Ben Nemtin never expected a two-week road trip in 2006 to lead to a T.V. show, a book deal, or a meeting with the United States president.
In fact, his only goal was to get back to Victoria, B.C. without breaking the 1997 Dodge Coachman RV he and some buddies borrowed. Nevertheless, Nemtin, and friends Dave Lingwood, and brothers Jonnie and Duncan Penn raised gas money at a good-bye party, and set out in their camper with one goal in mind: cross as many items off their “things to do before you die” list as they could in 14 days.
“We didn’t even think we would make it back from our first road trip,” Nemtin chuckled following a keynote speech at the 2018 Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Night. “We thought the RV would die because a mechanic told us it wouldn’t make it home. That was my biggest goal: not having to tow the RV back because it would have been so expensive.”
Their to-do list was extensive. It included the adventurous (learn to sail), the exotic (escape from a deserted island), the daunting (do a sketch with comedian Will Farrell), the intimidating (swim with sharks), the compassionate (pay for someone’s groceries) and the downright strange (streak during a sports event and get away—according to the group’s website this last goal is only partially complete).
The trip turned into a sensation, and as people heard about the group’s goals, random strangers stepped in to try and help. The group responded by helping others cross items off their bucket list too. What started as a two-week road trip expanded into a show on MTV called The Buried Life, a New York Times bestseller, What do you want to do Before you Die?, and stable of extraordinary memories.
However, it wasn’t until the group officially crossed off item number 95 (play basketball with President Barack Obama) that Nemtin really felt like they could do anything.
“It was such an impossible goal,” he remembered. “I truly did not believe that it would ever come to fruition. Something, I think, inside me changed. It sort of clicked. There was now this inherent belief that the impossible was possible, that I could do whatever put my mind to it.”
What’s most impressive about this isn’t the stories or the achievements. Instead, it’s where and how it all started.
Prior to all of this, Nemtin suffered from crippling depression. He dropped out of school and moved back in with his parents before deciding to take the trip that would change his life. He wanted to feel more alive.
After having travelled the world and added new challenges to a new list (all but eight of the original 100 bucket list goals have been completed) Nemtin spends his time traveling the country speaking and advocating for mental health.
The goal is to get people to stop being afraid and step out of their comfort zones, and it’s that message that brought him to Prince Albert on Thursday night.
“I think if more people did what they loved it would change the world because of the ripple effect it causes when you go after the things that you really love,” Nemtin said. “That’s really my mission, to get people out of that majority that looks back on their lives with regret.”
Nemtin added that it’s not selfish to pursue bucket list type goals. Instead, he views it as part of a health and productive life. He said there’s this misconception that if we help people achieve their goals and dreams that they’ll leave their businesses or communities behind. More the most part, he explained, that goal is unfounded.
“It’s not selfish to do the things that you want,” he said. “You’re actually helping (inspire) other people, and I think it would combat some of the mental health issues that we’re facing.”
Nemtin said he’s encouraged to see more and more young people doing just that. However, he’s also hoping these ideas spill over into the world of business. During his keynote address, Nemtin emphasized that having happy, healthy and thriving companies is impossible without happy, healthy and thriving employees.
The key is to eliminate fear, or at least convince people that fear of failure is holding them back. Nemtin said fear and failure are natural parts of creating and pursuing a bucket list. It’s just about taking that first step.
“It’s hard to grow and learn about yourself if you don’t push yourself to a point where you fail, because you’re staying inside your comfort zone and you know it, so you don’t grow,” he explained. “I just think failure is a great thing.”
For more information on Nemtin and his three friends, visit www.theburiedlife.com.