Today on uprising!!! We have a one man movement Dotan Negrin. He was not afraid of a challenge. He decided to sell all his possessions, buy a truck and set out around the world with the only two essentials he needed – his adorable dog, Brando, and a 500-pound upright piano. Five years later and the adventurous duo have visited over 300 cities in 21 countries, sharing his love of music with people from the US, Mexico, Canada and Europe. For more ideas on Uprising and movements, cultural movements and movement marketing, follow Uprising!!! on Facebook. We’ll continue to publish brand-new columns on a regular basis. Hey, do us a favor and please give Uprising!!! a review on iTunes. Scott Goodson is the author of best-selling book ‘Uprising: how to build a brand and change the world by sparking cultural movements,’ available on Amazon.com. Scott has helped create and build some of the world’s most iconic brands. He is founder of StrawberryFrog the world’s first movement marketing agency.
Uprising Interview transcript
Today on Uprising!!! we have a one man movement Dotan Negrin. He was not afraid of a challenge. He decided to sell all his possessions, buy a truck and set out around the world with the only two essentials he needed-his adorable dog, Brando, and a 500-pound upright piano. Five years later and the adventurous duo have visited over 300 cities in 21 countries, sharing his love of music with people from the US, Mexico, Canada and Europe.
Scott: Sometimes, you just say “Fuck it” and throw a piano on the back of a truck and play your way down to Panama. Today, we have a very special guest. We have Dotan Negrin, who is a one-man movement.
Dotan: I realized after years, many many months of frustration, I realized, “I wanna do something for myself, I wanna chase my own dreams rather than working for other people.” And I took all the money I had in the bank—
Scott: What was that spark that got you from thought to doing what you’re doing? Something musta happened in 2010. Was there some sort of moment when you had like a flash of genius? How does it actually come about?
Dotan: What sparked it is—to answer the question—I started working for one of my dad’s friends who was an artist. He was a painter and a photographer. And he needed a driver to drive his artwork down to Miami for Art Basel. And this is January of 2010. And I was like, “Sure, I’ll do it!” So I got paid 500 bucks to drive to Miami. And I got paid. And after that, a friend of mine who was in the Dominican Republic calls me up and he says, “Come down to DR! It’s just a short flight away.” And I’m like, “Ah, well I just made 500, maybe I’ll just fly to the Dominican Republic!” I flew to the Dominican Republic and it was the first time I’d left the country by myself. And I think that experience of being—
Scott: What did your father tell you when you said, “I’m going to go on this…” what were his first words out of his mouth?
Dotan: Well ‘cause it was his friend, so he was like “Alright, alright! Do it!” ‘Cause I was still kind of exploring what I was doing with my life, and my father’s definitely a big part of my life and an influence. And, you know, he always puts the pressure on me, he’s very good at putting on the pressures. “Where’s the money coming from?” Like, he’s a businessman and his philosophy is make the money first, then do what you want. But in my opinion, that’s a backwards approach and we live in different times now.
Scott: So this idea that you just talked about now, this philosophy that you have, can you kind of talk a little bit about that? So, what do you stand for? You’re giving advice to people when you’re traveling, and basically you take a piano and you go to a different country, and you play and meet people and open a dialogue with different cultures and different languages and different people. Just talk a little bit about what you actually do.
Dotan: When I first started, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing with my life! I was lost. Really, I was just lost. And I was searching, I was searching for something. And so I thought, “You know what? I’m doing this thing for myself. I know this is gonna be a great learning experience, and I’m gonna be challenged in ways I’ve never been challenged before, in ways that most people never get challenged before.” The reason why I came up with this idea was originally I was working for that guy, the artist. I was getting paid to travel. I’m like, “Oh, this is so cool! I can actually get paid to travel.” You know, mix work and play together. You know, I spent two years doing work for other people and not really caring about it, but then I came up with this idea of, like, what if I could actually make money doing the things I love? This is such a novel concept, why aren’t more people doing this? And so that’s what kind of sparked the journey to pursue going after the things I love while still being able to make money. So the things I love are travel, music, meeting people. And so I figure how can I make a living doing that? And so I kind of put that all together, and the idea was that I’m gonna be traveling the world, making money as I go by performing on the streets and doing gigs, and then meeting people, and inevitably people would invite me over to their houses or I just made friends everywhere I go, it was never a lonely experience. Ever.
Scott: How does that change now? What is it now? ‘Cause you said it kind of evolved into a different sort of experience.
Dotan: Well at the first trip, I didn’t make much money, but I learned that I can travel the world for free with a piano. So the second trip I actually made profit. So the third trip was like, “Oh, how can I do this without working for that other guy?” So you’ll see this progression that, like, every trip that I’ve done I’ve added a challenge or a layer. Like, what’s the function of this? How am I gonna challenge myself or what am I gonna do differently to make this better? The main goal being how can I live my life doing the things I love every day? So this third trip was the $2 road trip where I started with $2 and one gallon of gas in New York. I made like $150 playing on the streets, filled up my cooler with food and my tank with gas, and I hit the road. And I did a month of travels. Went into Canada, Quebec, went to Boston, New York, and I came back with 2500 profit. I did gigs, I did all that, it was great!
Scott: That’s fantastic.
Dotan: My fourth trip was—so this is where it starts to change—my fourth trip was, you know what? I’m gonna do something crazy, I’m gonna say it goes back to that “sometimes you say fuck it and go travel down to Panama.” I’m like, “America’s cool.” I went into Canada. I’m like, “I wanna go to other countries now.” So, like, the only other place than North is going South. So I said, “I’m gonna do something really freakin’ crazy and I’m gonna drive from New York to Panama.” And I’m either gonna sell the car in Panama, or I might continue down to Colombia, or I don’t even know what I’m gonna do. But the idea is I’m gonna go down to Panama. And so I saved up a bunch of money, and this is where I started getting into video. And so I hired a guy on Craigslist for a month on my trip to come down to like Guatemala with me, and we filmed a bunch of videos. And it was my first big video production. Meanwhile, I never went to school for production, I never went to school for music, I never went to school for traveling the world. All of this I was learning as I was doing the experience. And it was a disaster! But it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, the most challenging. It was my biggest failure in my life. And I got sick three times, I got food poisoning, I got sun poisoning, I got robbed and lost $3,000 worth of equipment. It was great! And I learned so much. Not only that, I was learning Spanish, I was backpacking, and there was a time in that trip where I was a traveling bum and I kind of just was living my life. But through that, I ended up getting sponsored by Goodyear Latin America.
Scott: So it sounds to me like, in a way, what you’re basically telling us is that in life, you’ve gotta basically get lost to be found. Right?
Dotan: That’s part of it, and it goes along with the way I’ve been living life in the last five years is really iy. I’ve been really in the moment, surveying the cards that life is dealing me now. I have these cards. Lemme see what these cards do! If one card doesn’t work, I’ll go back, try this card. And literally I’ve been living the last five years like that. Where it’s super in the moment. I don’t know where I’ll be five months from now. It’s kinda hard for me to plan ahead that far in advance unless someone has a good offer that makes sense to me to do. Of course, it’s obviously not just about the money. The currency I’ve been dealing with is experiences and friends, really.
Scott: So how does a corporation like Goodyear Latin America come across you, and what was it about you that they felt was very inspiring? Apart from the fact that you obviously were traveling a lot and you’re make reels and reels of a traveler. But there must be a deeper philosophy that they liked.
Dotan: I don’t know, it’s interesting, because I didn’t really have a really big social media presence at all at that time. I think what appealed to them is what I was doing is just adventurous and it’s a kick-ass story. I mean, at the same time, I was on CNN, I was on national news, on CNN, and that’s how they discovered me.
Scott: What can your global music movement teach us about life?
Dotan: I truly believe it’s the arts and music and theater. These things are more important that we think, even though they’re being cut from schools and high schools. Like, I studied theater for many years, and one of the things studying theater and doing scenes and monologues and understanding behavior, understanding what motivates a character. What’s an objective of the character when they walk into the scene? It’s taught me to really evaluate how I interact with people in a daily setting. I’m always thinking about what’s motivating people. When they say something, I’m always evaluating why are they saying these things? And I think [why] music is so important is it’s another way to connect with people and it teaches people to be sensitive to another person. ‘Cause it’s a give and take when you’re playing music with someone, you have to give and you have to take. You have to share. These are really important things that people must learn! Whereas, like business, it teaches you have to learn competition, you have to fight and be competitive. Where music, for me, it’s like, I’m not competing with this other pianist. I don’t wanna compete with you. I wanna collaborate. We’re speaking this language. The arts are so much more important than people realize. I mean, yes, most people see arts and see it all, these are entertainment, and even I think about this, I’m like, I’m creating video, there’s so much media content in the world right now. And a lot of it’s distraction. It’s all just distraction. Unless you’re creating something that’s really valuable that’s gonna inspire young people or teach you something. Then it’s just a distraction, and I don’t wanna create distractions. I don’t wanna create any distractions.
Scott: It’s very profound, this idea that music brings people together. Clearly it brings people together, but it brings them together in a way that they have to collaborate. Which is actually something I’ve never thought about. That’s really, really interesting.
Dotan: My believe—and this again goes to my life mission—is that I think if everybody played an instrument, I think this world would be such a different place and people would be more open to connecting. But then again, traveling the world made me realize that, to just wanna connect. I just wanna connect!
Scott: Be happy. And when people follow you, whether it’s on social media or they come out meet you when you travel, what is it that they’re inspired by? Why do they follow you?
Dotan: I actually do believe that it’s not necessarily the music that was really what attracted people. It’s funny to look at it now. Because I’m trying to bring more of the music into it, but I think in the past, in the last four or five years, it’s been more about the act of doing that has inspired people. Especially young people who see me doing this and, like, struggling, and going through these challenges. But for me, this hasn’t just been about the music, it’s been more about the act and doing something extraordinary with your life. And I have this saying, you owe it to yourself to do something remarkable with your life.
Scott: Mm. I like that.
Scott: So how do you live that philosophy?
Dotan: For me, living extraordinary is just doing anything outside the norm. And I feel like most people live life doing things, you know, “This is the way things should be.” And anything outside of that, I think, is extraordinary. As I say, forget what should be and just do things that feel true. And what I believe is to tap into that. To find out what’s true is really just tapping into what your instincts are telling you. I think your instinct is, like, a very incredible resource that people are just not listening to anymore. Because they’re listening to their fears rather than their instincts.
Scott: When you are traveling and you’re exploring, you’re growing, you’re inspired, do you feel that when you meet people when you’re traveling, that they also are growing? Do you feel that there’s a kind of sharing of growth?
Dotan: Yes, it’s not even that I feel it, it’s that I know it because they send me messages. And they tell me, like, you inspired me to do this, or…I get this message all the time, “My parents are telling me to do this but I really wanna just try this out!” And I’m like, then go try it! Do what makes you feel good and, you know.
Scott: When you’re out traveling, obviously you talk about being robbed and all these crazy things that you went through. What was the craziest thing that ever happened to you while you were on your travels?
Dotan: The best experiences have been moments where I’ll meet someone on the street and they’ll be like, “Hey, why don’t you come over to my house and hang out with my family?” And then the next day, here I am hanging out with three generations of this family on an island called Vinalhaven Island off the coast of Maine eating fish that was caught that week, vegetables they grew in their garden. And it turned out it was a family reunion which was in Maine, 2012. And it turns out the whole family was musical. They all played instruments, they sang, I ended up jamming with them. And then the older brother who played guitar, the younger brother who was the guy I met on the street, he played drums, and they’re like, “We’re playing at the local bar. You should come hang out with us!” Like, cool! They surprised me with a keyboard and they’re like, “We want you to play a song with us.” And I’m like “Alright, cool. So I’ll play one song.” And I ended up playing the whole four-hour gig with them. Dancing and sweating and drunk. And then at the end of the gig, the guy’s like, “Here. Here’s 300 bucks.” I’m like, “Why? He’s like, “Because” and I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t know I was playing a gig.”
Scott: That’s hilarious. In a way, you kind of disproved whatever all the politicians tell us. That you have to be fearful of everybody, you know? You’re kind of disproving them, that in fact it’s actually really easy to meet people. And most people are actually really nice.
Dotan: I just said yes to everything that happened those two days. I said yes to whatever that guy was telling me, he obviously seemed like a reasonable guy. He was also a musician. So, you know, it goes back to the idea that musicians, we speak this language. It’s almost like an instant camaraderie. And when you say yes, I just said yes to everything that came my way and it led me to have all these amazing discoveries.
Scott: You’re definitely setting the tone for a new generation. That’s highly inspiring. So, thank you so much for your time. It’s been great listening to you. Are you able to direct us to any YouTube…?
Dotan: On YouTube, you can find me at Piano Around the World. Everywhere, really. You can type Piano Around the World into Google and you’ll find everything. I think YouTube has been my main thing right now, bumping out videos and stuff.
Scott: Nice. Well, we’re gonna look at that, and I very much appreciate your time. It’s been really great.
Dotan: You too! I appreciate you having me.