Series 17: For the Love of Health & Wellness | Episode 03
Practicing Kindness for a Healthier Life: Sebastian Terry
Let’s get in the driver’s seat of how we’re living, who we’re investing in, and how we’re spending our time as we head into the third episode of For the Love of Health & Wellness. Today we’re looking at the direct connection between living a life of kindness and improving our mental and physical health. Did you know studies show that helping others can reduce early mortality rates by 22%, diminish depression, and increase our sense of life satisfaction and well-being? Author, TV Host, and curator of the 100 Things List, Sebastian Terry, found this out firsthand. After tragically losing a childhood friend, 24-year-old Sebastian made a list of 100 Things he wanted to pursue, hoping it would bring him joy and a life of no regrets, and set out to bring his list to life. While the adventure involved amazing things like jumping out of a plane (naked!) and delivering a baby, he realized his true mission when he met a quadriplegic man named Mark, who dreamed of completing a half marathon. Sebastian helped Mark reach his dream by pushing Mark the entire 13.1 miles. Sebastian’s new mission to spread kindness led him to create an organization called Kindsum, which connects “helpers” to those who are vulnerable and brave enough to ask for help. Sebastian shows us what’s possible by living intentionally and how showing kindness can change ourselves and the world for good.
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hello, everybody. Jen Hatmaker is here. I am your host of the show, the For the Love Podcast.
I’m really, really glad you’re here, seriously. You can probably hear I’m smiling. I just finished, just one minute ago, the interview that you’re about to listen to.
First of all, we’re in a series called For the Love of Health and Wellness, and it’s very holistic. This is mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, career health, sexual health. We’re trying to tap this very sort of whole idea of who we are, and what makes us sincerely healthy. Just, okay.
My guest today is someone who’s not only going to be good for our minds and souls—he’s also good for our hearts. You’re going to see what I mean.
In 2009, Sebastian Terry, who we have on today, just realized, I don’t know where I’m going. I’m out of college, I don’t know what my north star is. I don’t know what my purpose is. I don’t know what life means. He had kind of a traumatic event that shook him awake, which he and I are going to talk about. On the spot, that day, he grabbed a pen and paper and created a list of 100 Things that he wanted to do with his next 24 years. If that’s all he got, what would he want to do that would sincerely bring joy into his world?
So it was the start of this pretty crazy, no-holds-barred adventure that actually and completely changed his mindset, and then ultimately his whole life and trajectory. He has traveled to the ends of the earth doing some of the most amazing things. We’re going to talk about a lot of it. He married a stranger in Vegas. He raised $100,000 for a children’s cancer charity in Australia, where he’s from. He delivered a stranger’s baby. We’re going to talk about that too.
Basically, I’m excited for you to listen to his conversation because he reminds us what’s possible. He reminds us that we—well, in fact, I wrote this down right on my calendar as he said it—that we are slap-bang in the driver’s seat of how we are connecting, how we are living, who we are investing in, how we are spending our time, what is possible in our lives.
You’re going to love this guy, you guys. You are going to love this guy. You are going to love how that 100 Things journey moved him into a life of giving and service. I mean, this interview gets better and better as it goes on.
You’re not going to want to miss any of it. It’s absolutely dear. This is a good one to listen to with your kids. This is a good one to put on in the car when you’re driving, because it’s just so generous, and so kind, and so wonderful. So that is quite an intro because it was just delightful.
I’m so pleased to share my conversation with the very, very wonderful Sebastian Terry.
Jen: Okay, Sebastian. I am really tickled to have you on the show today. My whole team was excited about this. We’re excited about you, excited about this interview, really excited about your story. It’s inspiring and it’s encouraging, and I’m really into the way that you are inviting us in a pretty innovative, super unique way to turn inside and assess our lives, and just figure out if we’re living in ways that bring genuine joy, and happiness, and goodness to the world or not. We’re going to get into all of it.
First of all, welcome. Welcome to the show.
Sebastian: Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited, by the way. And yeah, doesn’t that all sound nice? Just being happy, right?
Jen: It sounds nice.
Sebastian: We should all be talking about it and doing it.
Jen: Yes, I like what you’re selling. And I like the way that you’re selling it.
But let’s start here. Can you just tell everybody a little bit about your 100 Things list? What it is, and specifically why did you put this together? Where did this come from?
Sebastian: Sure. I should say to begin with this it’s all been a beautiful kind of accident. I started 10 years ago. But essentially, face-value at least, I have a list of 100 Things that I’m trying to do be happier in life. And it’s certainly changed my life, and it’s turned into this big kind of global movement.
But yeah, the reason for it: like many of us, probably, I finished high school and I didn’t know what to do. My career advisor suggested I get a degree, so I went to university and I got a degree. I came out of that three and a half years later, and I had about $19,000 of debt. I just felt very underwhelmed at graduation. I remember feeling just as lost as I did at the beginning of the course.
I was quite curious as to what was important in life. And I was only about 21 or 22, and I had no idea. So I ended up just backpacking around the world, just aimlessly.
And then I was 24 years old, I was in Canada, just traveling still, when I got a phone call late at night from a friend of mine back in Sydney, where I’m from in Australia. And he broke the news to me that one of my close friends had passed away really suddenly, very tragically overnight. And it stopped everything for me immediately. I didn’t know what to do.
I remember wondering and asking those questions, Why am I here? What am I doing? All those questions we tend to ask them something like that happens. And I just became very confused by it all.
But one thing kind of popped into my head at that point, and it changed the way I looked at life. And it was a simple, like hypothetical.
My friend’s name was Chris. And I remember thinking, Well, if Chris had another 24 years at life—we were both 24 of that point—If he had another 24 years, would he live in the same way or would he live differently?
Jen: It’s a great question. I love it.
Sebastian: Yes. And I think the question was, was he happy? And I thought about it, and I don’t think he would have changed a thing. I think he was very happy. He lived a life that very much reflected his values in all the ways. And I thought, Well, how fantastic to be able to say that on your last day.
And then I kind of turn that question on me, at 24 in Canada, perfectly healthy. And I thought, Well, if today was my last day, can I look back at my life and say the same thing?
Jen: That’s good.
Sebastian: I wasn’t really stoked with how I was living. And it was the first time I looked at my life from that perspective. And almost instantly I just realized, I would change everything. And although hiking around the world seemed great, and I had a degree, which seemed great, I was actually really unhappy.
I didn’t know my values. I didn’t know what I stood for. I didn’t know my principles. I thought, Well, I need to change this.
So I got a piece of paper out and a pen, and I just started jotting down things that I thought would make me smile. Because I saw I had this other chance to live. So I came up with a list of a 100 Things, and shortly after I dropped everything in my life to pursue it.
That was the beginning of this journey, which has now gone on into many different forms. But that’s how it happened.
Jen: Oh my gosh. You can’t help but kind of grin to hear you tell that story, to think of you just a 24-year old kid just kind of turning his life around on a dime.
One thing that you point out that I like: you say that your list is not a bucket list, which is that real trendy idea. What would you say is the difference primarily between your 100 Things and a bucket list? And what does the difference in motivation matter?
Sebastian: Yes. Well, I think it’s a really good point. The word “bucket list.” I get it and it makes sense and everyone is familiar with it, so that’s good. But I think it comes from us in a negative place. The focus is on death.
Jen: Yes, that’s right.
Sebastian: Things to do before you die. It’s almost fear-driven, and I don’t think that’s how we should be motivated, through fear. I think it should be much more positive and optimistic. So for me, it’s just quite simply a list of things that are going to make me live better.
And in that sense, I really think that my list is more about trying to find a purpose-driven lifestyle. I think we all need to have purpose in life and in everything we do. I think my list is kind of my vehicle for me to try and find that. It allows me to grow a lot, and I think we should all be growing in all the ways: spiritually, emotionally, et cetera.
My list was certainly—in the first place, at least—about me connecting with myself. And I think that’s maybe something that a lot of people might find is they don’t really connect with themselves. And that’s a crucial part in being able to connect outwardly with others.
So that’s what it is. It’s just a list that helps me live better.
I used to think it was about the time I jumped out of a plane naked, or the time across the country. And really a list is just the way for us to kind of find out who we really are, and I dare say it’s just about trying to be you. I think the challenge in life, if we were able to crack it, is to make it a really happy, fulfilled content life, that we’re able to find ourselves and just be us.
Jen: I couldn’t agree more. The power of being sort of a genuine and integrated person where you are entirely yourself at all times and in all contexts with all people is that’s a real north star. And I think it’s underrated for the effect that it then has on our spirits and our minds, and then obviously our relationships and our careers. I love the way that you went at it.
One of my favorite things about your list is that there were, well, it appears to be zero limits. So I wonder if for, because I’ve seen your story. Some of my listeners are going to be new to you today, so I wonder if you could just share a handful of things, items on your list. I wonder if you could tell us what was the easiest, what was the hardest, which ones would never have happened if you hadn’t not just pursued them with intention, but push through a pretty high degree of either fear of discomfort to complete them?
Sebastian: Yes. Oh, I get so excited talking about this. Yes.
None of them are easy. They’re all challenging in entirely different ways. There were like physical things. I did an Iron Man triathlon, a long-distance Iron Man. So that was that physically testing.
But then I lived on a deserted island by myself for a week, which was testing in a different way. I wanted to experience solitude. I’d always been around people, and that was quite tough from just almost like a survival aspect.
I did a week of silence. I was living in New York, and I had a week of silence just living as a normal person in New York. And that was maybe one of the hardest things I’ve done.
There’s outlandish things. I delivered a stranger’s baby. That was tricky because I had to wait for an invite, and it was really bizarre how that happened. I was being interviewed on the news in Canada about this story, and essentially, I’d missed a birth at that point.
Jen: Okay, so let me get this straight. So you had kind of put out into the world, “Hey, world, on my list I’m interested in delivering somebody’s baby. Call me. Here’s my number.”
Sebastian: Kind of, yeah. It brings up a lot of different things.
To create a goal, you’ve got to give yourself permission in the first place. What I’m finding is we’re entirely accountable for what we do in our lives. So you really just choose to do something, or we choose not to.
So you can be very proactive with some of these things, of course. You want to learn to play piano? Get a lesson, or get in front of a piano.
This one was different. I had to kind of put my intention out there, like you say, “Hey, world, I’d love to deliver a baby,” and then just wait for something. And then when the opportunity came, I had to strike.
Jen: And it through this news show that you were on somebody called in?
Sebastian: Kind of. I was in Europe at the time, and someone who is following me online, a Canadian girl, very generous Canadian girl, said that she was pregnant and she’d liked to have me attend the birth, basically. So I flew to her hometown in Canada called Regina, which is barbaric.
Jen: Oh my gosh.
Sebastian: And I met Tara, and she was lovely and all the things. And I was there for two and a half weeks.
And yeah, long story short, I missed the birth. She had an emergency delivery. The baby was very healthy. But what had happened, the Canadian media had picked up my story, and they asked me to talk about it on a morning TV show. So they brought me on TV. The news anchor, the guy for some reason wasn’t very friendly towards me and he basically embarrassed me saying, “You’ve failed. So what are you going to do now? You’ve failed. “And I was really surprised by it.
I think we can all create opportunity and change instantly if we think creatively. So I looked down the barrel of the camera, and I said—the host’s name is Seamus. And I said, “Seamus, I don’t think I’ve failed. There’s always opportunity out there. So I’d like to take one right now.” And I said, “If there’s anyone watching who’s five centimeters dilated or more, please email me.”
Jen: Oh my gosh.
Sebastian: And so basically I got a bunch of offers from people in this town of Regina. Everyone seemed pregnant.
Sebastian: And just say, yes, this lady, beautiful lady called Carmen and her entire family invited me to meet them that night, which I did. And just through complete chance, she had the baby the next day. So that’s how it happened.
Jen: And you were there!
Sebastian: Oh Geez. Yeah. It wasn’t like, “What?”
Jen: Are you telling me you delivered the baby? Like you delivered the baby?
Sebastian: I had one of her legs over my shoulder when the baby came out, which was lucky because Dane, the father, didn’t want to be down that end. He was just up at her shoulders. The midwife was next to me, and someone else was in there with the other leg over their shoulder. And I got to put my hands out, kind of catch the baby. I don’t think that’s a medical term. But anyway, I just caught the baby and then put it on her stomach, and it was, I was just full of tears.
And do you know what’s interesting about that? I mean I, and tell me to stop here. I just gone suddenly go on forever.
Jen: Oh no, please, onward forever.
Sebastian: Up until that point, I’d ticked off so many things to my list. Doing stand-up comedy and all these kinds of achievements. And I thought, Well, we’re so capable. We really underestimate ourselves. And I think when you throw yourself out there, even when you feel fear, even when you feel anxious and all those feelings, we work out, Wow, I’m so capable. I just underestimate myself.
This, though, it was the first time that I. . . It really became obvious that one of the crucial ingredients to progressing and growing through life is other people and connecting with them. I could never have done this unless they offered the opportunity to me.
I just keep seeing it every single day. And I see it with you now, but people are good. I mean, intrinsically we’re just there to help each other out. We’re here to connect. And that’s just a fact. And I think if you’re able to find something—
I asked them afterwards, actually. I said, “Why did you offer this opportunity to me? It’s so intimate, so personal.”
And they said, “Because passion inspires passion. We see how passionate you are, how authentic you are, how genuine you are, and we just wanted to help you.”
I think if we can find something we’re passionate about and the things that we’re doing day to day, from the moment, we wake up personally to whatever it is we do at work professionally—I think if we can find passion, we just bring ourselves so close to one another, and I think magic happens. Life is magic.
Jen: That is so good. I can’t agree with you more. It’s electric, it’s contagious. I find when I am around incredibly passionate, enthusiastic people with kind of a zest for life and human connection that I just, I get to borrow it from them. It never divides. It always feels like it multiplies for me. And it just sort of miraculously spreads.
Just the way you’re talking, it reminds me this is a choice. We get to choose. We get to choose a lot of this. We get to choose the kind of people we surround ourselves with, the kind of conversations we invest in, the sort of arenas that we throw our hat into. We’re not just a victim of circumstances at all times. I mean, you picked all this, you charted a course, and it completely changed your life.
Jen: Now I’m curious about this. You were 24, so you were just freshly flown from the nest. I mean, you were still pretty young at the time. How’d your family and your friends react when you kind of dropped everything you had going on, like, “Thanks for the degree, goodbye,” to pursue a 100 Things? Was there was a little bit of tension or friction there? I wonder if any response ever made you second guess what you were doing.
Sebastian: Yes, it’s so interesting. It’s a great question. So basically no one supported me.
Jen: That’s what I suspected.
Sebastian: Yes. Which is fine, too. And I think that speaks to generational trends and the way society is, and expectations from parents, and all that kind of stuff.
As it happened, I was doing a bit of stuff in Australia from my list, and I ended up leaving overseas officially on my 28th birthday. So kind of those years in between, I was kind of straddling what to do. My best friend was like, “What are you doing? This doesn’t make any sense. You’re 27, 28, you can’t just go overseas and start ticking things from a list. No one does that.”
I remember having a conversation with my mom. She was like, “I’m very unhappy with what you want to do.”
I said, “Would you rather you be happy and I get a job in the city and get a suit, but I’m unhappy? Or would you rather I try and find something of happiness, and at the end of the day you will be happy for me?”
And she paused and she said, “Go and get a suit.”
Jen: Oh gosh.
Sebastian: So there was very much that type of thing. And everyone, everybody listening, everyone in the world, [there are some] different societies [where] it’s worse. But we all have that pressure from above.
And so, to what you mentioned before, we also all have a choice. We’re not in the passenger’s side seat, we’re not victims. We’re slap-bang in the driving seat.
And so after considering all this stuff, because you do very much get influenced by those people around you, I decided that this was so important to me that I would go against what everyone thought and just do it.
I could talk about this for hours and hours and hours, but just to use a cliché analogy, there’s someone standing at the bottom of the mountain, someone standing at the top. The only difference is that someone chose to just start climbing. And that’s just what I did. I didn’t do this for other people. I did it completely for myself. And, again, like in our society, it’s a bad insult is being called selfish.
Jen: That’s right.
Sebastian: But I disagree. I think being selfish is absolutely crucial. Because by being selfish, you look at yourself, and ideally, you grow in all the ways. And then at one point, because you’ve been selfish, you can actually be selfless. And that’s the journey this list has taken me on, I suppose.
Jen: I like that you say that because to your point, a critic might say, “Well, making a list of a 100 Things and then doing them is self-indulgent.” But I agree with you that I don’t think it is.
You’ve couched pursuing this list in terms of putting on the airplane oxygen mask before. And your life is a good testament to this truth because this started 10 years ago, but at this point in your life, I mean, it’s revolutionized not just your life, but hundreds of thousands of other people’s lives.
And so I wonder if you could just talk for a minute more about why you have discovered—and you knew it early on, your instincts were right—why it’s important to kind of nurture that sort of interior conviction or desire? And what do you think it ultimately does for our development, and the way we see the world, and ultimately how we live our lives?
Sebastian: I think that we at the end of the day, we die alone. And I think in community, of course, it’s such an important thing, but we really have to figure out who we are.
There’s so many analogies, again, and random metaphors, you know, “You can’t fill anyone else’s cup until yours is full.” And I think that if you don’t actually understand who you are, work out how capable you are, work out what your desire is, what your value is, what your principles are—until you do all that sort of stuff and really kind of come into your own, I don’t think you can be as productive for other people, be it friendships with families, even in a professional sense. As a business, I think you have to know what your values are and at a core level, you have to know how you are, how you operate, to be better for customers and clients.
So I think it’s across the board. I do believe that, and again, I’ll use that cliche that you mentioned, but when you get onto a plane and they say, “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping other people,” I think it’s so true. I mean, my story, my life really changed from this list into what is now more of an altruistic sort of journey when I helped someone.
I helped this guy Mark. He was in a wheelchair, he’s a quadriplegic. He wanted to complete a half marathon, and he asked me to push him, and I did it.
I did that probably three years after starting my journey, and it changed my life, this idea of helping someone else out. But it couldn’t have happened at the beginning of the journey, because it wouldn’t have meant anything to me. I didn’t really know what I was doing in life.
And so to your point, it is absolutely self-indulgent. It is sprinkled with selfishness when you create a list of things that you want to do, but it’s so important because it allows you to work out who you are. And I think when we know who we are, we can help others do the same. And that’s really what this journey is about. It’s acknowledging that we’re individuals, and it’s acknowledging that by being an individual and knowing who you are, you are better for people around you.
Jen: I couldn’t agree more. In my experience, I notice that healthy people are beneficial to the health of the people around them, and loving people create more loving communities. And there is a very real order to doing some internal work, some heavy lifting in your soul and in your mind and in your spirit that never, ever ends at the boundary of our own skin. It always ultimately spills out to the people around us. And when we are sort of operating in our like brightest space with our healthiest soul, that has such an unbelievably positive effect on our communities. I mean, I preach this all the time.
We’re about to move into that side of kind of how this journey transition for you into an outward facing movement.
Before we do real quick, though, I just want to ask you this one last thing. It’s an interesting time to be alive on social media. It’s not all bad. It’s definitely not all good. Obviously one of the strange, unprecedented new ways of living is that social media gives us this opportunity to look into other people’s lives all the time.
And it’s a very curated presentation. Of course. Of course it is. We do that too. And so from this very strange vantage point that we’ve never had in history—we’ve never really been able to look in at the dailiness of this many people’s lives—it seems like everyone else is living a life much more exciting, much more adventurous, much more beautiful, much more connected. And so there’s this strange hamster wheel that a lot of us are trying to figure out how to get off, which is this keeping up bit so overwhelming. It’s really an impossible game. It’s a fake game.
So from your position, how would you suggest, number one, that we throw off the notion in the first place of living this curated life, and rather like bring the microscope a little bit closer to home and concentrate, like, “What really brings happiness my life? What brings sincere joy in my life? Not hers, not his, not theirs. But in this life, I’m living in this skin, in this town, inside these gifts, with this mind?”
I realize that your story is not a template and you never meant it to be. I mean you’re not prescribing a program. But as far as it goes into like an individual person’s life where she or he is planted, how would you say, “If you want to start your own list, this is how you begin”?
Sebastian: Yes. I mean it’s so interesting what you’re saying. I’m by no means an expert on social media or the effects it’s happening.
I think you’re right. There’s definitely a positive to it, and that’s kind of the space I try and live in. And there’s definitely a negative to it. And we spend so much time on the phone and it’s kind of like, the irony of it is that social media is all about connection, but we feel less connected really than ever before.
I think when, if you’re talking about that or whether you’re talking about creating your list, I think the key word for me is permission. I think we all have this ability to give ourselves permission, and we can do it in this moment, just in a split second, give ourselves permission to consider ourselves and what we need, to consider who you are, what your values are, all those things I mentioned before, but also give yourself permission to just go internally. It sounds kind of a little woo woo. But you have to turn inwardly to really figure out who we are, and you have to put your blinkers on to all these other things.
And I use my social media. I can only speak to what I do. So the 100 Things social media channel, I don’t sort of go out and go, “Hey, guys, guess what I’ve done?” It’s not really that. It’s more trying to prompt and spark and challenge people to think and do things.
So weekly at the moment, I do this thing called a 52-week challenge. I’m a big advocate for getting out of your comfort zone. I think that’s a very important place to be because you step into the unknown and you’re nervous and you act anyway, and then after you’re like, “Oh wow, I could do that even though I was nervous! I could do it.” And it expands your capability. People think you have to jump out of a plane or do something ridiculously extreme to do that, and you don’t.
So every week I set challenges for people to join me. I film myself doing it, but join me in and do the actual challenge. So one of them recently, it was staring into somebody’s eyes for 60 seconds in silence. One of them was scream as loud as you could. One of them was tell a joke to a stranger. So really simple things.
I try and use social media as a way to catalyze some kind of positive thought or act. So that’s me.
I don’t know if you’re sort of asking me to give advice, probably not. But I just, I think the more we stay off social media—not to have a complete ban, but just treat it better—it’s our relationship with anything that I think does the damage whatever it might be from social media to religion even. Yeah, using social media, knowing what it is and knowing how you can benefit yourself, rather than looking . . . comparison’s the worst thing in my planet. And that’s why most of this social media stuff is about now. So I think it’s just important to know who you are, what you’re doing, what’s going to benefit you and not having a need to tell everyone about it.
Just do things that are good for you. Things that make you smile. If social media didn’t exist, if money didn’t exist, if no one ever found out about the things that we ever did, what would you do just to be happy in life? And I think that’s a great start.
Jen: That’s a great question. That is such a great question, and I think that’s how people lived forever. It’s just a really strange time now where, even in the middle of a magical moment, our brains are now trained, How am I going to post it? How am I going to tell it? How am I going to message this? What social media wrappings am I going to put around this?
It’s just weird. It’s weird what’s done to our brains, but back in the day we just lived in the moment and loved it. And I really love that question you asked. If nobody’s ever going to know it, if no one’s ever going to look at your filtered picture about it, what would you do? That’s just brass tacks right there.
So let’s turn the corner. You started talking about this a little bit. As you started crossing these items off your list, you’ve discovered your heart for helping others, what you mentioned.
Would you say the moment your focus shifted from completing your list to helping others was in that race, or was there a different moment? If you could just self assess, how would you say that shift affected your own personal mental and emotional health?
Sebastian: Yes. I love your questions. So good.
So, basically at that point, like I said, for a couple of years, a little bit longer, I’d been achieving plenty of things from my list, getting on a game show, all the things. And then I started getting very accidentally and organically a lot of attention from media stations around the world, and I was quite surprised.
Then people started asking me to speak at their corporate events and that kind of stuff. And so the more that this happened, the more the word got out about 100 Things.
And then I did a TV interview in Australia, and a guy emailed me afterwards called Mark. He told me his story, that essentially he was able bodied up until the age of 30. And then whilst backpacking through Greece, he got bitten by a tick contracted Lyme disease and turned into a quadriplegic.
It’s absolutely, it’s horrible, so sad. When I met Mark, he told me that he’d created a list and that he wanted me to help shave his head, which is number-one on his list.
So I went down to Melbourne in Australia—or “Mel-born,” as you guys might say—I shaved his head. And in that moment—he can’t speak. And his caregiver told me that he’d always wanted to complete a half marathon, and he asked me to help him. And I hate running, but I said yes.
Now, I ended up pushing him in this half marathon. And it immediately allowed me to feel a sense of connection that I’d never really felt before, because up until this point, I put my own oxygen mask on. It was fairly selfish. And this, it had nothing to do with my own personal aspirations of completing a half marathon, which that’s not a thing of mine. But I helped someone. And what was really interesting is at the end of the race, I wasn’t the only one. There were plenty of other people helping and pushing him as well, some complete strangers.
And it showed me for the first time that we really are here to connect with people. We innately have the ability, we have a desire to help people. We just want an opportunity and we, it becomes so much easier for us to find those opportunities and be productive for others once we’ve sort of focused on ourselves. And so me helping Mark was absolutely the transition from me having my oxygen mask on to me helping others with their oxygen mask on, if I’m going to stick with that.
Jen: That story is phenomenal.
Jen: You’ve said that the biggest untapped resource on the planet is kindness, which I love is and you’re doing something about it. So now you spend your days connecting people who need help with people who want to help. It’s just seems like the most obvious and wonderful transaction anybody could ever broker.
Will you tell us a little bit about your organization called Kindsum? I’m saying that right? Kindsum?
Jen: How it works. What kinds of projects have you been able to complete and help folks with? What kinds of feedback are you getting? Not just from helpers, but those who have been helped? Just all of it. We’d love to hear more.
Sebastian: Yeah! Oh my. I’m so excited!
Okay. So what happened after I helped Mark, I got approached by lots of people who needed help. And so I’ve just I stopped my list at 72 because I realized for me now, the secret sauce was helping people.
I just travel around the world helping people—not in financial ways, but finding suits for kids who wanted to go to their prom but the families couldn’t afford suits. Or helping people physically, like with an old lady, digging up a garden or whatever it might be.
And that, I felt brilliant on a personal level and I found this connection with other people, but I couldn’t help everyone. There were too many people who needed help.
So then a lot of people who are following my story started emailing me organically again, saying, “Hey, we know that you help people. We want to help people. Do you know anyone?”
So I thought, Oh wow, I’m in the middle this almost like a marketplace. People who need help on one side, people who want to help on the other side, they just don’t know how to meet each other.
So I started kind of being like an altruistic matchmaker for years. And then I thought, Well, this just needs to be online and this needs to be a new site. And then that, of course, is Kindsum.
It’s kind of like peer-to-peer altruism anytime, anywhere. It works in a similar vein to what a dating site would work. You’re looking for people to help. And so you put in your location, you put in the category and you see who’s in your area. And I’ve very recently kind of launched this, and similar to 100 Things, I haven’t done this because I’m looking at the end goal or anything like that. I just think it just needs to exist. And so I’m just doing it all by myself at this point.
The stories so far have been incredible. I mean, currently we’re trying to find a kidney for this amazing woman who lives in L.A. She’s on dialysis, and she’s had renal endstage failure. And the statistics when you look at kidneys, having a failing kidney, basically once you’re on dialysis, it’s almost like a death sentence.
Jen: That’s right.
Sebastian: By the way, if anyone is open and interested in donating a kidney, please get in touch because it’s a very real thing, and that’s what Kindsum is. It’s very real opportunities. I think that what we all want to be kind, we need an opportunity, and Kindsum it’s just that. It just offers people opportunities to dive in.
You don’t have to lose a body part, by the way. Some people are just lonely. On Kindsum now, there’s one particular girl who, she’s a war veteran and she experienced abuse in the military. She’s a survivor of abuse, and she just wants to connect with other people who have been through the same journey. And so there are people on there connecting with that, just talking. We just want to connect. And sometimes it’s as simple as smiling or hugging somebody.
There’s a guy recently who, tragically, his eldest son passed away, and he promised his remaining kids that he would build them a tree house in memory of their lost brother, but he doesn’t know how to build a tree house. So he went on Kindsum and he told his story. And over one weekend, 20 volunteers through Kindsum from around America flew to Bend, Oregon, and helped this guy build the most incredible tree house.
And there’s just stories like that. Real stories.
I think we all have this, again, this ability to really impact people in significant ways, others outside of ourselves, but we just don’t really know what avenues to find them.
I try and lead by example. I just try and be nice, and that’s as simple as it is. And I think if you create an opportunity to include people, that’s how you catalyze change from the grassroots up.
Again, I can talk about hours about this, but beautiful things are happening. I don’t try and gloat, but I have a show, a reality show about helping people and that was years ago. And we’re now talking about another one about through Kindsum, which is exciting, but I just think it’s going in a good direction. I love it.
And I guess the other side of the platform is this: we need people who want to put their hand up and be vulnerable and share what they need help with. Societally and I’m sure you know—we can talk about this at length—but it’s kind of the one thing I’m trying to get my head around at the moment. How do we change the culture so that people can say, “I need help”?
Jen: Yes. I love that you’re paying attention to that and asking because now you’re in this very unique position to be listening to both a community of people who need help in addition to the ones who are prepared to give it.
And so I think there’s this sort of cultural norm in which a lot of us would raise our hand to volunteer to help somebody else, but yet a lot of us have a problem admitting that we need help. This is a very, very strange way we shoot ourselves in our own foot because we actually love to feel needed, and we want to do good in the world. We have a lot of biological rewards built into good behavior like that. But at the same time, strangely, we feel shame sometimes when we think about asking for help.
And so I’m curious what you’re learning about this. You’re in the middle of this very interesting helping community. So how are you learning about taking the stigma, number one, out of asking for help?
And actually, when we say, “Hey, I need some help, I’m raising my hand,” we’re providing an opportunity for others to give help. And they want to give help, and it’s life giving to them too. It’s just, it’s strange that this is a really hard concept for us to get our arms around on both sides of the equation.
What are you learning, and what’s your perspective here as somebody who really wants to help change the culture?
Sebastian: Well, you just put it perfectly yourself. I mean, so in the first instance, yeah, we feel that it’s overly vulnerable if we say we put our hands up and say, “Hey, I need genuine help with this thing.” We feel as a sign of weakness, to a degree. Right? We are afraid of asking for help attention because we’re not worthy of it or something like that.
The truth is it’s incredibly brave. And based purely on this point that you said just then, which is when you actually ask for help, you’re creating an opportunity that never existed for somebody else to do good and to connect with you. Because we are here to connect with each other and we all want is to help each other out.
If you give someone an opportunity to help you, you’re doing them a favor, you’re allowing them to be good. And so if you look at the dynamic of both someone who needs help and the person who wants to help they’re both getting completely helped. It’s beautiful. The person who needs help gets helped.
Using the tree house, for example, his name is Keese. So Keese got a tree house built for his family that meant so much to them because he put his hand up and ask for help. The 20 volunteers from around the US, who all volunteered for free to go and do this, they all got to exercise this very deep primal thing that we have, which is help people connect, do something.
Sebastian: And it’s only because he was brave enough to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of bravery. And in fact, it’s a spark for a truer connection. If you think about it on an even deeper level than just a tree house that has nothing to do with the word and the timber in the hard yards and that the nails and the hammers, it’s got nothing to do with that. It is truly about just deeper connection, human to human connection.
And so I’m actually not very good. Again, the irony of this is I’m not actually very good at receiving, and so perhaps Kindsum is a manifestation of this. I know on each occasion I help people, I feel invincible. I would much rather help somebody do something than do something for my own list. I’d love to help you do something, I really would.
But I also, when I get helped, although I’m a little sensitive about it sometimes, I do value the idea that I’ve connected with someone. And to see the smile on their face, it’s . . .
I was actually, I was having lunch with a friend yesterday. He literally said to me—it sounds so cliche, but it’s true—he helped a lady across the road on the way to have lunch with me. And he was still buzzing. You could not take the smile off his face.
So creating opportunity, like, we take ego out of it, creating opportunities to people to help you. Or if you can nominate people—with Kindsum, you can nominate someone who needs help as well—it’s just such a beautiful melting pot of, I don’t know, true primal desires and ambitions. And I can’t talk, I mean sometimes I don’t even make sense. I don’t think I actually make sense at all.
Jen: It made perfect sense. And it’s true. It’s I also believe this is how we’re wired. We are the social species, that this is the way that we thrive. This is how our communities flourish. Stephen Covey calls it “sowing goodwill” and it’s constantly sowing the seeds of love and connection and help and then even receiving, because that’s also sowing good seeds. Those have to work together, which means sometimes the beauty of giving a lot of help is that it tends to make it ultimately easier for us to ask for it when we need it, and that because the truth is everyone’s going to need help at some point. And so when you have sort of cultivated a life of connectivity and of helping, it sort of comes back around.
I think this is the better way to live. I think this is the better way to build families and neighborhoods and communities and cultures and cities. And it’s a pretty simple magic formula that has almost 100% net results.
Sebastian: Absolutely. And to your point, it is so simple. It is literally about helping yourself first. Create a list, do things on your list so that you can help others. And this communal way of living where, forget about all the labels and the attachments to it. Let’s just connect and be good to one another because it feels better.
There’s so much scientific research about being kind as well. It eases anxiety. It’s that all those feel good hormones get released when you actually connect with people. It prevents illness. You get to live longer, your heart’s healthier. I know in this day and age, we all want stats and reasons and buckets of research, and it’s there. Kindness is amazing. Kindness counts.
Jen: It does count, and it’s all those things you said. It’s a real solution to a lot of the problems that ail our cultures right now. And some of the sense of great loneliness—which again, like undergirding something you just said—loneliness is a better predictor of a smaller lifespan, a shorter lifespan than smoking, than obesity, than addiction. Loneliness actually ends our life.
And so this is a very real solution. It’s not just squishy, and it’s not just woo woo, like you said earlier. This has the capacity to heal a lot of broken places in our world.
I think I know what you’re going to say here, but you’ve obviously been able to travel the world and help other people cross items off their lists, which is awesome. What a cool symmetry for you.
And so I wonder, because I think there’s value in both of these, but I’d like to hear what you have to say. Is there a difference between putting a check in the mail, for example, to support a cause, which sometimes causes just need money? So this isn’t a yes or no or right or wrong necessarily, but versus having a one on one connection with the person that you’re helping–what’s your thought on those two ways of helping in the world, which both have a use, both of those have a place? And I wonder then if you could also share a story when either you impacted someone’s life, or they impacted yours during like a face to face? I mean you must have a billion of ‘em, but just one of your favorite stories about a moment together.
Sebastian: Yes. Well, I think the intention of giving, whether it’s financial or not, is beautiful. That has to be said from the outset.
I think that Kindsum is a nonfinancial platform, so it’s not a place for people to ask for something financial for the ask them money or a car or something like that.
But I think that when you donate money, I’ve done a lot of research on this, and a lot of people are dissatisfied with the feeling they get from just donating money because it’s not really “beginning to end.” You donate money and you hope that it goes to the right place.
But I think, without focusing on other people, again, just turning it back to Kindsum, the one thing that we seek in the way we all want is connection. And when you help somebody from the beginning to the end and you choose to help a particular person who has a name, not just, “I’m going to help this bunch of people over here who all suffer from X, Y or Z,” you pick someone. “I’m going to help John. I’m going to help Mary because that particular story resonates with me.” And you meet that person and you see them, you give them a hug, you help them through whatever it is they want helped, and at the end you really are connected in this time of mass disconnection [because of] social media.
Try your hand at helping one person, and I guarantee the difference you’ll feel immediately is significant and addictive, by the way.
We’re all so different. We all have the ability to listen, and that often is what people need. But we all have different things. I was chatting with another guy yesterday, I had lots of conversations, it seems. But I was chatting to another guy yesterday and he said, I was telling him about Kindsum and he said, “Oh, is there anyone in L.A.?
And I was like, “There’s heaps of people in L.A.”
And he said, “I’m a carpenter. I’d love to see if there was someone who needed help with something like that.”
So I said, “Well, there is. There’s a family who, they don’t have many means, but they have young kids and they want to build a gate at the front of their house that has a latch on it so the kids can’t go out onto the road. But they can’t afford that, and they’re hoping to have help. They already have the wood, they just need the skill.”
So this guy said, “Well, let me know, send me the link and I’ll do it.”
And this guy, I see him in my, where I live in Marina del Rey in L.A. I see this guy every day. And he is beaming. He’s texting me, “Hey, send me that link. Can you send me that link?”
I don’t know. I think ultimately the answer to your question is a truer connection is found when you see the person, you look at them in the eye, and you know that you’ve made a personal significant difference to them. And then that person, and you know, invariably becomes a friend.
Keese, I’ll use that example again with the tree house, he was helped, he’s stoked. His family are very moved by it all, and he’s now on the site helping other people. So there’s a ripple effect.
Jen: That’s great.
Sebastian: It’s very real. And I’ve just found that through my own story, my own life, I’ve made a significant difference to others through just giving them time or energy or consideration, not by giving them a check. And I think the beauty of it is you don’t have to have money to help. You just have to care. And that’s it.
Jen: It’s so great. So great.
By the way, listeners, we’re going to have all this linked for you to listen to. We’ll have all of this for you so you can go directly to it because I’m telling you right now, my listeners are there going to be 100% behind this.
This is kind of the way that this community values its one little minute of life on earth. I know this secret sauce, and it’s irreplaceable. And there is nothing as powerful, no amount of success—financial or status or otherwise—can sort of get into the places where kindness and goodness and connectedness can. It’s kind of like a little miracle that has a lot of power in every culture.
Okay. So before we wrap this up, I have got to just know, because you mentioned earlier you stopped at 72 because whoop, detour. So like what are a couple of the things on your list, on your 100 Things list that you’re like, “I still want to take this one off. I haven’t done it yet, but this one, if I had to go do one next week, this would be one that I want to do.”
Sebastian: Oh, it’s a good question. I mean, geez, a quick answer would be I think for an adrenaline rush, I want to do an Olympic ski jump.
Jen: Oh my gosh. Hard pass.
Sebastian: Yes. I can’t ski, but like I think the better answer is that our lists are based on our values and our values change as we progress through life. So my list, which is now published and all that kind of stuff, it represents me 10 years ago, and I’m very different from that.
Jen: That’s a good point.
Sebastian: So, I don’t really have anything on my list which I must do and I’m going to prioritize. If they happen, they happen and that’s great.
Jen: I’m glad that we don’t want to do everything we thought we wanted to do at 24. I’m happy that our lists can be fluid, and we can say, “You know what? Scratch, I’m like not going to do that.”
Sebastian: We should go check in constantly. It’s so important otherwise you end up achieving goals and you feel kind of like, Oh, well, that wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. And it’s because you didn’t check in and realize that you’ve changed as a person and that goal doesn’t relate to you anymore.
Jen: Oh, that’s good. I love that. These don’t own us. These aren’t set in stone. It is okay to still evolve and change and shift. And maybe you don’t want to jump off into Olympic ski lift anymore. Maybe our bodies are too old for that. But you find something new that you’re like, this is a must now.
I really appreciate that generosity of spirit toward this kind of life. Because lists for some people who are incredibly type A, you are obviously not. You are an adventurous spirit. I mean you are a wild one out in the world, but some people see a list and they’re like, “Must. Complete. The list.” They’re just a very, very straight Type A.
So it’s good to hear from even your mouth, the creator of the list, this can flex, and it can change and it should. I actually love to hear you say that. I think that’s a great way to wrap that.
Jen: Let me just ask you these three quick questions. We’re asking all of our guests in the Health and Wellness series. Just off the top of your head, like whatever just comes to mind.
All right here’s the first one. What’s one small or simple thing that you do every single day to take care of yourself in any way?
Sebastian: Good question. I don’t—I’m not one of these people who have a morning routine, by the way. And I always feel quite funny when someone asks something like that. I just make sure that I’ve got like a little list of weekly things that I like to try and do. So I’m looking at it right now, actually.
And I look at that kind of most mornings. So for example, I want to make sure that I’m creative. Not just with a 100 Things in Kindsum, but like personal creative projects. I want to make sure I give time to that. I want to make sure that I’m positive. Positivity is my word for the week. And really simple things, like I surf. I try and surf every day, little things like that just keep me on track.
I don’t meditate. I don’t have a set of a morning routine. It’s just, everyone’s different of course, but just doing the little things that make you happy.
Jen: Absolutely. Surfing can be your meditation that counts.
Sebastian: Oh yes.
Jen: There is not one way to take care of your mind and body and soul. So I love that. I love your answer.
I also love your answer about creativity. I understand that too. I’m kind of a fellow creator, and I find myself very much coming to life when I am giving myself time to be creative and it’s not frivolous. And so for all the creators and makers out there, that’s not a waste of your time. That’s not selfish and like feeds a really important part of you. Thanks for saying that.
How about this one. Who’s a teacher of any kind, a teacher or a leader or a thinker, that has impacted your physical or mental or spiritual health that you would recommend to us that you would say, “This is a person you should listen to.”
Sebastian: Oh, that’s okay. Again, great question.
I don’t know if I have a great answer. I pretty much stay off . . . I don’t read too much. I don’t look into the personal growth space. I’m obviously affected when I hear of amazing stories. I’m very fortunate to hear and speak on stage quite often with people who have done incredible things. Probably a lot of people you’ve heard of.
For me, I just know this, I get inspired by everyday people who do little things and just to, if you don’t mind, I’d love to just give an example.
Sebastian: I just heard from a 16-year-old kid called Austin who lives in Michigan. I think it’s a place called Hartford in Michigan. He’s 16 years old. At 14, he was suicidal.
He just wrote me an email. He was 14, he was suicidal. In his family there has been loss. There’s been drug use. There has been a whole myriad of things that have led him to being anxious and depressed and of course a couple of years ago, suicidal.
He has taken it upon himself to write to me, to tell me that he knows he doesn’t want to be involved in that darker side of life. He wants to focus on positivity. And he wants to do that by learning how to box. He believes it’s a good way for channeling a positivity, physically being healthy. And then also to kind of give him discipline in life.
So he said, “I don’t have the means to pay for a boxing coach. I don’t really know how to take the first step. Can you help me?” So we’ve got him on Kindsum, and we’re now looking for someone in Hartford, Michigan to help him box. So obviously I should say now if anyone is in Hartford, Michigan who wants to help him box, let me know.
But this kid, how inspiring at 16 to have that awareness, right? He’s taken time to think about his life, to think about where he wants to go. And he’s taken the bold step as a 16-year-old to email me, a complete stranger who he may have heard about once, and just put it all on the line. And he’s been brave and vulnerable. And that inspires me. That truly inspires me.
Jen: That’s just too good. That’s beautiful. We’re cheering for you, Austin.
Here’s the last question. Gosh, you’ve just been so great, Sebastian. Last question we ask every guest in every series this question, it’s from one of our favorite writers. And your answer can be serious. It can be absurd, it can be big, it can be small. This is completely up to you. We’ve had every kind of answer. But the question is, what is saving your life right now?
Sebastian: What is saving my life right now. I just think purpose. Yeah, purpose.
Everything I do it means something to me. I don’t waste time. I’m looking around my room right now. I’m in my living room, and this creative aspect of what I’m doing is I’m writing. I do a lot of speaking and like I said, I’m writing about the speaking world. And, well, I don’t know what it ends up being, but I’ve got index cards and palm cards, there are hundreds all around my room. They are in order, it doesn’t [look] completely messy. But that I wake up and I’m excited to look at it and I’m excited to add to it, which I will today. And that’s just, it’s perfect. That’s my answer, basically.
Jen: It’s a great.
Sebastian: I find that with Kindsum, I’m at the very beginning of something that I think could go on to change the world and activate kindness globally and scale—that makes me, that keeps me alive. Without any of that sort of stuff, I don’t know how life would be.
Jen: I believe in your work. I love how you close the loop because you started out this podcast by saying it was a sense of no purpose, that sort of changed your life as you begin to look ahead and decided you needed to pull some different levers. And now it is entirely purpose, getting out of bed every day. And it’s just incredible. And your story is so inspiring and it’s exciting.
It’s funny because I kind of found myself this entire hour—I’m in my office—I’m leaning forward, listen to you and I’m just, I’m grinning the whole time, just sitting here smiling like a dope.
Listen, your story is just wonderful, and it’s hopeful, and I appreciate anybody who’s going to give us some hope right now. Anybody who is going to grab onto the beautiful, glorious, connected, hopeful parts of the world because they exist. You’re right. You just said earlier: people are meant to connect and they’re intrinsically good. This is also my experience. And so we can choose to live into that.
Sebastian: May I add something?
Jen: I would love it.
Sebastian: I know you’re wrapping up. I can hear the wrapping up voice, but I’d want to say something.
Sebastian: May I?
Sebastian: So we’ve discussed this kindness thing, and I really think has a power to change individual lives and, at scale, the world. But we spoke about this idea of people not putting their hands up and it’s good to do so. It helps other people be good. It’s a safe environment. What I’m learning is that we all need help in some kind of way. We just don’t ask.
And so if there are any listeners listening right now, and there is something that is very meaningful to you and you’re struggling on a genuine level to do it and you do need help—or you know, someone who needs help with whatever is important to them—I really urge you to check out Kindsum. I don’t make money from clients, and this is not financial at all. I’m just trying to do better in the world and allow people to do the same. Go to Kindsum and be vulnerable and share. It is incredibly brave and it is the first step in real, true connection between strangers.
And I just want you to know that even if you don’t do that, the world’s full of good people, and just share. Let’s connect.
Sebastian: Yes, kindsum.com.
Jen: And where else can people find you online? Because they’re positively going to want to come follow you.
Sebastian: Yes, sure. So my sort of the 100 Things social media handle, Instagram included is @seb100things. And then Kindsum is a separate one, again, on Instagram and Facebook. And there’s kindsum.com and 100things.com.au. And, yeah, I just look forward to connect and hopefully sparking positivity and all that sort of stuff.
I think the other answer to what is saving my life right now, the answer is people. Without people, my gosh, this world would be boring, right? So it’s the people, and it’s people like you. Thank you so much for allowing me to talk about this.
Jen: The pleasure was mine, and I am so happy to have met you, having watched you, for some time now and you’re just as wonderful as I thought you would be.
And so I thank you so much for giving my listening community an hour of your time, and I just loved every single minute of this conversation.
Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for your good and wonderful work in the world. The ripple effects, you’ll probably never even know the half of it. You’ll just never even know how many people’s lives were touched and changed and altered and improved.
And it’s really fun to watch and it’s really inspiring to tap into. And so thank you so much, Sebastian, for being on the show today.
Sebastian: I appreciate it. I feel the love. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Absolutely delightful. Just delightful. Don’t you love him? I love that conversation. I just loved it. That is going to put me in a good mood for the rest of the week.
So, as you maybe picked up on, Sebastian has a bunch of stuff that he didn’t mention. He kind of, he holds a lot of that back. But over at jenhatmaker.com underneath the Podcast tab, Amanda will put it all over there for you, all the stuff he’s done. His shows and all his projects and definitely Kindsum, you’re going to want to see that amazing site and all the social media handles. So we’ll have it in one spot for you.
Also, you know, the written transcript is over there, which is a great tool. So be sure to use that resource because that is a labor of love that Amanda does every single week. She pulls quotes and makes graphics for you, if you want to share any podcast on your social media sites or send it to the people that you love.
And speaking of, this is a good one to share. This is a good one to say, “Hey, everybody, knock knock, listen to this.” This is good news right now. Absolutely good news.
Hey, thanks for being a listener. Thank you guys for subscribing. We love having subscribers. That makes it easy for you. Every single podcast, it’ll just show up for you week. You have to do nothing. Just live your life, and it will come to you. And also thank you, of course, for all your amazing reviews and ratings. You have been such a good community to us.
We love doing this for you. We love this podcast. I love it. If none of you ever listened, I’d still be so happy that I get to meet these outstanding human beings, that I get to hear their stories and learn from them. I mean, I’m the luckiest. It’s the best job in the world.
Thanks for listening, you guys. Much more to come in the Health and Wellness series that I think is just going to be good for us, nurturing and nourishing, zero shame, only goodness—that is my promise to you and can’t wait to bring you more. See you next week.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!