When I graduated from college, instead of getting a job or going to graduate school, I decided to take a year off, follow the Grateful Dead and work a ski season in Aspen. Prompted by my mentor to make the trip more meaningful, I decided when I wasn’t following the Grateful Dead and working a ski season, I’d call up the most powerful people in the world and take them out for a cup of coffee.
The reason: To find out what values they’ve lived by, the struggles they’ve endured and what advice and counsel they’d give to me and my generation to better prepare ourselves for the road ahead.
Fueled with optimism and driven by curiosity, my Golden Retriever Jack and I jumped into my bright, yellow Volkswagen camper bus and we hit the road.
One thing that prevents people from going on great adventures is that nobody wants to appear foolish. But for me, too late!
Being willing to appear foolish and having the courage to speak my commitment into the world a portal of possibility opened up and I jumped right through.
The great American writer, John Steinbeck, said, “Sometimes you take a trip and sometimes the trip takes you.” Well, this trip took me well beyond anything I could have imagined possible.
How I funded my adventure? I would pull into rest stops and sell "Sexy, kind, grilled cheese sandwiches, made with love, for one dollar!"
Guess what? People actually bought my sandwiches and after they discovered what I was I up to, they’d not only give me a dollar for my grilled cheese, they’d give me two dollars, five dollars, twenty dollars... One time I even got a fifty dollar bill once for two pieces of bread and some cheese! Now that’s what a college education is all about: learning how to market fifty dollar grilled cheese sandwiches!!
Not only did people give me more money than my sandwiches were worth, they also told me where I could go, in a good way. Places to visit, monuments to see... But here’s the most serendipitous thing that happened: random people I just met on the side of the road over grilled cheese sandwiches, began giving me the names and numbers of some of the most amazing people in the world and encouraged me to go interview them. I was given names of presidents, poets, artists, CEO’s, community activists, farmers, Olympic athletes, astronauts, teachers and rock stars.
Needless to say, a wonderous and life-altering door opened up and I soon realized I wasn’t just meeting amazing people; I was capturing the living oral history of some of the most phenomenal people on the planet.
On my travels, at first, all I had with me was a still camera and a journal. As the journey unfolded, I began sharing with others the quality of my conversations with these amazing people, and I was soon encouraged to buy a video camera and begin documenting my adventures.
Another thing I had learned while out on the road is what separates those who achieve greatness from those who do not. Some people believe its communication skills, or having a clear vision, or being tenacious, finishing what you start. All those are essential qualities and characteristics to be successful for sure. In addition, one super important quality which is often times overlooked is ones ability to ask others for help.
It's unfortunate that we’ve become such a culture addicted to looking good, believing you need to "fake it until you make it", "never let them see you sweat" and "only raise your hand when you’re sure". Most people believe asking others for help is a sign of weakness. It’s not. It’s a sign of strength.
Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth, said, "How do you know when you are following your bliss? The invisible hands kick in and begin to guide and maneuver you in helpful ways."
I’m happy to report that my summer vacation became my vocation. My dog and I lived in my VW bus and spent close to four years traveling around the country. Along the way we picked up three other travelers. The four of us bought a video camera and a book on how to use the camera.
We also discovered we needed a boom pole to capture sound. They were way too expensive and since we couldn’t afford one, we headed the wise words of Eleanore Roosevelt who said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” So we went to Home Depot, bought a $12.95 light-bulb-changer, a $50 microphone and a roll of Duct-Tape. Voila! Boompole!!!
Our team traveled from coast-to-coast, shot over 500 hundred hours footage, interviewed over 200 of the most extraordinary people on the planet. Got a development deal from Walt Disney Studios which helped turn our road-tripping adventure into an award winning feature film. We made a short film first and sold that at the Sundance Film Festival. Our feature film won South By Southwest (SXSW) and several other film festivals, played in theaters to sold out shows and standing ovations, led to appearances on the Today Show, CNN and we have been written up in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. We just finished our first book Live In Wonder: Quests, Quotes and Questions to Jumpstart Your Journey, created an inspirational clothing line and now have the privilege of writing this note to you.
After taking this odyssey, people alway ask me, "What did you learn?"
I learned that extraordinary people Live In Wonder.
That means to live in the awe, the marvel, the astonishment and to say "yes" to the great mystery of life unfolding... This is to Live In Wonder!
When you Live In Wonder – you’re open, curious and grateful for everything, no exceptions. All your senses are awake. Your life is an adventure. You are completely paying attention and present, like a warrior, you’re keenly aware of your surroundings. Your smell, taste, touch and sound – all your senses – are heightened.
That way when the portal of possibility opens up in your life, you’ll know it and jump right through.
When you live in wonder, the world is refreshing, exciting and new. Anybody know what’s going to happen next? I sure don’t and that’s what makes life so fascinating.
So let's do our part to enhance the world. If more people live in wonder, then more people are getting up excited and going to bed fulfilled. And if more people are fulfilled, then the world is a better place.
I believe there are no ordinary people out there unless they themselves agree to be that. All of us have direct access to being extraordinary right now by simply being in the wonder of the moment, of what's right in front of them. There is no where to get to, no one to become 'someday'. We are all extraordinary human beings, right now in this moment being exactly who we are.
In fact Oscar Wilde said it best, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Life’s a journey... Live In Wonder!