Kai Talim wants to talk about curiosity. Douglas Detrick and this pianist turned podcaster and entrepreneur had a thoughtful conversation about how following our curiosity can lead to new directions in our lives.
Kai Talim is a talk show host, pianist, barista, content producer, and brand strategist, and he’s changed directions a few times. When he graduated with a Bachelor’s in classical piano performance from the University of Michigan, he had one regret: he hadn’t ventured outside of the music school often enough to explore his other interests.
Kai’s podcast Skip The Repeat
Kai’s company Persimmon Coffee
Welcome to More Devotedly, a podcast for people who see the arts as a force for positive, progressive change. I’m Douglas Detrick. This is Volume V, episode six.
The world is changing. It always has been, of course, but this is a time of rapid change that will have lasting consequences, perhaps more so than at any other time in human history. As I write this, the COP26 conference in Glasgow has just wrapped up, and I’m thinking of climate change.
The change is coming, this is an inescapable reality. We know that the warming of our planet will cause massive disruptions, and the only choice we have is how we choose to react. Will we choose greater equity among people? Or will we allow the richest people on Earth to cash in while everyone else endures the brunt of the changes? As we make the millions of small decisions that push the world towards surviving climate change, we need to lift people up from poverty and give greater opportunities for self-determination, not protect the people that are already wealthy and powerful.
This episode’s interview is about change, though it isn’t about climate change directly. For me, the connection is that we need to be open to change, to reinventing ourselves and our businesses, often dramatically so. And when I say we, I mean all of us artists, all of us business owners, and all of us humans.
My guest this episode is Kai Talim, a podcaster and entrepreneur with a background as a classical pianist. He has reinvented himself several times, and that process itself has become a key interest. His podcast, Skip the Repeat, focuses on people he calls “reinventors,” folks that have used their background in the arts to inspire new enterprises.
We didn’t plan this going in, but our conversation focused on the idea of curiosity. We arrived on the idea of curiosity as a driving force that illuminates a path forward, that validates the risks we take to make big changes, and that motivates us to do the work it takes to actually get things done.
If curiosity is a resource, then it has a cost to exploit. Since curiosity is a mental posture, a disposition, then it is our time and attention primarily that we must spend to access it. This has some amazing upsides—no matter how much wealth you have or who you know, you can be curious, and let that curiosity guide you to achieving your goals.
But there’s a downside too. If we work ourselves to the bone then we’ve traded our health for curiosity. That’s not what we’re talking about. And from a political perspective, if we punish certain types of people for their curiosity but reward others, say along lines of race, gender, or class, then we’ve set up a caste system of curiosity for the few, and marginalization for the many. That’s not what we’re talking about either.
Though you may find your curiosity changing over time, curiosity itself is a well that never runs dry. If that’s how we see this driving force, and this conversation I hope goes a long way in describing it in practice, then it has the potential not only to change the lives of individuals, but to help us change our whole society for climate survival. Because our curiosity drives our creativity, artists are uniquely well suited to be leaders in this moment. But we can only do that if we’re willing to make changes, and to demand that other leaders in government, business, and the arts do so as well.
Here’s the interview.
Douglas Detrick: Kai Talim, welcome to More Devotedly. I want you to introduce yourself in your own words as well, but I’ve been listening to you as a podcast host, you know, for a little while now. And we have a mutual friend who told me about your show.
But before we get to that, please introduce yourself in your own words and tell us kind of what you’re up to and you know how you’re thinking about yourself as a podcaster and other things that you’re doing with your life as well.
Kai Talim: Sure. Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. I’m delighted to be here and it’s really an honor. My name is Kai Talim. I have a podcast called Skip the Repeat. This season it’s all about reinventors. So those are people who have made pivots and changes of direction in their life and career.
So the show has been going on for four years now, which is wild. But I’m based in Philadelphia and I went to school for music, which I’m sure we’ll get into. And I also have a coffee company in lifestyle brand called Persimmon Coffee.
Douglas Detrick: I’m really fascinated with this topic that you’ve picked: reinventors, , these folks that you’ve called reinventors, who are changing their lives and, kind of using their creative backgrounds to do something different with their life and change direction. But I’m curious, like, How would you define the podcast before that? Tell us a bit about how did you start and then what led you to pick this different focus for this season?
Kai Talim: I think we can go back to my undergrad where I was studying piano performance. I went to Michigan and it’s a great school. My dad went to Michigan. So, you know, there’s a lot of Michigan pride in the family, but Michigan is not just a conservatory, right? It’s a public university. And when I graduated, one of the things that I really thought about was, I don’t want to say regret, but I asked myself why I didn’t explore more beyond the field of music.
I mean in classical music, you’re kind of expected to know that that is what you want to do for the rest of your life. And it’s more like professional training school, but I knew from the very beginning that even if I became a pianist, even if I became a musician, I always wanted to combine it with something else.
So when I decided to go to my masters still for classical music and I got into university, I went to Northwestern. I decided to start branching out and maybe, you know, I think none of my peers were doing that. When you get to grad school, right, masters, doctorate, that’s, you know. You know, you’re gonna go into music, you know, you’re going to go into whatever field you’re going to school for, but I wanted to branch out. There’s a great journalism school at Northwestern. It’s called Medill, the Medill School. And it’s particularly known for investigative and sports journalism.
Douglas Detrick: Hm.
Kai Talim: And I was really inspired when I first walked into these journalism classes that were filled with grad students. They really treat each journalism grad student as a beginner. If you went to school for English or journalism for undergrad, when you come to Northwestern, when you come to Medill you’re a beginner.
Douglas Detrick: Hmm.
Kai Talim: So you feel a lot of freedom to make mistakes. And it was perfect for me because I was like, I didn’t go to school for a journalism or writing. So, you know, at the time I was really drawn to this new platform called the Player’s Tribune, which is a platform that was kind of, it’s kind of famous because Kobe Bryant was one of the initial investors in it, I think. And it’s a platform where athletes can write letters to their fans about whatever topic that they’re passionate about to kind of introduce themselves to the world.
Not just as people who play sports, but as people you know about their kids and what they’re, you know about their dogs, whatever. I wanted to do something like that for musicians. And I have a really good friend who… his story is wild. He was a musician. He went to Northwestern for undergrad, but he eventually got picked up on downtown Chicago, like a person just approached him and signed him to become a fashion model.
So now he lives in New York and he is a really great photographer. So I pitched him this idea about doing something like to the Player’s Tribune for musicians, you know, and he was really blunt. He was like, I hate that idea.
Douglas Detrick: Okay.
Kai Talim: But you should do a podcast. And at the time, as a first year grad student, I had no idea what a podcast was.
Douglas Detrick: Hm.
Kai Talim: I started listening to these long form interviews. And what was initially, like really, it seemed really long to hear two people speak for like two hours. It just became a part of my life. Whenever I would walk to school, whenever I was on break, I would be listening to podcasts. And so I really fell in love with the medium. And I, I thought that that was a really great way for me to engage with my artist friends about the things that they were talking about.
So I guess it’s a pivot in that instead of them writing about themselves, I will be talking to them about things that they were interested in. And you know, Douglas, you live in Portland,
Douglas Detrick: Right,
Kai Talim: right? So I was once a artists services intern, at Chamber Music Northwest. And that’s where I met our mutual friend, Kim. You know, I’m, I’m glad that I’m able to call her a friend because she was my boss at one time. That’s like a very different relationship, but you know, I was there say, I don’t even remember. I think I was a junior and I was studying piano and all these kind of like big name artists come, right, to Portland. And your, my role was like to go to the airport to pick them up and show them to the hotel and basically be, be a liaison between the artists and the administration.
And I discovered that on the car rides to, and from the airport, I would be asking them about what they had been doing outside of music that summer. Right? All these people are traveling, but at these music festivals there. All sorts of stuff happening. Like, you know, I learned about like what artists were passionate about golf and what artists loved dogs and food.
And, and I have a kind of like broad interest. So it’s never been just music for me. And that really changed how I viewed them as people in artists. Like I found that it gave me a personal investment in what they were saying as artists, when they were on that stage at Reed college, right. Playing this beautiful concert, it wasn’t just about the Brahms piano quintet anymore. It was about who they were and how much work that they had put in. Knowing more about their personal lives made it so much more interesting for me. So that was, that was kind of what the first season of Skip the Repeat was based on.
I would encourage the listeners to go listen to these people to go look and hear there art, but after learning more about where they came from, what they were thinking about. So yeah, that’s, that’s the basis of Skip the Repeat.
Part 2 – Reinventing Skip the Repeat
Douglas Detrick: Something that you noticed over time as you were doing more and more of those interviews, this kind of pattern, I suppose. Maybe that’s a good way to describe it, of how folks would talk about their own story and talk about their own work in a way that maybe seems almost like they had scripted it for themselves now, and now they were kind of in this, in this rut and they would say, well, this is what I say when people ask me that question. I would love for you to talk about it, what it was like for you to come up with that topic and why
Kai Talim: Yeah, it was just all about my interviewing beginning to get stale. And I found myself dragging my feet. Right. I would have pretty well-known people and it would be still an honor to have them on it’s just, even if I asked him a certain question they would revert back to the kind of script things, but the whole whole reinventors thing, I think after I moved to Philadelphia upon graduating from Northwestern, with my master’s in music, I didn’t come to Philly to become a musician.
You know, I, I had decided that even if I was in the classical music field, that the biggest contribution that I could make to the industry was by, I guess, telling the stories of these artists, right. For me it wasn’t about being on stage myself. But I think. You know, the whole, whole reinventors thing came about because when I got here, I had to find a job.
Right. I had high level education. Right. But it wasn’t something that I could just automatically take to a company and like get a high paying job or whatever. So yeah, this is, this is funny because I think it was my mom who was like, well, you know, why don’t you just work at it like a coffee shop. And the, the funny thing is that I didn’t drink coffee.
Douglas Detrick: interesting.
Kai Talim: I never grew up drinking coffee. And I. I never became part of that culture. So I applied to all these coffee shops, you know, in Philly. And I never heard back from any of them until one got back to me. And I went and talked to the owner and I got the job. So I put myself in this situation where I was, I was making coffee on a daily basis now and getting up really early to do it too.
Douglas Detrick: Okay.
Kai Talim: And I think I see that as like a real pivotal moment, not just because I now have a coffee company. But because I realized that humans are really adaptable. Things that we can never picture ourselves doing in terms of a career, really like we’re, we’re able to adapt. I’m not saying that we’ll be at the highest level. That depends on how much work you put in and how much, you know, it’s, it’s the same with anything.
We’re able to overcome these fears about you know, whether we’ll be able to make it or not. So I think when I realized that I started noticing, you know, the people that I would be talking to at these coffee shops, you know, and, and I think the people that are artists now, but were doing something else or the people who are doing.
Something else now, but want to become artists, you know, I, I would talk to these people and they would have these fears, I think. And they were fears that I, I shared with them. And so the idea of having the show centered around entrepreneurs and artists who had made that leap successfully to, to our eyes was born out of, I guess, wanting to provide a resource for myself and for the people around me. Just kind of a, a guide and yes, a resource on how to pivot.
Douglas Detrick: Hmm,
Kai Talim: Because that, that first. It’s the hardest one, right? We’re so used to living our lives the way it is. So yeah, that’s, that’s basically where reinventors came from.
Douglas Detrick: Did you find that, you know, especially as you started the podcast, which is kind of already kind of a pivot, but as you did that, you know, cause he just mentioned creating a resource partly for yourself, which I thought was a really interesting way to think about it.
Because I’ve definitely thought that way a bit about with my podcast about like, why am I doing this? Well, one of the reasons is because I find these conversations to be really inspirational. Like they kind of helped me just to be like, oh, well that person had this other approach that I had never thought of because you know, that’s just the way the world works.
It’s like each person is going to be different in the way they see a situation. But that idea of creating a resource for yourself and people around you. I want to ask did that pan out? Like, did you find that to be something valuable for you? Like, did it become a source that you were drawing on a lot? Did you find people telling you Kai, I really enjoyed that interview. It helped me, you know, approach this problem in a new way. Something like that.
Kai Talim: Yeah, 100%. I so relate to what you’re talking about about like getting inspiration for ourselves. you know. What you realize is that people are choosing to take time out of their day to listen to us having a conversation, right. And the best way to provide something that is valuable and of use to the listeners is for us to be super into the subject.
Like no one, no one needs to be listening to two people blab on about something that those two aren’t into. It is such an inspiration and a motivation for me to talk to these people who have done things that I never could have imagined. And. That blows me away every time I think.
it’s been so great for my personal growth too, to be able to talk to these people. I mean, I think even if I didn’t have a podcast, I would want to talk to these people. It’s just that I wouldn’t have a reason to contact them. You know, like I, you know, this too like we cold email a bunch of people, but it’s much more likely that they’ll talk to us if they can gain something from it too.
It’s like my friend and the countertenor Anthony Roth comes down. So always talks about it being a win-win situation. He collaborates with all these people famous fashion designers and set designers and whatever else. They have to gain something from it. So both sides have to have to win. And I think that’s what we’re finding out as interviewers still.
Douglas Detrick: Yeah, for sure. Did you find also this, you know, I think especially as we come back to this idea of reinventing and pivoting and you’ve gone through that too, because you, you made the move from working In coffee shops to now starting a coffee business of your own. Did you feel you needed permission to do this? Did you feel you needed to like wrap your head around it in a certain way and just like, be like, yeah, I can do this. I don’t know, permission is a great word, but tell me what word you would use.
Kai Talim: Hmm. I think it’s just, this is more about like personal, personal doubt, right? Even with permission. I think maybe if I didn’t have the podcast and if I hadn’t talked to all these people who have pivoted and reinvented themselves, like maybe I would have needed that permission. But what you realize is. you can’t wait around. And also we don’t live that long for people to really, really give a shit about like what we can and what we can’t do.
Douglas Detrick: Right?
Kai Talim: That’s, that’s what I’ve learned from every single one of my guests. They didn’t ask permission to do anything. Like I had no experience in business. I had no experience in running like a coffee shop, but it’s the same as like I had no experience interviewing people.
No, I was just a curious, individual, but you know, I’ll tell you like, and, and tell me if this is the same for you.
Douglas Detrick: Hm.
Kai Talim: Curiosity, curiosity drives everything for me.
Douglas Detrick: Yeah.
Kai Talim: It drives business relationships, personal relationships, what I want to do in life like career. I’m so glad that I’m, curious about stuff.
Like I can have a conversation with anyone about anything, because even if I know zero things about that thing, I’m curious about why they’re interested in it, you know?
Douglas Detrick: Right..
Kai Talim: So yeah, going back to the permission thing, I think that’s something that I’ve gained through Skip the Repeat the realization that you don’t need no permission from nobody.
Douglas Detrick: Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate that. And having listened to you know, not every episode, but enough to get a good sense of, of how you do talk with your guests. I think you do a great job of like bringing enough of yourself into the interview that it kind of changes the interview and in an interesting way, but I think that what you just said is like kind of the opposite of that in a great way where you’re saying like, even if, even if I don’t know anything about the subject that you’re talking about, you can still ask somebody about why, you know, what, what is this passion coming from? Like why do they even approach this stuff?
And I guess the, the thing that I like about that is, you know, just creates that permission. I think, you know, for yourself where it’s like, well, my passion is enough. The curiosity validates itself, that’s the permission we need is just like, well, do you have the curiosity?
And if the curiosity is there, then it means you’re, you’re going to be willing to spend the time it takes to learn the skills you need, you know. Whether that’s bookkeeping to run your business, or if it’s learning the piano. You know, that, that curiosity is really the source and it’s not really, I don’t know, to me, like talent gets you part of the way, but like really what’s far more important is that curiosity and that willingness to, you know, put the time in.
And I’m, and I’m curious if, you know, have you seen that with yourself and have you seen that with the guests? Where that, I don’t know. I think I I’m just interested in this connection between the curiosity and the confidence, like the permission, you know, that, that idea of permission, like, I don’t, you mentioned they don’t need permission, but like, I think that it’s like, you, you give that to yourself and it’s like, well, why, and maybe it’s maybe it’s curiosity. I don’t know. How do you, how does that grab you?
Kai Talim: well, that’s interesting. I, I feel like the connection between confidence and permission, right? It’s a, it’s a very interesting thing because I guess confidence takes into account that like, you, you have permission, you’ve given yourself permission. But I, I think about someone like you, Douglas.
And I remember when Kim reached out to me about, you know, she has a friend who wants to start a podcast and I don’t remember how long ago it was, but clearly your curiosity has been the Energizer bunny and you having your own show, right? it’s 100% what I’ve seen with me and my guests, that curiosity about what they’re doing. you put a certain amount of energy into whatever you’re curious about. that’s all you need.
Douglas Detrick: Yeah. I kind of admire people that are just like, I don’t need permission to do this. Like, I’m, I’m doing it. This is my thing. Here we go.
I suppose I used to be more that way when I was younger and maybe it was more because it was like, I was like, it almost seemed to me like, you know, as a young person, you start doing new things and like, that’s the way it is.
But like, as I’ve gotten older I’m not quite 40 yet, but I’m getting there. And, and, and it’s almost like you, you know, kind of the, if you think about like what the. Like, what’s the perfect ideal narrative of your life. Like by 40, you know, people do that a lot by, you know, they say, oh, by 40, I will have done such and such, right? And for a lot of people, that’s just, you know, it’s just meaningless. And and it seems like this topic, the reinventors is like, it’s partly about permission, but it’s also partly about understanding what a real human endeavor is like where we make new decisions and we take new actions and we learn new things and, and that’s going to happen hopefully throughout your life.
Kai Talim: I think you touched on a really interesting thing, you know, first of all, you don’t look 40.
I think, what I think about is more different life stages, right? And different life chapters. What I found is that you know, this, this perception of taking risks, it’s not about how many years you’ve lived. It’s about what’s going on in your life at that time. I can’t say that even if I was the exact same person, if I had, let’s say a family, or if I didn’t live in Philadelphia or if I didn’t know all these people that I would be doing exactly what I’m doing. I think it’s 100% the case that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. So I feel that I’m very fortunate in having friends who are, you know, if my friends are listening to this like I have friends in their teens to in their eighties and they’re real friends. But what I really learn is people young and old. Are taking as much risk or if not more than I am. Right. And it’s just about what’s going on in their life at that time. Like so yeah, I don’t, I don’t know where what the original question was, but that’s, that’s what I think.
Douglas Detrick: One thing that you mentioned, I think that I was going for, with that question was about like this idea of the narrative of oneself.
Kai Talim: Yeah.
Douglas Detrick: A lot of that is tied to age where, where a person thinks, okay, I’m 22 and therefore I do things like this. And then the person who’s like, okay, I am 62 and therefore I do things like this.
Kai Talim: Right. The thing that I’ve found most engaging the moments that me and the guests are, you know, in sync kind of are when we find points that our lives intersect. Like we lead very different lives. Me and you lead very different lives. But when we find those moments where we can both relate, that is magical. Right. And so that, that is what I think about when I, think about like the stories that we tell ourselves. I try to look for, and I try to tell my story in a way that a lot. people can relate to it more. And maybe that’s a product of me wanting to include people who aren’t in music or, or whatever field, because the premise of reinventors is that I’ve had people who are palliative care physicians and bakers and restauranteurs and ice cream makers and plant shop owners. Right. Those are very different things and occupations, but they all have something in common.
Douglas Detrick: Hm.
Kai Talim: You know, and that’s what keeps me intrigued. That’s what keeps me going in this season.
Part 3 – What can we learn from "reinventors?"
Douglas Detrick: What is that thing or some of the things that you find are in common between all these folks with really different types of lives?
Kai Talim: I think one that comes immediately to mind is they don’t need permission or they’ve given themselves permission to be curious. Right. I think that is something that I often talk with guests who might be in academia is that students, these days go into their undergrad with a certain career in mind. And that immediately puts you in a box. There’s no exploration that happens when you go to school with the mindset that I know what I’m going to do, and that is what I’m going to do.
Douglas Detrick: Hmm.
Kai Talim: And maybe, maybe that’s what you’re going to do, but shit happens in life. Like things, things change. I think a lot about someone like BJ Miller, who is the palliative care physician. He is also a professor at the UCF cancer center. And he’s someone who has always had this curiosity in his life. Right. He went to Princeton with the idea that… He didn’t have an idea of what he wanted to do, but that was acceptable.
He gave himself permission to be that way. And to explore as much as he can. But when I say shit happens, it’s like the summer of his sophomore year, he and his friends were playing around and they got on top of like the New Jersey transit, one of these commuter trains and BJ used to be really tall and he became the conduit for the electricity to pass through the cable and the train. He suffered like life-threatening injuries
Douglas Detrick: Wow.
Kai Talim: And this narrative, his story about how he changed from there. When he went back to school, went to Princeton. He changed his major to art history and like people ask, oh, why art history. But for him, it was a way of discovering himself through art that it was just this curiosity about art. He states like openly that he was never going to be like an art historian. You know, he’s like a brilliant guy, but he’s very humble.
And so he was like, yeah, I just like would never have gotten that job. And I, you know, you know, that’s, that’s the way he tells it, but, you know, eventually he made it to like medical school and now kind of walks alongside people who are at the end of life. Right. It’s just that curiosity to think that a young man who could have done anything chooses to walk that path, reinforces how important curiosity is.
And everything stems from there. Like I think about everybody who has been on the show, what they’re curious about, yeah, they, they all have their own reasons, but the driving factor is that they. Wanted to learn more about it even without the guarantee of a career in it.
Douglas Detrick: Hmm.
Kai Talim: You know, people used to tell me to have an open mind and I had no idea what that meant, but it’s really about like, if you’re really intrigued by something, why wouldn’t you learn more about it? We have so much resources at, at our fingertips now, literally you can learn so much. I noticed that it’s not always, but there’s this kind of momentum that happens. Right? We know people who can imagine themselves doing a lot of different things. And I say people and I I’m talking about myself. Like I can, I can see myself doing a lot of different things, but right now what I’m doing is interviewing people and how, you know, creating this community through coffee. Right. We don’t have enough time in the day to explore everything, but it’s fascinating to see, like when we all get the seed of interest and then we put the energy into it, it creates this momentum. And often that leads to certain things like doors being opened. It’s just, sometimes I have to remember that when, when you follow that, that river and that, that flow of water to see where it’s going, that momentum, some doors are going to be shut at that moment. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can always go back and open that door. It’s just a reminder that we, our time is finite.
Douglas Detrick: Cause momentum is also the tendency to stay the same. Right. And so changing one’s momentum and trying to push it in a different direction or just redirect it somehow. It’s like, it’s kind of like maybe the, the side of momentum that we don’t always think about that sometimes momentum can be pushing you in a direction that you don’t want to go. And so, so that, that’s kind of partly why it’s been so interesting to me is because I, I’m also kind of in this time, I w I’ll say without going into much detail right now. Cause I’ll I’ll, I will later, but like there’s a lot, there’s a lot that’s changing for me personally, kind of professionally.
And so that’s been an interesting thing. Like I’ve kind of been, there’s a lot of soul searching involved in that and because I can see like, oh yeah, there’s a lot of momentum that’s built up in this one direction that I could keep riding it and just keep going with it. But like, if I want to make changes, if I want to change what I’m actually doing with myself day to day, I have to change.
And, and that’s, you know, that’s a big thing and it sounds like, you know, talking with so many people that have made that decision and then being somebody that’s made that yourself too, you know, I think it’s, it’s just an interesting thing. And so I’ll be, I’ll be really curious for, you know, some of my listeners to tune into your show as well and, and, you know, see what they get from that as well. It’ll be, it’ll be fun to hear about that.
Kai Talim: yeah. And now I’m, I’m curious about your what’s going on in your life, but like, something that like we don’t often talk about and something that I want to talk about more in my show is. The pain and the obstacles and the doubt that we all have when we’re pondering this change. I think it’s very easy for listeners to
listen to us talking and like, think that we’ve got it figured out. Like I don’t have anything figured out, but it’s also, I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with that. And that’s maybe the story that I tell myself, but something that I don’t really talk about is like how painful it was to realize like, you know, because it’s kind of like, It’s kind of true.
I think when I was in music school I had the idea of this, this rigid idea of how I wanted my career to go. And if I wasn’t going to get that, then it wouldn’t be worth it. And maybe
it was this coming to terms that like, maybe it felt like the end of the road a little bit for me, I think the, the career that I dreamed of I could keep trying, and maybe it will happen one day. But I had to really ask myself, like, is that what you want to do for 20, 30, 40 years?
You know, and I’m talking, you know, I’m being vague, but like, it’s about, it’s about whether I can become a concert pianist or not. Right. Because those things are not only about talent, like in listening, in like talking to all these people you notice, like when you reach a certain level, everybody’s great.
Everybody can play, but things fall certain ways for people. And that is, I don’t really love the word reality. Because it’s, its used in such a negative light, like this is the reality. So I can’t do this. I had to really ask myself, like, had I had I done enough uh, was I, was I happy chasing this idea of a concert pianist career? And the answer was pretty clear that I wasn’t and that’s why I pivoted, you know, and I, I can, I can live with myself.
Douglas Detrick: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, for me it was like, I was studying music in school, you know, in public schools, in Oregon. And it was like, that was a way to kind of define myself in a way. that it was different from what most other kids were thinking about, you know, with their, with their lives.
And, but by the time I decided that I wanted to study music in college and to go that route, it was like, I really had an image of myself, you know, I thought about Miles Davis. He was kind of my model. Like I, and I didn’t know all that much about him as a human being until later like you know, things that were not necessarily a great model for me, just in terms of how I would want my life to be different than what his was like.
And I didn’t know that until much later, but but I think also just creatively, I was just like, well, you know, There’s just like all these other things that I wanted to do that I thought were really interesting that just came in to my life later on, like writing and podcasting and audio production and these things that helped me just create stuff that I want to hear. Like, this is what I want to listen to, so I’m going to make it and I, you know, so it’s like so now I, I haven’t been playing my trumpet very much, which is that like, the trumpet for me was like the gateway into everything. But then it kind of became a bit of, a bit of a what the albatross around your neck, you know, that, that metaphor just because it was like then it was like, well, if I can’t express these things as a trumpet player, and I can’t make them happen on the trumpet with the skills that I have, which I am not the world’s best trumpet player, I’ll be the first to say it.
Instead of being something that was freeing and provided opportunities, it was something that was like limiting opportunities that I wanted. And so it was like, you know, but, but that, that realization took time to get there, to be like, oh yeah, I, I don’t want to practice for five hours a day.
It’s just never been something I’ve really enjoyed. I haven’t really been curious enough about the trumpet, you know, to, to follow on what we were talking about before. So that’s been kind of the key of the transformation that’s been happening in my life over the last few years. now that I haven’t performed in front of an audience now in over a year, it’s kind of like, well, maybe that’s the, maybe this is the time to kind of just fully do that. And that’s kind of the decision I’m wrestling with right now. But yeah, so anyway, but I think that that idea of curiosity, I was like, my curiosity is pushing me in another direction.
Kai Talim: Yeah
Douglas Detrick: And so that’s that I’ve tried to let that be my guide. And so hearing hearing you talk about yourself and talking about your guests in those terms of like curiosity being the guide, being the driver, being the engine has been interesting. I can relate a lot to that. I don’t know if everybody will, but I can relate pretty hard to that.
Kai Talim: Something that is still on my mind is when you, when you go to music school, there was this like kind of narrative about people who quit, you know, and how like winners keep on going and losers quit. And like, I guess I bring that up because
I used to think that way,
Douglas Detrick: Hm.
Kai Talim: I used to think that way and I, I. Really asked myself who I was when I was pondering this decision of like Pivoting from this path of becoming a pianist. So I only bring that up because maybe some listeners and I think it ties into this idea of getting permission, you know, like, I don’t know.
Maybe the, the reason why I don’t give myself the room to think about gaining permission per se often is because it puts the decision in other people’s hands, right. But I think the longer I live, the more I realized that we are all responsible for the lives that we create, not our parents, not our friends, not our teachers.
So if you want to be happy with, you know, I’m not saying it’s an easy life for either of us, but like, I look at myself now I’m really happy, really happy. Like it’s, it’s happiness that I didn’t experience when I was spending eight hours in a practice room by myself, you know? And that, that has a lot to do with like who I am and what I desire in my day-to-day life.
But it’s a pretty good barometer for the decision that I’ve made and I think that’s where the that’s where the confidence comes from. Right. Like you were saying like that you weren’t, you’re not the world’s best trumpeter and I don’t think I’m the world’s best interviewer or I make the world’s best coffee, but I’m able to contribute something to people’s day. And that’s all that matters. Like I don’t need nothing else.
Douglas Detrick: Yeah. That sounds right to me. That sounds like that’s enough. I get
Kai Talim: Yeah.
Douglas Detrick: Yeah. And I agree with that. and like, just to hear you say, I’m so much, I’m, I’m very happy. It makes me really happy to hear that. You know, just, just that. And I think that for people that are listening, I hope that they’ll find that as well.
Kai Talim: Right. And it has nothing to do with like how much success one has achieved. But I distinctly remember reading this interview with Yo-Yo Ma and how he had to learn to say that that’s good enough. And to be okay with good enough, because you know, maybe it’s him being a, a perfectionist or whatever. If we’re able to say that that’s good enough, then that’s all that matters.
Douglas Detrick: Yeah, that makes sense to me. Thank you so much, Kai.
Kai Talim: Of course.
Douglas Detrick: so much fun to talk with you about this.
Kai Talim: No, I, I really appreciate you reaching out and yeah, that you’ve had me on the show.
Douglas Detrick: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think, I think folks will get a lot from, somebody who’s talked to, you know, a lot of people about these ideas and kind of synthesize them together in this way that you’re doing. And I think it’s, yeah, I think it’ll just be really a great thing to listen to. So it’s, I really appreciate your time.
Kai Talim: Thank you. Thank you.
Douglas Detrick: Thanks so much, Kai. Find out more about Kai Talim, and links to Skip the Repeat, and Persimmon Coffee at moredevotedly.com.
If you enjoyed this interview, please subscribe to More Devotedly podcast on your podcast app, and if you want to help the show find more listeners, please give a five star rating and say a few words in a review. It helps more listeners find the podcast, and if you tell me you did it, I’ll give you a whole basket of happy little puppies.
You can find me on social media (at)moredevotedly on Instagram and Facebook. You can also sign up to get an email every time I put out a new episode at moredevotedly.com.
I composed and performed the music, and produced this episode here in Portland, OR. I promise that very soon, I will use something other than glass objects to make music for this podcast.
What you’re doing is beautiful. Can you do it more devotedly?