Posts Tagged ‘tyler kellogg’

Tyler “DoGood” Kellogg

Tyler Kellogg is changing the world, one person at a time. Tyler’s philanthropy isn’t working on a global level, instead he believes he can change the world helping one person at a time. In fact, when I mentioned to Tyler that I was starting Mission Recognition the first thing he asked me was if he could do anything to help. Tyler’s actions certainly mesh with his words.

During his senior year in high school, Tyler dared to do the right thing. He stopped and helped an elderly woman shoveling her driveway because it was the right thing to do. This experience became the catalyst for a trip he took as a college sophomore. Tyler adopted the pseudonym Tyler DoGood and drove from his home in Adams Center, NY to Key West, Florida helping more than 115 people along the way.

The thing that is remarkable about Tyler is the ease at which he approaches social encounters. He is as comfortable giving a speech in front of an audience, as he is being a host for his friends.. I know that Tyler’s work isn’t finished. After speaking with him for more than three hours, he has many more good ideas that have not yet been put into action. He even has his friends questioning the ways that they can help. Nathan Loomis told me that Tyler has changed his perspective on doing the little things more consistently, such as holding doors for strangers. Another friend of Tyler’s told me that the more he hears about Tyler’s trip the more he feels like he will do something similar.

I could talk all day about Tyler Kellogg but I’ll let you read the story in Tyler’s own words. We caught up on February 18th at Tyler’s home. Below is the interview.


Jared Longmore: Maybe we should just start with how you got the idea to go on a road trip helping people. What popped in your head?

Tyler Kellogg: You can’t start with where the idea started, you have to start earlier because the seed was planted when I was in high school. That would have been your freshman year in college, so my senior year in high school. We had a snow day on December 5 and we were hammered with snow, like 2 feet of heavy, heavy lake effect snow. It was one of those storms where it was blue by 8:15, you know, it was blue skies but there was so much snow. So, I snow blowed our driveway and a few of our neighbor’s driveways between like 5 and 8. Then I was done and my whole day was free and I had no work to do, no projects to do, nothing, it was literally… nothing. My friend Nate Loomis had a snow day because he was at Jefferson Community College at the time and they got closed too. So he called me up and said, “Want to come down and build a jump for the snowmobiles?” So I got in my car and got my stuff got all packed up and we were going to go get coffee then go snowmobile all day. I pulled out of my driveway onto North street and I saw this house across the street. I looked over to my left and there was an older woman shoveling. It was just the most horrible thing I had ever seen in my entire life. It was full on suffering, it was a woman in excruciating pain and I got sick to my stomach as I was driving away. And so I just turned around and I said, “Ma’am, listen, go inside. I’m going to come back. I will snow blow. I’ll shovel and get you set but don’t keep shoveling. You don’t have to shovel.”

JL: When you say old, how elderly is the woman you’re talking about?

TK:  I’ve said in speeches eighty but I feel like that’s because I was 18 and I didn’t understand the concept of age. I think looking back she was probably 70 but she was definitely a more feeble woman. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way; I just mean she was a 70 year old woman shoveling 2 feet of thick snow. A young person always thinks a person looks a lot older. She looked so thankful and she went inside and I came back here to my house and put on all my wet, cold snow clothes. I went over there and snow blowed. It took me a good 45 minutes to do her little driveway. I had to really work to get this done and I was semi-exhausted when I was done because it required a lot of focus. I couldn’t believe she was trying to shovel it by herself. I got off the tractor, idled it down and went over to the house and knocked on the door. She said she had to be to work and it’s like 9 o’clock at this point and she looks at me and starts crying. I was really caught off guard; I was this 18-year-old kid on a snow day adrenaline high. I looked at her, I was like, ‘ma’am you don’t have to cry there is nothing to cry about, everything is fine. She said, “You don’t understand. I was out here for two hours before you showed up. I was praying that God would send me an angel. Car after car after car just went by and people looked and as soon as I looked at them they would look away. Then you drove by and you looked and kept looking and slowed down and turned around. You are an angel sent from God.”

JL: How did that make you feel initially? Were you uncomfortable at all?

TK: I just realized how much that meant to her. I felt good; I couldn’t believe that affected her that much. The reason I tell this story is because this was when I really internalized what it was like to help someone. To just go out of the way to help someone who doesn’t expect it. That raw, unfiltered attitude catches people off guard and they don’t expect it. When it’s done and the deed is finished they are just so much more appreciative because there is no attitude of entitlement. It is just a pure gift and no one gets that gift anymore. You know what I mean?

JL: After helping the woman, what came next?

TK: Well, in between my senior year in high school and my freshman year in college I went from being an Ironman triathlete, as slow as I may have been.

[Author’s note: An Ironman triathlon is a race consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run; back to back to back]

JL: And becoming an Ironman, does that change your mindset?

TK: Completely, to have to gone through the pain of having all of those muscles cramping simultaneously and just meditating. Then getting to the point where, it sounds cheesy and maybe people won’t believe it but to be able to focus your mind so much and be so in tune with your body after a year of experimenting you don’t feel the pain. From reflecting upon that experimenting you can convince yourself to not feel the pain in your legs which was the most excruciating pain during the race.

I kind of made a pact with myself that day that I would just get up and ride until I was a threat to myself or someone else. Because if I could work and just had to go slow then I was going to do it. If I had to go 10 mph or 5 mph, I was going to do it because I had worked really hard to get to that point and I really, really wanted to prove to myself I could do that. That was the first time I proved to myself that if I set my mind to something that I could push through whatever wall popped up.

JL: I think the grandness of it is catchy. People have asked me why I haven’t done a marathon yet and I say because I can imagine running 26.2 miles. But I can’t imagine doing an ironman.

TK: That’s the allure of it. It’s almost like a romantic sport. You know what I mean? In the start there is a guy holding you there saying, you can’t go yet. And then all of a sudden, BOOM, and everyone goes from being completely still to pandemonium. You instantly feel small. You feel like you’re just a person swimming with a lot of other people but I have to go or they’ll kill me. That’s an unnerving feeling for a lot of people but honestly, I get off on it. That panicked, that crazy…

JL: How does that feeling before a race compare to the feeling you’d get when you’d approach someone?

TK: I think very similar. I’ve never been asked that question in two years and a lot of awesome journalist have talked to me. That’s a really good question. You know, before an ironman you do a lot of reflecting, a lot of soul searching, a lot of questioning what is next. And it’s unnerving but it is still exciting. The same way that when you approach someone outside and you want to pull over and help them. I’m not trying to make it sound hardcore but there is a chance they might be crazy. This is America. [laughs] I don’t know, I think I kind of got excited by that, that no one else would want to do that scenario. That 99.99 percent of people would be afraid.

JL: Do you think the boldness of the way you approached them helped that anxiety? It seems like there are more cautious ways of approaching someone.

TK: It took me about a week to get comfortable to the point where I really appreciated the art. I really consider approaching people an art. Because to do it properly and efficiently you really do have to adapt who you are to fit who they are. I don’t mean that in a con man way. I mean when you talk to your grandma, you’re not going to talk her the same way you talk to me. People don’t recognize this and that’s why it went well for me. People don’t recognize that difference. They think every person should be communicated at the same way and it’s all about talking and looking at them. And it so uncomfortable.

JL: I think it always gets tied back to your parents and the way you were raised. Do you think that the way your parents raised you made you more likely to stop and help that old woman and more likely to do something like take your trip?

TK: 100 %. You know, actually I am a perfect combination  of my mom and my dad. I know I’m their son because of how incredibly similar our personality traits are. For instance, my dad never got better than a C+ in all of high school and college, now he runs a very successful company that he started with my grandpa. He’s worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known in my entire life and I say that with love because his work has provided incredible opportunities for me.And my mom, she and I have always had a special bond. An unspoken trust.

JL: Alright, back to the story line, you’ve completed Ironman and are now in college?

TK: Yeah, so I get to sophomore year and I’ve peaked and am now descending. Like any climber knows, it’s a lot easier to lose everything you have than it is to gain everything you want. So anyway, I get to this point where I’m like 235 pounds.

JL: Wait, what did you weigh during your ironman phase?

TK: I was 165 on ironman day.

And I was 6’2”, I’ve grown a little since then but still, I was ripped then. But I think it was important for me to do that because peaking and having everyone tell you how much potential you have at 18 and then being in a place where you don’t like yourself and don’t know what you’re doing or who you are when you’re 20 is really unnerving but still motivating. So I hit rock bottom basically, I was partying quite a bit. I got to this stage where I just hated everything that I was and everything I had become.I just wasn’t happy and it was my emotional rock bottom which was amazing because rock bottom enables you to go one of two ways. You can end or get back up. When you hit rock bottom with your emotions you have the chance that no one else has: you have nothing to worry about so you can do anything you want.

JL: Do you think that  this was a detox period after you’ve had this big buildup? If it is a detox, is the detox more important than the buildup?

TK: Far more.

JL: Do you think you learn more about yourself during it?

TK: You learn what you’re capable of and you have to be able to translate that into real life. It’s not a matter of, I did it and it was fun. It’s now what else can I do? Where can I go? What can I accomplish? I think it’s the reason why triathlon is a midlife crisis sport. It makes you realize you’re capable of doing amazing things.

So, I started trying to plan out how I would change myself and I instantly thought back to the day I helped the woman. I thought about how much that had changed me. It was like karma, I didn’t expect anything out of it and something amazing happened to me. So I realized it was OK to take a gamble on doing something like that, I knew I’d get something more out of it than just money. I knew I’d get a lesson or a growth opportunity.

I wanted it to be a meaningful event in my life. I wanted to try to make a movement or change something. It was then I realized that I had to do random acts of kindness. I had to surprise people and catch them off guard and just be nice to them. Because in doing that you’re letting them feel what it is like to have that happen to them and you give them a reason to do it for someone else. I put this plan together and I was ambitious, I said I wanted to help 1000 people. So, I planned it all out and I called my mom up and said, “Mom, I need you to hear an entire idea before you judge it.” I spilled my guts and said I want to do this and I want to travel. She basically said she was totally in support of it but if I was going to do it I was going to need to convince my father and in order to do that I was going to need to plan this out and have goals and have everything. This is kind of a funny story I like to tell. I think it’s a big statement about how humans make decisions.

The next place we have to go is when I told my dad. I told him two days before I left. I waited that long because at that point, I was going regardless of what he said.

JL: But you were hoping for his blessing?

TK: Hoping, praying and betting it all on the house.

I finally ran out and caught him right before a bike ride. It was a nice night and I said, “Dad, I have to talk to you right now. You need to know what I’m doing this summer. I have to get you in on this.” I started crying and I’m an emotional guy. So, I catch him in the driveway and he gets off his bike and we start talking. And I tell him I hate who I am and I hate what I’m becoming and I have built a realistic set of goals to make it change and to become something I want to be. I told him I need your blessing.

My dad just says, “Tyler, I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before,” and I think it’s cool I can share it now. He said, “When I graduated from college the only thing I wanted to do was move to Texas and work for a summer. I wanted that more than anything in the entire world. But the night of my graduation grandpa called me and said he needed me in the field tomorrow at 6 am. So I never went to Texas and it is the only regret I’ve ever lived with.” He said, “I get what you’re saying. Just don’t waste it, don’t waste a summer. If you’re going to do it, do it. Get what you have to get and come back a changed person. Don’t come back here more confused than when you left. Other than that you have my blessing. Good luck.” And it was awesome. It was a relief.

JL: Now that you have both parents’ blessings, all that’s left is to leave?

TK: Yeah, so the day I’m supposed to leave I got up at like 5 o’clock in the morning and I’m full of energy and craziness. I was packed already but I did all the last minute things. I cleaned my room and packed stuff and then I procrastinated for like four hours. It was because I was really nervous and I had put like two months of really meticulous planning into this trip. Finally, my brother Drew said, “Get the hell out of here you’re driving me crazy.” So I left and drove down to Oneida. I started driving around and every person I saw I made an excuse why they didn’t need any help because I was so nervous.

JL: What was an excuse?

TK: I’d see a guy, and  I’d be like that guy is 45 he is going to think that I think he is old. Just to deflect from actually committing to taking the risk. Finally I was like, if you just drive around and come up with reasons not to help people you’re not doing what you should.

I finally saw this guy out trying to wash a boat and I pulled over. My hands were literally shaking and I went up to him and my voice raised about three octaves and I said, “Hi sir my name is Tyler can I help you with something?” He looked at me and asked, “You trying to sell me something?” I said, “No, I’m not trying to sell you anything.” So he said, “Alright, come on.” It was cool talking to him and he was really open-minded. I asked him questions and it went well. It jump started the trip. If he had said, “No, get off my property,” I would’ve questioned a lot of stuff.  But it worked out. From then on basically, I did all kinds of stuff with the only criteria being the person had to be outside.

JL: What was the weirdest thing you did?

TK: Well, there was just a lot of weird stuff. Helping people was surreal. And the weirdest things happen when you’re not expecting them. For example, I was driving down a two lane highway in the south, and I looked on the other side of the road was a guy changing a tire and wearing naval dress whites on. You always get dirty changing tires so I turned around and pulled over and got out. I said something cheesy like, “want me to lend a hand so you can avoid getting your whites nice and dirty?” He was really happy to have me there. It was no big deal it took like five minutes. I gave him one of my cards and told him about my trip and he said it was cool what I was doing. He asked if I needed anything, I told him no but he wanted to give me something and he asked if I liked cigars. So he gave me this cigar, it was a really nice Macanudo. He said he was saving it for a special occasion but he wanted me to have it.

A couple of weeks later I got an email from his dad. And he wrote something like, “Tyler, what you didn’t know when you turned around was my son had just got orders to be on a sub for 8 months and he was coming to say goodbye to his fiancée who he is supposed to marry in two weeks. The fact that you went out of your way to help him means so much more to me than you could ever know because he got to spend a little more time with her before he shipped out.” And he wrote that he was the president of a big home security company and he even offered me a job.

Another  kind of weird story is in Miami I had a ton of extra vegetables still so I drove around all day and gave away cans of food to homeless people. I didn’t even count them as people I helped.

JL: Really? That’s not weird.

TK: There were 40 or 50 people who got cans. But that wasn’t help that was just the right thing to do.

JL: Wow, that’s remarkable.

Thanks. Basically, I turned around after that. I drove up the whole west coast of Florida and I had one of the cooler experiences that I don’t often talk about. This is an exclusive.

I spent two nights with my great uncle George and his wife, Sheila. That was absolutely incredible.. I don’t know how old he was but I think in his 90s.  It was magical because he was telling me stories about my hometown from the 30s and 40s and 50s and about friends and family. And these things about his brother, because they both served in world war II. His brother was captured by the Nazis and was put in a concentration camp for a year and a half. When they captured him he was around 200 pounds and when the allies found him he weighed 125 pounds. It was terrible but after his picture was on the cover of life magazine.

JL: It’s cool that you were able to do so much self- discovery.

TK: I was trying to help people but I was trying to figure my own stuff out.

So, the night that my trip ended. I ended up helping 115 random people. And then I left Florida and that was the most spiritual journey I’ve ever been on in my life. I wound up being awake for 42 hours and I was driving for 27 of them. It was really incredible because I watched the sun go down that day, I watched the sun rise and I watched the sun go down again. And then I drove for another 8 hours and got home.

The moment I got home, after that ultra-marathon of life. I didn’t want to do anything.

JL: And now you’re in another detox period?

I didn’t want to talk about or tell anyone about it. I wanted it to digest for a while. The second night I was home, my friend Charlie called me up and invited me to go get ice cream. He said we’re just going to pick up our other friend Haley first and we went to her house and all our friends are there. They had thrown a surprise party. I didn’t necessarily want it. I mean, I wasn’t shooting for it but it was nice. It caught me off guard and people started telling me ways my trip had affected them and things they had done because of it.

It was then I realized it was a lot larger than me. It had gone beyond me now but it was my idea so I needed to talk about it. It had more power now than it ever had and it had the capability of changing more people than I could have foreseen. So I just started talking to kids in schools and it’s been a cool progression of events since then.

JL: So, what has happened?

TK: Well, the Watertown Daily Times heard that I was back and they wanted to do a follow up article on my trip. It turned out that a couple of guys a from the BBC caught wind of it and read the article. And they asked if I wanted to do an interview. That was really cool, they took me out for breakfast and I took them to Gram’s diner. From that a guy named Marc Bolick from Greenville, South Carolina heard my program and called me and invited to speak at TEDx Greenville over my spring break. And I accepted and went down with my grandpa and gave the speech that is on YouTube.

And that changed my life, because I had this woman named Nicole Johnson email my name and contact information to a bunch of people and I got offers and invitations. From there I got an invite to Summit Series. I was the first kid ever to raise the money, open source to go to summit series. I was the youngest person there and they had me give this speech called, “The Next Big Thing.” I think people really respond well to this story and it’s cool.

JL: You were talking about how important it was to learn about yourself. Do you think more people should do unselfish things for selfish reasons?

TK: Yes. I think that doing unselfish things for selfish reasons is how prosperity occurs in the world. Because, my whole thing is like I want to better myself so I can contribute more. Its egocentric to think you can be the best at something but I want to be as extreme as I can with being a good person. I feel like in doing that you inspire people to do something and that’s how a movement gets started.

JL: Do you think that something like this can create a defining moment for someone or does it have to happen organically?

TK: I’ve really gone back and forth on this. And I don’t know because it worked for me. So I can’t just say it would or it wouldn’t but it definitely does something. It starts the ball rolling.

JL: What’s next? I heard you have a book in the works?

TK: A book… well, it’s done and is being edited. It’s about 130 pages. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet. I’m going to get it completely done before I think about trying to get it published. My friend Zach Shipi and my brother Drew are helping in addition to Carolyn Bice and Karen Gibson. My friend Kelly Frost is going to help edit.

JL: Who is a hero for you?

TK: The coolest person I know is probably Brad Ludden. Brad is a world class kayaker who runs First Descents which is a kayaking organization for 19-35 year olds with cancer. He is really down to Earth and he is a good example of the kind of person I hope to be like. He is young, successful, he gives back and he lives on the edge. He is just a cool dude.

JL: Thanks for speaking with me Tyler! I can honestly say this was an experience I won’t soon forget.

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