Meet Robin Connelley and John Stanton, The Founders of Chōsen
Chōsen is a luxury lifestyle company that creates week-long perfectly-balanced experiences around the world to help people reach their full potential. Founders Robin Connelley and John Stanton tell us all about how they stay happy, healthy and focused on the important things in life and why you won’t find mushrooms and eggplants on the Chōsen menu! Where did you grow up and where do you call home?Robin: Though born and raised in South Carolina, USA, I have been a nomad for the past ten years with no plans to stop. Each year I may spend three to four months in one place, which makes it my home for that time. John: I was born in Guatemala, Central America, and grew up in numerous cities in the USA. While I spend time in over a dozen countries per year and have done since 2006, I’ve only recently become comfortable with the idea that home is wherever I happen to be. That being said, if pressed, I call Hong Kong and Bali my home bases. What did you do before setting up Chōsen?Robin: Before Chōsen, we ran Ninja Camp Bali, which is now one of the Chōsen experiences located in Bali. We also invest our time into introducing clean technologies from the USA into Asia and the Middle East as they are parts of the world with the most new development so moving towards a foundation based on clean technology is our primary objective. John: The clean technologies venture capital business represents a life-long passion to empower innovators and affect change in traditionally dirty industries in the developing world. Why did you start Chōsen? Robin: I started it for myself as I wanted the experience, information and skills as well as be able to interact with people who were looking for the same. This is my ideal lifestyle and I’m excited to enable others to live their ideal lifestyle. John: For me, Chōsen balances managing the stressful and challenging clean technology business. Chōsen represents an ideal lifestyle that I’m committed to living right now. It’s my constant reminder to enjoy my life, to treat myself well and to surround myself with people who inspire me to constantly learn and challenge myself. What’s been the highlight of your Chōsen journey so far?Robin: It’s undoubtedly the bond I make with such amazing and inspiring people. I’m privileged to take part in their life journey and to witness their growth first hand and it is fulfilling in a very special way. John: My highlights are interacting with our incredible attendees and alumni on a truly authentic level. I love seeing amazing people from different professions and stages in their lives connect with no pretense. The openness, humility, and supportiveness they demonstrate towards each other is impressive. Nothing is better than witnessing the childlike glee that arises when someone does something new or overcomes a fear. They embrace activities they haven’t mastered without embarrassment because they know they’re not being judged and when an attendee excels at a skill, they share that expertise with the rest of the group without arrogance. What’s your morning routine?Robin: I try to wake up after nine hours of sleep with no alarm and get out of bed in a very slow, low stress and nurturing way. I try to avoid my phone and computer for at least an hour, have some lemon water and head for a huge breakfast, which is my favourite meal of the day! John: I wake up to a music alarm that’s not connected to my phone and I’m careful to not open emails, messages or social media. I have a glass of water with lemon, to kick start my gut health for the day and then shower and shave with carefully selected soaps and smells to invigorate me like handmade soap with peppermint oil. I absolutely LOVE breakfast with pressed green vegetable juices. I’m careful to reflect on my non-work related goals and creative thoughts during breakfast and when I’m finished, I open my business goals and to-dos to prioritize my peak effectiveness time around my meals and workout schedule for the day, with a side of organic, cold brew coffee. How do you stay fit, healthy and happy?Robin: My primary means of fitness is CrossFit four to five times a week and I’m working on increasing the variety to include calisthenics, parkour, movement, swimming and surfing. I stay healthy through a combination of physical activity, valuable nutrition insight from my nutritionist Elisa Haggarty of Culinary Farmacy and the fat, fiber, protein approach to eating. I actively manage stress through a rocky meditation practice, restorative yoga and having fun by playing with my rescue dog, surfing, ultimate Frisbee or exploring new places and life concepts. I am happy because I choose to be. John: Staying committed to being healthy, happy and fit is the way I stay this way. Though that sounds obvious, I openly admit that my focus for most of my adult life has been more on achieving success, rather than taking amazing care of myself. Now I’m the opposite as so much of my happiness is now related to the quality of my food, sleep, challenging physical activity, and the rejuvenation and reflection time I give myself. It takes discipline to maintain that focus. Stress is easily dealt with when I'm fed, watered, and well slept. Though I’m a recovering adrenaline junkie, I’m most happy when I successfully find my calm. Who are your mentors?Robin: I have a few entrepreneurial types that have very business focused perspectives. I also have a mind mentor in Bali, who works with me on emotional awareness. I like to receive information from every person I encounter, so they act as mentors in passing. John is also a mentor as we have very different skill sets and I’m always learning by listening to his point of view. John: I focus on surrounding myself with people who keep me learning and out of my comfort zone. I have a business mentor whose advice has helped me become a more fearless entrepreneur, and Robin consistently challenges me to live a life worth living. I also have a group of expert practitioners that support my personal growth in fitness, health, and experiential learning. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?Robin: Take good care of yourself. This can mean so many things, but there is a definite pattern in society to sacrifice your feelings, time, health and emotional well-being in exchange for money, stability and perceived accomplishment but what good is societal praise and material possessions if you’re unhappy? If you design your lifestyle with you at the center, you can’t lose as it’s a no-risk investment. John: "When you are old and rich, you will give 100% of your wealth for just one day of youthful health." This piece of advice was one of the primary reasons I started Chōsen. Do not wait to live the life you want. What’s your perfect Sunday?Robin: An active rest day at Chōsen is designed around my perfect Sunday afternoon. The day starts in a beautiful location with a fitness activity and a nutritious breakfast that’s planned so I don’t need to decide anything. There are interesting people around for me to talk to if I feel inclined, otherwise I may go sit in a relaxing space and read a book or paint. I have a massage scheduled and healthy drinks are always available. I’m free to float about and just be present with no lingering commitments to distract me. I have a relaxing restorative yoga session outdoors around sunset, then an exciting, healthy and delicious dinner with diverse peers who have all had an equally amazing day. John: After an amazing night's sleep and an incredible breakfast that’s been executed by someone else for me, I would ride a motorcycle with my rescue puppy somewhere breathtaking and spend the afternoon learning a new skill with a group of amazing, like-minded friends. This is followed by more incredible food with some live music, good banter and travel stories. I’d ride home with my puppy, slowly read some Hemingway, and an evening massage would top off my perfect Sunday. What healthy food do you hate the most?Robin: I am an extremely discerning food connoisseur, so I know that if the produce is fresh, local, organic and prepared correctly, everything can be amazing. My problem is when I encounter the opposite of this concept, which is a constant in my everyday life. I also struggle to eat huge portions of leafy greens every day and I don’t like mushrooms. John: Are eggplants healthy? I despise eggplants. What happened to you when you pushed past your comfort zone?Robin: An awakening which I experienced this during my first free-diving course. I went out to a very deep part of the ocean with a tiny circular buoy as the only floatation device. I repeatedly dove down to my maximum depth and stayed down to my maximum capacity, then slowly returned to the surface where I was to float and relax until my next turn. The floating meant treading water for me and I wasn’t relaxed as I was way out of my comfort zone for a long time and I felt angry, scared, sad, and alone. However, I went back out the second day to do it again and realized I could decide to approach the situation differently. So I approached with the curiosity and excitement that comes with exploring something new. Instead of thinking the instructor was an inconsiderate idiot and trying to kill me, I became open to what he was trying to teach me, which was how to meditate under water. This was truly bad ass as it would increase my likelihood of survival in the ocean tenfold and was a skill worth having. Once I shifted my internal thoughts to determination over misery, I thrived and experienced a high. I learned to control the fear inside my head and awakened to view everything I know with this new perspective. One little experience can change how you move through life and how you view life forever more. John: I reconnected with that ferociously curious, adventurous badass kid inside myself. My life is now all about learning from new cultures and languages, learning how to use my body to do amazing things, finding my calm and thus being able to take on any stressor or challenge with a clear mind. Pushing past my comfort zone in all these various activities that are now often incorporated into a Chōsen experience, yielded a discipline for me. Any challenge is surmountable. Any skill is learnable. I choose to live this life, on purpose. Find out more about John, Robin and more Chōsen experts here!