The Bottom Line is Love

Someone please explain this paradox: We do what we do out of passion, but when we try to recruit others to our cause we resort to frail logic.

I got invited to see Sylvia Earle receive a very 19th Centuryesque tribute at the Explorer’s Club in New York last week. It was a remarkable experience filled with ocean glitterati like David Doubilet, the President of Palau, and others. The most remarkable part was Sylvia Earle herself, who reached the top of her game as an ocean advocate half a century ago – and then kept on rising. If you haven’t seen the documentary about her life on Netflix, you’re missing out on an incredible treat.

But here’s the thing. She’s a scientist and a powerful intellect, but it’s stupendously obvious that she does what she does out of love. You can see it in her eyes. The ocean is the true love of her life.  And her love is infectious.

I’ve seen that dreamy thousand-yard stare before – when Jane Goodall talks about chimps, when David Breashears describes a sunset on Mt. Everest, and when my many diving pals have had a close encounter with a hammerhead shark, a rare nudibranch or spent a whole dive cavorting with a curious hawksbill turtle.

In the cause business it’s love that impels us do what we do. Love of nature, love of humanity, love of justice. Simon Sinek kind of nailed it with his “Start with Why” TED talk.

So it’s a constant source of frustration and mystery that when we reach out for support from others – to donate, to act, to evangelize – our first instinct is to go for the data and the bullet points. Yes, humans need coral reefs to survive as a species, but I would wager that the vast majority of ocean activists didn’t choose their calling because reason and logic dictated it. Their calling chose them. And me.

Most scientists cringe when we tell them fundraising is fundamentally about emotion. But folks, ask yourselves why you do what you do – and then look in the mirror.

There’s your answer.