Jake Heilbrunn Joins Us On The Steve Jobs Inspired Join Up Dots Podcast
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Introducing Jake Heilbrunn
He is a man who quite simply is astonishing.
Why do I feel that?
Well at the age of twenty years old he is already on his way to defining his life, whilst the rest of the world are scrabbling around screaming “I don’t know what I want to do…show me someone, show me!!”
He is a youth speaker, author of the book “Off The Beaten Trail” and driven to show the world how everything can start if you are willing to ask a simple question.
As he says “My extraordinary adventure began with one simple question: What if the biggest risk is not taking any risk at all?
After an fulfilling first semester of college that resulted in major stress, anxiety and unhappiness, I knew that I needed to make a change. Although doing well academically, I had no passion for what I was doing. I realized that going to school and getting a degree might not be the right path for me – at least at this point in my life. I decided to take a chance, leaving school behind to follow my heart and explore other ways of life.
How The Dots Joined Up For Jake
With just a backpack and on a shoe-string budget, I spent 4 months travelling through Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica without a phone, yearning to disconnect from the widespread dominance of social media.
From living in the jungle and teaching English to poverty stricken kids, to meeting inspirational people from around the world, my quest took me to remote and exotic destinations throughout Central America.”
And now he is joining up his dots on today’s show.
So why did he feel so unfulfilled at an age, when I certainly didn’t have the awareness of knowing whether i was unfilled or not?
And looking back on his journey through South America, does he see it know as riskier than was needed, or actually a stroll through the countryside?
Well let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Mr Jake Heilbrunn
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Jake Heilbrunn such as:
Jake tells a story of how he was breaking out in hives every morning, until finally realising that stress and anxiety was the cause of the issue and what he had to do to deal with it.
How going for your big dreams is never an easy option as you have to untangle yourself from so many factors that surround you everyday of your life. People, parents and finances all try to keep you in one place.
Why social media is such a double edged sword, hugely entertaining but also deeply depressing due to the constant comparison we are allowed by glimpsing in other peoples lives.
Why he loves getting up in front of youngsters across America, inspiring them to take risks and challenging the personal status quo. You don’t have to live the lives that others have planned for you.
How To Connect With Jake Heilbrunn
If you enjoyed this episode of with Jake Heilbrunn, then why not listen to some of our favourite podcast episodes such as Spike Ball Founder, Nick Ruiz, Michael Aterberry or the amazing Travis Jennings
Or if you prefer just pop over to our podcast archive for thousands of amazing episodes to choose from.
Full Transcription Of Jake Heilbrunn Interview
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:34]
Yes. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning to you. This is Join Up Dots. This is David Ralph coming to you across the world from the United Kingdom, bringing you another top class award winning podcast. Maybe not award winning, but this is going to be a good episode because this guy I speak to a lot of people as you know, on Join Up Dots and some of them I talked to I think to myself, yeah, fair enough. doing some great things. Other people think, Wow, they’re doing amazing things. And then every now and again, somebody comes on the show, and I think, Oh God, I should have been like this person, why did I just kind of float around in my 20s? Why didn’t I have that drive that ambition, like this guy did. And he is a man who’s quite simply astonishing. And as I say, Why do I feel that when at the age of 20 years old, he’s already on his way to define his life while the rest of the world is scrambling around screaming? I don’t know what to do is show me Show me what I want to do, please, he’s a youth speaker, author of the book off the beaten trail and driven to show the world how everything can start if you’re willing to ask a simple question. As he says, My extraordinary adventures began with one simple question, what if the biggest risk is not taking any risk at all? Now, after an unfulfilling first semester of college that resulted in major stress, anxiety and a happiness I knew that I needed to make a change although doing well academically, I had no passion for what I was doing. I realised that going to school and getting a degree might not be the right path for me, at least to this point. In my life, I decided to take a chance leaving school behind to follow my heart and explore other ways of life and with just a backpack. And on a shoestring budget, I spent four months travelling through Guatemala and Nicaragua and Costa Rica, without a phone yearning to disconnect from the widespread dominance of social media. Now from living in the jungle and teaching English to poverty stricken kids, to meeting inspirational people from around the world. My quest took me to remote and exotic destinations throughout Central America. And now he’s joining up his dots on today’s show. So why did he feel so unfulfilled and age when, as I say, I certainly didn’t have the awareness of knowing whether I was unfilled or not. It was all about ladies and alcohol loving and looking back on his journey through South America. does he see it now as riskier than was needed or just actually a stroll through some very nice countryside? Well, let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start Join Up Dots with the one and only Mr. Jake Heilbrunn. Hello, sir. How are you?
Jake Heilbrunn [3:00]
I’m doing great. Thank you for that kind introduction.
David Ralph [3:04]
Oh, I screwed up your name dIdint i. it’s not Haley Brown, it’s Heilbrunn.
Jake Heilbrunn [3:09]
Hey, yeah, you got it.
David Ralph [3:10]
Yeah, you say up just to clean up just to kind you you should have jumped on me instantly. You are a man’s, as I say who you’ve got passion coming through you. And while I didn’t, I had the same passion. That’s what I’m wondering because when I look at some of the things that you have done, you’ve already set that that direction in your life, which people are scrambling around for generally people don’t know where you’re always single minded as a little fella, even to the point that you are now.
Jake Heilbrunn [3:40]
No, actually I wasn’t. And I was felt very confused. Just about a little over two years ago, I had no idea. I mean, the idea of passion. And living like every day with passion was not something that I was experiencing. And I think that a lot of people you know, myself included, were wondering like, what, what would it take to wake up every day with that passion or have something that really drives you? And for me, it actually stemmed more from a curiosity like, thinking about the one thing that I would do if I had a year to live. That was kind of a the question that gave me a lot of clarity.
David Ralph [4:21]
Now you are how old at the moment, sir? 20 you’re 20? So yes, I could be your dad, I could quite easily be your dad. And so at the age of 20, do you look around now at your peers and want to grab him by the shoulders and say, Come on, come on, you’ve got your money here once or are you quite happy, but you’ve got this, like, in a secret at such a young age?
Jake Heilbrunn [4:47]
You know, it’s interesting, I think at times that are like friends and people who of course, I’m about to say like, you know, it, you know, just start thinking more but at the same time, like, Who am I to say that to someone else, you know, there’s Live in their life. And I think everything, you know happens at the time that you’re ready for it. So for me, it kind of came up early with a skin condition that I, I really started questioning things, but I think everyone has their time whether they’re 2030 5070. I don’t think one’s too early or too late. But I think it stems from just asking the right questions.
David Ralph [5:22]
So where did this question come from this risk question, was it one that you read? Was it one that was posed to you? And you’ve all Blimey, that is a good question, or was it one that you just kind of created internally?
Jake Heilbrunn [5:35]
It was a question I heard that literally kept me up the whole night. So to give a little bit of context, I had been waking up breaking out in hives and rashes almost every day, starting three days after I got to my first semester at college, I was in studying at Ohio State University. And, you know, that was really the start where I was starting to get really confused. I mean, once Second, I’m going to school the next second, I’m waking up feeling like my skin’s on fire. I never know what’s going to cause it to break out. I saw doctors, they didn’t know what was wrong. So they gave me all these pills and creams that were, you know, kind of like a bandaid not solving the root of the issue. And so I was just really confused and starting to question all these things. And one day, one of the things that really appealed to me was was leaving school and travelling and exploring different ways of life. That was, you know, the thing that if I could do anything that was like, the most exciting thing in the world to me, you know, I’d never travelled alone before no one I knew was doing anything like that. So the idea was scary. And then one day I was in this business builder’s Club, which was probably my favourite part of college, and the speaker came in and told his story, but he said those words he said, the biggest risk we take is not taking any risk at all. And when I heard those words they like x throw into my head on especially because just a week before there was this 21 year olds student who passed away in a car accident. And I didn’t know her, but I believe my roommate knew her. And I just remember thinking like how fragile life can be like you don’t know, especially as a 20 year old, that’s not usually what your thought is like. But I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, like, if I were to go out, you know, now or in a year, would I be happy with this life? I mean, what if the biggest risk is not pursuing this dream of exploration and travel? And so I stayed up the whole night thinking about that question. And that was kind of like the first jump for me that I had to do it.
David Ralph [7:31]
And did you find out what was causing the hives?
Jake Heilbrunn [7:34]
Yeah, so now the beauty perspective on the realities, it was really just stress and anxiety, which now I understand but back at the time, I didn’t really understand the mind body connection and how my you know, for me, it’s skin but I’ve met other people who have migraines and other autoimmune issues. And yeah, it really was just as internal stress and anxiety.
David Ralph [7:59]
I had an issue Where stress and anxiety I would have sworn that I wasn’t stressed. But you don’t know what’s happening inside you. And I thought I’d had a heart attack. And it turned out it was stress. So stress does, it’s gonna come out some way j cousin if it’s in your body, and it’s already, I don’t know, whatever stress is, enzymes or whatever is gonna come out somewhere. So it’s not surprising, but more, or I suppose it is surprising, but more people aren’t walking around, breaking out in hives all over the place nowadays.
Jake Heilbrunn [8:29]
Yeah. And it’s really funny that because I remember, someone was asking, asking me the same question during the time, like, Are you stressed? I said, No, I’m not stressed. But I was very stressed. I just didn’t think I was or whatever the word is.
David Ralph [8:44]
So you then had this epiphany that travel was in you and you wanted to explore now, almost tell you something. So I love America. I love coming to America or I can explore America time and time and time again. Literally every American that I ever speak, to never explore their own country, they’re going off elsewhere. They’re going off to Europe. They’re going and you’ve got all this wonderful stuff. Did you not feel like just sort of staying closer to home and just going from state to state and exploring what’s on your doorstep?
Jake Heilbrunn [9:15]
Yeah, I think there were two things for me the first and well, I guess they’re both pretty equally as important. But I wanted to get away from American culture and society. I mean, it was all I knew growing up. And that was part of the reason. You know, I’m from California. So going to Ohio halfway across the country to study part of that was due to my desire to kind of experience another state another town. Um, you know, the Midwest is very different from the west coast. Yeah, but what I realised is that what I was seeking was something drastically different I think, ever since I was a kid. I’ve always been very curious, I think, and understanding how another culture operated, how other people live their life. So I realised that what I desired was drastically different. I think the second part to your question would be that I had, like, under $4,000. So I knew that I want to travel not just for a week or two, I wanted to really go for a longer period of time, I didn’t know how long in my money I could have maybe volunteered in America, but my money can go further in another like Central America or Southeast Asia. And that was kind of the two factors that led me to South Central America.
David Ralph [10:31]
So so you you’ve got this idea. You’ve got four grand in your back pocket you’ve decided about you want to go somewhere where that money will last a lot longer and you can sort of travel and be free and just experience what life is there to give you. Now, it’s all having these big ideas. But of course we have anchors all around us we have our parents for example, we have our boyfriends, girlfriends, we have our our roommates, where we go a table I’m gonna do I’m getting I quit my course I’m gonna go and I go, No, Jake, you’re having a mental moment you’re breaking down. Just you know, why are you doing this? You’ve got your own future in front of you. Did you have those kinds of conversations or did everybody go? Well, actually, Jake, we’re fed up with you moaning and scratching with your hives go.
Jake Heilbrunn [11:17]
Yeah, it’s funny, it was not a smooth transition, almost to the point where, like, so that the story we just talked about where I had realised the biggest risk. So the next morning I went in, I cancelled all my classes for the next semester cancelled my housing with fully preparing to leave the next semester. I ended up getting so scared like a week before the semester ended that I cancelled everything and I went back for the second semester. Then the first night pack of the second semester, Ohio State won the national championship football game, which is in america that’s like the it’s like religion. It’s the biggest deal in Ohio. So people went crazy. And that was really for me the signal. Wow. You know, I’m really Really, I was really miserable. The next day, surprisingly, everyone seemed to be so happy. I felt like this fish out of water. So it literally took me that second time to really leave. And then I finally left that week. So first I think my parents, they, I was pretty open with them from the get go of they knew about my skin condition. My mental health was not in a great, great situation. So when I came home, it wasn’t like, Oh, I’m coming home and just hopping over to Guatemala. Like I didn’t even know where I was going at first, but I came home, kind of just got it. I saw a holistic doctor to kind of help. You know, he helped change up my diet and understanding this kind of stress disconnect. So first, it was like, getting there and then I started doing the research to go abroad, but it’s funny, I didn’t tell a lot other than the people who needed to know which was my close family and friends. I didn’t try and tell too many people because I kind of knew that they were, you know, maybe they wouldn’t have but I guess it was me. I was scared to hear what they would thing that, you know, you’re, you’re you’re ruining your life. I didn’t want to hear any of that stuff. And I knew that this whole journey was for myself and nobody else. And if I could just be transparent with the people who were closest to me, that was really the most important thing for me.
David Ralph [13:14]
So you didn’t sit down with them and say, Look, I’ve got this idea of travel. I’m probably not the best person to explain this. So let’s watch this film into the world. You didn’t do that.
Jake Heilbrunn [13:25]
Yeah, I didn’t do that. And I and I promised my parents I wasn’t going to eat any berries. So
David Ralph [13:31]
I watched that film. And it’s an incredibly depressing film. And you think to yourself, is actually why? But for people who haven’t seen this film, there’s a guy I can’t remember his name, but he was very well to do he had a very rich family. He had his whole future ahead of him and he decided it wasn’t my future. So he he kind of crashes his car in the desert and then just starts walking and ends up in LA with no money and he ends up in Alaska or something. I can’t remember where it is. And it’s One of those kinds of stories I don’t know if you find this the same Jake, but you kind of, you’re with him, you’re with him along on the journey. But then there’s a bit but you go, you’re going too far, maybe you’re going too far just, you know, just just enjoy what you’re doing at the experiences but you don’t have to go that far. Did you feel that when you was watching it? Did you find it life affirming or actually almost like somebody was having a mental breakdown in front of you?
Jake Heilbrunn [14:25]
A little bit of both because I thought the whole idea and I think there’s a very depressing quote at the end when he’s writing in his journal saying happiness is only real when shared. So I think it was almost like it was in one part inspiring how he’s paving his own trail and, and not conforming to what everyone wants him to do. But the other time, the other part kind of like what you’re saying it was almost like, well, you don’t have to just live alone in a bus in the middle of Alaska. there there’s, you know, there can be a happy middle ground. And for me interestingly, like I, a lot of people would ask me, Was it scary travelling alone for four months? And I said, Well, you know, there were a couple times where you are lonely, but most of the time I was meeting incredible people and I wasn’t necessarily alone that much of the time.
David Ralph [15:17]
Now you start off Do you have any give a blueprint for how somebody could do is could follow your path off the beaten trail? You start off in San Diego, you in LA or in your area? Do you just get on a train? Do you fly? Do you just start walking? How did you do it?
Jake Heilbrunn [15:36]
Yeah, it’s actually a lot easier than someone might think. And I think there’s a huge misconception with how expensive travel and foreign travel can be. So first, I found this site called work away. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of work away? No, it’s a it’s a volunteer travel site that connects hosts and volunteers all over the world. Anything from working in a hospital to building an eco lodge with construction to helping someone with their online website, it could be anything but hosts from all over the world, you kind of create a profile, like and then you, you reach out to these people and say, Hey, I would love to volunteer. And essentially, you work in exchange for room and board and meals. So sometimes there’s like a couple dollars a day, you know, you figure out whatever it is, and then you just go. And so for me, I found this opportunity on work way. And I was looking in Central America, which fascinated me, and it said, whatever your skill set may be the people of pretend need your help. So I just reached out to him. He needed help with teaching English and a couple other miscellaneous things in this town or I could live with a local family was kind of off the beaten trail wasn’t really a touristy location, and it just intrigued me and so But literally, I spent, I mean, including flights, vaccinations, you know, health and travel insurance, everything I spent, probably under 4000 dollars, definitely under 4000 for four months, and I was definitely not living like a king, sometimes roughed up a little bit here and there and staying in hostels. But you could literally live in a town, anywhere over the world, volunteering for free, essentially for as long as you want it if you were volunteering, and I think I met a lot of other people who are doing that had been travelling, literally living off under $500 a month, in many cases, well under 500 a month. And so I think through means like work away, and there’s tonnes of other sites out like that out there, you can travel almost for free, and you get ties into the local community in many cases, which was one of the greatest parts about my experience, because we’re living with a local family and teaching. I was welcomed and felt like part of the community in a way where it has that if I was just wandering by I might not have had that same connection. So it’s definitely possible and it’s much cheaper than people usually think.
David Ralph [18:00]
Now I think that’s brilliant because I get so many people, because travel is intoxicating. It’s exciting. It’s new, it’s vibrant. And so many people want to do that. And I want to travel sort of indefinitely. But I’ve always worried about that financial aspect of actually what happens when my money runs out. So would you say, but if somebody started with, say, four grand, they could, you know, basically travel indefinitely using that as their safety money, but work away and volunteering and the food and sort of lodgings all covered for them?
Jake Heilbrunn [18:33]
Yeah, and, you know, I’m sure that for grant if you were more savvy, because I didn’t spend four months only work away. I probably work away for two, two months to two and a half a month was spent working or just volunteering, like I found other opportunities as I was, you know, travelling throughout Central America, but Well, you could stretch that 4000 into probably six to eight months easily if you were volunteering the whole time. There’s a book called vagabonding by Rolf Potts. And he explains a lot of different ways about like, it’s the book is essentially about the art of long term travel. It’s both like part tips and tactics and part philosophy of living life on the road over a long period of time. And I think just that book alone and I in all these other resources online, it is so possible
David Ralph [19:23]
pain, just me vo Jake, but you are a guy, you’re you know, you’re a young guy, you’re 20, as I say, and if you come into my house, and you’re always welcome. If you ever travel over here, you will see my son walking around on his phone, my daughter with a phone and a tablet, and they just seem to be connected over time. But you had a desire to disconnect and actually free yourself when you did but did you actually were you ready for that? Or did you actually have to wean yourself off that because I think it nowadays is almost an addiction that so many people have to be connected all the time.
Jake Heilbrunn [19:58]
Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s certain addiction. I mean, in the US, the average American 18 to 24 checks their phone at least 70 times a day. And it’s more researchers have found it’s more addictive than cigarettes. You know, the dopamine hits from notifications on Instagram or whatever. So for me, the reason I wanted to so I could give a little backstory. I was extremely unhappy. I was in a gang I called myself an anxiety ticking time bomb at school. And I was kind of if you had looked on the outside, I was a Dean’s List student I was in playing soccer. I went to parties, I was social. You looked at my Instagram or Facebook, I was this happy go lucky kid who had everything figured out when in reality I was really struggling. And I think the kind of tipping point or the tipping point I should say came that that first day back for the second semester when Ohio State won that championship game, I took a picture on Instagram posted it woke up the next day, you know a little hung over and I had all these likes and messages And from people saying things like Congrats, man, you must be so happy like all that. And I realised how I was just putting on this mask and how I social media, I just wasn’t using it in a healthy manner. And I realised I just needed to get away from it. I was kind of tired of always comparing myself to other people, I was tired of the whole, no 1% highlight reel that I was portraying. So it was kind of my relationship with it, not necessarily social media in general. And I just felt like I needed to get away. So that was why I didn’t want to bring it and then interestingly enough, after two days on the road, Max, maybe even less, I totally forgot, like the urge or the even itch to check social media. It just disappeared and I and I’ve intentionally done like week detox, like a week or a weekend detox, where I don’t take my phone, and it’s kind of the same like one to two days. You’re not thinking about your email or your Instagram or any of that stuff. And I think that is such a sensitive topic. that comes with that because my focus really started to switch to the people in front of me the experiences, I was having the relationship with the community. And instead of feeling that urge to check something in 15 minutes, it was making like without having a phone, there was a lot of downtime. So I was doing a lot of reading, I was doing a lot of thinking and generating my own thoughts, not what I was scrolling through that was altering my thoughts. So it gave me a sense of clarity that I think I forgot what’s possible when we’re always there myself. I can’t speak for anybody else.
attached to my cell phone.
David Ralph [22:36]
Yeah, no, I think you can speak for everybody else because I think no matter how attached they are to their phones, I think push comes to shove people would like to free themselves. I think people know this nowadays, but actually, life used to be simpler. You know, when I started work, Jay, we had no email. There was no internet. We used to just come in and there was a pile of papers and we worked through the paper. And that was it. And I look back on it now and I think Wow, what an amazing way to operate. You just had work, you did the work, there was no distractions there was no beeps there was no vest, there was no bat. And I think people at their core are looking to get back to that. But unfortunately, it’s the peer pressure it’s the ability to be connected all the time. It’s what other people are doing. It’s the comparisons which are you know, it brings us down there life affirming in some ways because we we have something to strive for but on the other side you look at it and you think my life’s a bit crappy I’m not doing now i’m not i’m not living in a van in berries and eat and about I want to be dude, well, maybe not that bit. But all the rest is just kind of brings you down somewhat in it.
Jake Heilbrunn [23:44]
Yeah, it does. And I think it’s interesting because in many ways, it connects us like I’ve met some incredible people and had some amazing opportunities that stem from social media and having a presence and connecting with people. But there’s it’s really just about how it’s a tool. And if we let the tool use us, it’s not going to make us happy. But if we can use it consciously. And so I think especially for my generation, and a lot of people that I speak with when I speak at schools or whatever, some will ask, Well, I have no idea what interests me. Well, I think it’s interesting because we’re so we’re always, like having these influences. We’re having our phones that if if someone took two to three weeks without going on their phone, or could could have afford in whatever manner to just take a little break from it. It’s interesting to see how you start thinking about life in a different way. Because, you know, our perception is creating our reality. And so if, if I’m going on my phone 7080 times a day, scrolling through and seeing all these ads and other people’s opinions, how can I even generate my own clarity? And so I think it’s really just about a conscious relationship. You know, maybe you could say, I’m only going to check my phone five times a day, or whatever it is, and I think there actually is someone told me to Recently, there’s a way you can check on your phone to see how many times you check it a day, or how many hours you spend on your phone.
David Ralph [25:07]
I don’t have a phone. I say this all the time, and I’m very proud of the fact but I don’t have a phone. There’s no way that anyone can connect with me if I don’t want them to connect with me. I just walk around with my hands in my pockets and looking at things and I just couldn’t I couldn’t fathom why I would want a phone now and people are still pressing me because they want to get in contact with me and I go that’s exactly the reason I’m not gonna have one contact with me when Why would I want to be bothered by you? You’re mad wifey. But um, no. And I never get asked to bring milk home or that kind of stuff. You know, when you’re driving along and somebody texts you and says, Oh, can you just stop and get back? No, I do things the way I need to do. Right let’s play some words. Now Jake, and we’re gonna then have more into your journey because I find it hugely fascinating. He’s Jim Carrey.
Jim Carrey [25:56]
My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love
David Ralph [26:21]
pretty much says what we’ve been speaking about for the last 25 minutes done it.
Jake Heilbrunn [26:26]
Yeah, and wow, I have to say that that really resonates with me. And my own story because sort of similar a little different. When my my dad when I came, I came home from school one day when I was 11, to learn that my dad had quit his job. So he wasn’t let go, but he had quit and he, he when he went to college, he studied medicine, which was kind of a expectations that he had from other people and went on to spend like 20 years in a field that he absolutely hated on. You know, he provided for our family, he gave me incredible opportunities. But when I was 11 years old, they came home and he had quit. And he didn’t get out of bed, I think for a month or something. And I learned that he had kind of been experiencing major depression. And it really, for me, growing up ever since. And seeing that and seeing the unhappiness that stemmed from a career choice that he had made. It was always sitting in the back of my mind that I saw that what could happen if you if you’re the majority of your life, which is work if you’re going to work from now eight to 6pm, and then it’s an hour each way so a majority of his life was spent at a job that he didn’t like, or he hated? I don’t know how he put up with it so long but I think seeing that growing up, it really affected me and I realised that you know, there it there’s no like Jim Carrey said there, there is no safety because now we can all fail. Something we hate, and there’s nothing guaranteed, so might as well go after something that you truly care about. And that truly interests you. And so for me, I didn’t connect those dots until, until when actually when I was writing my book, it kind of it was crazy to me to see all these things and how everything connected but subconsciously at college, I was really thinking deeper about, you know, what I was studying, and I was always asking other people, what are you studying and why? And it was almost all the time Oh, it makes a tonne of money. And of course, that’s important. But I realised that no, like a lot of people I was talking to no one was generally interested in what they were studying. And I saw through that because I knew that if you pursue something solely for the money, it can fry you out and it could burn out like the way I’ve seen it happen with my dad so that that segment that really touched that was very resonant for me.
David Ralph [28:53]
And of course these the highest suicide rate in the world is in America and the lowest one is in India. Somewhere, it seems to be that people that have nothing, they are just there, they’re surviving, that they wake up when it’s like they go to bed when it’s dark. And if they’ve had something in their tummy during the day, they’re sort of quite satisfied with that, um, is an interesting way with that constant driven ambition that we have to get up the ladder, get a nicer car, get bigger holidays and stuff because of what we’re seeing going around us. Interesting stuff. Now with your a book that off the beaten trail. It was that something that you planned to do when you started? Did you think yourself or better keep a diary here because I commend but when I get back, or did you had the experiences and then sort of have to backtrack in your mind and join up the dots.
Jake Heilbrunn [29:45]
It was a little bit of both. I remember having the idea sort of before when I had left. And I love writing. It’s a huge passion of mine. So with or without the idea of writing a book. I planned on journaling So I was journaling. And then I think about halfway through the journey, I realised that I had to write, I had to write the book just with the experiences I was having. And witnessing my own transformation because what I had left on my trip, like I was not necessarily in the greatest place. I had a bad skin breakout about three weeks before I left four weeks before I left. And I made a decision though, after that I was going to travel whether without my skin stuff, letting me letting it dictate my life. And interestingly enough, like within a couple days of arriving in Guatemala, my skin really started to tamper down. You know, I was in an environment that was a lot less stressful to me, I think to other people, I always get people say, Well, I would get an anxiety attack if I was on a one way, you know, ticket to go on them all on how to go nine hours on the bus to a rural town where there’s no home addresses and there’s no Wi Fi like, but that was what called out to me. And I think pursuing a path that made sense to me. It was like my skin started to heal. So essentially, I had this inner transformation and outer transformation like of my skin healing. And I realised if I could shift from essentially anxiety and depression to this peace and purpose, then I think the millions of other college students and people in the United States, I think seven out of 10 people hate their job, anxieties, the most common health diagnosis on a college campus, there’s so much so many people, and I really think it comes down to this, you know, misalignment with how we’re living or how, what, what path we’re pursuing. And so I was starting to think about all those things I was I was, you know, in the midst of my travels, and that was kind of when I realised what I felt like, I didn’t just want to write the book. I felt like I had to write it.
David Ralph [31:42]
And then how do you feel now you’re back now you’re back that you live in San Diego? Yeah. Yes. Well, you’re in a lovely place. But you’re once again, you’re surrounded by everything we’ve been talking about. You’re you’re in the hub of it. Do you feel anxious or are you a karma person because of your experiences?
Jake Heilbrunn [32:00]
You know, that’s a really great question. And I think it’s a little bit of both, I think.
travelling abroad, I learned a lot of important skill sets, like I was introduced to kind of mindfulness and meditation, which are still big facets of my everyday life here. But at the same time, it’s not to say that I went on this journey, and I came back and I have all the answers. Because, you know, in many ways, I’m still uncertain about my own future. But I think I like to say, it’s kind of like, following your gut muscle. That’s what I like to say, when I took that leap of faith to leave school and travelling and then write the book. It’s like all these things. It’s kind of built up a muscle on me where I’m more competent to take risks that align with to me they’re not risk, but to take something that might be perceived as a risk because it makes sense to me. So it’s not to say that, you know, like I mentioned before, I’m still uncertain, I still have anxiety, certain moments in my life, but it’s definitely not like a chronic thing. And it’s given me The confidence to move forward kind of embracing the uncertainty.
David Ralph [33:04]
Now I think this is a fundamental question, Jake. And I think is the question that is going through every single listeners mind at this moment, when they think of you walking through South America? How much of it? Did you actually walk naked? I think that’s what they want to know. They did. Did you? Did you swim naked? Did you walk naked? Did you run around naked with Indians? Tell us about it, sir. Because I think there’s an audience waiting for you.
Jake Heilbrunn [33:29]
So it’s pretty funny question. It’s funny. So I got to this community in Nicaragua. I just roll up. And it turns out, I’m the only guy from the United States living there. It was kind of like a spiritual community. It was on this island in Nicaragua. And I’m getting a tour from this. This girl and she’s telling me Oh, you know, there’s casual nudity in the pool area. There was this beautiful pool overlooking this volcano. I mean, it was a beautiful setting. And so I put my bag down. I’m all sweaty because it took me like two hours to find this place. I’m awful with directly And I have no phone. So I get there and I put my bag down and I put on my swim trunks and I hop in the pool. And a couple minutes later, like six or seven of the volunteers come by and they just stripped down bare naked and hoppin. And it was really odd for me one because in America, there’s not nude beaches, but I was the only one in the pool with my swim trunks on and I was like, well, this would be really weird. What I take them off now like it, you know, like Who does that? So that was kind of odd. And then the second day, I remember kind of going over there and no, kind of left, left, left, right and then just took off, went fully nude and hopped in the pool. By the third fourth day. I’m like, jumping in fully naked belly flopping. But um, so it was funny. It was really it was it made me think why does this why is this odd? Why is this making me feel uncomfortable, but by the third or fourth day like it, it was completely normal. And it wasn’t a big deal at all, but it wasn’t like people are walking around living naked. Maybe there are communities like But it was just more in the pool area where people were hanging out by the pool. And it yeah, it didn’t become that weird. I was just like, Oh, this person has body. Here’s a body, he’s going naked. That was basically the extent of it.
David Ralph [35:13]
Because he’s all right. So why isn’t he? Well, you are an attractive chap. And I’d like to say that I am as well Jake and we’ve got physiques that people would pray in front of us, we would be temples of flesh. But there are a lot of people that you kind of think, thank God for clothes. Thank god back. You know, you walk around Walmart and you think to yourself, you shouldn’t even be me. You shouldn’t be in here. This is the last place you need to be. But um, were there people that you think oh, my God, just just put your trunks on?
Jake Heilbrunn [35:45]
Well, no, I mean, this really, it wasn’t like that at all. In fact, the whole idea I think, with going naked was kind of like a radical form of like self acceptance where that was, I think their goal was like, it doesn’t really matter. There’s kind of about getting comfortable in your own skin. So, you know, maybe certain people I would prefer not to see fully naked, but there was no one in that community that was, you know, to my extent, like two years ago. But yeah, it’s an interesting question.
David Ralph [36:16]
I’m going to record the rest of this interview naked, I’m going to strip off you won’t know, but I will feel a build up. We’ve connected somehow, Jake. That’s now when you obviously creating a business around yourself, you are going from an experience to sharing that experience and getting in front of youngsters and kids to sort of tell them about it
Unknown Speaker [36:39]
David Ralph [36:40]
infused by your story. Are you in auditoriums, where once again of all sitting around, flicking around on their phones and their half paying attention? Did I hang on every word or is it a sort of distraction?
Jake Heilbrunn [36:53]
You know, it’s a mix because I’ve done anything from 2000 people in an auditorium or a gym. To speaking at a classroom with like, 15 to 40 students, so it’s been a mix. I’ve had the experience in one auditorium where I really felt like, in the middle of my speech, like I could hear a pin drop. And then I did another one with I think 1500 kids where I definitely noticed kids were on their phones, and that was as a speaker trying to connect with them that can be difficult. So I think it It depends on you know, what school you’re going into, and how your your will be received and how they kind of talk about you. I think, in another sense, it’s certain kids were really, you know, afterwards Of course, I love it when I get to talk with students who come up after so some kids it really resonates with, you know, others just naturally I think, with 2000 kids, it’s not going to hit home with everybody. But I think one of the big points that I touch on and I mean in the US and I think the UK as well. There’s a lot of mental health, you know, trends that have skyrocketed among youth that are honestly insane. You know, suicide rates have tripled since the 1960s. On kids 15 to 24. You know, anxiety and depression are these huge issues with kids that should not be in my eyes like this is not normal. So I think when I open up about my anxiety and depression in front of 2000 people like openly, and then someone will come up to me after me and say, you know, I’ve been struggling with suicidal suicidal thoughts, or, you know, I’ve been extremely depressed. I think it gives a lot of people this comfort, knowing that they’re not alone, because I think that’s one of the biggest things and, and then once understanding that, you know, your life isn’t have to be dictated by one path, like, you have the freedom and the opportunity to go a different way. And I think that’s like, those are like the two points that I really try and hit home. You know, if you’re going through this, you’re not alone. And the second thing is like, you have the opportunity, and you can go a different way. Not only is it possible, in fact, it might be the best choice for you.
David Ralph [38:58]
Now, I understand what you’re saying And I would be I would be hanging on every word. Because what you’re saying inspires me. And it’s the kind of person I am. I can imagine Vova you’re talking to an auditorium of youngsters and 20 of them, for example, go home and say, I listen to this amazing guy today. I’m no longer going to college. I’m going to live the life and when mum and dad hunt you down in packs, trying to sort of find out why you put these ideas in their kids minds. Have you had Have you had any sort of come back from your eagerness to show them a different way? were actually the parents and the surrounding group actually don’t want their kids to see a different way bear kids are white as it is.
Jake Heilbrunn [39:43]
It’s funny, I’ve actually never had that happen. And I think part of it is because when I when I speak, I don’t I don’t try and glorify travelling. I mean, my personal opinion, I would love every kid to travel, but at the same time, travel is almost a metaphor. For me, in my story in the sense that travel for me could look like anything for anybody else. But it’s the idea of tuning inward and listening to your intuition and following that. And so, of course, I, when I talk about my travel, I say, look, these were the elements that were driving me, I wasn’t trying to just go, you know, party, my face off in Bangkok or whatever, which I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but I kind of told them, like, the values that I saw in travelling, why I called out to me, and so it’s not so much about the travel, but it’s about kind of, like I said, tuning inwards and following that, and so I haven’t actually had any, anything from any parents. I’m about that.
David Ralph [40:39]
Now that the trouble is about what you’re talking about tuning in, it comes full circle. We’ve joined up the dots of this episode, because we’ve all the interaction and stimulation that people are getting with the YouTube videos and texting and all that. It’s very difficult to actually tune into yourself, isn’t it because you don’t actually give yourself enough time. Time to allow those thoughts to come through. Now we play a speech. I’m gonna play it now actually, this is Oprah, let’s listen to her.
Oprah Winfrey [41:08]
The way through the challenge is to get still and ask yourself, what is the next right move? not think about, Oh, I got all of this debate, what is the next right move? And then from that space, make the next right move and the next right move and not to be overwhelmed by it. Because, you know, your life is bigger than that one moment. You know, you’re not defined by what somebody says, is a failure for you. Because failure is just there to point you in a different direction.
David Ralph [41:39]
Now, great advice, but she says you’ve got to become quiet and still, and life isn’t quiet and still anymore, is it?
Jake Heilbrunn [41:47]
Yeah, well, I think for me, you know, when I get quiet and still I think inspiration or that next step, whatever you want to call it, can come from, you know, meditation or During this, but it can also come from just an activity that you love pursuing, whether that’s taking a run, you know, I think exercise is something where sometimes I get a lot of inspiration or even writing in a coffee shop, having a cup of Joe and just writing. For me, it’s the moments that I kind of get in that flow state. And I think, you know, some people can be sitting in silence, but more doing and less thinking, I find that for me that that can sometimes help me get to the right next step.
David Ralph [42:26]
So people should be very aware of the things that they seek out in their lives. So if they’re at work, and they’re thinking, right, I’m going to leave and I’m going to go down the gym, or I’m going to go leave and I’m gonna do something, to start plotting those things because we’ve been fat. That’s where their passions actually lie.
Jake Heilbrunn [42:44]
Yeah, and another thing that I found really interesting even when myself as of lately, because, you know, as I think about moving forward, I find that a lot of the time the things I really want to do or my inherent interest are sometimes right in front of me, however, it doesn’t. So let’s say you want to completely shift faces or kind of reinvent yourself, it might contradict everything you’ve done in the past. And that for me, I find sometimes can prevent me from wanting from seeing what’s right in front of me, because, for example, right now, I’m an author and a speaker doing all these things. But if I had a different interest that may be in film or interning abroad that might contradict with my myself and my own perception of what I should be doing, because everything in my path has led me to this moment. So I think it’s kind of important to think, well, take a moment, this is what I do. And I say, okay, none of that stuff matters right now. What are you curious about? What do I want to pursue and going from that state because I find that when I, when I’m trying to act out of my identity of who I think I am, it’s like, it just gets me in a whole mess because I keep thinking I should do this or I have to do this. And both of those shoulds and half twos are clear signs that it’s not coming from Heart centred intention of like my true intuition.
David Ralph [44:03]
So where’s your intuition pointing? Now? Calvin, Jake, you were unfulfilled at college? You sort of mentioned that you might go back and finish your education. Is that part of the plan?
Jake Heilbrunn [44:16]
You know, at this moment, it’s still not although I don’t I still don’t say it’s out of the picture because it still could be a possibility right now I’m actually probably going to be interning in in Tel Aviv in Israel starting in May, it is for two months and exploring a different a couple work opportunities abroad.
David Ralph [44:39]
And your money is naturally coming to you are you sort of living hand to mouth because that’s the other thing that people worry about is great having these experiences and living creatively but actually, how they pay the bills. How are you managing it?
Jake Heilbrunn [44:53]
Yeah, so I do a lot of speaking here in in San Diego which is one of the main in Come sources. And of course selling books and I do work I have a job and internship abroad is it’s essentially free. But I mean, this one’s like not going to be as volunteering like in a hostel, this will be with a PR and travel company. And so everything is you know, in return for working, it has kind of the same accident I when I think about it, you know, I’ll get to live for free and have meals eaten or meals taken care of. So, I think the opportunities are always and for me when I was thinking like, what would I really want to do next? That was what called out to me and I started digging deep and doing some research and reaching out to people on air, I found another opportunity to do it, essentially for free.
David Ralph [45:41]
He really isn’t that hard, is it? I haven’t had one person on the show, but has said to me, it was impossible what I did and they’re doing remarkable stuff. Everything. You don’t achieve it overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say, but just by planning and being wise with them. Money that you’ve got so that you can do the slide of faith to where you want to be. It’s all doable, isn’t it? It doesn’t have to be put off till tomorrow or next week or next month or whatever, you just start planning it now. And once you get those ideas in your head, you will kind of almost think, you know, why did I wait? I think that with what I’m doing now, I look at it. And I think I could have done this maybe three or four years earlier. Now any earlier than that the technology property wasn’t there. But still, it would have been doable. You just have to get going.
Jake Heilbrunn [46:29]
Exactly. And I think when you truly want something you truly want something badly enough. It’s never about the resources. It’s just about being resourceful and finding how to make it happen.
David Ralph [46:40]
Right? Well, this is the end of the show. And this is the bit that we call the Sermon on the mic when we send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to the young Jake, what age would you choose him? What advice would you give? Well, we’re going to find out because we’re going to play the theme and when it fades Europe. This is the Sermon on the Mount
Unknown Speaker [47:08]
With the best bit of the show,
Jake Heilbrunn [47:24]
I would go back to when the day before I started my freshman year high school. And I would tell myself to not be so concerned about getting good grades and having my life figured out and comparing myself to other people. Of course, I would say work hard not not that the grades aren’t important, but that they’re not the end all. And I would tell myself to spend the next four to eight years, really pursuing things that I’m curious about out and and not thinking about the long term about it, but do Doing something for simply the interest in joy in the process of that, whatever interests me, and to just follow that. And I think, for me, that would be so important because I’ve kind of found myself always wanting to fulfil the expectations of other people. And if I would have kind of used that energy on just things that I was more passionate about and curious about, it would have just been a lot less stressful and a lot less anxiety and it would have gotten me to where I wanted to be in a much smoother road. So just kind of kind of staying in my own lane and focusing on what lights me up, not what anybody else does. to not worry so much about having that get into the perfect school or have everything figured out and just kind of enjoy the ride more.
David Ralph [48:45]
Often. That’s great advice. And without sounding trite. I said it in the beginning that I could be your dad. But I would be very proud to be a dad because what you’re doing is it’s more than yourself. You are inspiring the next generation than if it just touches one person. Gonna be worthwhile, isn’t it?
Jake Heilbrunn [49:02]
Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate that.
David Ralph [49:05]
Well, this is the end of the show, sir. So what’s the number one best way that our audience can connect with you?
Jake Heilbrunn [49:11]
I would say, Instagram or Facebook is kind of what I do a lot, where I share a lot. My name is Jake Heilbrun. h Ei l. BRUNN. And that’s also the name of my website where I have, you know, 50 plus blog posts. As I know, as you know, I love writing. And, yeah, the book is off the beaten trail, a young man’s soul searching journey through Central America, which you can find via Amazon or my website.
David Ralph [49:41]
Brilliant stuff, and we will have all the links on the show notes. Jake, thank you so much for spending time with us today, joining up those dots and please come back again when you have more dots to join up because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Jake, thank you so much.
Jake Heilbrunn [49:59]
David Ralph [50:02]
Yes, Jake, a man on a mission a man to find himself and in the process inspire the world. I thought that was a really interesting discussion about finding that that kernel of an idea and taking it somewhere, I was very aware in that episode that we didn’t touch too much on the actual journey, the actual travel through South America. So I’ve actually just asked him to come back on the show, and he’s going to come back on and when we record another episode, where we talk more about the actual process of journeying through South America and the adventures that he had, so if you’re interested in that one, come back to us, but if you’re not come back to us anyway, because we got other good stuff. And until next time, I’ll see you again.
Cheers. See ya. David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self you or wants to become. So he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to Join Up dots.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on Join Up Dots.