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On this episode of Low Gravity Jonathan Calmus speaks With Carolina Alzate, Founder of Communal and Open Lab about clarity and self focus in order to grow business and opportunity. She explains her definition of happiness and routines and practices to live in the moment. They talk about the root of distraction and how fear pulls from focus of execution.
To learn more about Carolina check out his Linkedin.
To learn more about Communal and Open Lab
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Low Gravity: A Cosmic Podcast
Episode 4 – Carolina Alzate
Jonathan Calmus: Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in four seconds. One, two, three, four. Breathe out. Six seconds. Hello. Hello. This is Jonathan Calmus, I am your host of Low Gravity. Welcome to a new episode. I’m joined here with Carolina Alzate who is the founder of Communal.
It’s one of the more interesting places I’ve seen here in Latin America, let alone a Columbia. It is a co-working environment but with one huge difference. It has the emphasis on human expansion, which may sound a little abstract, but I’ll let you introduce yourself and talk a little bit about Communal.
Carolina Alzate: Okay. Hi everyone I’m Carolina Alzate from Medellin. Yes, I’m the founder of Communal, I’m also Open Lab so I’ve two companies.
Jonathan Calmus: Open Lab too. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very much so. So before we talk about communal and Open Lab and everything else. Really the purpose of this podcast is kind of the hustle and what it takes to build a successful company and how much effort actually goes into quote unquote overnight success. Talk a little bit about yourself. How did you end up opening this wonderful space and what gave you this idea? What was important in your life that actually led to this moment?
Carolina Alzate: Okay. The beginning of this is I think six years ago because I have a very hard part of my life, I lose a child. She was a little girl and it was very hard for me and also a divorce. So it changed the way that I think about the business. And I started thinking, it’s not about collecting money, it’s about collecting experience being happy. So I start asking me if I am happy and my answer was no, I’m not happy.
Jonathan Calmus: Unfortunately that’s usually the answer without constant reflection.
Carolina Alzate: So I start looking inside myself. I start experience different rituals, people musters, food. I change everything in my life, all my way to live, change all the way. So I start thinking in this new way of life that I want to expand all this knowledge that I collect through these six years and share with the people. Because a lot of people ask me, how do you live in that way? How is possible that you are always smiling? How is possible that you have this energy? You look very young and I’m not as young as the people think.
Jonathan Calmus: I’m not going to ask how old.
Carolina Alzate: Thirty seven.
Jonathan Calmus: Okay.
Carolina Alzate: So I start thinking that is my point of change. The breaking point, that’s the correct word. So I started thinking that I want to share with people, that be in a professional way is not different to live in. We can mix work with living with lifestyle. So I want to bring my house to a new space here, but I also want to mix it with Neuroscience or lipstick way to do other things. And I also work with creativity. So when I read and I started researching about Neuroscience, holistic rituals, and then the creativity techniques, I discovered that it’s all the same.
Jonathan Calmus: It’s kind of weird because we might use a dangerous word called spirituality here. Which the only reason it’s dangerous is because of the perception of what it is. Most of the characteristics that us as humans are looking for, at least in my observation, are just phrased differently from the perspective of the metaphor. So spirituality is a metaphor.
When they talk about growth hacking and starting a crazy business, they’re very much talking about a lot of the same thing. One of the fundamental parts about growing a new business. And when you get a mentor, they always talk about you have to read a lot and don’t just read a books about business, read many different things. So creatively you can start making connections. But even though we’re talking about all the same topic, until very recently, people didn’t accept it.
I think you have an incredible opportunity and you’re very astute to be able to perceive the opportunity as well. Five years ago I don’t think was the time. Twenty years ago, absolutely was not the right time to start a project like what you’re doing right now. Now we’re actually encouraging deeper exploration into ourselves especially from an industry perspective. So, all right. So you went through really difficult times. You had this kind of revelation you started pursuing happiness and whatever that meant to you. And after enough people asked you, you realized, okay, there’s a business opportunity here and you want to share your learnings, but you also want to be an entrepreneur at the same time.
Carolina Alzate: So I start redesigning my vision, what I want, how’s the way that I want to live, what I want to surround myself with sounds people, materials, colours, smells.
Jonathan Calmus: Smells, just everything.
Carolina Alzate: And I decided that I want to live in a very nice way. I love nature and as you can see, you can see green here, I live colours. I I love the natural of the wood. So I start thinking that I want a build a space with this special characteristics. And at the same time I want to introduce the people that is going to work on part of the events here. I want to share all their holistic things that I discover. So I try every day. I used to do a Qigong
Jonathan Calmus: what is Qigong?
Carolina Alzate: Qigong is a Chinese practice that is very old and I found a master here in Columbia that came from China and I met a lot of leaders from different companies here that work with these kind of techniques.
Jonathan Calmus: What would the technique be?
Carolina Alzate: The technique is like a, it’s similar, it’s meditation, but it’s Stand up and moving your body in in a specific way.
Jonathan Calmus: It’s like maybe Tai Chi and meditation meet each other?
Carolina Alzate: It can be similar, but it’s different. And you either take the five bodies. The full body have five divisions. The mental, the soul, the heart, the emotions also the physical and the vital, you know, this part, it takes all the rest of the body. So when you practice Qigong you can feel the power of this.
Jonathan Calmus: The flow?
Carolina Alzate: Yes. In different parts. Mental, emotional, physical, your soul. So I started doing this also changing the way that I move, the way that I practice exercise. So I change a lot of things and I just want to show the people that you can expand your mind. Listen different conversations. We have to talk here about divorce, love, babies, professional careers a lot of things. We also have a very strong history about Narcotrafic in Medellin. We have to talk about it because it’s part of healing the process and getting knowledge from there. So I want this space one—be the origin of thinking different, open their minds and having annual connections.
Jonathan Calmus: I want to just clarify something too like people might be listening and they might immediately have that reaction that’s like, Oh, this is kind of a hippie or Bohemian. This is the super power that most leaders have done throughout their entire lives. These are the types of concepts and pursuits that actually change you from being just a regular manager to a leader. And it’s a big difference in life. It’s something I’m struggling with a lot right now. One of the virtues I’m trying to really kind of practice is patience. I don’t have a lot of patients in my life, I don’t think.
Carolina Alzate: I’m also learning that part of my life.
Jonathan Calmus: It’s really hard. It’s double hard It’s because I come from a culture that’s very fast paced. So I’m from Los Angeles and United States and when we do things we tend to not ask too many questions.
Bureaucracy is definitely a part of business in the United States, but you’re encouraged to make mistakes. And in Columbia, in Latin America, the mentality and the nurturing and the upbringing is so much different than what I’m used to that I’m losing patients a lot. I’m finding myself very frustrated a lot. And venting a lot talking about it and just for no other reason except just talking, talking, talking. What you’re describing and the pursuit of this, not to say that any of us are experts or masters, but just the acknowledgement that this is an important part is already the path to actually transforming into a life leader, I would call it. It’s not only about your business, it’s about everything you do in your life.
Carolina Alzate: Yes. I have a team and I also think that the leaders is not just to work. It’s just to guide you to be better. Even if it’s outside of the company. So I try to show them different methodologies to confirm a way of thinking, to expand, to try to see the different point of view of the situation. You know, give the point to that person that you don’t want to give them. Because when you try to see the other point of view, you span your mind. Also have a different reason about the situation.
So I try to guide them to different rituals and I try different kind of exercises with them. Mindfulness, yoga, Affirmations from Louise Hay from California, I also try it. a lot of different rituals and symbols because the symbols tried your subconscious brain. So it developed a better way to think about a topic.
Jonathan Calmus: If we were going to do an exercise right now and try to discover something, have an epiphany or at least just a different perspective. Part of having a different perspective is the acknowledgement that we’re wrong, which is a kind of scary word. It’s scary to be wrong. It means you live out in the abstract. You don’t know what’s real quote unquote. And for many years—I had started my first company when I was 17 years old. So for many years I had thought I was, the guy and I knew everything.
And what’s the exercise that you would recommend doing to someone for them to even be in the position to have an open mind? Because if you’ve never had the experience of the other perspective, it becomes very hard to accept it as another perspective.
Carolina Alzate: The first question that I will do is, are you happy? Do you know what is to be happy? Because to be happy is not to have things, material thing. Because you’re going to have it I assure you that. But it doesn’t, it’s not. No one is going to assure you that when you get there you are going to be happy and I was there.
Jonathan Calmus: How do we define happiness together?
Carolina Alzate: Okay. For me, happiness is very simple. To be here right now feeling great and enjoying this moment and giving to the space or the context or to you my best, that’s it.
Jonathan Calmus: So hopefully being present in the moment as they say?
Carolina Alzate: Yes. I’m not thinking if my son, what is he doing in the school or what is happening with this girl that is working outside of the office or what is happening outside of this space? No, I don’t care. I’m here with you giving my best.
Jonathan Calmus: How do you do that? I know the practice and I know the meditation and stuff. How do you do that though? Like I find myself in the middle of some other task and thinking about twenty other things simultaneously.
Carolina Alzate: Okay. I have a practice that I start doing two years ago I made a list of my fears. So I start giving me the permission to confronting. So the first one, going to a river and jump from the earth, a stone.
Jonathan Calmus: From the puente from the, whatever. Yes. Just jumping from a high altitude.
Carolina Alzate: Jumping from high. So it was very confronting to me, but I did it and I feel great. I feel power and I feel I don’t have any more this fear. Then the second one travel alone. So I went to New York alone and I have a great time with myself and I came back with more power. So I feel powerful and at the same time I don’t feel nothing can take out my calm right now because I know that I can confront these fears because I practice. And at the same time my attention is playing here. That is, my brain is not developing a new idea.
Jonathan Calmus: Yes. It’s focus.
Carolina Alzate: It’s trying to be very focused here and when I catch up my going outside, I came back.
Jonathan Calmus: It’s kind of like, from what I’m hearing from what you’re saying is from your perspective, it almost sounds like distraction is rooted in fear and that actually makes a lot of sense with me. I don’t know if maybe I’m just interpreting it the way I want to hear it, but when I get distracted it’s very rarely about something positive. It’s usually about some negative feeling. And I would even go as far as saying fear, like the fear of what is this person doing when they’re not in the office. The fear of whether or not we’re going to be successful, whether or not we’re going to close that round, whether or not we’re this, that and your brain can go in a million directions and that’s a good way to put it actually. And it’s kind of more actionable even when you think about it from the perspective of fear and focus and distraction. Because, Whoa, I’m having a little bit of an epiphany myself right now. When you unravel all of those things that are kind of just emotionally and mentally keeping you down and bundled up. You start very quickly realizing none of those are connected to two positive emotions or reactions or even thoughts is the truth. And so wow, that’s really nice. Okay.
Carolina Alzate: Okay. I’m going to explain to you very deeply. Your mind create thoughts and it develops emotions. Okay. So it is stimulating and the consequence are the emotions.
Jonathan Calmus: So first you have the thought, the thought trigger emotion?
Carolina Alzate: And you can recreate an emotion, so anxiety.
Jonathan Calmus: Anxiety.
Carolina Alzate: Anxiety. Yes. Okay. Is when you are thinking about something, it’s going to happen that your mind is creating something that is not really happening, but your mind recreated in the future. But also can recreate something from the past and start making a monster inside your brain. So you have two options here. Please start thinking this is part of my past is not part of my present is not reality because here is my reality, is not here. And then the future, it doesn’t exist so, okay.
Jonathan Calmus: so who knows?
Carolina Alzate: Then you have different tools, for anxiety I used to wear pink I eat things from the earth, salads.
Jonathan Calmus: So you would give yourself physical and visual cues to ground the abstractness?
Carolina Alzate: Yes. And I put symbols in this. So I bring this song with me, this crystal.
Jonathan Calmus: And it represent something
Carolina Alzate: Yes, I breathed. I make visualization and positive wave. I write a lot what I’m thinking, three pages every morning I tried. Because with this exercise, the brain you can make it think that is outside your brain, just writing. Because you can simulate your brain in a very different way. You can travel just with a meditation.
Jonathan Calmus: In anyway. Totally. Totally. You said that you liked researching neuroscience and stuff? So you got me thinking about something. Memory, the feeling that you feel now is not the feeling you felt when you had the feeling. It’s the memory of the time you felt it. And memory is so plastic and it’s so easy to manipulate that we build these horrible stories in our heads and we relive it and relive it. And in fact maybe even four or five years later, that feeling of embarrassment or the feeling of fear or whatever it is actually amplifies. Because we’re not actually feeling the feeling we’re feeling the remembrance of the feeling and it’s a weird concept there, that’s awesome.
Carolina Alzate: But that’s why from Neuroscience you can train your mind and that’s what I’m discovering. Six years ago I was afraid to post a picture from myself on Instagram. Right now I don’t care and I post a lot of things. But what change? That I think different from me, from myself.
Jonathan Calmus: Why where you afraid to post pictures of yourself on Instagram?
Carolina Alzate: Because I don’t know, but girls we’re very insecure.
Jonathan Calmus: Okay. It was an insecurity thing.
Carolina Alzate: And we think everyone is going to assume your picture and see something that no one see.
Jonathan Calmus: No one will ever see.
Carolina Alzate: But we’re thinking that way.
Jonathan Calmus: I’m going to draw an analogy to how a lot of entrepreneurs think. We’re all waiting for that perfect moment. We’re all trying to release the perfect product. We all over analyse and think that someone’s going to zoom in and really look at all of the details and the reality is not. As the creator, as the artist, whatever you want to draw the comparison to, we’re the worst critics of ourselves. And it becomes really important. This is a good example of what you’re saying. It becomes really important to detach yourself from those feelings because otherwise you’re going to wait for the perfect moment and you’ll lose a ton of opportunities.
Carolina Alzate: I started this warehouse with just 20% of the budget.
Jonathan Calmus: And you figured it out? And overtime…
Carolina Alzate: Today, this morning I close the business.
Jonathan Calmus: Oh! Congratulation Very nice. Felicitaciones.
Carolina Alzate: Thank you. I’m so happy today. But I pause moments of fear.
Jonathan Calmus: Obviously.
Carolina Alzate: But I re fuel myself in yoga, dancing, writing, having a good and healthy food, having right conversations with positive people that punch you up, like you can do it, can I help you with something? Not with toxic people that tell you bad things. So I surround myself just with these kinds of things.
Jonathan Calmus: Right now this word toxic, people toxic, whatever in general is being used a lot. It’s kind of like, what is toxic to you?
Carolina Alzate: It’s not about that the people is bad people, no. All the people is good people even a sinner.
Jonathan Calmus: Even the bad quote, unquote person?
Carolina Alzate: Yes of course, everyone has a pass and had different experience and from that point they decided what is good or not. But you can change.
Jonathan Calmus: Meditations from Marcus Aurelius very much emphasizes this. It was written as a journal, as a diary by the, the last great emperor, right? And one of the consistent patterns that he writes about all the time is anything that’s human or natural is beautiful. Even the ugly things, even the serial killer, there is something human about that.
There’s something and it’s a really kind of scary thought almost to think about. But there’s an important point there is we’re all people, we’re all sharing this experience. We’re all part of the same thing. So just as you said, the quote unquote sinner, he’s not a bad person per say. What makes that person toxic?
Carolina Alzate: Okay. I think the childhood experiences we live, we all have a different experience. I grew up in a very violent environment here in Medellin so I was surrounded by Norco traffic, violence by sexual abusers and a lot of bad things. And I’m from that place. So I think I was very toxic with myself and with different people and I accepted. But the first day that I accepted, I also challenge myself to reinvent myself and to have a new direction in my life.
So I make list what I see. Oh, these news are so bad, I’m going to erase it from my life.
Jonathan Calmus: I don’t want to see it.
Carolina Alzate: Okay. What? I hear what I eat, what I feel, what I taste, everything around myself. So I started cancelling and meeting with people and I started designing a new way to surround myself and all my reality change.
Jonathan Calmus: Yeah, absolutely. I can understand that. That’s really hard.
Carolina Alzate: It’s not Science is very easy, but you know, you have to decide it and you have to do it because it’s like a gym. If you don’t go to the gym, how is possible you get that body?
Jonathan Calmus: The results?
Carolina Alzate: Yes.
Jonathan Calmus: I think the hard part is starting. I don’t think the hard part is doing. Many times people put a lot of emphasis on, this isn’t done. Why aren’t you getting the results you’re looking for? And it’s simply because the person never started. Additional to that is consistency. Once you start, you have to keep the routine, otherwise you lose a lot of the growth that you just had. But it’s very much about starting and it’s very much about keeping that flow and being rigid with yourself about the rules of the routine. Not rigid with yourself about everything. Because I actually, I really do love to live in the abstract. I think it’s one of the most creative spaces we can live in. And it’s probably also why I don’t get along with many people is because the abstract leaves a lot of room for creativity. I mean, you could literally create the world in your head. And when things are intangible, it’s very scary to people. It’s why most people don’t start. And it’s kind of the same topic tied to each other?
Carolina Alzate: I call that make visible the invisible.
Jonathan Calmus: Make visible the invisible?
Carolina Alzate: Yes. This is space a was empty warehouse, ugly warehouse. And when I saw it I said, okay, I can visualize it. It’s going to be amazing. But the first people that come to me, the investors that come.
Jonathan Calmus: You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re crazy. What’s she going to do here? Yeah.
Carolina Alzate: Yes. But today.
Jonathan Calmus: If they saw it today they would change their mind obviously.
Carolina Alzate: No, the same guy that didn’t believe me. Come to me and say, Oh my God, this is amazing. We want to be part of it. Okay. Because not all the people trust—tangible is the things. Not all the people can visualize. That’s a problem with the mind that they have because their mind doesn’t allow them to visualize in a big opportunity, a big business. Or I can go to that place.
The second question that I do to the people is what are your dreams and why? It’s very normal to say I want to learn a different language. I want to travel, I want to have more time, but they don’t know what to do with that time. So I think what separate us from the people that we admire is how one mentality, our mentality is close or very open. But it’s not just to be open, it’s just do it and make it visible, make it material
Jonathan Calmus: You’re talking about a topic that’s really important in life and start-ups and business in general, which is execution. The transference between the invisible to the visible is the process it takes to actually make something, you know, physical tangible and as you say it, visible to the universe. I don’t know. I always wonder about this because part of me wants to believe I’m like a secret visionary and when someone doesn’t understand me that they’re out of my tribe, they don’t know what I’m talking about.
Carolina Alzate: Maybe you’ll have to try to be a better storyteller.
Jonathan Calmus: Exactly.
Carolina Alzate: And also try to get an inception into their minds and show them that they can recreate your idea inside, but it’s not telling them.
Jonathan Calmus: No, no. Its showing.
Carolina Alzate: It’s showing points.
Jonathan Calmus: Connect the dots. Albert Einstein says that if you can’t explain something to a child, it means you don’t understand it, and I use this as my rule of thumb. If I can inspire someone to see at least enough of what I see, then I don’t understand it enough yet. It’s still abstract and it still needs more of that making the visible out of the invisible, in my perspective. We’re almost out a time here. What’s a good exercise a good practice, someone can do very small? Like the smallest first step someone can do towards putting an emphasis on themselves for the betterment of their company and the people that they love and the people that they surround themselves with?
Carolina Alzate: Write.
Jonathan Calmus: Write?
Carolina Alzate: Yes. I think writing is the best on cheap exercise. Just a paper and an ink and a good coffee or tea. But you know, I think it’s a very good therapy, start writing. Three pages every morning and your brain is going to feel better. The problem, if you read the things that you wrote three months ago, you’re going to be surprised. Because the subconscious think that it can apart the problem with the writing and then start developing solutions. So you start seeing solution, visualizing solution in every person and situation and is your brain working for you? That’s neuroscience. So if you use it, you’re going to be better in a short time.
And also, I am always surrounded by symbol, crystals candles, smells, aroma therapy. I use a lot of aroma therapy because your brain recreate emotions and situations just with the smell.
Jonathan Calmus: There’s a practice called neuro linguistics programming. Are you familiar with it? And they talk very much about anchors and triggers and that’s the terminology they use. For anyone who’s listening, that’s a little uncomfortable maybe with the concept of crystals and things like that. It’s not about what the item is, it’s about what it provokes and what feeling and memory and what you’re trying to achieve. And you could replace the crystal for a photo of your family if you’re working really hard. And this is like really typical basic reprogramming your brain type of conversation. So I really want to emphasize that these practices are not about a group of long haired hippies who haven’t showered in a long time and I’ve said this already. But no.
Carolina Alzate: No. I love it. No. No. No. Yes. I know
Jonathan Calmus: That’s my point. I want to really like to emphasize that point because these are all metaphors that are unique to the individual. What’s more important is the framework and the structure and the pursuit. And the more you implement that into your life, again you can replace the crystals for a plant or whatever you want to do. But you can build the environment around you that’s actually reminding you of all of the blessings and benefits you have in your life and the reason that you’re doing what we do.
This was awesome. Thank you so much.
Carolina Alzate: Thank you for inviting me.
Jonathan Calmus: We’re here at your place. Again, there’s this kind of funny thing.
Carolina Alzate: Thank you for coming and recording me.
Jonathan Calmus: Thank you.
For more information on achieving your human potential and human expansion. You can follow communal on Instagram @communal.co . You can also follow at Carolina Alzate on Instagram, or check out their website at Amantes de Mentes
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