July 8, 2020

076 Jimmie Stone: The Zen of PR, Marketing, And Paying Attention

My guest today is Jimmie Stone, the Chief Creative Officer for New York & Latin America at Edelman, former adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and a Zen Buddhism practitioner. He is a master storyteller and we had a fantastic...

My guest today is Jimmie Stone, the Chief Creative Officer for New York & Latin America at Edelman, former adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and a Zen Buddhism practitioner.

He is a master storyteller and we had a fantastic conversation about a wide variety of subjects.

Overview of topics discussed:

  • Discovering the "sun" that guides your path
  • Finding the source of the river of your life
  • Being self-aware vs. working in advertising
  • The atomic unit of making an impact
  • Practicing equanimity
  • The importance of empathy and EQ in the modern world
  • The power of living mindfully
  • Being a vessel for creative ideas
  • Discovering your career path
  • Serving the public good through brand consciousness
  • Discovering your organization's core beliefs
  • Building intention into every area of your life
  • The "compound effect" of your words and actions
  • What does a Kalpa mean in Buddhism?


Jimmie Stone is the Chief Creative Officer, New York & Latin America at Edelman, the leading global communications firm,. He is a former adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and a Zen Buddhism practitioner.

Over 20 years he has dedicated his career to connecting brands and consumers through purpose-driven creative work.

His greatest strength lies in his ability to recognize and motivate a team to find the paradigm (between culture and corporate brands, and people) that should be shifted and subsequently distill complex concepts into messages that are simple, beautiful, hopeful, and motivate people to act.

Full Episode

Discovering The "Sun" That Guides Your Path - Jimmie Stone

What I call the sun is the star. That is, that is far, far away that illuminates your aspiration. I love that image of a son, because even when you are in the beach and you close your eyes and you don't know where you are, you always know where the sun is.

And so I always tell people is what is that sun? What is the sun? Because in the moment that you arrive to clarify, where is the sun in your life? You are able to hold when there is inevitable fog, when there's raining, it always stopped. And then you see where the sun is. You continue the path. Yes.

Clarified me. So for example, my sun like the star. I always framed it, us to use the power of the capitalistic system to advance environmental and social consciousness.

it came to me by like the truth of the matter. It came to me by reading color magazine of Benetton back in the night. Nine one 1991, 1992 is like the power that we have as communication and community to use our creativity to sell stuff to people, millions, some billions of shoes. The order runs. We have the ability to persuade people to move from one soap to the other soap, billions of people.

So we must have the ability to persuade people to believe that global warming is a true thing that is happening. So my endeavor was always, how can I do that by selling soap and sell an idea with that soap. That has been my call and I have been doing that in my life everywhere. And that gives me a sense of calm that no matter what stage I am, that's where I will do in the future.

So when I I'm with people that are seeking my advice, it's both a gift and a burden. And one that I am willing to take. What is a burden is because I struggled with holding the sense of attachment, the sense of happiness that it gives me to help people finding that sun. It gives me joy and I'm not a hundred percent sure that if I'm doing it because of that joy.

Or because I truly want to help people find their sun. Hmm. That's what I'm fighting for, but no matter what, I help people find it, articulate that. And I do that with a client to articulate what is the business problem? I do that with a friend to articulate what is their career or colleague their career path.

Predict The Future By Finding The Source Of The River In Your Life - Jimmie Stone

there is this guy, a futurist from national geographic. His name was Andrew Sali. very, very smart, incredible, eh, brain and mind. Eh, we were in a, in a restaurant and he's like, well, why you're a futurist? And he said, well, it's not that I am a psychic or I can investigate the future is that I know that I'm wearing this restaurant together.

And if we it's two o'clock in the afternoon, I know that it will start getting bottles of wine bottles, bottles of wine. And it started getting drinking and drinking start to get drunk. And then at three in the morning they close the restaurant and we do not want to get out of the restaurant. We're drunk and say that we're not going to get out of this restaurant because we love it.

That police is going to come. And that strike me as like,

Oh, so futurism is not guessing the future.

So what is my image? My image is always, if I know where the river is going. And I can see where that slopes of the mountain is form. I can potentially tell you where the river will follow. That's how I see it.

So finding your purpose. it's both seen where you want to go is, but like you say, go all the way down the source of the river and you find where the rivers has been coming.

when I was a kid. I used to go to. with a friend of mine to the Amazon area in Venezuela. And we were investigating the source of a particular river that ends up apparently to a better larger river that ends on the already Nakil river, which is a huge, huge, one of the two biggest rivers in the world. So we're investigating that, but it's, we were in a boat going up the river that arrives to a very small area of a tributary that we went into a smaller boat going up the river. We walk through that path all the way. We continue climbing the mountain because of the mountain for hours. And we arrived to a huge mountain. It was almost like a rock. And when you touch the rock, it was wet and that was a source of that river.

And it has always fascinating for me, these constant images that I have about how to find the sun, the source, the river nature has inspire me to use as metaphors.

So I always helped with my students or my clients or my colleagues or friends and family, that's go up the stream of that river and let's find and touch the rock.

You Need Self-Awareness To Make A Big Impact - Jimmie Stone

From your 46 years of life, do you see a direct correlation there? the cultivation of one's awareness to one's ability to actually make an impact in the world?

Absolutely. A hundred percent. I always say in the beginning part of my spiritual path, why begin? that will be the question.

When you put their light inward, a lot of beautiful things happen. One of the ones that happens to me that I feel that it's just, there is a deep sense of humility that emerges,

And in this world of advertising me, me, me, look at me. I am the star. Look, I'm in New York. Awards. It's almost like a conflict that I always have with that. I live in a world in which what we do is create anxiety in order for people to buy products where in my personal life and existence, it's about to. Eliminate anxiety. So, I live in constant conflict between what I do and what I am trying to practice.

However I am in this precise moment in which, and this precise organization in which we understand that there is a way to connect both a way to deliver a communication sell product sell ideas without bringing anxiety and so on. There's an interesting window in which I believe still that both things can happen.

But going back to Confucius, That that East has a long understanding that light inward. And if you're not okay with yourself, you cannot be of service to the world. So when you put the light inward, I feel that there is a sense of humility because you start to realize how little you're not.

And start to start to become more aware of how connected you are with everything else. So you start to start to feel the pain when you talk bad about people, because you realize that it's literally being in the same pool.

Yeah. So, so I do agree a hundred percent with your thought of like go deep inside of you. And from there, when you clarify that that's the jumpstart or the solid ground in which you can actually walk towards helping and moving society forward. But if you don't have that strength inside of you.

everything that you will do will be great intentions, but it will be non-sustainable,

The Atomic Unit Of Making An Impact - Jimmie Stone

For the people who are listening, you may be thinking, man, why is Jimmy and CK talk about something that's so esoteric, right? This practice of self awareness, meditation, or spirituality, whatever your interpretation is. I wanted to actually bring it back to why we want to talk about it.

A couple of points for me, why I am interested in, in the first place is one. this is the atomic unit of a fulfilled and successful life . And two, if my intention is to make it a large impact in the world the atomic unit of impact is empathy. If I don't know if I can't feel the pain that you feel, I can't make a difference with you.

Right. That's so the atomic unit of making a difference with someone is empathy is self awareness. That's why I'm wanting to spend time to talk to Jamie about it. Even though at the surface, it seems very theoretical, philosophical, esoteric. But I think for the people who are interested in living a successful, fulfilling, and a life that makes a difference with people, this is the topic to discuss.

Empathy Is The Most Important Skill Of The Future - Jimmie Stone

man. We're like brothers from a different mother, but let's bring it to practical level, if you will. Well, semi-practical note.

we know that the world is moving from a complicated world to a complex world and there's many books and, and written writings that talks about this. The complicated world is many moving pieces that needs to work together.

A complex is many moving pieces that need to work together with a high degree of uncertainty. In a complex world world, the way that we need to organize ourselves is not through organizational structures. We need to move from an organization to an organism. It has to be fluid, organic resilience and adaptable in any organism.

Empathy, which produces emotional intelligence is your ability to empathize with the entire system.

So how to move in a complex world in an organism.

So, yes, it sounds esoteric, but rewind and see it again. And, you understand that developing empathy.will develop your emotional intelligence that will make you super successful in an organism organization, in a complex world.

So you see that IQ intelligent coefficient or quotient was super important back in the 50, 60 seventies. But now emotional coefficient, EQ is going to be the key for kids to grow.

Imagine how vastly complex and uncertain it, this dynamic head or ability to empathize with everything, realizing that we are interdependent interconnected. We knew this with social media. Now we know we see it with a health issue.

So, empathy and emotional intelligence is the skill of the future. It's not cute. There's nothing cute about it is the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Integrating Duality and Practicing True Equanimity - Jimmie Stone

the idea of holding you call it polarity or duality or binary, thinking of black and white, they are neither good and bad.

There is no. One without the other. It's our ability to hold both is the practice.


It's its ability, which I'm starting to understand a little bit more is practicing equanimity. Yeah. Going food rule life. Following that river of your aspiration without being attached to the conditions of that duality of happiness and suddenness good or bad.

And that, that constantly pull and push that you have to take you out from the Razor's edge is the practice of equanimity is the practice of centering yourself into this present moment. which in theory, I, haven't more and more developed in practice, living in New York with families, with responsiblities, with COVID-19 , losing clients, changing structures, just holding your yourself to both.

And do not, , and I now find myself like attached to like what I did or what I was before this pandemic. And I need to recover that. That was awesome. It was great. And now, so it might even blaming the pandemic.

I remember once that I had another image in nature that I think it helps your audience to have this images.

I was in the beach in Florida alone. And I saw this perfectly, perfectly. I'm talking about Haiti, like cloud, like perfect form. It was just too beautiful. So I got attached to that plow and I start to see it start to, , play that that's a real game of icy and elephant.

I see a dog. I see whatever was just beautiful. It was with me for probably 10 minutes. and then all of a sudden, the wind picked up and the cloud, it starts to dissipate. And I find myself suffering because I was trying to hold the cloud from dissipating. And I was realizing that I couldn't. Wow. And I didn't, and I suffer all the way through seeing it completely disappear.

That marked me. It's like, how do you hold that? So holding yourself to the past or holding yourself to that construct nature of solidity, which we know that does not exist. It's a pain it's very painful.

And, I'm trying to not hold, but at the same time, I'm trying not to care because there's very beautiful things that have been done that needs to be fought to be behold, but you cannot hold them.

So going through that motion of, especially what's happening with pandemic, that I'm sure that we will arrive in some point in this moment, but it is it's holding yourself to who you were, how things were done. So it's fascinating for me to see how people are talking about the new normal or going back to normal when in reality that's an illusion.

The Unexpected Power Of Living Mindfully - Jimmie Stone

Now move to a more practical level of mindfulness and, and the study of the self. Back in the 1960s, I heard that the military was using Zen meditation practice to be able to help the sharp shooters be more precise?

No, it was a wrong use of in a way, a intentional use of sin. And in Zen, the essence of entering into a practice is not to have an articular objective of why you are entering yes.

Esoteric back again, but it's studying yourself and studying mindfulness in creative field is powerful. Why? Because first it gives you time between an action and a reaction.

When somebody says something, you react. If you're there, it gives you time to hear that. Really hear what that client, that person is saying gives you the sense of space.

So your answer is better. It's more precise. It's more poignant.

One of the things we say is imagine. Stimulus and response. You're now lengthening the time and the space between the two in now, you don't just have to have the, your top three reactions. You can now have many, many different options, and then you can pick and choose which one tool which options the most opportune most appropriate in the circumstances.

That is exactly right. and sometimes if identity, consequences of that, It's a bad reaction that creates karma that makes your boss feel that you were not listening or you were angry, or the bad reaction that you said to a client that the client said, you're not listening to me or that very quick reaction that you said to your friend and their friend is like, Hmm.

So, but that doesn't mean that you have to wait. Not that space that opens between the action and the reaction is infinite, but it's a second. So that's one practical way.

How Can I Discover My Career Path? - Jimmie Stone

I do think also that if you have a sun, then you start to connect the ideas within the ideas, and then you start creating a career.

When you start to become gray beard, when you put them together can inform where the river will flow.

I always try to sometimes do a sneakiness because sometimes I know where the river is going to flow down the mountain.

But there is some times where the terrain of the mountain can go into their way. Okay. So I go with my team and I said to them, Hey, can you carry this Boulder and put it here?

and I have seen how the river goes. Yes. Goes in that moment where I did not know where the river was going to go. And touches the Boulder and it moves to where we want it to go. that's Interesting.

I have done sometimes when I put a Boulder that actually made the river stop in that Boulder and basically go to absolutely the wrong way. So it's a dangerous proposition where to put the Boulder.

Creativity Is About Connecting The Dots, Not Generating Something From Nothing - Jimmie Stone

I don't think that creativity is something that comes from within. And that is one of the challenges that I have with my title. I am a creative, so I create from nothing, something, and that creates a lot of ego. I am, a creator

over time realize that I am not coming up with something. I am just recognizing, connecting the dots. That's where ideas and creativity happens when you connect. And when you connect the dots and mindfulness allows you to be there present when that dots are in the air and the idea appears, so your job is not to come up with their ideas. I believe your job is to be there when the idea happens. And so that's another practical out byproduct of the esoteric conversation that we're having.

Yeah, no, it was perfect. so Elizabeth Gilbert, she did a Ted talk talking about creativity. So for those of you who are interested in the idea of creativity, is, so her metaphor is, essentially she is a conduit.

She was a vessel. For creativity to come visit. So, so her job as a vessel is to make sure that her vessel is pristine, is clean. So then when the muse comes, she's ready to capture whatever muse wants to express to her. Right?

So, very similar analogy that we talk about on the podcast. What Jamie just talked about is how do we actually cultivate our channel, our conduit, such that we can easily see the reality for what it is without the preconception of our own biases, our regrets of the past ,or anxiety towards the future. Just see reality for what it is. And based on this moment alone, what kind of connections I can make with ideas, with people, with businesses, and to serve our highest good.

What Questions Can Founders Ask Of Their Employees To Find Their Core Values? - Jimmie Stone

What is one question that maybe a business owner, entrepreneur, a founder can actually say, Hey, I'm going to take this powerful question and Jimmy share and then ask our employees as a way to flush out what they truly believe, what they truly want the company to stand for. So, yeah. So the first one, then the simplest one is what will the world be missing if your product or brand is not in it?

That's it. Okay. And so if you, if your answer is another pair of shoes that are more colorful than the others,

entire system will know that that is a weak purpose. Yeah. So investigate. What is truly your core reason why your product exist then understand and listen to your people to understand why are they waking up in the morning? Why they go and sleep well at night and why they came for the first place.

Obviously you have to entertain, you have to have beautiful, memorable communication, and you have to have a good price, good performance, all that basics, but those are table stakes. Now you have to take that and enter into that society conversation. So which of those things in society that your customers really care about?

Can you have the hour, what you make, who you make, and the reason that you make and the purpose that you have, that you have the agency or the authority, or the credibility to partake in that conversation, into advance into that particular mission. So it's not a complicated process and a lot of great people, agencies, organizations are starting to do that process and you start to see organizations that are entering.

Now, you're starting to see organizations that are washing and that ultimately defeats everything. But I have seen Washington greenwashing and steel, the environmental movement group. So washing. Sometimes it's inevitable. And I believe that what happened with rainbow washing, but, but he stayed at something, stayed on our society that understands like a lot of what happens in the gender equality movement.

It's almost like a wave now where we are in a different, but he stayed change, change happened. We can construct with it. So I'm not advocating the washing is. Good at all. I'm saying that it's in there in a way. I have not seen any of the movements in which everybody goes in. And so I think we have to, as communication professionals need to be very vigilant into whatever we do that is authentic, true, and helpful and useful for the entire reason of why we're doing it.

How To Serve The Highest Good Through Branding - Jimmie Stone

as someone who has a broader impact through advertising through storytelling, how do you wield that power that skillset that you've honed so much as a way to serve your highest good.

Well, that's the biggest question. I work in an organization that has lots of clients from every sector from packaged goods to, to personal hygiene products, to banks, to technology platforms, retail.

so what I have been seen the river bank scene is that brands and corporations are becoming extremely important in shaping societies, consciousness, moving society left and right creating divisions, amending problems. raising anxiety. I mean, there's a lot of bad that it produces the industry. The same bad can be good.

And what I'm seeing is that a lot of our clients are starting to realize in our company, Edelman, we have what is called a trust barometer. It's a study that we have been doing for over 20 years. And if you tried that study, you start to realize trust in institutions, trusting government nonprofits, corporations, and how trust has been changed over time.

And what we're finding more and more and more, which it was not surprising for me. Not because I am like a visionary, it's just, it was easy to see the river is that people are starting to buy based on how the companies react, engage in society's issues.

Something that is very relatively new. we knew that there was a consumer we call it the awakening consumer that was putting a little bit of their wallet. to vote through the wallet, buying a product, that it was 30% more expensive or more premium because it was organic. That was back 10, 15 years ago.

Of course we see before that, Patagonia and purpose driven brands from the beginning, consumers that buy some purpose. So you have purpose brands, you have this consumers awakening to buy a product based on what the product is doing.

Cost related marketing to where we are arriving, social media started to become ubiquitous. Transparency became more clear. Companies with Brands and reputation that the company and the brand became almost like one of the same.

So Unilever and dove, it's pretty much the same. So it's not just the brand is a brand that it's owned by a company. And so now the data supports that if you don't act on issues of racial disparaty, gender inequality, Environmental awareness.

If the brand three years ago, it was quiet. You're not, you should do something, whatever you're going to do here, do something here. So people see that you're doing good.

Now we're getting into a moment where consumers are demanding brands and companies alike to act to do to change their employees, diversity and inclusion, experiences to, to check the supply chain, to understand the environmental impact that they have. All the way through supply chain to have a point of view that it is to change and commit to societies ills and change.

How Can You Be Intentional About Speaking Your Truth? - Jimmie Stone

as someone, as a teacher, as a coach, as a, as a leader who empowers others to get to their truth and say who they really are as a human being, what mental models, do you have to someone who is intentional about speaking their truth?

you said the word intension, so that's it. Unpack what is the intention. So in Buddhism, Karma is invention. So it's, what is your intention? If you really practice to be mindful as best as you can. Don't try to be perfect. No one is, but practice. And focus on that tension in everything invention of your words.

What is, I am intending to say that. Why do you have to say, so I will say, is focusing on intentions. Why is that? What is the intentions of you saying it. that will actually inform tremendously over time. What say when to say it, how loud to say it to whom to say it or not to say it. So I will say that that's my advice.

It's the one that I am using personally, especially when there is so much happening that I have no idea. What to say, okay, I have experiences. I'll say, man, I have experiences as a Latino immigrant. I have experiences as a particular human being.

But when there is, when there is experiences in which I have no ability to empathize that I only get the level to sympathize with them.

I ask myself, why do I have to say something? And the danger is that sometimes not saying it is worse, correct. That's what the origin of your question is.

There are moments like this one. In which you must say your point of view. But more than saying it's understanding your intentions of why you're saying it and that most likely will eliminate what to say, but it's to do. So follow your sane with doing.

That will say what we need to do. So look even if the do is donating for a particular cause marching to just be present, hearing, not saying hearing is a do. and even if you're only thing that you can possibly on unearth from yourself to do is by committing to put the light inward and saying, I bow to resolve that eons of biases that in itself is a powerful thing to do, just to commit to bow and to do that. I did bow to do that. And every time I put the light inward, I see an infinite amount of work that I need to do.

Your Words And Your Actions And Their Compound Interests Over Time - Jimmie Stone

We know that actions are more important than what you say. So, so is this combination of how you act, what you say, how constant you are over time, over time, getting trust your career. Everything is about combining over time. I learned that from. Everything is like your spiritual practice needs to be $1 at the time.

And it reinvest itself over time. Over a period of time, the same of your financial wellbeing, your profession, your spirituality is compounding over time. Don't think about it as big. Think about it with small little actions everyday with, with commitment over time.

Exploring The Space Between An Action And A Reaction - Jimmie Stone

But that space is instant, but it's also endless.

So I came across to this image that in that it was called, which is a Buddhist unit of time. Like a year, a second, a minute, a month. It's a unit of time. So what is a 'kalpa' you ask? And they image of a guard by some mountain that is 10,000 feet tall and 10,000 feet wide made of iron. One day angel comes with a feather and torches the mountain and down for 1 million years.

I mean, in years past the angel comes with the same feather and then leaves for another million years and a million years passes by and the angel comes in and touches with a feather, the mountain. One is the amount of time that takes that angel to a road. The amount with them.

When I see this image, it's like that. Yeah. All of a sudden, the concept of infinite appears you feel it. So I always love the images that the storytelling tells us. I call them images that has a burning quality to that. You never forget that bounces in your audience may mine that enough, that they will make it their own.

They will tell that to others, it will evolve. And that's why that thought the King is that allows all of us to learn for millennia. Why? Because he doesn't confine itself to what exactly that time needed to say.

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