This episode is all about a new movement underway that’s all about collecting experiences in life not stuff. Chris Geganto, author inspires us all about how to live a more extraordinary life. 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
This episode is all about a new movement underway that’s all about collecting experiences in life not stuff. Chris Geganto, author, inspires us all about how to live a more extraordinary life.
Scott: Hello. This is Scott Goodson, and welcome to Uprising. So, we’ve been doing this show for about six months now. We’ve got a number of episodes up. If you have a moment, we’d really appreciate if you would give us some feedback on our Facebook page, Uprising Movements on Facebook, and if you really are enjoying this show, please rate us on iTunes. The more stars we get, the more people we get to listen to our show. And it spreads, much like a movement. Today, we are gonna talk about a movement that is really relevant for people as they probably go through their life in general, but probably more relevant when they turn about 30. 30 years old, people start to relax a bit, they aren’t as uptight, they’re more settled in their ways. And we’re gonna look at a movement that is challenging us to step outside our comfort zone. Stop collecting stuff and try to find happiness in collecting experiences. Most people are searching for happiness, we read about this a lot these days. In fact, there are economists who believe happiness is the best indicator of the health of a society. Many of us know that money can make you happier, though after your basic needs are met, it doesn’t make you that much happier. But one of the biggest questions is how to use your money since most of us have a limited resource. “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University. He’s been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. He says we buy things to make things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for awhile. New things are exciting at first, but then we adapt to them. So rather than buy the latest iPhone or BMW, Gilovich suggests you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences. Going to art exhibits, doing camping trips, learning a new skill or traveling. And he says that we are, in the end, the sum total of all our experiences. This makes a lot of sense to us. We can do this here and there. But for most of us, it’s not easy to take the time to experience an extraordinary life. We’re just too darn busy. Perhaps the big problem is making the mental space to do this. Time keeps on rolling, after all. Chris Geganto is the author of “Getting Yourself Out There” which tells the story of how deciding to step away helps you gain new perspectives about yourself and move forward faster upon your return in the right direction. Chris has figured out a way to help us create that mind space. Let’s call it the “Be Extraordinary: Being 30 before you’re 30 years old” movement. Bit of a mouthful, but you get the idea. It’s a mindset shift. Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris: My name is Chris Geganto, and before I was 30, I was heading in the direction that most of my colleagues were heading right out of college. We were growing in our careers, we were motivated to get on top, but we weren’t stopping to take time for ourselves. And really thinking about what was important. Just to give you an idea, I have a civil engineering degree from Georgia Tech, and at 28 I thought I was gonna conquer the world. But that all changed when I realized that the world that I wanted to conquer wasn’t the same way I viewed it back when I was just out of college. And so why I thought 30 was an important year is, you’ve had some experience. You’ve had about 5 or 6 years of work experience and you get a sense of what you like and what you don’t like. And one of the things you realize is, what if you made the wrong choice? What if you made the wrong choice in your career? Cuz you made the choice when you were 23. And a lot of people just sort of stay in that career, they go back to school and try to find another one, but what if you don’t know what you wanna do? But you know what you don’t wanna do? And so that was kind of where I was. My path was already charted ahead and I didn’t know what I wanted but I knew what I was doing wasn’t exactly it. But I didn’t have time to think about it. And so my wife and I decided, you know what? We’re gonna pause. We’re gonna pause, and see where our decision takes us. And so that’s when after looking back on my story I thought, having an experience or being extraordinary in 30—before you’re 30—is critical. Because you can do it in 30 days, 30 hours, 30 weeks or 30 months. It doesn’t matter. But you just have to be in the mindful context that you’re doing something extraordinary, out of your normal self.
Scott: What you’re doing with this idea is really sort of stopping people in their tracks and saying, when you get to this point in your life, ask them questions that are maybe gonna change everything that you are, or maybe just a little bit of who you are or where you’re going.
Chris: A lot of my friends at the time said, “You’re derailing your career.” You read a lot of the blogs out there and you always hear that it’s NOT derailing your career or you are derailing your career. And you’re confused on what you should do. But the idea is to gain that perspective, right? Because the things you’ve accumulated up and to that point are obviously not providing you the perspective on how to move forward. They’re just things you’ve accumulated. So when you spend money on experiences or you just have experiences, those experiences provide perspective. So the way I look at it is there’s 2 easy ways, Scott. Experiences provide growth, right? So the more times you go and have experiences, the more you grow individually. And guess what. Growth provides opportunities. And so the more you grow, the more the way you see the world is different, the more opportunities you’re gonna create for yourself. That’s one equation.
Scott: And growth is also important for not only growing but also because without it you shrink. Really, as a person you need that stimulation for your mind, right?
Chris: Exactly. So that’s the way I always, always look it. And the other one is experiences create stories. And stories are how you relate to people. So if you don’t have stories to tell, then you’re gonna relate to people the same way you’ve been relating to people for the past however many years. And what if you’re relating to the wrong people? Or what if you’re not relating to the people you should be relating to? And so my thought it is that that all leads into this notion of experiences give growth, growth provides opportunities. Experiences give you stories, stories help you relate to different people that you never thought you’d relate to.
Scott: That’s fascinating. I mean, I think that’s fascinating, just that thought, really. Because the biggest challenge of all is getting out of the rut, right? Getting out of that little space you’re in. Whatever that space is.
Chris: So here’s an example, how it worked for me. So when I was a sophomore in college, I started out as a history major. I loved history. I thought it was gonna be where I was gonna spend my time, I wanted to be a professor and a soccer coach, I had it all planned out when I was 21—or 19, actually. And so I decided to take a math class. And I ended up doing pretty good. And I’d never taken math before, seriously, I’ve never really cared about it. And I took a math class and said, you know what? This is pretty cool. I can do this. So I said, I need to change my major but I don’t know what it’s gonna be. It’ll have to be something with math but I’m not sure. So I set out on a six-month journey to hike the Appalachian trail. And I spent 6 months in the woods. The first 4-6 weeks I spent alone. Literally hiking by myself, thinking, just in the zone. And then the last bit, I met people. And the people I met aren’t the people that you would normally think of. These are people from Stamford and Dartmouth and Rensselaer and from NC State. And guess what they were? They were all engineers. And I’m like, they were good at math. And they were really cool. And I wanted to be like them. And they had the same likes and, you know, I could relate to them. We were telling the same stories. And so when we got back, I decided, you know what? I don’t wanna be a history major. I wanna be an engineer. And what kind of engineer do I wanna be? The same kind they were. And the majority of them were civil engineers. And they went on to have successful careers. And that’s how an experience changes your entire perspective. And I was 19 at the time.
Scott: When did you decide to do this shift? And what was the catalyst for your change?
Chris: So, the catalyst was I wasn’t clear what my next steps were. So I broke it down into some simple steps. To be extraordinary, the first step is you have to declare it. You literally have to just make the decision and decide on your path forward. So when I was 19, decided that I had to go do something different. Didn’t know what it was gonna be, I was pretty good at hiking, figured I’d go do that. When I was 29 I was pretty good at sailing, and I owned a big boat, I might as well go do that. So you had to declare it. And then once you say, “I’m going to do this,” and you make the hardest decision of all, it’s that decision. In my case, the world conspires to make it happen for you. It’s unbelievable how all the doors suddenly open and say, you know what? That was the right decision. Go forward. And that’s how it happened. And so that’s the first step, is to simply declare it. The second step is to sort of set the goal. Decide what you value and what’s important. For me at the time at 19, I decided you know I really valued being in the woods. And trying to conquer something less than 4,000 people have done is to hike Mount Katahdin and hike 2,000 miles. The third step is you have to make tradeoffs. So you have to then understand if this is what’s important to you, and this is the decision you made, there are other things you cannot do. So you cannot accumulate things. You cannot spend your money on things. Because those things are going to prevent you from doing what you’ve set out to do, what you’ve declared you’re going to go do. And then one of the most important things, Scott—and this is where people say, “Well there’s no way I could ever do that.” The most important thing is to have an exit plan. Is to plan what happens afterwards. So when I left when I was 19, I had already been accepted into college to the next school that I was gonna go to. When I left when I was 29, I had already had a job offer a year in advance. And so you always have to think of your exit plan first. So that you’re not just sort of floundering when you come back. You have direction. And it’s a direction that may not be exactly where you wanna go but it’s a direction where you can sort of plug back into society to help determine where you go. A lot of times, it’s where you need to go, but sometimes it may not be. So don’t feel like you have to have it figured out in your exit plan.
Scott: Do you think that there’s ways for people out there who might listen to this—listen to you and say, “Wow, I love what he’s saying. But I have no clue what I would do. I don’t have a passion. I don’t wanna go sailing, I don’t wanna go walking in the mountains. How do I find a passion or a habit that I need to get out of in order to change my trajectory?
Chris: That’s something that people struggle with a lot, right? You have the I wish-ers. Everyone says, “I wish I would’ve done that.” I mean, everybody says that. I haven’t met a person who says, “I wish I could’ve done that.” Well, it’s the I wish-ers versus the I am’s. So the I am’s are the people that are decisive and directed and determined. So any time you say, “You know, I wish I could’ve done that.” Well that’s something that you value, that you didn’t fulfill on. That’s something that you thought was important that you didn’t go do. And so that’s sort of where you start is think about the times when you’ve said, “I wish.” The other thing is, think about what’s most important to you, you know? Is it spending time with your family or your wife or a loved one? Is it spending time by yourself? You could even break it down that simple. And you don’t have to go away for 3 years, 6 months, you just have to be in the mindset for 30 hours. Just a small amount of time to get you out of the day-to-day. And that’s really how you go about figuring it out.
Scott: So in your experiences, can you kind of give us an example of how you did that?
Chris: The sailing one, when I was 29, this one was the hardest, right? Because here we are in our career, we’re getting pushed and pulled from our companies. My company had made me an offer to stay and I wasn’t sure whether I should take it or not. It was hard to turn down. But the decision we set on—September 1st, 2006, regardless of where we’re at, we’re making the decision. We put a date to it. We said September 1st.
Scott: Why September 1st?
Chris: Why September 1st? Why not? It was just the date. And we gave ourselves 8 weeks to make the decision. And sure enough on September 1st, I can tell you where I was. My wife and I, we were in Saint ? Creek—one of our favorite anchorages—we were out on a sailboat spending the weekend. And we looked at each other and the sunset was going down and the sky was purple. And we were the only boat in the harbor. And we looked at each other and said, you know, it’s pretty clear what our decision has to be. She says, it is. If we wanna live life like this and really find ourselves for the next 8 months, we have more time together like this. And I said well the only way we could do that is if we go away for 8 months on the boat. And we can have this time together where we’re just free to think what we wanna think and to do what we wanna do. And if we wanna have that then we have to make the right decision, and that is to leave. So at that point on September 1st, we declared it. That’s how it worked for us. And then we said October 31st, we’re gonna leave. And then we set the goal. And then it was just trying to figure out how to get the boat ready and how to get everything ready. And then we were starting to prepare ourselves and our minds for this. And there was so much things we had to do. We had to make financial decisions. We had to figure out where to put our stuff. And obviously we didn’t wanna have a lot of stuff. And we had to figure out how to make the dreaded crossing over the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas. And really think about the tough passages we were gonna have to make. And then it started to get real. We had to buy charts and chart plotters and all these things that we never knew about. Cuz we weren’t experienced in this. That’s what happened when we set our goal and then that’s where the tradeoffs came in. Because now we were trading off, well, do we sell the car or do we keep the car? Do we put our stuff in storage or do we move it to our parents’ houses? All that stuff became part of the tradeoffs. And then obviously, I flew down to Atlanta and got a job offer a year in advance and came back. And then the last thing is, the last step is to live in the moment. Is to completely unplug. And that was the best thing that ever happened. So on October 31st, 2006 was the day we unplugged. And that’s all taking calculated risk. And then the I wish mentality we activated on the things we had wished for. And now, I have more stories than I can think of. And I can relate to more people than I ever thought I could before cuz there’s always a common thread when you go on an adventure quite like that.
Scott: You know it’s important to just stop and smell the roses along the way. It’s a bit of a cliché but I think it’s, you know, the truth.
Chris: You gotta put it in perspective, right? So when I tell people this makes so much sense. You’re 29 or you’re 30. You normally retire at, what, 62? 60? Whatever it is. 60, 62. You have worked for, let’s say, 5 years. 6 years. You have another 32 years of work left. Your work life is—you’re talking about one year out of the next 32 years? To make sure you’re doing exactly what you wanna do. So when you put it in perspective, you almost ask yourself why wouldn’t I? Take a year or take time to myself to make sure that the direction I’m heading and the perspective I have is the right one. Because I have 32 more years of work in my career.
Scott: What I love very much about what you’re saying is the framework that you’re providing, right? This thought of, it is really at that time in your life when you’re done with your education, you’ve had your first taste of work, and what you’re saying is be extraordinary in 30 and before you’re 30. And maybe you could talk a little about that, because you told me a little about that. I love the idea of giving yourself this sort of mental framework, whether you do it for 30 hours or 30 days or 30 weeks, but just really try to use that life stage as a real opportunity to kind of stop and experience your life in a truly generous and inspiring way.
Chris: Absolutely. So if you think about, let’s just say you could only spend 30 hours. 30 hours is a camping trip with your friends, with your family, but it’s a chance to disconnect, right? It’s a chance to just go hide in the mountains for 30 hours. Or just go hide somewhere for 30 hours. It’s enough time for you stop and reflect. Just out of the day to day. You’re sort of breaking up norm of what you would normally do in that weekend, right? When you’re talking about 30 days, now a month. Guess what? A month is enough time to build a habit. So what if you went somewhere where you said, you know I wanna be extraordinary and I wanna give up all sweets. Or I wanna learn a new language. Or I wanna do something completely outside my comfort zone and built a habit. You can build a habit in 30 days. Or at least put yourself on the path to that. And so I like 30 days because it’s enough time for you to put yourself in that mindset. And the great thing about 30 days is, you don’t necessarily have to go away for 30 days. You could do it after work for an hour for 30 days for an hour. Or ideally you’d wanna sort of stop what you’re doing and go away for 30 days. But this isn’t something where you’d have to sort of quit everything you’re doing. It’s just being in that mindset. Now, I’m sorry but 30 weeks, that’s like an 8-month trip or a 6-month trip. And in that time, that’s enough time to—you could either build a new habit or take on something where you take yourself out of your current situation cuz you’ll transform yourself in 30 weeks for sure. Whole new perspective.
Scott: We’re not talking about the type of change that is like, I wanna get more sleep, or I wanna stop eating crap or I wanna read 10 books. You’re talking, really, about being a curious person. Like, try to take an adventure or make some big sort of goal. Am I understanding that correctly? Or are you just talking about small, you know, details?
Chris: Well, it could be both. For the 30 hours, yeah, I would say it’s small details. But when you get into like 30 days and 30 weeks, you know, that’s where your new perspective on things? You’re gonna transform, sort of, who you are. Simply because you’re doing stuff you never thought you could. Right? Margaret and I, my wife, never thought we could sail. We were the youngest people we met out there. We never thought we could cross the Gulf Stream. We never thought we could sail to the Tropic of Cancer. But when you achieve those things, you start to build confidence. And that confidence builds confidence for other things in your life. And that’s where you start to be extraordinary, right? That’s when you’re being extraordinary, and that’s when you’re out of your comfort zone. And this isn’t like giving up candy for 30 weeks or 30 months. This is something where you’re going to transform yourself personally because you’re doing something you never thought you could. And when people do that they get hope. And when they get hope, they get that confidence. And then you can’t stop them.
Scott: A lot of people say well when I turn 85 I’m gonna have a bucket list and I’m gonna visit x, y, z. But then they turn 75 and maybe they can’t travel to China or whatever. It’s almost like, enjoy it along the way rather than try to wait for the end.
Chris: Oh, Scott, I mean you hit the nail on the head. I mean, we were out in the Bahamas. We were with a lot of people who, they were living their bucket list. But they were also, like, in their 60s and 70s. Right? And so while we were getting off and exploring islands and diving for lobsters and hunting the coral reef, they were sitting on their boat just relaxing. And we were out, and that’s thing. So the type of adventure you have gives you a different perspective, right? So your perspective from the boat is very different from the perspective of being adventurous on land. Maybe it could be as simple as training for a marathon, you know? Training for a marathon in 30 weeks. And in that case, if you’ve never ran before, you’re being extraordinary. You know? For someone who runs marathons every day, they’re just doing what they normally do. But just simply trying to achieve something you never thought you could, that changes your whole perspective. And that bleeds into everything. That bleeds into your personal relationships and your career and where you go in life and your confidence and your perspective. Everything. So it’s not just quitting everything and leaving it. Doing something you never thought you could.
Scott: What advice do you have for people that are sort of listening to you and saying, wow, I’d love to do all that. But, you know, I’m one of those I-wish guys or one of those women, you know?
Chris: I mean, yeah. The biggest enemy to being extraordinary is the routine, right? So it’s all about we get into our routines. What we do day to day, we leave work, go to the gym, have dinner, hang out with friends and then, you know, wash/rinse to repeat the next day. Or, you know, get home, put the kids to bed, and so the routines is the biggest one. And you’ve got to step back. And so it’s that simple. It’s just stepping back and saying, oh my gosh. Am I in the routine I wanna be in? Is this the routine I wanna be in? It’s just questioning that. And when you start to classify it as a routine, accept it. It’s a routine. And say it’s hard to be extraordinary when you’re doing a routine. Period.
Scott: How has that whole experience shaped you today as a husband, as a father, as a friend, as a professional? Like, how are you different than would’ve been if you wouldn’t have done this?
Chris: Because I believe I can do anything. Right? I’m a civil engineer working in marketing. I don’t know too many of those. Right? So there are no boundaries for me of things I can achieve, and with my family? It’s all about making them think that, you know, when is our next adventure? And making them think about it that way. Because, you know, I don’t want them to think of our family as routine. So we constantly take them camping and get them out into the outdoors and we hike with them on the Appalachian trail and they’re 3 and 5. So they’re not gonna remember this. But, you know, at the end of the day, Scott, we are planning another trip in 6 years. To go away for 2 years on a 47-foot yacht. So, they’ll get plenty of that.
Scott: Life, really, is much bigger when you make your world bigger. When you break down those barriers, when you try. It’s a really smart, really, really smart philosophy that you’re expressing.
Chris: It’s not like the world will forget where you are or who you are. It will be waiting for you when you get back. And so, you know, just taking a pause or doing something different is critical and to help shape who you’ve always wanted to be, who you’ve wished you wanted to be. And so go from an I-wish person to an I-am person. That’s kinda how I look at the world.
Scott: You did it together with Margaret, your wife. Do you think it’s easier to do it with another person so you have that sort of level of comfort and level of support? Or do you think anybody can do it?
Chris: It’s just depends, right? So, when I did it when I was 19, I was by myself. With Margaret it was great, because we’re so different. We’re different people, but we share one thing. And that’s a sense of adventure. And what we always tell each other is if we ever find each other is if life ever gets so hard or so bad, we both agree we’ve got this red button and we’ll push it. And when we push that button, we quit our jobs and we go do something no matter where we’re at. Because we know life will be better on the other side. And having someone that believes that as well is critical for us. It is for me, anyways.
Scott: Do you think that your relationship has a deeper resonance because of this experience than if you wouldn’t have gone off and jumped on a boat and headed to the great seas? I mean, is there a deeper connection that you have?
Chris: To me, when 2 people are together in that experience, out of their comfort zone, true characters come, literally, they show up. And a lot of times, people don’t like who those true characters are. But in this case, we were very fortunate. And sometimes, it might not work out for you. The true characters might come out and you might not like it. And then, the right decision is to not be together. But for us, the true characters came out, and they were the right people to be together. So in our case, it worked out really well.
Scott: Usually, I mean if you’re experiencing those things, the relationship tends to be a lot stronger, I think. You know?
Scott: Cuz I think it’s the opposite that makes your relationship challenging. It’s when you live a life where you’re living in kind of a default mode. And you’re not challenged to find solutions, be open-minded, open yourself to new people and other things that you talked about. You know? As a result of that, you deepen your relationship, I think, to the other person.
Chris: I mean, we met people out there who were—they were young, they were probably in their 40s—and they had really big jobs in Boston. And they went on a boat around the world. And I think they named their boat, “All who wander are not lost”? I believe that’s the quote. Yeah, and it was really interesting because they didn’t have kids yet, but you could tell there was this special bond. And most couples we saw out there had that special bond. So I can see what you’re talking about. I saw it. Absolutely.
Scott: Do you think that people, let’s say in their 40s and 50s, can they also be extraordinary in those years? Or is it 30 when, you know, it causes a consternation that you need to sort of stop a serious life and open yourself up to new experiences?
Chris: Well I hope you can do it when you’re older, cuz I’m planning on doing it. (laughs) But I think the view, the perspective is just different. I really do. You know, the people we met in their 60s and 70s, they were all about sharing. They were all about teaching, they were all about telling us what they had learned. And I’m like, you know, from a 30-year-old, that’s huge! Because now you’re getting a view into, like, what life is like at that age. And what things they’re thinking about. And the kinds of ways that they approach things. So, you’re learning. Whether you’re learning from a new experience but you’re learning from someone who has experience, and that’s the best kind of learning.
Scott: If I look at my own life, I think when I was younger, I was a lot more neurotic. When I was like 18 to 30, you know? Cuz you’re worried about like 50 different things, right? You’re worried about your friends and your girlfriend, first job and all that stuff. And I think when you turn 30, you start to accept your life and the level of acceptance begins to settle in. Which is perhaps why 30 is such an important time.
Chris: I agree. I agree. Without question. I mean, it’s sort of that inflection point. Even though you still have 30 more years, you’re sort of shaping the direction those 30 years are going to head in. What industry you’re gonna be in, what kind of job you’re gonna be in, you know? Chances are your habits have set in, the things you like have set in, you’re probably making roots somewhere, all that happens kind of in your 30s and so that’s why it was pivotal for us before we started setting down roots and having a family, and you could do it with a family but for us that’s why it was important to do it.
Scott: Well, that’s really inspiring. I think there are probably a lot of people out there who are listening to this who live in places like Dubai or in Japan or other countries. And the United States and Canada and Australia. It’s more common to have this kind of philosophy although probably not as common as it should be or…but in other parts of the world, it’s unheard of. So, I think this advice will be really valuable for people listening in other countries. So, this is really terrific. I really appreciate it. I feel relieved that I no longer have to feel like a rebel to be extraordinary. I can actually take time off and it makes a lot of sense. It’s scientific. I think the way you’ve described it. So, I very much appreciate you joining us today, this is great. So everyone out there who was inspired by this chat, please make sure you take a look at Chris’ book.
Chris: It’s on Amazon. It’s called “Getting Yourself Out There”.
Scott: “Getting Yourself Out There”. Thank you so much for joining us.
Chris: Thanks, Scott.
Scott: Okay, Chris.