Name: Gerard Beaulieu
Headquarters: BC, Canada
Website: VirtualIcebreakers.com
Superpower: Establishing a human connection in conference calls

 

Gerard Beaulieu is the creator of VirtualIcebreakers.com, a website that creates ice breakers for conference call meetings. We discuss the importance of having creative freedom, establishing a human connection, and creating engaging conference calls.

Use the promotion code  superpowers to get a one time $50 credit for using virtual icebreakers.  The expiry is October 10.


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Original transcript

Lisette: Okay, we’re live. Welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette, and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. And I’m super excited today to be speaking with Gerard Beaulieu. And you’re in Canada, right?

Gerard: That’s right, Lisette. It’s wonderful to be here. It’s great to also meet. It’s our first meet as well.

Lisette: First meeting, so we never know what’s going to happen from here. I have actually people that I… I look back at the interviews to see what it was like when we first met because we’ve become really good friends since then. So that’s always fun when that happens.

And Gerard, you are the creator of virtualicebreakers.com, which is how we met. And I’m on a mission to make online meetings better than meetings in real life. So this product, this website particularly interests me a great deal. For people who are watching or listening to this on the podcast, you can send any questions that you have to #remoteinterview on Twitter, and we’ll get those answered now or in the future.

So, Gerard, let’s start with tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and then how Virtual Ice Breakers came to be. Actually, the way I’d like to start is with yourself and your background, but tell us what your virtual office looks like. Let’s start with that. And then we’ll get into virtualicebreakers.com.

Gerard: That sounds great. My virtual office has changed. It’s morphed a bit in the last little bit. Right now I’m in a virtual office in my home. I also do some co-location in an environment that’s here in Kamloops called the Kamloops Innovation Centre, which is an incubator program for small startups. So I spend a little bit of time over there as well just to get sanity back sometimes. After you’ve been in a remote office, I’m sure you know what it feels like.

For many years, I’ve been working in a remote office as a manager in a corporation, and that was in a previous home. It was in the basement, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone where there were no windows. Not a very pleasant environment to work in remotely. But I had worked there for several years as a manager with a staff in U.K., staff in the United States. And we used to have meetings around the world. So oftentimes, I’d have meetings late at night to pick up Asia-Pacific, Dubai. In the mornings, I’d have very early mornings to catch Europe because we’re in Pacific Time zone.
I’ve got four children, so my office tends to be sometimes a little… I want to do a video where it shows what a home office looks like. Then you have the backdrop fall backwards [crosstalk – 00:02:45]. You see everyone taped up and the dog muggled. I think it would be a perfect example of what we go through to have our home offices. The flexibility, unbelievable though. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Lisette: So by flexibility though, what do you mean? I mean for me, I like to go running in the middle of the day. That is sort of my guilty pleasure that I love working from home from. When I went to an office, I felt really cooped up. I really would like to go running right now and just think through some ideas, but I’m stuck in this office. But what does the flexibility mean for you? Is it spending time with your kids?

Gerard: The job that I was at just prior to making Virtual Ice Breakers, I actually worked out of office in Atlanta, which meant that I was three hours off from their time. Now it meant early mornings. But by the time 9 or 10 o’clock rolled around, half my day was already gone – which was great because at 9 or 10 in the morning, I’d walk outside. And the house that I was living, it was a creek in the back of… just a beautiful mountain city is where I live. And it used to be amazing. At the same time, I’d feel guilty for doing this because I knew that my corporate counterparts just did not have this. And so I’d feel guilty where I’d be able to walk back or look in the garden and just do these amazing things in this wonderful setting. And I’ve learned now that we have to take the good and the bad and not feel guilty for some of the things that we have taken advantage of as being a home office.

On the flip side of that, I would have meetings at 10, 11 o’clock at night because I could, because I was dealing with Thailand, because I was dealing with Dubai. So there’s advantages that you have being in a home office. And I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be letting guilt take over some of the great things about being able to just stop and go outside and see the wonderful environment that I’m in.

Lisette: Right. And you’re in British Columbia, Canada now. I’m not sure if you mentioned that before.

Gerard: Yes, it’s in the interior British Columbia.

Lisette: Okay. And so let’s talk about how Virtual Ice Breakers came to be. What is the story behind why you made this? And what’s your hope to do with this site? I can’t wait to start using it, by the way.

Gerard: The way the Virtual Ice Breakers came along, it had actually been in my head for many years. I mentioned before that when I worked for a company called Wood Group based in Scotland, what I always would end up doing is every week we’d get into a conference call. And it was all audio. Some of my staff I’ve never met. And we’d just go through the rigid agendas. And what I ended up doing, one time was like we had a quarterly review. And I asked my boss, “Is it okay if I go ahead and buy something to do an icebreaker?” Because if we’re co-located, we do that. We all get into a conference room. We talk about ourselves. And he’s like, “Yeah, sure, go ahead.” So I had my credit card and then I’m like there’s nothing. I couldn’t find a thing. And at the time I said, “Okay, fine, I’m still going to do this.” But I did it manually. And I come up with a game that was called The Animal’s Game. I did not come with it. I found it on Internet called The Animal’s Game. And basically, every participant chooses an animal that they feel most matches the personality. And I had the cheat sheet. I had a sheet that the research went into. If you chose an owl, you were like smart and you don’t necessarily make a lot of noise. But when you do say something, it’s quite good. And you’re wise. Versus if you’re a lion, you make your decisions. And they may be the wrong decisions, but you’ve made them. And there may be casualties. And that’s the type of person you are. And so we all went around. And I coached everyone beforehand [inaudible – 00:06:58] pick your animal, and we’ll reveal it in the conference [inaudible] part of the conference call. And it was roughly about a 20-minute icebreaker. And it turned out really well. But what was frustrating with that is it probably took me an hour to an hour and a half of setup time and getting the emails out and making sure everyone was coordinated. And I still wanted to have that credit card where I could just pay my money, get on with it, and not have to waste my time trying to organize this. So that idea sat in my head for quite some time.

And it was probably two years ago when I was in Kamloops here that I came across the Innovation Centre, the incubator program. And all of a sudden, I was seeing the possibilities of this coming to life again. And so two years ago, I thought, “Okay, I’m going to try this out, see where it goes in a very small scale.” And the initial feedback was positive, much like what you’re saying, “Well, that’s interesting. I never would’ve thought of trying that.”

And then I went through a bit of a life change where everything just kind of got put on hold for a good year and a half. And I was still working in corporate world, still feeling my soul kind of drifting away from where it wanted to be – not feeling the creativity in my life for quite some time. And roughly 10 months ago, I decided that’s it. I’m done. I quit my job, which is just something I never would’ve done before – extremely risky and rewarding all in one. So I’m not sure what kind of chemicals were flying around in my head at the time, but I’m sure there were all kinds of them – being anything from excitement to you name it. And I focused all my energy on Virtual Ice Breakers. And the creativity that I was able to express was amazing. And I loved it, and I still love it. It’s still a work in process. We released it in April of 2015. So we’re still refining this.

And what I’ve been doing recently is reaching out to my network, extending my network where I met you, and also other individuals like Dr. Esbin in Vancouver.

Lisette: Howard Esbin, indeed.

Gerard: …just off my doorstep. I hadn’t come across that website before. And I met him through you. So now we’ve got a call actually later today. And he was expressing his… He’s like, “That’s an interesting idea. I like the content on there,” which was amazing to hear because he has been working this for quite some time. I’ve been doing this as an armchair virtual game designer – for lack of a better wording; I call it engagement gaming, actually – for a very short time. And for him to validate some of that was like oh, wow, that’s a great feeling.

Lisette: I love that you guys are connecting. I love that you and Howard are… I mean for me, one of the joys in doing these interviews is actually seeing… I look on LinkedIn and see that other people have linked with each other and are collaborating together. I mean for me, this is a dream to hear that all these connections are being made. Think of the things that we can do when we get all this remote working right. It’s going to be awesome.

Gerard: Exactly. I had followed [Sandstone – 00:10:32] out of the U.K. for a couple of years. And there’s another site called innovationgames.com.

Lisette: With Luke Hohmann.

Gerard: That’s right. And it was very interesting to me to see both of these come off the ground. And I have seen both of them also go through an iteration of their next-level products. So when I came across playprelude.com, which is Howard’s site, it was like wow, there’s more of these. But after talking to Howard and [Alan – 00:11:07], it’s like oh, that’s it. There’s not a lot out there. And it’s funny enough that our products are very complementary in that there’s not a whole lot of overlap between them because mine are quick what you do at the beginning of the meeting. [Sandstone – 00:11:22] is more of a longer game, something that I may want to venture into – although, if there’s someone already doing it, it may be just you cross-promote and just worry about the stuff that you’ve been working on and don’t more from there. And Dr. Esbin is concentrating more on the training aspect of it.

Lisette: Right. I find that. And also that everybody seems to have a particular niche. And the lovely part of the community, it’s so far. Seems that it is very collaborative that people are very willing to help each other out and look at products and like, “Oh, this is your niche and this is mine. And we can help each other in these ways.” And that’s the way it should be. I think that’s a positive, innovative community there.

Gerard: I agree 100 percent.

Lisette: So what are some of the challenges that… So with these Virtual Ice Breakers, what were some of the things you were trying to solve? So it sounds like you were having these stale, boring, lifeless conference calls. That’s the impression I’m getting from this call where you’re not even really getting to know people. Is that the main thing that you’re set out to solve?

Gerard: Yeah, the whole nature of an icebreaker is really to get your mind off of work, get it off that task, the list that you normally go through, the agenda that you normally go through. And to really get your brain thinking about something else and maybe spur some creativity. At the same time, establishing a human connection. We have all these tools that do all kinds of technical connection, whether it’s the videoconferencing or whether it’s the scheduling tools. These are technical tools that we use to establish a connection. But there’s very few tools that do the human connection. And as everybody knows, the amount of communication that happens nonverbally is quite high. That gets solved somewhat with videoconferencing, but it’s still not the same as being in person. So establishing methods or ways of getting to know someone more personally, like an icebreaker, in my opinion, it’s something that’s vital when it comes to remote working. And that’s the intention of it. And if you go to Virtual Ice Breakers, you’ll notice the icebreakers will be very similar in terms of what you’d see in a co-located icebreaker. The advantage that I have or that I’ve seen is I take advantage of the medium. So when it comes to guessing who had the wildest experience or whose dream vacation was that. It’s a little easier on this environment because you have that screen that you have to do your guessing.

And when it comes to maybe capturing the feedback, again it’s easier because the way that I’ve made the feedback because it’s like you pick 1 to 3, or did it energize? Did it spur some creativity? And those types of metrics are much easier to capture in a computer environment than they are in a conference room setting.

Lisette: Right. So you can actually do something with it afterwards instead of leaving the meeting and having it just be done.

Gerard: That’s right. And all the input is captured so you get a report at the end. For an example, there’s one of the games called [Budding – 00:14:51] office, which my kids go crazy over. On that particular game, everyone submits a word for a given theme. So let’s say our theme is summer. So I submit hot weather and maybe vacation. And other people submit other words. And then we have to create a story using up the words from the overall word list. And I’ve done this where my children want to play it with me. And they play it. And we come up with these funny stories. And so what I’ve done now is I’m using the same engine, but I’m launching an education site. And I’m going to make it so that the kids can play together. And it’ll be a little bit different in that some of the functionality for metrics will be chopped out. And it’ll be made more kid-friendly. But now I’m paralleling the… I’m using the same virtual engine or virtual icebreaker engine to use for the kids. And they can’t wait for it. They want to play this with their friends.

Lisette: I love the crossover. I mean who knew? It’s like who knew the kids would find it so fun that they just take it and run with it. I love when these things happen.

Gerard: The kids today and the emerging workforce today grew up on team building via games. They live and breathe this stuff. So the stuff that I’m doing, I see this stuff that’s happening in [Sandstone – 00:16:21] and Prelude being the way that people are going to be doing team building in the future. Now obviously, co-location is still going to happen. And the thing about co-location team building in a corporation, it happens at the highest levels of management. They have management development programs where they’ll say they’ll fly everybody in. But when it comes to people actually doing the work, there’s nothing like that. You don’t do the same, or the corporations don’t do the same level of team building at the lower levels – where if you get into an environment like what we’re offering, now it’s throughout the organization because it becomes much more cost-effective.

Lisette: The thing that I really like about this is I had an experience. I worked for a very large engineering firm in the beginning of my career, with offices all over the world. And I had a team of 20 people. And we would meet every week in this boring conference room. And because of an experience that I had in college where I learned… used to start every meeting with an opening question, just a really quick opening question. And I just continued it because I loved it so much just to be able to do that. So I continued on my team. And so every week, we just had a really quick question of simple stuff, favorite food, favorite color, favorite vacation spot, favorite smell. I mean it was really just super simple. So what ended up happening after six weeks of these weekly questions was our team became sort of the special bonded team within the office because it wasn’t just Bob from engineering. It was Bob who liked canoeing and was a baseball coach and loved the color purple. The depth that you got from learning about each other, even just the small things, made us sort of this magic team together. We just had a special bond. And we did great things.

And it was aha. So when I saw your product, I thought yes, this is what we need, because I think people don’t recognize the importance of the humanness that needs to be created – especially in online meetings, especially in boring conference calls when you don’t have video. It’s underestimated. So I think this product is so exciting. It seems so simple, but people don’t understand the power behind this simple…

Gerard: That’s very true. I was reading your blog, and I thought that was incredibly interesting to hear about the meetings that you’re running. And you’re right. We’re wired within us to do human connection. Human connection is something we all want. It’s kind of like fundamental. And I’m getting outside my element because I’m not a psychologist by any stretch. But there’s a lot to what you’re saying. And the benefits that you received from that weren’t intentional but they were real. They’re very real, because when you have that human connection to talk about, “Well, I went scuba diving in Mexico.” And to find out that someone else also does scuba diving, you now have something. And originally, when this project that they call the virtual water cooler. Unfortunately, the domain was taken. But that’s essentially what you have. You have this virtual water cooler where you can go and learn details about someone’s life that you wouldn’t normally. And it forms that connection. It forms that small talk that gets [inaudible – 00:19:43]. It’s deeper than that. And you’re actually taking interest in someone’s life as opposed to some of the small talk that can happen.

Lisette: Have you seen any… I mean I know Virtual Ice Breakers is really new. Have you had any reports from the field yet from people experiencing sort of the team building aspect of it?

Gerard: Interestingly enough, because it comes from a corporate world, I’m not as familiar with some of the sectors of business. And there was an organization that was network marketing. And it was actually the toastmaster that I was referring to, I talked to you earlier about. And when she’d seen this, she’s like this is amazing. I’ve got 170 or 270 associates underneath me. And I’m trying to engage these people all the time. And it was a market segment that I never imagined. But she loves it because what it does is most of her network, the pyramid underneath her, are all women working from home. And women enjoy talking about themselves more than men. And there was also an industry that was a little bit more open. So these women were a perfect ground to test it on. But it’s also opened up. When it comes to some of the network marketing jewelry and network marketing, Avon, like all the stuff, there’s a huge potential there for me because it allows individuals to connect at a deeper level. And it’s about engagement. It’s about human connection. And that’s what these network marketing individuals want to be able to do. So it was amazing because toastmasters open up a brand-new market segment that I hadn’t encountered before.

Lisette: Love it, love it. And I especially love toastmasters in doing that. You’re right. You meet the most random people, things that industries didn’t even know existed – which is always fun. Are there any people that have… I mean what would be the reason for not doing it? Are there people that are challenging this? Why wouldn’t somebody use this?

Gerard: The biggest barrier, my biggest competitor is to do nothing, because that’s we’ve always done [crosstalk – 00:21:59].

Lisette: That’s a big competitor.

Gerard: What I’m suggesting is to do something different and to do something that requires them to step out of a comfort zone. There’s definitely a comfort zone that you’re stepping out. And this is swimming upstream to a certain extent, but I do know that it’s going to just gradually get into the workplace. When people say, “We’re going to do gaming in the workplace,” they think, “Well, that’s the craziest idea ever. Gerard, what are you doing quitting your job, doing games for business? That just sounds crazy.” But the funny thing is they’ve been doing games in business for many, many years. They just call them icebreakers. They call them corporate activities. And they’re all co-located. But like I said about our emerging workforce, these young adults have been gaming all their lives. They’ve been team-building all their lives. They want engagement. They need engagement. They need this extra – I don’t know what you call it – the rush of having something more than just the humdrum of the corporate life. And they need… Maybe it’s a strong word, but I could see that the opportunity of engagement gaming becoming – in 5 to 10 years from now – just something that you do at work.

Lisette: Right. When I spoke of Luke Hohmann, he really opened my eyes to the idea of the terminology of games and play in the corporate workforce and how that’s a real detractor because of what people associate with those words. What he did is instead of saying, “We’re going to play a game,” he said, “If I were addressing a military operation, I would say, okay, we’re going to have this exercise. And we’re going to have a goal. And along the way, we’re going to encounter these obstacles.” And he would say like, “That’s speaking their language, but really all I’m saying is we’re going to play a game.” And so he really opened my eyes to the fact that if you put it into people’s context, you’re right. We’ve been doing this all along. We just call it something different.

But I think you bring in a really good point with the younger generation and the way that they’re changing the workforce already, because I think people are collaborating naturally from all over using social media, using games. It’s almost a natural way of being. And then to be told that you need to now go into a box, and you must arrive at 9:00am, and you have to take your lunch at 12:30 with everybody else, and you only get 30 minutes – these kind of constraints are going to seem, I think, crazy to people in the future. Even in a university, nobody ever told you. You didn’t have to sit in a particular place. You had to finish your paper by the end of the semester, however you did it. If you did it all-nighter the night before or you took the whole semester to write it, nobody really controlled that.  I’m super excited to see how it’s changing the workforce.

Gerard: If you look at, let’s say, the training industry, training, for the longest time was like someone sat in front of a classroom and they [teach – 00:25:22] things. And then we went to multimedia, which engaged people a bit more where it was slightly more interactive where you had videos that you could click on. I wouldn’t even call them games, but it enriched the training experience a bit. But can you imagine learning the corporate policies or corporate safety policies as a game, that you have search the stuff out? And the thing about doing it in that context is that your brain will retain this stuff much better because you’ve actually done an activity that requires you to engage it. And I see this being the way that it’s going to be. And whether you want to call that a game or whether you want to call it an engaging activity, like you said, it’s a game. And you’re trying to accomplish something within the game.

The stuff that Luke is doing, I’ve been totally amazed with it. And as soon as I’ve seen them, I want that. Many times when we get into a conference room or a conference call, we have these automatic blinders that we through up. And the blinders are just the way that the meetings have been run. And there’s nothing to pull off those blinders. Having the interaction of the game, in my opinion, pulls these blinders off and opens things up and to go in a direction that wouldn’t have happened before. So companies that do this will benefit from it. That’s my take on Luke’s stuff. And I think it’s some of the greatest stuff that’s out there in terms of engagement gaming for business.

Lisette: Yeah, I love the way he approaches problems. I mean it’s also another buzzword that I [always hesitate – 00:27:15]. But it just seems like so much more fun to solve problems in this way than it is in the way… And also, I think online, what I’m learning is it’s nice to have a shared space that everybody is looking at together. So with your virtual icebreaker, everybody is seeing the same things together. It’s as if you’re working on a whiteboard together in the same room. But you have this sort of thing that you’re engaging with together, and that makes all the difference in terms of the icebreaker and the way it’s done, so I love it.

We’re nearing the end. I could go on forever about this. But I want to ask maybe about personality traits. Who are the people? I mean the kids, clearly, are very excited about some of these games. But what are some of the other personality traits that you’re seeing that are attracting people to the Virtual Ice Breakers?

Gerard: Like I said before, with the [inaudible – 00:28:15], certainly females are drawn more towards this. I know that I’ve talked about this with some of my guy peers. And they’re like, “Oh, that sounds horrible.” I can see that being a challenge. As well as with some of the older corporate individuals, middle management. I could see executive management taking on, seeing the advantage of this. At least some of the more pioneering/visionary executive management seeing this and seeing the advantages of it. It does require some looking at the research because the research backs this stuff up – not to say that it backs up Virtual Ice Breakers per se, but it backs up icebreakers. If you look, you’ll find all kinds of research showing the benefits of establishing a human connection. It’s hard to measure. It’s hard to measure the fact that you’ve established this human connection with someone, the actual benefits of it, because it’s kind of subjective. How much does it increase productivity? I can’t measure that.

Lisette: It almost seems sad to measure it. Once you start measuring how much human connection we have, there’s sort of a beauty in letting the surprising things come up. Sometimes connections happen, sometimes they don’t. And there’s something beautiful in what it does. So I almost hope we never find a way to measure it [laughs].

Gerard: Yeah. But it’s what corporations are always looking for. What’s the improvement? What’s the number? What’s the metric? And that’s where on Virtual Ice Breakers, I did throw in the metrics to try and get feedback from the participants, so that they at least had some numbers to throw back. So hopefully, I don’t ruin your [crosstalk – 00:30:14].

Lisette: [Laughs] Well, it’s funny that I’m a metrics fanatic. So for me to even say that is a little bit weird. But I was just thinking like, “Oh no, once we start measuring the human connection, where does the randomness go? And the sort of joy of just connecting instantly.” But I can see it. Businesses are spending money and they want return on their investment. That’s just the way business is done.

Gerard: That’s true. That hallmark has been around for a while, the whole team building. You have people going off and doing adventure activities together, whether it’s walking on fire, firewalks or whatever. So it’s known that doing these out-of-context experiences establishes a better bond with the team. And again, the research backs this stuff up. We need it when it comes to virtual stuff because it’s that much more challenging to establish these bonds. It almost feels frustrating to think that I have to pitch this stuff. But because it’s so new, it will take a while for it to sink in. But I believe in my heart that it will make it.

Lisette: There’s a clear need. I think there’s a clear need for these kind of things. I see companies are coming to me all the time for the work-together, anywhere workshop. And one of the main things that they’re struggling with is how do you create that sense of team online, because I think what people misunderstand sometimes in some of these interviews that I do is I’m not trying to push remote working per se – although I’m completely obsessed and a big fan, of course. But I think more interesting is sometimes we have to work remotely. And then what do we do? That’s much more interesting question. Work remote or don’t, that’s up to you. But if you have to work remotely, then what do you do? And I think if you’re trying to build your team, then these things like Virtual Ice Breakers are fabulous ways to start.

Gerard: I think it’s unusual that you have a team that’s all co-located. So even if it’s within a corporation where you’re in an office, but let’s say you’re dealing with individuals around the world and you want to learn more about that team. It’s still applicable. You’re remote. You don’t get the chance to meet in the cafeteria or meet by the water cooler to talk about some of the details of your life. So it’s still applicable. And for a team to be co-located, I’d say it rarely happens anymore.

Lisette: Right. I mean even if you’re at the same address and you’re on a different floor, it’s rare that you’ll walk up to that floor if you just have one question. I mean you’ll probably save it for an email or batch it or something. I think I’ve called it remote at the same address. So even though we’re at the same address, [inaudible – 00:33:11] remote.

So is there anything else that I’ve missed? I feel like I’ve got a number of questions that I didn’t get to, but is there anything else that you want to say about your game and your experience, before I ask the final question, that I may have missed?

Gerard: Well, we briefly talked about this before. And I mentioned that I’ve been working in the corporate world. I’ve worked in aerospace, worked in energy for many years. And when I quit this job 10 years ago, quit my corporate life. I felt like I was jumping from a dock into the deepest end of the ocean. And I do have to say that it’s a decision that I hopefully never have to look back on. Obviously, there’s a monetary difference so far that you have to do stuff more on your own. But the freedom and the creativity and just my soul, I could feel my soul totally coming back to me from not having the corporate constraints kind of push it down.

And I don’t want to sound anti-corporation, but there’s a certain wonderful feeling about doing something that you are passionate about and making money with it. There’s nothing better than that. And so many people get caught into the, “Well, I need to have this next material thing, so I’m going to work hard, and my family is going to benefit from it,” when in actual fact, you’re selling your happiness, almost, your passion, for that next material thing that’s just going to clutter your life anyway.

Lisette: Ah, so have you made moves then to minimalize things in your life since quitting the corporate job?

Gerard: Have I? Well, I’ve made finances easier. The change that happened a couple of years ago was that my marriage failed. So that in itself kind of caused some changes where things became a little bit easier to manage. The house that I’m in, I have a tenant that lives in the basement. My mortgage is subsidized by this tenant. So these are the types of changes that I’ve made in order to make my life less worrisome, not have to focus so much on money. And I’ve never been a money person. My children know that they get nothing from me when it comes to material items. But even last week, we went on a helicopter ride. And so I take the money, and I give them adventures. Whether it’s adventure parks, going and climbing through trees, helicopter rides, simple tent camping, backcountry camping, hiking, these are all… Well, the helicopter wasn’t cheap, but it was an experience that they will never forget, and that’s where I want to live my life. That’s the changes that I’ve been doing in the last couple of years, and I love it. I wouldn’t turn my back on it.

Lisette: It seems the whole idea of having experiences over things, I see it more and more. And I’ve had the same experience myself. I found the tiny house movement a couple of years ago. And it was like of course, we don’t need these huge places. So I really scaled back to where I have a super small apartment. And sometimes I think, “Oh, I’d like to have more room.” But on the other hand, not having so much stuff is super liberating in its own weird way. So I’m really relating to what you’re saying there. And having the experiences over the stuff, I hope this is a trend that continues [laughs].

Gerard: Because it’s a message that I want my children to learn, that things don’t make you happy. And again, the research backs that up.

Lisette: Right. So connecting, whether we’re online or in person, connecting being the focus instead of the corporate soul-sucking or just the ability to express our creativity is…

Gerard: Yes, very much.

Lisette: Yeah, and I can imagine it must’ve been really scary to quit the job. So I’m thinking that the people listening to this, it’s not easy to quit your job. We’re not saying go ahead and do it.

Gerard: Yeah, it’s terrifying. It wasn’t just scary. It was terrifying.

Lisette: Right, terrifying, people [inaudible – 00:37:35].

Gerard: I’ve got five dependents that are expecting I to keep them going, so that’s terrifying.

Lisette: Right. Well, in fact, a lot of people say, “Oh, it’s these kids, these digital nomads that are quitting their job and [traveling the world – 00:37:51].” I said, “No, it’s not just the kids who are doing it. Everybody can do it. It just takes nerves of steel and a plan [laughs].” But I am really inspired by people pursuing happiness in their lives in whatever context [inaudible – 00:38:10] that matters. I think that that’s a really noble pursuit and terrifying at the same time. But our lives are better for it when we do it. So if anybody is listening and they want to know about the terrifying journey, then tweet to #remoteinterview and ask us about it.

So, Gerard, one last question, which is if people want to get in touch with you and learn more, all the Howards out there, the people who are doing great things and they want to learn more, they can go to virtualicebreakers.com. But how do they reach you? What’s the best way, I would say?

Gerard: Probably gerard@virtualicebreakers.com.

Lisette: As through email.

Gerard: Through email. There’s also Twitter and LinkedIn or also right on the website as well. There’s tags there that will also direct you pretty much to me. I get most of the dialogs.

Lisette: Great. Well, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about this. I think you’re really onto something here. And I hope that others that are watching this, if you go to Virtual Ice Breakers, then let us know where you heard it from. So it would be fun to see how many people come via the interview and some of the things that we’re doing here. So thanks for your time today, Gerard. I really appreciate it.

Gerard: Thank you so much, Lisette. It’s been an awesome meeting. So thank you very much.

Lisette: All right, everybody, until next time, be powerful.

 

 

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