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Rob Lilwall – adventurer and motivational speaker

Interview with the adventurer and motivational keynote speaker Rob Lilwall.

In November 2016, London Speaker Bureau hosted our annual 2 day seminar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Bringing together teams from over 33 locations worldwide.

Speakers to attend the event were: Fredrik Haren, a Global Culture Specialist ; Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, Former Secretary-General of UNCTAD and Former DPM of Thailand ; Ayesha Khanna, Smart Cities and Education Strategy Expert ; Idris Jala, CEO of PEMANDU, Red Hong Yi, Malaysian Artist-Architect and Rob Lilwall, the Nat Geo Adventurer.

Rob undertook the difficult task of engaging the eclectic group of LSB staff from a vast range of backgrounds, ages and cultures, and managed to grasp everyone’s attention. After his speech, we asked Rob some questions to learn more about him and his incredible story.

What is your favourite subject to speak about and why?

My favourite and longest expedition, which is also my most popular talk is titled Cycling Home From Siberia.  This journey started in a very remote part of northeast Russia, with the ultimate goal of riding home to London via a 35000 miles route on my bicycle. Over the next three years of pedaling I was out of my depth for much of the time, and had a lot of crazy adventures. I survived camping at minus 40 in Siberia, hitch-hiked from Asia to Australia on yachts and cargo ships, got lost in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, and rode over the passes of Northern Afghanistan. When I finished the journey, a publisher asked me to write a book, National Geographic made my first TV series, and this was also when I launched into my career as a professional speaker.

What is your speaking style?

When I speak, I take the audience on the journey with me. I use photos and video clips to bring to life the fear, excitement and humour of the adventure. I love storytelling, and I think stories are a powerful way to communicate to our hearts and emotions (which is where the power for changed behaviour often comes from), as well as our minds. I point out (and in fact you can tell just by looking at me) that I am no superman: I am not particularly strong, or brave or anything heroic like that. So I explain honestly how, despite my weaknesses, I have been able to get through all sorts of tough challenges on my expeditions by practising good attitudes and habits.

What did you learn from the adventures that you share with your audience?

The Attitudes of Adventure which have helped me include:

  • Embracing change and seeing stressful situations as a challenge not a threat
  • Being clear about my goals (long, medium and short term)
  • Practising good self-care (which is key for growing resilience)
  • Collaborating well and seeking good advice from people I encountered on the way
  • Being a problem solver
  • Taking positive, calculated risks
  • Practising small acts of discipline

I find that all of these attitudes and habits are also extremely helpful for my productivity and success in day-to-day life outside of expeditions, for example, when I am writing a book, or developing a business project. So in my talk, I weave in reflections about how to apply them, depending on the clients’ desired outcomes for their conference.

In addition, these attitudes of adventure are particularly relevant to the topic of unpredictable change. The world is changing so rapidly – economically, technologically, politically, and in terms of consumer behavior. And of course these changes affect what challenges we face at work, and it’s thus vital to be continually developing the right attitudes and habits to help us flourish in such a world.

What was your latest expedition?

Fast-forwarding to the present, my most recent expedition was a solo walk across China’s fearsome Taklamakan desert, pulling a homemade beach cart behind me. Taklamakan is sometimes translated “he who goes in, won’t come out”, and indeed, as I found myself surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of emptiness and sand dunes I was often terrified and stretched to my limits. I am currently writing a book about it, and as I write, I keep shaking my head, and thinking to myself “I can’t believe I actually did this thing, it was completely mad!” I am looking forward to completing the book and film projects about the journey in 2017.

Can you share a few words about London Speaker Bureau?

It has always been a great pleasure working with the London Speaker Bureau. Their staff are dynamic; their clients are impressive, diverse, and always interesting groups to speak to.

Keynote Speaker Rob Lilwall blog about us picture

More about Rob Lilwall

Rob Lilwall is an ordinary person who, through taking an adventurous attitude to life, has achieved the extraordinary. In the last two decades, he has embarked on expeditions by bicycle and on foot, covering over 80,000 km of the world’s land surface. These have included an unsupported walk across the Gobi Desert in winter; pedalling over the war-torn passes of Afghanistan; and being the first person ever to drag a bicycle across the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.

To read Rob Lilwall’s speaker profile, click here. And to have a look through Rob’s website, click here.