it is in all its wonder and wonderfulness. It may have a lot of crappy aspects to it, we’re just not allowing ourselves to find out because we’re judging. I think that’s what that was. Judgment is expectation. It’s rules in our head. It’s wanting control.

Norah Jones:                    The need to be in control and the need to be in control from our perspective is certainly a standard human experience. One of the things that you said earlier that I’d like to return to is you’re not much one, or you don’t like, potentially with more emphasis than that, affirmations. I think that is interesting because you then go to the experience that you had and then your reflections on your experiences and your reactions and your traumas and your rebuildings led you to be able to articulate in language three things that you can now walk with, practice and use in your life. When people are watching your film, when they are listening to this podcast, when they are walking in their lives, based on your experience what kind of recommendations might you have for them? Instead of finding affirmations from somewhere else potentially, how they might go about reflecting on what their experiences are and how to articulate that back to themselves so they can go beneath the surface.

Josh Barinstein:               Yeah. I mean, that’s a good question. The reason I say affirmations, affirmations remind me of Saturday Night Live. Do you remember? Who was the comedian who would look in the mirror? He would make an affirmation and then he would go back to the camera and get all riled up and emotional and then he’d go back to the mirror and resettle. It’s kind of like what we’re trying to do, right? These quotes that you see everywhere on social media, they’re quick moments of, “Oh yeah. Okay, cool. I should practice that.” That’s how we tend to absorb information and learn, by just sucking up top three, top five things to do, 10 things to avoid. People go to YouTube, that’s what they’re trying to consume and I did that for a long time. My wife and I were self-improvement junkies for a long time.

                                           I think the stuff that really mattered is … okay, to answer your question, it’s whatever really you allow to penetrate you and transform you in some way, something that you feel inside of you that has weight to it, that you can carry with you and repeat to yourself and remind yourself of. Everything shows up as language, you can’t avoid it, but where an affirmation becomes more powerful, if you want to call it that, is that you have looked at language more subtly, you’ve found language or selected it for yourself that means something to you.

                                           Drop expectations, what does that mean to Josh? What’s Josh going to do with that? Then you internalize it and you come back to it, you have sticky notes. We get really dumb around reminders. I’ve done alarms, I’ve done sticky notes, you just start ignoring them, right? You have to fool the mind. You have to know how to fool yourself with penetrating language and reminders that you go, “Oh, oh yeah,” and you open yourself up to it over and over and over again, to letting that in and going, “Yeah, I should do that. I know that’s better for me.”

                                           Those were the three mantras. I know that allowing mistakes will lead to a more fun experience. I know that hanging on to expectations means a tight grip. That’s not fun. I know that when I don’t take risks, I miss out. I mean, finding the language, my therapist is big on what’s the word of the month? What’s the word of the year that you can go back to and remind yourself of that’s going to, again, penetrate you in some way and mean something? You can see how I’ve distanced this quite a bit from just an affirmation which is you look at a quote, you go, “Yeah. Yeah, that’s cool,” and then you go back to whatever you were doing.

Norah Jones:                    Absolutely. Thank you, Josh. One of the things that you have in your film is it struck you how just a little bit of effort on changing my mindset could have such a large impact on changing my experience. How are you finding that you have applied … that happened to be under the risk area, but in general how would you say that you are living in such a way that making an effort to change your mindset has such a large impact on changing your experience?

Josh Barinstein:               How am I living that out?

Norah Jones:                    Yes.

Josh Barinstein:               I’m sorry, repeat the last … yeah. Actually that came at the end of the video where I was providing some concluding thoughts. To clarify, the huge impact applies to any of the three things. I mean, everything had a huge impact. What I want to say about that, you can only put so much into a video and hope people get some of it. I mean, you can never articulate everything.

                                           Maybe through this podcast right now I could say that it’s incredible that we think it’s Mount Everest in front of us, we’re going to come up with maybe three things or a thing we can focus on, it’s going to take forever practicing and it’s going to be hard. That’s the head telling us again what’s going to happen. It’s going to be a hard battle. Well, guess what? In a week or 10 days, however long it was, I practiced these things and just by a little bit of orienting and daily reminders and really allowing myself to be in that space … it was uncomfortable and it was painful, I don’t want to deny that. Those things are things that will stop us. I didn’t let those things stop me. By a bit of effort I got a lot.

                                           I think that is the huge lesson and something I would urge people to do, just to try some of these things that are difficult, that are painful. We can handle pain, we can handle discomfort more than we think we can. When we allow it, the gains are so much more than we think. It takes so much less than we think. It’s just that, again, we think.

Norah Jones:                    Beautifully said. Okay. Turning to now Zenergy films, to the work that you do, to your business and so forth, the application of these concepts, your practicing of them, you continuing on going, now not just in the verbal language that we’ve been focusing on for the moment here but in that visual language of film and video, how is it playing out so far, or how can you imagine it playing out in your visual language media?

Josh Barinstein:               With Zenergy I think a big turning point was 2018. It was the Spanish travels where Nathan infused the videos with the kind of quality of shooting that he provided to the project which came out of the author’s initial vision of something that was very much YouTube-esque. The idea for the project from the beginning was great because it was to show real people doing real things out there, almost documenting on their phone except that we had cameras and we did a better job. It was to keep it as real and authentic as possible.

                                           I had done, I think it was, yeah, it was before that, I did a marketing video for Founders Live. I don’t know if you remember that I used to be a city leader for Portland for that organization running events in town. It was startups pitching at these monthly events and we’d have food and drink and just a great time back pre-COVID days. That marketing video, when I shot it and when I edited it, it had a realism to it. It was the organizer, the main guy talking in an interview, it was shots of people having a good time, companies pitching. It was what it was. It was told in as real a way as possible. That started a trend that carried into the 2018 project. Then I did a couple more projects after that where I just decided, okay, if this is what I want in my life, it’s got to show up in my work otherwise there’s a dissonance.

                                           Any Zenergy project is about, and I talk about it on our website and LinkedIn, it’s about real and authentic content. If you have a story to tell we’re going to insist on telling it as real and authentically as possible because that in the end is what resonates with an audience. That’s what speaks to someone. If you’re trying to get too market-y and flashy and whatnot, you’re losing the story and you’re losing the impact.

Norah Jones:                    Take those risks. While we don’t particularly want, I think, in the marketing type of video to be a dumb-ass, to be real for sure, right? To be real, to be yourself. What is it that you feel, Josh, that you want people to hear from you today that I have not asked about or prompted, but that’s still in your heart?

Josh Barinstein:               Maybe we’ve talked about it in some shape or form, especially just now about video content and so on. You do all this stuff and you hope that, in a business sense, in a marketing sense you hope that you’re going to get attention and sell something. In a different but similar way through my channel, in the personal content I’m creating, it is to reach some audience, it might be small but some audience who gets it and it inspires them to do something different in their lives. I think that, if anything, whether business or not, try something different, take some risks and see what happens. Try to be real because real is fulfilling to you as the creator and it will resonate with others out there.

                                           You know when you see a tilted commercial or something that just doesn’t seem natural, you just don’t connect with it unless there’s maybe a discount that you might be interested in on a purchase of something. Okay, yeah, they might get your attention, we are consumers, but I think the most effective, lasting, penetrating, that’s a great word, stories are those that are real and authentic. I believe in that. With the state of things with social media and how we’re living life these days, I think we need a lot more of that to counter some of this distanced, unsocial, unsocially connected world that we live in. We need more realism, more real.

Norah Jones:                    What are the stakes, Josh?

Josh Barinstein:               I think they’re big. I think there’s going to be a lot of unnecessary suffering. I mean, I think there always is on this planet. I think it’s part of the experiment. I believe that … oh gosh, that’s a tough one. That could get dark for a moment. I think the world is headed in the wrong direction if I can say that. I mean, right, wrong, it’s a tough thing to argue. I think we all sometimes need to go the wrong path to discover so much. I had to personally have 2018 happen in order to be where I am today so I’m very grateful for that. While I think that’s necessary, it’s a tough road. It’s a tough road for the world.

                                           I think social media, to stick to that theme for a moment, is going to cause a lot more harm than good for a while until I think we realize we need to sit around a table and break bread and hang out and talk and just be human beings with each other. I think we’re losing it. We’re going to really lose it for a while and then I think we’ll inevitably come back to it.

Norah Jones:                    Well, on the road there, while social media is still playing a role in so many people’s lives, and I’m thinking here in particular about young people, the kinds of kiddos that are in education, that are starting their lives, part of what you are bringing with, in this case, your three insights and what you just said about a marketing message, a company message that’s authentic if I may use that word, it’s not one you used, but one of integrity or at least an accurate reflection as much as possible can be a stepping stone, a bridge from the way that social media is having an impact on their lives right now to where they can control it and be more real, have that broken experience built back up to something that’s better.

Josh Barinstein:               I mean, it’s going to take taking risk. I mean, I can’t escape going back to some of these themes, right? If the world continues doing things the way that it has for this past century, we just get deeper and deeper into those habitual modes and marketing gets more and more intense, social media gets louder and louder and people do what they do. We just lose consciousness in a way more and more. I think there needs to be some kind of leap of faith that we want to be a good company, we want to reach people in a different way, we want to not take advantage of consumers. See, that’s asking a lot of corporations, right? It’s like the system is locked into itself. I think the answer ultimately is that it needs to implode in a way. It’s going to get ugly before there’s, “Oh my God, what have we done to ourselves?” Sometimes you cannot see that other possibility of something better, bigger, more profound without this breaking down.

                                           Somebody put it the other day, and I’m going to have to paraphrase, but you have to break down in order to break through. That’s what happened to me. I take it back to my story that I had to go through that dark, ugly period in order to go, “Oh, wow. That was there all along. I didn’t have to direct? Wait, I didn’t have to be a big shot director that I wasn’t able to be anyway? I don’t have to struggle?” I didn’t know those things. I literally was in the dark. I didn’t know.

Norah Jones:                    It gives hope, that story repeated again just there, to those who may be facing their own dark stories right now, or even allowing them to admit that they’re facing them.

Josh Barinstein:               Yes. Yes. There is hope. There’s always hope of doing something different, we just have to choose. Again, oftentimes, more often than not you have to hit rock bottom. I had my own rock bottom and it was like, wow. In a way too it’s just not getting stuck in that bottom. Yeah, sure, rock bottoms will make us do things differently, but sometimes we get going and we get comfortable somewhere else and things come back and repeat themselves. It is awareness. It’s about just knowing what we’re doing to ourselves that isn’t working and trying to look at other possibilities because they exist.

Norah Jones:                    Well, I have to say that, when we talked those months ago, I was so touched by the experience that you had gone through, that you were working with, that you were still pondering over, the honesty with which you said, “I still have to process this, I’m not I’m ready yet.” Then here to see this wonderful film about you and your son’s trip and to be honored with you as a guest today talking with me on this podcast about that experience and sharing that learning, it’s a great journey. I really appreciate you doing this with me today, Josh.

Josh Barinstein:               Thank you. Thank you, Norah. Thanks for seeing it, thanks for acknowledging it and for featuring it. I didn’t know if this was appropriate content for you, but there is richness to it and I hope it resonates with people.

Norah Jones:                    It will, for sure. Language is life, life is language and you’ve just brought out a beautiful language both visually and verbally. Thanks for sharing it so much. Appreciate that.

Become a Sponsor

2 thoughts on “Episode 52 – Under the Surface: Josh Barinstein

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: