It's a highly unlikely thing that they'd be shouting. Armed robbers wouldn't care. They'd probably want wallets and a code to a safe or to find nearby car keys and laptops. Maybe an escape route that avoided Liam Neeson. If they did want all that they'd probably be quite disappointed. But let's stretch our imaginations for a second.
If an aggressive dude was holding a gun to my temple and screaming, 'give me one reason WHY you cycled 12,000 miles around North America last year', then I wouldn't say the bike trip. Or the locations it took place in. Or the foggy mornings and quiet nights. Or anything like that. To whittle it down to one thing, as per their ridiculous, somewhat improbable and weird-crazy armed robber demands, the answer would be: having the opportunity to talk to a bunch of amazing people.
Last year I had an opportunity to meet some people far, far wiser than me. From CEOs and founders to Hollywood directors to musicians to ex-convicts. The moments that were shared and the relationships that were built and the wisdom that every single person had to offer in their own unique and always bad-ass way will be something that stays with me forever.
Here are 9 lessons that I picked up from other people just last year by talking to them and getting deep. There were moments during those conversations of clarity. Moments that made a lot of sense but can be easy to forget sometimes.
On The Process, Anxiety & Confidence -- by Nick Thune, comedian; as seen on Conan, "Folk Hero" etc.
"You look around, and it's a business where there is no sure path, so it's hard to realize that it's this marathon where everybody's kind of running their own pace. And it's not about winning, it's just about getting to the end and pacing yourself out for it. And that's a thought that you have to look back into when you feel that way. I feel that constantly. I can be really overly confident sometimes, and I know that's gotten me in trouble before, and sometimes I'll be so insecure that it's get me in trouble. It's a weird battle that you're constantly fighting back and forth.
At 16 my mom put me in with one of their friends who's a therapist. I just remember the simplest thing he told me is that at any moment you can change your attitude. It's actually one of the most simple things. And a lot of the time it's just changing the way you're thinking about one thing. Like -- anxiety is also anticipation, and excitement. If you're nervous about something, what if you were excited about it? It's actually the same feeling in your body. And I don't know if this is actually true -- I just remember hearing it and wanting to believe it so bad that I made it true -- but the feeling of anxiety in your body is physically the same feeling as excitement, your brain is just choosing to look at it the way you're choosing to look at it. And that's something I focus on a lot."
On What You Do Every Day, Dreams & Making Things -- by Dora Sullivan, mayor of Cape Charles, Va.
"I think the thing that people miss is the fact that it's not so much about what you do every day. In Greece you could see a street sweeper, and that's his day job, but it's what you do after the fact. It's your circle of friends. It's family. It's the rescue dog. And then you've gotta dream. It's so good to dream. So I make things. I look like a bag lady. I go to the beach and pick up driftwood, rocks, glass, fishing lures. I found half an oar the other day. And then I make something. It's therapy, and it's the thrill of the hunt and the smell of the sea. At some point, you're going to have to do one of those dreams. You're going to have to do something on that list, or you'll catch yourself in your own lie because you didn't do it."
On Good Energy, Paying It Forward, Travel & Challenging Yourself -- by Bradford Haith, cross country walker and former drug dealer
"At 14 years old I was in trouble a lot, and that trouble led up until the age of 16. That landed me in jail until I was 26. After 10 years in prison, when I got out I decided to change my life. And this must come with some insight of wanting to change, so I grabbed a bag, and I wanted to help people. I always loved helping people. So I decided to walk and give out the energy I had that was holding inside me. I had a small backpack, and no food or anything. I just wanted to give out some good energy and break away, like a release from where I was, and travel. It changed my life. I shook every hand I could shake, and met everyone from just about every nationality.
The interesting point in my journey was -- it didn't only change my life, I hope that I changed other peoples lives as well. I think passing it on is important, because once I have received what I have received, it's not fair for me to hold it in for myself. I think it's good to share it. My childhood was in jail. Prison. Penitentiary. And it was tougher, rougher. I didn't have a life. This is why I believe in positive energy, and good-natured people. Because when you do something good, it comes back. It's the cycle of life, I believe. In 13 years I was not hurt once, and I've met everyone from all walks of life.
Always challenge yourself. Always. Because it gives a meaning in ones life to always challenge yourself."
On Being Tired Of It All and Where To Find Inspiration -- by Sierra Noble, up-and-coming Canadian singer/songwriter
"I think that it's those times where you're having a bad day and you're tired and you look in the mirror and it's just like 'I look like crap, I feel horrible, I'm exhausted, I don't feel like doing the show.' It's in those moments of vulnerability and in a way, openness, that I'm always reminded. When I do the show and afterward go out and meet people, it's really easy to convince yourself that you feel alone and tired of all of it, but it's also really easy to open yourself up to connecting with people anywhere, and it doesn't have to be anyone that you know. It can be a 10-second genuine exchange with a human being, that can completely recharge your being. And I've realized that life is really fulfilled by connection, and humans thrive in connection. And if we cut ourselves off, whether it be our own doing or whether we're cut off by other reasons, that's when we stop thriving.
Honestly, not thinking about it is the best thing you can do, and staying open -- keeping your heart and mind open. And if you're even this much drawn to something, go in that direction, check it out, go through the door, check out the room, if it's cool sit in it for 5 minutes. Be like 'what's gonna happen? I don't know. Oh nothing happened. Next door.' I find that I get the most stuck when I think about it too much. It's the same with writers block and all that. People rack their brains for inspiration, when that's not where you find inspiration. Inspiration isn't often in our brains, it's around us, and we have to just stop and listen to the universe around us."
On Your Previous Self & Being Good At Something -- by Andrew Sinkov, VP of marketing at Evernote
"I don't think you can actually give your previous self any advice, because if I gave myself advice, I wouldn't be the person that I am now. So I think the best advice is to just keep on doing what you're doing.
I think everybody's good at something. Most people that aren't sure where they need to go haven't identified the thing that they're good at. Everybody has a skill or a passion that really gets them going. And it's translating that into something real-world that is actually useful and applicable. I think often people don't realize what they're actually good at, or what their skills are and what makes them different from the people that are standing next to them, and I think it's exploring that, and finding an outlet for it. It's just identifying in yourself the thing that really makes you happy, and finding that there are opportunities out there in all industries that allow you to do that."
On Imposter Syndrome, Success & The Edge Of Competency -- by Matt Mullenweg, founder and CEO of Automattic
"What I see more amongst entrepreneurs who are friends, is the 'I shouldn't be here' -- more impostor syndrome. It's not that you're scared of success, it's that sometimes you can really reach a level of success that you feel like you're not ready for yet, or a level of responsibility. The truth is that none of us have really done this before. And when you accept that, and just do your best, or try your hardest and learn as much as you can, I feel like when you rise to those challenges, that it's very satisfying, because you're constantly at the edge of your competence."
On Persistence, Risk & Betting On Yourself -- by Ruben Fleischer, director of Gangster Squad, Zombieland, 30 Minutes Or Less
"There's friends I can think of that were way funnier than me, or way more talented. And I think they were afraid to take the risk. Whereas for me, the one talent I think I have more than anything else is persistence. I just won't give up. And so when I was trying to be a director, and I put myself $35,000 in debt trying to do that, but I was determined that it was going to work out. I wasn't going to stop until I'd figured it out. It just was unfathomable. Once I said, 'I'm going to start directing', and I just stopped working for other people, and shot short films and low-budget music videos, that's when nothing was handed to me. I just kept on shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, and then gradually people started to pay attention, and then it kept just growing very organically. And it has because it's been almost 10 years now, starting from a $50 music video to features for studios.
There's a million directions to go -- I think that's the trickiest part. But the more you know where you wanna be, the more people can help you get there. Otherwise, if you truly don't know, I think you've just gotta go experience as much as you can. And if you have an inclination to something, try it and see if it suits you, and if it doesn't, keep it moving and see what's next. There's a lot of successful people who can tell you that they didn't find it right away, and that it came later in life or that they kind of stumbled into it. A lot of people just happen across it. That was certainly the case for me."
On Figuring Out How To Make It Work & Having Support -- by Eileen Gittins, CEO of Blurb Inc
"Do something you love. I don't care what it is. If you love it, you will figure out a way to make the rest of your life work with that. I have to be in it and love that thing. It's like artists -- seriously -- where they can't not paint. A musician can't not make music. If you can find anything where you feel that way about it, just do it. Because that will work out in the end. You just have to ride it and just know that it's a journey -- it's not a straight line -- and be prepared for that. And have support around you. Family, friends, partners, spouses, whatever - who are in it with you. It's too hard to do by yourself, you have to have people in it with you."
On There Being Nothing That Stops You -- by John Canfield, founder of High Above Designs
"A good friend had a ski company and was thinking about making a pack. He said to me, whilst I was still working at my former business, 'look I need a prototype made'. And I agreed to do it, and I also prefaced it with him that I really didn't know what I was doing. He was like, 'that's OK, you can learn' and from his entrepreneurial standpoint it was; what you need to know, you will learn.
So he gave me this project, and right as that project started I was fired from my last job for bringing my dog into work. I remember calling him and being like 'Dan, I'm so screwed. I don't have a sewing machine to use anymore'. I didn't have one at home. And he said 'You should go get one'. And I remember thinking, that's so simple. His spirit was saying there's nothing that stops you, there are things that slow you down, and it's the way you deal with them and the way you move past them. And that was an eye-opener for me."