May 10, 2022
We’re back with another episode in our For the Love of Favorite Pastimes series, and this week, we’re talking about the great outdoors. And in case you think this topic is just for those of you who find their greatest joy loading up piles of gear to go hiking for 20 miles every weekend, or for all the rabid runners, cyclists, swimmers, campers, and the rest of you that make the other half of us real, real tired––there’s something for all of us who may like being outside, even those who aren’t necessarily the outdoorsy type. Maybe your jam is barbecuing outside with friends, or sitting on your porch swing à la Jen Hatmaker. At the end of the day ,we can all agree (and science proves) that spending time in nature makes a person happier. And that’s the message this week’s guest is taking to the masses. Ben Steele is the Chief Customer Officer at REI - the nation’s largest consumer co-op for the outdoor community. Ben didn’t grow up with an innate love for nature, even though it was a part of his family’s life in Idaho. It wasn’t until he found his own outdoor personality as an adult that he truly appreciated the benefits of spending time outside (and surprise– it doesn’t have to involve driving miles away from home or having oodles of gear).
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“There is science that says when folks have access to green spaces, have access to clean air, have access to time outside, you're healthier as an individual and at a societal level.” – Ben Steele
“The only part of your day you truly control is what time you get up. So I get up early to get my time outdoors every day on the weekdays. And there's definitely days I'd rather stay in bed, but if I put it off for the end of the day, there's always something that comes up.” – Ben Steele
“The outside is not an equally safe space for everybody. It's certainly true for women. It's certainly true for people of color. It's certainly true for even different identity groups. And so we've got to be honest about everything from racist naming of outdoor places, to a legacy of stolen land, to the reality that, depending on who I am, I may not feel that comfortable outside or around other people.” – Ben Steele
“Relatively early in COVID [REI] had built a beautiful new headquarters and we sold it. We made the
decision that we'd rather have these dollars working for our employees, working for our customers, working for our business. So we've been in a virtual environment with a couple of satellite offices for the last few years. And that was a big change for our headquarters. We're trying to recognize, ‘wow, my days at home are really efficient and really effective and productive. My days in the office are really connected.’ Both of those things matter.” - Ben Steele on achieving work life balance.
“I think for somebody who says
I'm not an outdoors person, I'm not outdoorsy. I think what I'd ask
is what they like to do outside? And it might be a barbecue in the
backyard with their family. They love to sit on the front porch and
watch the world go by. They love to watch a sunset or they love
birds. Whatever you like, find a way to pursue that.” – Ben
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