Charles Vogl Show Notes
Charles Vogl served in the US Peace Corps in Northern Zambia. In a place very foreign to him than what he knew in Southern California. Charles lived in a mud hut with a grass roof and a mud floor. And he learned a cherished lesson of how the bravery of others can change people’s lives.
Charles was born and raised in Orange County, California with a younger brother and sister. They spent a lot of time in Honolulu, Hawaii visiting his mother’s family.
A commitment to making a difference has always been a crucial part of Charles’ life. In his early 20s, he volunteered full time at a homeless shelter in Santa Ana, California, before entering the United States Peace Corps and relocating to northern Zambia. There, he witnessed inspirational community in the face of extreme poverty, as those with very little shared with those who had even less.
Charles then moved to New York City to become a filmmaker, producing documentaries including the 2006 documentary film, “New Year Baby,” which chronicled the lives of Cambodian genocide survivors becoming Americans and won numerous honors including Amnesty International’s prestigious “Movies That Matter” award. At the same time, he also volunteered as a secret labor organizer, working to empower abused workers in the restaurant industry.
Charles received his B.S. from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and a Master of Divinity at Yale University. A regular guest lecturer at several Yale departments, his first book The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging was recently published by Berrett-Koehler. Building on the concept that community and belonging can be developed through time-tested ideas and rituals, The Art of Community is a guide to creating and fostering meaningful communities that benefit individuals and humanity as a whole.
An author and executive consultant, Charles Vogl helps leaders in technology, finance, media, government, and social good organizations become more effective in creating meaningful change. Using principles drawn from more than 3000 years of community and spiritual tradition, he teaches others how to inspire powerful connections in critical relationships, in order to produce the kind of change that impacts generations.
Charles includes surviving a plane crash, a spitting cobra attack, and acute malaria (all in one year) among his life-changing experiences.
Charles currently lives in Oakland, California, with his wife Socheata.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“Personal networks decreased by two-thirds in the last two generations.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“A community is people together that care about the welfare of one another.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“I’m not convinced the thousand people in your social network care about your welfare.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“Who are your 3am friends that you can call and they’ll take action?” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“Who are the people in your life who know that you’re their 3am friend?” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“When we’re vulnerable is often when we most need help.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“When people are vulnerable with us we’re most inspired to offer support.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“It’s hard to support institutions that are not sharing your values.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“There are ancient concepts that we can use to build relationships.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“Typically we come together in communities because of shared values.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“The authentic brands are messaging around values.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“Just saying a group is a community doesn’t make it so.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“To know who is inside your community you have to have some boundaries.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“I don’t really care about the values on your website.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“The stories that people tell help to reveal their real values.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“In healthy communities they’re providing every member a way to grow.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“It’s the relationships with the people I know that really matter.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“Every conversation matters even if it doesn’t look like it’s changing the world while it happens.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“Success in the marketplace involves creating a place where people know they belong.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
“Americans are seemingly desperate to connect more.” -Charles Vogl Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Charles Vogl served in the US Peace Corps in Northern Zambia. In a place very foreign to him than what he knew in Southern California. Charles lived in a mud hut with a grass roof and a mud floor. And he learned a cherished lesson of how the bravery of others can change people’s lives.
Advice for others
Put yourself where the action is happening. Show up where I need to be.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
I’m afraid of reaching out to people that are uninterested in me, making phone calls that people don’t want, of sharing myself in a way that people record me and have evidence of my silliness for years to come. And when I finally get over that I’m not that big a deal and that what I’m out to do is bigger than my ego I’ll definitely be more effective.
Best Leadership Advice Received
To put my body where the action is happening. Emails don’t count. Phone calls don’t count. Letters don’t count. To actually show up where I need to be.
Secret to Success
I remind myself throughout the day to not strive. If my vision is bold enough and my actions are consistent enough success as I’ve defined it will come.
Best tools that helps in Business or Life
Acknowledging the people around me that make a profound difference for me – support me and hold me up. And making sure I’m communicating how important they are to me in my life.
Resources and Show Mentions
54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.
Show Transcript:Click to access edited transcript
Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we uncover the leadership like hat that help you to experience, break out performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.
Need a powerful and entertaining way to ignite your next conference, retreat or team-building session? My keynote don’t include magic but they do have the power to help your attendees take a leap forward by putting emotional intelligence into their employee engagement, customer engagement and customer centric leadership practices. So bring the infotainment creativity the Fast Leader show to your next event and I’ll help your attendees get over the hump now. Go to beyondmorale.com/speaking to learn more.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader legion, today I’m excited because the person I have on the show has the opportunity to share with us things that can impact the employee experience, the customer experience and your leadership skills and help you move forward faster. Charles Vogl was born and raised in Orange County, California with a younger brother and sister but spend a lot of time in Honolulu, Hawaii visiting his mother’s family. A commitment to making a difference has always been a crucial part of Charles’s life. In his early 20’s he volunteered full-time at a homeless shelter in Santa Ana, California before entering the United States Peace Corps and relocating to Northern Zambia. There he witnessed inspirational community in the face of extreme poverty as those with very little shared with those who had even less. Charles then move to New York City to become a filmmaker producing documentaries including the 2006 documentary film New Year Baby which chronicled the lives of Cambodian genocide survivors as they became Americans. It won numerous awards including Amnesty International’s Prestige–Movies That Matter at the same time he also volunteered as a secret labor organizer working to empower abuse workers in the restaurant industry.
Charles received his BS from Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and a Master of Divinity at Yale University. A regular guest lecturer at several Yale departments, his first book the Art of Community Seven Principles for Belonging was recently published by Berrett-Koehler building on the concept that community and belonging can be developed through time-tested ideas and rituals. The art of community is a guide to creating and fostering meaningful communities that benefit individuals and humanity as a whole. An author, an executive consultant, Charles Vogl helps leaders in technology, finance, media, government and social good organizations to become more effective in creating meaningful change.
Using principles drawn from more than 3000 years of community and spiritual tradition he teaches others how to inspire powerful connections and critical relationships in order to produce the kind of change that impacts generations. Charles includes surviving a plane crash, a spitting cobra attack and acute malaria all in one year among his life’s challenging experiences. Charles currently lives in Oakland, California with his wife Socheata. Charles Vogl, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Charles Vogl: I’m the one to be here, let’s take on the hump.
Jim Rembach: I appreciate it. Now I’ve given our legion a little bit about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better.
Charles Vogl: My current passion is helping American who may be living in the most lonely generation in American history possibly create the connection to make life rich. And I’ve been shocked to find out how many of us, you, have felt or seemed lonely and are really unaware how investors sell or create this niche around us that make our life rich and give it meaning.
Jim Rembach: I had the opportunity to actually see you speak and I found a couple of statistics that you presented to be quite shocking. One of them had to do with—that our personal networks have decreased by a third in the last two generations. Yet when we think about social, social media, social platforms all of that you would not get that perception. How was that such a false perception in regards to social connectivity versus reality?
Charles Vogl: I’m glad you brought that up. It’s important to distinguish people that we can find information about and people who are in our community. And for the purposes of my work, I define community as people together who care about the welfare of one another. And for those of us who have over 1,000 friends in the social networks, I’m not convinced that all thousands of those people care day-to-day about my welfare and certainly I’m not taking time to care about their welfare every day or even every week. And so while there may be people we can connect with but hard to say that they are really in the community. One the short hand that I use in the book just to help us understand who our personal community might be are the people who I call create and friend, the term coined by one of my friend while I was in grad school and he was referring to the friends that we can call at 3 a.m. and we’re confident that they will pick up and that when they pick up they’ll take action if that’s what they needed to do. And so one of the questions I ask the leader they work with is, who are your 3 a.m. friends that you can call? But even more importantly who are the people in your life who know that you’re their 3 a.m. friend? And if in fact they call you at 3 a. m. you’ll be glad that they did and you’ll take action when the phone drop.
Jim Rembach: Now that’s a very interesting more than just concept that you bring up. I had a discussion with one of my daughters’ friend’s parents and she was talking about something that you were just referring to in regards to church friends and school friends for her daughter. And she was saying how when you think about those conversations that are so intimate and so close to you that most people don’t have those conversations that are young with their school friends they will have them with their church friends. We start talking about the community component we have a situation in our society where less and less people are going to church and kids participating in church. Is that part of what’s contributing to this whole societal shift and having smaller communities and networks?
Charles Vogl: It’s part of it. We know that Americans are leaving churches and synagogues as they did it in 1970, still 8 out of 10 Americans as I understand it, still clinging identification with the institution but they’re not attending as they did a generation ago. And churches and synagogue and other institution around faith are really great place to meet people who share value and then as you mentioned have conversations consistent with that and to build a relationships that allow us to (6:39 inaudible) vulnerabilities. And when we’re vulnerable it’s often mostly we help or want help and there are really vulnerable with us it’s often we’re most inspired to open (6:49 inaudible) so, definitely institutions like churches are one of the reason. But Americans are leaving churches often for a really good reason and what I mean by that is the churches are not representing the values of their generation or their time. And it’s hard to say that someone continued to support institution or (7:09 inaudible) but not sharing their values. What we’re seeing though is we’re not seeing other institution providing a vatable in someone’s life. And it is not important that any institution does that but what we can acknowledge is there was relationship are being formed in that way. And so one of the things that I talk about is there are concepts, ancient concepts that we can use in our life be that in our family, at school, in a patrician or even just among friends such that we can build those relationship using those concepts outside of the same institution that’s creating structure.
Jim Rembach: I think for me when I had the opportunity to learn more and more about The Art of Community and The Seven Principles for Belonging is that I started seeing connections with work. I started seeing connections with how the marketplace or let’s just say people within our society look to brands for some of that intimacy and closeness and emotional connection that maybe again we didn’t couple of decades ago and now whole customer experience is taking on a whole different meaning than it has in the past. So when you start thinking about being able to leverage what the work that you’ve done, how can that company really do that wherefore their employees and that really affect their culture?
Charles Vogl: Yeah, this is the fascinating area. So for the purposes of my work, I define a community as a group of people who care about one another’s welfare and typically come together in our community because there’s some shared values. We may not all share all of the same value but there are some values that we share. And you can imagine, it’ll be very hard to see people and care about if there is no value. And I think one of the reasons you’re bringing up the brand issue, why people turn to the brand, maybe for some kind of envy or perception they’re part of a bigger is, the business get brand, hopefully authentic brand are really messaging around value. There may be perception that if you meet other people or could just pinning that brand they’re sharing their value. I can’t say how much people who are promoting that brand or buying from that brand are going to help you out in your life when you are in crises but maybe that could be a start a shared value. As far as your workplace goes and one things I tell leaders if you’re going to work with me is that if the community is a group of people who care about one another’s welfare. If you have a team or building a team and you want everyone in that team to care about the success and failures of other people on that team you’re building community if you know or felt. And the way some managers handle that they just declare we’re community and then that’s the end of it and I think we all know that kind of silly. And just saying a group is a community doesn’t make it so. And that’s why I’ve written a book that share some concept like boundary concept and a rain concept and a ritual concept so that if someone who want to get group of people who share some values and make them into a community that really cares about the welfare of one another there’s some leverage they can pull to get there.
Jim Rembach: Also I think something that stood out to me that was quite interesting especially when you start talking about the workplace and it could even be connected with brands. You started talking about the—everything or nothing conundrum, what is that?
Charles Vogl: We’ve talked with leaders on building community one of the concepts I see that is really important is to have a boundary. And I say it’s important because if we look at communities over several thousand years that have faced existential threat. So, you see communities in India, obviously the Jewish tribes when we look at communities that are faced existential threat and they’ve been able to stay together often for over a thousand year it’s very clear whose inside and outside so that we know that if someone’s under threat we know when are we going to extend our resources go save that person or not and I often get pushed back they feel boundaries are bad anytime you’re excluding anybody it’s bad. And one of the things that I point out that if you want to build a strong community there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you don’t know who’s in your community it’s very hard to invest in creating stronger relationships within that community because you don’t know who’s on the inside. And to know who’s on the inside there needs to be some kind of boundary.
We can put that around let’s that we go along with the statement that the boundaries are bad and communities should have no boundary. We’ll if I go around the world then I start meeting people and you have no boundary in your community I can’t tell the difference between no community and people in your community because everybody I talk to should be or is in fact in your community and communities are bounded by values. One of the questions I can ask these leaders, is there anybody in the world who doesn’t share the values that someone needs to have to be in your community? Anybody. And the answer is there’s one person, well then there is some boundary even if it’s a very large one. And the way that we prevent ourselves from being jerk to keep people out of our community is once we figure out what are the value to be in our community.
So, in my book I write about a dinner community that we had in Connecticut and graduate school? If someone didn’t value meeting strangers, sharing an uninterrupted meal for four hours sharing about themselves they shouldn’t be in our community. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend their evening dancing or karaoke, that’s just not what we do that. So, if we make sure that there’s an access point through the boundary for people who are valued as we are valued, then we can think of the boundary less about keeping people out. People don’t have dinner over long hours with stranger but how do we keep the inside safe and once we know that there’s a boundary there for people to be safe now we can make the decisions consistent with we led in and how we led and how we don’t. And will help the commuter constantly letting people in or inviting in and if that’s how you stay relevant in the world.
Jim Rembach: I think you also shared the word but you also within your book shared a lot about this whole piece associated with values. And I’ve talked with previous guests about our inability to be able to identify our values because we just don’t go through that discovery process, it’s not something that just kind of comes to us as some type of divine or a happenstance or piece of luck, we have to intentionally go through to be able to identify our values so that we can seek out those communities because otherwise we don’t even know where we belong if we find one.
Charles Vogl: Right.
Jim Rembach: So when you start thinking about that whole values piece, how has that that impacted the ability for people to help and find their own community?
Charles Vogl: Well, I think it’s great that you’re pointing out and it’s not always so clear cut. And what I tell leader is I don’t really care what values are on your website. I was one speaking with the executive director of a fairly famous stone profiteering in United State with a famous brand and he was telling me the values of their organization, not to reveal their organization here, when he was done I asked him, how are those values any different than that of US core, integrity, bravery and he pause over lunch and then said, “I guess there’s no difference of those values. There is nothing wrong with those value and having values that overlap with US Marine Corps but it clearly didn’t actually define what drew people for that nonprofit. Which is to say they hadn’t really figured that out and that means they get to start that journey. One of the things that I look for and figure out what are the real value is not simply what’s on the website. What are the stories that people are telling? One of the question I ask is, who do you protect? And how do you protect them? And to those stories, those are how the real values are revealed. And when we’re seeking out of community my guess is we’re going to be inspired by the communities that tell the stories of their existence, of their purpose, of how they’ve changed that resonate with us. Those stories have inside them the value that we’re seeking to grow in ourselves. One of the most important things about how the communities is they’re providing every member a way to grow in a way that we want to be.
Jim Rembach: Now finding communities being lonely all of those things are wrapped up in emotions and can be very impactful. One of the one things that we look at on the show are quotes to help bring out emotion for us. Is there a quote or two that kind of stands out that you can share?
Charles Vogl: Oh! My goodness. But one of my favorite quote of (16:35 inaudible) is by a monk named Thomas Merton. And in a letter that he wrote which is now publish, he wrote: “In the end it is the reality of personal relationship that’s say everything.” And the reason I like about that is it reminds me that when big things are happening that scare me, violent, oppression, poverty, and I feel powerless or my work seemed to be ineffective, at the end of the day it’s the relationship with the people that I know and the conversation that I’m having with them that really matter and reminds me that every conversation matter even if it doesn’t look like it’s changing the world while it’s happening.
Jim Rembach: Now thanks for sharing that. I had the opportunity to watch you speak and read as much of the book as I can since I received it and does having this interview, and you definitely got very personal and vulnerable and a lot of the things were associated with humps that you had to get over throughout your life. Is there a story that you can share with us that really tells us about a time where you got over the hump and it made a difference for you?
Charles Vogl: Oh! My goodness there’s so many. Since we talked about the book I will share—in the book I grind a little bit of how I served in US Peace Corp in northern Zambia. And I’ll tell you I was dropped off in a village in northern Zambia where there are about 150 families. I lived in a mud house with grass roof and a mud floor. And I was speaking a language I didn’t know, food I was unfamiliar with in a place as foreign to me as possible, the bush of northern Zambia from what I knew of southern California. And I was still exhausted and I got really sick and I would cry at night from the exhaustion and the stress a young man kind of in an adventure. And there was a family that live next door to me, the Mwango family and, I remember I think it was the first day, they sent Alex their teenage son over to my home with a fresh Obuasi which is a paste made out of a cassava root and some dried fish cause they wanted to make sure that I was fed that day and how they express in physically showing up and send me gift that I was welcome there.
And they’re a reminder to me, not only the Mwango’s but the whole of the (18:08 inaudible)village, that I get to look like them, act like them they could tell why I didn’t eat like them and yet they went out of their way to welcome me at much as they knew how. And they’re an example to me that we can be brave with our invitation. Now I might have forgot to be totally jerk, I might have forgot with someone who’s trying to take advantage of them, I could have been somebody who is spying on them, the US government probably knew, and they might have discovered those things but maybe ** but nonetheless, they were brave with their invitation and their bravery changed my life. And now I’ve written a book about community and as you said in my introduction, witnessing how the book cared for one another in northern Zambia with no health care, hauling water from the river a kilometer away changed my life.
And it really was very touching when you started talking about and there’s a lot more detail associated even with the Peace Corps members that you are with and how all that community did or didn’t happen and I definitely recommend people picking up the book. But if you were to say of all the things that you have going, and I know being on the book tour and doing a lot of speaking engagements, continuing your work, what are some of your goals?
Right now one of the goals that we have is to reach out to both faith leaders across country that are really working to find a way to make faith institutions in their country speak to a generation right now is not (20:39 inaudible) battle. And I think we can acknowledge they’re not excited about it because it’s not exciting to them. To find a way to generally make an institution where American’s believe they belong when their own faith experiences and longing are consistent with coming together. Like doing in a place that shares their value, inconcinnity and participation.
And one of our other goals is to reach out the C level executive, the company’s across the country, and understand that their success in the marketplace and customers and their success in building team for the company to work involved creating a place where people know they belong. And they know they belong there because there are values there that are represented in our importance for belonging. And they can use the contents in the book that have been used for used for well over a thousand years, the ritualism that says in a way the storytelling and create that place. And since we know that Americans are, as you read in the book, seemingly desperate to connect more. To have that community that they know they can turn to, to train here to build that not just make himself up willy-nilly or an ivory but turning to long standing reason to do that is a very exciting adventure form.
Jim Rembach: And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.
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Alright, here we go Fast Leader Legion, it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Charles the Charles Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us a robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Charles Vogl, are you ready to hoedown?
Charles Vogl: I’m ready to hoedown.
Jim Rembach: Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Charles Vogl: Oh, my goodness, I’m afraid of thing, I’m afraid of reaching out to people who are ** me, I’m afraid of making phone call ** I’m afraid of sharing myself in a way that people laugh at me and then record it digitally and we’ll be there for my showing that for years…. And when I finally get over that I’m not big deal and that what I’m about to do are bigger than my ego, I’ll definitely **
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Charles Vogl: To put my body where the action is happening. Email don’t count, phone calls don’t count, letters don’t count, to actually show up where I need to be making a difference and I’m looking at it.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Charles Vogl: I think one of the secret of my success right now is I remind myself throughout the day and during my quiet time every morning and meditation and prayer to not strive. That if my vision is bold enough, if my actions are consistent enough success will come but I don’t need to worry about that success I was going to take the action consistent for ** a different ** in the world.
Jim Rembach: What do you feel is one of you tools that helps you lead in business or life?
Charles Vogl: One of the most important tools I have is acknowledging the people around me by that making profound for me it’s important to hold me up and making sure that that I’m communicating how important they are to my life. Not as some threat but as a person who’s aware that nothing I do is for my own success alone but because of the community work.
Jim Rembach: What would be one book, and it could be from any genre, that you recommend to our listeners? And of course we’re going to put a link to The Art of Community on your show notes page.
Charles Vogl: One of my favorite books is a Trusted Advisor by Maister. Because in all relationships, if they’re powerful relationship there will be a time where if we’re good friend we’ll say something someone doesn’t what to keep. And that book gave me tool that I needed that when I have that conversation I could be more effective in telling someone I care about something they may not be ready to hear from someone.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader Legion, you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going too fastleader.net/Charles Vogl. Okay, Charles this is my las hump day hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to back to the age of 25. And you’ve been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything back you can only choose one. So, what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Charles Vogl: I think I would tell myself that the title don’t matter. Their vision counts and inviting other people to join that sounds way more than the title, accolade or word that they’re looking for when they’re 25.
Jim Rembach: Charles it was an honor to spend time with you today can you please share the Fast Leader Legion how they can connect with you?
Charles Vogl: Yeah. There’s my website, charlesvogl.com and on that website we have a quiz that leader can take to get a sense of how much they’re aware of the tools to build community whatever community they’re leading and there’s a preview of the book, several chapters available for free to download right away.
Jim Rembach: Charles Vogl, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom the Fast Leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links, from every show, special offers, and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.
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