Reboot Podcast Episode #57 – There’s Just Us – with Bijan Sabet

The Reboot podcast showcases the heart and soul, the wins and losses, the ups and downs of startup leadership. On the show, Entrepreneurs, CEO’s, and Startup Leaders discuss with Jerry Colonna the emotional and psychological challenges they face daily as leaders.

Episode 57 // March 23, 2017

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.


Bijan Sabet

Bijan Sabet

General Partner & co-founder, Spark Capital

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Episode Description

For Bijan Sabet – an investor, US citizen by birth and descendant of a Korean mother and Iranian father – the January 27th Trump administration issue of an executive order banning the entry of residents and refugees from a number of Muslim countries deeply disturbed him for a number of reasons. Recalling his own early experience of being othered as the child of an Iranian immigrant during the Iran Hostage Crisis of the late 70s, his heart broke. Driven to mobilize his heart ache to action the best way he knew how he launched a fund matching campaign for the ACLU. Bijan’s initial expectations of a several month timeline to raise the funds were blown away when the campaign received overwhelming support and exceeded its goal in less than 3 days.

In this conversation, Jerry and Bijan discuss the experience of feeling othered and how that changes what it feels like to belong. The shame and embarrassment of feeling different or outside, and the healing that occurs when we find ourselves on the other side – feeling a part of and knowing we are not alone anymore.

Bijan Sabet on Twitter | Not Alone Anymore | Stickball

Related Episodes:

#20 – Investors are Human Too – with Bijan Sabet

#50 – A True Place of Belonging

Show Highlights

Top Quotes

“Then I realized I was different.” – @bijan

“This wish to belong is this like deep primal, primal wish.” – @jerrycolonna

“It went from being a “we” situation to a, you know, us and them.” – @bijan

“I feel embarrassed that I did not own my own difference.” – @jerrycolonna

“Just as you can release yourself from your embarrassment, I’ll release myself from my embarrassment.” – @jerrycolonna

“The outcry around the planet against this executive order was unbelievable considering the countries involved.” – @bijan

“It was the global outcry from people that really, I never would have predicted would have cared and that to me felt like “I don’t feel alone anymore.”” – @bijan

“There’s no them, there’s only us.” – @jerrycolonna

“Guess what, [the C suite is] made up of broken hearted human beings.” – @jerrycolonna

“There are more Americans that don’t look like me, than there are Americans who look like me.” – @jerrycolonna

“We have a responsibility to a way of being with the issues that really drive us.” – @jerrycolonna

Key Takeaways

Bijan Sabet is an American investor. Born and raised in New York, he is the descendant of Iranian and Korean immigrants. Growing up his family assimilated to western culture and Bijan felt like a normal American kid. In the late 70s, when Bijan was 7 or 8, the Iranian Hostage Crisis occurred, causing a deep rift in American-Iranian relations. Due to this political climate, Bijan felt different for the first time and he became the target of bullying and harassment from his peers for his Iranian heritage.

Following the first executive order from The Trump Administration, Bijan Sabet published a piece on Medium entitled “Not Alone Anymore”. The piece discussed Bijan’s personal experience of feeling othered for being different in a way out of his own control.

All human beings have a deep wish for love, safety, and belonging. We want to give and receive love.

When the Iranian hostage crisis happened, Bijan at the tender age of 8, felt like he was no longer part of the tribe. That feeling sprung at a young age, has remained with Bijan into adulthood.

Bjian acknowledges that even at his current age, 48, he still carries deep feelings of shame or embarrassment stemming from that incident. He recalls that many people assume that due to his name he is French, and for fear of feeling othered for his Iranian heritage, he would not correct this assumption. He still feels shame for this incident.

Jerry shares with Bijan that as he experienced the Iran Hostage Crisis, he experienced feelings of hate and anger. From a specific incident, his sister explained to him why hate was the incorrect response. He still feels shame and regret for those feelings.

Jerry and Bijan acknowledge that all people are capable of feelings of anger and hatred, including them.

When the Muslim ban was initially ordered by Trump, Bijan did not expect much of a response. He felt heartbroken, but not surprised based on his own experience of feeling othered. He and his wife decided that they would try to raise funds for the ACLU. They expected the campaign to take several months but reached their goal in a little over a day. Through both his personal experience and the deep public outcry, Bijan was surprised and moved, leading him to feel that he wasn’t alone anymore.

Some of the most important work Jerry does in organizations is to send the message that there is no them, there is only us. It’s not C suite v. engineering v. marketing, there is just one us. Bijan’s story is a story of being othered, and then coming home.