He is an internationally recognized bestselling author and is known for his books "Das Café am Rande der Welt", "Die Safari des Lebens" or "The Big 5 for Life". In the interview I talked to John Strelecky about the big questions of life and our deepest fears and uncertainties. The search for the meaning of life is connected with the awareness that our life is not finite. John Strelecky has been dealing with these issues since his childhood. The interview shows the author very authentic and personal.
Dear John. How do you live your life knowing that one day it’s coming to an end?
Having the awareness that our physical life is not something which goes on forever is very motivating. It’s part of what gives us the courage to try new things when we feel afraid. It’s what helps us put time into a more useful perspective, so that we use ours in wise ways. It also helps us be grateful. Each minute we have is a gift. Knowing that in-spires us to appreciate the gift, instead of taking it for granted, and to celebrate it by us-ing our precious minutes in valuable and special ways.
Is the thought that life isn’t infinite always present to you or do you keep it present to yourself?
The broader our field of vision, the more apparent it is that physical life is not infinite. Each season we see flowers bloom and die. Leaves will bud, blossom forth, change col-or and then fall each year. With our own lives, it’s easy to look at pictures from ten years earlier and see all the ways we’ve gotten older. So the clues are always there for us to see. I think over time when we’ve seen enough of the clues, it becomes part of our on-going awareness and is something we carry with us all the time. I’m not sure why, but for me personally, the timeline of life is something which I’m very conscious of on a daily basis, and have been since I was very young.
Despite all the self-reflection and all your knowledge: Do you also have fears? And how do you deal with this?
It’s not often, but there are still times when I feel fear. In my youth it was very dominant in me. So much so that it was paralyzing at times and would restrict my actions and thoughts. At this point though, I’m aware of the feeling of the fear. So when I feel it, I go deep into the feeling to understand where it’s coming from, whether it has any truth to it, or whether it’s simply linked to a false belief. Then, when I’m deep in the feeling of the fear, I listen to my intuition about what to do. Sometimes it says, “This course of action you’re considering is a bad idea, don’t do it.” Other times I realize the fear is irrational, and if I want a different reality, I can create it. So I’m much more an active observer to the experience now, than a scared receiver of the energy, like in my youth.
Currently we're living in times our generation has never experienced before and wasn't prepared for. Many people feel powerless, full of fear and a lack of courage to face life. Stronger than ever. How you're dealing with this evolution in our society?
Each generation is faced with different challenges. They all come with opportunities. Hundreds of years ago, boredom would be the catalyst for action. A lack of information/ distractions to immerse ourselves in would inspire introspective thoughts and insights. Today, overstimulation provides an opportunity to master self-discipline. An overflow of content helps us learn selectivity and focus. In this current crisis we have unprecedented opportunities to learn and grow. Because most people aren’t commuting and our normal activities aren’t always available, people tend to have more free time each day. Thanks to technology, there are practically unlim-ited resources to learn from. We either seize these opportunities and grow tremendous-ly during these times, or we let our minds engage in a constant circling pattern of fear. The choice is ours. When we look two years into the future, which of those choices will have enabled us to be living the life we most want to live? That can be a useful catalyst for going beyond our fear and taking inspired action.
Most of our readers actually asked themselves when dealing with death: What happens afterwards? Even if you probably don't have the one answer: Do you have an idea or imagination?
It seems to me there are two possibilities. Either this experience is all there is, then when we die that’s it. Or alternatively, we exist in two aspects. Our spirit is the presence that is aware of our own thinking. Observing, reflecting, and growing during the course of our life. And our physical form is the vehicle we use to experience life. For me, the fact that I can observe my own mind thinking. I can be aware of my body as it reacts to things like love, fear, and excitement, makes me think the spirit transcends the physical.
Now what happens to the spirit when the physical body dies is a big unknown. Do we enter life again in a different form? Is it possible that our spirit is actually living multiple lives simultaneously across different dimensions of time? I can’t say I know that for sure. I do know the basis for that answer seems to lie in the question, “Why do we exist at all?” In my book, Das Café am Rande der Welt, the ques-tion “Why am I here?” is very prominent. That relates to each of us identifying our own purpose. Equally fascinating to me is the question- “Is there a purpose to the entire hu-man experience?” Also, “Is there a purpose to the universe?” Reflecting on those questions can bring up some interesting insights into the reason we experience life and what happens after.
Although we're all aware that our life is only limited. Why do we still waste our time in irrelevant things instead of concentrating on things they really matters?
For starters, one person’s definition of wasting time might be very different from anoth-er’s. I like to play beach volleyball each week. Someone else might think that’s irrelevant. Another person might like to paint pictures of flowers. That could seem irrelevant to someone else. So part of life is identifying for ourselves what kinds of things we most want to do, see, and experience with the limited time we have. I call these things our Big Five for Life. Then allowing ourselves to disconnect from other people’s perception of whether these are relevant or not, and to just get out there and do, see, and experience them. Then it’s about starting to bring our Big Five for Life into existence. Once we do that, we realize how irrelevant other things are. It makes it easier to not get distracted. Without that awareness or initial steps though, we don’t know what we’re missing. So it’s easy to get drawn into activities and behaviors which produce a short term dopamine fix, but provide little long term value.
Your books are all concentrated on the search for the meaning of life. What's the story behind?
I guess I’ve always been intrigued by the question of why do we exist. Both as individu-als, and also why does any of this exist. I mean we think all the other planets in our solar system are barren. And that countless other planets across our galaxy are barren. So why do we all get to have this amazing experience of life here? It’s something I find fascinating and think about often, so I guess that’s part of why it’s a consistent message in my books. I’m also pretty practical at times. So if we have this gift of life, which is approximately 28,900 days, more or less, then what’s the way to maximize and fully appreciate the gift? I can only answer that if I understand the reason I have the gift, or in other words, under-stand the purpose and meaning of my life.
Have you experienced all the stories in your books by yourself or is it all fictional?
My books are all a blend of my actual experiences and things which come to me during the writing process. Sometimes I will enhance some aspect to help create a particular emotion or feeling. Other times it’s pretty much exactly as it happened in my life.
Where do you get all the inspiration and ideas for these stories from?
It usually starts with a core moment where the idea just comes to me and I know it’s something I want to write. Safari des Lebens was like that. The ending came to me and then I wrote the whole book in ten days. Once I commit to a book project, I start getting lots of ideas. Things will flash into my mind when I first wake up, or at random moments during the day. I note all those thoughts down and then the day I begin the writing process, I go back through and read them all. Often I’ll experience things and know it would be a great part of the story. For example, the concept of Museum Day, which I talk about in the Big Five for Life book, is some-thing which came to me when I visited a tiny little museum in a small town pretty close to where I live. Honestly, it often feels like once I commit to an idea for a book, the universe starts down-loading ideas and experiences into my life which feed the story.
What drives you to share these books with the world?
When I was younger and really struggling to figure out the meaning of life, it felt pretty lonely. It didn’t feel like anyone else was dealing with what I was dealing with. One of the most gratifying things for me is when I meet fans and they say that in reading my books they realize they aren’t alone. I also realize the impact that certain concepts or ideas have had on my life once I learned them. So I enjoy sharing these things with others. For me, stories are a better way for me to learn, comprehend, and remember things. That’s why my books are very often in the form of stories.
In the book "The Big 5 for Life" you talk about the 5 biggest goals in life. What does it mean?
The very short version, is that our Big Five for Life are the five things we most want to do, see, or experience during our time on this amazing planet. The things so important to us that if we were to do, see, or experience them, then at the end of our life, in the last few moments of our existence, we could look back over our time and think, “No matter what else I did or didn’t get to, I got to my Big Five for Life, and therefore my life is a success by my own definition of success. I have lived the life I wanted to live.” The Big Five for Life can be short term in nature. For example, “Dive the Great Barrier Reef.” The can be longer term in nature. For example, “Have a loving relationship with my spouse or children.” When we know our Big Five for Life, it gives us the opportunity to align our resources such as time, energy, intellectual, and financial, towards those specific things. Which gives us the best shot at living the life we most want to live. It’s also THE critical factor in whether or not others can help us. When we’re clear on where we want to go in Iife, it enables others to see and share ways they might assist us.
What are your Big 5 for life?
Thank you for asking. That’s one of the greatest acts of kindness when someone is genuinely interested in another person’s Big Five for Life. Here are mine:
#1. Have a loving relationship with those who matter to me.
#2. Travel the world.
#3. Master mind over matter.
#4. Inspire as many people as possible through the books I write and the other things I spend my time on.
#5. Write a song that breaks the top ten of the pop charts.
Often you talk about "Museum Day" in your books. What is a Museum Day and why should every day be a Museum Day?
The idea behind Museum Day is that imagine if every moment of our life was recorded. Everything we did, everything we said, all the ways in which we spent our time. And to- wards the end of our life a museum was built to honor us. Only the museum would show our life exactly how we lived it. If eighty percent of our time was spent at a job we didn’t like, or on activities that didn’t bring us joy, then eighty percent of our museum would be dedicated towards showing us doing those things. There would be videos, kiosks and displays, all showing us un-happily spending our time. If we loved hanging out with family, or friends, or pursuing our hobbies, but for whatev-er reason we only spent two percent of our time on those loves, then no matter how much we wished it to be different, only two percent of our museum would be dedicated towards that. Maybe just a few pictures near the exit door. Imagine what it would be like to walk our museum. What would we see? How would we feel? Now imagine if heaven, or the afterlife, or however we believe this whole experience works, actually consists of us being the tour guide for our own museum- for all of eterni-ty. Having this perspective of the moments of our life being the content for a museum we’ll be hanging out in for all of eternity, and also showing to others, is a great tool for mak-ing decisions in alignment with our heart. Somehow that context makes it so much easi-er to evaluate our options and then choose the life we really want to live.
Did you have a museum day today? If so, what would be your picture that you would hang in the museum today?
I did. Today I wrote this article, which I hope in some way inspires whoever reads it. That’s directly linked to #4 on my Big Five for Life list. Also, I wrote content for the fourth book in the cafe series. So today’s picture would show me smiling and typing.
How is John Strelecky in private life? How do you live? What are your biggest passions and hobbies?
I love spending time with the people who mean the most to me. I also love being out-doors. I’m an adventurer at heart, so doing the same thing too many days in a row doesn’t feel right. I prefer to find a new river to kayak, or forest to go explore, rather than visiting the same places again and again. In most respects, I’m pretty low key. A shorts and t-shirt kind of guy. It also doesn’t take a lot to wow me. The other day I was kayaking and saw two baby alli-gators swimming together. I probably spent twenty minutes watching them. That alone made it a great day.
What is the biggest topic you think about at the moment?
It really matters to me that people have the chance to live the life they want to live. So whether that’s thinking about new ways my team or I can help people discover and live their Big Five for Life, or other ways we can help people overcome obstacles, that’s where I apply most of my energy. I think the world would be pretty spectacular if people knew with certainty the direction they wanted to go in life, understood the steps to make it happen, and felt empowered to make it real. That could solve a lot of the struggles humanity faces.
Which activity in your life lets you be in the here and now best?
Being on or in the water. It could be free diving, kayaking, or on a boat out on the ocean. There’s something about interacting with nature in those ways which is both humbling and inspiring. It makes all my problems, contributions, efforts and thoughts seem very small. Yet at the same time inspires me deeply to enjoy life and fulfill my purpose.
Are there any plans to film one of your books?
I can’t talk a lot about that yet. But yes, it’s a project I expect to be able to share many more details on in the near future.
What's your latest project?
I’m currently writing the fourth book in the Das Café am Rande der Welt series. In the third book, Auszeit im Café am Rande der Welt, I introduced the character of a young girl named Hannah. Book four is all about her story.
John in 3 words:
Adventurer Father Ponderer
This came to me in a flash one day and I so wish I would have known it when I was younger, because the truth of it is so empowering. “Every expert started of knowing nothing about what they became an expert in.”
Dear John. Thank you so much for this inspiring interview.
Two years ago I traveled with my backpack along the Swedish west coast. John Strelecky's books had been with me for a while by then. Not surprisingly, the only book I carried by my side on that trip was one of his books. To my surprise, I passed a bar called "Johns Place" on my way. I sat down at the bar, drank a Bailey's coffee and read in "The Big 5 for Life." It was not the first time I had such moments and encounters in my life that reminded me of this author and his books. So one day I visioned I would interview John Strelecky for my own future magazine, which didn't even exist until then. My dream came true and I couldn't have chosen a more inspiring topic for this interview. My conclusion from this story: Life shows us the way and sends us signs, we just have to recognize them and trust the path.
John Strelecky is the author of the #1 Bestselling Das Café am Rande der Welt and Big Five for Life series of books. To learn more about his works and about discovering your purpose, please visit or follow him on social media @johnstrelecky.
Katharina ist Gründerin des Magazins. Sie hat Digital-Design und Interactive Marketing in Berlin und Köln studiert. Seit fast 13 Jahren arbeitet sie als selbständige Fotografin und Marketing Managerin für grosse und kleine internationale Unternehmen. Aufgrund ihrer Passion für Gesundheitsthemen hat sie vor mehreren Jahren zusätzlich eine Ausbildung zur Yogalehrerin absolviert. Das Mindfulness Magazine rundet ihre Passion für diese Themen ab. “Unsere immer komplexer und schneller werdende Welt, stellt sich als Herausforderung für Mensch und Umwelt dar. Mit dem Magazin möchte ich, dass wir inspirieren und einen Beitrag leisten für ein einfacheres Leben.”