Hedge School
How to be Human Series
How to be Human with Dave Seljestad

How to be Human with Dave Seljestad


I came to know Dave Seljestad around 2005. During what felt at the time like the absolute worst years of my life. I was 150lbs overweight, depressed, and drunk A LOT. A functional asshole digesting everyone else’s grief and sinking under the weight of victimhood. Dave welcomed me into his arms as my Dad introduced us, “This is LA.” Dave immediately said, “LALA!” The childhood nickname I’d all but forgotten about. That kid was still buried somewhere deep inside me and looked up when he called my name.

I babysat his kids, three-year old Samsoni and one-year old Grace at the time. My not so maternal instincts didn’t kick in, but LALA sure showed up! There’s a thread line of trust so invisible but alive when someone trusts you with their kids. I may not have been maternal, but I was always 100% trustworthy.

“The relationship is part of the medicine.”

-Dave Seljestad

Dave always struck me, he’s a handsome part Tongan man, but it’s his personality that lit a spark of inspiration within me during those dark days. He was bright and optimistic even during the shit he was struggling with. He could cry and laugh all in the same breath. I became curious how someone could dance lightly through the challenges of life?

One of my favorite aspects of Dave is that he is tough as nails, won’t let any bullshit slide through the cracks AND is an empathetic, sensitive man who is not afraid to let the tears flow. It’s the most beautiful combination of aspects I’ve ever seen.

Dave and I became fast friends. I was drawn to his energy, his family, his kiddos, his dogs, and the way he lived is life. Years later, once I lost all the weight I was carrying I’m pretty sure the first time he saw me he bearhugged me and cried saying something to the sorts of, “I knew you could do it.”

I always felt safe with Dave. I am a deep feeler and learned that it was ok to be strong and sensitive. I started crying out of empathy and compassion, rather than for my own dramatic struggles.

After my Dad died, Dave was one of the first people I turned to asking for help. Up until this point I’d learned that independence, stubbornness and strength would be what would help me survive this world. But I just couldn’t hold it all anymore.

“What do you need?” he asked. I needed help to spread my father’s ashes as he’d asked on his death bed. “Anything Lala. You tell me where and when and I’ll be there.”

So we did. Dave, Samsoni and I spread my Father’s ashes together in his favorite fly-fishing spot on the Green River in Utah. Pretty sure that’s illegal, but we did it anyway.

After speaking with Dave about How to be Human, the word forgiveness stuck with me. He said something my Dad always said to me, but for some reason when Dave said it I was actually ready to hear it, “They’re all just doing the best they can. They’ll tell you one thing, or teach you one way, because they honestly think it’s the best way. You can’t fault them for that. And you certainly don’t have to listen.” And it’s true… As he spoke these words I saw cascading images of humans from my childhood, teens and twenties who tried to tell me things and how to live life as just honestly doing their best. A weight lifted. And it wasn’t my job to correct their wrongs anymore.

“You’re my family Lala.” Dave has said to me several times, and I have believed him, but I’m not sure it’s ever sunk in. After our call he said it again, “I’m not sure you realize, and this isn’t to be taken lightly, but you’re my family Lala.” I heard him again, opening my heart just a little more this time to feel the sense. Dave LIVES the mantra that family is thicker than blood.

Dave, What is the best integration of humanness? I asked him, “I simplify and prioritize lists in my mind. I think, and it’s hard for people to understand and sometimes they don’t get it, but I think it’s service.”

“It’s the ability to learn how to give without expecting something back. Being able to give and just the act of givingness you’re already getting something back.”

He continued, “If you and I have a friendship there’s no monetary means that is exchanged. You and I have a friendship, we both really need something out of it, Right? I’m giving to you freely because I love you and you’re smart and you make me feel good and we get the same back and forth from each other. You know and if you really start to pay attention to that, get into the habit of paying attention to that it’ll attract more of me and you in each other’s lives.”

“I think people overcomplicate things and it’s also human nature to survive and that’ the separation that exists whether it be a person to get a vote or get your issue across. Everyone wants to be a part of a group. And I do too! You know, but I want to pick my group and my group will not all be the same. It will be really diverse.”

“I’m trying to move through life with an open mind. I’m still learning as much as I can so I just try to listen and evolve and kind of understand that piece, like what can I do for people around me that deserve that help?”

“I feel like I behave like my mom and dad, so a lot of it is learned. And just kind of seeing what different behaviors do to people’s lives. Mostly subconsciously we’re all absorbing these things.”

“It’s not just service, it’s kindness too. They’re married, they’re connected. Why do I want to serve? Because I want to consciously be kind.”

-Dave Seljestad

“It’s not just service, it’s kindness too. They’re married, they’re connected. Why do I want to serve? Because I want to consciously be kind.”

“I don’t think you can change humanity as a whole but you can be conscious about where you’re spending your time, your thoughts, your energy and realizing how that effects the world around you.”

“The ripple effect has been over used forever, but it’s true. These sayings we run into in life, there’s a reason they exist, “Nature and Nurture” “It takes a village” I didn’t know it until I needed a village to help raise my kids!”

“I think the answer is to focus on what you can change, set an example and showing kindness and service… It slowly changes the world around you and just that multiplication of kindness, my hope is that it just keeps travelling.”

“When Covid first started and people began wearing masks it was scary! I tried to be even more human then, looking people in the eye, opening doors, being kind.”

“My path is just to affect the people in my sphere of influence and then figure out who needs to be in that and who needs to be out of that.”

It’s no surprise that when asked about How to be Human Dave referred to his family. More specifically his parents. Dave was raised by an LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints) family in Homer, Alaska where his Dad was the bishop. Before this he was born in Washington state and adopted at 12 hours old, but that’s not any part of Dave’s story that matters.

“They were givers,” he said, “My parents. I was always so impressed by how the general public outside of that organization viewed my parents. It’s because they gave and they were kind, and they’d go out of their way to help people.”

“Yeah, the extra step to do the right thing for a human being,” I said.

Dave continued, “Another human who exuded giving was Lonnie Foster, your Dad.” Dave and I paused for a moment to hold the shudder of tears we’ve shared together since his passing in 2010.

“If there is another life I would hope that we were friends. But he knew how to give! Without expecting a thing back. He would give to people who just didn’t get a fair shake in life and he had the ability to look through that kinda hard shell and outer layer because of his experience in life.”

“That’s the real value. We can all have experiences in life, but what do we do with them? How can you leave a legacy on this earth without evolving and sharing and really wanting to identify what matters most?”

“And I don’t think he consciously thought, ‘what am I going to leave this earth with and who am I going to leave a mark on…’ He just, he looked for people that needed help, it’s like he was an angel. That’s what the definition is, they come into your life, they care about you, they love you and they kind of like alter your course a little. And that person’s life, just because of a little bit of contact, regardless of time frame, is forever changed.”

I think of all the people that surround me now. The ones that feel like angels. They remind me of my Dad. It’s an essence of non-judgmental attention and care, with an intention to help you take whatever step you need to take forward. And there’s never a sense of needing to pay them back. For me, I think the most we can do to “pay back” humans (or angels) like this is to become givers too. To carry the torch, to “be the light” and to give that same type of non-judgmental attention and care to those we come upon in our very own lives.

“He consistently did it. Especially in his world, my world too. We see really rough characters but he didn’t give a shit about that. He looked through to figure out if they were worth sharing some life experience with. And you know, going forward maybe they didn’t always make the right decisions but that’s their evolution path.”

“He left a mark on this earth and just thousands, generations will be changed because of his contact. He just had a big heart and he loved to give to people.”

When asking Dave how someone could become a giver, “You’ve gotta learn to be in tune with yourself. Pay attention to your body and your emotions. And get to understand it like a pendulum. ‘Am I feeling good? Or am I feeling bad?’”

“Do you feel good? Do you feel happy in that interaction? We all have instincts that we learn to ignore. All of us. We have so much static and noise. But do I feel good in this situation? If it doesn’t make you feel good then figure out a way to move on.”

Talking about how to help someone learn to trust their own instincts, “You have to slowly learn… I learn through personal experiences and others experiences. So, if you can share an experience from your past that will help them understand the big picture and help them visualize possibilities, that’s how I do it.”

As Dave spoke I became curious how someone might learn to discern how to give appropriately without over-giving or becoming a doormat, “I don’t want it to sound like I don’t want to communicate or spend any time or help people that are takers. I’ll give a little bit. Sometimes just a little bit of contact can help change the course of their life. At least that’s my hope, show a little act of kindness and then I move on. I hope that grows.”

As far as protecting oneself, boundaries and perhaps another person who doesn’t know how to protect themselves, “I always taught my kids how to stand up for themselves, to protect themselves AND others. I’d say, ‘If you see another human being who can’t defend or know how to defend, then you stand up for them.’ I try to take the fear of “getting in trouble” away, in favor of doing the right thing.”

We moved on to the final question… How does one reconcile where they are with where they want to be with grace and ease?

“I would start the conversation and focus on where they are is where they need to be. And if you’re at this stage longer than you thought you’d be there is even more fuel to the fire of that’s exactly where you need to be. There’s something that you didn’t learn yet,” he paused thinking, “You don’t know what you don’t’ know.”

Dave went on to describe the inquiries along the process, “Let’s say you’re there at that step and you wanna be, I don’t know, a millionaire…

Why do you want to be a millionaire?

Let’s answer all those questions as we get there.


You gotta figure out the Why without stealing from anyone else’s literature.

Like, Why am I here?

What am I supposed to be?

Who am I here to help? Besides just myself.”

My attention wrapped right around ‘Without stealing from anyone else’s literature’… I felt originality, intention and uniqueness in those words. Celebrating how and why we are different, our only-ness.

“It’s just trying to breathe and be in that moment and accept that moment. That’s Grace right? I use that word a lot. And it’s the opposite of what people would think, in my world, I’m involved in martial arts, jiu jitsu, mma and wrestling and the people that want to get into it. Really, it’s understanding how to win and how to lose with grace. Now that can roll off my tongue real easy, but that is another thing to do! It builds character to be able to accept that. You have to have grace. What did I win? What did I lose?”

As we continued talking about life and where we want to be as humans in our own lives Dave said, “I don’t have an exact goal. And sometimes I can feel bad about that because everyone around me knows where they’re aiming and have these big goals. But for me, I can say… “ He paused and got real close to the camera looking straight at me, “I have a direction,” with a tone in his voice just a decibel lower than his conversating voice. “And that feels good. I know the direction that I want to travel. But I don’t have an end game.”

“Is that weird?” he asked me…

“No,” I said, “I think that’s, I think that encompasses a lot of who you are. And it’s your be-ing and your becoming, is a, is a… I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s almost one conglomeration of, it’s not a goal… It’s, you LIVE who you are, like I can’t even describe it! It’s like beyond words to. You’re the living manifestation of a “goal”. You have a purpose. You live your purpose through your service and talking to humans and being so eclectic with the people that you can talk to and engage with. And you can be tough and you can be soft. You are living the purpose. You are your legacy…”

“I’m trying… When you say all that I don’t think it matches me, but you know hopefully that means I can still try to be humble. But I’m trying to be all these things, but I’m human, sometimes I don’t do all of that. I really just try to keep coming back to home base and focus on the direction.”

With all of that focus and intention wrapped into a direction ultimately the question becomes, “What do you want to leave on this earth? The things that you can leave here you can’t buy.” Amen brother, Amen!

Huge thanks goes out to Dave Seljestad for being a part of our How to be Human Interviews. Stay tuned tomorrow to our final conversation for this round with Julie Webster. Until then have a beautiful evening or day Hedge Schoolers!

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Hedge School
How to be Human Series
Charted explorations of humanness by a collective of humans walking their own path in life