Episode #3 :

Jeremy Richman

A Small Town Tragedy Turned Brain Health Advocate

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Bringing The Science Of Violence To The Everyday Person

On this episode of The Mack Talks, we have the compassionate co-founder of the Avielle Foundation, Jeremy Richman. He is a neuropharmacologist interested in many different aspects of the brain, but during our discussion, we talk about his work in the science of violence.

Tragedy Is The Ultimate Illuminator

Take a moment to think, “Why am I where I am today?” There are no good or bad answers to this question. But, Jeremy Richman’s answer would not be common. Richman’s interest in neuroscience can be mapped back to his childhood. His grandfather suffered from alzheimer’s, a disease so impactful that it literally changes a person’s personality.Tragedy is, quite obviously, tragic. But it also has the potential to make us care about something that we might not have otherwise. It’s an illuminator. The fact that his grandfather’s personality could change so drastically due to the brain fascinated Richman, and that we know so little about this organ.

He decided to take his interest as far as he could. He studied in the field of neuropsychopharmacology, earned his PhD, met his wife (who’s also a scientist), and worked in the drug discovery field in San Diego. He worked there for 10 years in the field of neuroscience and neuropsychopharmacology. It was here also that his wife gave birth to his daughter, Avielle.

The Beginning of the Avielle Foundation

Richman received an offer to work for the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim in Connecticut. He took it, and moved with his family. Everything was fine, for about a year. But, things take a turn. Unfortunately, Avielle was one of the 20 first-graders among the 26 people murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting on December 14, 2012. Richman’s life was turned upside down. 

He and his wife decided they had to do something. Playing to their strength as scientists, they created the Avielle Foundation with the goal of studying violence. Through looking at it in a medical fashion, they see it as a disease that can be prevented, and even cured.

The Mission

The Avielle Foundation at its core wishes to prevent violence and endorse compassion. By endorsing compassion, you reduce violence; by preventing violence, you make it easier to have compassion.What are the signs, symptoms and risk factors for violence? How can we lead ourselves away from it? These are the questions the Avielle Foundation wishes to answer for the everyday person. And they want people to be asking these questions more, rather than narrowly focusing on the issue of justice.

The Brainstorm Experience

One of the ways Jeremy Richman and the Avielle Foundation carries out their mission is the Brainstorm Experience. It’s a talk/workshop where brain health experts come to share their findings and research in a way that the everyday person can understand. It’s currently on its second season. To hear more about his learning experiences with managing the brainstorm experience, tune in to the podcast!

TimeStamps

  • 1:20 – Jeremy discusses the creation of the Avielle Foundation
  • 4:53 – The tragedy in Sandy Hook in 2012
  • 7:53 – $63 per death is what the Federal Gov. commits to gun violence research.
  • 14:07 – Starting the Brainstorm Experience
  • 20:37- How Different the World is for Children Today and the Growth Mindset. 
  • 25:10- Season 2 of The Brainstorm Experience
  • 36:37 – Setting up the Brainstorm Experience 

Transcript

00:10 SJ: Welcome to The Mack Talks, everybody. I’m your host Scott Johnson, this young fellow to my right is my co-host Chase Hutchison.

00:18 Chase Hutchison: Hi, guys.

00:18 SJ: Chase, tell the people what The Mack Talks are.

00:23 CH: The Mack Talks are that vehicle that brings you the stories that you need to hear from business owners, entrepreneurs and impactful leaders.

00:33 SJ: That’s right dude, that’s what we do and on today’s show we have an awesome guest, he has turned a tragedy into an amazing mission to create change by preventing violence and building compassion through brain health research community education and engagement. The CEO and founder of The Avielle Foundation Jeremy Richman, welcome Jeremy.

00:54 Jeremy Richman: Hey, thanks guys. Good morning.

00:55 SJ: How are you?

00:56 JR: I’m doing good this morning.

00:58 SJ: That’s good.

00:58 CH: Thanks for joining us.

01:00 SJ: Yeah, thanks for coming on, we really appreciate it. So let’s just kinda just jump right into your story, so we know that you’ve endured some terrible tragedy which has led to the beginning of The Avielle Foundation. Can you please take us back to how and why you started the foundation?

01:20 JR: Well, so you’re going way back ’cause there’s no such thing as a short story with me much to most people’s displeasure but… Yeah, so I’m a neuroscientist and I’ve been interested in studying how the brain works since I was a really little kid. I had a grandfather that had Alzheimer’s disease and most people nowadays know what that means but in those days it was just kind of a senility or dementia and it turns out that it really changes your whole personality and it was really tragic to watch him suffer through that and watch my family deal with that. But at the same time it really fascinated me that our whole personalities down to our core really depend on the proper functioning of this organ the brain that as I dug into it, it turns out we just didn’t know anything about it and that really fascinated me and it was kind of… It was exciting and I moved into the arena that we call neuro-cycle pharmacology, which is the study of how chemicals affect your behavior, whether you make them inside your own body or you take them in nutritionally or therapeutically or recreationally, how they affect your behavior is what I was really fascinated by and that’s eventually what I got my PhD in and then…

02:40 SJ: So you originally you’re from the West?

02:42 JR: Well, I was… Yeah, from out West.

02:44 SJ: Okay.

02:44 JR: Yeah, I was born in Colorado and then I grew up mostly in Arizona and that’s where I did my undergrad and graduate work.

02:51 SJ: Okay.

02:51 JR: And then we did… I moved… And that’s where I met my wife Jennifer who was a scientist as well.

03:00 CH: So you speak the same language?

03:00 JR: We speak the same language which is good ’cause we can geek out together but it’s also really good that she’s not a neuroscientist because when you’re in any particular field for any given amount of time you start to contrive the box that you live in and you say, “Here are the boundaries,” and it’s hard to think outside that by re-missioning. She’s not a neuroscientist so nine out of 10 things that she says are just like… “Yeah, that doesn’t…

03:23 CH: It’s a different perspective of…

03:25 JR: That doesn’t make any sense but that one in 10 you’re like “Oh, that’s a friggin good idea.” And so that’s been good and that’s been fun. We did our post-graduate work at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, which was a really fun place to live for a while and then we moved into the drug discovery arena in Southern California in San Diego and we were there for about 10 years and still working in neuroscience and neuropsychopharmacology and that’s where we had our little baby girl Avielle and she grew up like a complete SoCal, no shoes, outside all the time, a big smile, little surfer girl and then looking always at opportunities to explore our country and grow and do different things we got recruited out here to New England to work for a large pharmaceutical company called Boehringer Ingelheim.

04:26 JR: And a lot of people don’t know who they are ’cause they’re privately owned so they don’t have to appeal to the investor so to speak or to the board of the investor. But they’re a huge company and they brought us out here and the family moved out and everything was good for about a year and then unfortunately as you alluded to in the intro, this is where the story takes a tragic turn and Avielle was one of the 20 1st-graders and among the 26 people murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place just about six years ago in a couple of weeks on December 14th, 2012 and as you can imagine that turned our life upside down and all around and in the hours and days afterwards.

05:27 JR: Immediately you have to grab on to something ’cause you just feel like the world is just spinning out of control, like there’s nothing that you can do to control life’s spin, and it’s hard to express that feeling of just utter dread and heartbreak, and so we had to do something. We thought about all the different ways that people react to these kind of sensationalized tragedies that you hear about. But now that we are behind the curtain, so to speak, we realized we had to do something. So, we decided within a real blurry couple of days that we were gonna play to our strength as scientists and create a foundation that studies violence so that we can look at it in a medical fashion, as a disease that could be prevented, intervened, and cured. And that became the Avielle Foundation. And so right away we created a mission statement to prevent violence and build compassion through the support of neuroscience, brain health research, studying the signs and symptoms of risk factors that lead to violence, and what are the protective factors that lead away from it. We wanted to fund research that looked at the biochemical bridges that explain the behavioral sciences that you can actually see.

06:56 JR: And then the second half of the mission, which came along with that, was recognizing that science and a vacuum, in that sort of ivory tower that scientists live in where they speak their own language and they kind of… They get in their own corner and they just play there. Nobody else can get in. That that’s worthless if you can’t give it to the everyday person.

07:23 CH: And that’s what you’re trying to do is to bring it out to…

07:26 JR: To the everyday person. To anybody so that when you’re at home and you’re having a crisis of any form for yourself or a loved one, there’s gonna be… We wanna give you some tools that apply to you personally that you can use to prevent violence and build compassion.

07:45 CH: Yeah, and besides just the tools, you’re helping educate people about the stats as well. So, one of the things that I’ve heard you mentioned before and it’s been kind of something that you guys have been talking about a lot over at the foundation and something that I never knew about, and you’re able to educate me and everybody else, and that’s that $63 per death is what the federal government commits to gun violent research. I wonder if you could speak a little bit about that in comparisons to other numbers as far as what is spent.

08:17 JR: Yeah, it’s interesting that our perspective really controls our spending and we’ve become a country that’s really adept at reacting to violence. You’re primarily with incarceration, and we have the largest incarcerated population in the world. Our population of incarcerated individuals is larger than most other countries’ populations total. And that’s a real shame because it turns out we don’t spend virtually anything to actually look at why do we have violence and how do we prevent it in the first place, and that would be a very inexpensive frontend investment for a profoundly valuable backend return, just to get objective and sort of very clear and financial about it. We don’t do that, but we disproportionately, for example, Nick will remind me of the actual numbers, but I think it’s like $160,000 spent in research per death to understand and prevent HIV and AIDS, which claims a fraction of the lives that violence claims. And the $68 per life killed to gun violence, again, is gun violence and violence, we’re committed to preventing violence of any form, whatever the tool be, so that we can get to the underlying root cause of violence in the first place before somebody picks up a weapon of any kind.

09:52 JR: Whether it’s a fist, a penis, a harsh treatment of somebody, whatever that tool is. And oftentimes, unfortunately, it is a firearm and it is a very lethal tool, but when you think $68 is spent to understand and prevent each life lost to gun violence, then it’s a fraction of that to study violence in general, and we wanna change that, we wanna be the organization that is actually putting money into studying it.

10:23 CH: And also bringing awareness about those numbers. Because, to me, that’s… I was blown away when I heard you say that the first time. I was like, “Wow.” And the cool part about it is that number is gonna continue to go up because of the work that you guys are doing.

10:40 JR: Hopefully, yeah.

10:40 CH: Yeah. It’s truly… It’s kind of sad. We don’t wanna have to lean on the government for that type of stuff, but if they’re using… If they’re using money, that’s a part of tax dollars that’s… Then yeah, we should have a say in it, and they should start to do a little more with it.

11:00 JR: Yeah, and I think it’s hard for people to fathom. It’s understandable why we commit money to heart disease, to HIV, to diabetes research to… If your child or yourself, are suffering with cancer or heart disease, or diabetes, HIV, you demand research be done to help you. But if you’re the victim, of violence, you’re thinking of justice.

11:26 CH: Yeah, that’s true.

11:27 JR: You’re not thinking of…

11:27 CH: It’s the mindset. So, you kind of almost have to change that. Yeah.

11:30 JR: Yeah. But again, we gotta think… We are wired, we’re literally wired to live in a community setting to share ideas, information and proximity housing, communities. And we can’t do that in a healthy way, if we don’t understand how to overcome hate and aggression and self-doubt and…

12:00 CH: I also think that figure that Scott mentioned, how much we spend on researching, violence, and gun violence, why that’s so so surprising right now, is because I feel like as a country, we’re really in a crisis mode with these violent shootings that are happening all over the country and it seems like they’re not really happening as much in the rest of the world, so it’s surprising that we spend so little on something that’s become such a huge issue and it’s impacted obviously, our communities, so largely it’s just it’s astounding.

12:38 JR: It’s really astounding. And I get like a change… Change only occurs when you’re outside of your comfort zone and it’s hard to compel people to move out of your comfort zone everybody wants to be comfortable. But you gotta think about nothing in life comes without some strife, a little bit of suffering is required for growth or change. My old kung fu teacher used to say the gym, doesn’t shine without friction.

13:10 CH: Yeah, that’s true. That’s good one.

13:12 SJ: I like that one.

13:13 JR: Yeah, you gotta put in the work. But at the same time, if you go into the ring, so to speak, to using a fight analogy, if you go in the ring, just expecting to pound it out, then you’re gonna get pounded. And If instead you avoid getting in the ring, in the first place, and you work something out, then… There’s other places outside of that square or octagon that you could… You think outside of the box and work there and that’s what we’re trying to do. Just sing a different song.

13:46 SJ: Yeah, yup, and you’re bringing the awareness with the project that you launched last year called The Brainstorm Experience.

13:54 JR: Yeah.

13:54 SJ: Which has just been awesome. Love the videos. Right.

14:00 JR: They’re not bad, they’re a really high production quality. I couldn’t give you the name of it. No, really it was a nice production.

14:06 SJ: Yeah. Nice nice awesome. Awesome. So I know that we’re just coming off the first season and you’ve had some amazing guests. I think I was… I attended all of them, I think, but two, ’cause I was in Disney for one and then I had a sick kid for the… Or I think it was the whole macro burst tornado scene I think that’s the other one that I missed.

14:28 JR: Oh man, that was crazy. But we did get it recorded.

14:31 SJ: Yeah, I know right, we got it all down, we’ve been through… I don’t know that weather-wise, you could go through a tougher second season, you know what I mean? I think that the…

14:38 JR: Knock on wood.

14:39 SJ: Second Season. You had everything kinda thrown at you, you’re doing it for the first time you would have much rather have had been like in season three or four with all the weather.

14:47 JR: Yeah.

14:47 SJ: ‘Cause you’re still learning all the nuances of setting that up. You know what I mean? So why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you thought of coming up with this. The Brainstorm Experience, and just speak a little bit about the concept behind it.

15:02 JR: Well, you kind of brought it into focus earlier when one of our goals was just to educate people on… Brain science is the least explored of all of our sciences. Just this morning in the office we were looking at… Nick was showing me this amazing video that you can see of the Mars lander literally you can… You can…

15:26 SJ: Awesome.

15:26 JR: Look around in a 3-D view on the surface of the planet Mars. We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about what’s between our ears here and that’s… Considering that this is the organ we used to consider it’s really ironic how little we know about it. But we also want people to know, that we do know, maybe not a lot of the molecular and chemical structural changes that take place that lead to behaviors we’re learning those and we’re studying them and we’re funding some of these studies, when it pertains to behaviors, but we do know a lot of the environmental risk factors that we have control over that. When they go into that mysterious goo the result is likelier a chance of aggression and violence and there’s protective factors that we know scientifically are established that if they go in the result is compassion, or the opposite of violence, whatever that is, in connection community resilience, whatever kindness. And so, we wanna educate people on that.

16:33 JR: And so really early on, I said well wouldn’t it be great if we could get some of these wonderful speakers that are world experts in different aspects of brain health, whether it’s straight up psychiatry or neuroscience, or if it’s living with a disorder, like bipolar disorder, or an expert in suicide prevention.

16:56 SJ: Even just how to raise your kids to a certain extent like letting your kids…

17:02 JR: Educational experts, parenting experts.

17:03 SJ: Yeah, that’s what I love about it too ’cause I don’t know too much about science, but I’m a parent, and I love… I wanna educate myself and there’s a science behind that.

17:14 JR: Yeah I mean, we’ve had everything from… You just mentioned education and parenting experts like Rosalind Wiseman who wrote “The Queen Bees and Wannabes” which became the movie and now the Broadway show, of Mean Girls.

17:27 SJ: Yup.

17:30 JR: All the way up to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk who’s a neuro-psychiatrist and wrote like one of the key books on the effects of trauma on your body that you may or may not even be aware are there, but “The Body Keeps the Score” so to speak is the name of his book. But everybody’s instructed and they’ve done such an amazing job as far as our speakers, go to really break these topics down to appeal to the parent, the teacher, the healthcare provider to anybody.

18:01 SJ: Yeah.

18:02 JR: And so, the every day person can come in one it’s entertaining and two, you’re gonna learn something and then you have the opportunity to interact and ask questions and hopefully continue discussions so that you can… We can all grow.

18:15 SJ: Yeah, I know It’s such an awesome program, and I bring my kids to all of them as well. And it was funny because the last speaker was Jessica Lahey. Is that right?

18:22 JR: Yeah, yeah. The gift of failure.

18:24 SJ: The gift of failure, right? So one of the things that she was talking about is letting your kids fail and work it out on their own, and to not be one of those parents that’s just constantly on their kids. Nope like this, nope do it like that.

18:37 JR: Let me help.

18:38 SJ: And it was pretty funny because me and my son right when she said that my son is, he’s 12 years old, he’s just been starting to learn how to mow the lawn, and that is exactly what I would do. Except on a heightened scale because of a lawn mower running. So, I’m waving my arms, I’m bring him in like he’s on a runway. I’m like, “You gotta do… I’m doing this like…

19:00 SJ: So, we both just looked at each other and I was like, “Wow that’s it. And now I’m gonna take a different approach now I’m gonna let him mow the lawn. And when he has all the corners, not… When he cut in on all the corners, he’s gonna have to go back and forth and then the next time he’s gonna think. Alright, well I gotta do it, and if he doesn’t do it next time he’s gonna continue to do it. So that’s something that I was able to learn from there, and that’s something that I’ve really kinda tried to really think a lot about and really try to absorb, because that’s huge, you know what I mean? What she was saying and how you’re able to…

19:32 SJ: One of the things she said that was awesome was, like when you’ve had your best like a-ha moments and you’ve really found… When is the last time somebody had that happen and their parent was next to them. That was just like the greatest quote ever. Because it’s like, you know what I mean, it’s like you gotta let your kids… Let your kids be. And I think that a lot of times with society now, we shelter them a lot and rightfully so, to a certain extent on why we would do that. But we track them everywhere they go, now, so… So it’s a lot easier. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

20:05 JR: It’s crazy, it’s a pendulum swing. When I grew up, I’m sure it was really similar where you grew up…

20:12 SJ: Yup.

20:13 JR: In that day and age I was the classic latch key. Literally at the age of six, I would take myself to school, I’d get myself breakfast, I’d walked to school, I’d go to school, I’d walk home. I would get myself a snack and I’d go out and play. I just had to be back for dinner kinda thing.

20:31 SJ: Yep or you’d just hear your mom screaming from the top of the lungs. You could hear your mom through the neighborhood.

20:38 JR: Yeah, where the hell are you. But now, we won’t even let our kids go out in the yard to play without checking in and knowing exactly what they’re doing. And you’re still popping your head out there going, “Are you okay? What are they doing? Are they getting in trouble?”

20:49 SJ: Yeah I know.

20:52 JR: And it’s just such another extreme. Report cards. You didn’t even have to show your parents a report card. There was no online grade like, “Oh let me just see how they’re doing in this class.”

21:01 SJ: You didn’t get an alert from Google Classroom.

21:05 JR: Right. None. If you failed something or you got a bad grade and they had to sign it, you would just… You would either suck it up and have them sign it or you’d just forge it and…

21:16 SJ: Yeah.

21:17 JR: Be done with it. But, nowadays, your kid gets a B on the essay that you wrote… I mean, that they wrote and…

21:23 JR: And you’re calling the teacher saying, “I really think you reconsider.” Every kid gets a blue ribbon for attendance and everybody gets a trophy and at some point, they’re gonna fail. And if you don’t build that into them and build in not just the experience of failure, that’s not the goal in and of itself, it’s this growth mindset, that was coined by Carol Dweck, but this mindset that it’s not a grade that you’re working for, it’s the mindset that you can fail that that’s okay and that you can build this with effort and that, that’s what matters.

22:03 SJ: So, do you think you know, you were talking about a pendulum, do you think that maybe we were a little too reckless back in the beginning, like the way that our parents were, how we were just be able to be six, seven, eight years old, and go walk to the 7-Eleven like I used to do. And now it’s… Do you think it’s maybe it should be somewhere in the middle?

22:25 JR: Yeah, I think…

22:25 SJ: Because I get it. We should be a little more cautious than we used to be.

22:30 JR: Engaged. I don’t even think it’s really the caution. I don’t think that parents were any less caring or loving when I grew up. I just think that it’s… You need to be present and engaged. But not so overbearing that you’re actually living one, maybe you’re living vicariously through your child and their success is now… Or like, “Oh I never won state wrestling champion but now my kid did so look at me.”

23:03 SJ: Yeah, yup, yup.

23:05 JR: And then it could also just be that… Do you remember how you felt when you got a bad grade or when you were on the splits with your friends or something wasn’t working? And you wanna shelter them from that? And that makes sense, but it’s so much more valuable just to be present for them like, “Oh man, that’s really rough. What are you gonna do?”

23:25 CH: Yup no, I mean it’s…

23:26 JR: Just hear them and be there and let them work it out.

23:29 CH: Yeah, cause you want them to feel like, if they’re failing at something like you want them to feel it And how are they gonna get out of it, you don’t want them to think “Oh, my parents gonna be mad at me or oh I’m gonna be… ” That shouldn’t be their focus, their focus should be, how am I gonna get myself out of this and how am I gonna deal with this so the more we kind of encroach on them non-stop with the society the way that it is now, the harder kind of the harder it gets. So that’s one of the reasons I like it because sometimes you do those things and you don’t realize it you know what I mean, it’s kind of funny how slowly but surely, I’m out there directing traffic like I’m a freaking… Like I’m on the runway with my son on the lawnmower and it’s like I didn’t even really realize that. And that’s why the Brainstorm Experience is so educational.

24:16 JR: That’s right.

24:18 CH: And that’s what the value that I love to get from it, I think it’s awesome.

24:22 JR: We wanna give with every experience we wanna give somebody that aha moment that maybe 90% of it is something that you already kind of knew and you’re proud of yourself. Yeah, I knew that I do that I’m great that. But then you might have that the way that they say something. I remember I really loved the way when Dan Harris was here talking about mindfulness and the power of meditation.

24:46 SJ: He’s awesome.

24:47 JR: And he just makes it so simple, he’s like, “I’m not telling you to turn into a Buddhist and go to a temple and live in Dharamsala for 10 years. But what I’m saying is if you practice this and it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort, you will feel better. Maybe just 10% happier.

25:05 SJ: But hey, 10% is 10%.

25:07 JR: And I’ll take it.

25:08 SJ: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, he’s had some awesome guests Season 1. So when is season 2 kicking off?

25:14 JR: January 13th, 17th. January 17th.

25:19 SJ: Cool. And what are some of the… Who are some of the guest that you have?

25:22 JR: We kick it off with an amazing speaker, a real cult of personality, it’s Sally Kohn. And she’s gonna talk about a book that she just put out that we all just finished in the office and we’ve been talking about it pretty non-stop called “The Opposite of Hate”. And it’s looking at essentially how do we… First of all, she explores the fact that we’re all wired with necessarily literally, you can’t stop this, your brain is wired to see differences. It’s this and not this, this is me and not me, these are my people, and not my people. So you end up with these in group and out group dynamics that can lead to implicit biases and explicit bias. So an explicit bias would be racism. An implicit bias would be another-ism that you’re not aware of. It might be one that I grew up realizing later in life that I had a simple one that… Is important to recognize it, but it’s not necessarily harmful. But If somebody says… “I went to my doctor today and the doctor said this and the doctor gave me this prescription, and told me I need to change, my lifestyle.” You’re picturing probably a white male.

26:42 SJ: Yeah.

26:43 CH: And if you say… “Oh, the nurse was really good, very professional. Helped me get geared up. Did this test… ” Blah, blah. You’re probably picturing a female. And the statistics don’t bear out. So those are implicit biases.

26:58 SJ: Okay.

27:01 JR: When you see somebody driving a car and they’re dressed one way you think business person, and then if somebody else dressed a different way, driving a fancy car and you might be like drug dealer. That is an implicit bias.

27:15 SJ: Okay, yeah, yeah.

27:18 JR: She wants to explore the fact that one, recognize that you have them, everybody does, and you can’t… You can’t not have them, but at the same time, you can break those down. And you can broaden them. So that your in group isn’t necessarily so narrow, and the way that you do that is through connection and community, and that’s how you break down barriers to hate and…

27:42 SJ: That sounds awesome. Can’t wait to take the kids to that one that’s gonna be a good one.

27:46 JR: It’s gonna be really good. It’s… Some of it’s pretty brutal, it’s not a lot of hippy trippy, lovey dovey because she expresses things like these implicit biases that seem innocuous, can end up leading to genocide. Look at Nazi Germany, look at Rwanda. Look at… Where you… You’d like to think, I would never have done that. I would have helped the Jews. I would have helped…

28:12 SJ: It’s funny that you’re talking about this.

28:13 JR: [28:13] ____.

28:15 SJ: I think about this, like what you’re talking about. Exactly, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, it’s funny. But when you’re in the situation…

28:22 JR: But she highlights… Look, you can’t deny the statistical fact, 0.5 of 1% of people in Nazi Germany helped. So statistically speaking, you would have been part of the problem. Statistically speaking, I would have been too.

28:38 SJ: I would have… I always think about that because I’m like, when you’re inside of that and everybody around you and it’s how you’re kinda programmed to think to a certain extent and you have that.

28:48 JR: So that’s Sally Kohn, it’s gonna be amazing.

28:54 SJ: Cool.

28:55 JR: Yeah. Super impactful and I think it’ll be a real eye-opener.

28:58 SJ: And you said she has a book out, right?

28:58 JR: Yep, “The Opposite of Hate”.

28:58 SJ: Almost all… All the guests have pretty much her…

29:02 JR: Almost all of them. I mean, that’s not necessarily why we invite them, but…

29:06 SJ: No, but they have…

29:06 JR: Almost all of them have had something that you could explore outside of them.

29:10 SJ: Yeah, because they’ve done the research, they have the information.

29:14 JR: Right, right.

29:15 SJ: And then I know you have a couple other great names that are coming in as well.

29:19 JR: Brene Brown. [29:19] ____.

29:19 SJ: Yeah, that’s gonna be an awesome…

29:20 JR: The fourth most viewed TED Talk in history.

29:23 SJ: That’s great.

29:24 JR: She’s just an incredibly dynamic speaker. Really, really bright. She’s gonna talk about leadership interestingly, and what it means to be a leader and how to do it effectively and with compassion, and I’m really excited about that. She’s definitely gonna be one of the season highlights. We have another one… One of my personal favorites that we’re inviting out is the Avielle Foundation’s Pioneer and Research Award winner this year, Nadine Burke Harris. She’s a pediatrician that has really championed an understanding and the study of adverse childhood experiences.

30:01 JR: So different forms of abuse, whether it’s physical abuse, sexual, psychological or neglectful abuse. These have consequences that stick with you all the way through your life, and it has a lot of detriment leading to it. She wants to… She studies this and tries to understand it on an individual basis from a parenting perspective, and from a community perspective, and a public health perspective. And more importantly, she’s trying to look down to say, “How do I cure this? How do I see this as a disease that can be helped, so that you aren’t growing up to be people that are exposed to this adversity scientifically have been proven to engage in self-harm and harm to others in a profoundly elevated level.” And she wants to counteract that.

30:55 SJ: That’s awesome.

30:56 JR: So she’s gonna come out. She has a book also called “The Deepest Well”. Highly recommended, it’s a great book. It’s a fun read. It’s not like a PhD dissertation or anything.

31:05 SJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

31:06 JR: And she’s a dynamic and interesting woman. We also have… And then everything in between. We have a fire-eater that’s gonna come.

31:16 SJ: Wow.

31:18 CH: That’s cool.

31:18 JR: Yeah. You know, like a little circus side show.

31:21 SJ: That’s cool. And the music is awesome too. It’s really cool. Tell us a little bit about how you set up with the music and how all that works.

31:34 JR: Well so I’ll tell you all about that, but we’re not gonna do that for season two.

31:37 SJ: Okay.

31:39 JR: We had a song, post the 12/14 tragedy, we had a lot of amazing gestures of great generosity and people reaching out and trying to do kind things, which is amazing. It’s really moving how amazing people can be when their hearts are broken with you.

31:58 SJ: Yeah.

32:00 JR: And one of the gestures was to basically have a song written, pay to have a song written by a singer-songwriter about Avielle, and the singer-songwriter, Sarah Morris wrote this amazing song that we called, she didn’t name it, called “Magic” and it was just… She just nailed Avielle’s personality. It’s such a good song. And in the early days of brainstorming, how we were gonna do the Brainstorm, one of our… Our art director at the time came up with… Dave Brooker came up with the idea, “You know, wouldn’t it be cool if we had that song open the show with a musical guest? But the guest is different every time, but sings the same song”. And I thought…

32:49 SJ: All different genres too.

32:50 JR: Well, it just turned out to be totally cool because the first one was a dear friend of ours, Francine Wheeler, who also lost her child in the same tragedy then. She’s an amazing singer and she did the first one, and it was great ’cause it’s just another version of the song. But then, we moved into everything from heavy metal punk bands, to a little bit of reggae dub sound, kinda chill versions, we’ve had a New Orleans swing jazz version, we had a high school acapella band perform it. And then the season finale, which was just with Jessica Jade, we had Sarah come out.

33:37 SJ: Oh, brought it home.

33:38 JR: And it was just a show-stopper.

33:38 SJ: And it was great.

33:41 JR: Then we had another concert experience with… Just a barn concert with Sarah Morris, which was just super fun, very intimate.

33:50 SJ: Yeah. She blew me away with that song. All of them performed it great, but hearing it from the original artist obviously. And at the end of the season, it was perfect. So you’re not gonna be doing that?

34:01 JR: Not next season, that’s…

34:03 SJ: ‘Cause we were hoping to see a rapper get up there and join. We’re really hoping, actually maybe even Chase to get up there. No I’m just kidding.

34:09 SJ: That was the logical next step.

34:11 JR: Well we can make that happen.

34:14 SJ: Please, no. So, you’re gonna open up the show a little different?

34:18 JR: So the theme, the stage theme and the ethos of Season two is outer space.

34:23 SJ: Oh, cool.

34:23 JR: So the set design is gonna be different. We’re gonna have some really cool stage props. The vision, the mindset is gonna be a little bit different, and we’re gonna come out onto the stage and explain what constellation in space we think this particular speaker is gonna address tonight.

34:42 SJ: Nice.

34:42 JR: And we’re gonna… As a constellation, is just little clusters of stars that are connected by these invisible lines that create an image, a picture, and that’s the brain health picture that we want people to get from the Brainstorm Experience. So we’re gonna say, “Tonight’s speaker is really talking about getting outside of your comfort zone. This is really important. You don’t change… Your brain can’t change. You can’t rewire something in your comfort zone and this is why it’s so important, and so here’s the cluster here”. The next speaker get up and explain why did we have this person come and what does it mean to us? What do we want them to get out of it? Explain the neuroscience behind it in the most simple way, “Here’s what we want you to get out of this, and why we thought it was relevant”. Because we might have fallen short a little bit on a couple of speakers that are like, “Why do you have this guy talking about tough mudders? . I don’t get it.” You know and like “Oh, okay.” We need to really bring it home, connect the dots.

35:43 SJ: And you’re still gonna be doing one of the things that you guys do, which I think is awesome, is you make it to where you can text questions in?

35:49 JR: Yeah.

35:49 SJ: I think that’s really cool. Obviously, you’re still gonna do that, correct?

35:51 JR: Yeah, absolutely. If we could come up with an even more dynamic… We want people to feel not that they’re being lectured to, but that they’re part of the experience.

36:01 SJ: Yeah, it definitely creates that.

36:04 JR: And if we can find a better way to do that, I’d love to… So, if anybody out there has a creative idea, just hit me up. I would love to hear it.

36:12 SJ: Awesome.

36:13 JR: But we do love… We have the ability, you can text in a question, we get it right there on stage. We can get it during the entire presentation beforehand, and then we address them and we wanna make it just a real comfortable, fireside conversation that the audience feels like they’re a part of.

36:29 SJ: Yeah, yep. No, definitely. So tell me, how it was like to set up the Brainstorm Experience. You have no background in setting this up. This is kind of like the entrepreneur side of you, where you’re just gonna just jump right in, you’re gonna have to fail and learn and figure it all out. And like I said with the weather, you had a lot of things thrown at you that…

36:51 JR: Yeah. We really brought the storm to the Brainstorm, yeah.

36:53 SJ: So, how did you exactly get through all that setting up something that you’ve never done before? From lighting, to video, to just getting the guests and everything? It’s almost like a whole production company.

37:09 JR: It is. The joy of sort of being entrepreneurial is when you jump into something new, you have what I call the ostrich effect. You don’t know if all this world just came into existence, bite when you pulled your head out of your hole, or if it was always there and you just didn’t know about it. So being naive and jumping in is sometimes a huge advantage because you can say “How hard could it be?”, and then…

37:38 SJ: And then you find out.

37:40 JR: You find out. Yeah. So there was a lot of discovery and I wouldn’t say it was painless, but it was really fun. Knowing what you have to have lined up, timing-wise, how long a sound check takes.

37:57 SJ: So many things has to align, right?

37:58 JR: Details of lighting that I would never have thought of, set design, everything from what time should the guests be there, to the…

38:10 SJ: Where they have to stand on the stage. Literally, everything.

38:12 JR: Yeah. Do we need a followspot? Do we not need a followspot? How do we, oh…

38:15 SJ: Guest is late, guest got delayed.

38:18 JR: Right, yeah. We had a… Our first guest got snowed out, so that was like, “Oh, how do we cancel it and reschedule? How do we do this? Do we get a refund?”

38:26 SJ: That was the very first…

38:28 JR: Very first show. We missed the first show ’cause of the snow. The second guest… And then eventually, we had… That was Steve Gross talking about the power of optimism and how critical that is to living a healthy life, so he then made it a week, two weeks later. Then our second guest, Kevin Hines, literally showed up three minutes before he was supposed to be on stage. That was a little bit stressful. So just every show, there was a fail. Hopefully, the audience doesn’t even know about it and that was our goal. Maybe a couple of times where we started late, so they’re like, “Oh, something’s up”.

39:09 SJ: But no I think you guys…

39:10 JR: Technical snafus, a mic that… With Jessica, her mic went out. You know right, she’s like, “Oh.” But she was a pro. She was like, “Oh, I don’t need it. I can just talk really loud. No big deal”.

39:18 SJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was great.

39:18 JR: So that just works out. Every single show there was some snafu and our goal is to twofold one, learn something and…

39:30 SJ: The gift of failure. Right?

39:35 JR: And two… Yeah. Let’s throw it out there ’cause… I mean, if there’s any audience that’s gonna be like, “Aw, give me a hug and then give me my money back”.

39:47 CH: Yeah, right.

39:49 JR: That’s an audience that we’re totally okay failing in front of.

39:52 SJ: Yeah. You guys aren’t… It’s not this super uptight science show, you know what I mean? It’s a relaxed thing, like how you did the music in the beginning. You’re not like… You guys are wearing t-shirts and sweatshirts and jeans, you know what I mean? It’s not this super uptight…

40:08 JR: By design, we want it to be like, “Hey, come to my house”.

40:11 SJ: The first one, I showed up in a sport coat. I felt so overdressed.

40:14 JR: Yeah, right? And that’s fine. We actually did debate. Do I wear my jacket or do I wear my jeans? And we also…

40:22 SJ: I love the casual look. I think it brings kind of that feeling, you know what I mean? It’s the whole message anyway. It just goes with what you’re doing within the experience and stuff.

40:32 JR: And that’s the point. And so, we wanna continue that sort of culture and we wanna continue it. And I think people are starting to trust us. So yes, we have failed at a number of things, but it allows us to grow, it allows us to get better ideas. And again, it’s that failure that allows you to get there. So I think it is improving, and I think that you can see, over the course of the season, where we were really working hard to get people in the doors. We needed your videos to really advertise to people like “This is what you’re gonna get”. We do want it to be casual, but we totally want it to be high production value. And we want people to be able to see it that aren’t in Connecticut. We want people in California to be like, “Oh my gosh. This is so good”. We wanna be the neuroscience TED Talk, equivalent.

41:25 SJ: And the little snafus that happened are not from me. I know it’s so hard when you’re the one inside doing it. You take it so much more when you’re running it.

41:33 JR: Of course.

41:34 SJ: I’m the same way with my business and stuff. But from a person just watching it, the content is there. You know what I mean? The content, the message that’s being delivered, that’s there and that’s the important thing.

41:47 JR: And people are watching the videos which really… That gets us jazzed up, and people are trusting us now. So yeah. I can imagine I’m pretty confident Brene Brown’s gonna sell out. No problem. We’re not even gonna have to advertise a whole lot. But now people are gonna come to…

42:04 SJ: People that they haven’t heard of.

42:05 JR: That they’ve never heard of before because they trust like “This is a good thing”. And we can tell that that’s effective ’cause we’re already selling, we’re almost sold out of our VIP. We call them the VGHs, very good human hall passes.

42:16 SJ: How cool. Cool.

42:17 JR: We’re selling a ton of the season passes so that people are like, “Yup, I trust you. I’m gonna go to every show”. That so profoundly motivates us because it says we’re doing the right thing. And people are now traveling. We had people that aren’t even from Connecticut that are coming. We had people fly in from… Basically, they did their off-site annual meeting to come to a Brainstorm Experience.

42:39 SJ: Oh, that’s cool.

42:41 JR: From around… Literally around the world, from Taiwan to all across the country.

42:46 SJ: Wow, that’s amazing.

42:47 CH: That’s incredible.

42:47 JR: Yeah.

42:48 CH: That is really, really cool.

42:51 SJ: Alright. Well, we appreciate you coming in, telling our story. Let’s actually tell people because we didn’t tell them where the Brainstorm is at. So, let’s tell them and tell them…

43:03 JR: So the Avielle Foundation, first of all, look us up online A-V-I-E-L-L-E Foundation.org. The first thing you’ll see when you go on there is the Brainstorm Experience. So you can get all the shows in highly produced and beautiful video format right on our website, thanks to Mack Media. And they take place in a very iconic old school Town Hall right in the center of Newtown, Connecticut, right by the flagpole. Everybody knows about the car hazard. And they take place, the doors usually open around 6:30 and the show usually goes on promptly at seven, if all goes well.

43:50 SJ: What’s the website?

43:51 JR: Aviellefoundation.org.

43:53 SJ: Alright, cool. And I know we’re gonna be launching a new one soon. Right?

43:56 JR: Yeah, again thanks to Mack.

43:57 SJ: So we’ll definitely have to have a launch party or something of sorts…

44:01 JR: Sure.

44:01 SJ: When we do, right?

44:02 JR: Yeah, definitely.

44:03 SJ: Alright, cool. So, we really appreciate you coming in. Now we have a segment of our show that we call “One question from Kev the intern”. So, my man Kev the intern that’s sitting over there. Come on in. That one right there that works a little better for you. So go ahead, Kev.

44:19 Kev: Hi. One question I have is that, what’s the most proudest moment you’ve had or the proudest thing that’s happened after you started the Avielle Foundation

44:25 JR: Wow, I mean…

44:30 Kev: At least one.

44:34 JR: I’m not the guy that ever likes to be in the spotlight so I would say probably getting the results of the scientific funding that we gave out to support research we… Our goal was to have markers of… Well, how are we gonna know it was successful? How is anybody that donated money gonna know it went to good use? And we said, well if they publish in a top tier peer-reviewed journal then it was money well spent because that meant that the scientific community believed it was a legitimate contribution we put a piece of the puzzle into the brain health puzzle. And not only did we get from every single group that we funded not only did we get publications but in one of the cases where they sought government funding for a study at the University of Michigan and in this day and age it’s really hard to get government funding from the NIH so we’re talking in the top 5% of applicants will get funded and then when it comes to violence research it’s 0.1 or less or 0%.

45:56 SJ: Well, we’re talking about 0%. Yeah, yeah.

45:56 JR: So they tried many times they couldn’t get funding, we gave them pilot funding money to do a small version of what they wanted to do to get the data that says we really merit support and with that funding they then went back and in this dry days of difficult top one to three, 5% get funded, they got two government grants and a training grant that totaled over $7.5 million.

46:22 SJ: Wow.

46:22 JR: So we also have now been credited for research that’s published in nature which is two of them in nature, which is the top nature and science we’re the top scientific peer-reviewed journals.

46:33 SJ: That’s amazing.

46:35 JR: From other groups we have a High School intern that was published in a top-tier journal because of the work that we funded him to do at Yale in a very prestigious lab to be in so I guess that would be many things. I’m proud that it’s growing, yeah.

46:51 SJ: That’s a pretty… That’s awesome, that’s amazing. I know you don’t like to toot your own horn but that’s something that’s a huge accomplishment and it’s kinda helping all of us and it’s one of those things that you’re bringing awareness to these type of things and you’re trying to create change and I appreciate that and I’m sure everybody else does especially with inside of this area and I’m just looking forward to it growing and growing and growing with you guys and I really appreciate you coming in.

47:17 JR: My honor and pleasure. Thanks for having me.

47:18 SJ: Great to see you. I’m super excited for season number two so everybody go down to the Edmond Town Hall theater and make sure you check out season two of the Brain Storm Experience. Alright, everybody, thank you for being here. Chase, you gotta..

47:38 CH: Thanks guys, thanks for coming in.

47:40 SJ: You gotta go… This guy has gotta go get on the phone, do some sales out reach, sell some accounts, whenever we sell an account I take that megaphone, I don’t know if you’ve seen and we say, “Chase move whatever the account is into the closed bin.” So we gonna use the megaphone a lot in here.

47:55 JR: Awesome.

47:56 SJ: Alright, Jeremy, thanks a lot for coming in and we’ll see you guys next time. Thank you.