Spend a minute with Tom Robb and you’ll come away smiling. Recharged. Challenged. Encouraged to be a better you. I saw it for myself with my own eyes when I accidentally spent a gorgeous sunny day with him, not too long ago, on the NSW South Coast.
With complete strangers or his old friends, it didn’t matter, it was the same effect. Contagious optimism ooses from his pores. Positivity and thoughtfulness are his bread and butter. But his zeal is not the product of a life lived without challenges or difficulties. Nor is it because of vast financial wealth, or a luxurious lifestyle. So, naturally, I was curious to know the secret to his beautiful infectious enthusiasm for existence.
When I met him he was living in his gorgeous red kombi ‘Lucinda’, busking, hand-grinding coffee for strangers to sip while reading books from his lovingly curated mini library, living petrol tank to tank from the voluntary donations of strangers for his services.
So we sat down with Tom, creator of Life is the Way, motivational speaker, outdoor facilitator, yoga/meditation instructor and mentor, to bring you the story of the way Tom is working to make the world, himself, and all of us, just a little better off.
DSM: Rarely have I met someone with your enthusiasm and optimism for life! With a lot of people generally feeling pretty bleak about the state of the environment and politics and “the system” in general, how do you stay so positive?
TR: I think first and foremost it has a lot to with friends and family. I’ve been extremely lucky. I didn’t get to choose my parents and despite living a life of good times, it lacked a steady income and what most would call security. Mum always wanted me to have short hair, 9-5 job, a house and grandkids and even though I’m still pretty hairy and childless, their support never wavered!
‘My dad was on the Australian skydive team and in 1980 had a pretty bad accident where his parachute didn’t fully open. He hit the deck, breaking every bone in his body and somehow lived to tell the tale.’
Underneath his thick skin sit the bones that made it, mixed with a bunch of metal bits to make up for the ones that didn’t. Despite being in constant pain (and never getting through security scans at the airport because he is actually the Terminator) he still wakes up and goes to work with a smile on his face everyday.
Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, managed to beat that and was then diagnosed with brain cancer 2 years later. She was given 12 months to live. That was 3 years ago and we only lost her 3 months ago.
‘She fought with a smile and positivity. Although her quality of life wasn’t that great towards the end, I feel super lucky to have been able to spend the last few months by her side and, even though we can’t hug anymore, she continues to be a mega source of inspiration for me.’
Politics, environment and the “system, man” is a whole other bag. In my younger years, it was easy. I would put on my rosy glasses and walk straight out the door without a single care.
I never gave my energy to that stuff. Not to newspapers or TV, nothing.
“Speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil. That was the plan. This meant that my ‘2 cents’ on such issues lacked education and validation. If I wanted to make a change, I had to start caring.”
Once I started reading up on all this stuff I was overwhelmed. The more I studied, the more depressing it became.
“The people in charge of this place put their pocket before the planet! I hate to say it, but I even reckon they put their pocket before the people. It’s for this reason that I started Life Is The Way.”
“The positive outlook and consistent stoke comes from knowing that I’m doing everything I can to create positive change.”
I still get days where I cop a beat-down, but I think we all need those to keep us in check and for me, I try and find the lesson. How can I grow from this experience? If I find something; great. If not, (which happens sometimes; it is what it is) I just move on. Let feelings flow and then let them go.
DSM: Walk us through a typical day in the life of Tom Robb.
“My day can change depending on the surf report, how much money I have, or whether I’m running a yoga class in the morning (hopefully, that’s a yes!)”
So here we go: 5 am wake up. I start the day with what’s called the 20 20 20 method. That’s 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of planning and organising the day and then 20 minutes of learning something. That can be watching a TED talk, leaning a new song on guitar, whatever you want really.
At 6 I’m either starting a yoga class somewhere, doing coffee or surfing!
Apart from a busk around 11 o clock somewhere, the day consists of beach time, a bit of marketing, ie. booking talks, responding to emails etc. I am my own boss so I put the work in to sustain my dream.
The reality is this. Because there are components of Life is the Way that are run on a ‘pay what you feel’ basis, my income doesn’t come in a neat little slip each week. That’s ok. I love the concept and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“However, it does mean that if I’m to continue this epic journey, I’ll be making coffee, teaching yoga, playing music, mentoring or running a public talk to keep the ball rolling. The beauty in this is that I find all of these different avenues of “work” totally soul enriching.”
Ps. I don’t wake up at 5 o’clock on the dot 7 days a week 365 days a year, that’s ridiculous! Sometimes I go out with friends to watch a band, or even have a gig myself. I might even get stuck in the YouTube circle watching epic surf videos, MTB vids, Ted Talks… anything really. Sometimes I even go for the 5 am wake up and just choose to sleep in… I guess what I’m saying is that I’m imperfect, just like the rest of us. I do my best, but don’t beat myself up if I happen to press the snooze button.
DSM: How did you and Lucinda meet? She’s a beautiful lady, and seems to really keep you on your toes… are you ever tempted to trade her in for a younger gal?
TR: We met in Perth back in 2009. I had no intention of getting a Kombi van, I would have gone with anything, however, once I saw her it was love at first sight. I would never trade… NEVER!!!
DSM:When you speak to groups of people all over the world, what’s the core of your message?
“Follow your heart, do your best and be yourself… because everyone else is already taken.”
DSM: A lot of people dream of living life on the road in a kombi, playing music, making coffee and doing yoga like you do. But it must have taken some balls to leave a regular job and live the life you live?
TR: If I’m to be honest, I actually found it super exciting because I’ve rarely rocked a 9-5 job. Working in outdoor education and guiding trips was the first job I ever did. That lifestyle is pretty nomadic in itself… I would always be off for weeks at a time taking groups of kids and adults to crazy locations all over Australia. This made the transition to vanlife pretty smooth.
DSM: You’re not saying everyone should necessarily live the Tom Robb life on the road. What’s your message for someone reading this on their phone, sitting on the toilet in their office, working 9-5 for the man?
TR: Strap yourself in for this one!
“Keep it simple! Make your passion your paycheck. If that’s out of the question, make your paycheck your passion.”
What this means is, if you can’t work a job that you love, make the time and money to do the things that you love! If you’re not happy, it’s time for a change! And guess what….
“THE DECISION TO CHANGE IS IN YOUR HANDS AND YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE! SO, STEP UP, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF, YOUR HEALTH AND YOUR WELLBEING AND FIX THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU UNHAPPY. “*
Gimme a yell if you need a hand!
*Caps insisted by TR, and totally backed by DSM.
Want more Tom Robb?
Hit him up at the links below!
Motivational Speaker: Outdoor Facilitator: Yoga / Meditation Instructor: Mentor
On the web here!