A Survivalist’s Guide to Life

Years ago, Yossi Ghinsberg defied death beyond all odds as a young Israeli traveling in the uncharted Amazon. There, in the midst of the jungle, he lost his three companions and was tested to the extreme over 20 harrowing days.
An explorer, survivor and storyteller, our keynote speaker for this year’s BakingTech conference will relive his ordeal in the jungle and provide members of the American Society of Baking with ways to change the outlook on their lives, no matter what challenges they face.
Don’t forget to see his appearance on March 3 in Chicago. For more information on the show, visit www.ASBE.org or call 1-866-920-9885.
American Society of Baking: Yossi, you had a dramatic life-changing experience in the Amazon. Does everyone need to go through such an event to get a better understanding of themselves?
Ghinsberg: Yes! I believe we all do, though dramatic is not necessarily always as exotic as my story. Life always brings to us the lessons we need to learn. Nobody is exempt, and nothing in life in that respect can be called random. It is said life can be understood looking back, but lived looking forward. Knowing that I never underestimate any event or encounter, even those that seem trivial. It is my belief that we are here to evolve as souls, and no soul is being neglected. Life is rich and intricate with many facets and layers. Underneath the surface, it is sizzling with connections and meaning that is not always apparent to the senses or to the analyzing power of the mind. Adversity is the greatest teacher. In retrospect, most of us see it as a blessing and would not have it any other way. Yet, we still try to avoid it if we can. This is natural.
ASB: Why did you return to the Amazon and work with forest dwellers for three years?
Ghinsberg: Returning home after my initial adventure, I wanted to lead a “normal life.” I felt I had my share of adventure and that it is time to settle. Indeed, I enrolled to the University of Tel Aviv and married my childhood sweetheart. I believe the adventure in the Amazon had bent me or rather changed the context for me.
To my initial dismay, I did not fit in my own society or even in my own home any more. The values I was brought up upon would hold water no more. The drives and ambitions that were cultivated by my culture seemed meaningless. I was suffering, disconnected and alienated — a foreigner in my country of birth, and I did not know why I had no answers, only questions. As this condition grew to be unbearable, I called on a therapist for help, but found the sessions futile. There was an existential scream emerging from my heart, and nothing could sooth but the road itself. So I left my home, and I left my family and my country and friends and job and my planned future, and I took to the roads of the world.
It was then that I have returned to the Amazon, like a thief to the scene of the crime. My encounter with the indigenous people of San Jose in the heart of the Madidi Valley ignited the dream and its romance. So I moved in with them and built Chalalan, an ecotourism resort that was constructed on the passion and the naiveté of the community and myself. Chalalan is an unprecedented case where a Washington bank financed an indigenous group directly without any NGO [non-governmental organization] to go between. It became a model to many other indigenous communities throughout the Amazon. The resort still thrives today, and is fully owned and operated by the villagers.
ASB: Why should I attend your keynote address?
Ghinsberg: My keynotes are storyteller sessions. During them, I try to get people to forget about their everyday business and draw them into the heart of the Amazon with me and my friends. The judgmental mind, which is always busy evaluating and examining, short in attention span, is put aside, and the child within opens its heart and, fully absorbed, they listen.
ASB: Let’s say I’m miserable with my job and am looking for a change in my life. How can your message help?
Ghinsberg: Life is sacred and miraculous; every day may be our last on these plains. Every day is an opportunity to live life fully. Every single breath is gold. If you don’t believe me, ask a dying man, and he will confirm it to you.
Life is easy, and it has been kind to you, and that is why you have time to complain. If life were really tough, you wouldn’t have time to be miserable. You would be strong, and all your faculties will be aligned to take right action. Life is like the waves of the ocean. It comes with its ups and down. It is futile to try and control these waves, but, rather, build a good boat with solid sails, and be ready to enjoy the ride.
ASB:What would be the top two or three messages about how to approach our lives and our jobs?
Ghinsberg: “Cast your bread upon the water for the bread is sacred. Yet remember not on the bread alone will a man live.” This is how I lead my life. First, I do whatever it takes to provide for my family. Then, I work to express myself in the world. I have learned that the gifts that I have are gifts indeed. They only mean something when I give them away. We are here to serve, and, sooner or later, we all awaken to that conclusion. I believe responsibility yields power. If you are responsible, you cannot be a victim, no matter what circumstances crop up your day. We are extremely powerful beings. That scares us more than anything. We are afraid to shine.
ASB: How can I get people around me to see change as an opportunity?
Ghinsberg: Business history is full of examples of stagnate organizations not grasping change and disappearing from the scene to oblivion. These days change is accelerated a hundred fold. Make the speed of change your advantage. Just like a gyroscope, the faster it spins, the more stable it becomes. If the gyroscope would try to slow down to cope with the change, it will wobble and collapse. SF&WB
Editor’s Note: The society has something special for this year’s opening Officers’ Reception. Join Captain Poulos (ASB chairman) and his castaways aboard the SS Columbia in Chicago for a “Three-Hour Tour” on March 2, right after the tabletops display. Complementary transportation will be provided to the Columbia Yacht Club from the Marriott hotel throughout the evening. Dress as your favorite Gilligan Island character. Visit www.ASBE.org for more information.