Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Keynote to Graduating Seniors at the United Nations International School

I just returned from giving a 1-hour talk to the high school graduating class at the United Nations International School.  This is the fifth year in a row that I have delivered the keynote address during graduation week at the school, and I am always blown away by the quality of the students.  These are young people who see themselves as global citizens and take seriously the vision of making the world a better place.  Nearly every one elects to do the work to receive an International Baccalaureate Diploma, arguably the most academically rigorous high school education available.  All the students have studied at least two foreign languages, and many are fluent in multiple languages.  They have spent many hours volunteering in community service and outdoor environmental education programs.  Spending time with them was like receiving a boost of positive energy and optimism.

The title of my talk was "What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?"  I examined this simple, but momentous, question, and encouraged the students to dig deeper, asking, How can you improve the world, and What is the story you want to tell with your life?  I shared lessons learned from cycling thousands of miles with my young children across Japan, Iceland, Europe and the U.S.  I described the awe and respect I have for blind athletes I've guided in marathons and Ironman triathlons -- people who have an excellent excuse not to push themselves so hard, and yet choose to do it anyway.  I challenged the students to go out into the world with this same courageous mindset.

After my talk, a number of students approached to tell me about their hopes and goals.  A recurring theme that came up was how to pay for the meaningful life you want to create.  There's no easy answer, but I know this:  Money comes and goes.  We need it to survive, but not to thrive.

Here are some pics:

The talk was held in the UNIS theater

From the crowd's point of view

Talking with students afterwards - best part of the experience

Friday, May 16, 2014

Tales from a Transatlantic Cruise

I just returned from giving a series of lectures on a Celebrity Cruise Lines transatlantic cruise.  The ship started in Miami and stopped in NYC, Halifax (Nova Scotia), Cork (Ireland) and Harwich (England).  What an interesting experience!  With a couple thousand people on board, it was like living in a small town for 13 days.  I met people from all over the world and had a series of stimulating conversations, especially after my talks, and I sold many copies of my book Rising Son: A Father and Son's Bike Adventure across Japan.  There were over 500 people in the audience for each presentation, and my talks were replayed over and over on a dedicated TV channel.  Strangers on the ship often introduced themselves and started chatting about my most recent talk.  Great way to meet people.

My first presentation was entitled, "Tales from a Family Adventurer."  One guy joked, "What is that, a bunch of pics of your kids in Disney World?"  After I gave the talk, in which I shared stories and lessons learned from cycling thousands of miles through Japan, Iceland, Europe and the U.S. with my young children, he came up to me and said, "Wow.  You blew me away."  Very cool.  

My second lecture, "Lessons from Lewis & Clark," mixed in history, science, nature and adventure.  I quizzed the audience on their knowledge of this famous early 1800's U.S. expedition, in which President Jefferson sent a group of men to find an all water route from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean.  The men barely survived, produced some incredible journals about the experience, and set the stage for westward expansion.  My questions included: What was the name of Sacagawea's baby? (Answer: Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, named by the French fur trapper who bought her.  Yes, bought her.  So much for women's rights.)  What were some of the animals Meriwether Lewis "discovered" (in quotes, because the Native Americans had known about these animals for thousands of years), etc.

My third talk was, "If You Have a Body, You're an Athlete," based on a quote by Bill Bowerman, the co-founder of Nike.  The Q&A after this talk was the longest and most intense of the cruise.  I offered tips for maintaining an athletic body at any age, which seemed to resonate well with the audience.

I never thought of myself as a "cruise person."  I prefer roughing it in a tent in the wilderness with my family.  But now I understand the appeal.  Life on board was very comfortable.  The sunrises and sunsets out on the open ocean were surreal.  The night sky was profoundly moving.  And the social life on board was stimulating.  Don't be surprised if you see another blog post some time soon about my next cruise! 

Here are a few pics.

Our ship, the Celebrity Infinity

Sailing away from NYC

Sunset over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge

Moon and sunset at sea

Selfie during one of my talks

The audience

Screen shot from the cruise TV channel

Walking around Cork, Ireland.  It felt good to walk on dry land for a bit.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Keynotes on a Celebrity Cruise Lines transatlantic cruise

I have the distinct honor of giving three lectures over the next week on a transatlantic cruise that started in Miami, Florida and will end in Harwich, England on May 12.  Life on a cruise ship is stimulating.  The sunsets and sunrises over the ocean are glorious.  Laying on a deck chair late at night watching the stars winking in the blackness is profound.  But the best part so far has been meeting a variety of people from all over the world.  One woman I met in a yoga class was in her 60's and recovering from renal cancer.  She had to take frequent breaks during the class, but she didn't give up.  After class, I told her that she was the most impressive person in the room!

Here are some pics:

Theater where I speak
Arriving in NYC

Sunset from the ship