Steve Talks Immersion; Steve Sims

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Welcome back to another episode of The Art of Making Things Happen podcast with me, Steve Sims. For any of you that have actually joined Sims Distillery at you’ll actually be able to see this on video because I’m doing it on video. For any of those that are not seeing the video you’re just going to have to pretend how good looking I am.

So the conversation I’m going to have with you today is about immersion. I’m going to basically specify the need for immersion within anything now. People call it experience, but there’s a difference between experience and immersion. But I’m going to tell it in a way of a story that I just had recently.

You see it was about two months ago that I was invited to speak at an event in Phuket. A gentleman by the name of Travis Chappell did a event called Cool Places, Cool People. I was asked to come along and speak to quite honestly a phenomenal group of people. I think the audience was better than the speakers, so it was a great event. The reason I jumped at the chance of speaking in Phuket was because if for any of you that have followed me you’ll know that I lived in Bangkok for a few years with my wife. So the chance 22, 23 years later to actually go back to Bangkok and go back to our old stomping ground and go I wonder what’s changed, I wonder what it’s like, it was really exciting for us now in our early fifties to actually go back and see what the place was like.

So we did. We jumped at it. We landed in Bangkok and we were in a gray hotel and there a lot has changed. But I have a great disease of FOMO, like most entrepreneurs do. The reason I actually launched a concierge firm that I founded, Bluefish, was because I always had this fear of actually going somewhere, coming back and someone going, “Oh, you went there. Did you see this?” And for you to go, “No, I didn’t.” Then you suddenly realize that you’re not going to go back there again just for that one item, so quite simply you’ve missed it. There may have been a monument. There may have been a cathedral, a piece of art, a street, whatever, you’ve missed it. And I had that FOMO. So every time I’m going to go anywhere now I fully research what’s going on, what’s in the area, and I try to make sure that I’m pretty heavily packed. My kids, they say they hate traveling with me because by second day we’re going on a tour somewhere to learn about something that we didn’t know about.

The reason I actually launched a concierge firm that I founded, Bluefish, was because I always had this fear of actually going somewhere, coming back and someone going, 'Oh, you went there. Did you see this?' And for you to go, 'No, I… Click To Tweet

So this time we’re going back to Thailand, we’re going back to Phuket. And of course we knew what it was like, what it felt like, the humidity, the smells, the tastes, all those kinds of things, but my wife had never actually got to visit elephants up in Chiang Mai. So I found a small group. They arranged a very intimate event with a couple of their elephants that quite simply were work horses for their farms. We arranged to go out with them. This was one of the many things that I had planned while in Bangkok. I had planned a cooking course. I had planned an art tour. I had planned a whole bunch of different things, a couple of really cool restaurants that we wanted to see while we were over there. So there was a number of things that were actually planned.

So we went up to Chiang Mai, and we went up to this elephant sanctuary. Sorry, elephant farm. It wasn’t a sanctuary, it was actually a working elephant farm. We went up there and we played around with the elephants. We fed them and we cleaned them and we went down to the lake. We had a fantastic time. And then it got to lunchtime. Our guide was a gentleman that I can’t pronounce his name, but he said everyone calls him Pinocchio. So we did. So he said, “Now we have lunch.” It was a whole day’s thing. They picked us up at eight o’clock in the morning, dropped us off at like five o’clock in the evening. So we’re like, “Great. What are you going to cook us?” And he went, “No, no, no, you cook.”

He took us down to this what can only be described as a carport. It was basically a concrete plinth, a foundation of concrete, with a bunch of wooden struts and a roof, a made up roof. And at the end of it, a gas tank, a massive great burner, which there was a wok sitting on it. This is all pretty much open air, a sink, a bucket and these make do little shelves. He jumped on his bike, left us there. We were there for about 20 minutes. 15, 20 minutes just going what are you doing?

He comes back, jumps off his moped and he’s got chicken. He’s got some vegetables. He’s got a couple of cold beers. He’s basically just been down to the local store and grabbed a bunch of stuff. Kicks open the burner and starts to fire it up. Then he’s like, “Right, you cut this. You cut that.” I apologize for my accent, but I’m trying to get you into the mode. “You cut this, you clean this, you wash that.” He’s ordering us in very limited, but direct English on what we needed to do, and we commenced to start to cook our own meal.

Now, I have to admit we had been with elephants all morning, so I’m covered in elephant, as simple as that. It was pretty disgusting. There wasn’t really much place to wash your hands and stuff like that, although we did try. They gave us some wet wipes and stuff. So, to say that it was raw was an understatement.

So we’re slicing up these vegetables and this meat, and he’s going you put that in there and these are some spices. I love the Thai people because they’re like kids. They’re friendly, they’re funny and they love pranks. They would give us a bit of spice and go, “This good. You try.” And of course you’d burn your tonsils out. But he found that funny. But, with his help me and my wife, Claire actually cooked up this meal. He oversaw it and would taste it every now and then. I would say hygiene more than likely couldn’t have even been spelled by this guy, but this was every violation you can think of for code of cooking anywhere. But, we were cooking this meal. We ended up cooking vegetables and chicken and fried rice. We did some eggs and we did all these different things. We got about five dishes. Then we went out and they did a popup table, and us three sat down and we ate this meal.

Now that was actually quite an experience. The food just tasted remarkable. It was phenomenal. I don’t know if it was because the wind had part to do with it. I didn’t know if it was because if you wanted a raw experience of being in Chiang Mai, right in Chiang Mai and nothing that was prettied, then this was the place. We were fully immersed in this experience, fully. It wasn’t just dipping your toe in. Had a great time. So, we joked about had we caught anything and when we got back, my God, we stood in the shower for a long time.

So then I did my speech in Phuket, came back. I didn’t know there was going to be a cooking course involved in the elephant farm. So what I actually did was I’d actually booked a cooking course with one of the top world famous restaurants. I won’t mention the name because it’s brilliant, but I don’t want you to get the wrong impression of it from this story. One of the most fabulous restaurants in Bangkok, it’s this colonial house. It’s been there forever, I think since the 18th century. They’ve got restaurants all over the world, including New York and Dubai, world famous for their Thai food. We had a cooking course there.

So we get there and they give us these aprons, and they give us this cooking thing. They put us at our stations. Everything is precut and everything’s pre set out. It was just a case of pick up the pot and put it in, and pick up this pot because the amount you had to put in each one was already done. So we did this. We were in a famous restaurant in a phenomenal kitchen, cooking what was about seven dishes in the end. And again, at the end of it we went down and we sat down and we ate.

We were eating in this phenomenal restaurant food that we had cooked, me and the world famous chef. We asked ourselves the question, which one was better? Now I would probably say, using intelligence, the one that we went to in Bangkok, the world famous restaurant, was definitely to code, definitely clean, definitely perfect conditions, definitely great ingredients that we were using, but I don’t know if the immersion was the same. The one up in Chiang Mai, we were dirty, smelly, outdoors. There was no air conditioning, but we were in it. The funny thing is I felt that that was the better food, because it was 100% immersion.

There’s an old saying you can’t half jump into the swimming pool. And we were damn near drowning in Chiang Mai, in the experience. So I’m wondering when you’re actually communicating with a client, my question to you is really, are you giving them just the shine or you fully immersing them into what you’re capable of? You see, there’s a great deal of today’s economy that is experiential. Buying something, that’s yesterday’s news. Experiencing something, that’s everything. When you communicate with a client how much are you allowing them to actually experience what you stand for, getting them to see the real you, getting fully immersed?

There's an old saying you can't half jump into the swimming pool. And we were damn near drowning in Chiang Mai, in the experience. Click To Tweet

So I want you to remember the tale of the two restaurants. The one that was out in the sticks with elephants wandering around and quite simply crapping in the same area that we were in, doesn’t sound very nice, but anyone wants that address I’ll tell you where it is. You should go and do it. Or do you want the sparkly shine of the restaurant? Now, Dan Sullivan always says the mind polishes the past. I’ve only been back a couple of months, and if you talk to me about food in Thailand, I remember sitting in the field with the elephants wandering around, just eating off of a plate. I had a hundred percent immersion, a hundred percent commitment into an experience. And I urge you, whatever you do with your family, your relationships, your clients, your customers, your vendors, immerse them in you. Let them get to jump into your pool. Let them understand where you are 100% committed to allowing them to experience when they do business with you.

All right. That’s it. That’s my rant. This is the end of The Art of Making Things Happen. You know the score. If you like it, spread it. If you don’t then unsubscribe, no one’s forcing you to listen to this. So anyway, thank you very much.