Reversal of Fortune with John Robbins

Program 175 • 29 mins


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As a bright young man, John Robbins was the heir apparent to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire. But in his early twenties, he and his wife Deo struck out on their own, turning away from the family wealth and choosing instead a subsistence lifestyle of deliberately simple living that included growing their own food. John eventually began writing books about his journey, his advocacy for the environment, and his commitment to a healthier and more sustainable food system. His books sold in the millions (including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated “Diet for a New America”), accruing a small fortune, this one earned on his own. But in 2008, he suddenly learned that he had lost almost everything to the scam artist Bernard Madoff. It set off an unexpected family crisis, which nearly cost the Robbins their home and the secure future they tried to build for their special-needs grandchildren. This led to a fresh appraisal—discussed in this program—of what true wealth really means, and how in hard times it is still possible to achieve “an overflowing life, a generous life, and a joyful life.”

We have a sickness in our society. If you say that somebody is a “success,” isn’t it that usually what you mean is that they’ve made a lot of money, or have a lot of money?… Whereas I would define a successful human being—if you think twice about it and question that assumption, you know, wouldn’t that actually be somebody who brings out the best in other people? Someone who gives—adds beauty to the lives of others, in some way?”

—John Robbins, author of “The New Good Life”


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