Interview with the Co-founders of The Living Project

The Living Project provides the opportunity to explore our human journey with the wild through Wild24 outdoor experiences, podcast interviews, and blog posts. Josh Bulpin is a qualified Personal Coach, Mountain Leader, Counsellor and Mental Health First Aider. Before working in adventure and coaching he spent time in property in central London as well as in education. Cormac Davey has a diploma in Life Coaching, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and he trained in India as a Kundalini Yoga Instructor. After graduating with a Masters degree in Urban Planning he lived and worked in Southern Africa, South America and Asia supporting humanitarian and development projects, which included a spell with the United Nations. For the last ten years he's been working with young people and adults outdoors, leading many successful expeditions in the UK and around the planet. Make yourself a giant brew and snuggle in for a great interview! Grab a notepad and pen to try out some of their questions at the end too.

First up is Josh!


Why did you decide to change your career?


I spent nearly six years working in property in Central London, however before that I’d been a youth worker and had worked at outdoor adventure camps. I always knew one day I would return to working with young people in some context, marrying my love for adventure and working with people in exciting environments. I got caught up in an unhealthy lifestyle of chasing commission and feeling my worth was directly linked to my financial success while in property - but eventually I re-found the courage to take small steps, not always up, often down and sideways to re-connect with myself, my values and how I wanted to live. Asking myself how I wanted to live eventually led me in a round-about way to a new career in the youth expedition industry. Two years ago I did a similar thing, only the triggers this time weren’t so empowering. It was a difficult time in life, I had tried for a year to continue as I was, living between AirBnBs in the week to fulfil my senior manager role at an expedition company, and heading back to a converted Church in Snowdonia at the weekend, but the impact of that year and the previous one was huge, I was quite mentally unwell, was having awful thoughts, and knew I needed to change my energy in order to begin to recover. So, I left my role, stopped the year of therapy I had been engaged with, sold my house and headed to Australia for 3 months living in a van and learning to surf. I say learning to surf, it was really beginning to learn to be me again, accepting and processing the impact of the previous two years, and considering how and who I wanted to be moving forwards. I have been lucky to have a few magical friends who have supported me along what has been a bumpy path.

How did you approach your main concerns about making a change?


I think I worry about making big decisions for a long time. But when I’ve solidified them in my gut I take action quickly, decisively and get on with it. My main concerns in my first major change ten years ago were about having no income for a time, whilst being a homeowner. So, I rented out my flat, which not only covered the mortgage but also gave me some income that enabled me to take time off, travel and complete some necessary qualifications such as my Mountain Leader award. I also worried what people would think. Why would you walk away from a great income? And a “great lifestyle”? This bit takes ongoing work with myself to understand what my values and beliefs are as they are, and not in comparison to others. We all have contexts, and while I challenge, I like taking responsibility for my own - even if that means I am often considered an outsider. I clearly thought the experience was healthy. I did it again two years ago. After a really difficult period of life I left my role as a senior manager within an expedition company, sold my house, and headed to Australia to live in a van and surf for three months. To switch off, learn something new and begin to heal. (As discussed above). On my return I bought an old dutch barge and a campervan and have been working on building a business built around shared values with my best mate ever since. This journey was shittier than the first. I had no issues with quitting a safe “job” and selling up, but after so much emotional impact I was really fragile. The first major change was shared with a partner. This one I did alone, which is hard. I would dip a toe into re-engaging with people and the world, but quickly draw it back in and hide away again. This journey has taken time as it’s involved re-building my own sense of self as well as creating a new business, which itself has taken a few different forms, involved trial and error, and continues to be a steep learning curve. I am content in life now, have a different perspective and attach my own meaning to what it’s all about. What has gone as you expected, and have there been any surprises?

If we talk about the most recent change, the one over the last couple of years, there has been little that has gone as expected. Firstly, I can actually surf. A revelation I thought impossible when beginning at age 36. In terms of career choices the journey of creation is full of surprises. Between Cormac and I we have decades of experience in our chosen passions. We’re good at what we do, we’re constantly open to learning (we’re both seekers) and yet actually on-boarding clients with our products has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’m not sure Covid has helped as we’re all about the Wild, but it has still been and continues to be surprisingly challenging to put ourselves, and get ourselves out there. I also think that for all of us Covid and the reactions around it have been a game changer. A difficult opportunity to re-focus on what’s important. This uncontrollable intervention actually gave us an opportunity to create a podcast, which has been a wild journey in and of itself and has really helped us refine our business approach, values and purpose. Has your change in career had a big impact on other areas of your life?


When Cormac and I met to flesh out our vision, values, purpose and product we were both committed to “life first”. Our strap line is Be True. Live Wild and I’m committed to working on practising what I preach. My learnings so far have created a commitment in me to build something around a healthy life for me. I live Wild, between a boat and a campervan and love the freedom the creation of a business around those values gives me to explore other places, other people, and myself. What are you discovering about yourself and about Cormac since you started working together?

About myself: I’m less traditionally ambitious than I was. The work I have done has given me a weird sense of calm and belief in our intention. I’m much happier to cast something into the ether and see what happens. I attach less importance to each element. This isn’t always the case, sometimes I revert to neuroses and over analysis, but then I sit on my boat, look at and listen to the river and remember. I’m less defined by traditional success criteria and more by my own. About Cormac: He’s a dreamer like me. His soul lies in facilitating experiences for others that form some kind of connection. Like me he’s also not too confident in putting ourselves out there, but I’ve discovered a steely determination within our project. A grit to keep getting up and going, to keep believing and trust that the work will pay off. It’s great sharing creation as when one person dips in confidence the other holds their hand and vice-versa. Which method do you think is best to share your philosophy Be True.Live Wild with people, and why?

I think our podcasts epitomise our philosophy. We share ordinarily inspired, every day epic stories of people’s truth and their relationship with the wild. We focus less on “doing” and more on “being”, the exploration of self and how the wild has been a part of that and I love it. Our Wild24 - A powerful coaching Journey with the Wild is also a clear manifestation of that philosophy. Wild24 enables Cormac and I to use our passion, experience and skill to facilitate people exploring themselves, their questions and working with the wild to draw it out of them. It also promotes a sense of guardianship for the Wild which we are passionate about. Where do you like to go to 1) clear your mind 2) be creatively inspired 3) spend time together 4) share your philosophy with others?

  1. I think the answer to where I like to go to clear my mind is “without”. It could be surfing, mountaineering, trail running which all create head space and often require mindful concentration mixed with moments of peace. But I can also clear my mind on on my boat practising breathing/yoga or gazing at my fire.

  2. Good question. I find this in books, and in conversation with other people. I also find it in the Wild. I love finding spots I think we could build into our products and wondering how we could could engage people with that place.

  3. Most of our shared time has involved Mountains. They provide an awesome opportunity to be awed, to be inspired to dream, and to remind ourselves of our capability. We rely on each other in the mountains and that strengthens our bond.

  4. Everywhere

What questions would you ask somebody who is thinking about a career change but doesn’t know where to begin?

  1. How do you want to feel in life? (Without using the words happy or successful)

  2. What foundations do you have in place that can support you when it gets wobbly?

  3. What are your, no YOUR, true success criteria?

Next up is Cormac!


Why did you decide to change your career?


I have changed careers 3 times in my life. What I do is constantly evolving. I think there is a common thread to changing my career, which is a fear of not changing, feeling a sense of inadequacy with what I am doing and genuinely responding to big questions that emerge within that ask me to consider my purpose.


On leaving school I got a job in my local town which was close to my friends & family. I was happy with that for 3-4 years. One day I remember looking around and realising i did not want to see myself in the same place in 10 years' time (FEAR). A friend of mine did Operation Raleigh, which prompted him to go to University (INSPIRED). I began thinking about what I was good at and liked (BIG QUESTIONS). I settled on Geography, but wanted something more vocational, so i applied to do an Urban Planning degree at University (I went to night school to obtain a Maths GCSE and an additional A Level) in order to make that a possibility.


Fast forward almost 20 years. I returned to the UK after many years, was going through a relationship separation and the depression that accompanied that led to both a fall in personal self esteem and a search for new meaning. The pivot point where I began to lift was prompted by a big question: What do you love? My answer at the time was, travel, adventure and development of people. From that realisation I was able to direct my energy in a clear direction, respond to opportunities and be open to receive support and guidance.


This led to a 5 year full time role with World Challenge.


Four years ago I decided to leave and go freelance. Simply put I wanted to do more of what i loved, expeditions. Now in my mid 50’s I think my change is driven less by lack of and more by a clearer idea of my purpose and gratitude for the gifts I have. The latest development - The Living Project - is the focused point and diamond of this process.


How did you approach your main concerns about making a change?


I don’t think I have ever had many concerns about change, once I have committed to a clear trajectory. Sure I might ask the obvious questions about money etc. The change always seemed so much more appealing than staying put in the safety of what I knew. I have been fortunate that I have always had a supportive family. I’ve never felt alone. I have sold houses, left jobs, taken loans, left countries to pursue new directions. As I say above -some changes have been forced and have been prompted by personal disaster. It's like a cosmic kick up the back side. As time has gone by I also have realised that what I think is total change, turns out to just be a connected journey in which all experiences and skills seem to be relevant and to have been leading to a point. I am a stong believer in destiny along the lines of Steve Jobs dots.


What has gone as you expected, and have there been any surprises?


Nothing ever goes as expected, yet for me change has always far exceeded expectations. Looking back this has been the surprise. This is maybe because I didn’t have great expectations, probably as when I started out i didn’t know what was possible. I just put one foot in front of the other, worked hard, asked for help and took opportunities when they presented. I am also a positive person and will draw the positive out no matter how challenging the situation. It is always a surprise to me that The Living Project exists. We never intended to do a podcast, yet it happened because of COVID-19 and Lockdown.


Has your change in career had a big impact on other areas of your life?


Yes. Change that stretches you opens up unimaginable opportunities and it reveals a richness to life. My first change led me from a small town life with family and friends to global travel and being involved in the fringes of global development policy / issues / change. My second change led me from a sense of powerlessness and dissatisfaction towards facilitating youth development through challenging expeditions in some incredible places. As I have realised a greater focus on my purpose I believe this has had a positive impact on my wellbeing. Being outdoors more, being in epic environments, working to help others realise some truth and develop themselves. Working towards a lifestyle rather than a job has brought huge wellbeing benefits.


What are you discovering about yourself and about Josh since you started working together?


Well right from the first time we met I knew Josh was a special person. As time went by I also invited him to work with me on a project I was working on. I recognised that he was different to me and challenging and had passion and skills that would compliment me. I knew more could be achieved together than ploughing a lone furrow. That proved true. Josh has also invited me to be involved in some of his projects, which demonstrated great trust, which is a key to what we are about.


So slowly we have also got to know each other socially. These shared experiences, Toubkal and Scotland have bonded us and eventually prompted us to launch The Living Project. While there is an age difference, we seem to be able to support each other both on a friendship level and as a business partnership. The Living Project came out of an honest session in which we said we would like to work together then envisioned what that could be.


Working with Josh now, I have discovered more about him. He has become wiser, more able to try new things, accept and let go and be kinder to himself. While always a cool guy and fun to hang out with currently he is more aware and consistently more in the moment and dare I say it happier. I hope I have helped him in this journey a little and the purpose of The Living Project is an important factor.


Like any relationship it is a mirror and an opportunity for true growth. Apart from learning some new technical skills around podcasting I have learnt to be braver as a business person and to more confidently shout out about us and The Living Project to others. Also I have had to become more comfortable with my voice and what I want to say. That I think is the greatest discovery - that I can and deserve that space.


Which method do you think is best to share your philosophy, Be True.Live Wild with people, and why?


It is important to share our own journey and truth as honestly as possible if we are to ask others to share their human journey. We are doing this slowly and mainly through the podcast by listening and asking questions. The podcast allows many to share stories demonstrating that all lives are epic and have value in the living. We also believe that we all have stories, which are important to tell, but that in the telling we may reveal some truth that allows us to change the story in a way that can set us free. The wild both in the sense of nature and place as well as in the sense of the four elements that make up all life provides a lens through which to explore this truth in an interesting, fun and engaging way. In Season 3 of The Living Project, we will share our own stories fully with our community / audience.


Where do you like to go to 1) clear your mind 2) be creatively inspired 3) spend time together 4) share your philosophy with others?

  1. Outside - walking or running and through yoga and meditation.

  2. I find that I am creatively inspired when I am calm and thoughts spark. Clearing my mind is the best approach to this. So being outside, running breathing and being in and among high energy people allow me to be creative.

  3. It’s generally outside - walking, running & working together doing what we have been talking about and creating.

  4. Outside - currently Dartmoor but will also be powerful locations embracing the four elements.

What questions would you ask somebody who is thinking about a career change but doesn’t know where to begin?

  • Why do you want to change?

  • When are you generally at your happiest?

  • What do you really love doing?

  • Can you visualise what your life would be like (use all the senses) having a new career?

  • What do you risk losing out on by making a change

  • What do you risk losing out on by not making a change

  • How would you make the change?

  • Who can you call on to help you?

  • If not you who?

  • If not here where?

  • If not now when?

You can follow The Living Project on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. They host a weekly podcast which you can find it on Apple, Spotify, and most other podcast platforms. Their website is www.thelivingproject.life where you can find out more about Wild 24, their philosophy, and much more!


Other links that were referenced during this interview include: Operation Raleigh, World Challenge, and Steve Jobs - Connecting The Dots.


If you have any questions or comments about this interview please email me: sarah@sarahventurer.com and if you'd like to see more interviews like this you can view and subscribe to my newsletter.

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