014. Jesse Danger: Systems thinking, game design, and novelty

Episode summary


Jesse Danger takes time out from teaching parkour to share thoughtful insights on topics such as systems thinking through game design, the role of novelty, and how to work with a group toward a single focus while still honoring the individual. Along the way we also discuss life lessons learned through playing chess.

Training and teaching

setting aside time, scheduled, and stick to it. Discovering what works for him, dedication to training; self care, whatever he needs mentally of physically. If you’re connected with how to heal yourself, you can heal others.

Movement Creative

business in reality vs business’s goals. Business guidance; not doing anything offensive to his soul. Money, success, are not the goal; choosing to pursue this thing because he wants to share it, rather than making money

Systems thinking and game design

School program, took off. Started doing more classes, after school program, etc. Co-creating sessions; what is the goal, the take-away (beyond just learning parkour). Brandon Tromploy – game designer, tyranny game. Using games to teach movement, creating games with specific goals and outcomes (get better at something). Adapting, adjusting, changing games, systems, and rules; one small change can be a huge difference. Ready to play any game, rather than good at a specific one. The power of creating a game


can create a value system around it, but everything is novel (nothing can be the same). Creating our own novel situations, novelty levels the playing field; playing to win vs playing to keep playing. Change the rules to continue the game. Games and play as a way to an end; exercising unconsciously. Novelty with people; sitting in circle with people. All in perspective, awareness, listening.

Thoughts on the big picture

parkour facilitating reflection on relationship with self, authority, competition, etc. Our own experiences limiting who is included, how to best serve different types of people while holding to ideals of what drew him in initially. Bridging gaps between people and experiences. Working on one small part of the larger picture within games, teams, etc. Respecting everyone’s individual direction and masteries, but working and growing together towards a common focus.

Is there a story you’d like to share?

Parkour NYC, 2am conditioning session. Running around, jumping on things, losing people… realizing it was an atypical experience

Craig: As I say often say, one of my personal passions is collecting stories from other people, because as I say all the time, the passion that comes through when someone tells a story really gives you a glimpse into what makes them who they are. So is there a story you would like to share?

Jesse: Yeah, I had just started parkour, I was [00:24:00] maybe a few years in, and my parents were always really supportive of me. They always gave me a lot of freedom, they let me build crazy stuff in their backyard. I’m not sure why. And they also let all sorts of people from all over the world stay with them. Sometimes lots of people. And the story I want to talk about is PKNY. So it was like, this big national gym. We had like 60 people at my parents’ house and we were barbecuing and we were [00:24:30] hanging out, and people are sleeping on the stairs and…

Continue reading…

Craig: And your parents have a 7000 square foot rambling ranch, right?

Jesse: No, no, they have like a typical New Jersey suburban house.

Craig: Right.

Jesse: So yeah, there’s people crammed in the corners and we’ve got a couple old futons, and people have tents in the backyard. [00:25:00] And all these people have come, and this has become kind of normal to me. It doesn’t seem out of the ordinary or anything. I’ve now gone to other people’s places and slept on windowsills. And this is just, this is parkour, this is normal, this is what we do.

And I’m like, okay, I’m thinking about going out and training it at 2 a.m… You know, we had trained all day. Everybody’s super tired. [00:25:30] The first day of a jam always gasses everybody out, and they always believe that they’re going to have some sort of magical energy…

Craig: Like a superpower I didn’t know about.

Jesse: But we talk about doing a 2 a.m. conditioning session, and I talked to a couple of the other guys who have been around a little bit longer. And they want to each teach and coach something. And at 2 a.m. I get up, and this is also something I did all the time. [00:26:00] It was just normal for me. Like, I’m gonna get out of my house, I’m gonna go, I’m gonna walk down the street, I’m gonna get to the train tracks. These train tracks, it’s a closed line, and you can balance on the train tracks for miles. And just going, we go to a schoolyard, we jump around, we climb around, we go, we’re balancing. And this was two or three times a week, this is not a weird thing for me.

So we’re going, we’ve got like 45 people. It’s 2 a.m… We’re in a New [00:26:30] Jersey suburb. We go to a football stadium, and we’re doing a reverse quadripedal on the stairs and we’re climbing on the walls, and we’re carrying each other on the football field, and we’re like crawling, and climbing, and fighting, and playing, and challenging each other for just like, a few hours. And so now it’s like 4:30, and we’re heading home. And people wanted [00:27:00] to quit, people cried, we lost a few. There’s no great organizational structure, and no cell phones.

So people did know the way. They were like, “Oh, I’m gonna go to the bathroom. Just wait for me a second.”

Craig: Come back, everybody’s gone.

Jesse: Hour and a half later, they find their way back to the house. And the reason I’m telling this story, is because now I can piece together that that was not, that was a little atypical. [00:27:30] That wasn’t a thing that people did all the time. But a friend of mine said, “Oh, that was a really meaningful experience for me. I still think back to that.”

And that was like a riddle to me. Like, “What do you mean, you think back to that?” So yeah, now I think back to it too.


On a team as a kid, playing, learning, competing. Playing his uncle; thinking about chess in terms of how to beat opponent in 3 moves, learning about playing position; paying attention, moving based on the board. Abstraction of chess; not making a plan or intention, but responding to the board, moving towards a greater intention. Learning, making connection, not necessarily winning.

3 words

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Craig: And of course the final question, three words to describe your practice?

Jesse: Resilient, adaptive, and delusional.

Craig: Okay, and why? Or do you care to unpack those, or you just want to leave it at that?

Jesse: Resilient, I want to keep going, no matter what. Adaptive, it’s maybe the same thing as resilient, but in the moment. The ability to change, of course. And delusional, when I’m moving, I believe that I’m doing the best possible thing I could for the world.

Contact and further info

To get in touch with Jesse or keep up with what he’s doing, you can follow him on instagram (@jesse.danger). To learn more about the Movement Creative, you can visit their website. If you’d like to hear more from Jesse, he has answered some follow up questions in the Movers Mindset Community.