Episode 005

The Tension Between Optimal
Collaboration vs Solitude

with Pam Slim and Leo Babauta

Jeffrey’s Question:

When you’re wanting to make a radical change in your work life or advance your best ideas, how much collaboration do you need, and how much time alone is best for you to generate and then advance your best ideas?

In her book, The Creative Habit, celebrated choreographer Twyla Tharp suggests that “a clearly stated and consciously shared purpose is the foundation of great collaboration.” What else do you need to facilitate a successful collaboration? What role does solitude play in allowing you to process ideas and make meaningful contributions to the group? And how do we practice solitude in a world where technology conveniently supplies a distraction any time we feel a little uncertainty or discomfort?

Jeffrey is at the roundtable with mindfulness teacher and author Leo Babauta and award-winning author, speaker and business consultant Pam Slim to explore the characteristics of a successful collaboration and the necessity of solitude as a critical part of the process. Pam and Leo both share the radical transformations that led them to become entrepreneurs and their experiences with the collaborative nature of sharing your writing with an online community. They speak to challenges of embracing uncertainty rather than retreating into your cell phone—and the liberation that comes with opening your heart to discomfort.

Our Guests:

Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta is a blogger, journalist, and author. His blog, Zen Habits, has over 200,000 subscribers and offers insights on changing negative habits in order to have a more simple, mindful life. Leo is an advocate for minimalist living, productivity, and organization. His books, which include most recently The Effortless Life, focus on ways to achieve these goals and find happiness.

» ZenHabits.net

Twitter: @zen_habits

Pamela Slim

Pamela Slim is an award-winning author, speaker, and business consultant who has been an entrepreneur for twenty years. She has worked with companies serving the small business market such as Infusionsoft, Kahuna Accounting, and Citrix. In 2016, Pamela opened K’é, where she conducts workshops, features master classes from experts and supports her local small business community. She assists people in starting and growing their own successful businesses. Her latest book is Body of Work.

» PamelaSlim.com

Twitter: @pamslim

Key Takeaways

[3:57] Pam & Leo’s young genius moments

  • ‘Alive in the magic,’ creating worlds
  • Burying marbles, climbing banyan tree

[9:23] Leo’s time of radical change

  • Overweight smoker, deeply in debt
  • ‘World of ideas’ as escape
  • Felt badly about self as person, father
  • Picked one thing to change (smoking)
  • Started blog in 2007, year of discovery
  • Achieved with support of others

[18:08] Pam’s journey of radical change

  • Working 90 hours/week in 1996
  • Mentors moved on after merger, lost mojo
  • Also stuck in unhealthy relationship
  • Quit job without plan (huge tolerance for risk)
  • Reached out to old boss for freelance work
  • Realized suited to entrepreneurship

[27:18] Pam’s take on successful collaborative efforts

  • As much as you prepare, much is random (human side of business)
  • Open to collaborate with client, mentors or peer network

[33:11] The characteristics of optimal collaboration

  • Strong opinions, weakly held
  • Deep listening
  • Mirrored communication
  • Shared purpose, but individual motivation
  • Joint mission, desire to be part of something bigger
  • Acceptance, mutual love and respect
  • Community spirit, shared workload
  • Different perspectives, life experiencesg
  • Willingness to be changed (beginner’s mind)
  • Leader offering invitation to collaborate, keep it going
  • Create brave spaces

[47:46] The significance of solitude

  • Solitude is ‘lost art’
  • Necessary first step in collaboration
  • Schedule time for solitude
  • Step away from technology to process
  • Can be around people, yet alone with thoughts

[56:37] How we use our phones to avoid uncertainty, discomfort

  • Solitude, isolation allows for awareness of patterns
  • Set intention and create boundaries
  • Play with discomfort (critical part of development)
  • Proactively schedule time without distractions

[1:03:10] Pam’s advice for executives around allowing for solitude

  • Signals, signs
  • ‘No meeting’ days
  • Design space for needs of team
  • Enforce your own boundaries


Each week brings you in-depth conversations with leaders, stories from change-makers, and provocative ideas from artists and scientists – all designed to inspire you to shape your best work with more possibility, impact, and – yes – wonder.