With a strong emphasis on rapid development and accelerating ideas into tangible products, Adam Bragg believes in the ethos of “launching”. He introduced the concept of “activity networks,” a fresh take on community-building, where people congregate based on shared activities rather than just online interactions. He has been involved in several projects that unite diverse groups of enthusiasts, giving Adam rare insight into the evolving landscape of tech and human connection. In this episode of Unlearn, Adam joins Barry O’Reilly to discuss the transformative power of launching ideas and products into the world, and the lessons that come from confronting the fears and vulnerabilities tied to this process.

From Vaulting to Ventures

Adam’s Ukrainian coach, Nikolai Doroshenko, emphasized the importance of visualizing routines multiple times before executing them. This technique, which he has since integrated into various aspects of his life, is not only applicable in pole vaulting but transcends into business. “I’ve been applying that same kind of [visualization] of the future moment and [trying] to work [my] way backwards into constructing it,” he explains. Picturing a business’s potential impact before its inception is essential, he points out. Barry reinforces this perspective by drawing parallels between the mental preparedness demanded by high-stakes sporting events and the uncertainties of launching a business. “It’s a muscle that you can build and improve as you become more familiar,” he tells Adam. Certain principles are universal – whether in the athletic realm, the healthcare sector, or in business launches across diverse sectors, the process remains consistent: visualize, appreciate, execute, and then learn from the outcome. [Listen from 1:45]



Betterment is in the Eye of the Beholder

Visualization is also important for senior executives. Barry asks, “What will success look like in one to two years? How will stakeholders be different?” It is all about creating a detailed mental picture of success in order to better navigate the steps to achieve it. Adam highlights the importance of visualization in his career, from his early days in engineering and history to his ventures in creating tech solutions for education and community building. He discusses his exploration of AI and large learning models, notably the GPT models. His development of “Cat GPT,” a personality-driven AI bot that responds like a sassy cat, is a testament to how AI can be made approachable and fun. It is a unique juxtaposition of technology and human-like personality traits. Adam underscores the potential of AI, not just as a functional tool but as an entity that can facilitate relationship-building. The future of AI interaction will likely be more character-driven, he predicts. [Listen from 11:10]

(Listen to The Art of Decision Making: Unpacking the Uncertainty Project with Kyle Byrd)

Not A Game

Adam and Barry discuss the evolution of AI-based products. As Barry acknowledges, this seemingly simple idea led to the creation of “Catcub,” which has drawn millions of people to interact with and enjoy the product. Adam emphasizes that the AI trend differs from the NFT wave in that it allows individuals to engage in fun, cost-free interactions. For example, the upcoming Santa GPT offers children an extraordinary digital interaction with Santa that is tailored to their desires. A recurring theme is the importance of “starting with the why”—the emotional driver—and then working backward.

Adam reflects on the differences between sports and entrepreneurship. In sports, such as pole vaulting or trampolining, there is immediacy in results; a swift conclusion follows the action. Conversely, entrepreneurship is a long-haul journey where outcomes unfold gradually. This shift in pace, Adam suggests, requires an “unlearning” of the quest for instant results. Barry agrees, observing that entrepreneurship lacks the close gratification loop prevalent in sports. Adam emphasizes that you need patience in business: results do not always manifest instantly. He also stresses the importance of not waiting for perfection, but rather embracing an iterative approach, placing ideas and products in front of audiences to establish a real, constructive feedback loop. This iterative approach not only helps refine the product but also allows the creator to become adept at articulating and sharing their vision, an essential aspect for entrepreneurial success. [Listen from 20:45]

(Read about The Proven Path to Success)

If Not You, Who?

Launching a business is a critical step in its establishment. Barry emphasizes the need to “get into the arena.” He says, “If you never put yourself and your product out into the world, you’ll never know.” He compares the anxiety and vulnerability you might feel before launching a product to the emotions an athlete experiences before competing. However, it is by pushing through these feelings and continually practicing that you learn to overcome the fear. Adam shares the mantra at his studio, which stresses the urgency of launching: “Rule number one, everybody launches today.” Without receiving genuine, honest feedback, you cannot correct and adapt your approach. In the modern “unlearning cycle,” unlearning is taking place more swiftly than ever before. The intersection of human creativity, speedy technological development, and rapid distribution, heralds an exciting era for builders, he tells Barry. He introduces the concept of “activity networks,” which differ from social networks in that they pool people based on shared activities rather than mere online presence. [Listen from 28:20]

Looking Ahead

Adam is deeply excited about the evolution and potential of technology, especially in the context of human creativity and the swift pace of development. He touches on the ongoing projects at his studio, particularly emphasizing their work on the “ThoughtForma,” an intelligent no-code platform that is empowering individuals, regardless of their tech background, to create and deploy technology products. This platform can help anyone, from a local library to vast audiences on social networks, bring their ideas to life. Furthermore, Adam expresses enthusiasm about the “activity network” concept, introduced to him by their CTO. Unlike typical social networks, activity networks center around groups of individuals engaging in similar activities or sharing interests. He sees these networks as a way to consolidate tightly-knit communities that can seamlessly merge physical and digital interactions. [Listen from 29:40]