Episode 5: Anti-Poaching With Pete Bethune
Pete Bethune has been shot at, stabbed with a machete, and held as a captive in a maxim-security Japanese prison. All in the pursuit of his unique passion. He has traveled the world as a wildlife conversationalist, protecting endangered animals. Whether he is performing citizens’ arrests in Japan or rappelling from helicopters in Costa Rica, it is all in the quest of fulfilling his life purpose.
But it wasn’t always this way for Pete. He began his career as an oil exploration engineer for Schlumberger Wireline Services and worked in the North Sea and Libya. It was only after going back to university to get his MBA that he began to unravel his true passion and purpose when he wrote a 20,000-word paper titled “Alternative Fuels for Road Transport”. He concluded that hydrogen as a fuel was a dead-end, but that biofuels such as biodiesel and ethanol could become mainstream in use.
And so began his journey.
In this thrilling conversation with Pet, we talk about:
- How Pete has risked his life for his passion.
- How you can too can stand up for a worthy cause and it will change your life.
- What it means to really make a difference in the world.
- Where Pete’s passion for conservation originally came from.
- The impact that chasing his passion and purpose has had on his wife and kids.
Pete will go to great lengths to pursue his passion and his story is a call to action to anyone who is struggling to figure out how they can give back to the earth and society.
I’m so excited to share this with you!
SOME QUESTIONS I ASK PETE:
- How do you continue to do what you do, considering the risks involved?
- How do you suggest that people take a stand today?
- When did you realize there was no turning back?
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. Who was your inspiration for following Passion & Purpose?
Thanks so much for listening!
Click To Read The Full Podcast Transcript
Richard Janes: So my guest today is feared all over the world by wildlife poachers and traders. As a wildlife vigilante, his purpose is to stop the illegal buying and selling of the world’s endangered animals—working around the world be it boarding Japanese whaling vessels to perform citizen’s arrests, rappelling from helicopters in Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park to target illegal gold mining where they were using cyanide poison to separate gold from silt which was killing local wildlife, or, simply being dropped off the shore in Namibia swimming to a mine-infested beach in a sniper outfit to capture evidence of 500 baby seals being clubbed to death.
My guest today has been shot at, stabbed with a machete, and ended up in a maximum-security prison in Japan. His name is Pete Bethune. And I started our interview by noting that he is constantly risking his life over and over and over again, which to many, would seem like a never-ending and impossible task. So I asked him, why the bloody hell does he do it?
Pete Bethune: It’s a little bit like The Matrix where there’s the red pill and the blue pill, but you take the red pill as a one-way journey.
“This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back.”
You can’t go and take the blue pill after that. Honestly, there were some of the volunteers who’d come and help me with my work now. You’d spend three months in the Amazon chasing illegal pet traders, and there’s a real purpose to that. And then they go back and start working on all that again, it’s quite challenging. And a little bit that’s what happened to me, like once you get to work on stuff you truly believe in, it’s very hard to go back and do 9 to 5, and selling washing machines or fix computers, or whatever it is you do. When you’re working for someone else, it’s hard to really be passionate about that.
There are certain lucky people who I think can enter that zone but in my jobs that’s I’ve done, it wasn’t like I didn’t enjoy them but they were always a job that didn’t really have a greater purpose. I’ve made someone else money. And when I was running my business that sort of made me some money and paid off some bills and stuff like that, but the shift in me started when I researched biofuels. And it wasn’t a sudden change; it was this gradual shift I’ve accrued more and more about biofuels and how we’re consuming our resource.
When you’re working for some joe, you know damn well how finite those oil reserves are. And so that started to eat away at me.
Richard Janes Commentary: So it was in researching biofuels as part of a 20,000-word paper titled “Alternative Fuels for Road Transport” that Pete had to write as part of acquiring his Masters in Business Administration, a degree that he hoped in the future would help him build his business that Pete initially found his rabbit hole.
He felt that if someone could build a boat and break a world record for circumnavigating the world in a powerboat using only biofuel, then this cleaner alternative to fossil fuels might just get the attention it deserves. And very quickly, Pete realized that if someone was going to do this, then it had to be him.
Pete Bethune: I thought I could do it quick and dirty without putting all my money in. But once I got into it, it was a period of time where I put in maybe 100 to 150 grand and it was a choice that either I bail it now and I write that off, or I continue on and I’ll make it happen, or I’ll do my best to make it happen. I remember this period very distinctly, sitting down with Sharyn (my wife) talking about it. And I could have just written 150 off and I’d probably still be back in New Zealand doing an engineering job or running a business or something like that, you know. It’s funny, sometimes you get involved in something, it’s very hard to back away, and that sort of happened to me on this thing. Like the project was starting to become kind of special but it needed a ton of money to make it happen. And so I mortgaged the house, sold off my forestry block. I sold my business. And so I basically sold up everything.
Even then, we still stopped construction twice because we ran out of money. But I do remember the day we launched the boat. It was one of the proudest days of my life and I remember thinking it doesn’t matter what happens for me. I have built the world’s coolest boat. That was one of the goals we wanted. We wanted to build the world’s coolest boat and have that branding transfer over the bodies. But what happened was when the boat was launched, I was very close to bankruptcy. Like we had one creditor especially who we owed a lot of money too, was pushing to make us bankrupt and basically the boat would have been sold for scrap, and that would have cleared my debt with them, but I’ll be left with nothing.
But I had this plan. I think it’s a really cool boat. People will want to come down and see this boat and I’m going to charge them 5 bucks to go aboard it, and that’s part of my goal, is to have people come aboard the boat and me and my crew would talk about biofuels and conservation with them.
So we started this tour around New Zealand and paid off enough of that big debt that the company stopped with the bankruptcy proceedings. We went over the States, came down the west coast, went up the east coast and all the while we’re raising money, getting sponsors, raising awareness about conservation and biofuels, and we managed to piece together enough and do the record attempt. And after the first record attempt, like I was a broken man.
Richard Janes Commentary: Falling further and further down the rabbit hole. The first attempt was riddled with devastation including on the night of March the 19th while around 22 kilometers offshore from Guatemala, his boat, aptly named Earthrace, collided with a local fishing boat, killing one of the three fishermen onboard. While Pete and his crew were absolved of any responsibility, they were naturally devastated by what had happened and morale was at an all-time low.
Staying focused on the bigger purpose, they started their circumnavigation again, only this time to discover a crack in the hull. The attempt was abandoned and Pete and the team headed back home. They had embraced the passion and tried to bring a bigger purpose to their life but had failed in their mission. It was that red pill/blue pill moment of The Matrix. There is no turning back.
Pete Bethune: So I had this massive debt hanging over my head and I thought, you know, if I give it another record attempt, we followed some sponsors so I’m holding basically a completely new team together. All the older team were done. You know, they had given up a year or two of their lives. And I had another crack at it and the second record attempt was successful and we beat the old record by over 2 weeks.
So here’s where things get a bit interesting. So I’ve got the record and I can sell the boat and go back and maybe lead a normal life again. And over that period of 3 years that we were in that project, the biofuels industry had increasingly started using palm oil as their main feedstock for biodiesel and it was coming from Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil mostly, and, you know, this was on its rainforest there.
And so, I became a bit disillusioned with the biodiesel industry but over that same period, I started to see all these marine conservation issues and on one stage we followed along behind a big commercial ship doing bottom drilling and we saw they’re pulling up all these corals and tiny fish and stuff. I saw there was a fleet of boats that were fishing illegally in Fujian waters and there was a cyclone and all these boats came in to shelter with the cyclone. I remember talking to the poor kid, you know, “Where are all these boats from?” He said, “Oh, the Chinese.” “Are they legal?” “No, none of them are legal.”
So I started seeing all these issues and thought I’ve got a choice. Do I go back and get a normal job or do I start following this marine conversation which was starting to get under my skin. And so that marine conservation, we started working in that. But it was this challenge of how do I do it? I had this very cool boat but a huge dip and I wanted to go and do conservation. So at the time there was a news broadcaster in Australia who interviewed me.
“So Pete Bethune, you’ve broken the record. What’s next?”
Half-jokingly, I say, “I’m going to go to Antarctica to bail Japanese whales.”
Richard Janes Commentary: Half-jokingly. Now this is something that I often see when working with private clients and we get into visioning the future. They go into that ego-led vision of money, material possessions and accolades and then we start to have fun. There’s this moment where they throw out something half-jokingly with a silly giggle like a school child and a twinkle in their eye, as if they expect me or anyone with any issue for that matter to burst into hysterics because there’s no way that they could possibly do that.
“Who do they think they are?”
“Of course, they’re joking!”
“Yeah, like that’s possible.”
But in fact, what we’ve just experienced was a glimpse into their soul, putting out some deep-seated desire that comes from their core all the while protecting themselves against a backlash by wrapping it in humor.
I live for these moments with my clients where we can put a pause on the conversation and say “Let’s fully explore that idea. What if?”
Now in Pete’s case, that interview made him sit up and think “What if? Why not?”
Now at the time Japan had six whaling ships in the Antarctic waters under a scientific whaling program and allowed exception to the International Whaling Commissions 1986 ban on commercial whaling. It hunts hundreds of whales a year and those that are not caught for scientific studies are then sold for consumption in Japan which critics say is the real reason for the hunts.
Pete did everything he could to impede the ability of the Japanese whalers from dropping toe ropes in an attempt to fail the propellers of the Japanese ships and using a potato cannon to fire capsules of foul-smelling butyric acid which taints the whale meat the whalers get from their hunts so that it can’t be sold for human consumption.
But things took a turn for the worse when a security and support boat for the whaling fleet allegedly rammed Pete’s stationary vessel, cutting it in half, injuring a crewman and eventually sinking the ship. One month later, Pete tracked down the whaling ship in the middle of the Southern Ocean and in the middle of the night set off on a jet ski and boarded the Japanese whaler with a goal of making a citizen’s arrest of the ship’s captain on attempted murder charges, all the while handing over a $3 million bill for the destruction of his ship the previous month.
In turn, Pete was detained by the ship’s crew and taken to Japan where he was labeled a terrorist, arrested by the Japanese coastguard on the charges of trespassing, assault, illegal possession of a knife, destruction of property and obstruction of business culminating in a new time as prisoner 2406 of the Maximum-Security Tokyo Detention Center which became his home for the next five months.
Pete Bethune: The Japanese judicial system, if they charge you with something, you are going to be found guilty. The conviction rate is 98.5%. So I’m in this very difficult place having to show contrition and apologize for something I haven’t done and I’ve got this NGO, the organization I was down there stopped paying me, and fairly so. And Sharyn didn’t want to bother me with the money thing because she knew I had enough on my mind in prison. So I get out and she says, “Just so you know, we have no money.”
My last month in prison, many ways it kind of broke my heart. Up until then, it felt like I had the backing of this organization and lots of people supporting me. That last month in many ways broke me and when I got out, I was quite amiss and I think probably in hindsight a small PTSD. I’m not belittling what a lot of people in the army and military that go through PTSD but in some ways it had messed with my head. I could have just spent the last five months wondering if today is the day I was going to get raped or beaten up.
I had to keep trying to come up with positive thoughts. You know, the money is not there, you know, disappointment with this started working on a TV show that didn’t seem to be working, but those are First World problems. You know, I looked death in the face a few times. My cause nearly took my life. But my life is enormously rich and I’ve lived more than most people do in a lifetime in the last 10 years and it might take my life. I think it’s less likely and these things are all experiences that mold us into what we are and I’ve had a few of them there. I’ve got a cause that I stand for and I know these risks are there but I think it’s unlikely that it will kill me but it has a way of making you realize if you’re conscious about it, I have a lot to be grateful for but it took me probably 6 to 8 months to get into that space where I look back positively on what I’ve done.
I think I was quite angry when I got out of Japan too. I was angry at the Japanese, angry at the way I’ve been treated by the organization that they’ve taken me down there and ended up basically booting me out. So there was quite a bit of anger there I needed to get out of my system. And once I got rid of that, I’m cool with what happened. We lost a very cool boat but I was instrumental in reducing the number of whales that get killed. Today, Japan only hunts 300 a year compared to the thousand they did. And I’m not saying it was just me. There were several NGOS and a bunch of them that we just all contributed in a significant way to force this in Australia to take Japan to the International Court of Justice. Japan lost the case. I was in prison when Australia announced that court action.
The only reason they did it, there were protests all over New Zealand and Australia about Japanese whaling and the two issues that really highlighted was the ramming and destruction of my boat and my incarceration in prison. A lot of NGOs and people leveraged off that and promoted the hell out it and organized protests and rallies. So I’m not claiming sole responsibility. There were some amazing teams that leveraged off that and forced the Australian government to court. And so I’m super proud of the role that I played in making that happen but I wouldn’t have done it without everyone else that was involved as well.
And so it took a while when I started realizing I did my best and I just got to make a difference and I had made a difference. I took a whaling ship out of action for the rest of the campaign because they had to take me all the way back to Japan, so that in itself probably saved 30 or 40 whales.
Richard Janes Commentary: American philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “Feel not simply good. Feel good for something.” Our ultimate worth isn’t just derived from our own feelings and self-interests, which in many cases lies in the passion part of our equation. But it also includes and can often be surpassed by the impact we can have on the world around us. A purpose that gives meaning to why we’re alive and why we continually push ourselves to previously unfathomable limits.
Pete Bethune: Most people stand up for nothing. Or that’s wrong. Most people stand up for themselves. They’re in this hedonistic thing of wanting to get out and really experience the world, and that’s just as good as it gets. In my life, I need to do more than just go and experience what the world has to offer. I want to make the world a better place.
I gave a talk last year in New Zealand to a group of CEOs and there was a few CFOs and some pretty senior managers from a bunch of companies in New Zealand. And I started with the first guy, I said, “You tell me what is the best thing you’ve done in your life?” And he sort of looks at me and he’s sort of like, “I’ve raised two amazing children.” And I sort of looked and then you can see everyone else in the group sort of nodding their head to hear a family. I said, “If you’re going to have two kids, it is obligatory that you raise two great kids. You know, don’t get patting yourself on the back thinking that the world is a better place.” And I said, “Those two children that you’ve brought into the planet, they’re a big drain on this planet, and you’re saying that that’s a great thing. I don’t see it as a great thing. You know, I’ve got two girls and I’m very grateful and they’re awesome kids. But we already have 7.5 billion people and we’re heading for 9.”
The planet has too many people, there’s no question about it. And this guy is telling me that the fact that he had raised two great kids was the greatest thing he’d done. And that’s the default position that’s expected of us. “The best thing I’ve done is raise two great kids.” So I said, “That doesn’t qualify. Give me something else.” And then he sort of undenied and I went to the next guy. He’s like, “I’ve got a company that employs 100 people.” I sort of said, “Well, you know, that’s alright but, you know, that’s a byproduct of you making money.” This guy owned a large carpet retail. He’s a very wealthy guy on the back of it, and that’s okay. But I said, “You know, World War II employed lots of people. I wouldn’t say that that’s necessarily great. It’s a good thing, you know. And here we have amongst New Zealand’s most talented people. Give me something decent.”
Then I sort of went around the group and they all started shifting a bit awkwardly in their seats at the stage and then there was a couple of them that had done some cool stuff. There was one guy I had worked on a project with, I had taken water to a whole bunch of communities in Africa. Africa has a big problem with water and especially in poorer places—Liberia and Syria. A lot of contaminated water, bacteria in the water. In fact, one of the guys said to me, he said, “Well, what the hell have you done?”
I said, “Well, like I was instrumental in reducing the number of whales killed in Antarctica. I rescued a dolphin held in captivity that was being held illegally in an island resort. I closed down two illegal gold mining operations. I’ve closed down two wildlife smuggling operations in Asia. I’ve arrested countless crew fishing illegally who were using dynamite and so on was another thing.” So I ranted off a whole of stuff but I wasn’t showing off. I simply was sort of pointing out to them that my life has had real purpose and I reckon the world as a better place with me having been in it and what I’ve done. I said to them, “I don’t think the world is really a better place with most of you here and yet you are amongst the most talented people in this country.” And I said, “You guys need to find a cause.”
Richard Janes Commentary: We tend to put off the “giving back” aspect of our life, the adoption of a cause for which we stand behind with the intention of doing good when we’ve perhaps made more money, when we have more time, when the kids go off to college or when we retire.
But there’s an old Chinese saying that goes, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness a year, inherit a fortune. But, if you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
And scientific research provides compelling data to support this. Through FMRI technology scientists have been able to see that the same parts in their brain that are stimulated by food and sex are stimulated when we give. The brain treats it as pleasurable which in turn has an impact on positive outlook, productivity and a sense of meaningfulness.
Pete Bethune: I need to do more in this world than just raise two great kids. You know, I need to stand up for things that I believe in. And my kids have got to go on some extraordinary adventures. So at least she had done four years of Spanish, so I took her to Venezuela and she’s my translator. It kind of took about a week for it to click in again and she’s bah-bah-bah-bah-bah. So she’s almost fluent in Spanish. Took them to Costa Rica when we did the campaign there. Took them to the Philippines while we were running a campaign there. On Earthrace we took them on the boat around the UK. We took them up the Seine in Paris, took them up the Thames to London. So around my work, my kids have had the most extraordinary adventures and it’s not great because they’re heads away quite a lot but we manage it as best we can. I think the girls, they know that my work is important to me and they support me.
In fact, I was really nervous. The Japanese who portrayed me as this terrorist and as a common criminal, and I was really nervous about my girls seeing their dad paraded like a common criminal. I remember when I got home and being quite nervous about all this, and I remember sitting down with my girls and saying, “You know, sorry about what you had to go through.” And my girls are amazing. I remember Danny saying, “Man, dad, that was amazing. Like Fletch and Vaughan who are these two comedians were even taking the pussy out of you.” Like in the end, you know, Danny said, “We’re super proud of what you do. No one else’s dad is crazy enough or is bold and big enough to go and do that sort of stuff.”
And they were enormously proud of what I’ve done. Something like that helped to reaffirm in me like is it okay if I screw things up or things don’t go right. I’m fighting a cause that my kids are proud of and that I want to be involved in. The people there I know that lead the most rewarding lives, they all have a cause that they fight for. It’s not necessarily conservation but they have something that they stand up for and I don’t need to go and face bullets or get knifed or something like I have. But they all universally have something that they stand for and it gives them purpose.
I think historically, this potentially used to be the church. Churches in many countries are sort of waning now but that gave people a sense of purpose. I mean, when I was kid, my mother did me on some wheels where they would drive around and drop food off to the elderly sort of thing, and that gave mom a great sense of purpose but I think today, a lot of us struggle finding what is this cause that we stand for. And I’m like, in my case, I stand for conservation and I stand up for animals that in many cases don’t have a voice, and that presents great challenges. How do I fund my work? Most people, they want to go and fight for something, that’s the challenge you face, “And I’ll get home after this.” There will be four or five emails and Facebook messages from people saying, “Hey, I want to come and help you save animals. How do I do it?”
And I take a few volunteers on my thing but I can’t afford to take the sheer volume of people that want to come and help. A lot of times people don’t understand or they can’t figure out “How do I go and do this?” So then they end up getting tracked back in the “I’ll go and buy a new car” kind of thing.
I can understand why so many people are in that zone. The way our society is today, that’s the way it’s geared. We’re basically taught from when we’re a very small kid you get bombarded with ads to get yourself an iPhone, an iPad. You need a new washing machine, you need a stainless refrigerator. That is where they get the satisfaction. They work so that they can own this nice car or have this nice house or whatever. All those messages get sent to us constantly. How many messages do we get saying “You don’t need to buy that?”
Why do you need to have a bigger car? Why do you need to have a massive house? There’s no message going the other way and it’s one of the flaws I see in capitalist society, is that everything revolves around us making stuff and selling stuff, and putting services that other people can use. That’s how capitalist economy works. And I’m not saying there’s a better alternative, but I do find it a shame that so many people are stuck in a job they don’t enjoy to go and buy a bigger car or maybe they have a two-week holiday in the Maldives or something and that’s their sum total in a year.
I often ask volunteers when they come onboard, I say, you know, let’s say a guy who’s 30, “You know, how much money have you got in the bank?” “I’ve got 10 grand.” So you’ve been working for 10 years and all you’ve managed to do was save 1,000 a year. What’s the point in all that? Assuming they’ve got all this saved money. But for most of them, that’s as far as it goes. I said, “Man, join me. Come with me for a year and go and see the world and make a difference. Help stop the illegal pet trade in the Amazon or help stop illegal fishing around the Philippines. Or let’s go and save a dolphin that’s stuck in captivity in a preppy little resort in Indonesia.” These are all what I would consider very worthwhile purposes. But most people don’t see that.
It’s like being on a treadmill. You’re in this treadmill buying stuff and consuming stuff, and it’s bad for the planet. The amount of crap that the average American or New Zealander consumers in a year is appalling, but we’re constantly fed these messages that we need to buy this stuff and our governments love it because we’re buying and selling lots of stuff and it’s making the money go round and everyone’s paying taxes and those things. But as a conservationist, those things are toxic on the planet. And I have no car, I have some technical gear and a couple of cameras. That is all I own and I’m okay with it. Like I gave up owning shit ages ago and that allows me to be very free. If you want to do something amazing in your life, you need to step up and be at the top of your game.
Richard Janes Commentary: It’s the number one excuse for not stepping into passion and purpose. “I have bills to pay. I have a mortgage or rent and I couldn’t afford to just stop what I’m doing at the moment to focus on what would make me truly happy.” In other words, we become slaves to a quality of life that gives us a perceived comfort but only fleeting satisfaction.
If you took inventory tonight of what you and your family really need, what would be on that list? How much would it cost you to live? And what could you do that would bring more passion and purpose into your life, your spouse’s life, your kid’s life if you just cut out all the fat?
And look, maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum and the money and buying of things isn’t an issue to you. Well, congratulations. But are you using this privileged position to lean into your true greatness and give back to society? Or have you forgotten what you are working so hard for in the first place?
And we don’t have to go to as an extreme as Pete as done and sell everything we own. There are degrees. And to that end, I asked Pete how would he suggest that people take a stand today.
Pete Bethune: There’s a few ways that people can do it. One is that they have a career that gives them resource and some time off. They can do it. So for example, I know a guy, he was an audio technician for BBC. He went around the world recording bird noises. He can take any time off he wants and he made good money for BBC. He goes off and he does this thing. Recently he was the Yulin dog festival in China trying to stop the quite horrific torture of dogs before they get eaten and the eating of dogs which is questionable.
So he has a career that pays him good money, he goes out and does it, so that’s option 1. Option 2, you find an NGO or an organization that shares your values and you might start off on the weekend and do something. But if you’ve got a skill like one and you’ve got a really good attitude, a lot of those NGOs can pay you, so it becomes your full-time job. So Greenpeace and WWF Youth and a lot of the big NGOs, they have full-time people who work for them who if they share your values and the causes you want to stand for, go find an NGO. But to do that, there’s certain skills that they look for and if you do not and you’re just out of school, it’s less likely they’ll take you on a paid position but if you’re a videographer or journalist or an engineer or translator or ship’s captain… you know, I know a lady recently in her early 40s, went and became a nurse and is now working in Africa volunteering and anything. They pay all her expenses so it’s not costing her anything.
There’s a lot of skill sets that they look for but you need to be good at it. I remember sort of thinking one day. Like I’ve got a very valuable skill set that allows me to achieve certain things. You know, we all have things that we’re super good at. I’ve got some skills that are especially good at leading people and quantifying risks and coming up with some solutions that a lot of people might think nuts. They’re not nuts to me at all. I think it’s a risk worth taking and I am very driven if I decide I am going to go and work on stopping the seal clubbing that happens in Namibia. And obviously a pressing time over there, I think it’s less likely I’ll get caught and we didn’t get caught in that way, thankfully, and we didn’t get shot either. So I’ve got some skills that I’m blessed to have that might make me a good leader of people. The jobs are there. You just got to be really, really good at what you do and you got to keep knocking on doors and keep pushing until you do get something. And often it’s a case of getting your foot in the door.
Go and volunteer for one of these NGOs and then you might find, they look at you thinking “Oh man, this guy’s really awesome. Let’s bring him in everywhere he can.” And then next thing it might be a paid job or something like that.
So that’s the second way. You get an NGO, get your foot on the door and it might be able to become full-time. Or you might be happy just doing it on the weekends and then go on with your other life. But go and volunteer in an animal shelter every Saturday or something like that.
Start off in a small way. Go and help out at an animal shelter or volunteer on a thing that needs social media help or look at the skills that you have and see “How can I add value to another NGO?”
And the third way which is what I’ve done, is you create a niche for yourself. Can I create my own thing? Go and find your own thing. Lots of people message me and say, “You know, I need to find a cause.” Step out and find one. There are tens of thousands of animals that are endangered or critically endangered and they all need a champion. Most of them have no one fighting for them. There’s plenty of other things that I can go and fight for human rights, go and fight for people in Syria. Go and fight for something, but don’t step back and think I can’t do it because I’m married with two kids. That’s completely wrong. I know lots and lots of people who are married with a great relationship with their family and they still go and manage to figure out how to stand up for something.
So it can be done but it’s not necessarily easy. But if you don’t buy that new car and you don’t upgrade your house and you don’t get that new stainless refrigerator when it first comes out, you might have a little bit more freedom to go pursuing these other things.
The challenge in this, is how do you fund your work? And you know, if you take your job, what you do, and pretty much everyone else, they work for people one way or the other. With me, my clients are fish and animals in jungles and forests, they’ve got no money. So that’s the challenge we face. How do I go and fund that? One way or the other, I had figured it out how could I get people to pay for it. And one way I did it was a television show.
I decided to form a badass team, a conservation, this little thing.
“Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!”
Our mission is to get as much evidence as we can and bring these criminals to justice.
Richard Janes Commentary: If you are passionate enough and you believe in your purpose enough, just as Pete has done, you will find a way. You will be able to achieve that big audacious hairy goal that you set yourself. Because the biggest thing that is standing in your way right now—the biggest thing—is yourself.
Pete Bethune: Most of us, yeah, passion is to that making money or kicking a soccer ball better than the guy next to me. Passion and purpose for me is standing up for something and doing your very best to make a difference. So it’s all very well being passionate about something but there needs to be purpose in what you do. I love animals and I love wildlife. That’s my passion. But the purpose is how do I go effecting change? And so, for me, it’s more about saying, you know, I’m going to go and save animals, I’ll go make a TV show that’s going to highlight the problems—the seal clubbing in Namibia or the loss of tigers in Asia, or whatever it is. So the purpose is more directed at what action do I do to go saving. Passion is what drives me to go doing that in the first place.
If you chase your passion and you have real purpose about it, you will lead a filling life. And there are so many causes out there we’re fighting for. Don’t get to the end of your life and go thinking “the best thing I did was raise a couple of kids.” I think that’s a sad place to be. It’s great that you’ve raised your great kids but I think we have obligations. This planet, it pays a price for every one of us. Lead an amazing life. Go and step out and find your cause and just do it with passion. Have a purpose in your life.
Richard Janes: Thank you so much for coming in today. I really appreciate it. I’m looking forward to finding out your next journey as it sounds like you continue to make those journeys and discover that new purpose that’s driving you in terms of saving the planet and the animals that are going on. Stay safe.
Pete Bethune: Thanks, man. I appreciate you having us in here. It’s really appreciated. Thanks very much.
PODCAST HOST: Richard Janes
Richard Janes is an Emmy winning personal brand expert with a passion for storytelling. His unique approach to personal branding has launched, revived, and catapulted the careers of many actors, athletes, musicians, television hosts, executives, and entrepreneurs.
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