Being tenacious, creative and authentic is what pulls clients in and say yes to your pitch. Sebastian Terry has been all three since he was 24 when he started listing 100 things he wanted to do to find himself. From invading a red carpet event to helping a complete stranger deliver her baby, Sebastian’s passion is inspiring other’s passion as well. Because he had a healthy internal conversation with himself, Sebastian saw what he stood for.
Our guest on The Successful Pitch is Sebastian Terry, the author of 100 Things: What’s On Your List? He has an incredible story of a life changing event that happened to him and realized he wasn’t happy and decided to do something about it. Created a list of things he wanted to do in order to be happy, and then figured out how to do them. Everything from getting on a red carpet to being there when the baby gets born. He has several obstacles that he overcame. The life lessons for you as an entrepreneur are just seeing what it takes to be authentic, find your passion and then whatever you have to do to make your dream come true. He is a living example of how he makes that happen. He has incredible insights as to what makes someone happy. If you’re not doing something that makes you happy, ultimately your business will not be successful. Enjoy the episode.
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100 Things To Do Before You Die with Sebastian Terry
I am thrilled to have Sebastian Terry who’s calling in all the way from Sydney, Down Under, Australia. I was lucky enough to hear him talk at an event called METal, and he blew everyone’s socks off. Literally, he himself likes to go barefoot so he already started off in a great way. He has this great line about, “In case of an emergency, oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling and you have to put yours on first before you can help others.” He really has learned to live that philosophy. He’s known worldwide for pursuing an incredible list of 100 things he wants to achieve before he dies. His story is not only about a bucket list. That’s what people think it is. It’s something far more reaching and is about connection and growth. What actually happened was he has always been curious, and a close friend of his passed away. That’s when he did this whole check in going, “Am I happy?” The answer was no. He wrote down 100 things he wanted to do. He followed his heart and this list, and he has just gone on all these amazing adventures.
Before he got to the 100 things, he realized that just ticking things off really wasn’t enough and now, he’s got this wonderful thing called 100 Things that acts as a conduit introducing people who need help to those who are willing to help. It just is something that I’m thrilled about. He’s turning it into a bestselling book, the Discovery Channel is doing a documentary on 100 Things To Do Before You Die. There’s just so much that he’s doing and one of those things includes marrying a stranger in Las Vegas. Welcome to the show, Sebastian.
Thanks very much. That’s a lot to live up to.
You have done it and are doing it. I just love the transition of, “Am I happy with my life? Life is too short, I just realized that. Then I’m going to do these things.” Then, yet again another pivot as they call it in the startup world, “I’m going to make this not just about me but other people.” Those are the elements of your story. Let’s start at the very beginning, your story of origin. Paint a picture for us before your friend died of what your life was, what you thought it was going to be, and what caused you to realize you weren’t happy.
[Tweet “100 Things To Do Before You Die”]
I guess I’ve never really thought about it. I was just following that conventional road that we tend to. I went to school, I finished school. I’ve taught at the university, so I did. I came out three and a half years later with a degree in something, but I felt very underwhelmed. I didn’t feel I knew who I was. In-depth to that point and in our searching for something of meaning, I ended up just backpacking overseas like many of us do until I was 24. Up until that point, I was just doing the things that I was told which is very common. We’re children at one point and we learn to do the things that we’re told. I was in Canada at 24 and that is when I received a phone call one night. It was from a good friend of mine back in Sydney. He delivered the tragic news that one of my closest mates growing up, a guy called Chris had passed away. It was a very sudden thing, an accidental moment and tragically, he lost his life. It rocked the community but for me in Canada, I guess I was left there by myself just pondering a lot of questions. “Why am I here? What am I doing?” All those questions that we tend to ask in those moments. The more I thought about it, the less clarity I had on anything. The one thing that stuck with me was just the notion of, “If Chris somehow knew that he only had 24 years on Earth, would he have changed the way he lived his life? If given another chance, would he live the same way or would he change? Ultimately, was he happy?”
I thought about it a lot and the more I thought about that. The conclusion I came to at least was that I don’t think he would actually change anything if he was given another chance. I think he lived a life that was very true to him. He loved the beaches. He loved his mates. He loved having a beer. All the things he did that were just very resonant with him. He knew his values, his principles, what he stood for. I thought, “A life far too short but one well lived.” I then turned that concept to myself at 24 in Canada. I just simply asked, “If today was my last day, looking back at my life, could I say that I wouldn’t change a thing? Am I happy ultimately?” It was almost instantly that I suddenly realized that I was actually really unhappy. I was just doing things that people had told me to do including even backpacking around the world. Everyone did it so I just copied. At 24 in Canada, I realized I didn’t know what I stood for. I didn’t know who I was and my values. That’s the moment that I picked up a piece of paper and a pen and I thought, “I’m going to write down a list of things that I think are going to make me happy and I think are going to help me uncover who I really am.” That was the beginning of my list of 100 things.
Was it hard coming up with 100 things or did you have more than 100?
I didn’t have more than 100. It took me a little while to get it all down on paper. I think we all have these ideas in the recesses of our mind. I actually hate the term bucket list. I think it’s very orientated around death. It’s a list of things that encompass my life and things I’d like to do. It very much is professional and it very much can be personal. Buying a house or starting a company or investing in this or that, it sits alongside proposing to someone or skydiving naked or marrying a stranger in Vegas, although I wouldn’t recommend that one. Actually I would if you’re up for a good time, you should do it. That’s the beauty of it. Everyone’s list is different. Even though it seems very quirky and outlandish, the list has certainly changed my life in the way I viewed it.
I’m now eight years down the track, having ticked off 72 things in this journey. I’m no longer in control of. It’s connected with a lot of different people around the world and it’s turned from this very self-indulgent journey where I make sure I do the things that I want to do. Now, it’s lending itself to a whole community of people who are being inspired to start their list. Now, what I do with probably 90% of my time is travel the world helping people with specific goals. True to the analogy you used at the beginning. I do think that life is very much like that emergency procedure they tell us on the plane. They do say, “In case of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.” If you think about that, that sounds quite selfish but I think in life, you have to have your oxygen mask on. You have to know who you are. You have to be feeding yourself so you can really understand who you are. At that point, the beautiful part of being selfish is you’ve been able to help others because you’re suddenly much more productive and you know who you are. That’s when you help others with their oxygen mask. It’s like this act that has happened very naturally over eight years. It wasn’t planned. I didn’t think anyone would ever hear about this. I never thought you’d be interviewing me when I started. I just wanted to smile more and it’s gone in a good direction.
[Tweet “Help others to make yourself happier”]
That’s a great line right there is that your initial intent instead of being famous or making a business out of something is to be happier, then you’re solving a problem for yourself. I find that time and again that any business that started with the intent to solve a problem that you personally are experiencing, that those tend to be the ones that have the most success and passion behind it whether they get funding or not. You’ve turned this into a business. It’s a book. If people go to 100Things.com.au, you can buy the t-shirts, you’ve turned it into a whole movement if you will. It’s really fantastic.
If people would go to my website, what I’d much prefer they do than buy a t-shirt is just start their list. I think it comes down to giving yourself permission to consider whatever it is that’s important to you, to consider your values and stuff. I’m not shy about this. It all happened very accidentally like from the show airing in America right now. It’s on go90. The Verizon product, it’s an app. To the books that you mentioned to list that and the others, I think you’re right. If you’re doing something authentically and genuinely for yourself because you actually think that it’s going to help you as a person, I’ve certainly found that it then has a potential to resonate with other people. Ultimately, passion inspires passion. If you can identify what it is you’re passionate about, I’ve certainly found myself that the world turns up to help you out. That’s why I’m here because people are good.
[Tweet “Passion inspires Passion”]
I found that to be true for myself and it’s amazing who shows up in your life to support you when you do show passion for something whether it’s getting a book done or there are connections to help you grow. Sebastian, one of the things on your list that you’ve checked off is crashing the red carpet. Since I’m in Los Angeles, that’s a dream I think of a lot of people. Would you mind sharing that story?
For me, I grow and I learn more about myself when I’m out of my comfort zone. A lot of my items are anchored to this me getting out of my comfort zone. I want to be on the red carpet mainly because it was a big challenge. I’m not wealthy, I’m not famous so I shouldn’t be there. The challenge was getting on there. I Googled red carpet events and the first one that popped up was the Cannes Film Festival at South of France. I researched that and I read that it was the more heavily attended event media-wise than the Oscars. I assume they’d have an amazing red carpet. I got my credit card out. I didn’t start with any money by the way. For anyone who thinks I’m just independently wealthy, I’m not.
I flew to the South of France. I basically tried everything to get on this red carpet. It was a couple of years ago now, but it was the first day. I got there and I tried to get media accreditation that failed. I tried to ask a few pretty ladies who were dressed up very elegantly for dates if I could be their plus one, and I was turned down. It’s a common theme in my life. I wore a sandwich board. I found a big bit of cardboard and I wrote, “Please give me a red carpet ticket.” As you would imagine, that didn’t work so I ended up hiring a tuxedo for I think it was about €80. I suddenly looked the part at least. I got right up to the corner or to the edge of the fence. There’s all these celebrities going past. I remember seeing Benicio del Toro, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kate Beckinsale who’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life. Then I saw Russell Crowe who is from this region of the world. He’s from New Zealand I think originally, although Australians try and claim him sometimes. He walked past me and I thought, “If I just make contact with him, he’ll help me.” I yelled out. I was like, “Russell, it’s me Sebastian.” He ignored me. He didn’t help at all.
My last resort was to quite simply crawl under the fence and walk across the road as if I belong there. Just to paint the picture, there were security guards along the perimeter of this fence every five to ten meters. There were hundreds of them. There were also the local gendarmerie which is the French police. They were just walking up and down looking after people. I just thought, “I’ve got no other option. I just have to try this now.” I waited for a moment when no one was looking at me and I ducked under the fence and I started strolling across the road. I put my hand up to my ear as if I had an earpiece in, I thought that would help. For some bizarre reason, nobody stopped me. My heart was pounding. I’m not confident doing these things. I’m just confident to attempt them, but I was in. My heart was pounding, I was sweating profusely. I somehow got across the road to the final security guard on the other side of the road. He was guarding a fence and if he had let me through, that would be me on the red carpet. He said a few words to me and I kept looking down at the ground. I didn’t make eye contact, I had my hand up to my ear. I just muttered something to him. I don’t know what I said because I was so scared. For whatever reason, he just let me passed. I went through the gate and suddenly, I was on the red carpet. I remember putting my right foot down and then my left foot and I ended up strolling on the carpet. I was euphoric. I don’t want to put too much of a point on it but I was elated. I felt like the most successful human that have ever faced our planet. John, we met and you know that’s not the case.
I think that’s the feeling everyone gets and everyone can get when you achieve a goal that’s meaningful to you. It reverts back to this question that I ask everyone, “What’s on your list? What are these things that are important to you?” It doesn’t have to be a red carpet. It could be something far more meaningful. It could be something far more meaningless. It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. It could be very simple. I think it all goes down to that moment when you give yourself permission to consider your goals. It comes down to a choice. You just have to try and action. On this occasion, I got on the red carpet. I was there for half an hour by the way. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t think I’d get that far. I ended up being the last person on the carpet. Almost everybody has left. Totally thousands of people were staring at me. The paparazzi all had their cameras on me. I ended up just walking back down to the fence line and not knowing what to do. I signed autographs for half an hour.
The elation you feel is pushing yourself past that comfort zone and then achieving something that seemed impossible. Once you’ve exercised that muscle whether it’s getting that dream employee or getting that dream client when you’ve had a successful pitch, now you have this amazing story to tell people and it just shows you have resilience and creativity and tenacity. That is how you pull people in to wanting to say yes to whatever else you want to do with your life. That’s a fantastic example. The other one that you told that really tugged at my heartstrings was one of the things on your list was delivering a baby. Can you tell us that story?
It’s a very abstract one but for me, I just wanted to see a human take its first breath on earth. That was just important to me. It was number 23 on my list. That is a long story but essentially I’ve got an email from a girl in Canada who had been following my journey online. She said, “I’m due with my second. If you come to Canada, you can help me deliver.” I simply said, “Yes.” I got my credit card out, I flew to her hometown in Canada which is actually named Regina, it’s the capital of Saskatchewan. I caught up with her for two and a half weeks. The baby was very late and then she ended up having an emergency delivery, and I missed the birth. The baby was very healthy which is great, but selfishly I thought, “I’m in this ugly named town and I’ve got no money. I don’t know anyone and I’ve got no baby to deliver.” What made matters worse was the fact that the Canadian media had started following my story. They asked me to do a morning breakfast TV interview the next morning live in the studio. I reluctantly said yes because I was really upset and I was embarrassed too because I hadn’t done what I wanted to do. I said yes and the next morning I was on the show. This has become a national story at this point somehow. I don’t know how but it had. This is beaming live to the country coast to coast.
The male anchor next to me, for whatever reason, just didn’t like me. He started off by saying, “Welcome, Sebastian. You must feel so silly.” I thought, “That’s more aggressive than I thought.” I laughed along with it but for five minutes he basically ridiculed me. At the end of it, he said, “Now you failed, what are you going to do?” I again thought, “That’s a bit harsh. Why are you being like that?” I said, “Actually I’d love to create an opportunity.” I’m basing this all on this idea that I’m doing something that’s authentically meaningful to me for whatever my reasons are. It just is. I think you become endlessly resourceful and creative in those moments. I looked down on the barrel of the camera and I just said, “If there’s anyone watching who’s five centimeters dilated or more, I’d love to hear from you.” The story goes from here. I was approached by ten people. I met one of them, her name was Carmen that very evening. She agreed to help me and I delivered a baby the next morning.
As a standalone experience, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been part of. It was incredible. It allowed me to see that people really are good. This couple were willing to do something so intimate, so personal, something that nobody would share with a stranger typically. Because they realized that I was doing my stuff for good reasons, I’m trying to find myself, they resonated with it. They resonated with someone who was passionate about what they did and for that reason, they really stepped up. The startup world isn’t really my thing although I’m edging closer into that at the moment. I am finding that doors are opening and people are bending over backwards to support, assist, work with me, collaborate with me because anything that I do is based from a very genuine place. That’s something that I think is very, very important for anyone.
What was the moment when you realized, “I don’t have to hit my own 100 to be happy. I’m going to try to inspire other people to come up with their list?”
It was a very natural progression in that sense. I remember there was a moment when I was in New York and I got put in touch with a guy who was very, very wealthy. His name is Tyson and we’re good mates. Basically, he heard of my story and he essentially offered me a blank check, knowing that I had next to zero dollars. He said, “I just want to help you with your journey. I really want to see you complete all 100 things.” What an amazing gesture and what an incredible human, very generous. That was the moment I started to think about things differently. I thought, “That would be great if I had the money. It would accelerate me ticking things off for sure, but would that be good for me?” For some reason, it didn’t sit well. I thought about a lot of it in the next few days and I actually started to think and realized that this journey wasn’t about 100 things. No one is defined by the things I do. I think you’re defined by just who you are. I realized then with more and more thought that my journey was really less about my 100 things. It was more about me just uncovering who I was via these things and learning to be me. I think probably my most profound moment is this idea that I just realized that my quest all along is just being about me trying to find out who I am. Now, the challenge is trying to be that person in every aspect, whether it’s an interview with yourself, John, or whether it’s something on a bigger platform or a smaller platform, any interaction. As long as we’re being ourselves, that’s the key to, far be it from me to say it, success whatever that is for. It would mean something different to everyone. That was a turning point for me.
You’ve hit on something that when you’re authentic then people see your passion. They know and understand why you’re doing something and that’s how you get people to say yes to whatever it is you’re pitching. In your case, you’re pitching people to come up with their own list but you’re also pitching something philanthropic. Tell us about what you’re doing with the camp.
There’s a charity aspect to what I do. The first charity I wanted to raise money for was Camp Quality, which is a kid’s cancer organization over here. I raised $100,000 for those guys, which was awesome. I did that so quickly that I thought I should just keep going. I then decided to raise $100,000 for Alzheimer’s Australia, which I did. I’m currently the Australian ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I think that and a few other foundations, charities that I’ve raised money for. I’ve raised close to $350,000 somehow. There is that aspect of my list. I have to say though, that’s not why I’m doing the list. It was just as other things on my list fell into place. Number four was to raise money for charity based on the idea that I just never done it before. Embarrassingly, I’ve never done it. I’m very proud of all that for sure, but I think the way in which a journey has naturally lent itself for a bigger audience and it’s outgrown the story of just one man in this list. That’s the thing that I really, really believe. The idea that people started getting in touch with me and asking me for help with their list, I thought, “That’s so interesting, why are they asking me for help?” but I just said yes.
The first person I ever helped was Mark, a guy in a wheelchair. He wasn’t always there. He was able bodied but he got bitten by a tick in Greece and got Lyme disease. After three to four months tragically, he just became a quadriplegic. He can’t talk. He cannot move and he needs a ventilator to sleep at night. It’s really, really bad. He asked me to shave his head. I flew to Melbourne, I shaved Mark’s head, which is number one on his list because he’d created this list of 100 things. Once I got to know him, I thought I could do a lot more for him. I said, “What else can I do?” He said via his translator, “I want to complete a half marathon.” I said, “How can I help you?” He looked at me and it was the first thing I understood him say ever and he said, “Push me.” It was such a beautiful moment. The funny part is I said, “Why has no one offered to push you before?” He said, “It only came up in my list yesterday.” It immediately became the most important thing to me. I entered us into a half marathon and with no running ability, I pushed Mark for the race and we finished. It was the greatest single standalone thing I think I’ve ever done and it was just because I’ve helped someone else. That was probably the first time.
As the story goes, I’m now approached by people around the world who need help in various ways. People who are sick like Mark, but also people who are healthy. People who have no money and people who have plenty. People who are remote, people who are in the middle of cities. It doesn’t really matter. It’s why I spend my time doing this. The problem has become that I can’t help everyone, as much as I’d like to so I’ve got this growing community of people who now follow this journey of mine, 100 Things. They say, “Can you introduce me to someone because I want to help?” I’m playing this conduit role where I’m introducing those who need help to those who can help. My bigger purpose now, and I think it’s probably eclipsed, anything else that I’ve ever done is my next challenge which is to move to America, which I’m doing in very, very, very soon. I’m going to be building an app which is basically a marketplace for acts of good will, introducing people who need help to those who can help on a peer to peer level. That for me is my next big thing.
I’m sure that app is going to be just as successful as everything else you’ve done for us. Your Twitter handle is @Seb100Things and your book, 100 Things: What’s On Your List? is on Amazon. I can’t take you enough for sharing your journey. Is there any last bit of advice you want to have for people who are thinking about what to put on their list?
If people want to follow me on Instagram, it’s @Seb100Things. I’m on Facebook, Sebastian Terry or 100 Things, or my website, 100Things.com.au. I think a list is a really important thing and we all have them. It might sound like a quirky idea but we all have them. It’s a list of things in life. It encompasses everything. I really urge people to just take a moment. It might be 60 seconds to just stop whatever it is they’re doing at some point and simply ask themselves, “What’s on my list?” That thought, that permission, will allow a really healthy internal conversation. I also urge people to ask other people the same question, because I think the answer to that question when you give it proper thought, time, consideration, authenticity, etc. it has a potential to change lives. Not just your own but the lives of people around you. If you move forward in the startup world and in the business realm, knowing that you’re doing whatever it is that you’re doing for the right reasons because it resonates with you, it’s such a priceless invaluable tool or bullet in your gun. It all comes down to authenticity and I urge anyone to just ask themselves that one simple question.
Imagine what a more interesting world it would be instead of greeting people at a networking event saying, “What do you do?” You say, “What are one of the things on your 100 things to do before you die you want to do?” and then vice versa. That’s a much more interesting conversation, isn’t it?
100%. Thank you so much for having me. It’s so nice to connect with you again.
- Sebastian Terry
- 100 Things: What’s On Your List?
- Camp Quality
- Alzheimer’s Australia
- Make-A-Wish Foundation
- @Seb100Things Twitter
- @Seb100Things Instagram
- 100 Things Facebook
- Sebastian Terry Facebook
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