Self-Discovery: Diving Headfirst Into The Unknown With Tom Lancaster
Self-discovery can be intimidating and challenging. You can’t just find your inner calling in a day’s work. Most of us don’t even know what we want to do once we graduate from college. Self-discovery is an adventure. It’s a process that takes time and, most importantly, guts. Step into the unknown with your host, Tony Martignetti, and his guest, adventure consciousness coach Tom Lancaster, as he talks about his early childhood experiences, career struggles, and how the idea of adventure consciousness came to be.
Listen to the podcast here:
Self-Discovery: Diving Headfirst Into The Unknown With Tom Lancaster
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Tom Lancaster. He is a transformational coach based in Vancouver, British Columbia. He loves helping entrepreneurs, founders, pioneers and adventurers to step into the unknown and create something that doesn't exist yet, that there is no road map for. His sweet spot is the intersection between adventure, consciousness and business. Through the exploration of these three areas, he's building an entirely new way of looking at human consciousness from the ground up. It's called Adventure Consciousness. Tom believes adventure is an attitude, not an activity. It is a willingness to step into the unknown, be boldly curious about what you find there and purposefully intentional about integration. He loves climbing, sailing, skiing, kayaking, hiking and mountaineering, as well as yoga and meditation. Tom, I want to welcome you to the Virtual Campfire.
Thanks, Tony, and thanks for that great introduction.
I'm so thrilled to have you on the show and to dig into the story that has brought you to do all these amazing things in the world. I know this is going to be an amazing time for us to journey together.
I'm excited. I'm looking forward to going on this adventure with you, Tony.
Just to give you a sense as to how we roll on the show, we'll tell your story through these flashpoints. These are moments in your story that have ignited your gifts into the world. It could be one or it could be many and whatever you’re called to share, we can let you share those things. Along the way, we'll pause and see what's showing up. With that, I'm going to give you the floor and let you take it from there.
As with a lot of people who do this work, my story starts when I was very young. I first didn't feel safe. When I was four years old, my parents moved to Saudi Arabia from London. At the same time, I got an ear infection which I ended up getting this goo behind my eardrums and I went completely deaf. Those two things happened at the same time and no one realized for a few months. They thought I was behaving badly and I was just a horrible toddler. I changed dramatically from being this kind of sweet little boy who really enjoyed school and was engaged with everyone, to being this badly behaved, disobedient child. Eventually, they figured out that I couldn't hear anything that was going on. Obviously, I was completely disoriented by the move and by my surroundings changing.
That experience was the first time that I didn't feel safe at home. I got sent to boarding school when I was nine. My parents were living in Dubai at the time and they didn't want to educate me. The education in Dubai in the '90s and even the '80s wasn't quite up to Western standards. I got sent off to Melbourne College. Shortly after that, my parents got divorced. Through all of that, my sense of home and what does it mean to have a home kind of evaporated because as a nine-year-old, I was flying across the world on my own six times a year to go back and forth from school.
When I was at home, I was split between my mom's house and my dad's house. This is a piece that I just added while chatting with my sister. On top of that, my mom and dad both moved house regularly. Every school term, I could come back to a different house. One of the real gifts of attending one of the most exclusive schools in the UK was the access to extracurricular activities. I was very fortunate to be able to learn rock climbing, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, as well as all the traditional sports in the UK, rugby hockey, etc. This isn't something that I knew at the time, but looking back what I found was I felt safe for the first time when I was halfway up a rock face.
Running a business is the biggest adventure you’ll ever go on.
I'm clinging on by my fingernails and I’m attached by this thin little piece of rope to a little bit of metal that I've jammed in a crack. I did that all. I had created this space for myself, where it was up to me literally, whether I lived or died. There was something in that independence, in that self-sufficiency that enabled me to really step into who I was as a person. Adventure has been a huge part of my healing and in me becoming who I am. What I learned very early on is that there is a spiritual component to adventure and there's an adventurous component to spirituality. When we embark on the path of yoga, meditation, self-discovery, coaching, therapy or whatever, we don't know what we're going to discover.
When we go on an adventure and we challenge ourselves beyond what we are capable of, we inevitably have a spiritual experience, whether that's some download of information about who we are and what we're supposed to do or whether it's just like a smack in the face where, “Here's your limitation.” That shows up for everyone in different ways, but however you react to be standing on top of that ladder across the crevasse. However, you react that whether it's freezing, whether it's charging across, "I'm a hero," that is how we show up everywhere else in our life. What I landed on was this concept with my business partner, Curtis, that we've been developing together over the last year or so, is this concept of adventure consciousness. How does adventure act as a gateway to the soul? That is the lens that we really look through in all of our coaching work, is this adventure of self-discovery.
I want to take you back and talk a bit more about this. It's such a beautiful thing to see how you found safety in taking control of your safety. One of the things that have been on my mind is how your environment shapes you. Your environment shaped you and created this element of like, “This is not safe. I have to find ways to make myself safe. In order for me to find myself safe, I have to take control of my environment.” Even if that means that my environment is something that is “dangerous,” I know that when I'm in control of my environment. When I've created that environment, it's safe for me.
There is something about that really caught my eye or caught my ear if you will, and I want to react to it. That is something that a lot of people take for granted. There's this element of like, “I have a father and a mother, and they're here and they take care of me and that's how things work.” They create that environment for me. Throughout their entire lives, they look for that, “Am I safe? Great, now I can move on.” You had to do that for yourself and I just love how that came to life in your story.
I should point out that it's not for lack of love. My parents were doing the best that they could. This is the impact that it had on me.
It complicates things. It's not the lack of love. It's more of a lack of that feeling safe because of this miscommunication, of disconnection with reality. I want to go back to boarding school, and then after boarding school, you went into college or to university. What were you doing? What was your calling at the time? Obviously, this is not something you just step right into creating a business of Adventure Consciousness, but tell me, what was your upbringing in terms of business or as a trade? What were you thinking at the time that you wanted to do?
I skipped over that whole section. I discovered later than I would have liked, that adventure could be a career. You could be a professional climber, you could be a professional windsurfer, and that these were things that people did. I understood that from a young age. That's probably a direction that I would have gone in. One of the ways that we at Vortex define adventure is when the environment is uncontrolled and the outcome is uncertain.
I have always been drawn towards that unknown like what's over there. Probably that part of us is a spectrum. Some of us are very much on that, "I want to stay in the cave," and some of us are, "I'm going to go hunt the lion." I'm probably more towards the hunt lion end of that spectrum. To come back to your question, adventure has always been a driver for me even before I was aware. I climbed out of my cot before I could walk. I was always climbing trees. I had so many escapades like my parents, bless them being like, "What is he up to now?" There are just too many to go into.
My school was designed to produce managers of companies. If I had followed the school path, I was destined to go to Cambridge or Oxford, I was going to do a Philosophy degree and I was going to become a CEO of something, but that was never the path for me. I went to a university to study what I thought was Psychology, but it turns out that I made a mess of the form and actually signed up for Social Sciences, which meant that I had to do Business Management. I just wasn't in a place for that. I dropped out of that and then I remembered this really clearly. I don’t know if it still exists but Extreme Sports Channel. I used to watch it on Sky TV at my parent's house.
Adventure is an attitude, not an activity.
I remember so clearly thinking, "It's just skiing, skateboarding, surfing. Snowboarding, that's different. BMX, that's slightly different." It was a loop of this stuff and I was like, “Where's the windsurfing? Where's the rock climbing? Where are the kayaking films?" I was like, "I love those things. Why don't I make those films? I can then live the adventure life without having to be the professional adventurer." I then went back to university. I did a Media Production degree and embarked on what turned out to be a ten-year career in film that took me, for the most of it, nowhere near any adventure.
Life, bills, the jobs that became available to me, took me down a route where I ended up working in feature films as a freelancer. That was just really unfulfilling for me. At the same time, it also makes a lot of sense because it taps into a lot of my environment growing up was chaotic. We seek out environments that match our childhood. If we're always getting shouted out as a kid, we will get into violent relationships. If we live in chaos, then we will seek out chaos. Film is an extremely chaotic world and my job in particular, was the assistant director. My job was to control the chaos, like the kindergarten teacher, making sure that none of the children are eating their shoes.
I was trying to get some semblance of order out of chaos, which is the story of my life. The whole way through it, I was deeply unfulfilled, wishing that there was something else that I could be doing but I had no idea what it was. I knew I wanted to help people. I knew I wanted to be doing more adventures. It's cliché, but I wanted to be a force for good in the world. Part of my disillusionment with a film was the amount of waste. In the big Hollywood films, World War Z for example, a relative of mine was the set decorator for that film. She had three sets that were built at a cost of $500,000 each. The director and the producer never even looked at them.
After the sets were built, they changed the script and the sets just got burned. I never dealt with anything on that scale but it's endemic in the industry and the treatment of people and everyone's expendable. I was dramatically unfulfilled, but I also felt trapped because in my CV, all it had on it was first AD. At the time, I wasn't in a position to see how that would fit into a company or into a managerial role. Looking back, it was ridiculous. I was one of the top leaders of the film crew and leadership is leadership wherever you are.
Over the course of the years, every now and then I would try the corporate thing, the job where you turn up every day and you do the thing, and I never lasted more than three months. Every single time, I would be like, “This is great, regular paycheck and stupidity. This is what I want.” Three months, I'm on Facebook when I should be doing the work. I'm turning up late, I'm getting drunk in the middle of the week. Whatever it is, I'm sabotaging the entire enterprise. Either I quit or I get fired. This call to adventure was always there. One of the things that I've learned over my journey is the importance of intuition.
I don't want to skip forwards in the conversation, but we can put a bookmark there. I had a knowing that I needed to move to Vancouver for fifteen years and it was inexplicable. It didn't make any sense. The only thing I knew about Vancouver was that there were mountains and there was the ocean. That’s it. I'd never met a Canadian that I didn't get along with. That was the sum total of my knowledge of Vancouver. I would talk about it. My friends and family will know that it was something that I wanted to do. The language that I use always was, "I would love to and wouldn't it be nice if." All that deflective language that pushes the things that we want away, instead of, "I'm doing. I am making a decision," all of that stuff.
The more I didn't listen to this inner calling, the crappier my life got. I'm sure you don't need this explained to you, but when we don't listen to our calling, the universe gets louder and louder in terms of the blocks and obstacles that get put in your path and eventually, you just have to listen. All the stars aligned where I ended a relationship. I ended a big job. I had money in the bank and I had an idea of what I wanted to do next, which came from a climbing trip where I was talking to the guy. He was telling me about his career as a user experience designer.
I was like, “This sounds interesting. There's Psychology, there's visual design, there's talking to people. This is worth investigating.” I decided that I was going to do a three-month bootcamp in UX Design and I started looking in London and then I was like, “This is it. This is the moment that I go to Vancouver.” I signed up for a course in Vancouver and packed my bags and off I went. The beautiful thing is that UX was not my calling, otherwise, I'd still be doing it. What it did was it put me back into that curiosity mode, that learning mode. I went back to school and suddenly, a new possibility opened up for me, new knowledge and new stuff. I was absorbing all of this stuff. When I finished the three months of that course, I started looking for jobs, but my mind was still open to new possibilities. One part of the story that I've missed out is through up until now that up to this point, I've been horribly depressed through my whole life. To the point where sometimes I'd spend 2, 3 weeks unable to get out of bed.
Would you say that it was something that people could see in you or was it like something hiding under the surface where you could put the face on or what was it like?
It was very visible and it still pokes his head up every now and then. There are definitely days where I just like, "I don't want to play," but we all have those days. Part of coming to Vancouver and being opened up to this new curiosity, which I hadn't had for so long, led me to discover or rediscover Joe Dispenza. I read the book, Becoming Supernatural, which is all about how to create the reality that you want to live in and how to manifest the things that you want into your life. I'd read Joe Dispenza before and I was really interested. I've read many health self-help books before and they just went in one ear and out the other.
Learn to not only hear the message but take action on the message. Every single time, its the right thing, not the easy one.
Now, whether it's the change of context, because I was in a different city with a different culture and different people and everything was new, suddenly I could see myself from a different angle. This is another thing about adventure is when we put ourselves in a place that we're not used to, we see different aspects of ourselves. For whatever reason, I suddenly was able to engage with Joe Dispenza and I started doing the meditations and my life started to change.
I met Curtis, my business partner, in a coffee shop in Vancouver's Kitsilano area. He was really into Abraham-Hicks at the time, who I wasn't aware of. Abraham-Hicks has a very similar message to Joe Dispenza. We just had this deep conversation. At the time, he had been doing a lot of work in ancestral trauma and inherited family patterns and how to break out of those and had put together a course on that. At the time, I was putting together a course on video making for entrepreneurs, having realized that without a work permit, I was unlikely to get a job in UX. We were both at the same stage of bringing a new idea to market and we're both lifelong adventurers. We're both spiritual seekers and we just connected on a deep level and decided to go into business together.
Curtis had bought a Tony Robbins course called the Knowledge Broker Blueprint, which is all about extracting the knowledge out of your head and making it into a mastermind and selling that. We did that course together and then made the decision, which maybe was a questionable decision, but it definitely took us on the path to where we are now. If we were going to learn digital marketing, we might as well monetize it and do it for other people. What happened is that neither of our projects actually ended up seeing the light of day, but we brought a couple of clients who we managed to convince to give us money to do their digital marketing. What we learned through that process was that we were gifted at extracting people's vision and reconnecting them with that purpose and getting them fired up about what it was that they were creating in the world.
What we weren't so excited about was the building of the Sales Funnel and the Facebook Ad Campaign and all of that side of things. We decided to ditch that and around about that same time, we discovered Rich Litvin and his methodology, his antidote to marketing, as he calls it. We started building a business on the basis of a relationship. Over the course of time, as we coached more people, as we did our own personal work, the adventure piece started to come back in, the spirituality piece started to come back in and we started to develop this idea of adventure consciousness.
As you reacted at the beginning when we introduced this concept, many people are like, “This is good.” I've been having this conversation internally, but I didn't know anyone else was having it because there's no frame for it. Adventurers don't talk about spirituality and spiritual people don't talk about adventure. Entrepreneurs, for the most part, certainly don't talk about spirituality or adventure. Running a business is the biggest adventure you'll ever go on. It's the biggest spiritual journey you will ever go on because your business will teach you every single way that you show up in the world.
First of all, I think that the whole concept that you brought in is amazing because when people see the world through one lens, it's hard for them to see through the other lens. In reality, when you can build that bridge to connect the dots, converge the different worlds into one view that people can see. It makes sense to see art and business, spirituality and adventure. All these things coming together and that's how innovation happens. That's how the magic happens. It's a beautiful concept. For starters, can you even imagine where you've come to? Here you are doing something that brings together all the things you love. You've been on quite a path to get here and hearing all of the fits and starts along the way, it's remarkable that you're able to create a life now that is more aligned with who you want it to be in the first place than you ever could have imagined.
From this side, it's amazing as well. Through my whole life, meetings have been something that are full of dread that, “Let's get through this. Maybe there'll be donuts and that'll make it okay.” Whereas now, every single meeting that I have I'm like, “What am I going to learn? What am I going to discover? What magic is going to be created in this interaction between humans?” COVID is causing us to put the brakes on a little bit, but our intention is to actually take people out into the wilderness and give them an experience that pushes them beyond their comfort zone. We weave in the coaching into that experience so that they can fully integrate what they learn about themselves during the experience.
I think that's what people are going to be craving so much when the time comes that we can do that. I don't think it's going to be too long from now on, but I like to call myself a road-weary optimist. I'm always thinking that it's right around the corner. I think that it's so cool that what you're creating is something that really embodies all the things that you are and that you want to be. It's like the true antidote to all the things that have caused you angst in the past, that have held you back from living in your true purpose. Part of that journey was looking for clues and doing the research when things weren't playing out. You had to keep on showing up and trying new things, and for lack of a better word, faith that it eventually will pan out. Your story is a powerful one because of that reason. There's an element of keep on showing up, keep on playing it out and your dreams can come true
All the gurus, Tony Robbins, whoever, they all say they will have a different number. Some of them say 50%, some of them say 80%, but whatever it is, 80% of success is just showing up. For us, with the people that we work with and in our own journey, you feel called to head off in this direction. You're like, “That's not going to work.” You come back with knowledge and you come back with experience, and you come back better armed to make a new decision about, "Maybe we should go this way." You get two steps down and then you have to come one step back and now you're further ahead. That's the spirit of adventure. That's what you said at the beginning, that adventure is an attitude, not an activity. That's what that means. It's like, “What can I gain out of every experience and how can I use that to keep moving forward?”
Intuition is not always easy, but it’s always right.
As we come near the end, I want to give you a space to think about what is the biggest thing you've learned about your journey that you want to share with people, besides what you've already shared? There have been so many insights.
The biggest thing for me is intuition is so powerful and we're not taught about it in school, in professional development, in university or wherever. My intuition has always been strong, but I've not known how to listen to it. This is where the self-discovery journey is the most valuable, whether it's meditation, plant medicine, coaching, journaling, self-inquiry or whatever it is. It creates a space for this inner wisdom, which has a very powerful voice, but it's a very quiet voice.
When we're surrounded by the noise of our lives, we can't hear it. When we make space with quiet reflection or by going on adventures, everyone knows the old adage of inspiration showing up in the shower. It's a quiet space. For most of us, the shower in the morning is the one time in the day when there's nothing else going on and that's when the voice comes up. It shows up as an idea, it shows up as a thought or it shows up as a feeling.
As I've learned to not only hear the message but take action on the message. Every single time, it's the right thing. Not the easy thing. Intuition doesn't care about, whether it's easy or not but it's always the right thing. The Ocean Challenge that I just did was an example of that. I had a feeling that bubbled up inside me that I needed to go into the ocean every day for a period of time. I didn't know why. I didn't know what I was going to get out of it but what I ended up by just following that impulse, I ended up on the news twice. Over the course of the month, I made at least ten new friends. I reconnected with so many old friends who I haven't spoken to for years, new clients came out of it. I met someone and we went off on a kayaking trip. I haven't been in a kayak for years, and we just went off and had to spend the day kayaking together. It was really a magical experience and there was no reason to do it other than this inner calling. I think that is the biggest thing for me.
It's such a beautiful insight because I think that there's this element of intuition is this really great thing that is waiting there for you. You just got to create space for it to show up. Everything you described reinforces that idea, so thank you. One last question, what is the one book or books that have had an impact on you and why?
The obvious choice is the Becoming Supernatural by Joe Dispenza but we've talked about that. It's an incredible book that I recommend anyone read, but the one I want to talk about is called Explorers of the Infinite: The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes by Maria Coffey. I haven't finished it yet, but every time I pick it up, it blows my mind. The book is a distillation of hundreds if not, thousands of stories of people in extreme environments connecting with something else. One story is these climbers in Nepal, Tibet or somewhere in the Himalayas were climbing the biggest rock face in the world. There were Polish and Spanish climbers on the team but neither of them spoke the other language. They made a decision that they would communicate in English on the radios and whatever.
They are climbing the face, the weather craps out and it becomes an ordeal. Over the course of however many hours, they fight and they struggle. The snow is a raging blizzard and the wind. They get down and they go back to base camp and thankfully they all survived the experience. Base camp was recording all of the radio communications. When they listen back to it, they realized that the Polish people had been speaking on the radio in Polish and the Spanish people had been speaking on the radio in Spanish. As they listened to the recording, they couldn't understand what the other people had been saying but when they were up on the mountain, they understood the message that was coming through the radio.
They were communicating somehow, but not through the words that were going through the radio. There are stories of people dreaming about a disaster that's going to happen and then it happened exactly the way the dream happened or people who are like twins who are adventurous, who have this connection where they just know that the other one is alive. People who have been buried in an avalanche and someone is like, “I know where they are. They are here,” and they go and find them. It really is a mind-blowing book.
I'm looking forward to digging into that because there's something about being in that space of adventure, being in those extreme places and it heightening their ability to connect with not just themselves but with a higher element. I talked about spirituality and adventure. There's a strong connection and I absolutely, wholeheartedly, agree with you on that. The more we can make that a thing where people see that I'm on the same plane as you on that.
That's one of the reasons why I was so excited to come and talk to you because I feel that about you.
Thank you so much. I can't thank you enough for coming on the show to share. I feel like we just touched the surface around the multitude of who you are. I want to thank you for coming on and sharing what you have and looking forward to seeing your journey continue to evolve.
It has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Once I get started on this stuff, it's pretty hard to shut me up. I've had so much fun. I love that this show is called The Campfire. I love that your message is about, “Are you climbing the right mountain?” There's so much overlap and synchronicity in the work that we're doing. I'm truly honored to be a part of your world.
Thank you. I want to make sure people know where to find you so they can find out more about the adventures that you're taking people on. Where is the best place that they can find more information about you and the company?
The best place is probably Facebook. Just search for Vortex Strategy, which is the name of the company. We have a website, but it's really specifically designed towards a group program that we're launching but it does also give a good idea of who we are and what we're about, and that's www.VortexStrategy.com/zenithproject. You can get me on Instagram, @Climbing_Tom.
I want to thank you again and the readers for coming on the journey with us. I know you're leaving feeling so inspired and ready to take on a new adventure.
- Tom Lancaster - LinkedIn
- Becoming Supernatural
- Explorers of the Infinite: The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes
- Vortex Strategy – Facebook
- @Climbing_Tom - Instagram
About Tom Lancaster
Yoga alliance certified yoga teacher, aquatic bodywork therapist and mindfulness mentor.
Previously, was the Founder, Director and Executive Producer of Overhang Productions Limited. 10 years of filmmaking experience that stretches from hanging off a cliff with a camera in 50-degree heat in the desert mountains of the UAE, to Bafta-nominated documentaries and the world's first fully interactive feature film. Has produced TV, commercials, and adventure films in multiple languages and across the globe.
A lifelong globetrotter with a well-developed taste for adrenaline, who has sailed in the Indian Ocean, climbed in the Himalayas and trekked the depths of the Amazon Rainforest. In 2011, he set a Guinness World Record for climbing the height of Everest (8,848M) on an artificial wall.