It always seems easier to hunker down and play it safe whenever adversity hits. Yet, often it is those that pivot, or take the proverbial leap of faith, who end up discovering what really matters to them. Nigel Bennett has had more than one of those pivotal moments and each one has proven beneficial. Nigel is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, philanthropist and Founder of Aqua-Guard Spill Response Inc., a global leader in oil control. He is also the author of Take That Leap: Risking It All for What Really Matters. Nigel credits his success and the discovery of true significance to a painful moment when he chose to pivot away from a toxic relationship. Yet another pivotal moment came when he chose not to sell his business for a large profit. In both cases, Nigel chose to go along with life’s flow and be prepared for whatever came on the other side. Listen to how on this episode with host, Adam Markel.
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Take That Leap: Nigel Bennett On Adversity, Pivoting, And The Flow Of Life
I’m thrilled to be here. I’m feeling really energized. Sometimes you get that late afternoon lull in the energy and I’ll sit with my feet up a wall or maybe Randi and I will do some yoga. We took a wonderful walk outside and we’re right on Penobscot Bay on the central coast of Maine. In this spot there’s so much wildlife and the wildlife I don’t see all the time. We live part of the year in Martha’s Vineyard, and part of the year in Encinitas, California. There are all kinds of wildlife. You walk around the hills in Encinitas and you’re likely to run into a rattlesnake. I’m not seeing any rattlesnakes here, unfortunately too. I’m seeing a ton of foxes. We saw a great American Bald Eagle. I’ve never seen one before in the wild and to be close enough to really be able to see its face, head and to see it take off and fall almost in free fall for a while before it spread its wings and then caught air. It’s remarkable stuff. To be in nature is doing us a great deal of good on the inside and the outside.
I’ve got a great guest for a variety of reasons. I’m excited to have a conversation with him. We’re going to track some of this conversation to where we live these days and what we’re given access to if we’re lucky enough, fortunate enough, blessed enough to be in or around nature. I’m going to get after introducing Nigel Bennett. Nigel Bennett is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, philanthropist and Founder of Aqua-Guard Spill Response, a global leader in oil control that works to protect water, which we know is the world’s most precious resource in 100-plus countries around the world. Nigel donates all of the profits from his book sales, Take That Leap: Risking It All For What REALLY Matters and all of his speaking engagements to organizations that support poverty alleviation, human rights social services and the one thing that started this show off, the environment. Nigel, thank you for being a part of what we’re doing here and being on the show.
Thank you, Adam. I’m super stoked. We had a little pre-chat. It was the similarities in things that we have and synchronicities that we have going. It’s cool stuff. I’m stoked. I love my life now. I haven’t always loved my life but I love my life now. Thank you for what you do. I love your show. I love my life motto there. It’s fantastic.
I dig the fact that you and I both got the memo. We’re wearing t-shirts that have messages on it. “We connect.” That’s what it says. Nigel, I read your bio. What’s not written in the bio that you would love for people to know about you?
There’s a ton of stuff. I’ve been fortunate throughout my life. I’ve had a lot of these moments in my life where I’ve had to change direction and you asked, was it something conscious or unconscious? All of the big major shifts that have happened to me have been something that I have unintended to do but it was a reactionary type of thing. I go ways back when I was a young guy. Now I’m in Whistler, British Columbia. I’m living here now. My home is in Vancouver but I spend a lot of time here.
Nature is one of my resets. I love resetting in nature. Right out of high school, back in 1980, I was on a flight to Venezuela. I was working for my father’s environmental mapping company. We had contracts to map the coastline of various different countries. I found myself for the next ten years hanging out of aircraft, helicopters, photographing coastlines around the world for environmental mapping. The crazy thing is I was 17 or 18, I was hanging out of a helicopter flying around Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. We were coming up the west side of the lake and we’re getting close to the Colombian border. We had somebody hailing us from below saying, “Move out of our areas or we’re going to shoot you down.” They took a couple of potshots across the front of our helicopter.
That was a rude awakening for me. I was a guy coming from Vancouver in Canada and I’d never been out of the country. After that, I found myself in Egypt for about five years on and off doing the same thing but I was a scuba diver as well. I found myself scuba diving under the Red Sea, taking photographs of the degradation of the reefs from the oil industry. I had to do an air flight over the Sinai Peninsula. I drove in with an Egyptian fellow into an old helicopter base that was manned by an ex-Vietnam pilot. His name was Johnny.
He came out, he was a big fellow, he waddled out. I was young. I was probably 22 at this time. He said to me, “Nigel, I know why you’re here. I know what you’re doing and I know where I’ve got to take you but I can only take you to some certain spots. I can’t show you everything that you probably want to see.” I said, “Fine.” I hopped into the co-pilot seat, put the headset on in the helicopter. There were two oil execs in the back. Once I had the headset on, he said to me, “Now we can talk. What I’m going to do is I’m going to take you over to the Sinai and we’re going to drop these guys off. Keep your camera between your legs and don’t let the guys in the back see that you have a camera. There’s glass at your feet. You could take photographs of some of the things that you may see but don’t let them see you because if they see you, we can be arrested and thrown in jail as spying.” I was 22 years old and it was a big shakeup for me. We flew over to the Sinai. We landed, we dropped these two fellows off and we lifted off again. He said, “Now you can start taking as many photographs as you want.” I was like, “Of what?” All I saw was pipeline after pipeline that were ruptured and all flowing into the Red Sea. Pipelines of oil were flowing into the Red Sea and the coastline was coated as far as you can see with oil.
That had a massive impact on me. We landed back at this place called Ras Gharib over on the Egyptian side. He said, “Please take these photographs and show them to who needs to see them. I know you want to make a difference as a young guy. I know that you want to make a difference but I don’t think you’ve got a hope in hell in making any difference.” That resonated with me for the rest of my life. I was in Egypt for about five years on and off, working for my father’s company. At the end of this contract, we had an apartment in Alexandria on the Mediterranean and I was cleaning it up. Our contract was done and I was driving to Cairo the next day to meet up with my father and we’re going to fly to London to my cousin’s wedding.
I had a phone call and Alex said, “Your father is missing. We don’t know where he is.” I’m like, “You flew in from London together. What’s going on?” He said, “I don’t know.” I said, “I’ll be there in three hours.” About a three-hour drive along the desert road, this old, crazy desert road from Alexandria to Cairo. I arrived in Cairo and this guy comes down the steps of the hotel, grabs me, takes me upstairs, opens up the room, puts me in and says, “Sit on the floor.” I’m sitting on the floor in this hotel room and he turns out the light. We’re sitting there until about 3:00 in the morning and then an old phone on the desk rings. He goes over and he answers it. He’s like, “Yes. It’s for you.” I’m like, “It’s for me? What’s going on here?” I answered the phone, it was my father. He’d been arrested and he’d been thrown in jail. All he said to me in code was take the next bus and stay with Mike. I didn’t even know what that meant. He hung up. I sat in the middle of the floor with this other guy. He was one of the guys that were working with us. We figured out what it meant, get out of the country and go to London and stay with my cousin. I’m like, “There’s no way I’m leaving. I’m not leaving my father.”
He says, “If they catch you and they get you then they got more bargaining power and then we’re in big trouble.” I escaped, I got down and we had a taxi driver that worked for us. He was out the back door. I got to the airport and then after a long period of going through checkpoints, there were no computers in those days, this is like 1982. They weren’t able to check so I was able to escape. I went to London and I got back to Vancouver, Canada and my sister was working at the company and she said, “What’s going on?” I said, “There’s some certain things going on that we probably don’t want to be involved with.” All I can say in the show here is that my father and my ethics clashed.
He’d been arrested for a certain reason. He was released about 5, 6 months later but he was incarcerated for 6 or 7 months in an Egyptian prison in horrific conditions. You took a crap where you stood and you’re 100 people crammed in the cell. He was released because the only witness against him died because they grabbed him as well. At that point in my life, I knew that we had to make a huge change. We had to make a massive shift. I grabbed my sister and we left. We left the business and we formed Aqua-Guard Spill Response. My dad was not happy. I can’t live going down that path, the path that he was on, I couldn’t. Unfortunately, my father kept down the same path and he’s 85 years old now.
He was incarcerated again and he got out of a US prison, he did five years again. Unfortunately, we’ve been estranged but we had a massive pivot. At that point in my life, I knew that unfortunately, my father was a narcissist and he was extremely controlling over us. It was a toxic relationship. My sister and I had to make that decision to break away from these toxic relationships. We formed Aqua-Guard Spill Response. I traveled to ten countries over ten years and I had clients that needed help. They needed equipment. I went to the British Columbia Institute of Technology. I was in Mechanical Engineering. I had another fellow working with me and when we formed this company, we started manufacturing equipment to contain and recover oil spills from the BP Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico to the Exxon Valdez and all that. That was a major shift for me. I know it’s tough for people to break away from toxic relationships because there’s that gnawing on them to keep coming back.Do only the things that align with your life’s purpose. Click To Tweet
What’s interesting here to me is listening to you talk about oil spill and then in the same breath you’re talking about toxic relationships. I assume that the pun is intended.
It wasn’t. You nailed it. It was tough. My life had a big shift. Our business, it was tough for many years. My wife and I, we leveraged everything to get this little company going but then we started thriving because after the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, the US needed all this equipment and we started supplying all over the US and Canada and all over the world. Next thing you know, 25 years later, we’ve done business at 104 different countries involved in every major oil spill on the planet.
Where does the path that you’re describing lead to a lot of the work that you’re doing now, the authorship work, the thought leadership work? I can see the seeds of it quite easily because you had an ethical dilemma with seeing what your dad was up to, what others at the time were up to, and what it was no doubt doing to the environment, and you couldn’t stand it. You went out and found some way of contributing a solution to it.
It resonated with me when the helicopter pilot, Johnny, told me that he didn’t think I could make a difference. I was like, “I’m young. I can make a difference in the world. I believe that.” The years go by and 2008 hits, we got smacked hard. We had a fraud case inside of our business. We were doing everything for everybody. We didn’t have a niche. We changed the direction of the business in 2008 because we were almost bankrupt.
The oil spill equipment is not a niche. We’re going to redefine what niche is. In my world, an oil spill equipment company would be a niche.
We’re selling everything to everybody, low margin, high volume.
Make it high volume, isn’t that the entrepreneur’s answer to everything?
Yes, which is ridiculous. We then focus to the offshore where it was niche, high margin and high value. That took us to where we are now. I was always struggling. I had a hard time. I joined the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, EO, many years ago. I got dragged into it by an ex-football player, big lineman, 330-pound fellow. He physically took me and dragged me into a meeting. I got recruited. I was a member for about eighteen years. Joining a peer group like that when it was a tough time, YPO, EO, TAC, for me, it wasn’t even a decision. I got dragged in. Things that I’ve ever done and my wife and I talk about it all the time. It was one of the best things that we ever did for our family is joining that and getting into this peer group, which helped. From that, I ended up going to a thing at MIT called the Entrepreneurial Master’s Program, which is part of EO. It was a three-year program and we kept it going. I went to our seventeenth year, 75 entrepreneurs from all over the US and Canada. I don’t know if you know Verne Harnish, Verne is one of the Founders of EO, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
He founded YPO as well.
He did. He was our facilitator and he stood in the front of the room. I was a greenhorn. I was sitting at the back. I was shy. I was with all these smart entrepreneurs. I had ADD and dyslexia and I felt that I didn’t belong. I had the imposter syndrome. Verne stood at the front of the room and he said, “How many of you guys out there have a coach?” I had hired a coach about two months before this. I gingerly put my hand up. I’m like, “I’m sure these guys do. They’re all brilliant.” He said, “Only 3 of you out of 75 have a coach.” I looked up, I said, “You’ve got to be kidding. These guys are geniuses. They all own businesses and they’re super smart and only three of you.”
That was one of the most important things that I ever did after that was having this coach. I remember when I hired my coach for the first day because I was having a hard time. He said, “Nigel, if somebody offered you X amount for your business now, what would that be?” I said, “$1.” He’s like, “$1?” I said, “Yes, $1. I just want my freedom back. I want my life back.” What happened from then on is he helped build a life that I love. In 2010 I was having a hard time. I felt like I was on this roller coaster out of control like a lot of entrepreneurs. In my book, I call it the doorknob effect. I’m sure that you felt like this at times, you go to your office or wherever it is and there’s that door. You got to step through that door and that doorknob is almost vibrating because you know when you turn it and you step through it, it’s going to be absolute chaos. My life was like that for twenty years, I would come from home. I would take my shower in the morning and I’d be, “Who can I hire? Do I need to hire somebody? Do I have to lay somebody off? Can I make payroll?”
I get there. I turn the doorstep through into total business. “Nigel, I need this. Nigel, I need that.” Year after year. It was tough until I had this coach helping me along the way. I had a major pivot in my life. You asked the question of what put me on this path that I’m on now. We were doing well but my life was chaos. I barely saw my kids in the early years. I had my coach but then I had a company, a competitor in the UK. A big British competitor offered to buy my business. I thought, “This is it.” Every entrepreneur’s dream. That’s what we learn in The E Myth, Michael Gerber’s book, The E Myth is set your business up, set up the system so one day you can package it up and sell it for a big bag of cash. That’s what I had done. I had this British company. They gave us a deposit. The BP Horizon oil spill was happening in 2010. I went to my class at MIT in Boston, I’m sitting there and I was having a hard time. This lady came and she sat, she was a speaker, her name was Lynne Twist and she wrote an amazing book called The Soul of Money. She’d be a great guest for you one of these days.
We know Lynne.
Lynne stood there and she invited our class to go deep into the Amazon with Lynne to experience a tribe, The Pachamama Alliance and the Achuar people. I said, “I’m coming.” Three of us from my class went but I went up to Lynne and I said, “Lynne, I’d love to come with you but under one condition, I get to bring my entire family, the five of us, my three kids and my wife.” She goes, “It’s a bit of a fundraiser but bring your family. You’re right.” I said to her, “I have this much bandwidth left in my life. I have this much influence. My kids have this and they have social media. If they can go and witness what’s going on in the Amazon and if they can come and tell two friends, we can make a huge impact in the world.”
We flew deep into the Amazon. We all crammed into one little Cessna. We were asked if we wanted to split our family up. I said, “No, if we go down, we go down together.” It’s a stupid decision but that’s what we did. We’re flying deep into the Amazon from a dirt runway in Ecuador onto a dirt runway. We’re getting canoes. We spend time in this village. I was having a hard time because I was in the middle of selling my business. The business was on the table, I had a deposit. BP Horizon oil spill was going on in the Gulf of Mexico and I was in the Amazon. I wasn’t even with my company. I laid down and we did an Ayahuasca ceremony, which I had no idea what it was.
It was a bit of a journey for me. I had no idea what we were going to do but I had a bit of a vision. It was a face that was looking at me and it was saying, “Nigel, you have a great responsibility.” I was like, “What is that he says?” It was, “Don’t sell your business, leverage your business and the platform that you have created over the past 30 years to do good and amazing things in the world.” I was like, “No, I have this huge bag of cash. I’m going to take it. I’m going to sell t-shirts on the beach. I don’t know.” I came to after a whole night of this ceremony. We flew back to Vancouver and it bothered me. I flew to London and I took the deal off the table. I said, “The business is not for sale.”
I came back, ended up buying out my partner and bringing somebody up through my business to run everything for me. Within a year and a half after that, I was able to set it up to run without me. I took my family and we traveled to seventeen countries around the world. We volunteered at orphanages in Myanmar. We did all this amazing stuff. Upon returning home, I shifted my life. I shifted everything that I do and I said that I will only do things that align with my life purpose. I won’t get involved in this. I will not get involved in this. I will only be involved in things that truly, deeply enrich my life’s purpose.
Since 2012, I’m been living this way. That’s why I saw your t-shirt that says, “I love my life.” I wrote the book. I started writing the book on this journey that we had. My life has exploded. I was in the business world but once I stepped slightly to the other side, everything opened up. I’ve been fortunate. My family and I have been leading trips to Mexico with Homes of Hope to build homes for the homeless for about eighteen years, we’ve been eighteen times and we take 50, 60 people at a time and probably taking 700, 800 people. It all came because my kids were doing presentations at school after they did one of these journeys. It’s been incredible.
I love it. I’m fascinated. The pivotal moments in our lives don’t often come with a neon announcement. There isn’t a sign that says, “Pivotal moment ahead, pay attention.” It can be anything. It can be many things. In the time that we’re living in now, which is this time of prolific and even pandemic change, this is providing the fodder, the fuel, the fertilizer for a lot of people’s pivots, for a lot of important decision-making that’s happening now.
I find for myself, most of the extreme pivots that happened in my life have come out of times of crisis, all the good stuff come out at times of crisis.
It’s hard to say that to someone who’s in crisis and have them truly take that in because somebody is reading this and going, “Still easy for you to say because you landed on your feet and you bounced back. You’ve been resilient but you don’t know when you’re going through it that it’s going to turn out great. That you’re going to look back on that moment and say, ‘That’s the best thing that ever happened to me and I wouldn’t change a thing.’” As much as there’s pain involved, there’s suffering, there’s indecision, there’s uncertainty. How do you leverage uncertainty so that you are able to create long-term success? It sounds to me like that’s what you’ve been able to do. You’ve done that. I’m going to put that question to you. How is it that you would define the power of uncertainty? How do you leverage that power to create a long-term life that you love?All the good stuff comes out at times of crisis. Click To Tweet
It’s tough. I agree that while you’re in it, it’s hell. It’s the doorknob. If the bees are flying around, you can’t think straight. I had a chat with a shaman, spiritual leader, whatever you want to call him, a friend of mine a while back because I was having a hard time with my father still. My father had been incarcerated a few times. He’s the A-type personality narcissist and I was having a hard time. One thing that he said to me was, “Nigel, you have to understand that your father is a good coach to you.” I said, “Wait a minute here. No.” He goes, “No, think about this. You would not be the person that you are now in this moment unless he was the person that he is and those things happened to you because if he wasn’t like that, you’d be a different person.” That was tough for me to digest. What I feel is the same thing as these difficult situations for us, they mold us into something else. We as humans, if we get soft, we get soft. When we’re on the brink of something happening, that’s when all the best change happens. I look back and how can I even think about that because it was horrible.
When I do look back, I look back the time when my father was incarcerated and then I broke away and formed Aqua-Guard, I wouldn’t have done that. I look at the time in 2008, when we were going bankrupt and we had a fraud case. If we hadn’t shifted and looked at a different market for the business, we would have followed everybody down the rabbit hole into low margins and gone out of business. The same thing with me selling the business. I’ve seen many people sell their businesses for this big bag of cash and then within two years they are not happy campers. I see it all the time. The one thing with that chat was that he was a coach to me, although it was difficult but it made me pivot and do these certain things that have created this person over here that I am now.
In many ways we are molded and molded over time in almost like the way that something beautiful like the Grand Canyon has been molded. The Colorado River has carved out this great wonder of the world over thousands or even millions of years, perhaps. We are molded into something quite beautiful. I don’t know that in nature, there’s no complaining about it. The Colorado River isn’t complaining that it’s got to be the one to force the Grand Canyon to change and the Grand Canyon isn’t the one that’s complaining that somehow or another, it doesn’t want to change. It’s fine the way it is so the Colorado River ought to leave it alone. You say stuff like that and you go, “That’s sheer nonsense.”
I find with myself, if I fall into the Colorado River and I’m fighting the river to go back upstream, it’s a hell of a battle but if I go with the flow of the water, amazing things can happen. I find that if I force something in my life, it doesn’t happen but if I let things go and get into the flow, I call it a life rhythm. I don’t necessarily like the term life balance because I feel with life balance, you’re giving up something for another to make things balance. I call it life rhythm. You get into that flow. It’s almost like a dance and things start happening and happening. Once you’re in your sweet spot and you’re able to leverage that sweet spot, amazing stuff happens.
There’s no question. Often it takes a catalyst. In the case that we’re talking about, the catalyst is nature, like the force of the river, for example. In your life, one of those catalysts has been your father. Another catalyst which has had an influence on me as well is the Ayahuasca, the medicine as it’s called, the mother. I have been to Costa Rica and had ceremonies and journeys there. It’s a wonderful retreat center in Costa Rica. It’s like a place where you can do it safely. I won’t get into the details of that on this show but I can say Ayahuasca is one of those great catalysts. It can put you very much in front of yourself.
I didn’t even know what it was. When we went down in 2010, they said ceremony. I had no idea but it was life-changing for me. Facebook pops up, ten years ago, that’s what popped up. I was in the Amazon with my family with Lynne Twist.
Pachamama Alliance. It’s such a small world. We’re a part of an organization with some people that are also in the space of authorship and leading seminars. Jack Canfield is one of the people that we spent some time within that space. It was Lynne and a number of people. Jack had been to the same place I had gone to, this place Rythmia in Costa Rica. It’s wonderful. They call it a life advancement center. Jack was moved by that experience as well, by the experience of the molding, the changes that are possible when there’s a loving catalyst. By loving, I don’t even mean kind because in the example of your father, not even a kind process, it’s probably incredibly painful to be at odds with your own flesh and blood. I was a lawyer for eighteen years. I represented people in disputes of all kinds, including those against their own family members. There’s nothing that I ever witnessed more excruciating than family that are at odds with one another, especially over money. On some level, it is a loving catalyst that molds you into the person that you see in the mirror and go, “I love this person looking back at me.”
I do. Once I realized that things changed because it was always this battle, I realized, “You wouldn’t be who you are unless this happened.” People, the readers too, they wouldn’t be who they are unless those traumatic things happened to them in the past. If they’re horrible, they’re horrible but it molded them to somebody different, a fighter or whatever it may be. We talk about Ayahuasca and in the Amazon, I know it is tough for people to go there. Nature is one of the great healers. My sister and I, once we broke off my father’s company, my sister was a fanatical outdoor like a mountaineer, big mountain climbing, expedition stuff. She got me into rock climbing and backcountry skiing and all this stuff.
We would leave the business, she would stay and I would leave and I would go on a back country ski trip. She would take off, climb Mount Logan. I would take off and go to Nepal with my wife and we’d do all these. What I found is that was the time where processing was going on inside my head, where I would have an issue when I left and I’d come back and it would be solved. It was my reset button. I call it the life rhythm. I get into this rhythm of getting out in nature. If people are living in wherever, Chicago or whatnot, go to the park, go for a walk. It’s the same healing effect, getting out into the trees. I’m living at Whistler now and I go mountain biking and skiing and all that. My wife and I go for 2, 3 hours a day and it’s incredible to come back. You’re ready to go. The Japanese call it tree bathing. There’s a term for that, tree bathing. It clears your soul and your conscience when you come back to. The Japanese work but they go and they do their martial arts then they do their tree bathing and they come back. It’s a great reset.
The essence of resilience is about recovery. People think the essence of resilience is endurance but it’s not, it’s recovery. That’s research-based. From the basic experience of knowing how it is that athletes, Olympic athletes and anyone else that’s focused on their performance, whether it’s physical performance, mental performance or otherwise, you have to be able to bake recovery into the process because if you don’t, you become burned out. You exhaust the source, the inspiration and the flow and then you’re out of rhythm and harmony.
Years ago, all I did was work. My kids were little, I never saw them. My football player friend grabbed me again. He said, “Nigel, the most important thing in your life is your family. You need to spend time with your family.” I made that my mantra, from then on, to spend as much time as I can with my kids. We surf together and ski. They’re in their twenties now and we do everything together. They’re my best friends. I thought, “No, I’m building this company for my family.” It was all BS. I had no time for them.
One million great rationalizations a day, probably. In the midst of all these changes are some great opportunities for people to redesign their lifestyle. The ability to work from anywhere and earn from anywhere, to work remotely and to have your kids even in school or being educated remotely gives you the opportunity to be anywhere. We are in the Central Coast of Maine and we’re leaving here and we’ll be on this little island off Cape Cod for a few months and then we’ll head back to San Diego. That’s great on some level but it’s not great for us because we’re different than any other entrepreneur or any other small business even. The option is there for everybody to live in and around the places where they feel they can be in flow, they can get in flow, they can get in rhythm.
For many of us, that means being in beautiful places and beautiful areas in nature. Being able to carve out the time in your day to recover so that you don’t have to be tied to the ball and chain of the office or any of those balls and chains that we’ve come to accept as the normal way that a professional gets ahead in the world no longer exists. Every one of those things has been called to question. Every one of those things has been turned on its side or inside out and now more than ever, more than any time ever, never has it existed before, anybody can be in Saint Kitts, you can be in Barbados, you can be in Whistler. You can be anywhere, wherever and then a month later, you can be somewhere else.
My good friend, Jamie Alvarez, we had a chat, and he says, “Now is the time for us to come home.” I said, “What does that mean?” For generations, we’ve been like, “Go, go.” We’ve been flying here. We’d be on a flight from Chicago to Milwaukee. Back for a night off, we’d be like, “Go, go.” We would be vibrating out here. He says, “Now is the time we come back and we spend time with the important people in our lives, our family. Now is the time for us to clear our heads and think. Now is the time not to sit idle. Now is the time to create because we’re in this space that we can create. This is the time.” My wife and I said, she looked at me and she said, “This has been a good time for us.”
This concept of the kids is out and they’re on their own and speak to them.
How old are your kids?
Nineteen up to 28. They’re all independently living either at college or on their own, all in California. We are walking around guilt-free.
We love our kids dearly and we see them a fair amount. For us to be here and then have them come and visit occasionally, it’s a wonderful time.
We have the ability to create those resets. That’s what nature does. That’s what living on your terms, to have that freedom to live on your terms, whatever that looks like. If you want to be in a city or be out of the city, whatever is going to nourish you is what nourishes you, what replenishes you. When you can turn the tide, the tide has been sucking creativity out of most people for the better part of their whole adult life. When that tide is coming back in and filling you up, the possibilities are limitless and what an inspiration that is.
It is. We sit inside our own head. It’s like, “We can’t do it.” I was exactly the same way. My coach, I had this list of these asteroids I had to break through and goals that I wanted on my list for my coach but then I got everything done but there was one thing left on the list. That was take the year and travel with the family. Did I ever make up every excuse in the book? I can’t do it, my business, we got a dog, all this stuff, whatever it was. He said, “What about your wife? Does she want to go?” I said, “No, I don’t think so. It’s too much for her.” I asked her right then and there on the phone, she was over in the kitchen and I said, “Rieko, do you still want to?” We had it together, out the door, three months, no planning at all, zero.
The no-plan plan.
For a year because you meet many people along the way on your journey. It wasn’t that expensive. I could go to Myanmar or wherever and live for $5 a day. With technology now, we could use this.
With good internet, you can be anywhere at any time, earn anywhere.
You can do it and we can all do it. I believe that I couldn’t do it until my coach twisted my arm and said, “Nigel, this is your goal. This is what you wanted to do. You wanted your life back. You wanted your freedom. This is what you wanted to do with it. We can do this.” We did it. It was the most incredible experience of my life. I wrote the book. It’s been amazing. I love my life.When we’re on the brink of something happening, that’s when the best change happens. Click To Tweet
My last question is about your own personal rituals. It’s funny because we were chatting about the fact that we’re both in places. I was looking at as we were walking, Randi and I went out and took a walk. One of the things we do to recharge every day is to walk together. We were on a walk and saw a family first of wild turkeys then we saw a family of these beautiful red foxes. You don’t even know it. I didn’t even realize how much it was filling me back up. As soon as I came back in and I knew I’ve got things that I want to be creative doing, it’s like my energy was high and it was high from 30 minutes of refilling the tank and being in an environment that made me feel more at home. I was more in rhythm, more in flow, more in harmony that other people call balance.
The thing about balance that we know is it’s fleeting. To try to aspire for something that you know is fleeting seems like a fool’s errand and yet that’s the language that we’re constantly telling ourselves. We want to seek out this work-life balance. There’s no such thing but there is harmony and rhythm that is possible, and flow. What’s great is we’ve described a few of those things in terms of what we are currently doing. My last question for you has to do with one particular daily ritual that you’re going to share with the world now. What’s that one ritual that you think people could learn from?
I’ll tell you what I do within the first half hour when I wake up. I wake up and I have a shot of beet juice with ginger. It cleanses my system. It’s good for high blood pressure too. I take a cool shower for five minutes, not that long. I’ve been having a bit of lower back, I do backcountry skiing. I do something called foundation training. It’s twelve minutes. It’s amazing for my lower back. My wife and I are into Wim Hof. We’ll do twelve minutes of Wim Hof breathing and then followed straight into twenty minutes of meditation. We do it together every morning, which is cool. That’s it. We’re jazzed for the day. It’s incredible. Getting into that rhythm, it’s liberating. That’s my morning as soon as I wake up.
My morning is different yet similar. The foundation for everything is the one upon waking for me personally. That involves waking up, part one, being grateful for that waking that we’re not guaranteed. It’s a blessing every day we get to wake up, that’s part two. The third part is that I say something out loud every morning, which is written on my shirt now, which is “I love my life,” because I truly believe and have the experience of seeing this play out that we speak our lives into existence. We’ve got to be careful about the language we use and watch our language like the way an eagle would watch its prey. If people had a little recorder strapped to them all day long in which we do, it’s called our cell phone and you recorded all day long everything you said for the day, most people would cringe to listen to themselves, to hear what came out of their mouth.
To me, to curate carefully everything that you say to the extent that you can. I know that’s difficult. I know that’s not easy but what you can do to begin with to start the domino effect of what that even looks like is to choose something that you say at the beginning of the day. One thing upon waking, once you’ve hopefully felt grateful for the fact that you’ve been given another day, what are the words that come out of your mouth? Is there one thing that you say more readily than another?
At night, my wife and I, we lay out here and look at the stars and then we do a little prayer to the universe. I thank the universe for being able to have everything and meet everybody. Do you know Brother David? He had The Gratefulness Institute. He’s a monk. He lives in Argentina now. It’s called The Gratefulness Institute and he talks about gratefulness. It’s amazing. He’s 95 years old and he’s an incredible human being.
The science is fascinating. I appreciated this conversation. Thank you for being a guest.
Thanks Adam. I appreciate being on your show. This is great.
Nigel, thank you for being a guest on the show.
Thank you, Adam.
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