The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
July 22, 2022

What Do You Want To Do Before You Die? Ben Nemtin On The Importance Of Living Your Purpose

What Do You Want To Do Before You Die? Ben Nemtin On The Importance Of Living Your Purpose

Ben Nemtin (@bennemtin) is a bestselling author, entrepreneur and co-creator of the hit MTV series "The Buried Life". He joins Chris Van Vliet from his home in Marina del Rey, CA to talk about the importance of living without regret, how he and 3 of his friends started The Buried Life movement, how to find your purpose, his new Bucket List Journal, how he played basketball with President Obama, had a beer with Prince Harry and more!


Check out Ben's Bucket List Journal here:


On going all in:

“If I find something that I love then I can’t not do it as much as I can. With tennis, I feel like it is meditative. You are in the sun, with friends, get that aerobic exercise and it’s good. It is a good old person sport that you can play until you are like 60 or 70.”

On his first mental health crisis:

“I think that when I started to surround myself with people that inspired me, it made me want to do more. I has this moment in university where I had a real low moment. I had dropped out because I had put so much pressure on myself to succeed. So I was on the national rugby team and had a scholarship, and we were training for the World Cup. I was so worried about missing a kick, because I played at fly half, I would lose sleep at night thinking about it. So I got anxious, stopped going anywhere and was just shut inside my parents’ house. This was my first mental health crisis. When you go through your first mental health crisis, you think you are totally screwed up. You don’t realize that this is a normal part of life and that other people are going through these struggles too. But when you are 19 or 20, you don’t want to talk about it. You think you are losing everything, so I just felt like I was spiralling. What brought me out of it was my friends literally dragged me out of the house and brought me to a new town to work in the summer. I started meeting people who had started new businesses or they had travelled, it was really inspiring. So I realized that I was not the only one going through this, and these kids gave me energy. I needed to be around people that gave me energy. So I made that decision to be around people whom inspire me, called my friend Johnny and decided that I wanted to make a movie. The more that I did things like that, when you see your friends achieve great things, you feel via osmosis that you can do great things.”  

On how people around you can affect you:

“100%. I have now started to realize that in terms of success. Can you continually be energized by your days, and I think that is purpose. Instead of thinking what is your purpose like this big mountain that we have to climb, I think that we have multiple purposes. It could be spending time with your kids or it could be climbing Everest. I just think that as long as you are fuelled by this thing then that is part of your purpose. If you can do that without the day to day getting in your way, because that can get the purposes swept away. Paying attention to the energy, if you can find those people in your life, you can lean into those friendships and they will fuel you and make you believe what is possible.”

On someone finding their purpose:

“I think it’s looking at the energy. What fuels you, what are you curious about? I think it then important to write this down, because then you make it real, it reminds you that it exists. As you get buried by the day to day and you come back to your list, it reminds you of what is important to you. Then it forces you to slow down and see what is important to you.”

On the barriers people face:

“The first thing that stops us is that there is no deadlines, so we have got to create the accountability. So write down the goals and get an accountability buddy, you are 77% more likely to achieve your goals then. If you can find that accountability buddy, that is huge. The second thing is that people need to be inspired. I got a guitar at the start of the pandemic and have just been waiting to feel inspired, but I haven’t. But you have to create your own inspiration through action. It is like we are overpreparing for the right time, but action is part of the plan. I think that you create that momentum, and that fulfils you. The third thing is the fear of failure, but you can flip that if you share your goals. Because then, you share the goals, you don’t want to look bad, so you can use that as a driver.”

On having specific goals:

“Now that I have looked at the science behind goal achievement, it is important to have a goal that is measurable, the SMART goals, because you want to know when you will achieve it. It is not “be healthier” it is “Run 5 miles 3 times a week.” So I think it is important when you look at your list, looking at a blank page can be daunting. I would traditionally look at the cliché things for a bucket list like skydive or go travelling. Those are obviously great things for a bucket list but I think that my definition of a bucket list reflects on who you truly are. So you are looking at your travelling goals, but you also want to give back, what are your giving goals? What are the physical goals, mental health goals, relationship goals, because 1 in people’s regrets is not keeping in touch with someone. Those don’t cost any money, it’s picking up the phone and meeting up with someone. You have to invest in those and those take energy. When you think about your list as a whole reflection on what is true to you, then you start to have this picture of things in your life that you need to priortize and how to not forget about these things.”

On people not starting:

“That is where the fear stops you. So we were young, dumb and broke enough to prove that these things were possible. I think the young naivety is so important to keep. Because you are young so you don’t have much to lose. You are dumb so you don’t really know how hard it will be. And again you are broke, so you are just scraping together what you can. If you can keep that youthful energy, and of course when you get older there is more risk. But if it doesn’t work, what do you have to really lose? I think that is what is really important.”

On the most ridiculous thing on the list:

“That was the reaction when Obama was elected president and we said ‘Let’s put play basketball with Obama on the list.’ I laughed because it was the most ridiculous thing on so many levels, but we were like ‘OK, let’s put it down.’ 3 years later we were at The White House shooting hoops with Obama.” 

How Ben Nemtin got to play basketball with Obama:

“So the first step was driving down to DC and asking people on the street if they knew anyone. It was a dumb step, but what we learned was that we could contact politicians through the publicly listed websites. We sent the email saying that we want to play basketball with Obama to prove that anyone could do anything. Most people ignored us, but a few low level officials agreed to meet us. We just stayed long enough until we would meet with their boss and their boss. We then got to meet with the secretary of transportation, who called The White House while we were in the room. Then we got an email saying it can’t happen. We were not ready to give up, then we heard about these secret basketball games that the president did with a couple of senior officials. The man that set it up was Reggie Love, who was Obama’s personal aide, the kind of gatekeeper. We tracked him down and would just send emails challenging them. Then we would show up to the YMCA every day for a week and no one would show up. Finally I get a number from a blocked call saying ‘What’s this I hear about you challenging the president to a game of basketball?’ I explained the mission and he said that he might be able to make this happen. He called me back 2 weeks later, not going to happen. We came back to DC and he gave us the tour of the White House, show us the basketball court. Then next thing we know, we hear the president. He said ‘Hey guys. I heard about what you are doing. The least I can do is shoot a basket with you.’ He was there in town and we were floored. There was no fiber in my being when we wrote this down that this would be possible. And here I was, seeing him walk on the court. From that my whole belief system changed. I guess now anything is possible.”

On where to start:

“Step one is to write your list. Next, think of the list as a magic lamp. You know, the rum the lamp and a genie comes out saying ‘Congratulations you wrote your list. I’m going to make one of them come true, but there is a catch. If I make it come true, you will never be able to achieve anything else on your list.’ So what do you choose? That is the most important list item. Move towards that most important item, which probably won’t even involve a lot of money. Then, write 48 things that you could do in the next 48 hours. Ask someone for help, make a phone call, book the trip. Now you have the accountability.”

On drinking a beer with Prince Harry:

“That was actually pretty straightforward. We found somebody that knew a friend of his, and they said the best way was to write a letter and we could send it to his office. We wrote a letter saying that we were going to be in London. So we met him at a secret bar in London, had dinner with him, he’s very cool and philanthropic. That was how it happened.” 

On what's left on the list:

"So there are 4 things left on the list. Go to space, being on the cover of Rolling Stone, I've always wanted to go to India and host another TV show."

On what Ben Nemtim is grateful for:

"This conversation and to feel like I am finally following my true self."