OS4: Colin Beavan – Impact, Finding Your Calling & “How To Be Alive”

We never know which of us will start the chain reaction. But one of us will.

~ Colin Beavan

The winter of 2006 brought unseasonably high temperatures to New York City, to the point that many wore shorts and t-shirts in mid-January. This striking climate change, coupled with harrowing images in the media of two wars abroad — wars driven by our culture’s addiction to oil — called Colin Beavan to action.

This call evolved into the “No Impact Man” project, in which Colin and his family consciously (and dramatically) reduced their impact on the environment to the bare minimum possible, all while living in Greenwich Village, NYC.

The Beavans’ lifestyle experiment vaulted Colin into the public eye, leading to a book and film about the project, and into the odd world of the spotlight.

But it was by following his passion and drive to reduce his impact on the natural environment that Colin learned the profound and positive impact he could make on humanity. Specifically, Colin discovered through this experience his true calling: to help people live more joyful and purposeful lives that will also improve life on the planet.

In this expansive interview with Colin, we explore the current state of the environment and the original impetus for “No Impact Man”, and delve deeply into the personal mission that emerged from that work: to help others become impactful and serviceable to the world, while uncovering the profound individual meaning and happiness each of us is searching for.

Specifically, we discuss:

  • The series of events that led to “No Impact Man”, including the role of his air-conditioner
  • Being called the “patriarch of the Eco-Manson’s” by Stephen Colbert & other odd twists of becoming a celebrity
  • The “standard life approach” and how, quite often, fulfillment lies outside the well-worn path
  • His current mission & daily commitment to leaving a meaningful life
  • His diet and how he approaches making food choices
  • Why cars “suck”
  • How to find your calling in life & the importance of a mastermind
  • And, an abundance of convincing facts that underscore the urgency of being authentic & living your unique gift


Selected Links from the Episode

Colin’s Books:

Current Work:

Other Links:

Show Notes
  • “No Impact Man” & what work he was doing prior to the project [7:02]
  • The connection between where you grow up & your relationship to the environment & nature [9:55]
  • Where his level of awareness for the environment comes from [11:29]
  • One of the many upsides on his life/work of the “NIM” project [11:59]
  • How 100 nights of midnight zen meditation contributed to the “NIM” project [13:17]
  • Seeing students in shorts/t-shirts in Jan while watching coffins come home from Iraq powerfully focused him on his impact on the environment [16:17]
  • Various facets to our society’s relationship to oil and it’s far reaching impact on our lives [17:07]
  • How the “No Impact Man” project began & how his air-conditioning was part of the wake-up call [19:02]
  • Handling resistance & strong reactions from other people, including Stephen Colbert calling him the “patriarch of the Eco-Manson’s” [22:30] (to view this, please see link in section above)
  • “Because you are a guru, no?” [24:28]
  • The surprising reaction from inside the environmental movement [25:06]
  • How fame and riches don’t necessarily equate [27:06]
  • The big question that drives his life now [28:03]
  • The main focus of “How to be Alive”, his newest book & how fulfillment often lies outside of the standard life approach [30:34]
  • The big decision we have to make in the standard life approach, and the factors which often go unconsidered (and that matter greatly) [32:15]
  • Relationships to the world through our work, food, purchases, social life & how to inject meaning into each of these [33:54]
  • An exercise to help you find your calling in life (3 parts) [36:22]
  • Calling exercise – Part I [38:10]; Part II [38:44]; Part III [39:57] (NOTE: for a link to this on Colin’s website, please see section above)
  • Why writing is so powerful as a practice [42:46]
  • The freelance lifestyle and how he budgets his daily time [43:21]
  • His system for transport in New York City and the rare occasions when he will take a car [44:33]
  • Why cars suck & his preference for active transportation [45:12]
  • Food choices, how he decides what to/not to eat and the far reaching impact of our food choices [48:11]
  • Colin’s usual morning routine & his current “intensive” routine [51:11]
  • His fitness routine + his upcoming half-marathon [53:20]
  • The number of minutes the average American spends moving his/her body per day [54:05]
  • How to frame “results” in meditation [54:48]
  • His interpretation of the first noble truth of Buddhism related to suffering/disfunction [56:09]
  • 3 books: “Trust in Mind”, “Stories Jesus Still Tells”, “The Success Principles” [58:44] (NOTE: for links, see section above)
  • His favorite meal – it’s not about the food [1:02:18]
  • The item he has held onto for the longest time + what he wears in situations where he’s nervous or afraid [1:04:20]
  • His upcoming career as a barista? [1:06:40]
  • The value of community and, specifically, a mastermind [1:08:35]

Photo credits: (bottom) Jesse Jiru Davis

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