Ben Nemtin - Rethinking Your Bucket List

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Brian Lord:

I'm Brian Lord, your host of the Beyond Speaking Podcast. Our guest today is Ben Nemtin. Back 15 years ago, he and three of his childhood friends started The Buried Life in Victoria, British Columbia. Basically, they said they made this list of a hundred things they wanted to do before they died. And for every item that they accomplished, they help a complete stranger, accomplish one of their dreams as well. Since then, they've crossed off, "write a number-one New York Times bestseller," "make a TV show"- which ran on ESPN, "be interviewed by Oprah," and they've even helped reunite a father and son after 17 years apart and surprise a young girl with a much-needed bionic arm. Ben and his friends have crossed off 91 of the 100 dreams and are currently filming The Buried Life documentary film. Ben, thank you so much for joining us here on the Beyond Speaking Podcast.

Ben Nemtin:

Yeah. Thanks, Brian. Appreciate it.

Brian Lord:

So 2020- we're at the beginning of 21- 2021. Now at 2020 was a crazy year. How many of your items were you able to cross off in a year like 2020?

Ben Nemtin:

Well, definitely none of the ones that were involved traveling overseas, you know, but I, I was, I was able to do something that I've been wanting to do for a while, which is visit some of the national parks and road trip to Zion, road trip to the Arches National Park, which is in Moab and just got to explore some of those, some of those places that I had always wanted to do, but I never really had the time. And so just those things that were within driving distance got to spend some more time at home with friends, family, that type of thing, which was some of the silver linings.

Brian Lord:

So how did all this start? Where did you come across this Buried Life poem? So this for, you know, backing up- If you just want to tell the quick version of the story, this all started with a poem.

Ben Nemtin:

It did. And in fact, it started with 150-year-old poem written by an old English poet named Matthew Arnold and my friends and I were all feeling the same feelings of discontent. We felt like we weren't doing the things we really wanted to do. And this is when we were in university. In fact, I was actually quite depressed at this point in my life. And I knew I needed to make some changes. And so the four of us got together. We wrote this bucket list of all the things we'd always want to do in our life. We pretended anything was possible. We pretended that we had the ability to do anything and we named our mission, The Buried Life because this old poem that my friend was assigned to an English class, articulated this feeling of feeling buried, you know, like we had all of these dreams, but they were all buried by the day-to-day. And so we hit the road to cross off as many lists items as we could. And we also that we were going to help strangers. We met along the way, accomplish things on their bucket list. And so this was a two week road trip. In 2006, we bought an RV, we got a camera on eBay. We beg, borrow and stole to get this thing together. So we could save up enough money throughout the summer by working extra jobs so that we could hit the road and go after our list. And then what happened that was actually totally unexpected was that strangers started to hear about our list and they wanted to help and they would send us emails, be like, "I saw your list. You know, I saw number nine, 'ride a bull.' My uncle has a bull ranch and can get you on a bull" or "I saw 'make a toast to at a stranger's wedding.' My best friend's getting married. I'm the best man. I can get you in." People dreams asking for our help. So we got hundreds and hundreds of dreams blowing into our inbox through this website that we had built by hand and asking for help to accomplish their dreams. And we thought, wow, we got to keep doing this. You know, this was supposed to be a two-week road trip. Maybe we should do this again next summer. And that sparked this ultimately 10 year plus journey where we were able to cross off list items that we initially thought were completely impossible. You know, we had no business doing any of these things, but we proved to ourselves over time that you actually can.

Brian Lord:

So for you, I'm curious what was the best item that you crossed off your list? And then, which is the one that most people would think was the most boring, but maybe it's more exciting than they think?

Ben Nemtin:

The best was playing basketball with President Obama at the White House because we got surprised by him on the White House basketball courts. We had been trying for months and months and months to make it happen. We got so many nos and we had accepted defeat and we kind of got invited to a tour of the White House as a consolation because they told us it couldn't happen. And then while we were on the the White House, basketball courts, he strolled on the court. And that was so impactful for me because I, I remember writing this on the list and, and just knowing that this was never going to happen, you know, the most impossible thing I could ever think of doing and here I was seeing it with my own eyes and, and that changed my core belief system to really kind of understand, wow, I guess anything's possible. You know, and, and moving forward when, you know, I'm faced with some challenge I think, well not, "can I do it?" "Do I want to do it?" And, and this sort of shift has, has, has impacted my life in a major way. And that's kind of the, the hope is that when I speak to two audiences that it, I can convey that I'm no different than them. They have that same ability to prove that these things are possible, that they can live those, you know, those buried dreams and do those things that are ultimately just going to allow them to live their best life and perform at their highest level at work and in every aspect of their life.

Brian Lord:

I'm curious to know, and this is like, if you're in the entertainment business long enough and you play sports, I play basketball moderately well. You end up playing with celebrities sometimes. Were you afraid that you were going to like post them up and like, get him, give him a bloody nose or just have a bad pass or something like that where you kind of freaking out the whole time?

Ben Nemtin:

Yeah. And we knew that there were Secret Service in the bushes. You know, you kind of go for the block where you're, you're not fully extended with your arm. You know, you you definitely are aware. The thing was so amazing about president Obama is he's so disarming and he so cool. You know, he's like you're in high school when you have a friend whose dad is just the coolest dad and you end up hanging out with the dad instead of the friend, because the best person? That was President Obama, times a hundred, you just could, he was so genuine and you immediately forgot that he was the leader of the free world. And we were joking with them. You know, we were trying to, we were trash-talking, trying to hit shots that he wasn't hitting. And it was, it was, it was incredible, but yeah, I did make sure that I didn't, you know, I kept my elbows in.

Brian Lord:

No fouls. We're just going to let everybody go. Sounds good. So what's kinda the first step for somebody to unbury their dreams?

Ben Nemtin:

It's important to recognize it's not selfish to have personal goals. And I actually believe it's service because when you're doing the things that you love, you are more alive, you have more energy. And so it affects all aspects of your, of your life. So we all get buried by the day-to-day, it's just a human condition. And our personal goals are the, the first thing to get pushed till tomorrow. Right? And if you look the research, most people on their death bed, they don't regret the things they did. They regret the things that they didn't do. And this is because of two reasons. Number one, when it comes to our personal goals, there's no accountability. We don't have deadlines, so we push them. Whereas the rest of our life, we have deadlines and, and, and so something always pops up. That's more important than we push our personal goals. The other thing that we we face is that we wait to feel inspired to go after those personal goals. And, and typically that inspiration doesn't just hit us out of the blue, but you can create inspiration by taking action. So by taking small steps towards your goal, even if you don't know how you're going to achieve that end result, those initial small steps are to build inspiration. So you're the architect of your own inspiration through action. So this awareness of, okay, it's, it's okay for me to have personal goals. In fact, it's going to allow me to do my job better, right? I'm you can't take care of other people if you don't take care of yourself. So that goes for your family, that goes for your clients that goes for your colleagues. So you're filling up your own gas tank by doing these things that you love. And then it's thinking, okay, what are those things? Let's identify them. And let's start to build some accountability and let's start to build inspiration through action.

Brian Lord:

That's interesting. It's almost like guilt is one of the things. So it's part of it's time, but also part of it is, is guilt. Have you run into a lot of people who have guilt about following their dreams?

Ben Nemtin:

A hundred percent. You know, we all, we all know people that consistently are givers, put other people in front of their own wellbeing, and that's an incredible quality if it doesn't have a negative effect on your own health. So, you know, I think that it's also important to forget everything that you know about a bucket list. And there's a bucket list. Typically when we think of bucket lists, we think adventure, we think travel, we think big, big goals. My definition of a bucket list is just anything that's going to bring you joy and happiness. And that's different for everyone that could be going for a walk every day that could be climbing Everest. That could be spending more time with your dog. The point is in today's world, we're just so overstimulated. So we need to take some time to think about what those things are. We want to write them down because that builds accountability, right? That's one step towards your goal and you identify those things that are important to you. And then we start to say, okay, how can I carve out time to move towards those things that are going to bring me that joy and bring me that happiness knowing that it's not selfish, these are, these are important. You know, these are going to allow me to, to do what I do.

Brian Lord:

You know, when the time we're living in here at, you know, this 2020, 2021 where not that that life hasn't been stressful before, but it's been amped up it seems like. What is the role of this play for mental health and resilience in this time?

Ben Nemtin:

So for someone who has personally struggled with depression, you know, a few times in my life through those bouts of downs, I've learned habits that I know are good for me. And I think it's important that we all know the things that fill us up and the things that allow us to navigate those ups and downs. So for me, you know, one of those things is purpose. That's why a bucket list is so important because that identifies those things that are you truly love, and that can bring you that happiness. And then there's things like gratitude. There's things like sleep. There's things like connection, you know, talking about those struggles that you're going through. Things like getting out in nature that just, just gives you that feeling of wellbeing. And so I like to think of that as my resilience toolkit and their habits that I implement to live my best self, or just be able to perform, or just navigate the ups and downs of life. But I, you know, even beyond these habits, if we step and just say, look, we're all human beings. Humans have ups and humans have downs, and that's the human experience. And that's okay. And now during the pandemic, when feelings of depression and anxiety have risen, you know, upwards of 400%, this is something that affects all of us, even if it's not us that are just going through something like that. It's something that a friend, a family member is going through. And so we just have to know that it's okay to talk about it. And it talk about with someone that you care about talk about it with a therapist, you know, reach out to your HR professionals to see what resources you have. And so I always like to highlight the benefits and the resources that are available and just say, look, there's no shame in accessing these. And in fact, I take strength to show that vulnerability and ask for help and it, and that ultimately allows you to grow and be a better human being and, and be a better professional.

Brian Lord:

Where did the idea come from to not just knock things off your own lists, but help other people knock things off their own bucket lists?

Ben Nemtin:

Well, it was always part of the project from day one. And I think we thought that we were going to need help from other people to accomplish our dreams, because there's no way we could have done any of them without the help of other people. And so we thought let's help others do the things they want to do as a way of paying that back, you know, and paying that forward. And what I've learned from that is even with these large list items that we've accomplished, you know, have a beer with Prince Harry, write a number one New York times, bestseller sit with Oprah. It's been the times when we've helped someone else achieve that thing that means so much to them that I know will stick with me until I die. You know, that's just something that resonates and it has this larger ripple effect. And so, as I reflect on this, this journey, there's this idea of a ripple effect has become something that I think is, is really a pillar of truth. And it, it's, it's kind of an inspiring idea because it proves that one person can create an incredible impact because when you help one person, you're, it's not a one-to-one relationship, you're actually helping the people in their life and the people that care about them and, and the people that are connected to them, their family, their friends, and you may not know what that impact is, but it's very real. And so you create this chain of events that is positive. So every action has a reaction, and we all have the power to create those positive ripples, whether that's inside our team and inside our organization, or, you know, if you think about the core purpose of what you do every day, how does that impact people? And yes, you may get bogged down by the day-to-day. Yes, there may be more stresses and challenges due to COVID, but you're doing it because you're creating that positive impact that will reverberate on. And so reminding people of that impact as a way to re-energize them around the purpose of what they're doing every day, or just out small, positive actions, like a smile, a compliment, you know, a random act of kindness can actually create that ripple effect is, is extremely powerful. It's just a good reminder, especially these days when it's almost overwhelming. When you think about all the things that might need to be all the negativity at times, and you think, well, "What can I do to make an impact?" Well, you can make an impact because of this ripple effect.

Brian Lord:

So obviously you want to take care of yourself first, but then there's also kind of the role that you might have as a spouse or as a parent or a friend, how do you help other people create their bucket list or their Buried Life list?

Ben Nemtin:

Take 20 to 30 minutes to sit down and some quiet time and think about all the things that you've ever wanted to do. And those can be big. Those can be small. Think about anything. That's going to bring you happiness and joy. And then start to look at, if you let's say came across a genie and the genie said, Hey, I'm going to help you achieve one thing on your list. But by doing that one thing, you can't do anything else on your list. What would that be? Right. So you choose the most important thing on your list and you start to carve out time to take small steps towards that. So you identify, what's the first thing you can do to go after that thing. And then you protect time in your day or in your week where you can pursue that. And yes, things will pop up that are going to feel more important, but you gotta, you gotta, you gotta remember your future self lying on your deathbed and ask your future self "Will I regret not doing this?" And if the answer is yes, then this is really important to you. And so whether that's you know, blocking out in your calendar, whether that's getting an accountability buddy, like a spouse or friend to check in on you, so you can try and create accountability where that's just sharing that with your community, so that you feel accountable to them, because you've said, I'm going to do this or creating some sort of reward system so that when you do it, you actually reward yourself and you feel good. You know, like if you want to get in better shape, you know, you reward yourself after that workout, you make it fun. You make it easy. Whatever you can do to create accountability, to take those small steps towards those things, knowing that it's not selfish, it's actually service. You know, that, that's kind of the first thing that I'll ask people to do is sit down, write your lesson, identify the really important things.

Brian Lord:

Now this, a lot of times people think when they think of these things, you mentioned this, that it's not just the adventure. It, it can apply to all different parts of your life. And one of those is people within the corporate realm. So some people say, "Oh, I'm going to quit my job. And I'm just going to live on the road" or whatever it might be. How does this exist within, you know, for people who want to keep, you know, who want to work in a corporate setting and business setting? How can you apply these principles to that?

Ben Nemtin:

Yeah. And I mean, it's I think that the misconception is that if you encourage your team to go after their dreams, then they'll leave. I get, I get that. But if you look at the, at the research, it actually doesn't happen that often. In fact, the, the real effect is that if you create an environment where people feel like they can be their true self and feel fulfilled, they don't want to leave, but you don't want to leave an environment where you're encouraged to do those things and be that true version of yourself. And yes, some people may leave, but the thing is you, they don't want to be there. You may not want them being there in the first place. So you, you can see that, like there's a knee-jerk might be fear, but you look at some of these companies like Google, Intel, Lululemon, you know, MRY agency, all these bigger companies that are, have this rich culture and this is sort of their philosophy. You look at the book, The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly, you know, same philosophy investing in your team. And that's really what you're doing. You're investing in the full person, because we all have dreams. That's something that connects us all. So whether you acknowledge them or not, they're still going to be there. So when you just show that you care enough about them to inquire about your team's personal goals, that goes a long way. You don't have to fulfill them just by just showing up and saying, "Hey, I know running a marathon is on your bucket list. How's training coming?" You know, that will go a long way. You can check in on your professional goals and your personal goals, you know, so that's sort of from a leader's perspective if you can identify those goals and, and the next step would be create some sort of accountability by checking in on them, then ultimately going to drive your team to achieve those personal goals that are, they'll equate that success to the their work environment. So that's powerful. If you're, you know, working in a nine to five, and you're thinking of how do I make time? Where, how is this going to bring value to my performance and my professional journey? Well if you're able to identify those things that are going to fill you up and bring you that happiness and joy, and you're able to move towards those things that ultimately will have a big impact on your success and your, in, in your professional journey, right? This is about personal development to improve your life and progress you along the path of your professional journey. So either way you slice it, it has this, this great impact. I think that, you know, these personal pursuits, whatever they may be, you know, whether they're a creative endeavor or it's some sort of exploration of yourself, they can come in many different forms. And there's 12 categories of life. It's not just adventure and travel. It's intellectual. And what do you want to learn? It's spiritual, it's emotional. What fears do you want to overcome? If it's professional, what professional goals do you have? Material. It's okay to have material bucket list items you want to buy that, watch go, you know, go for it. You want to get that house on the beach, right on, you know, giving back, what are the goals you have, what you want to actually make an impact in someone else's life. So when you're writing your bucket list, it should be a, a well-rounded full reflection of all aspects of your life. And it's like, you're turning yourself inside out and just showing all those things that you've ever wanted to do. And you need to write them down because you will forget about them. You will push them and you will regret not doing them, or at least trying when you reach the end of your life.

Brian Lord:

So, which was the most fun between Obama, Oprah and Prince Harry?

Ben Nemtin:

Well, probably I think probably President Obama, it was we, I just don't know where I'd ever thought it would ever happen. And that was the first, the big domino to fall. And, and from there Oprah was huge because my mom came and I think that she was a, the first time she probably took what we were doing seriously. But, and then the Prince Harry experience was just the, just awesome. It was just the, you know, one of the, it just felt like we were just hanging out with an old friend. It was, it was really great to be able to spend some time and we ended up, you know, not just having a beer, but having dinner and and hanging out with him for a while. So, you know, I think that all of them were really pretty special in their own, in their own way.

Brian Lord:

So you've got 91 out of a hundred. What is the hardest one, which do you think would be the hardest one to do out of the last nine?

Ben Nemtin:

Go to space?

Brian Lord:

Getting easier though.

Ben Nemtin:

Go to space or grow a mustache? Yeah, probably go to space. That's the one that, you know, we'd like to finish the documentary with. And I think it's also important to know, or to note that, you know, yes, we've done 91 of a hundred, but I've also added hundreds of list items to my list. And, you know, if you think about your list as a living, breathing document, you know, or a reflection of the things that are important to you, then ultimately that's going to change as you grow. So you want to check back in on your list every, you know, quarter, twice a year, look at the things that you've written say, "Okay, do I still want to do these? Are there new items? Do I not want to do that anymore?" And that's the process that I think allows you to keep on top of those things that are important to you. And so, you know, th that's, that's something that I always like to mention because, you know, the things that I had on my list when it's 10, 15 years ago, and they're not in the same things anymore, I do not want to do that anymore. I'm not interested, you know, but I, at the time that those are things that, that we wanted to do and, and that's changed and now, you know, the goals are different and that's okay. And so no goal or bucket list item is any greater than any other bucket list item because it's a moonshot because it's a big dream. No, it's, it's, it's important because you value it and you want to, to move towards that. And that's the only thing that matters. And so when you, when you're, when you're thinking about your list, boil it down to that and, you know, do a bucket list with your family. You know, I've heard numerous stories of people sending me lists that they create a summer bucket list with their kids, all the things they wanted to do, you know, with their kids in the summer. A spouse list, things that they want to do together, you know, that's great because then you have accountability and you've, you, you can use each other to drive each other forward. And so, you know, this can manifest in many different ways. I just think that the act of writing it down is important because you're 42% more likely to achieve your goal just by writing it down. And then you're 77% more likely to achieve your goal if you have someone checking in with you down the line, so it can take anything away from this conversation, just so you can greatly increase your chances of success, of achieving those goals that are important to you by writing it down and by sharing it. And specifically, you know, sharing with people that are going to check in with you down the line, and then you checked off those two things that really stop us, right? The accountability piece, and taking, waiting to feel inspired to go after these things. And you can sort of get, get a jump on the game.

Brian Lord:

Great. Well, Ben, thank you so much for joining us here on the Beyond Speaking Podcast. And thanks also from Premiere Speakers and National Speakers. For those listening, you can check out Ben's information at premierespeakers.com and nationalspeakers.com, and of course the Beyond Speaking Podcast. So, so Ben, thank you so much for, for joining us.

Ben Nemtin:

Thank you, Brian. Thanks for having me. And hopefully I'll see you in person one day!

Brian Lord:

Yes, yes! Looking forward to seeing you again. Thanks Ben.

Outro:

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Beyond Speaking is hosted by Brian Lord and produced by Eric Woodie

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