Activist, Artist, & Photographer Benjamin Von Wong

In episode twelve, host Brett Stanley is talking to Activist, Artist, and Photographer Benjamin Von Wong. Ben’s work is probably best described as epic, ranging from his earlier photography work which had him collaborating with amazing subjects around the world, to his latest installation work building incredible sculptures and artworks from unusual objects that hope to provoke and motivate people to take action on issues like recycling, child hunger, and of course our oceans.

Whilst not a full time underwater photographer, Ben has created some incredible imagery with very little experience, and his journey from playing in a pool with friends to tying models to shipwrecks is really inspiring. Ben also has his own podcast, called Impact Everywhere all about creating a Positive Impact in Unexpected Places.

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About Benjamin Von Wong – Activist, Artist, & Photographer

Benjamin Von Wong is a Canadian artist, activist, and photographer best known for his environmental art installations and hyper-realist art style. He is a motivational speaker and an advocate against Ocean Plastics He is also notable for creating several viral Social Media campaigns, including the most funded GoFundMe campaign which raised over US$2M for Eliza O’Neill, a sufferer of Sanfilippo syndrome.

Benjamin’s work lies at the intersection of fantasy and photography and combines everyday objects with shocking statistics. It has attracted the attention of corporations, like Starbucks, Dell, and Nike and has generated over 100 million views for causes like ocean plastics, electronic waste, and fashion pollution. Most recently, he was named one of Adweek’s 11 content branded masterminds.



Podcast Transcript

Ep 12 – Benjamin Von Wong

Brett Stanley: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the underwater podcast. And this week I’m talking to activists, artists, and photographer Benjamin Von Wong. Ben’s work is probably best described as Epic ranging from his earlier photography work, which had him collaborating with amazing subjects around the world, to his latest installation, work, building, incredible sculptures and artworks from unusual objects that hope to provoke and motivate people to take action on issues like recycling child hunger. And of course our oceans.

Well, it’s not a full time underwater photographer. Ben has created some incredible imagery with very little experience and his journey from playing in a pool with friends to tying models’ to shipwrecks is really inspiring. Ben also has his own podcast called impact everywhere. All about creating a positive impact in unexpected places. All right. Let’s dive in.   

hey Ben. Welcome to the show.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:00:52] Thanks for having me.

Brett Stanley: [00:00:54] Yeah. Uh, where are you at the moment? Do you, cause you live in San Francisco, but I’m pretty sure you’ve been quarantined somewhere.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:01:00] Actually my plan this year was to go nomadic. So I had gotten rid of my place in San Francisco  and had just begun my journey, um, when the coronavirus situation hit. And so now I’m back home in the room. I went to university in, in Montreal, living with my parents.

Brett Stanley: [00:01:16] Oh, nice. some memories there.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:01:19] Yeah. So on one side, I feel super grateful because I have a place I can hunker down. I could stay here and definitely I’ve, you know, uh, healthy parents. I have food, I have lodging hand on the other side. It’s like, well, this wasn’t the plan.

Brett Stanley: [00:01:31] Yeah to be, especially if you were going to be nomadic for a year, where were you going to go? Or what was your kind of plan for that?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:01:38] Well, I’ve never been able to plan my life, which is what makes this. Current quarantine situation. So interesting. Like I have literally not known where I was going to be a couple months out for the last six, seven, eight years, basically, ever since I quit my day job because I’ve always just gone with the flow, depending on what came up.

I would go there, projects, meetings, conferences, any kind of opportunity. I would hop on a plane and just go do that. And now suddenly it’s like, Oh, Well, I guess I know exactly where I’m going to be for the next a couple of weeks and months, maybe. What am I going to do? Like I, and it’s just been so weird, like I’ve had to learn routines.

Um, and it’s interesting. Yeah. It’s very

Brett Stanley: [00:02:20] Yeah. Well, I think for people who know your work and have kind of followed you over the years, you know, you, you are like a bit of a hummingbird where you’re always somewhere different. You’re always doing a project that’s very different, um, and inspiring. And there’s always a lot of energy to it. And there’s always a lot of, um, I don’t know, like a lot of your you’re very front and center of your own work.

You’re kind of your own front man. And I feel like this quarantine is kind of, kind of like a caged bird a little bit where I kind of feel, I feel bad for you. I feel bad that you’re kind of stuck in this little kind of room above your mom’s garage or wherever you are.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:02:55] Yeah. Um, I don’t know. It’s funny. I think that yes. Mmm. When you think about it, when you look at my projects, I am friends center of my projects. Cause I am the director, the actor, the creator, the strategists, the person launching the thing, the influencer, like I kind of play the role of every single. Piece of the puzzle.

And so when you see a person like that, I’ve directed or being a part of, I am such a dominant part of, of, of the story and for the projects in which I play kind of a background role, you just never hear about it because then it doesn’t become relevant to what people expect of me. Um, and so although the public perception of me going around and doing projects.

It is true. It is actually a very small part of what I do. Most of the work that I do is sitting in front of a computer and having conversations with people and answering emails and planning and thinking and designing a new ideas and trying to cross pollinate ideas between industries in order to come up with these different concepts.

So it’s much more project management. And planning and strategy than it is actually executing. But the fun part is the execution. That’s where you get the stories, the videos, the photos. And so that’s the part that people really gravitate towards. So I think the challenge with being quarantined is less.

So the fact that I can’t do anything, but it’s that I have nothing to talk about. Um, because. Although, I think what I’m doing is interesting. It isn’t shareable. And I think that dissociation is a little bit tough, particularly in a time where I had kind of made all these different announcements slash plans to adapt to this new nomadic lifestyle.

So that’s all.

Brett Stanley: [00:04:36] Yeah. So things have been derailed a little bit.  I mean, you are a kind of a chameleon, like you tend to change and, and kind of react to your environment from the outside anyway. Um, are you finding new ways to kind of be creative and get that kind of scratched that itch while you’re in quarantine?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:04:53] I guess while I was going nomadic, I realized that one of the things that I really loved doing was having deep, interesting conversations with people. And that led how might I operationalize this ability to have conversations with people? Is there a way to do this more regularly? And, and so I kind of landed upon the idea of a podcast that could be a really interesting medium, because it was going to be having conversations with people.

Anyways, I might as well record it. I might as well put it somewhere so that others could get access to it. And then along the way, you know, that would also drive and feed the kinds of people that I would be meeting along the way. Um, so I think. Currently between the podcast, a little Facebook group that I started around the podcast webinars series that I’ve been hosting around the podcast and the group, as well as like a side project that I’ve been working on called the other heroes to find the other heroes of the COVID-19 fight as just.

A desire to make a difference. I kind of feel like I’m trying a lot of new things that I’ve never done before and expanding a lot of energy, but not getting very far. And so the best analogy that I might have for that is I’m on a rocking chair, right. I’m trying to run a marathon and I just keep rocking really, really hard, but I’m not going really, really far.

And it’s really frustrating feeling. So I think a lot of people may be in that boat. Um, but I’m feeling particularly paralyzed by it right now.

Brett Stanley: [00:06:09] Yeah. I mean, cause you’re somebody who wants to  run, right? You want to, you want to be sort of feeling the, uh, the wind in your hair. And at the moment it’s kind of pretty static.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:06:17] Yeah,  I think I get motivated by momentum and so I’m totally fine doing the work, but I need to feel the progress. And if it feels like I’m. Just moving in place for too long. I, I lose steam really, really quickly. So the feedback loop is quite important for me.

I think that’s why I really enjoy it. So my approach with projects has always been spontaneously land in a situation that I have no idea I’ve never been in before, you know, build, build a foundation around it, find the followers or the key people who are going to help you make the project happen. And then just, you know, like a whirlwind, just.

Make something happen within the couple of weeks that you happen to be in a place like drum up all the excitement and the intensity of just being there and making things happen is something that I find particularly exhilarating. Um, it doesn’t work so well online.

Brett Stanley: [00:07:05] no, because do you find that, that the physical aspect of it, of you actually being in the place, is that more of a, it helps you to get the motivation? Or do you think that people are more interested when they’re like, Ooh, he’s he’s local to me. Let’s go and get involved.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:07:18] I think maybe it’s a little bit of both, right? Um, online, there is a sense of. There’s no sense of time constraint. You don’t feel that this is an opportunity that’s going to disappear within a certain timeframe. So the pressure is gone. Whereas when you’re physically there, like, I mean, if you go to The Bahamas and you’re doing a photo shoot and you’re looking for models and you only have two days to look for these models, that’s like, people are going to show up and they’re going to move their plans and they’re gonna make time for you.

But if you say, Hey, I’d like you on my podcast. And they’re like, Oh yeah. What about in three weeks? I’ll have a window of an hour then. And it’s just like, yeah. I guess.

Brett Stanley: [00:07:55] Yeah. There’s no sense of urgency.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:07:57] No, not at all. Not at all. Isn’t there.

Brett Stanley: [00:07:59] No, and you can, it’s amazing how much you can let yourself get away with online. I mean, in terms of, of stretching deadlines,

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:08:06] Yeah, for sure.

Brett Stanley: [00:08:07] you know, cause it’s like, well actually what about actually I can do tomorrow. Would tomorrow be better? Yeah, let’s do it then.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:08:13] Yeah. Yeah. I think, I mean, online works really well for people who love schedules and routine. Like, you know, if every Monday you going to do this thing and every Wednesday you gonna do that thing. And every Friday you going to do this other thing and you’re just going to like, you know, be consistent and be steady and be predictable.

Like, I think it’s amazing. Um, and so for certain types of people, I think it works really well. Um, and for me a little less so, because I’ve always been project to project based, um, I basically have the. Attention span of a, a hedgehog. And I can like dive into something really deep for about, you know, a month.

And then I’m like, okay, I’m done.

Brett Stanley: [00:08:44] Yeah, totally. I’m kind of the same way where I’m so easily distracted by a new shiny thing, but. The online thing is there’s too many shiny things. It’s, it’s terrible.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:08:55] Yeah.

Brett Stanley: [00:08:56] Tell me about your very first underwater photo shoot. Yeah.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:08:58] So my first, very first underwater shoot. Well, how, how small do you want to get like swimming pool? Small.

Brett Stanley: [00:09:04] Sure. Yeah. The first time you went underwater and took photos.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:09:08] Yeah. So the first time I went underwater and took photos, I think was just in a swimming pool. Mmm. I had found one of those decap packs, you know, the standard, uh, really sketchy. Plastic bag that you never want to put your camera in?

Brett Stanley: [00:09:19] Yeah. Like the glorified Ziploc bag.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:09:21] Yeah, so I think it was my girlfriend at the time. And some friends, we just went into a swimming pool and took some photos and I was like, okay, well, that was interesting.

Um, didn’t really go anywhere. Um, fast forward a little bit. I think I tried doing an over-water under an over-water photo shoot where. We put models in an indoor swimming pool. And I put the camera on a, on a crane, uh, like a, like a jib, uh, and tried to take pictures from above. And then during that shoot or close around, close to that shoot, I think we just, might’ve done a couple underwater shots just for fun.

Brett Stanley: [00:09:54] Was that shoot the, the, the UV light one.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:09:57] Yeah. Yeah. It’s the UV light one. So we basically painted people in, in, in UV paint and then suspended on UV lights all over the place and just tried to pictures. Um, so I did that and then, but I think maybe the Mo the first substantial underwater production that I was a part of was this thing called the underwater realm.

Um, I basically stumbled across Dave Reynolds, who was a. Young filmmaker down in the UK who was working on the first ever short film that was fully shot underwater and had crowdfunded over a hundred thousand dollars for it. And I just thought it was the coolest thing. So I reached out and I said, Hey, I’m planning on traveling through Europe, any chance I could come by and take some photographs for you guys.

And he said, sure. And so I just ended up there. I had no gear of my own, I didn’t have a proper underwater housing. I just had one of those plastic bags. And so they lent me a camera. Are there five D Mark twos. Um, I managed to sync up and underwater stroke with surface strobes. So I just, Daisy chained, a bunch of speed lights so that it would flash underwater, which would trigger us, which would be pointing upwards towards the surface light would, would be triggering some backlights to create these rays of light coming through the swimming pool.

Um, so I think that was like my first kind of like experiencing something a little bit more produced underwater and they had already set up all the. All the divers and the models and all that stuff. And so, you know, I kind of just swooped in, on their set and then created something with what I had available.

And it was, it was a really cool experience. Um, but that was it. Like, that was like my first, I guess, real thing. And the next level up from there was this completely crazy project I did in Bali, which I think on paper. And even today, when I think back to it, like there’s no reason why it should have succeeded.

It just happened to succeed. Long story short, I found out that I was going, or my parents were dragging me on vacation to Bali and I found out there was a shipwreck and I was like, Oh, there’s a shipwreck. I need to do a photo shoot. And so I didn’t have my dive certification at the time. Yeah. So I ended up we’d landed there.

I was already. Planning a photo shoot, even though I didn’t have my dive certification, I got hooked up with a dive master called Chris some engine tech who was just like, you want to do an underwater photo shoot, but you’ve never dived before properly. And I was like, yep, let’s do it. And um, and so once again, it was, there’s no reason why they should have worked, but because he took a chance, I showed him my like surface work, which.

I guess was very fantastical and looked really interesting. And so he was just like, all right, let’s give it a shot. Um, he did a lot of the production on it, found us a makeup artist, dresses, you know, I was, I wasn’t even sure we could find dresses. The plan was to cut up, used a bedsheets and have those as dresses was the original plan because.

I had no clubs when I, when I landed. Um, but somehow it all came together. Oh, the camera that I was planning on using was a, um, um, a Nikon pointing shoot. Uh, I just like one of those underwater pointed shoots. I could go 30 meters deep, but I flooded it on like the first day of scouting.

Yeah.

So then I ended up using the camera of someone else that was there and I opted for the cheaper camera that was available.

There was a Nikon D 90 or a five D Mark two, and I. Chose to Dean it because I wanted the photo shoot to be as relatable as possible. And yeah, for two days we did way too many dives. Um, and I had the, I think, yeah, some of the best models I could have ever asked for, they had like three and a half minute breath, hold 30 meters underwater in current with a dive support team of four.

And all we had to do is pay their costs and food and, and, and the air tanks. And it was just kind of the most phenomenal thing. And someone flew in from Singapore to document it for free. Uh, he, you know, I’d done a workshop in Singapore before, and he flew in and it was just one of those things where, you know, once again, so many things had to go right for this to work and somehow it did.

Okay. And ultimately this thing went viral. Like it was trending on Facebook back when Facebook still had trending. And I think really put me on the map as like, Oh, this guy is an underwater photographer. And I was like, wow, that was the first time I’ve really done a proper underwater shoot.

Brett Stanley: [00:13:54] Yeah. I remember seeing that come out. I remember cause I was deep in the underwater kind of realm then too. And I just remember seeing those photos and going, Oh man, that’s so good.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:14:05] But I think what I think what made it good was my editing because most underwater photographers are. Or used to be like quite purist, right? Because they most underwater photographers, we’re closer to documentary photographers. Right. They would go in document the wildlife and so forth, not do something really crazy and produced.

And so what I did was just go in and whiten out the dresses. Um, and I had this. And, and make sure that the skin tones were normal skin tone instead of the blue that you would have. So I just recolored colored skin and whitened the dress and that made everything look super painterly and super magical.

And I think that editing combined with the audacity of the idea and the catchiness of the headline, plus the fact that it was all documented, it was the perfect storm at the time to make

Brett Stanley: [00:14:50] Oh, for sure. Yeah, totally. And I think it was, it was the first time I’d seen anyone do that sort of stuff on that scale with that sort of transparency of here’s how we did it. This is everything that we did. This is something you could probably do yourself. If you had, you know, the kind of support

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:15:06] You know, in retrospect, now it’s funny because as you learn how complicated things can get that project in retrospect now just feels quite easy because so the Cormorant fishermen that you were mentioning earlier is actually a project that, so, so that one was born because they had seen this underwater project and they’re like, okay, what would you do?

And how would you make it even crazier? And so then we went to build an underwater set. And so building an underwater set and trying to figure out how to sync something so that it doesn’t capsize or shoot to the surface and is balanced and, or like pull the people down. It’s like super, super challenging because you’re in like a wild environment.

and, and similarly with, with like the shark shepherd, you know, you have a shark swimming around, so now how do you do this? When there isn’t a complete, like, you’re, you’re dependent on another creature coming into the shot at the right time. It’s not just about the, the model looking good anymore.

And so it’s like with every piece that has been added on I’m like, Oh yeah, that was a lot easier than I, then I thought in retrospect of how complicated things can become.

Brett Stanley: [00:16:09] Yeah. And do you think that things, as you’ve gotten through those, those kind of projects, then, you know, they’ve gotten bigger and bigger, but it also seems like you’ve had a bigger and bigger crew and support team as well. How has that kind of affected your kind of workflow? Did you, were you a natural person to sort of lead a bunch of people or was that something you had to learn as well?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:16:30] Mmm. Well, so with bigger crews, the work actually gets easier. Mmm. Like specifically, when you get hired on a project, you usually have like a production team or a producer that can help you do a lot of the work. You suddenly have budget to afford experts, and you’re not kind of cutting corners to make things happen.

And that upside, you spend a lot more time in meetings. So you do a lot more planning, a lot more safety, a lot more like a lot more double thinking and triple thinking about everything. And so it really depends on what you like doing. On my end. I’m always outcome focused. So I don’t really care how we get there.

As long as we get there. I really don’t like it. When you have to spend a lot of time doing something that’s completely useless, um, over if everything is going in service of making the project, the best it possibly can be. I’m super excited to do that. So I think. I love the problem solving aspect of it.

And I love being surrounded by people that are smarter than me. And I love people who have the right attitude of wanting to go ahead and, and that, you know, nothing’s really quite a barrier. They’re just problems that need to be solved. And when I’m with kinds of people, I’m quite happy

Brett Stanley: [00:17:37] yeah. And that, I think is what I was saying before is like, kind of feeling like you belong in those group of people. I think for me, it took me a little while to kind of go, actually I can work with these people and kind of lead these people to the vision that I’ve been given to kind of, to create.

I think it took me a little while to kind of go, okay. I feel comfortable here. It took a little bit too, too. Did that imposter syndrome of, or maybe they’re going to find out that I’m not as good as they think I am,

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:18:06] Hmm.

Well, I mean, I think I always, I’m always trying to sell a really big vision and I’m not always sure. I know that I can execute it,

Brett Stanley: [00:18:17] Yeah.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:18:18] but I’m, I’m still selling the big vision because if it’s small, then it’s not worth doing, if I’ve done it before, it’s not really worth doing either. So I think. Although it’s really stressful.

I’ve always doing it anyways.

Brett Stanley: [00:18:30] Right. Is that where the joy of it is for you? Like I know you said you’d love the problem solving, but do you love that kind of CDR pants? I have this idea now let’s try and make it work kind of feeling.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:18:40] I think I just really love launching things. I love being able to say I did something that I just, I haven’t done before, and this is what came out of it and it worked, or it didn’t work. Like, I don’t know it. Aye. There’s the competing sides, right? Like, so on the creative side, I really love trying new things.

And then there’s on the impact side. You really just want to do the most effective thing that will serve the cause. And so I think there’s just a little bit of, um, a paradox between those two spaces that need to be held, but I’m definitely playing with both of them.

Brett Stanley: [00:19:09] Yeah. So How much time do you spend in preproduction? Is that, you know, in terms of what we’re seeing coming out, the other end is the bulk of the work at the beginning there.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:19:20] Yeah, I think there’s probably six to nine months of work before anything ever gets done. It’s just so much conversations and so many. Projects that never see the light of day. So many ideas that were started that were just never finished.

Brett Stanley: [00:19:36] And the, are you doing those in parallel? Are you doing work on more than one thing at a time kind of hedging your bets to see which one’s going to make it through?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:19:42] I used to do a lot more in parallel. And then over time I realized like, like my projects have gotten really expensive as they’ve gotten really bigger. And as they, especially, if they have the experiential component to them and I just can’t afford. To self-fund a bunch of the stuff. So. And I can’t, I just don’t feel happy doing things for free anymore because like great.

Everyone’s willing to pay for materials or costs, but then how does that ever become sustainable for anyone else? And I think I have this interesting thing where I have a portfolio already, so I have a really nice portfolio. The, the problem I have with my portfolio is actually figuring out how to make it more effective, um, and show less things.

And so  the. The S you know, I’m always interested in working with someone who will enable something to happen that has, that couldn’t be done prior. But yeah, but the ultimate goal for me, regardless of the medium, is to work with someone who can make the most use of me as possible. Like, I want to be the most useful version of myself within the campaign.

I want to provide a unique solution to a problem that they couldn’t figure out. And I think if you can find the people for which you can be that perfect solution, that’s sort of the dream within the impact space.

Brett Stanley: [00:20:59] Because you then become the tool that they can use to make the change in the world that they’re wanting to do.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:21:06] Yeah. And you’re doing, you’re doing the best part. So like, you don’t want people to come to you because they’re like, Oh, if I hire Ben, everything’s going to work. Um, because that’s not realistic, then they’re just, they’re hiring you because they think you’re going to make things go viral and then you’re gonna generate millions, millions of dollars of sales or whatever it is, right?

Like that’s, that’s not how it actually works. How it actually works is like, Oh, we have this amazing campaign strategy. We have all our sales funnels set up. We have all the right people in place. We just need to bring on the right creative in order to like unlock the potential of this campaign. Who could that possibly, like, that’s the kind of framework that you want.

Like that’s a dream job scenario. And I think it’s really hard to find those because everyone is always looking for like the quick fix, the easy fix, um, or, or maybe it’s just the problem that I have with my storytelling. So I’m always telling stories of how, you know, volunteers come together to make things happen.

And so it just feels easy because it’s meant to. Feel easy, but that’s just a story that’s being told. So I don’t know. I may be a victim of my own storytelling too, in some ways.

Brett Stanley: [00:22:09] Right. I think we all become victims of our own kind of creative process as well, I think. But have you found those partners to work with those ones that are, that you fit together? Well with.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:22:20] I mean, I th I think so. I mean, they come and they go, um, One of the struggles that I have is that most of the time I’m a little bit of a, you know, people want to work with me because I am the guy who will do the thing that’s never been done before. And so they just, they try to get the weird thing. And once they’ve had it or seen it or tried it, then it’s been done already.

So

Brett Stanley: [00:22:41] Does that work into your kind of worldview and your kind of career plan to be that  guy who comes in does that one or something and then moves onto the next thing.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:22:49] I mean, I don’t know if there’s a career plan to it. I know I, from a personal perspective, I really do love doing the really crazy one off things. Um, I just really want to find a way to make sure that what I’m doing is the best use of time, resources, and energy. For the cause that it’s trying to help her impact.

Um, and I haven’t really done anything that doesn’t have an impact angle to it.  almost three and a half years now. So, um, four years, and even now, even, even now, like the way I’m thinking about my projects, they all have some kind of an impact component to it. They always have to have some kind of giving back.

It’s not just about creating for me anymore.

Brett Stanley: [00:23:29] So I think that’s the, that’s how you’ve evolved. Cause it’s interesting for me seeing how you’ve come from the guy who would just do crazy, pretty pitchers to the guy who now does crazy, uh, meaningful, you know, world changing kind of installation art. The, the, the, the trajectory of your career has been so awesome to watch that you’ve just reinvented

yourself.

So,

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:23:50] I think it’s so much more fun to just watch me evolve. I actually love watching me and only see the highlight reels. I think it would be a lot more fun of a journey. Um, but like right now, for example, there’s a project that I’d really love to do. And it’s, it’s something that I just, I’m not sure how to.

To go about it because it requires so many partnerships, but I’ve had this idea of creating an underwater art installation that I wanted to build, um, on a slope that would occupy, I don’t know, something like a hundred square meters of surface area and create something that was really large, that could double up as a coral garden and an educational setting so that you can, like, how might you combine ecology, community and art all at the same time.

And I think that’s like the kind of like ultimate pinnacle of. Something that I would like to create right now, but I need to close the gap between what I see in my mind. Um, what’s actually possible where the money is going to come from and who the partners are going to be. And so finding that balance is extremely tough because I can’t just go and create an art installation.

I need to find a place where the people need it, where the story fits in, where the art is actually going to be helpful and not detrimental. Um, where. The government or the entity that’s there, um, is willing to support it where the science that validates the need for something like this and where the community is actually going to be around to support it over time. But like, where do you start for something like that? So like, I have these kinds of ideas floating around in my head that I just kind of hold space for, but never quite no. Or see where, where, when, how it’s going to all end up.

Brett Stanley: [00:25:24] And do you just tend to hold on to these kinds of ideas and then the right time it’ll, it’ll just happen or do you have to kind of really put some energy behind it to get it to work?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:25:34] I think because so much of my stuff is collaborative based and I’m ultimately an extrinsically inspired person. I just try to talk to as many people as possible. And the hope is. You know, you put it out into the universe that this is something you’re looking to do, and just, maybe you might find the right person to do it.

You know, there are so many different collaborations that I’d like to play around with that I haven’t had the chance to do yet. Um, for example, I think it would be really interesting to collaborate with an architect that’s working on anything along the lines of like regenerative agriculture, or re regenerative architecture, um,

Brett Stanley: [00:26:04] Yeah.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:26:04] like.

How might you combine and architectural place-based piece with a community story and how can art serve two, uh, heal or fix something? So I think these are just the kind of questions that are always floating around in my head, but you don’t know until you talk to the person. And so much of it is almost like dating.

Brett Stanley: [00:26:23] yeah, yeah. Then you realize you have this thing in common and then it goes from there. Yeah.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:26:27] Exactly.

Brett Stanley: [00:26:28] Do you know,

um, or do you know Jason declares Taylor? He does the underwater sculpture gardens.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:26:32] No, I don’t know him personally. I’m sure I’ve seen his work.

Brett Stanley: [00:26:36] so he’s kind of been at least 10 years building sculpture gardens under the water and creating these kind of artificial reefs. And, um, he did one recently in the Maldives. And usually his stuff is very nice, you know, totally adds to the environment. He’s done these sculptures of people, you know, under the water and the sculptures have based on the local, uh, residents. So it’s all very kind of nicely kind of thought out the one he did in the Dave’s it got done. I think our hotel hired him to kind of come in and build this thing. Um, and then once it was done and then, you know, they had the big opening and everything, I think maybe two, three weeks later, the local, um, heads of the Muslim community, uh, came and tore it down because it was, they hadn’t been asked or involved in that process. It showed a lot of people with bare heads, which is against their kind of religion, which is totally fair enough, to have missed someone so important in that culture Mmm. To get their sign off, I think that’s, you know, that’s kind of a pretty big misstep,

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:27:41] you can’t come at impact from the savior perspective. It can work, but it generally doesn’t, that’s what makes it so difficult.

Brett Stanley: [00:27:49] So you have to come at it more from a collaborative, inclusive kind of way.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:27:54] I think he just, yeah, you need to spend a lot of time listening and to be wrong and to have your ideas be broken down and, and for many people to tell you why it doesn’t work. And then for occasionally for it to occasionally work.

Brett Stanley: [00:28:08] Yeah, I think there’s something like in the modern world that I think social media if it’s shown us anything. It’s to think about every comment before you even post the thing, you know, think about all the things that people are gonna find wrong with it and prioritize them into. You know, is this something that’s going to really change the impact of it or is it so small that it doesn’t really matter?

You know, it’s kind of trying to find kind of, you know, trying to make something airtight.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:28:34] Yeah. I mean, and there’s no right or wrong answer. Like you can’t just be paralyzed by always asking the question, but I think you also have to ask the question simultaneously and be okay with being wrong sometimes and to learning along the way.

Brett Stanley: [00:28:46] Yeah

Um, my kind of, um, I guess my experience with your career was probably, I don’t know, like what, like seven or eight years ago, maybe longer where you had kind of come onto the photography scene shooting these very creative, conceptual photos.

Um, lots of fiber thing, maybe lots of blowing shit up. Um, And it was incredible. Like your kind of voice was, it felt like it was there quite quickly. Did it, did it take you long to kind of find your feet, do you think, or was it kind of a bit of a process that looked faster on the outside?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:29:20] I think it always looks faster on the outside and feels a lot slower on the inside, but relative to my peers, um, I think I definitely. Figure it out. The formula played the game and Rose up the ranks fairly quickly. I think it’s a, it’s less a byproduct of hard work and skill as much as just really good timing.

So I started making behind the scene videos back when very few people were doing it, the only people. That we’re doing it at a higher level where people kind of like chase Jarvis. So like the super high end photographers. And so for the kind of enthusiastic prosumer photographers that were doing weird, crazy experiments on a budget, there weren’t that many of us and.

It was at a time where F stoppers had just gotten born, you know, they were posting one video a month at the time. And so that, you know, allowed me to get seen pretty quickly and, and get the social signaling that this is something that was desired along the way. I mean, I’ve always struggled with consistency, but.

I managed to like create content fairly regularly, at least once a month. Uh, at some point it was once a week, but then those generally didn’t end up being too sustainable. And it was at a time where Facebook algorithms weren’t that brutal. So, you know, when I had 7,000 followers and I had quit my day job, I crowdfunded $12,000 with those 7,000 followers.

Uh,

Uh,

Brett Stanley: [00:30:44] had 7,000 eyeballs

rather than like

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:30:47] Yeah. Because people could actually find your stuff. You know, and I think similarly, when I started hitting the trade shows like WPPI and PPE and photo kina and stuff, they were just not that many people doing things that were really weird.

Um, and although my work wasn’t the best, it was just weird. Um, between lighting people on fire or tying them under water or using special effects, you know, it was always some big element of production in it. However, it was done in a really approachable way. There were no big production sets. It was just volunteers coming together to do something.

So.

Brett Stanley: [00:31:17] And it made people feel like they could do it themselves.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:31:20] Exactly. And I was really creating this content to share and inspire others. So it was done in service of this photography community until I got bored.

Brett Stanley: [00:31:29] And so

what happened to then when you got bored? What was, what was the, uh, the answer to that.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:31:34] well, I think I generally am always my worst enemy. If I look through my track record, I do something. I get pretty good at it. I figured out the formula and just right before I should continue and, and sit on it and really like throwing all my chips, I’m like, Hmm, let’s go play another game. Um, and, and so for me, I think the realization was that I didn’t just want to create content for photographers.

I wanted to create content for a larger audience and photographers. Don’t hire other photographers. And I wasn’t really into doing tutorials and workshops and so forth, and I didn’t want that to be my life. And so I kind of pivoted away. I was like, what can I do in order to reach an audience that wasn’t just photography and that created the need to move from photography into more like inspirational aspirational pieces, which kind of lended itself closer towards commercial photography.

And then I did that for a little while my projects got bigger, I started getting bigger clients. I started earning good money. Um, the, this one project I did, it made me earn more money than my entire career combined at the time. And that was in 2015 for a cell phone company called Huawei. And I was like, Oh, there’s serious money here.

If you find the right people, because you make all your money in global licensing contracts, if you can get them. But then once I reached that and I got my, you know, this biggest job of my career and I was like, well, you know, is that it? Like, you just create crazy photos, they get crazier over time. And then what you just.

Try to get the next big client earn more money and where does it go from there? And, and it just felt really pointless. So once again, this is the timeframe where I almost quit photography, and I was like, you know what? I’m going to go into documentary filmmaking. I’m going to go find worthy causes and nonprofits and try to find a way to help them out because there didn’t seem to be a way to combine fantasy and social impact together.

Uh, but it took me a long time to like, figure out what to do there. I realized I didn’t love documentary filmmaking. Like, it was just sad being surrounded by people who were sad all the time and who needed help all the time. Um, and so,

Brett Stanley: [00:33:39] documenting that

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:33:40] yeah. Yeah. We’ll trying to tell a story. So you document and then you’d create like a fundraising piece.

To try to help them. But you know, you were always in this sort of like begging for help position, um, which wasn’t something I was used to cause I, I quite love this whole massive, like aspirational or inspirational angle of like, you can do anything. Anything is possible. Um, And, and so then I went back to photography and I tried to figure out how to combine impact and photography.

And then after a year and a half, so 18 months of like unpaid work, I finally got my first paid gig, uh, with Nike to do something, to highlight their social entrepreneurs. We hung social entrepreneurs on the edge of a rooftop. Um, I did an underwater projects, uh, that was self-funded, uh, where we tied a model underwater with sharks, swimming around for shark conservation.

I, you know, those started doing really good until I started seeing the trend of like the lowering of value of digital photography. I mean, you couldn’t quite make things go viral anymore. And if you did, they didn’t last as long because there was so much content saturation out there. And I just started seeing this trend that no matter how great your photography projects became, they just wouldn’t, they, they, they would just lose value over time.

And so I started looking at other markets and being like, Oh, How might my skills transpose to other markets on the intersection of art impact, you know, fantasy, how does it all play in together? And that’s when I started playing around with installations. So experiential was growing. It all seemed like a great idea.

And then now coronavirus I’m like, Oh, okay, good.

Brett Stanley: [00:35:06] If any, it’s going to derail you, it’s going to be a pandemic.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:35:09] Yeah. Um, that was a little unpredictable, um, which is fine, which is fine because I, in, in many ways, I, like you said, I thrive on chaos, but then in between, in between every time I figure things out is just a whole lot of like, meandering about trying to figure out like where my place in the world is and how it all fits together.

Brett Stanley: [00:35:26] Yeah. I think people have this kind of idea of, of someone like you who’s, you know, seems quite decisive and has these brilliant ideas that it’s, you know, like it’s a, it’s a snap of a finger and that there’s not months of. You know, kind of self loving and, and, and deliberation and like, what the hell am I doing?

Sort of stuff to get to that light bulb moment.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:35:46] I think the biggest struggle is that over time it’s become less about just creating something and more about creating something. That’s actually going to be useful to the world.

Brett Stanley: [00:35:52] Yeah.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:35:53] when you dive into the impact space, it is really, it’s a lot more difficult than what you want to do. It’s about what do you want to achieve with what you’re going to do?

And in order to know what you’re trying to achieve, you need to really well understand the problem. You need to have the stakeholders, they need to want you on board. You like, you all need to be on the same page and then we can start talking about production and dollars and everything else. And so what you essentially do when you try to get into the impact space is you add a whole lot of barriers to creation.

Um, and that, that those barriers take place at every single level. So as a tangible example, just because you. Want to create a project. So, um, what’s a good example. So when I was trying to do my shark conservation project and I had the opportunity to go to Fiji and I knew there were sharks there, you know, I didn’t have time to think about what impact I wanted to have.

I only had the time to think about how am I going to make this happen?

Brett Stanley: [00:36:50] And was this a personal project or was this one that was organized or all kind of in collaboration with someone else?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:36:56] This was a personal project. So basically I was going to Fiji to teach a photography workshop. And I figured that while I was there, I might as well do something. Cool. So I extended my trip for a couple of days. And my whole time I was there teaching, I was actually also in parallel hunting, like, alright, I need to find like a travel agency or someone who can provide me with expertise and diving and lodging and something like that, so that I can do the shark bridge.

Um, and, and somehow miraculously, like a day before the end of the workshop, I managed to find this, uh, uh, ecotourism company that was. Willing and ready to host us with a scientist on like that they were hosting, who happened to he’s studying sharks. And, and so like all the pieces fell into place. You know, we pulled this shoot together.

Um, the model flew herself in from Australia. I flew in a videographer who, you know, worked for free and brought his like underwater red camera, crazy production. Uh, Steve Hathaway who had done, um, a bunch of BBC productions in the past. And, um, and we put together this project and then I, and I just had this project and I didn’t know what to do with it.

So I had this amazing series of photographs and there was nothing for me to do with that, because if I had just launched it and just said, like, Hey guys, we need to care about sharks because they’re dying. Um, it wouldn’t have accomplished anything. And so I just kind of sat with that project for the longest time.

And I started shopping it around to different nonprofits and being like, Hey, I did this project. Is there any way you can use this. Um, and, and so that was sort of like the opposite direction, but it was a really frustrating process because, um, they also didn’t really, they just saw it as a series of images for the most part.

Um, and so it took, it took a long time for me to shop around until I found someone and I found a guy who was in the process of campaigning, uh, and was ready to deliver a petition. To a minister of tourism in order to create truck sanctuaries. And I was like, Oh, why don’t I help promote your petition through my project?

And so we launched this, this campaign, it ended up hitting the front page of Reddit three times. It generated over 85,000 petition signatures. And then he now had like a document that he could go and deliver to a person who had the potential to like change some policy. Um, but then I don’t, I mean, I could go on forever, but, but then you start diving a little bit deeper and then there’s a lot of politics involved because change doesn’t happen in one snap.

Like you can actually say I did X big, massive change. It’s actually, we’re always standing on the shoulders of giants. So there are a lot of people that have been fighting for really long to make certain things happen. And just because you’re the tipping point doesn’t mean that you claim the credit for it all.

Brett Stanley: [00:39:26] Yeah, for sure.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:39:27] So

Brett Stanley: [00:39:28] And I think a lot of people will go into that space thinking that they can make a difference straight away by making these images or these, these great kind of creations. But as

your kind of experienced shows, it takes a bit, yeah.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:39:40] Well, you want to write you and you want to aspire for that, but yeah. But once again, like to do it properly, you really need to be in the fight. You need to know the right people. You need to know where you fit in. You need to know how it all comes together. Um, otherwise it’s a lot of wasted time, energy resources for not very much.

And so I think that’s where I get really, really bogged down. Um, yeah. So.

Brett Stanley: [00:40:01] So, how do you feel about those kinds of projects now? Was that your kind of first experience of working with like a non profit, like a NGO kind of thing, or.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:40:09] Uh, no, I’ve worked with different NGOs in the past. I think that was the first time that I had done it in, in that direction. Um, over time, the more things I’ve done that have gotten more attention, the less, I feel like attention is that important. So like, Sure. I can say I’ve raised, I’ve created content that has over a hundred million views for XYZ thing.

What have those hundred million views accomplished? And that’s like, that’s the big question, because when you’re in impact, it’s not about what you do. It’s about what you’ve changed, right? What has the work you’ve created accomplished? And if you’re not taking responsibility for the change, then you’re never going to be able to measure it.

And the best hope for is just like I’ve created something really great. Um, and so lately I’ve been, I’ve been wondering like, how can I create my projects to be more hyper-local? How can I say that as a result of this project, I’ve changed this community, this school, this neighborhood, this town, this, this piece of policy or this legislation, right?

Because then it becomes a lot more tangible. On like where, where you’ve kind of stepped in and then that becomes a model for others to emulate along the way.

But then when you start playing with hyperlocal, you have all these other problems is you don’t want to be like the savior swooping in from the outside to like solve something.

So you need to find the right stories locally. You need to find the right people to empower, and it’s often less about what you want to do and how you can support. The local efforts that are already there, but, and once again, these are all nuances.

Brett Stanley: [00:41:38] Yeah. And do you feel like what you’re doing now is more like letting them use your skills to, to do something for their community, as opposed to you coming in and doing something that is sort of centric around you?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:41:51] I think what I’m trying to do now, the best way to describe it as I’m trying to be more of a guide and less of the hero, like I’m trying to be more of the OB one and less of the Luke Skywalker.

Brett Stanley: [00:42:01] Right.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:42:01] Yeah, because ultimately you want to leave the Luke Skywalker spot to the next generation too. You want to find ways to like cleverly support, the most compelling story there.

And the most compelling story is often the David versus Goliath story. And so if you come in and provide the tools and the expertise and the strategy, and maybe some of the visuals. Um, you can really, I think amplify the message of that person. But once again, that all boils down to relationships and the different partnerships.

And so if you get along, if you don’t get along all of the things that can go wrong. So it’s, it’s just like a really process and it’s very slow. It’s very tedious, but then when it, when it works, it just feels really great. And it, you know, you know, the IRR glass thinking about the gap. Mmm.

Brett Stanley: [00:42:49] No, not overly.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:42:50] I it’s it’s, it’s this amazing thing for designers and creatives, but it talks about how like you have, when you get out of school or something, you, you might have great taste, but you have like this inability to execute what you see in your mind.

And so there’s this gap and you spend like the majority of your career trying to close the gap between what you know, to be really great and what you can actually do. And so, and, and what differentiates someone? Who’s a good artist from someone who’s maybe less good is like how great their taste is in something.

Right. Because you can’t get better at something. If you think it’s already great, you can only get better if you think it can be improved. And so I think for me, it’s, it’s this continuous gap. Like every time I think I figure something out. The gap stays the same and it just kind of shuffles a little further.

So I might get a little bit better, but this gap just continuously moves with me and theirs and it never, I never quite seem to be able to close the gap between what I’d really love to be doing and where I currently am.

Brett Stanley: [00:43:48] Do you think that anyone ever does close that gap?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:43:50] I think it probably fluctuates a little bit between people. I think, I think. You, it all depends. Right? So you can close the gap when the world under which you’d live, stays consistent. So to become an expert at something, the environment needs to stay the same. So the reason you can become an expert photographer is because the rules of physics never change.

The cameras might improve marginally, but then ultimately the rules of physics generally stay the same. So once you’ve mastered. Composition, ISO shutter speed.  so on and so forth. You can become an expert photographer, but I think when what you want to master rely on something a lot more squishy. Yeah. So for example, even if we just take it one step further and say, let’s say you want to be an expert marketer to become an expert marketer, you need to be an expert at all the platforms that you’re marketing on, but if the platforms are constantly changing, How can you ever become an expert at it?

You can only have a series of best practices and past experiences and to try to stay as updated as you possibly can. So you can be at the forefront of, but you can never mass truly master it because it’s all changing. Just when you think figured it all out, it’s going to change. And so there are certain industries and there are certain fields and there’s certain approaches that make it particularly hard to become.

Really great at something. And I think particularly between impact and marketing and storytelling, which are like three very squishy notions, that gap is really, really wide

Brett Stanley: [00:45:21] Yeah. And I think it’s that sort of thing where you can probably close the gap by becoming better at closing the gap. Like it’s almost a skill in itself.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:45:29] probably. Yeah. I think maybe the best way to close the gap faster. Is too work with more people who are experts at different verticals. Right? So then if, instead of trying to be an expert at three things simultaneously, you can just be an expert at one and become really good at it, but then work with the other two to like, as a team improve quicker.

Um, and it’s something that I haven’t done well over my career is build a team because I’m so transient and I keep changing my mind about different things. Um, I have a very. Uh, fluid, uh, I think business model. And so one of the things, one of the analogies that I like to kind of use is it’s like, as a storyteller, you you’re really great at like the peak moments, right?

Like you’re really good at showing off. So let’s say you’re on a trampoline. Um, if you’re a good storyteller, you can jump really high. I mean, the floor level, the floor stays the same. But like, you’re like, you’re, you’re you’re you have one big burst of energy and you’re like super flashy and then you’re back down.

And so you might be able to like jump higher and higher and higher as you get to become a better marketer. But you’re like physical cap. Ultimately it never increases because the height of the trampoline is still at the same place. And so what might make more sense? So people who are less good at marketing who are just focused a lot on the foundational backend work or just building stairs.

So it’s not as sexy. There’s no like big flashy campaigns. It never looks really great, but like, they’re just building up all these different like blocks and they’re just slowly climbing the stairs. And then at some point you look back and they have like 50 employees now and they’re like doing this thing.

Okay. The whole structure can collapse. Sometimes there’s like Santa earthquake or whatever, but like, But ultimately, like what I’ve done is just, I’ve been really great at telling stories. And so I’ve been constantly pushing the bar higher, the higher I’ve jumped, but I’ve never managed to like raise the level of the floor.

And so that is something that I considered to, like, I don’t know if it’s a weakness. Um, it’s enabled me to do a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had taken the more strategic approach, but it’s something that I’m looking at and I’m like, how might I find ways, two, um, to move my floor up.

Brett Stanley: [00:47:34] Right. And how would you do that? what are those techniques to, to bring the floor up?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:47:39] Well, like I said, I think, I think maybe it’s just about joining forces with different people, right? If you’re you, then, then that floor goes higher. Because if I could take, what I do with is like this power of bringing people together and executing big major projects together, and I could team up with Mmm.

Somebody who would be really great at the business side of it, or maybe really great on the campaigning side of it. You know, then suddenly that floor could like rise up. Now, the question is, how do you keep that sustainable so that you can continue working together and not just make it a one time thing?

Brett Stanley: [00:48:10] Yeah. I think there’s, there is a inherent problem in a lot of us, not just photographers, but people who tend to work, you know, solo that we tend to try and take everything on ourselves and try. And as you say, we’re trying to do that jump as high as we can, but it’s so exhausting,

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:48:27] Yup.

Brett Stanley: [00:48:27] we kind of forget that there are other people out there who will want to get interested and want to get involved in what we’re doing, who can lift us all up, you know, it’s, it’s that.

The high tide rises all boats. It’s that being able to let yourself, let other people be involved in it that I think is quite hard for a lot of people.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:48:46] Well, I think it’s it’s sometimes it’s not just, it’s not like necessarily control, right? Like you also need to have a very clear vision of what you’re trying to do.

Brett Stanley: [00:48:54] Yeah. I mean, even if it’s not control it’s, it’s a, maybe it’s a self confidence of, Oh, I don’t know if I can explain to these people what I want, you know, maybe mean why would they even listen to me?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:49:04] I feel, I feel like the biggest. Thing the, the easiest way to get in is this is coming up with a business model, a way to hire people, right? If you’re not able to provide people with work, um, inspiration will only last for so long and the novelty of being involved in something fades too.

So it’s coming up with like, how do you make this sustainable for everyone involved in the project?

Brett Stanley: [00:49:27] And do you have, do you think you’ve found answers for that question?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:49:30] No, no, it is. It is the thing. The thing that I’ve been holding space for, I mean, I was, I was in a mode right now where I divided my business model into three segments. I was doing consulting. So helping people, design campaigns, different companies who were interested in creating something compelling, but didn’t quite know how or wanted additional external input.

And then there was, there was the speaking engagements that I was doing. And then there were the, um, the actual big projects. But along the way, what I was starting to do was two, make sure that any time I wanted to work with someone that I’d always like pad the budget so that I could actually hire out other people.

Um, one of the mistakes I think I made in my career for too long is that, you know, I’m, I’ve been really great at finding volunteers to come and help out on things. Mmm, but I never found a way to like, get anyone paid. And so all like the best volunteers can still only work for so long because there’s no career in it.

And so I’ve been trying to design those like financial pipelines to just ensure that, you know, if I want it to work with someone, I could just pay them a little bit of money and then they would come work with me. Great win, win for everybody. Um, and if me who theoretically is on the top of the food chain, isn’t creating the business streams.

So that. I can pay others, then I’m just perpetuating the system of like expecting free work down the line. Mmm. So yeah, that’s something that I’ve been working on myself.

Brett Stanley: [00:50:51] Who are you looking towards to be inspired by other people that you look at, they kind of keep pushing you to kind of push your boundaries.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:50:58] You know, I find it really difficult to follow. Role models in that I think people are just complicated and they do all sorts of things. I have periodic momentary crushes on people, and then I just move on. Right. I think that’s kind of why this, the podcast format is sort of interesting. It allows you to like dive really deep into someone’s life and then be fascinated by everything that I do.

And then just like, okay, thanks. And then you just go on to the next person and you’re like, all right, tell me, tell me what’s going to happen in your life. And so I think I do a lot more of the. Dive in dive out as opposed to the it’s just really follow someone all the time. And I think it’s really hard for me to say, like who I wish I was.

I don’t think I would make a better me than myself. So I just try to be the best version of me,

I think.

Yeah. I think I could always do more. I can always try to be better, but there’s no one like. I feel like is my person where I can be like, Oh wow. They’re who I wish I was. Or I wish I could do something like that.

It’s more

Brett Stanley: [00:52:00] Right.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:52:00] that person is really interesting. What can I learn from them? Or how can I integrate elements of what they do into my life? And. And I can be extremely happy for someone to be way more successful than I am. Like, it’s not so much about that. I think my administration is very internally focused, so I’m frustrated by my own inability to figure out how I can be the most effective version of myself or like I am disappointed in the fact that I am struggling to find opportunity in a time where opportunity is everywhere.

You know what I mean? Like as nothing to do with, Oh, that person is doing that. I wish I could be that person.

Brett Stanley: [00:52:35] Yeah, but I think, I mean, for me, and maybe you bring up an interesting point is that when I, when someone says who you’re inspired by, I don’t think about the people that I want to be. I think about the people that I look at and go, well, they’d done that really well. I would like to be doing that thing like them.

So instead of it, for me being a, a whole person that inspires me, it’s usually just little parts of them.

So I can tend to take little skills and little, little tidbits from them, but they’re inspiring in the, in the way that they’ve actually caught my eye.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:53:08] Yeah, I think I just, I’m inspired by people who are just truly passionate about what they do. Like I like being surrounded by people who believe like who just hold like 110% belief in what they do and why they do it. And, and like, You know, it’s one of the reasons why I feel a little bit uncomfortable calling myself an environmentalist, because I know people who are way, way, way more environmentalist than I am like, you know, who will sacrifice entire like lifestyle, career, job relationships in order to do what they believe is right.

And to have such strong moral conviction. And that sort of clarity of purpose is something that I always admire. Um, occasionally even in those that I disagree with, right. Um,

just.

Yeah. Some sometimes it’s not about like, it’s, it’s having that clarity of a vision purpose. And then, and then being able to back it up by the hard work.

And so whether that happens in the entrepreneurial sector and the nonprofit sector in the environmental sector or in the artist sector, um, I think there is just general admiration for someone who, who is, who has a belief and is willing to do the work in order to stand up for it and to make what they.

At their core stand for

Brett Stanley: [00:54:17] Yeah. Even if you don’t particularly believe in it or agree with that, it’s their method and their energy and their conviction. That’s admirable.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:54:26] Yeah, absolutely. So I just, I just admire that. I, um, I don’t think it’s me because I’m always second guessing everything. No, I live in a place of, of gray and confusion. And I think that’s kind of how I end up with really weird, cool things sometimes is, is because of that confusion and that question, that constant stream of questioning. But I do wish I had a little bit more of the conviction side of things.

Brett Stanley: [00:54:48] I think we all wish we had something else. I think, you

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:54:50] Yeah.

Brett Stanley: [00:54:51]

um, Ben, it’s been amazing. This has been such a great chat. Um,

and it’s been nice to kind of just kind of push through, you know, you’ve touched on underwater in your career. But I think everything that you’ve learned in your career relates to any kind of, um, any kind of creative outlet.

So that’s been really good.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:55:06] Well, I wish you the best of luck with your podcast. I think it’s great that you’re doing it.

Brett Stanley: [00:55:10] Yeah, thanks man. And a and you too with yours. Um, I’ll, I’ll post a link to your one in now in our show notes. What’s it called again?

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:55:17] It’s called impact everywhere.

Brett Stanley: [00:55:18] There you go.

Benjamin Von Wong: [00:55:19] Yeah.

All

Brett Stanley: [00:55:20] Thanks Ben. I’ll chat to you soon,

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