Ego as an Early Motivation in my Activism

ActivismIntentional LivingLiving in Service and VolunteeringOff the Grid Across the USAPersonalRobin’s Transformation

I’ve got to get something out of my mind and onto paper…

I’ve never really discussed this before, just with some close friends. What I’m doing now, trying to make Earth a better place, seems really virtuous. Maybe really pure. But it didn’t start that way. It really started being all about me.

As a child, I recall yearning for acceptance

As a child, I recall yearning for acceptance. I wasn’t popular and I had low self-esteem. I thought some really stupid stuff. I remember in elementary school thinking I had a fat butt. I hated my glasses and cried about them often. I was ashamed of being poor. Ashamed of my mom’s rusty car. Ashamed of the flaking paint on the duplex I grew up in on 3rd Street West in Ashland, Wisconsin.

I lied about my dad, who was mostly absent, telling everyone who asked that he was an inventor. Nobody ever met him, barring a few friends for a few moments. I never had anyone over to my house. I grew up so self-conscious and so embarrassed. In middle school, I really started to try to be cool, though and spent a lot of my hard-earned money on clothes so that I’d fit in. I did start to fit in and by eighth grade some girls actually started to like me. I was always a show-off. I enjoyed it. I really loved to make people laugh, which is why my “Senior Most” was Class Clown. But I think that was largely about acceptance. It was all about getting girls to like me. I wanted to be popular.

Starting Fresh in College

I guess all that actually worked after years of trying. I went to college a virgin. (Not by choice, but because I had never been successful at getting a girl to sleep with me.)

But I started completely fresh in college. I lost my virginity a week into freshman year and became quite the ladies’ man. Chasing the ladies became my favorite hobby at college. It was fun, but it was also largely about acceptance. I was showing off to the guys and proving to myself that women wanted me.

I traveled around the world a lot in college and people were impressed by that. I worked hard during my summers, making close to $20,000 each summer and I impressed people with that. I had a nice car that I washed every week to impress people. I did as much to impress other people as I did for myself. But I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it or I wasn’t happy. I loved it all. I had a great time.

Around junior year, I did get sick of binge drinking and blacking out, and I knew there were better things in life, but I still enjoyed it.

After college, I traveled the world a lot more, but things started to get more genuine. I wandered in jungles alone in Borneo and went on self-guided safaris in Kenya. I searched out places where I would be the only outsider. I searched for authenticity and real experiences. But I was always telling the story to myself as it unfolded to relay it to friends upon my return. I guess that’s the entertainer and storyteller in me, fueled by a desire to impress.

Learning About Our Destructive Ways as a Humanity

Then I moved to California to start a new life. I started to learn what we are currently doing to Earth. How our daily lives cause destruction all over the world. How we’re poisoning our air and water, killing off thousands of species of animals and unjustly treating our fellow humans through our over-consumption and complete lack of responsibility for our actions.

Changing My Life

I decided I was going to lead by example and do something about it. So I analyzed nearly every aspect of my life and over a few years changed my ways from simple things like switching to reusable bags and shopping at farmers’ markets to bigger things like selling my car and eating a mostly whole foods diet.

I actually did this for reasons beyond myself, for reasons beyond impressing others. I genuinely wanted to lead by example in a more sustainable way, living for the benefit of Earth, the human race and all the other creatures that call this place home.

Fueled by Attention and Ego

But I was also fueled by the positive feedback from others and the admiration people gave me for leading by example. I had some wild adventures that people paid attention to and really complimented me for. That’s often what kept me going, because making these changes is not always easy. It was much easier though with the approval of others and all the compliments.

Becoming an Adventurer for the Planet

Then in Spring 2013, I decided I was going to really go for it. I decided I was going to do what I really loved and present myself as a professional adventurer. I made a plan to get famous with many short-term and long-term goals to make this happen.

But it was all in the name of making the world a better place…to teach people how individual actions matter and how to lead lives that are much less damaging to Earth. Very genuine, my heart was in the right place. But what really fueled me most was my ego, my drive for success and, I think, for fame.

So I came up with my first big trip – Off the Grid Across the USA – a 4,700 mile bike ride across the US. I was certain I’d get the media to cover the trip and get many people to see it. Even though I’d never been on the news before and I had started my website just a few months before, I was completely certain.

Sure enough, I got the San Diego News to cover my departure. Throughout the trip, I got better and better with media. My following on social media grew consistently throughout the 104 day adventure. My posts on Facebook grew from getting a handful of likes to dozens of likes to hundreds and my head grew, too. I was self-promoting for hours and hours, talking about myself constantly.

I had my friend, Brent, follow me to make a documentary of the journey and he told me at least half a dozen times that I was “the most selfish person in the world”. I was extremely selfish with him. But, what he had a hard time understanding is that it was all a strategy for me.

I was a salesman for seven years before this adventure and pretty well understood what I was doing. I knew that Americans wanted charisma and confidence, so I had to exude that in order to get people to listen to me and, in turn, learn about these environmental issues. So I really was doing it for something greater than myself. But that didn’t prevent my ego from growing and my feeling of self-importance expanding inside my head.

Success in the Media

My first major campaign was a huge success. I started out by paying a few people via a website called Fiverr to write about it and by the end, was in some pretty solid media outlets and lots of newspapers and news stations. When I got back to San Diego, I started to fire off activism campaigns and became more fine-tuned with media.

In December, just four months after that bike trip, my success in the media grew. By Summer 2014, I was able to get the news to cover my actions with the Food Waste Fiasco in every city I pulled into, often without my even needing to make a call. Some days I did as many as six different media stories.

My strategy of firing off as much as I could seems to have worked, too. I picked up a book deal, have a documentary in the works and it is nearly certain that I’ll have a TV show on one of the world’s largest networks in the very near future. That’s good news.

The plan to get the media to listen to me worked, pretty much on schedule. The plan for book deals, documentaries and TV shows is all happening. And I did it all while focusing almost 100% on environmental and social issues, largely fueled by my own desire for success and my own ego.

Learning Strategy for Reaching People

I’ve learned that the best way to connect with people is through stories – people’s stories. I knew the best way to reach people was to make it about myself – draw people to me and, while the attention was on me, direct the attention to what actually matters. I knew that once I built myself up as a voice that people cared to hear, I’d have a long-term platform to be in front of people, talking about things that really matter.

The good news is that I only lost myself for a little while in this quest. For about a year, starting in Spring 2013, my ego grew, but throughout, I practiced compassion, understanding and empathy and I got better with time.

Dropping the Ego

By early 2014, I was able to pretty much drop that ego and now I believe myself to be the most humble that I’ve ever been. I see time and time again that the best way to inspire people about a cause is by putting the attention on me, but I’ve managed to learn that I’m merely a vessel for the message. To the untrained eye, it may seem that I think it’s about me (and in 2013 that would have been correct), but now it’s often a sacrifice I’m making when I make it about me, because I’ve learned how minuscule I am, how little I actually matter in the grand scheme of things. I am one in seven billion and our species is just one in around nine million. That’s all happening on a planet that is “just a mote of dust” (Carl Sagan).

So, I wanted to acknowledge to all of you that my motives did largely start off as being all about me. But I have grown past that stage of my life. I think my ego has grown for the last time. I know that my work and my message will escalate over the next few years. But I promise to all of you that with more “fame” and success, I will only become more humble and more focused on others over myself. My goal is to become more humble each year that I am alive and, if that is not the case, please remind me of my promise.

My work is genuinely for the betterment of humanity and to have positive impacts on Earth. I will enjoy the success and take pride in it. But I promise to be merely a vessel of goodwill with hopes to spread as much good as I can in the short period of time I have left here.

I promise to remain truthful, to become more genuine over time, to act on the needs of Earth, not just my own and to lead by positive example whether on TV, hanging out with you or in private.

In fact, I don’t even really want the attention on me at this point. I just want to spend time with my girlfriend and my best friends. I just want to live simply, focus on health and happiness and spend time in nature.

But I’ve got an opportunity to help a lot of people through TV, media and writing, so I’m going to do that. It seems like the only right thing for me to do. The more I practice the virtues that I want to model, the more I become them. I want to live a life in service to others and I’m finding that the more I do that, the more my life truly becomes that and the further away that initial ego stoking fades. My motivations are truly becoming purer with time simply by practicing exactly what it is that I want to be. This purity I find to be quite wonderful and also quite motivating to continue down this path.

There was a time when my actions were not in alignment with my beliefs. But simply by making that alignment and sticking to it, now here I am in alignment.

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