#584: Bo Shao — His Path from Food Rations to Managing Billions, the Blessings and Burdens of Chasing Perfection, Building the eBay of China in 1999, Pillars of Parenting, and Pursuing the Unpopular | The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • Early childhood impressions can shape the way you live the rest of your life, for better or for worse. Even the most successful people struggle with overcoming deeply embedded identity issues.
    • “One of the impressions that I received was that my value comes from my performance, specifically to be #1. And if I’m not #1, then I’m a person with no value. I feel heaviness as I talk about it because it’s such a burden.” – Bo Shao
    • “For the longest time, I treated feelings like an evolutionary waste product, like an appendix. Rationality and analytics are what I’m built for, and emotions just got in the way.” – Bo Shao
    • “Part of me still thinks that there is something wrong with me, that I don’t deserve any friends, that nobody will really take an interest in my feelings or what I have to say unless what I have to say is useful” – Bo Shao
  • “It’s a continuous journey of discovery to be free from the patterns I have developed” – Bo Shao
    • Bo believes psychedelics can be a key resource to help people along this journey
  • “[Starting a company helped me] get closer to who I really am, versus what I was made to be by the environment” – Bo Shao
    • Until he was 25, nobody had ever asked him what he wanted to do. Entrepreneurship became the opportunity to explore an unpopular choice for the first time in his life.
  • “Being a parent is the most difficult job, and the one we are least prepared for” – Bo Shao
    • Continue reading for Bo’s pillars of parenting

Intro

  • Bo Shao was a founding partner of Matrix China, a technology venture capital firm in China that manages over $7 billion. He has been the leading entrepreneur of many successful public companies. Now, he commits his time to his passion projects, Evolve and Parent Lab.
  • In this conversation, Tim and Bo discuss how his early childhood impressions deeply impacted his relational identity with work and life.
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

Bo Shao’s Childhood

  • Grew up in Shanghai, China – everybody around him was poor so he didn’t realize he was poor
    • Each parent was making $10 a month, food was rationed for all it was worth
    • Used the number values on playing cards to help develop his base knowledge for mathematical arithmetic – he could add up any random 52 cards in under 12 seconds
  • Father was a math teacher, very strict, and had an unpredictable temper
    • One day his father brought home a bottle of ketchup (which was a luxury). Bo tried it without permission, which threw his father into a rage. Later on, Bo won a highly competitive math tournament, and all of a sudden his father offered him love, affection, and all the ketchup he wanted.
    • He ended up winning so many math tournaments that he got a full scholarship to Harvard at 17
  • The US was a completely different world for him
    • There was a fair chance that his family would never see him again–the selflessness of his family was immeasurable
    • Before moving to the US, he had only met one non-Chinese person

Impressions: For Better or Worse

  • Early childhood impressions can shape the way you live the rest of your life, sometimes for better or worse
    • “One of the impressions that I received was that my value comes from my performance, specifically to be #1. And if I’m not #1, then I’m a person with no value. I feel heaviness as I talk about it because it’s such a burden.” – Bo Shao
    • “For the longest time, I treated feelings like an evolutionary waste product, like an appendix. Rationality and analytics are what I’m built for, and emotions just got in the way.” – Bo Shao
    • Even if these impressions were not his father’s intentions, they were the results of his parenting style
  • Performance = Value is a burdensome pattern to continuously uphold
    • “I’m afraid if I don’t follow this strict pattern, I will cease to be excellent” – Bo Shao
    • This motivation strategy can be beneficial and detrimental pending the situation
  • Bo still struggles with his identity, he thinks he is undeserving of friendship due to the irrational emotional value system that was instilled in him
    • “Part of me still thinks that there is something wrong with me, that I don’t deserve any friends, that nobody will really take an interest in my feelings or what I have to say unless what I have to say is useful” – Bo Shao
  • “It’s a continuous journey of discovery to be free from the patterns I have developed” – Bo Shao

Cultural Revolution in China

  • The Cultural Revolution in China created a “race to show your ideological purity” to the totalitarian regime
    • Citizens were sent to the countryside to perform manual labor until their “thinking was reformed”
    • Even children were forced to dox their parents for speaking out against elites
    • The whole country has PTSD from this time period, it forever damaged the individual psyches of Chinese citizens
    • To Live is a film mentioned that depicts some of these struggles

Psychedelics

  • Regardless of your race, religion, or socioeconomic status, everyone around the world faces traumas while on the journey to identify the meaning and worthiness of our lives
    • Bo believes psychedelic medicine is one of the most powerful tools to not only heal trauma but to realign our identities with the beauties of reality
    • “For me, these experiences are the starting point, rather than the endpoint of one’s personal journey” – Bo Shao

Startup Stories & Building China’s Ebay

  • “[Starting a company helped me] get closer to who I really am, versus what I was made to be by the environment” – Bo Shao
  • Until he was 25, nobody had ever asked him what he wanted to do–he was quite stumped by the question
    • He let his career be dictated by whatever job was in demand at the time
    • But, going back to China to be an entrepreneur was the first unpopular career decision he ever made
  • Identified that China did not have a localized online auction website like Ebay, so he made EachNet in 1999
    • His parents couldn’t comprehend that he wasn’t selling a product, just a platform for other people to sell products
    • EachNet was the first internet company in China to advertise on TV, the website would constantly crash when the commercials aired
    • Bo went through constant up-and-downs trying to secure proper funding to keep the dream alive
    • EachNet became the biggest ecommerce website in China before Ebay bought it for a price Bo couldn’t say no to in 2003
    • He does have some regrets, Ebay didn’t know how to operate in China–they lost the majority of EachNet’s market share
  • Tim suggests a potential part two episode for more details about Bo Shao’s resume

Pillars to Parenting

  • Understand what’s going on in your child’s biology and psychology
    • Their behavior will not be the same as that of adults from a developmental perspective
  • Know the source of your frustrations
    • Is there really an external problem with your child or is it an unconscious internal battle you’re struggling with? You have to be a better person before you can be a better parent.
  • Become aware of your relational field
    • Children don’t understand reason and analytics, they understand safety and connectivity
  • “Being a parent is the most difficult job, and the one we are least prepared for” – Bo Shao

Meditation

  • Meditation is suppressing your mind and detaching yourself from results
    • Bo accidentally discovered a version of meditation at a young age while working on math equations
  • We find teachers and learning material for external work, but we rarely seek in-depth guidance for internal work
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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