John Strelecky probably doesn’t need much of an introduction, having published several bestselling books, most notably The Why Café and The Big Five for Life. A former management consultant, his insights and advice – and storytelling abilities – have inspired and motivated millions of persons around the world. It is not least thanks to his work and books that the Sustainability Leaders Project exists.

Read on if you’d like to discover how finding your true purpose of existing can make you a successful leader, impact entrepreneur and community change-maker. Our sincere thanks to John for taking the time to answer our questions, sharing his own story and experiences, his ideas and insights with us.

John, you describe yourself as a writer, traveler and ponderer. Reflecting on your trajectory so far, which would you say were the defining moments, which led you to discover your life’s purpose?

I’ve had a number of them. In my early twenties a dream I’d been working towards for almost a decade was taken away because of a health condition I had no control over. That felt like a huge setback at the time, but it re-directed me in a way that has been critical to my later success.

In my early thirties I left a very lucrative career to go backpack around the world. People thought it was crazy. At the time I was a little worried they might be right. I didn’t know anyone who had ever done something like that, let alone in their early thirties.

That experience however is what set the stage for my first book- The Cafe on the Edge of the World. It launched my life in a direction I had only dreamed of, which was helping people live extraordinary lives.

It also gave me perspectives on what is and isn’t important to me, which have been spectacular guides over the last eighteen years.

Finding ones purpose in this world – and something one is truly passionate about – can be a real challenge as the options are limitless and distraction everywhere. What advice do you have for skilled professionals lacking inspiration or motivation at what they do?

Often people are so busy that they don’t have time to think about or sample other realities which call to them. So one suggestion is to take a step back now and again and dedicate that time to trying out alternatives. Or even dedicate that time to just thinking. No phone, no audio book, no TV. Just letting the mind come up with new thoughts.

Once you ask the question, “What would I love to do?” it starts rolling around in the unconscious mind. When we leave some open space, those answers start coming to us. Maybe it’s a random conversation we have with someone at a coffee shop, or a sign we see while we’re riding our bike. You never know. But asking the question and opening the space for answers is a great first step.

Another simple technique is to ask ourselves who has our dream job? Even if the answer seems completely out of reach, keep in mind, someone is doing it, so it is certainly possible. Learn what that person or those people did to get the job. What knowledge do they have? What skills or contacts?

Pretty soon the steps start becoming pretty obvious and what initially might have felt impossible starts to be very manageable.

At the Sustainability Leaders Project weve made it our purpose and mission to tell the stories of individuals who are championing sustainability, especially in tourism. In your experience, what does it take to succeed as a change-maker in business or community?

Authenticity is a big piece of it. People sense genuine passion and enthusiasm and they want to be part of it. So selecting something to work on which you are really connected to at a deep personal level is an important part.

When someone reads my book The Big Five for Life, they get a clear look into my thoughts about life, leadership, and living an extraordinary existence. If I didn’t really care about those topics, there’s no way I could write in a way which connects with readers.

I’d also say a willingness to stay true to your goals, while maintaining flexibility about the way you bring them into existence.

When we know exactly what we want to achieve, it makes it so much easier to ignore all the rest of the noise. It also helps people understand what we’re striving for and enables them to decide if they can and want to help.

Then by being open to possibilities outside our knowledge base, we allow ourselves to tap into the vast array of other successful examples out there.

How can we use the Big Five for Life concept to inspire business leaders to fully embrace and ensure the sustainability environmental, economic and social – of their decisions and actions?

My goal is to provide an option for how leaders can successfully achieve what they want to achieve. It’s not going to resonate with everyone. I know that, and that’s OK.

Almost nothing in life works for everyone. Who it works for though are leaders who believe in the power of people, the importance of working on something that matters to them, and that if you do right by your employees and customers, the financial results will follow.

My ultimate goal is to inspire leaders to be the best version of themselves, and for the best of the best talent to work for great leaders. With that in place you have the makings for spectacular success across all metrics.

Jake Haupert of the Transformational Travel Council in our recent interview said:

“I’ve always felt that travel is our most powerful catalyst to positive change, but after many years in the space, I can see that the dysfunction within our society is mirrored in the travel space, and travel becoming digitalized, commoditized, sterilized and centred around serving the privileged few. Travellers – often because they were simply conditioned to – are traveling for entertainment, with a sense of expectation and entitlement, that results in an increasingly toxic travel dynamic, one based on consumption and extraction.”

How can we encourage more conscious, purposeful travel which positively impacts how we live our lives, how we live with others, and how we live on our planet?

A very wise person once told me you don’t inspire people to change by telling them they’re wrong. You inspire them to change by offering a better option. If conscious, purposeful travel is something we’re passionate about expanding, then it’s up to those of us who love conscious, purposeful travel to be the catalysts for that expansion. Is it what we talk about, write about, demonstrate in our own travel expenditures, give positive reviews to, reference on social media…? If not, then an opportunity is right in front of us to make a positive difference.

To your mind, what can we learn from business leaders in terms of making things happen” – as social entrepreneurs and professionals dedicated to contributing to the UN sustainable development goals?

Much like finding a “Who” when looking for alternative careers, it’s a great practice to find examples of other leaders who are doing things we admire, and then imitating those.

Maybe it’s an openness to work-life balance, or creativity in the way recruiting or rewards and recognition is done. It could be their communication style or frequency. The key is to know what the goal or the challenge is, and then identify who already knows the answer.

So, for example if carbon emission reductions is an entrepreneur’s goal, then who has already figured that out and is applying it in creative ways in their organization? And in the rare instance where no-one has figured it out, be the one who gathers the right creative minds in the room and come up with some solutions.

Anything else youd like to mention?

Thanks very much for the invitation to do the interview.

Thank you, John!


To contact John, please visit johnstrelecky.com or connect with him via social media, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Photo credit Paul Landerl


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John Strelecky on How to Succeed by Finding Your True Purpose
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