Cameron Brown - Be curious
Born and raised in outback Australia, Cameron has turned his dream and passion for helping others into a socially conscious company that empowers people across the globe to make a greater impact.
In a world where we are more connected than ever before, many are feeling more disconnected… from themselves, each other and the planet. So Cameron decided to do something about that.
He sold or donated 99% of the things he used to own and embarked on a global quest to inspire people to make a greater impact thrivingcollective.com/impact, and to show first hand how in a distracted world, technology (when used purposefully) can actually improve our performance, mental health and our relationships.
His Story – Cameron Brown
I grew up in outback Australia near a place called Ceduna near the Nullarbor and spent most of my life there. I lived in Adelaide for a while and then, one evening in May 2010, I had a big, life-changing moment. I had recently left a relationship and was going through a bit of emotion but was having an ok life and then I heard a neighbour screaming out one evening. Myself and another neighbour went over and asked through the fence if everything was ok and she said her son had killed himself.
We looked at each other in disbelief and then ran out to the back yard to see everything that goes on when something like that had just occurred. So that was a really intense moment for me. I can’t even begin to imagine what the family went through – but it was a moment of – here you are living an ok life, although some things have gone not so great, but there are people that really need help out there. What the hell are you doing about it?
It was a few months after that that I enrolled in a coaching course just to help other people on a personal front. That’s where it really began – personal coaching. Then I moved on to business coaching as well but to start with it was just the desire to help people and to relieve their pain a little, I guess. As time’s gone on, it’s grown into a much bigger mission where it’s not just about helping other people but also helping our planet too.
Through the seven years in this business, I’ve been going through a massive transformation of my own personal self, working through a whole heap of my own challenges. And then, to be able to pay it forward and help other people through theirs, I discovered that there are 3 different levels that we can make an impact on as human beings. We can make an impact on ourselves, we can make an impact in others’ lives, and we can make an impact to the planet as well.
As time’s gone on, I’ve realised that, just because you’re successful, if that is out of alignment with the betterment of the planet, then all your success is speeding up the way in which we screw things up as a species. That was a really big wakeup call for me so I ended up selling or donating all the things I used to own and embarking on this global quest now and travelling to different countries, exposing myself to different environments and showcasing what I call the ‘zone of impact’ (which are these 3 levels of impact playing out) and how we can utilise them to make a better impact in the world.
So, there’s coaching involved, there’s speaking engagements that I do, there’s music and videos I create, there’s philanthropic initiatives, there’s just a lot of different things going on but all revolving around the zone of impact and showcasing people. Rather than just teaching them, showing them firsthand how it works.
It’s an interesting experience. It’s one thing to say you’re going to do it but it’s another thing to actually go through the craziness of it. I remember deciding that I was going to get rid of stuff but it wasn’t going to be until April the following year that I was going to go to Costa Rica for a couple of weeks. Then, around October or November last year, I remember seeing myself put my details into a flight to Costa Rica leaving at the end of December and I thought “Dude, are you really doing this? I think you are! Alright, let’s do it. Let’s go for it!”
That was the start of it. Then there was the purchasing of the two bags that I was going to fit everything into which turned out to be much smaller than what I thought they were going to be. I thought “How am I going to do this and what have I done?”
It was interesting as I went through it, as I got rid of everything. There were attachments to things that I didn’t even know that I had attachment to – and for no real reason other than to hold onto something. I had stuff that I’d been holding onto for years – I’d taken it with me. I think I’d moved something like seven or eight times in the previous six or seven years and I still took so many different things with me. I got rid of those –realising that there was stuff sitting there wasting away and somebody else would be better off with it than I would.
Once I got over that hurdle of removing it and allowing myself the freedom to focus on the things that matter most. I think it takes courage, an element of curiosity and of craziness as well to go “You know what? Make it happen and just go for it and don’t let the fear, or the doubt, or what anyone else is saying hold you back.” I think that’s a lesson about life in general.
Other people can have opinions about what you’re doing and how you’re going about it but you have to be confident and certain enough in yourself about the outcomes you want to achieve in the world. The emotions you want to experience. The purpose and the reason why you’re here. And then match that up with the vehicle you’re utilising to get there. Me personally, it was through minimalism and a number of other vehicles as well. But it’s actually just following through it, not falling back into the crowd doing the things that everyone else is doing.
I’ve moved from working for someone else to running my own business and all the challenges with that. Moving from growing up on a farm eating meat every day of the week to being a vegetarian and now having a 100% vegan lifestyle. So there have been several occasions where people have seen me saying I’m going to do something but then actually following through with it so my family and friends received it all pretty well. It’s become less and less about what other people think now and I just block that out anyway.
So, even if somebody has got to say something, it’s usually more of a supportive nature. I think that comes from people in your life having reference points to you being someone who follows through. Rather than somebody who “Aarh, yeah, Bob. You said you were going to do that and you said that last year.” Or, “Sal, you were going to do this”. If you become a person of your word and follow through with what you said you were going to do, people become more trusting of your word. And that’s a big thing in business and in life in general.
But also, it allows you to inspire people along the way rather them having to have all the reference points in place to take the step, they might look at something that you’re doing, experiencing or choosing to do and maybe taking one small piece of that and implementing it into their own life, for example. Whether that’s getting rid of stuff they own, setting up their own business, getting out of a relationship or managing their health more effectively; whatever the thing is that someone’s experiencing, they’re looking for inspiration. Often, they haven’t got the courage to take the step yet because they haven’t got the reference points to how it’s going to work out. And if you can be that somebody in somebody’s life, that sort of inspiration; all of a sudden that makes your life about something much bigger than just your own golden dreams.
I’m a big believer in having certainty of outcome in the form of the emotions that you are wanting to experience. If you get too fixated on exactly what it is that you are looking to achieve, you can become too rigid. That is, needing things to go a certain way, and when they don’t then there’s issues and challenges that come up. I’ve found that needing something to go a certain way is usually setting yourself up for a decent amount of pain.
Now, that’s not to say that you’re not going to get to where you want to go, but I’ve found that (I set up 3-year visions, 12-month outcomes, 90-day projects and then get down into the detail of how each is going to be achieved) with the 3-year vision that I have, there’s less on that list than I’ve ever had before. I’ve become much clearer about the emotions that I want to experience on a consistent basis. And I have huge, child-like or strategic level of curiosity about how am I going to get there, what it might look like when I arrive, how I might exceed it, where else it might take me.
Some of those emotions are about adventure and fun, and happiness, and freedom and choices and these pieces – it’s not about freedom to sit on a beach somewhere and do bugger all, it’s about having the ability to choose where I’m going and what I’m doing. So, having clarity about what that looks like from an emotional point of view and about “I wonder what that might look like and I wonder what I can do. And how I might get there”.
I think curiosity is one of the most valuable skills that someone can learn to harness the power of – both in business and in life. I think our current education system beats it out of us. We start off as curious beings, “Why does this do that? Why does that do that? What happens when I put this in my mouth? Oh, that’s not very good?” There is an element of child curiosity that (disappears) over time. In school for example, the person who asks the questions is often seen as annoying by the teacher or by the pupils.
So, this element of curiosity, and bringing that back in with a strategic focus about “How am I going to experience these emotions that I want to experience on a consistent basis and what can I experience that will allow me to do that - and allow me to do that even more. And, if that’s possible, I wonder what else is possible? And if that can happen, then I wonder what else is possible?”
That’s what happened when going to Costa Rica. There was a plan, but no real plan at the same time. I knew I had this zone of impact – wanting to inspire people to make a greater impact in the world. That’s the overarching theme of life, but doing it on these levels so we are actually moving forward as a species rather than people achieving success that’s moving us in the opposite direction in the form of environmental challenges that we are experiencing on this planet right now. And we’ll experience in the future if we don’t make some dramatic changes.
So, going into Costa Rica, I had a philanthropic initiative that I went and did a video project for. Down on the Osa Peninsula. It was a beautiful, amazing sea turtle project. I ended up creating a mini documentary for them. Then I stayed in the mountains of Costa Rica in a small castle that had a baby grand piano. I recorded the music for it there and then pieced that all together into the short film.
I then went back to Australia to be with my family for a month and then Columbia was next. There was time out planting trees in a reforestation project and seeing petroglyphs that I think less than twenty people in the world have seen. Filming an ex-professional kayaker, kayaking down a river that was completely contaminated and we did this short film inspiring re-investment in revamping the river there.
There are just so many other experiences that, if I hadn’t had the level of curiosity that I brought to it, needed things to go exactly as I needed them to go, then hardly any of those experiences would have happened and I wouldn’t have had the wealth of experience and knowledge that comes from exposing yourself to an environment that you had never even thought about, let alone come to experience. This opens you up to lessons that serve you for the rest of your life, I believe. There is something to be said for an insatiable level of curiosity.
You are so open to these opportunities with your zone of impact mindset, it’s almost a scary way to do things, especially if you are a control freak.
I have a massive need for certainty, from a control point of view. But I’ve found that by harnessing the power of this at the end of the day it’s about letting go, vulnerability, curiosity. All of this.
Curiosity is the gateway to creativity and innovation. I know from many years of writing music and having that used around the world now – if I try to write a song, I suck! I’m really bad. But, if I allow it to be written through me and I open up with this sea of curiosity and I am vulnerable in that moment, and allow it to be written though me, it’s usually done within an hour – each song. Hundreds of them.
I then thought “So in this part of my life, I allow myself to open up and things can be created really quickly. And that led to millions of people hearing this music and it making a difference in so many people’s lives in almost every country around the world now. So, I wonder (and hear the tone in my voice) if, in this area of my life I could experience magic here, as well? And if I did, I wonder what it would look like? And, if I could achieve this, then I wonder what else is possible?”
These questions of “I wonder’ and “I wonder what it would look like?” and “How can I make this better than it has ever been before?” These types of questions and the curious nature of the tone of voices versus “Oh, shit! I wonder how this is going to turn out?” Same words exactly, totally different tone of voice, and one is going to take you in totally the opposite direction to where the other one is going to. One creates doubt, the other creates excitement about what’s possible and the sea of possibilities available to you.
The cool thing is that it opens you up to multiple solutions to the problems that you are experiencing. And at that moment, paradoxically, you’re in control. The very control you are looking for. You get more of it from that way of being and leaving yourself open, curious, and vulnerable. You can then create exactly what you wanted to create in the first place, but never knew you wanted to create. If that makes sense.
So, how do my emotions and goals tie into a daily plan?
From a 90-day project point of view, for example, the key things that I want to achieve over these next 90 days come in and I structure them out specifically into a calendar. I block out time, both on a daily and weekly basis.
I have clients around the world now (mainly in Canada, US, and then Australia as well) in different time zones so, often, the Australian meetings will be at specific times on say, Tuesday to Thursday and at different times on those days, I’ll have the US and Canadian meetings. Then, Mondays and Fridays I’ll usually have completely free from any human contact. That’s usually how it works. Those times are for me to have time to be creative. For the creation of music, of videos, of educational content on how to make a greater impact.
Each of my client sessions fit on the other days and the building of those relationships is usually structured around that. That comes from still being structurally aware of what needs to happen, based on the specific things you are wanting to have as outcomes, and then that allows you to achieve the emotions we talked about before as well.
You know the unknown is coming so you just make time for it. If you don’t make time for yourself in your calendar, somebody else is going to fill it for you.
For example, one of my clients had just come back from a 5-week holiday in Europe. We’d had a 12-month plan and we’d put his holiday into the calendar so we knew it was coming. We knew what had to be done before he left and we had everything covered up until 6 weeks after he got back. He was able to go away, come back to nothing on his desk and slip smoothly back to the project as though he had never even left.
I’ve just arrived in Buenos Aires after 3 months in Columbia. I’ve come out of the very humid rainforests and am now based here for 2 months. I’ve got a concert-grade grand piano in the apartment and am creating music based on the experiences and on the ‘zone of impact’ levels. There are a number of songs about things in the environment that I have been exposed to (such as deforestation), seeing it firsthand and the impact that it had on me, and seeing that we’ve got to make some changes.
So, I’m in Buenos Aires for 2 months and then going up to Iguazu Falls, which is the beautiful falls in the north of Argentina where the rainforest is, and then onward from there. I’ll be coming back to Australia briefly next year but I’ll be based around Central and South America for the foreseeable future. The next country might be Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Mexico – we’ll see.
This freedom comes from getting rid of stuff that you don’t need, so you have time to focus on what matters most. Some people might not have as much freedom and flexibility – for example, I don’t have kids and a family – but, whoever’s listening in to this, don’t use that as an excuse! I’ve met people who have had kids, who are traveling the world and others who have chosen to settle down. It comes down to working out what you want to experience and then finding the vehicles that are going to allow you to do that.
When I was going out to Sierra Nevada, which the local indigenous tribe believe is the heart of the world – I got everything I owned onto the back of a motorbike and that was a surreal moment. The cool thing is that, everything I own, I use. And I think there is something to be said for that. Buy the stuff that you’re actually going to use and borrow the rest. For example, I borrowed a grand piano in Costa Rica and there’s one here and there’s others all around the world that I’ll be playing on in the coming years, some in amazing locations. That’s borrowing. Suddenly, you don’t have the stress of the things that you’ve purchased. It allows you to experience things even more.
The big one for me is having curiosity and vulnerability. When it comes to self-worth and knowing that you’re good enough, knowing that you’re worth it, you need to have that in place. If you have issues around, say, depression or anxiety or feeling like people are taking advantage of you - whatever the things are that are a gap in your thinking that needs to be filled. If you don’t have those filled, at a base level if you’re not your own best friend, you’re going to have a real challenge being completely vulnerable. Because, if you don’t feel that you’re good enough or worth it internally, then why on earth would you be vulnerable with somebody who could potentially take away your worth?
That’s a really important thing to learn. You must learn how to become your own best friend! We spend far too much time with ourselves not to enjoy our own company. Yet, so many of us struggle with this sense of self. They put other people first, but then struggle to value themselves. To love themselves fully, wholly and completely. Not just when things are good, but when things are really, really shit! When things are down, you need to be supportive of your own well-being and then celebrate your success when you’re up. Not kicking yourself when you’re down, and then, when you’re up, saying “Huh, it’s not going to last”.
I used to sabotage myself like there’s no tomorrow. There’s still times when that occurs because, exposing yourself to new environments, there’s always another level. You never arrive. I remember one of my mentors once said, “The moment you think you’ve arrived is the moment you’re in for a very big fall”. I love that. It’s a beautiful way of staying humble, I feel. And then, no matter how much you grow, no matter how much you achieve – stay humble with that.
When I was going through a transition period and having some real issues in relationships, in my own self-worth, sabotaging myself and doing it for a long period before getting myself back on track again, I decided to play a game with myself. The game was “Ok. There were seven days this time when you screwed yourself over and sabotaged yourself. Next time it’s going to be six.”
Just notice the playful nature which stems into the curiosity – it all feeds off itself.
If it’s seven days, and then it goes to six and then five and then goes out to seven again then if, in the past, if you’ve beaten yourself up, there’s potential that you’ll do it again saying “See man. Told ya it’s not going to last. This is just like every other time when you’ve tried to change, improve your health, start your own business, improve your relationship. Tried to do this, tried to do that and it didn’t f-ing work. You’re just a failure.” That kind of language is going to beat you down.
So, I’m a big believer in inspiring yourself into action rather than forcing yourself into action. Force leads to motivation and having to motivate yourself to get to the gym, make those calls or to get to this event. Whereas, if you’re inspired to do the things you want to do by having a clear sense of purpose, suddenly it feels like you’re being pulled along rather than having to push yourself along.
And so, with this game, think of your favourite sporting team. If they lost the game on the weekend, they don’t just go “Arrgh, see man! We’re never going to win. We were never cut out for it in the first place”. That’s a team that will lose all year round because their momentum and morale aren’t going to be there. They’re not going to feel inspired. They’ll have to push themselves to get to training next week.
Instead, if you go “Right. What worked? What didn’t? What’s got to change?” And go “Well, we didn’t kick those goals this week. Or, our tackles were down. Or, our defence pressure wasn’t there.” What are those things for you in life? Was it that your focus wasn’t there? Was it that you weren’t giving it the attention it required? Was it that you weren’t attaching your action to a bigger sense of purpose? Was it that you allowed your ego to pull you back to the safety of your comfort zone, rather than getting outside and breaking through those fear barriers?
Work out what those are. Sometimes you’ll need a coach to do that. Other times you can do it on your own. You might need a book or a workshop. Find the tools, find the resources that you require. I used to have a bad relationship with money. I’d hold onto it and it was more valuable to me than my time. Now, it’s the complete opposite because money can always be made again but you can never get back time.
That game, and not beating myself up were things that really helped me increase my level of emotional intelligence. All of a sudden there was a playfulness about it. It was fun, and yes there were still challenging times but the more fun you can make it, the more likely you are to continue going along.
Advice to self and others
I believe that nature has a lot of the answers. Recently, I was in Columbia and had seen some destructive elements going on in one area and I had a moment of feeling like “The problems we are experiencing on our planet right now are so f-ing big and there is just so much to do. Am I cut out for this? There is so much to do. How can I even make a mark in this?” And what I found is that, in moments like that, I really need to get out into nature.
When you’re sitting at a desk you are in a logical frame of mind and focused on getting things done, you’re not coming up with new ideas. You are not curious. You are not open to other possibilities. But when you are going for a walk, or even in the shower, your mind is distracted from that focused thinking where you need something to go a specific way. Suddenly, you’ve opened yourself up to other options and possibilities. So now, when I’m feeling out of alignment, I get down into nature.
That time in Columbia, I was walking beside a river in the evening with a heavy backpack on and I tripped and fell backwards. My head smashed against some rocks and my right arm was bent in a weird-assed position that hurt like hell and I was in some real pain for a while. No one else was around so I got myself back up and a couple of things happened.
The first was, as I got up, I had a beautiful moment when, as the river was flowing down, a thought popped into my mind. It was the Bruce Lee quote “Be like water”. It is about reducing the rigidity and increasing the flexibility that you have because, if you are a physical person flowing down the river and you come across big rapids, you are going to be pretty banged up – if not dead – by the time you get to the ocean. Whereas, if you are the water, you just flow on down around the rocks, all the way to the ocean.
If we can be more like water in the situations that we are exposed to, we’re able to flow around those problems – allowing us the curiosity and vulnerability to be taken by that which is the universe and allow that to live through us, rather than us trying to force it.
The next thing that popped into my mind was Jane Goodall (who does all the wonderful work with the chimpanzees). In one of her interviews, she said “There is still a lot left that is worth fighting for”. That was just what I needed at that moment as it allowed me to understand and focus again on the things that were most important.
So, whenever you’re feeling like things are too grand, feeling overwhelmed and you’re feeling out of alignment, get down into nature. Often, you will be able to connect with that, as you are away from all the BS, and allow that to flow through.
So, the two pieces there: Be like water. Allow yourself to be easy with the answers rather than forcing them. And realise that there is still a lot more in this world worth fighting for, whatever it is that you are choosing to focus on in your life. Whether it’s about the environment, about minimalism, whatever it is, there’s a lot left that’s still worth fighting for!
I’m a big fan of taking action so I suggest you take out a piece of paper and write on it in big letters, “BE LIKE WATER” and leave it on a wall, on your computer or somewhere you can see it every day for at least the next month. Notice whenever things aren’t moving along as much as you’d like them to. Or you’re experiencing frustration or anxiety or any other emotion that you are not wanting to experience – be like water and allow yourself to flow through.
There are some from last year that really stuck with me. One is called ‘Looptail’ by Bruce Poon Tip. He is the guy that founded G Adventures, the largest small-group travel adventure company in the world and they are a full social enterprise. I’m a big believer that we have to shift the way we’re doing business so that it’s in alignment with the ‘self, others and planet’. So that we are making an impact on all levels, rather than just our own profit and maybe our teams and our families. We’ve got to take that other piece into play there and I love that book for that reason.
I also love how he shares the challenges he had in the beginning from needing $5,000 to now being a hundred-million-dollar company and the challenges that come with that like culture and gender-diversity in the workplace and so many hot topics like that, and to hear somebody’s firsthand account about how to solve those was really powerful for me.
The other one I’d suggest is a book called ‘A More Beautiful Question’, by a famous journalist named Warren Berger. He talks about questioning and how some of the most famous inventions came from specific types of questions that you ask in specific environments. The language we utilise leads us to a specific outcome. So, if you’re asking stupid questions, you’re going to get stupid answers and you are going to get stupid outcomes that aren’t going to lead you to where you want to go. If you’ve got self-defeating language, that either opens you up to moving forward or moving in the other direction.
When you start asking ‘how’ questions or ‘why’ questions or, in his words ‘a more beautiful question’ then you move yourself up to pre-supposing that there are answers to the questions you are experiencing. Your curiosity opens up and allows you to flow with answers. The book covers inventions to education systems and uses real world examples of how to ask more powerful questions.
I’m happy to be contacted by someone who is dedicated to making a greater impact in the world. I love hearing from people from all walks of life who are in that space. There are specific people that I coach. It’s not for everybody, but in general, I love people reaching out who are inspired to make an impact, not only in their own lives, but also to others and the planet, too. The Thriving Collective is all about people who see themselves as stewards of the planet and utilise their own unique strengths and talents to make a greater impact in the world on those levels. So, if that’s you, I’d love to hear from you in any way.