Chattin’ with James Jensen
OK, seriously, James is a true visionary in every sense of the word. As a kid, he loved taking things apart to see how they worked, and now he creates massive VR experiences that transport people to a different reality altogether. James created The VOID, which is beyond typical VR. Allowing more of your senses to come into play, people put the headset on and are able to walk around, see, smell, hear, and touch a different world.
This experience was so mesmerizing that Disney licensed the IP from them. Harrison Ford went in as Harrison Ford and came back out as a kid again. That’s why James keeps creating. He loves to see the joy on people’s faces when they experience the worlds that he’s created. Using his knowledge from The VOID, he created JUMP, which allows people to put the headset on and BASE jump off a mountain with a wing suit! And it feels exceptionally real. The feeling of free-falling, the wind in your face, the smell of the air — it’s all there, while you are completely safe in a virtual world.
It was such a pleasure chatting with James and to hear how his understanding of the universe changed as a result of the things he has created. Hope you enjoy the podcast!
Who Is James Jensen?
James Jensen is always at the cutting edge of technology and always has been. A lifelong pioneer and early adopter of the new and the life-changing, Jensen has his finger on the pulse of “the next big thing” at all times. If anyone can be said to honestly know the future — at least in terms of tech — it has to be him.
James Jensen, an industry leader in virtual simulations, is the brains behind JUMP, a hyper-reality experience that allows people, to all intents and purposes, to fly. Yet it’s not James’ love of adrenaline-filled entertainment that has led him to create this fantastic new piece of entertainment technology; it’s his risk aversion. Whereas Jensen could see that jumping off a cliff wearing a wingsuit looked exciting, and he knew that the experience would be an amazing one were he ever to do it, the fact is, he wouldn’t ever do it. Not because he didn’t have the opportunity, but because, despite how much fun it looked, it just wasn’t for him — he didn’t like the danger element.
So this, then, was what spurred Jensen on. He teamed up with professional skydiver Marshall Miller and was able to create the ultimate virtual reality system that would allow people to experience this feeling for themselves in hyper-realism but without any of the dangers associated with it.
Before JUMP, James Jensen created the world-renowned virtual reality company The VOID, which started around 20 years ago. At the time, Jensen was working in visual effects, creating cool and unique visuals for TV and film. Yet he always had an idea that he wanted to be “in” the screen. Not as an actor but as a participant. And this is what The VOID was all about. Jensen began the project as something fun, finally getting a chance to experience all the things he had only previously created, but it went on to be much more than that.
Moving even further back, James Jensen has worked in a variety of different industries, including illustration, interactive media, and design. He’s worked with some big players too, such as MTV, Sony Entertainment, and Dreamworks.
If you were to ask James Jensen anything about starting a successful business, it would be to never give up. Even if the business you have created is not a success in financial terms, you’re still a success. You’ve created something. And that’s the knowledge that has spurred James Jensen on. He’s willing to try new things and create new things, and we’re grateful to him for that.
James Jensen Podcast Transcription
Charan: What’s going on, guys? This is Charan Prabhakar with my good buddy James Jensen. And James is legit one of the most masterful creators I’ve ever met. I am so honored that he would take the time to come here and speak to us. Here’s the deal, guys. If you guys remember “Ready Player One,” it’s this awesome, awesome film. Well, it was actually a book, and the book is, in my opinion, I like the book a little bit more than the movie.
James: Oh, absolutely, yeah.
Charan: But in the book, it talks all about virtual reality in a sense, and there is this man, James Halliday, who created the OASIS, which is this incredible world that people can jump into and create all kinds of awesome experiences. That’s James. That’s James Jensen. He-
James: That’s a funny story, too, because I was just six months into creating The VOID, I think, with my team, and the guys, the engineers are like, “You got to read ‘Ready Player One.'” I’m like, “What is this book you guys keep telling me to read?” And I read the first chapter, and it’s about this guy names James who creates the OASIS. And I was like, “What is this book?”
Charan: I’m telling you. Did you finish reading it?
James: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Charan: Great book. Great book. So if you guys haven’t heard, James Jensen is the creator of The VOID, which is an incredible VR experience. And I want James to talk a little bit more about that. And people use it all over the world. Their IP has been shared by Disney, right?
Charan: And so if you go to downtown Disney, you can have experiences there doing The VOID. And he is constantly creating more and more awesome stuff in VR, and to me that’s such an imaginative thing, right, to put your imagination and create something out of it that other people can experience. And your experience is way beyond just regular virtual reality-
Charan: … because there’s sensory things that go into it that allows you to have an actual experience and memory that you can associate with that experience.
James Jensen Talks About Becoming an Entrepreneur
Charan: Right? So, James, thank you. And you also look really snazzy. You’re probably the most snazziest-dressed person on this podcast. And so for those of you that are listening, I’m so sorry that you’re not seeing how great he looks. But James, yeah, tell me a little bit about you. Tell us about your lemonade stand story. How did you get involved in being an entrepreneur, and then how did you get involved in being in VR?
James: Yeah, thanks.
Charan: All that stuff.
James: I mean, that’s a good story. There’s lots of stuff in my life, but I was the kid that had the remote control cars, and they lasted for like a week, and then I tore them apart and built other stuff with the components.
Charan: Oh, that’s amazing. Yeah.
James: And I had a lot of Legos and things like that when I was a kid. I was really fascinated on how things worked, and so, even though I didn’t do super great in school, I still loved that kind of stuff. And that got me into tearing apart things, but then also, I had told this story a few times, but when I was about 12 or whatever, I started airbrushing T-shirts. My brother bought me an airbrushing kit.
Charan: No way.
James: I was into fine arts and stuff like that. I started airbrushing T-shirts, and it was kind of my first time actually earning money doing something like that, entrepreneurial. And I airbrushed T-shirts for a movie theater, and I earned like 50 bucks, and I was super pumped about it. And I showed it to my dad, and my dad’s like, “Hey, well, you need to make sure that you maintain those relationships,” and that. And he gave me a great piece of advice when I was younger that’s kind of helped me out through my whole life, and he said, “James, your reputation will be worth more to you than any amount of money you’ll ever make in your life.” And so that’s been how I’ve lived.
Charan: Dude, that’s good advice.
James: When I do work, I do my best work, even if I’m not getting paid very well. It’s my reputation on the line.
Charan: Yeah. That’s your reputation.
James: And I hold that at the highest, yeah, and my relationships.
Charan: I love that, because I’m a big film guy, I work in acting and producing and stuff like that. I feel the same way. It’s like your work, your work ethic, and your relationships — those matter more than anything else.
James: Absolutely, yeah.
Charan: That’s what gets you the next gig or the next gig, right?
James: Yeah, you know that.
Charan: I mean, I guess I do, but I didn’t have my dad telling me that, so that’s amazing that your dad told you that-
James: No, my dad told me that [crosstalk 00:05:43].
Charan: … when you were 12.
James: Yeah, and it stuck with me ever since.
James Jensen Talks About The VOID
Charan: Yeah. So you did that when you were 12. Now, how did that translate to, yeah, I’m going to start doing virtual reality? Because I don’t think virtual reality … When was virtual reality even a thing?
James: I mean, it’s been a thing for several decades, but it’s been off-and-on, mostly in science and all kinds of other industries and training and stuff like that in the past. But my introduction to that kind of came through moving from fine arts into computer animation and visual effects, and doing computer programming and stuff like that, and then having my own visual effects company. And when I had my own visual effects company, we started doing stuff on green screens with actors, and seeing mocap systems and how those were integrating. It got to where it was real=time, you could see an actor with a CG set. And at that moment, I was like, oh, I want to be inside the screen. I want to be inside of there where anything’s possible.
James: And so I started looking into VR solutions and stuff like that, it was before Oculus, and put together ideas and concepts around what ended up being called The VOID, which was a virtual simulation where we were mapping the virtual world over a physical set so you could touch all the objects and walk around.
Charan: Oh my gosh.
James: But we could make it look whatever we wanted it to look.
Charan: Right. And so what was the first prototype or the first game, I guess you could say, as part of that experience?
James: In The VOID?
Charan: Yeah, in The VOID.
James: When we created The VOID, so Ken Bretschneider put in the first seed round of funding in that, and it took us three months to build the prototype. We were using all kinds of crazy technology like electromagnetic field generators, which is a real thing.
Charan: Oh my gosh. That sounds amazing.
James: Yeah. So we were using that and dealing with quaternions and all kinds of funky stuff to get the tracking right, but it was really a pretty simple scene. It was a space station scene that was just a room with a hallway, and you could walk around one wall in the middle, and we would kind of match the wall with the virtual set, and it worked really good.
Charan: Yeah. Well, one of the things that I thought was so genius is, you don’t let participants see the reality of it. Right?
Charan: You have them put the headset on, and then they enter the world. So it’s like, oh my gosh, this is the world. This is where I’m in. So that way the magic of it isn’t destroyed.
James: Yeah. And that was kind of learned over time. When we started watching investors and stuff go through the experience, it would have a more vivid experience if we showed them the stage or the environment and how we were doing it after the fact. If we took them to the stage and we showed them that, then they were always saying stuff like, “Oh, where am I on the stage?” And, “Oh, is that that fan, or was that the other thing?” And they weren’t really completely immersed into the experience, they were always thinking about what was happening in the physical reality.
Charan: Yeah. Well, what I think is so cool about this is, as a kid, you’re full of wonder, you’re full of imagination, and you keep thinking, wow, I can’t wait to do this, or I can’t wait to do that. But then as you get to be an adult, you kind of forget about that awe and that wonder that made life so amazing. But what you’re doing is bringing it back.
James: Yeah. I mean, we saw hardcore evidence of people coming out of The VOID that were just kids again. We’d see grumpy people like Harrison Ford go in one side as an adult and come out as a 17-year-old kid on the other side-
Charan: You’re kidding me.
James: … full of possibilities. Oh, yeah. Harrison Ford, Larry Page, we had Steven Spielberg go through it. So many people went through, and they’d have their bodyguards and they’re all serious on one side, and then the other side they come out, and they’re like, “Everything’s possible, and oh my gosh, this is amazing.” It was a very real thing. And so it actually got me wondering what was actually happening in the experience. What is going on inside of The VOID that is so different? Because people would come out and say, “This is even different than virtual reality. I don’t know what this is.” And they would sit down for a couple of minutes and be like, “I don’t even know how to take this in.”
Charan: Yeah. Well, you know what, that’s so great, because I think … I mean, A, Steven Spielberg is an incredible, just a mind-blowing director, in my opinion. So for him to go through that experience and to say, “Wow, I feel like everything’s possible now,” that’s amazing-
James: Yeah, it was pretty cool.
Charan: … to get to that point. But what’s also cool is, it’s not just a visual, visceral thing. You’re giving people an emotional experience.
Charan: You know? And I think that is where things can get really, really powerful, because when people can have an emotional experience with something like that, then it kind of alters them in a sense.
James: It absolutely does. And I think, I like to call it hyper-reality, because most of the stuff that’s defined in the market as virtual reality is really just visuals and audio. And what happens in virtual reality, and people are always trying to solve the sickness issue, and it’s a big issue, but the problem is, they’re not considering a lot of the other things that you need to consider when you’re creating a reality for somebody. There’s a lot of senses that your body expects when something’s happening to it, right?
Charan: Sure, like smell.
James: And so when you don’t have those senses, really, the animal brain says, “You’re hallucinating. You ate some crazy, weird mushrooms or something bad. You’re hallucinating, and you need to throw it up.” That’s really what’s happening.
Charan: Oh, wow.
James: So to solve the sickness issue, having other physical effects that are validating that the visuals and audios are true to your mind, that gets rid of most of the sickness completely. I mean, people that went through The VOID never really got sick. We had a few people that had a couple of extra drinks before they went through The VOID.
Charan: Well, sure.
James: Those are the cases, but most people never got sick in The VOID, and it was because of that, because they were able to triangulate space correctly, there was evidence that things were real, and that allowed their mind to believe that the reality they were seeing was real. Which then, all of a sudden, I understood we’re actually creating a whole different level of reality that’s comparable to any experience you have in reality. So your mind stores it in the same place that you store going to Hawaii or going to Zion National Park or wherever with your family. You have that type of experience. So I literally have memories of fighting the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man with my kids, because there was a scent of burnt marshmallow smell at the end, and we defeated Marshmallow Man, it was awesome.
Charan: That’s so great.
James: And I have that memory.
James Jensen Talks About JUMP
Charan: I mean, that is so great. And like you said, it is a memory, and it’s with your family that you’re able to share these memories with. But it’s cool, because it really is allowing people to have that sense of wonder and awe together. I think that’s the best part of it, is you’re able to put it all together. It’s awesome. I love that. So you created The VOID, and it was a massive success, and now you’re onto something that … When you first told me about it, I could not even believe that those words were coming out of your mouth. But tell me about JUMP VR. That is so exciting.
James: Yeah, the JUMP project is the evolution of what I was doing with hyper-reality. I saw that we were getting some really cool results, and people were having almost a flow state experience, and you have their 100% attention, so I’m like, there’s got to be a way to curate an experience that can actually be really meaningful for a person, something that’s not a video game, something that’s not where you’re shooting things, but it’s something that’s not obtainable for a lot of people in reality. What would that be? And wingsuit and BASE jumping came to to mind.
Charan: Of course.
James: One of my good friends is Marshall Miller, and him and I were spinning on just what I was doing with The VOID, and he was showing me wingsuit videos of the stuff that he does. I’m like, “There’s no way I’m doing that in reality. Even if I did do it and I lived, my wife would still kill me.”
Charan: So either way, death is inevitable. Right?
James: Exactly. Even if I have huge success, she would still murder me. So we started talking about that, and it evolved over time to really creating an experience that I hope shifted the perception of virtual reality in the market quite a bit. When people come to The VOID, it’s not going to feel like a video game, it’s going to feel like you’re having a real wingsuit BASE jumping experience.
Charan: You’re talking about the JUMP. The JUMP, the JUMP.
James: Yeah, the JUMP.
Charan: Okay. And then they’ll have a … So yeah, explain what happens, as much as you can.
James: Yeah, so in JUMP, you actually walk up to the edge. I mean, I don’t want to give up too much-
James: … but you don’t really get to see anything. Just like The VOID, we don’t allow you to see behind the stage or how it works. That way you can allow your mind to go there, right? But you get to put on a real wingsuit, you go through an instructional video on actually how to jump in a wingsuit, and to jump off a cliff edge. And through that whole process, you’re like, “Am I really doing … Is this going to happen? Where’s the thing that makes me fly?” You’re never going to see that.
Charan: Oh, man.
James: You put on a wingsuit, and then you go through an instructional video, and then you go into your own bay, but the bay is just a room with a short ceiling, and there’s a helmet in there, and there’s no edge, there’s no effects, there’s nothing. And you put on the helmet, and a few moments later, you’re flying. You jump off, and you fly. You go through a flying experience. You pull your parachute. You actually go through a parachuting and landing experience, and you land.
Charan: Oh my gosh. That’s crazy.
James: In complete safety. You’re-
Charan: In complete safety.
James: … never really in any harm at all, but it’s going to feel very real to people.
Charan: Yeah, I know. And that’s so unbelievable, because we were talking earlier about how many people had those dreams of flying, and you’re providing them with that opportunity, right?
Charan: And you were mentioning that with photogrammetry, which I’m not even entirely sure how that all works, everything looks pretty photorealistic when you’re flying through, so it doesn’t seem like a-
James: Yeah, technology’s come a long ways. Through different techniques, like photogrammetry and LiDAR, we can actually go out and scan real locations and get really high fidelity detail on the location, so it’s going to look photo-real. But more importantly, the experience itself, I think, is what excites me the most, is just talking about entrepreneurship and anything that any person does in life, most of the time they’re blocked by their fears of failing or not being able to achieve something or do something. And we can correlate a lot of those beliefs with the JUMP experience through the whole customer journey that allows them to kind of let go of some of those fears, and be able to take two steps into the darkness to try to do something that’s unbelievable, you know?
Charan: Yeah. Well, that’s the thing. Have you had people go through the prototype already?
James: We have had just our engineers and stuff go through the prototype.
Charan: Just your engineers.
James: We’re starting to bring people through the experience now.
James: Location partners and potential investors and things.
Charan: Yeah, because I am imagining what they must be feeling when they walk up to that edge, and they’re looking over this edge and thinking, oh my gosh, that’s thousands and thousands of feet down, and it feels so real.
Charan: And you mentioned that some of the people that have done it have said, “This feels very much like you’re really-“
Charan: “… doing the jump.” I was just going to ask if some of the engineers and stuff that have done it, have they come out like, “Oh my gosh, my heart’s racing,” or what were they like after they did it?
James: I mean, even the prototype that we have right now is with just the virtual version of it, and you walk up to the edge, people have that feeling.
Charan: Oh my gosh, yeah.
James: And I’ve had people that tried to jump off, and … My PR firm, the lady that joined me, her name’s Beth McRae, she’s awesome. But I actually took her through my whole presentation, showed her, “Hey, this is going to be a life-changing experience, and this is your moment,” and blah, blah, blah. I put her in the experience, and she literally jumped. I couldn’t stop her from jumping.
Charan: No way.
James: I don’t talk about it very much, but-
Charan: That’s amazing.
James: … I have to hold people back, because they want it so bad.
Charan: They want it so bad.
James: They want to have that experience.
Charan: Yeah. That’s so great.
James: And even with just the visuals and audio right now, I’m seeing that people want to have this experience. And with everything else we’re doing with the flying mechanics and stuff like that, I think that’s going to be really important for people to have the flying experience. It’s going to be really fun. But to me, it’s going to be interesting to watch people overcome and take that leap of faith and jump into-
Charan: Yeah, to the unknown, to-
James: Into the unknown, this is real or not real. It’s really kind of a cool space to be in.
Charan: Well, I think you make a really good point, where facing the unknown is a challenge for a lot of people, right?
James Jensen Talks About Facing the Unknowns
Charan: It really is a very difficult thing for people. So in your own life, how have you had faced your own unknowns? Because you’re kind of creating your own path as you’re going, right?
James: Yeah. I think for me it’s gotten easier and easier over time. With entrepreneurship and creating things, you’re always taking a couple steps into the darkness, hoping that your ideas and concepts are going to work. And over time, you start trusting your instincts and going for it more and more, but if you look at how people are kind of held back from doing things in life, it’s those fears, whether that be for education, or building a business, or getting married, or anything, really.
Charan: Yeah, yeah. I have some of those fears right now. It’s great.
James: Yeah. So hopefully helping people with that. I mean, there’s nothing we can claim or do right now, but the JUMP experience will allow us to maybe peek behind the curtain on some decision-making patterns that people go through as they’re trying to decide on facing their fears.
Charan: Well, I think what’s cool about this experience is, it’s not just going to be an entertaining thing for people. I can actually see businesses going through it, corporate retreats and stuff going through it. And I mean, I can almost see some bigger businesses having their own version of it, having a licensed version.
James: [crosstalk 00:20:11]
James Jensen Talks About Flow State
Charan: Because it’s like, hey, it is about overcoming your fears, and it is about letting go of these things that are holding you back, and finally feeling free. Now, one of the things that we were talking about is the flow state, and how in The VOID, you found that people were getting into the flow state. Can you explain in your own words what the flow state is, and why it’s so important to get into that state?
James: Just from my research and experimentation in it, and the people that I’ve surrounded myself around with, neuroscientists and stuff like that, I’ve experienced my own level of that even just going through The VOID. I mean, I did hundreds of simulations in The VOID, and those actually inspired me to research meditation and enlightenment techniques and all kinds of stuff. And so I started seeing similarities with some of the research and the things that we’re reading about people getting into a flow state and what that was. And it’s being in a state where you’re completely present or in the moment, so you’re not thinking about … Most people in their walking life, they’re never really present.
Charan: They’re not. They’re-
James: Because they’re so worried about the bills, they’re worried about what their wife just said, or what their husband said, and their kids, and school, and I got to get gas or whatever. Even people that are getting a massage aren’t really relaxing because they’re thinking about all the things that they got to do.
James: Right? Their body might be feeling pretty good, but their mind is a mess.
Charan: No. It’s like they’re in a narrative. They’re in a narrative, constant narrative.
James: Yeah. So being in flow state to me is being completely, 100% present and in the moment. And The VOID, I saw evidence of people being in the moment, not remembering that they just entered a building or what they needed to do next, but completely immersed inside of the experience. And I hope to amplify that with JUMP, but also deliver a message of change, that they are more than what they think they are, they have more potential than they think they do, and they can do it, they can overcome it, whatever that means to them.
Charan: Yeah. Yeah, that’s such a powerful message, James. That’s so important. And it’s interesting, because I love talking about the flow state. I love reading about it and studying it, because I know … I’m a snowboarder. I love snowboarding, I love getting on the mountain. And when I’m going fast and all this stuff, it’s like there’s just nothing that matters except for the next turn. And I’m so in the moment, I feel so good.
Charan: I also play tennis. Same type of thing, right? But the flow state, I think, is so important, because when you become more aware and you’re more present, you start realizing you’re much greater than what has been constructed from your mind. And having that awareness of who you really are is profound. So in your own experience, what has that been like for you to kind of enter the flow state for yourself and gain awareness of who you are?
James: Oh, it’s been such an awesome transformation for me, because I mean, if we’re going to go there, it’s-
Charan: Let’s go there.
James: Yeah. Love it. My first introduction to flow state stuff was doing illustration and design. When I would do that, the paper would disappear, and the paints would disappear, and it’s like this magical thing happens. And I’d wake up a few moments later, and there’s this awesome thing on the paper. And so it was very familiar to me when I started seeing that. But going through my research and quantum physics and stuff like that, and realizing that matter and reality isn’t put together really the way that we have perceived it is, with Newton’s theories of relativity and all the relativity stuff that’s been going on, that it’s almost, that’s a truth at a certain level, but that’s not the real truth.
Charan: It’s like a base-level truth. It’s a narrative that was almost presented to us, and it’s not completely accurate, but we’re like, yeah, that’s just what it is.
James: Yeah. I mean, that’s the level of the game that we understand right now, but there’s actually a deeper level that we’re just starting to understand that completely removes all of those. This object isn’t influenced when another object hits it, it’s actually part of the object that hits it. It’s completely different. And so understanding at that level on physical existence, what does that mean for us spiritually or our consciousness? What kind of shared consciousness do we have? If matter is all shared, and we are matter, so what kind of consciousness sharing do we have? It’s changed my perception on my relationships and all kinds of things.
Charan: Well, when you realize that we are all one, literally one, not like, “Oh, you’re my brother, and I should take care of you.” But more of like a, no, no, no, no, from a very fundamental level, we are one. The subatomic particles that are creating you are creating me as well. It really does put a different experience and stuff on consciousness itself. And we talk about this, but it’s like you’re not just a drop in the ocean, you are the ocean.
James: Yeah, you are the ocean.
Charan: And when you realize that, and you can get connected to that power for yourself, everything changes. Everything changes.
James: But right now, you kind of have to want that. You got to search it out, right? The average person that’s doing their walking daily life and dealing with all the things they’ve got to deal with, they don’t even have time to think about that. I had the advantage of doing The VOID and having several simulations that kind of spawned the question, and then the question led me to all these things to find out all this information about how really connected we are. And so I think that’s a true opportunity we have with virtual reality simulations is to take an average person, put them into a virtual reality simulation, and show them the truth.
James: Show them-
James: … at a level, that, “Hey, just so you know, when you take the headset off, this is what’s happening. It’s still happening, you just can’t see it with your eyes.”
Charan: Yeah. That is so awesome. And it’s great because, yeah, you are giving them awareness at a profound level, and helping them to connect at a profound level, and in a sense, you’re using the glasses to help people awaken, in my opinion. Because I think a lot of times, we’ve just been fed narratives, and we’ve accepted narratives, and not horrible narratives. They’re just narratives to help us get by and go to school, and you do your thing, and then you get a job, and you do all those type of things, and people don’t even realize sometimes they are now stuck in a simulation. You know what I mean?
James: Yeah, kind of.
Charan: In a weird way. And so to awaken from that and to kind of see, oh wow, we are all connected, but in a way that I never even thought possible-
James: I know.
Charan: … is unbelievable.
James: It is really cool, and it’s a great adventure for people to go on, and I hope to help inspire people on that adventure. If we realize at a core level, not just a superficial level, like, “Hey, we’re connected,” but a real core level, that you and I are the same, then you wouldn’t see riots, you wouldn’t see fights, because you’re just hurting yourself.
Charan: Yeah, it’s like, why would you do that? Yeah.
James: Why would I do that to … I wouldn’t do that to myself. And so it changes your whole perception on your relationships. And man, if we could have virtual reality simulations or locations or things that would inspire people to understand this at a bigger, deeper level, then I think we could really make a huge impact on reality overall with business, with relationships, with any of the stuff that you see in the market, or politics. It would change everything.
Charan: Because there’s so much divisiveness. And what really we’re learning from all this is, we’re all one. So why are we trying to divide against ourselves? What’s the point in dividing against ourselves when we’re one? Man, we could talk about that part of it for a long time.
James Jensen Talks About Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Charan: I want to switch topics just really briefly. Every entrepreneur and every creator goes through challenges. They go through their own struggles. When they’re trying to build anything that they’re trying to build, they have roadblocks. Was there any particular moment in your life where this is going to be a lemons-to-lemonade story, where something was really tough, and then you were able to have the grit to make it into something really positive?
James: Yeah. I mean, there’s several, right? But as I look back retrospectively in my life, I’m thankful for all of the experiences that I’ve had. They all prepared me for the moment that I’m about to have, which is really cool when you think about it.
Charan: Super cool.
James: And so it’s all about turning lemons into lemonade. Even though there was very difficult moments in The VOID when having larger corporations coming in, and different ideas, and lots of money coming to the table, and power struggles and things like that. I’m very thankful for all the experiences that I had while I was there, because that’s actually prepared me to make a difference or to be able to put the next project in a better light, and in a better position to be more successful, I guess.
James: With its full intention, you know?
Charan: With its full intention. Well, it’s interesting, you were talking about more money comes in, the more-
James: Oh, yeah.
Charan: It’s like the more your control goes away. You’re like, “Wait a minute. That wasn’t entirely what I wanted to have happen.”
James: It’s just a part of business, and there’s groups out there that their intentions probably aren’t aligned with core principles and things, and so they don’t really care about that stuff. And being able to position your company in the right way so you can maintain a vision towards what you want to see the final outcome be, I think it’s really important to do that early on so when the guys come in that have all the money, and they say all the right things, but really, their intentions aren’t aligned with what yours are. You’re more prepared for that. I don’t know if you’d ever be able to teach somebody that, or be able to tell them something without them having to experience it at some level to make them prepared to do it. I don’t know.
Charan: Yeah. And that’s a tough one, right? Because it’s like you’re looking for the money, you need the money, you need the fuel to go, but it’s like, okay, yeah, you have the fuel, but instead of going to California, you have to go to Topeka. You’re like, “Wait, what? That’s not-“
James: Yeah, that doesn’t work.
Charan: “… going to work.” And so yeah, that’s a tough one. But it’s a powerful lesson, and now you’re at a place, like you said, where you’re able to position yourself and have the vision right now to say, “This is what we’re doing,” and you present that, and you find the right people that will align with that vision, as opposed to changing the vision for you.
James: Yeah. I’m doing the best that I can, but also protecting the team and the people that create the project from the very beginning is actually really important to me, too.
Charan: Yeah. That’s amazing.
James: And you kind of lose the ability to protect your team if you don’t set up things correctly in the beginning.
Charan: Yeah. And those are tough lessons to learn, because you’re a creative entrepreneur where you have the vision of creating the whole thing, but this side of what you’re talking about is a whole different business aspect-
James: Oh, yeah.
Charan: … of stuff that’s like, “Wait. how do I figure this out? How do I do this one?”
James: There’s different levels, too. When your company’s worth a few thousand bucks, it’s way different than when your company’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and there’s different people coming to the table. When I thought I had everything worked out and I knew what was going on, you pull back this other curtain, and you’re like, oh wow, I didn’t realize this was going to happen.
James Jensen Talks About Joy
Charan: Yeah. Oh, man. Well, you’re a good man, and I’m just excited for JUMP VR. I’ve got two more questions for you. The second to last question is, what brings you joy right now?
James: One of the things … There’s several things, like my family for sure, my kids, all that stuff. But in creating things that don’t exist, I love … I mean, one of my favorite things was to sit at the exit of The VOID and watch people come out, and just see their eyes. And that drives me to do all the stuff that I do. So I cannot wait for the day when people wingsuit jump, and they fly, and then they land, and they walk out of this thing, and they’re coming out of the experience, and their eyes are just all lit up. Having people experience something that you’ve created and seeing how it impacts their life is the most rewarding thing I can think of on the planet.
Charan: That’s amazing. And I feel the same way about films-
James: Yeah, exactly.
Charan: … stuff that I’ve created.
James: Films are the same thing.
Charan: Yeah. I’ve created movies, and to be in the theater watching your film, and then for people afterwards to just either be crying if it was an emotional thing, or whatever it was, and they’re hugging each other. You’re like-
James: It so good.
Charan: It feels so good. You’re like, “Oh my gosh. This is amazing.”
James: You’re like, “Do we need to make money?”
James: No. I mean, you got to make money, too, but-
Charan: You got to make money.
James: … man, if your intention is to uplift and help people and provide an experience that’s fun, and I think that’s so rewarding.
Charan: I was at a theater for a movie that no one knew I was going to be there except for the director, but the director made this movie. It was a suspense movie. And I honestly didn’t know how it was going to do, but in this theater, in this particular time, they were filming the audience reactions, and they were just holding each other. They were like, “Oh my gosh,” holding each other so tight. And then the movie was over, and they were clapping. They were like, “Oh my gosh, that was amazing. Thank you so much.” And then he was like, “Yeah.” And there was four or five of us that were the main actors. They were like, “Well, who was your favorite?” And almost everyone said my character, which was funny.
Charan: And so I’m sitting in the corner, and I’m like, oh, that’s hilarious. And I’m the only actor there. And so then he’s like, “Well, funny enough, our actor is here.”
James: Oh, nice.
Charan: And everyone’s like, “What?” And so this whole group of audience is like, “No way. Where?” And then I get up and I start walking, and everyone’s cheering for me. And I’m like, oh, geez.
James: That’s awesome, man.
Charan: Which was a cool, cool thing, but it was cool that that emotional response happened, right? And I think that’s the end of it. To have that experience, to give people an incredible amount of joy, there’s nothing better than that.
James: It’s so rewarding, yeah.
Charan: Yeah. And yeah, I’m with you. I’m like, does money need to be made? I’m like, I guess it does so that we can keep doing it, right? But, yeah.
James: Yeah. I had that same kind of feeling when I used to airbrush portraits for people. They would come in and see the portrait and immediately start crying. And I’m like, “Oh yeah, and this is how much it is.” I felt bad to even take the money at that point, because man, you just really changed this person’s life with a portrait. Anyways.
Charan: That’s so awesome.
James: It’s good stuff.
James Jensen’s Advice to His Younger Self
Charan: That’s so great. All right, last question. What would you tell the young James Jensen that’s just doing the airbrushing, and he’s wanting to create stuff? What would you tell that young James?
James: I would tell James, “Don’t listen to people that tell you you’re going to fail.”
Charan: Oh, yeah, that’s good advice.
James: Yeah. I mean, I probably had that mentality already when I was younger, because a lot of people said I wasn’t going to do whatever or be whatever, and that actually just fueled me even more. I was like, “Oh, really? Well, let me show you.” Right?
James: And so, yeah, I would probably tell myself that, too.
Charan: I think that’s great advice, man. The naysayers, you have to just use it as fuel for the fire. My dad [inaudible 00:36:06] was always like, “Do you really want to be an actor? Do you really?” Because they had the expectations of like, “Oh, well, you’re going to be a doctor. This is the plan for making money.” And there was a lot of really, really thin years when I was in L.A. trying to make it, and being like, I’m not making any money. What do I do? But now, I’m in a position where it’s like, oh, well, actually it’s working out.
James: Yeah. It works out.
Charan: And it’s my full-time thing. And so then he’s like, “Oh. What’s your next project? What are you doing next?” Now they’re a lot more supportive, right?
Charan: So it’s always great to see the naysayers flip and be like, “Oh my gosh. You literally created something that didn’t exist before.”
James: Yeah. There’s a book that really changed my perception on people supporting you as an entrepreneur or somebody that’s trying to do something. It’s called “The Power of Truth.” It’s by William George Jordan. And at the end of it, he has a chapter on the reformer. And he’s really clear in the end of the book, in the reformer, to say, it’s okay if people don’t believe you. And it’s actually going to do you more harm if you try to go out and try to fix it for them so they are on board with … They don’t need to be on board with you, and that’s okay. Just let them be that way, and go on about your business, because you know what you’re going to do, you know you’re going to achieve it, and eventually they’ll be on board when they see the results. But don’t hold it against them that they can’t actually see the vision that you see. And it helped me so much, because I didn’t realize how much time, until I had read that book, how much time I had taken up trying to chase down people and say-
Charan: Oh my gosh.
James: … “No, no, no, you got to believe me. This is going to be awesome.” And they’re like, “Yeah, whatever.” But there was a lot of wasted time, and you don’t really need to do that.
Charan: Yes. Time spent, energy spent convincing somebody else-
Charan: … is the worst. You don’t need to do it. I’ve done it with dating, and it’s the worst.
James: I mean, if you’re raising money and stuff, there’s a certain level of that that you got to show some proof and evidence that what you’re doing is actually sound, but getting everybody on board with your idea is not necessary.
Charan: No. I love that. And then-
James: You’ll get the validation once it’s created.
Charan: You get the validation once it’s created. Right?
Charan: I mean, it’s interesting. You look at these cool inventions, and yet you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that’s such a cool idea. Good job.” At the time, though, now that it’s out, it’s awesome.
James: Oh, yeah.
Charan: But when they were in proof of concept, I’m sure investors were like, “Wait, what? Yeah, right.”
James: Yeah. I’ve had so many people that came up to me after the fact, and they’re like, “Yeah, when you said that you were going to map a virtual world over a physical world 18 years ago, I was like, What is James smoking? This is crazy, but here it is. It’s alive, it’s real, taking the next steps.”
Charan: Yeah. And see, that’s the beauty of creation, man, is to be like, “Yep, this is what I’m going to do,” and you know what you’re going to do, and you’re going to go for it.
James Jensen’s Advice for Future Entrepreneurs
Charan: That’s awesome. Any last advice for future entrepreneurs?
James: I’ve spent some time going out to some of the colleges. I’ve spoken over at the Columbia Business School in New York and stuff-
James: … and I’ve talked to them about my experience. And I think my biggest point of advice would be what my dad told me. Your reputation, your relationships, they’re key.
Charan: Super important.
James: When I was able to receive the funding that I got to create The VOID, I didn’t have to go out and try to recruit people or build a relationship with a developer. I’d already built relationships with awesome designers, developers, engineers, visual effects guys, people that have done this in the past, and I had a great relationship with them. And I just went back to them like, “Hey, remember that crazy thing I talked about? I have some money to do it. Let’s do it.” And they’re like, “Yes, let’s do it.” I didn’t know that that was going to happen. I had just always tried not to burn bridges, and made sure that I delivered the best that I could for the individual or the person or the business that I was working with, and then it was easy to go back to them when I had a crazy idea.
Charan: Oh, man. Well, that’s the thing. That’s awesome, because you could collect the people that you’ve worked with already. And I think that’s such an important thing, having those relationships. So key, so key.
James: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of weird miscommunication in the entrepreneur world that you’ve got to go 24/7, and it’s all about you, and you got to do it, and it’s just not true. That is a way of doing it, but it’s very hard.
Charan: Yeah. No, it’s very hard, and you’re going to burn yourself out.
Charan: And you won’t be as successful as if you collaborated with like-minded people and people that you’ve built relationships with already.
James: Again, going back to our connectedness, is we are just each other, so if you’re not working with other people that are around you, then you’re not working with yourself. You’re just cutting yourself out of it.
Charan: You’re cutting yourself out. Yeah, you’re cutting yourself out.
James: That’s not any good.
Charan: No, that’s not good. It’s not fun. Man, James, this has been so insanely amazing. I appreciate you coming on board and chatting with me on this type of stuff, because it’s great, and I’m just so stoked for … It’s called JUMP VR, or … ?
James: Yep, it’s just called JUMP.
Charan: It’s just called JUMP?
James: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Charan: Okay, JUMP. I’m excited for JUMP to come out, man. Do we know when that’s going to happen?
James: We’re looking at hopefully opening locations middle of next year sometime.
James: You can go to LimitlessFlight.com. That’s our URL. So we didn’t put JUMP in the URL, but in any of our marketing, it’s JUMP at Limitless Flight, which works. Pretty cool.
Charan: Yeah, which works. Yeah, it’s amazing. JUMP at [crosstalk 00:41:38].
James: Yeah, so you could check it out on there, and check out the cool advisory board, and we’re publishing stuff all the time on updates and things like that, trying to show as much as we can of the development without giving it away.
Charan: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, we’re excited for it to come out. And I’m going to be so thrilled to take that jump, man.
James: Yeah, you’re going to do it.
Charan: I mean, I’m so pumped. Maybe I should do the real thing just to prepare for that thing. Just kidding. Awesome. Well, thanks so much, man. I appreciate it.
James: Yeah, thank you.
Charan: Thanks so much for listening to Lemonade Stand podcast, and we hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback in the reviews. And if you or someone you know has an awesome lemonade stand story, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much and have a great day.