Tian Mu is a seasoned tech entrepreneur. He was a game studio exec; then he launched a social impact eCommerce platform, Brethren Shoes to help LA’s homelessness. He is also a self-realization coach who helps people find their purpose, harness their superpowers, manifest magic!

We talked about….

  • Power of Wim Hof & Oxygenation of the Body
  • Breathwork & Mental Clarity Enhancement
  • Original Inspiration of Brethren Shoes
  • From Conception to Surrendering of Big Ideas
  • Counterintuitive Lessons I Learned From Serving LA’s Homeless
  • Homeless Snowball Effect
  • Homelessness Solution Lies in Compassion
  • Counterintuitive Solution to Homelessness
  • What the Homeless Really Desire
  • What Happened Immediately After Receiving a Revelation
  • How He Navigated His Identity Shift During Company Transition
  • Going Through Dark Night of the Soul Moments
  • The Soul’s Purpose
  • Life is an Adventure
  • What is Ego Death?

Links

Full Episode

Quotable Quotes

“When this powerful vision was shown to me, I just surrendered and said “yes” even though at the time I had no idea how to do this. But I just figured, ‘you say yes first, and then you figure it out. Just trust the universe that resources, right people- everything will just line up.”

Homelessness can really happen to anyone. I’ve seen homeless folks where professors are like UC Berkeley or investment bankers for lawyers, board, celebrities, Movie stars that became homeless at one point.  One little mistake or, one a medical bill that you can’t pay. and it snowballs into a giant thing.

Solving homelessness is not about government handouts. The foundation is really about compassion. I feel people need to have more compassion, more sympathy, and empathy for these people. You don’t look at them and go, you’re not my problem. you chose that life has nothing to do with me. No, we’re all connected. We’re all one family. I look at everyone on the street. I go, Oh, there’s my brother. There’s my sister. It’s just a brother I don’t know yet. We’re all part of the same family, and, would you do that or feel that way for your own siblings, for your mom, your dad, your grandma, grandpa, for your own children, so if that person where your own child, your own sister, what would you do for them.

I have limited resources and time and energy and I won’t be able to help everybody at one, but at the same time, who can I help? And I just made a note. A mental note, which is I’ll help those that are in front of me.

Each story was simple. Each story is just a bullet point. but between each bullet point, there are 10,000 steps.

Everything is just a journey. And it’s actually a journey within, it’s a journey about you about self-discovery, about figuring out who you are. What’s your magic, what’s your power, what’s your vulnerability. What are your fears? And how do face your fears? These things will all manifest themselves. Through business or whatever you do.

As soon as I finished telling his story, I realized I could now tell my story.

I’m working on myself right now. I’m working on the most amazing and beautiful project that I know.

My rule is just, do what serves me until telling no longer serve me.

If I’m passionate about something, I become the best salesman of that.

Once you’re on your path, you follow that excitement. Follow your heart, follow your passion, follow your excitement, and your paying attention. Everything is interconnected.  The whole world moves for you. All the right people and resources, everything would just show up, and also all the synchronicities.

All of the pieces are there, they’re in front of you. it’s up to you to put them together to make all the connections.

Power of Wim Hof & Oxygenation of the Body

how was box breathing for you .

I love it because actually every morning I do Wim Hoff and I do that for about 15 to 20 minutes. That’s how I kick off my day.

so the problem today is most people don’t breathe properly, which means people are taking very shallow breaths. And when that happens, you’re just not oxygenating your body. you’re not getting enough oxygen into your body, especially into the center of your brain, which is very important.

so when you do Wim Hof breaths, you take very deep breaths, And you get the breath all the way down to your belly, right? Not just in your lungs all the way down to your belly, and then you hold it and then you let go. there are many ways to do it, and when you do this for about 15 minutes, you could feel your whole body just vibrating.

the first two months that I started doing it, I could feel my, each chakra spinning. on my body, it just felt right amazing. now I still like my face and my hands getting on somewhat a little bit, but not as much as before,

I’ve been doing it every single day without exception for nine months.

and also since I started doing it, I know I have not gotten sick at all.

If it, if you don’t want to get sick, do this right.

Exactly. Cause it boosts your immune system.

Breathwork & Mental Clarity Enhancement

what other benefits is there? So do you perform better at sports given that you oxygenate in your body?

I don’t really play sports. I do yoga. I work out. but I’m always very energetic, so I can’t really tell the difference. but I get more clarity. Like my mind is clearer.

That’s actually very enrolling for me, Someone like me, I don’t necessarily need to run faster or longer even though I want to, but it’s not like a core desire that I have.

But if you anything around the mind, mental performance, clarity, Yeah, that’s Oh, okay. That’s something that I desire. anything else that’s non-obvious?

if you eat meat, you live in a city where there’s a lot of pollution in the air, your blood tends to become very acidic, but when you take these really deep breaths, you get oxygen into your body, then you alkalinize your blood. so you don’t have to go pay a lot of money for those fancy water, you just take really deep breaths throughout the day. You do, you achieve the same effect.

Original Inspiration of Brethren Shoes

Could you tell us the origin story of brethern shoes?

to be honest, I really can’t take credit for this because. The origin of the idea this vision came through me one day. I would say through this very powerful meditation, I was just shown this vision, shown this, idea, this concept, this business.

and to be honest, before I never had any interest in eCommerce. Or men’s shoes. I’ve always been in the nonprofit world, I love to serve, I love to help people. and also living in Los Angeles, there was a major homelessness issue, and that’s everywhere. official numbers like 85,000, I’m sure there are people that are unaccounted for,

85,000 is 85,000. That’s like burning man, basically exactly. all over LA. that’s a lot of people.

when this vision was shown to me and it was just so powerful that I just surrendered and said, yes, even though I booked the time, I had no idea how to do this, you know what to do this, but I just figured, Hey you say yes, and then you do it.

You figure it out, just trust the universe that, resources, the right people, everything will just lined up and they’ll show up. Yeah. It’s been a really amazing, beautiful journey so far. but I will say it’s not a journey that I thought it would be, but I think that’s just life.

And it’s also, I think. It’s showing me more about who I am than anything else. I would say, I’m learning, with my prior venture. Which was a game studio, working with a lot of people have teams, working with partners, working with publishers, with distributors.

whereas now with brethren spend just me for the most. I did have a part in the beginning and I had some other people who assisted me along the way, but, I never really had a team for this journey. So it became like, from an entrepreneur to a solopreneur, to really explore that path and ask them myself, is this what I want?

Is this fun? Is this, does this serve my highest good? it’s been really beautiful.

I would say that the part that I get most fulfillment out yeah. Is really when I go, to deliver those donation shoes. And when I sit down with a homeless people. At the beginning of last year, in January of 2019, I kicked off this program called brethren support circle.

No, I did that with a few of my friends and dear brothers. Anyway, we went and sat down with these folks aged between late teens, all the way to their seventies. Sometimes I would sit with, four or five people sometimes with 25 people and we spend two, three hours and just talk and listen, and to be honest, those were the moments that I just felt, yes, this was why brethren exists. this is why I’m here

From Conception to Surrendering of Big Ideas

when this vision was shown to me and it was just so powerful that I just surrendered and said, yes, even though I booked the time, I had no idea how to do this, you know what to do this, but I just figured, Hey you say yes, and then you do it.

You figure it out, just trust the universe that, resources, the right people, everything will just lined up and they’ll show up. Yeah. It’s been a really amazing, beautiful journey so far. but I will say it’s not a journey that I thought it would be, but I think that’s just life.

And it’s also, I think. It’s showing me more about who I am than anything else

Counterintuitive Lessons I Learned From Serving LA’s Homeless

what are some things that you learn from having these conversations with the homeless people?

before my brethen journey, I would say, and also just talking to a lot of other people about, this homelessness issue, right?

A lot of times you hear people say, it’s a choice they chose, Or they’re just lazy or they don’t want to do anything. And once you sit down and talk to them, you realize, Oh, that is not the case at all. most people don’t choose to become homeless, and also homelessness can really happen to anyone.

I’ve seen homeless folks where professors are like UC Berkeley or investment bankers for lawyers, board, actually celebrities, Movie stars that became homeless at one point. And you’re just look at how one little mistake or, one. say a medical bill that you can’t pay. and it’s a giant thing.

say your mom got really sick and she couldn’t pay her bill and now you have to pay her. And then you have to go to the hospital to see her all the time. And suddenly now you’re late on your mortgage and then you can’t go to work and then your company fires you because you’re not there all the time. And now, you don’t have an income and you can just see this snow ball. Like it gets bigger and bigger. And then. Mexican, you don’t have a job, you can’t pay rent, you get kicked out.

You don’t have a support system. That’s another problem with our society today. We’re no longer family oriented. We’re not tribal anymore. We don’t have others to catch us when we fall. So when that happens, then suddenly you’re on your own.

It’s not how the human race was designed. We’re built to be there for each other to help each other to catch each other. so you realize it’s a systemic issue.

And also there’s a lot of shame around being homeless. even though those people, they were out there, they were begging. They’re asking. do you know what it takes to actually stand on the street corner, holding up a sign said, Hey, can you give me some change? I was trying to put myself in those shoes. I couldn’t do it. Yeah, I’m too too shameful to even do something like that. so there was just a layers upon layers of issues and also domestic abuse.

It’s a huge one for a lot of women, Things, their boyfriends, they abused them and then kick them out of the house where they’d run away. suddenly, they don’t have a support system. They have no where to go. now the streets, and sometimes they’re out in the streets with her children.

they were very vulnerable. there are just so many issues and I realize what it comes down to, it’s not about government handouts, I think the foundation is really about compassion. I feel people need to have more compassion, more sympathy and empathy for these people.

You don’t look at them and go, you’re not my problem. you chose that life has nothing to do with me. No, we’re all connected. We’re all one family. I look at everyone on the street. I go, Oh, there’s my brother.

There’s my sister. It’s just a brother I don’t know yet. We’re all part of the same family, and, would you do that or feel that way for your own siblings, for your mom, your dad, your grandma, grandpa, for your own children, so if that person where your own child, your own sister, what would you do for them.

I also realized now I won’t help everybody at one, but at the same time, it’s like I have limited resources and time and energy. So who can I help? And I just made a note. A mental note, which is I’ll help those that are in front of me.

If someone is in front of me, that needs help. And I am able, I’m going to devote my time, energy and money to that person. I may not be able to help 10,000 people, but I can help him or her.

Homeless Snowball Effect

most people don’t choose to become homeless, and also homelessness can really happen to anyone.

I’ve seen homeless folks where professors are like UC Berkeley or investment bankers for lawyers, board, celebrities, Movie stars that became homeless at one point. And you’re just look at how one little mistake or, one a medical bill that you can’t pay. and it’s a giant thing.

say your mom got really sick and she couldn’t pay her bill . And then you have to go to the hospital to see her all the time. you can’t go to work and then your company fires you because you’re not there all the time. And now, you don’t have an income and now you’re late on your mortgage. you get kicked out. You can just see this snow ball gets bigger and bigger.

We’re no longer family oriented. We’re not tribal anymore. We don’t have others to catch us when we fall. So when that happens, then suddenly you’re on your own.

it’s a systemic issue. It’s not how the human race was designed.

Homelessness Solution Lies in Compassion

I realize the foundation is really about compassion. I feel people need to have more compassion, more sympathy and empathy for these people.

You don’t look at them and go, you’re not my problem. you chose that life has nothing to do with me. No, we’re all connected. We’re all one family. I look at everyone on the street. I go, Oh, there’s my brother. There’s my sister. It’s just a brother I don’t know yet. We’re all part of the same family, and, would you do that or feel that way for your own siblings, for your mom, your dad, your grandma, grandpa, for your own children.

I also realized I have limited resources and time and energy. I won’t help everybody at one, but at the same time, who can I help? And I just made a mental note, which is I’ll help those that are in front of me.

If someone is in front of me that needs help. And I am able, I’m going to devote my time, energy and money to that person. I may not be able to help 10,000 people, but I can help him.

Counterintuitive Solution to Homelessness

what are some of the other things That’s maybe a little counterintuitive, what have you seen so far?

I think the first thing you got to do is to sit down with each person and understand. How and why they became homeless, right? Every case is totally different, So a mental health issue, for instance, some people may have that issue before they became homeless, but I believe now just talking to some of those people and seeing their lives especially if someone is chronically homeless, right.

If they’ve been on this for 10 years, 15 or 20 years, 30 years, You will develop mental health issues, even if you started out, as you or me right now, right? Once you are in the streets for that long. You live under fear every day. You’re not, you don’t know if you’re going to wake up to someone pointing a knife at you or waking up losing everything again, or the next day not knowing where you’re going to sleep. If you’re going to have food to eat. or that, or you may get stabbed, right?

and also being isolation. And that’s another thing people don’t realize when you were homeless, you have no one to talk to. I think more than anything else, when I talked to, really spend time with homeless people, I realized, more than material things, what they really need is human connection. They feel invisible. They feel like, there may be standing there on a street corner, but nobody sees them. No one notices them. No one cares about them. Like they want a hug more than they want $5, like that’s something, probably people don’t ever think it. Or you may not realize It’s not something they want to be known as a homeless.

And this is why in the community we don’t call people. Oh, that’s a homeless person. We just say that’s a person experiencing homelessness? No, it’s not just being PC. That’s just what they’re going through right now. They don’t want to be defined by something like that. just I don’t want to be defined by the guy who lives in a one bedroom apartment. Oh, that guy, Oh yeah, just a one bedroom apartment guy. Yeah. she is experiencing homelessness right now.

But hopefully that’s just a transient state, That come out of this. I think, really we just to sit down and talk to each person, understand. You know where they are. So again, earlier I mentioned compassion, right? Empathy. I believe these are, this is really what we need to solve this issue.

I think when people develop compassion for everyone around us, for those who experience homelessness, then you’re going to go up to them and say, Hey, are you okay? what can I do for you? Do you need help? I think that’s how we’re going to ultimately get there.

cause again, the issue may not be money for them. again, you can give them all the money you want, but if you don’t get to the root, they can always spend it. And the next day they don’t have money.

if they have say a gambling problem and that’s why they’re in the streets, by giving them hundreds and hundreds, you’re actually not helping them at all. Cause they’re just going to go to the casino and spend it all. Yeah.

Or if they have a drug problem, they’re just going to go buy all the meth thing they want. And next day they were back to square one. and even having a home in be issue, so really, I think it comes down to let’s drop our assumptions, let’s drop all the prejudices we have against them and just have a heart to heart and just talk to them.

What the Homeless Really Desire

when I really spend time with homeless people, I realized, more than material things, what they really need is human connection. They feel invisible. They feel like nobody sees them. No one notices them. No one cares about them. Like they want a hug more than they want $5. It’s not something they want to be known as a homeless.

And this is why in the community we don’t call people. Oh, that’s a homeless person. We just say that’s a person experiencing homelessness? it’s not just being PC. That’s just what they’re going through right now. They don’t want to be defined by something like that. just I don’t want to be defined by the guy who lives in a one bedroom apartment. Oh, that guy, Oh yeah, just a one bedroom apartment guy.

let’s drop our assumptions, let’s drop all the prejudices we have against them and just have a heart to heart and just talk to them. earlier I mentioned compassion, right? Empathy. I believe these are, this is really what we need to solve this issue.

What Happened Immediately After Receiving a Revelation

going back to you personally , you had a very deep meditation, you got some divine inspiration, and then you chose to follow it.

Most people grapple with that divine revelation or inspiration

one might speculate that there is some internal grappling there. could you underline that a bit because the way I’m receiving it right now is that was a very simple transition. I got an insight. Then the next day breathre n shoes was born.

It’s not like that. I think that’s one of those myths . They just think somehow everyone is this overnight success, but people don’t realize there’s like at least 10 years of hard work that came before it.

A lot of, thinking meditation, Marinading in the ideas I did. The story was simple. it was just a bullet point. but between each bullet points, there’s pocket 10,000 steps.

How He Navigated His Identity Shift During Company Transition

 

they’re going through this identity shift. They’re going through this business shift. They’re going through this responsibility shift quite a lot. So if you can underline the grappling that you had to do going from game studio to. e-commerce selling shoes that would be very helpful for these people who are also grappling with this issue right now.

Sure. It’s interesting. You mentioned identity, right? And that’s actually, I was going through, I would say almost like identity crisis at that moment, but it’s happening, I was actually at the time of winding down my games to do. I had the studio for 17 years.

And I had amazing partners. I had amazing team that I worked with. we had a huge successes we worked on some very notable games and titles. We had a great time, but at the same time, also we went through some major challenges and other multiple times that we were so close to going out of business.

And again, you look at everything. Oh, it’s all just a journey. And it’s actually a journey within, it’s a journey about you about self discovery, about figure out who you are, you know what’s your magic, what’s your power, what’s your vulnerability. and how do face your fears?

What are your fears? These things were all manifest themselves. Through a business through whatever you do. And I will say, how Breton, Canada or the timing around that? It was really when I was, going through another transition in my life and I will actually even call it a metamorphosis.

Or actually I want through multiple metamorphosis, it wasn’t just one. Cause every time I thought, Oh wow, I’m done. Okay. I learned these things. I leveled up. I’m good. And then I got pulled in, It just every time I thought, okay, I know who I am now. The universe will say, do you really know who you are?

Then I would ask myself again, And, and that’s when really I was, I didn’t realize it at the time, I had defined myself. by, this role I played by this, cause I was this gaming executive that’s CEO, I’m always working on really cool cutting edge projects and working with really cool, partners. so I always had cool things going on in my life. And I think, I guess now looking back, they were all external. and so every time I would sit down with a friend or, a new business associate, when, whenever they will ask me, Hey, Ken, what you’re working on?

I say, Oh yeah, I’m working on this and this. And, working with these people. And it was always great stories to tell. And I got used to that and that became my identity. As we were winding down the gaming studio, suddenly I wasn’t working on anything. Suddenly I didn’t have cool projects anymore.

Suddenly I wasn’t working with cool partners, and suddenly I didn’t know who I was anymore. Especially when I sat down with people. When they ask me to ATN, like what’s new, once you’ve been working on. And I remember there was a period of my life, like a couple months or so I will try to avoid that question.

I would get embarrassed cause I don’t know mine, wasn’t working on anything. I’m trying to figure that out. And that was very uncomfortable for me because that was so new. I never had that. I’ve never experienced that you might entire life. Because I had co-founded the gaming studio when I was 24 years old, right? it was just shortly after college, after college, I, I got involved in five tech startups, I did music for awhile, so I was just always doing cool things. And then this game studio came about, again, it was through the very powerful, I would say, a divine calling, which I didn’t realize at the time.

It got me on this beautiful journey. but yeah, Back in 2017. I was really asking myself, who am I?

until one day, through a dear friend of mine who has going through something similar. And I realized he was a little ashamed. He was a shit shamed of what he was going through, even though from my perspective while this man was going through something so beautiful and profound, initial character, that to him, he didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want to, he shared it with me, but then I’ll say, brother, what are you doing? can I tell your story to others? Let me tell them through my lens.

And he trusted me. He said, yeah, sure. Can you say whatever you want? And when I told that story, I just saw how his body just relaxed. And he just felt this ease and this is Oh my God, I’m actually pretty incredible. I’m like, yes, you are. But what’s interesting was in telling his story. I realized I was going through the exact same thing.

Yeah. I was also like, I didn’t know how to tell my story. But I had no problems telling his story. As soon as I finished his story, I realized I could now tell my story. And what’s amazing was literally after that happened, the next day I met this new person, a new friend and she asked me, Tim, what are you working on?

And with all applause, without any hesitation, the words that came up came out of my mouth were I’m working on myself and it just came out. fluidly. It’s yeah, I’m working on myself right now. I’m working on the most amazing and beautiful project that I know.

Going Through Dark Night of the Soul Moments

for the high performers, for the entrepreneur, for the founders. They’ve been busy all their life. They’ve been chasing after goal after goal. However, there’s always a reset in life. Whether it be, Hey, my kids are going away for college or I got a divorce or, Hey, I just sold my business.

The now the fundamental identity of oneself gets to shift. and in that process, you can call this phase midlife crises, trough of disillusionment, dark night of the soul or belly of the whale, whatever ways you articulated this, why not a golden nugget ?

I think the reason why they don’t call out to go to nugget yet, because. It does require some kind of grieving, right? Hey, my past identity is no longer. And now I get to in this unknown space between point a to point B and now I’m just exploring, right? so the fact that you get to tell other people a story through your lens and thus giving yourself permission to also be in that exploratory process.

that’s one of the reasons why on this podcast, we’d go into those transitional moments such that people can say, Oh, tian is going through this CK has gone through this multiple times, especially. Yeah, it was entrepreneurial as we know, Ups and downs all around time.

So it’s totally normal. I’m the there’s nothing wrong with me going through this. this is not weird. This is totally normal. And actually there’s something beautiful on the other side of this cocoon on these other sides of corner. On the other side of this barrier.

The Soul’s Purpose

the only reason we’re here is to figure out who we are. And to just to grow and to explore, once you’re so good at something, then what’s the fun in that right now. It’s time to say, okay, you’re so comfortable now.

Okay. Let’s give you a different scenario, different environment. and now it’s time for you to level up, as we say, in video games, it’s time to, learn some new skills, break out of your norm and, and that’s really the process,

Life is an Adventure

life is an adventure. It is a game and through all the ups and all the downs, everything, it really is beautiful. I may not necessarily find it pleasant, in the trough of disillusionment, right at the belly of the whale or whatever. But at the same time, I also, now a little bit older have the full appreciation of the full journey, right? there is no. Hey, let’s all just go. to the top of the roller coaster. But in order to get to the top, you gotta go to the bottom and come up again. So that’s the full spectrum of life.

Yeah. But also, you realize this is everything is completely subjective.

And actually anything that happens to you externally, it’s completely neutral. only you assign certain meaning or definition to that, Just using your analogy of this roller coaster ride? Some people love it when they’re at the top. Some people love it at the bottom. Some people love it when they’re doing loops, And some people may hate it. Hey, every pit. So there’s really no objective like saying, Oh yeah. Being on top. That’s the best part of that. Horrible. For some people I love being on the bottom. You just never know. but also I realized, I think another thing I forgot to mention was really when you go through these things, what you’re really going through is your ego death time and time again. It’s not you, who’s saying, Oh, this is amazing.

This is horrible. It’s really your ego making those judgments saying, Oh, I like this. And then I don’t like that. This is me. Oh no, that’s not me. we’ll get that shirt. That shirt is so me. That’s my color. or, this experience, that’s my experience. I love it. And this is not my kind of thing, that’s all your ego talking, right? If you can pull yourself out of that. And just start with observing it, observing your ego, observing that noise, that chatter. And ask yourself. Is that really me? is this thing really not my thing. do i really not love playing tennis?

I’ve only played out once or twice. how do i know i don’t love it. how Do I know I’m not good at it?

What is Ego Death?

when you use the phrase ego death. What does that mean for you?

ego is neither good nor bad. It just it’s right. And actually we need it in this greedy, in this human body, without it, you wouldn’t even eat, you wouldn’t care to do anything. so because of ego, that’s what keeps you safe, okay. I shouldn’t go there. I shouldn’t go poke that tiger. Or, Oh, I’m hungry. I should go eat something. Because your ego wants to preserve your body, your aliveness. but ego really means when you become so attached to a certain identity, Because, okay. I became so hatch to this gaming CEO, That’s me. For so long that’s how I started to define myself . Then when you have an ego death. Okay, take off that layer. realize that’s actually not who you are. That’s just a piece of clothing you were wearing. You can take that off anytime you want. You can put on a different one or you can just be naked if that’s what you choose.

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