Gents Among Men Presents: Building Bridges – Live In the Grey
There exists two kinds of people in this world: those who depend on potential energy alone to drive their growth as human beings, and then there are those who utilize and transform this potential energy into a kinetic force that is used to constantly enhance their development as complex beings. The latter is typically believed to be hard to come by as we all are partially governed by fear that dwells jammed in our cognitive and decision-making structures. Despite its function to protect us against abashed feelings of failure and disappointment, consequentially, we tend to let this negative energy swell our thinking and drive us to channel our productivity and time on Earth to strive for banality and comfortability; however, with this low-grade aim of fulfillment, we are left with almost all of our lives essentially unlived. But what if we didn’t have to?
Imagine if you had the choice to do just that – choose. To choose what you could do and pursue your most coveted dreams and create a living for yourself from these endeavors? Well, meet Maneesh and David. These two now dedicate their lives so that you can change the way you live – to love what you do and live what you love.
Founding Live In The Grey, a project to bridge the personal and professional passions of individuals seeking fulfillment through their life work, Maneesh K. Goyal of MKG and David Munczinski created an online platform committed to engage with this philosophy though varied approaches – from inspiring, intimate interviews to helpful guides and resources – and a community of people devoted to a mutual interest in this approach to holistic success. These compassionate individuals have an array of stories that have led them to abandon the mundane realms of their lives to finally embrace what we know as living in the grey.
Gents had the opportunity to sit down and converse with these two brilliant minds about the journey into building LITG. We spoke on the topics of holistic living, revolutionizing corporate culture by the efforts of millennials, deconstructing lives policed by binaries and ultimately proclaiming Grey as the new black. Check out some of the excerpts from our interview below, as well as the full text beneath it.
Maneesh: Hi, I’m Maneesh Goyal, co-founder of Live In The Grey – a project to blend personal and professional passions. So, my story is that I moved to New York about 15 years ago and I was working in an industry that I wasn’t necessarily so fulfilled by. After a few years in that industry, I kind of recognized that I had to change something about my situation pretty fast or I’d end up going down a road that could be very hard to get out of or stray from. And that ultimately lead me to really look at what made me personally passionate about. Having done that, once I was in that process, I really took some risks and I went into an area of industry that I knew not a lot about but had a drive for, and that is what brought me here. I am now the President and Founder of a marketing company called MKG, which also has operations out of New York and L.A. I’m always thinking of ways to expand. So, during the day I run MKG, but with all the time I can muster up because I’m really passionate about it, I work on Live In The Grey.
David: I am David Munczinski and co-founder of Live In The Grey. Maneesh and I met through his marketing company, MKG. I was a potential client, representing a potential client, several years ago. We actually began working on several projects together and at that point we became really good friends. Over time, Maneesh shared with me some of the ideas behind Live In The Grey that were germinating out of the work that he was doing with MKG that had to do with building the culture and the team here at MKG. He expressed to me that he wanted to bring that to a larger audience to see if we could build upon that and that’s when I started helping him think about those ideas and put them down on paper and articulate them, which ultimately became the foundation and philosophy of Live In The Grey, of which could be found on our site. And since then, we’ve been working together to try and continue to build a community around Live In The Grey. My story is that my background is in marketing and branding, but also since going to Business School, I have lent my focus a lot more in leadership development and team dynamics and employee engagement and things like that. I think that Live In The Grey presents a new vision for how to move those conversations forward and what the future of work looks like. And after undergoing some health issues I’ve had and coming out of that, it really helped me come to crystallize the idea that I really wanted to spend more of my time with my career working on those sorts of things and thinking about how people interact and get more fulfillment out of doing just that. Because, ultimately, you have to focus on what fulfills you in your career in order to be most successful.
Nancy: So, you just gave me a lot. I learned a lot that I couldn’t have from simply looking on your website and find out all of these really nice gems that you just gave me about yourselves and your background. What do you lend LITG’s success to? Could you also expand on how LITG is deconstructing and breathing new life into new-age corporate culture?
David: We are definitely trying to shift what corporate culture means, specifically for young people – millennials in particular – that are really coming up in the workplace. As they are just entering or reaching the point where 10 years later they are starting to enter management, they are beginning to enter into a new phase in their careers, and throughout that period, they are really focused on this idea of, “how can I find more fulfillment in what I’m doing, how can I find something more engaging that serves as a reward to me rather than simply waking up going to a 9 to 5?” And particularly coming out of their session and given the generational shift, those are that things that coming together at this specific moment in our culture. It’s just the right time for this message. And that has been a big part of our successes. We’re hitting on ideas and concepts that people are primed for and just ready to really embrace right now.
Maneesh: Absolutely. I agree that the success we’ve had with LITG is because we have heard time and time again that when you read the words on our philosophy, you find people saying, “Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever seen how I want to live my life put into one page, put into these words that really mean something.” So, actions trumpet intentions. We’re all teachers who learn from others. We’re all students. This idea that ultimately, nothing is more important than your relationships. I think the relatability has helped to curate and drive some of our success. And as David has said, the timing is everything. I think this is a time where people don’t want the same kind of job experience they’ve had in the past. We are out to believe that fulfillment is almost unattainable if you’re not factoring and considering your professional life. To say that I just go to work and feel unfulfilled outside of my work, it would be very challenging to do that. That doesn’t mean you need to find a job that is the 100% embodiment of your greatest joy. But, it just means that there has to be some iotas of whatever passion or joy you have to be integrated into your profession. So, that way there are these moments and nuggets throughout your workweek that make you smile and happy with an environment that will support you.
Nancy: Where do you see your company in the next 5 years?
Maneesh: That is a very good question. I think LITG in the next 5 years – we have a pretty wide footprint right now, so I only think it’s only going to get broader and deeper. I think we are recognizing that there is an opportunity to operate in the spirit of inspiration where we are trying to inspire others to find a Grey life and create Grey spaces for themselves. I think what’s going to happen next is that we are going to help people to actually achieve that – through conducting self-assessments as well as potentially pairing self-assessments with potential job opportunities that might be out there. We’re essentially going to help them along their Grey journey in a few more phases. Right now, we’re really helping them hone that journey because we’re very focused on inspiring people. And I think we are going to see ourselves stay with them on their journey a little bit more. That’s certainly our hope and our goal because we want LITG and liveinthegrey.com to be a viable resource for change and revelation.
David: I think the other thing we’ll see is LITG will continue to help drive the conversation around the future of work. In a broader sense, what we’ll achieve as part of a larger movement right now is in the next 5 years, we are going to see ideas about a new way of approaching work and what the implications of culture and implications for individuals in their own fulfillment within corporate structures start to change. And I think it’s exciting that we’re going to be a part of that conversation and be a part of driving that. You see it now in companies like MKG and in start-ups. I think we’re almost at that tipping point where you’ll start to see in large companies and Fortune 500s and places like that to embrace this new wave of corporate culture. But I also think that it’s exciting that we’re helping drive those conversations in some of those big companies and be able to provide them with the access and relationships that we have in developing these new ways of thinking about work.
Nancy: So why do you think people still live in the Black and White?
Maneesh: In terms of the scariness of leaving the Black and White and coming over to the Grey, the divide there is really a divide of risk. And I think the reason why a person lives in the Black and White is not because they want to, nor is it because they are actually fulfilled by the Black and White. I think there is a risk in inherently crossing that valley over to the Grey that is daunting. We don’t disregard the inevitable daunting nature of that divide. If I personally was a guys who had moved to New York City, saddled with a brand new graduate degree and felt like I had my life going down a certain road in a few years within that time frame, I’d probably take note of it and go, “Hey, I’m pretty unhappy.” And, along this certain road I was on, I would hope to realize that life is about chapters. Starting careers is about starting chapters and maybe it is time for me to close my chapter and start the next. But then to take a big risk and say I’m going to enter into an industry that I know nothing about, but think there’s something within me that’s going to tick and spark, I would then have the courage to finally cross that divide and ultimately find the Grey life. But, this doesn’t happen over night by any means. As we say in our philosophy, you have to start small but aim for bigger. And that’s what I did. So I think that’s the reason that there’s this Black and White, and often times, the second reason perhaps is that companies out there sometimes keep you within a certain role and don’t allow you to be that Grey because of the space that they are operating within isn’t even that Grey. You can think of these spaces as more traditional white-collar environments that are the workplaces of yesteryear. And we are certainly focused on the future of workspaces and the future of what it means to work. That’s where I think we are very focused on this idea of there’s something better out there and that’s where it might be a little daunting. But it’s worth it once you cross the divide.
Nancy: So it’s like changing up this idea of work and turning that idea of work into productivity?
Maneesh: Ultimately, it’s about fulfillment. And I think often times you wouldn’t factor that into your profession and your professional life as being part of your fulfillment. So now, your fulfillment comes from friends and family and your emotions and personal moments, etc. Currently, we’re recognizing that your professional life has to play a part in that fulfillment because inherently that’s where, as I said before, you spent so much time with people who are spending their time doing the same things, so they can’t completely disengaged from how and who you are.
Nancy: So essentially it’s holistic? As in, holistic living?
David: Absolutely. In fact, we say that what LITG is really about is creating that fulfillment to make you more holistic and successful, which is learning and taking a much broader view of what success looks like in a professional context. So, it’s more than just the salary and the compensation and the title and the career trajectory, but much more about what you’re getting out of it, what you get back from it, how you’re interacting and learning from developing with the people around you as well.
Nancy: How would you creatively promote the idea of Grey being the new Black?
Maneesh: I love ‘Grey Is The New Black’. Actually, we’ve talked about the idea that – especially from a fashion standpoint – Black is this staple where we are trying to promote Grey as a way to deem you as a way to be, if you will. In terms of how we move the needle from one to the other, I think it’s really about the storytelling in its core. It’s storytelling and it’s tools. Because the storytelling is there and we do a good job of it on liveinthegrey.com to really share the stories of anything from infographics to quick hits of inspiration that might be 180 characters to full-fledged stories and interviews of people that are in the Grey. So, the storytelling is all there and then you couple that with action, and that’s where we’re hoping to take people and help them through that journey to help them through their process of becoming more Grey themselves. Because, ultimately, as we said before, that we want a legion of people, the population of people to look back at the end of their careers and potentially their lives and say, “Wow, that was a life fulfilled. That was pretty great.” As opposed to being at a time later in your life saying, “Yeah, I never really loved my job. It was great. I loved my weekends, I loved my vacation times.” But, as contrary to even saying that, it can simply just be something like, “I was a happy guy.” So, you can see that those are two very different things and we think that by taking some risks by finding those environments that are really pro-employee, you can live your life in a significant way as well as with people that surround you.
Nancy: So, I have a question for you, David. Can you expand and piggy-back off of what Maneesh about what he said about taking this Grey lifestyle and universalizing it and transcending one’s personal life into their workspace by not necessarily divorcing everything from one another – again, emphasizing your philosophy on encouraging holistic living. How would you make Grey – not necessarily the new Black – but maybe a new hue so that it would never fade or turn into a new trend and will remain everlasting and ever-changing?
David: I think Grey is the new Black. So, I think you’ll see that on both college campuses and people coming out of graduate programs, there is a new approach to what people are looking for in their work experience and what people are looking for in what the hallmarks of success look like that people are going after. I think that if you look at a company – Warby Parker, for an example – that very well could have specialized in finance and make their mission about increasing profits by the end of the year. These guys pivoted and proclaimed that they were going to start a company that was a venture corporation committed to giving back, about creating a brand, and building a company that really values our employees and creates positive corporate culture. That’s very different for those coming out of an MBA program, which are stuck in the Black and White centering their lives around maximizing how much money they will procure at the end of their graduate careers. So, I think the dialogue has changed and Grey is the new Black in most parts of the economy today. Some of it is because people are forced by economics and circumstances to think outside of the box and think about their careers and opportunities that are in front of them differently. But, it is all the same in the sense that it is already a new conversation. So, for us, it’s about harnessing that and seeing that potential and driving that conversation through lobby events and the content that we have on our website to share with the public. When we think about it more creatively, we think about things like leveraging Instagram to get people to think about driving marketing campaigns and to get people to think about this and to think that, “Hey, my life isn’t so Black and White, and it doesn’t have to be.” So, those are some of the more creative ideas that we have explored. And again, I think it goes back to what Maneesh said. For us, it is all about storytelling because we’re really trying to inspire people through examples of what that looks like. So, we tell stories like Warby Parker and entrepreneurs and people that are pursuing music as their passion while they are doing a full-time job somewhere else because that’s a great story too.
Videography by Shane Miller
Nancy Musinguzi is a freelance writer, photographer, spoken wordist, and political artist located in Long Island City, NY. A recent graduate from Rutgers University, she hopes to pursue an MFA in Directing and use film as a tool of social commentary and activism in the arts. She enjoys reading, writing provocative prose, watching movies, meeting new people, and seizing every opportunity to learn more about the world around her.