19
SEPTEMBER, 2019
The Scene: An intercontinental Zoom room amid Covid19 lockdowns.

The Drink: A tall drink some call friendship.

The Vibe: Pure joy, pure stoke and genuine connection

Terence is an ocean man with a business-minded background. We touch base with him around deep insights, finding life mottos, and how endurance sport, and a plant-based life of adventure and discovery lead to living with a lot less but a lot closer to nature.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve done in or at the ocean?

Definitely the swim around the island of Kauai, Hawaii, which was a solo circumnavigation, solo meaning me swimming and you kayaking, supporting me, and it was wild! 

What’s your relationship status with the ocean? Complicated, madly in love?

I don’t treat the ocean as a separate entity. It feels part of me, so let’s call it a blended love.

If you were the ocean, what would your message to humanity be?

At our essence, at our core, we’re all the same, we’re coming from the same entity.

Photos from Terence Bell’s personal Instagram account @onlywildones
Where are you in the world currently? It’s a standard question I ask you because you have a tendency to be all over.

Ha, true. I’m in Byron Bay in New South Wales in Australia. It’s a magical corner of the world that offers exactly what I’ve been seeking in a lot of other parts.

What is it about Byron Bay that you love most?
Predominantly it’s having a conscious community and living with access to beautiful, pristine nature.

What’s most alive for you in this very moment, emotionally?

Oh, I’m in a love bubble, the honeymoon phase! I feel this beautiful presence with life and I’m not backward planning or future planning.

“One of the Rumi poems I really love is “we are not a drop in the ocean, we are the ocean in one drop.”
Something people won’t know about you from the outset is that you’re very into poetry. When I first met you I saw this power and surfing that you represent and the poetry aspect surprised me.  

Is there a specific quote or poet that kind of captures what’s happening for you in these times? 

Poetry is really close to my heart. I love writing poetry and reading poetry and have since I’ve been young. At the moment, I’m interacting a lot with Ram Dass and Rumi, both beautiful beings. 

One of the Rumi poems I love is “we are not a drop in the ocean, we are the ocean in one drop”. For me, it encapsulates a lot. It’s a powerful few words.

It couldn’t be better fitting for our topic. Before we get stuck into Oceaneers can you give us a little life overview and your career trajectory?

What was your life about and what do you do now?

For sure. I’ve had an interesting journey. I’ve been on a traditional conservative corporate track and I floated into the more entrepreneurial side of things. So yeah, ex-investment banker, then and now tech company founder and investor/advisor.

Now I’m going through my next evolution – a phase of just doing many cool things that are authentic to me. That’s my sole purpose – getting involved with projects that appeal to the heart as opposed to the head. 

How do you think those aspects shaped who you are today?

As a banker, I learned the fundamentals of how the economy and financial markets work.

As an entrepreneur, I have ­created and built two successful tech startups through bootstrapping, and a “get stuff done” attitude.

As an Investor/advisor I provide valuable expertise, strategic advice, global connections, and support capital raisings for my portfolio companies.

Currently, I’m working in the ocean-economy space, advising and investing in companies that are doing good for Mother Earth.

“I loved swimming into the underwater bubble ring on the Big Island, Hawaii. Did you know both Dolphins and Whales create these bubble rings to catch fish, but also just to play and have fun.er.”
Can you tell us about what shifted things for you? What brought about the transition?

When I was 22, my best friend at the time – he’d been working in Jakarta, came to stay with me for a couple of weeks in Sydney in Bondi Beach. I hadn’t seen him for a year, but we’d grown up together, and he stayed with us for a couple of weeks, had some deep connections and soulful discussions, a lot of water time together. It was an amazing time together.

He then flew back to Bali to meet friends for an end of season rugby party but he was unfortunately there during the period of the Bali bombings, and was in one of the nightclubs that exploded. 

So at 22, I lost my best friend and it made me rethink everything. 

I had to really reframe what I thought I was doing here on a real level. I said to myself  “why am I working in this corporate banking job?”

I thought it was the path I wanted, but it made me reset. Life can change quickly, and that was a powerful moment for me. 

From that point on it’s guided me in terms of where I am now. I don’t care about the material and the accumulation but more about the experiential and the relationship side of life. 

Thanks for sharing that. It’s so interesting. Michael Singer in his book, The Untethered Soul, says death is the greatest teacher. So this resonates strongly.

“I think it’s a beautiful way to be where you can actually give permission to someone because you see some talent or you see some potential that can push them, that they don’t see themselves.”
Let’s talk about endurance sports. For folks who don’t know, you’ve done more than 50 marathons. Can you fill us in?

Yeah, I’ve done 58 marathons on all continents including Antarctica, and I’ve run at the world stage as well at the world international level ultramarathons.

How did you get into endurance sports?

When I was 13 a teacher at my high school saw some potential in me and gave me the permission to pursue that. I was busy with other things, like being distracted by girls and other sport or studies, and he said, “you’ve got potential here, I want you to stay where you can take this.” So I was able to start training and do cross country at high school.

That was a powerful moment, to realize that someone is supporting me in this.  I think it’s a beautiful way to be where you can actually give permission to someone because you see some talent or you see some potential that can push them, that they don’t see themselves.

 
So is that what drew you into these long endurance sports and also travel?

Yeah, that permission alone has guided me on the countries I’ve visited, the things I’ve focused on that have been important to me over the last 20-25 years. I usually chose where I was going to travel to via selecting a race in that country, so whether it was a marathon race or an ultramarathon race. 

It’s enabled me to see and experience the world through that sort of running lens, endurance lens, and as a result, a lot of my friend group, growing up, were involved in running in some capacity whether that was in Sydney or in Cape Town or in Kenya where I spent some time, or in Santiago de Chile where I was joining and leading a running group.

And what’s the essence, like, what has endurance sport taught you?

It’s been a beautiful part of my life, and it’s also a mental exercise. 

Obviously, you have to do the physical training but it’s more about mental stamina:

  • being able to manage your body
  • what’s going on and feeling into it
  • not ignore the challenges and the difficulties and the struggles
  • know that it’s coming through like any emotion and it passes through

With marathon running they talk about ‘going through different waves’ when you’re exercising and you’re hitting walls. I got to know my body so well when I was running these 100-kilometer races that I knew there were three walls I was going to hit, and it’s almost like I got to determine exactly, the first one is at 20 kilometers, next one is at 45 kilometers, the next one is at 88 kilometers, as an example. 

It was beautiful to be so in tune with my body and I didn’t need to have a watch for a lot of my races because I just knew where to let my body sit so that it was not red-lining, but enough to know that I was pushing it as much as I wanted to to get the time I was looking for. 

Do you still do competitive marathons?

I backed off a little bit on the competitive endurance stuff. Now I’m just training for life. 

I just want to be fit, competitive, healthy for my own self. So I can climb some mountains with you in Switzerland or go kayaking around an island for fun. 

“It’s more like I ask myself regarding everything I bring into my life, is it bringing me joy?”
You’ve made that part of your life motto? ‘Play more consume less’, right?

I was inspired by it, partly because of my friend Bob passing away. That was the catalyst, so I just want more experiences and less consumption and accumulation. 

So how does it play out in your life?

I’ve really been very minimalist in terms of what I bring into my life and not even as ‘a minimalist’.

It’s more like I ask myself regarding everything I bring into my life, is it bringing me joy?

That has been my motto for the last 20 years, pre-Marie Kondo selling it in her bigger idea. 

But it’s a very Japanese concept in their culture, and that comes down to having the space to actually have things – better to have nice quality things than a lot of things that just collect dust. We attach energy to them as well.

“…for the last five years, I’ve created a spreadsheet with everything I own. I got down to about 88 at one point…”

You’ve even done a challenge on minimalism haven’t you?

Yeah, in 2014 I was moving to New York and someone sent me a link about a guy who had a 100 items. He had laid everything out on his bed and took a photo of it and explained exactly what they’re all for. 

I saw this and said to myself “that’s a challenge, and I love challenges, I’m going to do it.”

So effectively for the last five years, I’ve created a spreadsheet with everything I own. I got down to about 88 at one point, now I’m probably up to 120 or so.

I don’t need a lot of things and therefore, for example, you’ve got some of my surfboards, I have left bikes around in San Francisco, I’ve got things all around the world which is I’m okay with.

I just let them go. If people get joy from what I left there or gifted it to them, I’m happy for them. It brings me joy. 

Photo by Braden Jarvis on Unsplash

And so your trip around Kauai in Hawaii is where endurance sport and ‘play more consume less’ kind of came together?

Yes, that was a tagline I created for Hawaii. The reason why I wanted to do this swim was a couple of reasons, partly because I think it’d be a lot of fun (maybe everyone thinks it’s fun swimming around an island for two weeks?) and it’s a challenge – 188 kilometers with challenging conditions. 

On the play side I thought ‘Can I do this? I want to, so why not? It’s going to bring a lot of joy.”

On the consume less side, it was about, “well, how do I do this? What does that mean?”

It meant raising awareness for me in particular for the ocean and educating people about our consumption habits and how they eventually often lead to pollution in the ocean, directly or indirectly.

How did you achieve that?

I partnered with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. We raised almost US $40,000 to supplement the programs that they’re offering to create and they do beach cleanups across the Hawaiian Islands. They need funds to be able to expand these beach cleanups. So that was a beautiful partnership that we created. That was the essence of the ‘play more consume less’ for the swim. 

So you’ve been part of the Oceaneers journey from the very beginning, long before we actually launched it.

Yeah, I’ve been eating whole foods since the 1999 – sounds like a song from Prince -and that has included a lot of good plant-based, earth-based foods, but also meats as well and chicken, fish, red meats, but they’ve predominantly been organic, and when I can, sustainably sourced. 

So I’ve been on this path for a long time, but you’ve certainly influenced me in terms of looking at an alternative meaning.

Although I am an active person, there are thousands of examples throughout history where high performing athletes or people who expend a lot of calories are still okay by not eating animals or animal products. 

I’ve had a really nice shift, and now, I can say, for my current life, predominantly plant-based, and that is a lot of goodness.

“I’m a strong believer that every animal is a sentient being. That shift made it even clearer for me. It’s very odd therefore to go to the next step of wanting to eat that animal, because why?”

What do you eat now in Byron Bay on a normal day, like, how much animal protein is there now? 

I am fortunate here, I’ve got access to this really wholesome nutritious, energetic food, it’s all plant-based, straight from the farms in the area.

I’d say that I eat some sort of potential animal product that is sustainably sourced locally, probably once a month, it’s very minimal in my diet. I don’t seek it out, it’s more if I’m going to a friend’s place or an event.

Has eating this way changed how you view your relationship with animals?

I’ve become a really conscious eater in what I put into my body, but it’s just got to be clean.

I am such an animal lover and nature lover, I’m a strong believer that every animal is a sentient being. That shift made it even clearer for me. It’s very odd therefore to go to the next step of wanting to eat that animal, because why? 

Is it food? It’s only food because either that’s habitual or that’s what you think you need as a protein source. 

When we swam around Kaui, I had sardines one night, every other meal was plant-based, and I was expending 10,000 calories a day. 

What are the perks for you and where would you point people to get the info you have on endurance sport and plant foods?

So Game Changers on Netflix is a good example –  it shows these high performing people living a vibrant life. 

I’m loving eating this way. I feel super energized throughout the day, with no peaks and troughs, it’s a lot more balanced.

I’m a big supporter of it, whether that’s 90% or 99% going down the plant-based path, but I’m also not averse, if it feels right, to introduce sustainable fish or meat if the body feels that’s okay. 

Terence, last question, what can we do as Oceaneers, to share or inspire, a mindset shift in people so they see the natural planet and the animals in that eco-view? How do we create that mindset? 

Living in Byron Bay has really brought it home. We can live with more local connections with local people, understanding our local nature. The indigenous Australian culture is powerful, and I am only learning more about that now as an older, 41-year-old. I would have loved to have been exposed to a lot more when I was younger.

Their philosophy is that within your community, you represent an animal.

So you are the protector of that animal, sharing information about it to your friends, your family.  It gives you this nice connection and feeling. I’ve just been gifted this representation for a wombat, I’ve got a nice connection now with the wombat, but I just want to protect that animal and that species and it’s shared around the village or the community, the different types of animals or even plants like an acacia tree.

It’s a really nice intertwining of humans and plants and animals that they have in indigenous culture. 

For me, it comes down to supporting the local community members and learning about your own nature in your own backyard.

That gives you appreciation, and therefore appreciation creates this connection from the real heart base as opposed to thinking.

Is there anything at the end that you would like to share, something we haven’t touched on?

One thing I love about you is that you introduced me to this ‘morning wiggle’ a little dance session in the morning. Because I’m on the beach here, I do a morning sundance.

Basically I head down to the water at sunrise, bury my feet in the wet sand and I  just shake, literally getting the body moving.  Your feet sink down and you’ve got to maintain balance and that, as a practice, to enter the day, I love it!

So you’ve inspired by that morning wiggle, but mine’s the morning sundance. 

Wonderful. Terence, thank you so much for the time and for the support, and I’m so excited to push this further, I’m looking forward to keeping being inspired by you. 

Yeah, I think didn’t Einstein say to infinity and beyond? Or wait was that Toy Story? 

One of those, one of those, thanks dude.

Follow more of Terence’s adventures over on his Instagram page Only.Wild.Ones

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Oceaneers

Oceaneers is a community-driven initiative created by two ocean lovers who wanted to inspire others to see that the biggest positive impact they could make to ocean sustainability was to change their food choices.

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