National Geographic Adventurer Rob Lilwall says following your genuine passion will make you enjoy the journey.
Do you need special skills to do something fantastic? No, you just need to be passionate enough.
A few years ago, Rob Lilwall was a geography teacher. But his passion was to explore the world. So he took his bike and flew far away from home.
Rob’s wish to grow and develop took him through surprising places such as Russia in the winter or Afghanistan. ‘When we take tough challenges is our best opportunity to grow.’
This journey turned him into a National Geographic adventurer, book author and speaker. Even if his journey was sometimes scary, he is thankful for his unique experiences as he thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
He is convinced that the only thing that made him stand out was his passion. Also, he mentions that when he just followed his genuine passion, the trips were more fun and authentic.
Would you like to follow your passion wherever it might take you? Here’s an useful resource, remember to share it with your friends and spread the passion.
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Moustafa: Hello everyone and welcome back to Passion Sundays, the best way to end a week and start another. Our guest today is an adventurer, speaker and author who shows the world that ordinary people can do amazing stuff – Rob Lilwall. Thank you very much for being with us today!
Rob: Great to be here, Moustafa!
Moustafa: So tell me more about all the crazy stuff you do. I’ve seen a lot of amazing stuff. Tell me more.
Rob: Well, I, as you probably see, I’m an ordinary guy who actually used to be a geography school teacher. It was my first job and then I decided that instead of teaching geography I wanted to go and explore the world. So I ended up on a bicycle ride and I flew as far away as I could think of with my bicycle, which was North-East Russia and I spent three years cycling home through places like Russia in the winter, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea. This crazy trip changed my life and I suddenly became more of a professional adventurer. I’m still Mr. Ordinary, I’m not still not ex-Navy Seal or anything. But I had other adventures: walking across China, walking across the desert and various other crazy, somewhat crazy things.
Moustafa: I love that.
Moustafa: I love that. Let’s go somewhere and take three years to cycle back.
Rob: Yeah, yeah.
Moustafa: What triggered that?
Rob: I mean, there are so many levels to that question ‘Why did you do it?’. One was I wanted to see the world, we all do. And after that, I enjoy adventure, most of us do. I think a deeper reason, which I inly realized afterwards was personal development, which was a kind of boring way of saying. I think when we take tough challenges is our best opportunity to grow. I really wanted to grow and develop as a person. That was a deep motivation for me thinking ‘I’m gonna cycle across Russia in the winter because it’s one way which will force me to grow’ so I think that’s one of the things behind a lot of my adventures. I know if I take life easy I’ll just sort of stay as I am. And I just wanna somehow stretch myself.
Moustafa: I love that! The geography teacher decided to stretch himself and still is.
Rob: Yeah, yeah! Exactly, yeah.
Moustafa: So what would you say the key secret for you being able to achieve that? Because the trigger you say is beautiful. But you could have got on a bicycle and two weeks down the line to go ‘What have I done?’ – How did you keep going?
Rob: There are lots of different angles to answer that thing. I think having a clear goal… You know, we are talking about goals a lot but it really helps you to keep going if you really know where you’re trying to go, you set yourself a mission. But also, there are underling goals like the underlying goal of personal development. That was quite, I knew that if I gave up it would be sort of, you know, denying an important part of what I wanted to do in life. I think also. I was often alone in my trips. As you know, from your travels, you meet such amazing people who encourage you on the way. This is a sort of metaphor for life. We can’t make it on our own. I encountered such hospitality on my journeys.
Moustafa: Beautiful! So it’s… sometimes not having a big passion is as much as finding little passions on the way to just keep going and refueling.
Rob: Yeah. I think having the big passion is key but then you have the sort of sub-passions within that as well.
Moustafa: That is crucial because sometimes the pit stops are as important. If you don’t have enough pit stops on the way you’re just dragging yourself and it becomes too big for an everyday journey.
Rob: Yeah, I think practicing self-care… On a short expedition you can just push yourself every single day for whatever, three months. But on a three-ear expedition I had to stop, rest, hang out with people for a bit and look after myself otherwise I would have ended up making bad decisions, crashing my bike and all that stuff. So self-care is big. It’s the same in the corporate world, where people push themselves too hard, too long, they burn out and all the rest of it.
Moustafa: So it’s interesting that you say that. In three years you must have had some accidents, incidents. Was there anything that was drastic and was it drastic enough to make you ask yourself ‘What am I doing?’ and have self-doubt?
Rob: Yeah. I’m a sort of self-doubty kind of guy. So I always say ‘Can I do this?’ but thankfully I also have this growth mindset that I’m gonna grow even though it’s so hard. But there were… I was knocked off my bike twice. Thankfully, not hurt badly. I was robbed twice, once at gunpoint which is a real scare but thankfully no one shot me or anything. I got malaria. So there was sort of moments of real crisis I suppose you can say but I found that the worst bits were… the night before I went to Afghanistan, the night before when you play, you’re imagining what could go wrong, that fear… Shakespeare says that present fears less than the horrible imaginings. And the horrible imaginings were the worst. And when you are actually there, you’re just busy cycling to get through it so…
Moustafa: Beautiful, beautiful. I love it.
Moustafa: And so tell me a bit more about when you got back and started this journey of becoming an inspiration to other people. Were you just like ‘hey, I’m just another guy and you guys can do it too’. You must have faced also a lot of challenges at the beginning because not everybody might have been open to your message.
Rob: Yeah, I mean, it kinda happened by accident. I was more or less planning to getting back to being a high school teacher when I got home. But a publisher heard about it and asked me to write a book. National Geographic heard about it and made a TV show from my self-film footage. And I started just speaking, mainly in schools, originally. High schools would love to have me there and speak and that has gradually grown into a full-fledged speaking career. So I was sort of one of the lucky people. Maybe like you, sort of following passion and then that’s kinda evolved into the speaking career too.
Moustafa: So you never actually had that image in your head ‘I’m going to do this and then I’ll become a speaker or an inspirational person’, you just did it for you?
Rob: Yeah, yeah. The cycling trip – I did that to grow up basically. But what I learned afterwards, I did another trip, a couple of years later. But that one I did for the wrong reasons, I did it with my commercial halo on thinking ‘Uh, this expedition would look really nice and we’ll make another TV show’ but it was so much less fun when you do things like these. I was doing it for the wrong reasons. So the more recent trips I did I thought ‘What do I really want to do? Maybe we’ll leave all the TV stuff out. I’ll just cell-film it instead and go off with it just I can just follow my genuine passion and then it’s so much more of an authentic trip. So yes, I haven’t thought about it like that. But that is how it works.
Moustafa: I love it! So just find your passion by following your heart and it doesn’t have to be the biggest thing in the world. Just follow your heart and something will manifest. I love that!
Rob: I think… You noticed that saying… We are trying to love a good story but not to live a good story which other people will think it’s a good story.
Moustafa: I love that.
Rob: Because that’s the whole social media trap. We do things because we think it would look good. But really we want to do things and then… I’m actually hopeless on social media. I sent four tweets on the whole of my last expedition.
Rob: Which I’m not that proud of.
Moustafa: I love what you do because I really love this message. If Rob can do it, you can too!
Rob: Yeah, Well, yeah!
Moustafa: Thank you very much! This has been an awesome interview!
Rob: Thank you so much!
Moustafa and Rob: Passion!
Moustafa: What do you think? I really hope you found this episode as useful and as exciting as I did. If so, please leave your comments on the blog below and share it with your friends or those who might benefit from it. And if you’d like more tools, tips, techniques and exclusive interviews that I only share on my website, go to Moustafa.com. Until next episode – live passionately!