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Can our biggest challenges become gifts? I’m excited to reshare an incredibly enriching conversation with Shelby Stanger, author of “The Will to Wild” and the voice behind the inspiring podcast, Wild Ideas Worth Living. As I wrap up my master’s thesis and embark on new challenges, Shelby’s journey through life’s big changes, her passion for adventure, and her insights into overcoming fears resonate deeply with me—and I know they will with you too.

Shelby shares how her love for the wild has helped her navigate through pivotal life moments and health challenges. We delve into the power of facing fears, the importance of community, and why self-kindness is crucial in our journey of personal growth. Shelby’s relatable experiences and practical tools for embracing change and finding joy in new ways are not only inspiring but also a reminder of the transformative power of adventure.

Whether you’re encountering your own crossroads or simply seeking motivation to push past barriers, this conversation is a testament to the strength found in vulnerability and the endless possibilities that await when we dare to step outside our comfort zones. We explore how adventures, both big and small, can profoundly impact our lives. 

Here are Shelby’s key takeaways:

  • Pivot Points in Life: How to steer your life in a new direction through the transformative power of adventure.
  • Going with the Flow: Understanding the importance of being present and adapting to changes as they come.
  • The Art of Mindfulness and Meditation: How daily practices can help you overcome challenges and maintain inner peace.
  • Getting Out of Your Own Way: Tips and guidance on self-awareness and maximizing your potential.

Listen to Shelby’s episode


Episode Chapters

  • Pivot points in life. 0:02
  • Inspiration for writing the book. 6:10
  • Learning to go with the flow. 11:15
  • The importance of mindfulness and meditation. 13:57
  • How do you get out of your own way? 20:53
  • What are you watching right now? 28:44
  • Specific practices for dealing with anger. 33:02
  • Acceptance and self love are the keys. 38:15
  • Wild ideas come from your heart. 42:51
  • How to prepare for a TedX. 46:52
  • Give yourself grace at the end of the finish line. 50:12



Sonya Looney 0:02
Shelby, welcome to the other side of the microphone.

Shelby 0:05
I love it. It’s awkward for me. But thank you for having me.

Sonya Looney 0:09
I love your podcast. And in fact, I had heard of your podcast a long time ago. And it inspired me to start my podcast was one of the podcasts where I thought I want to be like that.

Shelby 0:20
Well, thank you. That’s really nice to hear. I don’t hear that often. And I really appreciate it. I think podcasting is the coolest medium around.

Sonya Looney 0:28
So actually, I wanted to start with talking about pivot points in life. Like whenever a lot of us think about our life, there’s almost chapter breaks and things that impact who we are and how our life moves on. And I wanted to ask you actually about your podcast, specifically, if that is one of the chapter breaks, or the pivot points in your life where you are a different person now from when you started your podcast because of the podcast.

Shelby 0:51
I think I’m just so much happier, like podcasting answered all the things that I wanted to do in a career. But it didn’t exist before. And so when I found that I could be a journalist, but not have to actually like sit and stare at my computer screen and write stories and craft them and cut them and cut quotes. But full conversations could live in this medium. I was just happier. Like, it was very scary for me to start a podcast. But that’s the first thing I’ve ever done, where I actually came up with a business plan and followed it, launched it and had some pretty immediate initial success. A lot of other things I did, maybe didn’t go that easy for me were much harder. And it wasn’t easy podcasting by any means. But it just brought me immediate joy. And I’ve never found something that brought me so much immediate Joy besides surfing.

Sonya Looney 1:45
Yeah, and you have another podcast actually called Vitamin Joy. So it sounds like joy is this thread that goes through your life that’s really important to you.

Shelby 1:51
I’m really interested in the intersection between mental health and adventure. And Joy doesn’t always come easy to me. So I’m always interested in how other people find joy. Because even though I’m a really happy person, like there’s definitely been times where I’ve struggled. And so I don’t know. Yeah, Joy is an important thing. You’re absolutely right.

Sonya Looney 2:14
So I wanted to ask you, you said you were afraid to start your podcast and in your book, “Will to Wild”, you have an entire chapter on facing fear. And it sounds like this is one of those fears. So how did you like number one, what were you afraid of? And then how did you overcome that?

Shelby 2:27
with podcasting? You know, I think for me, I have a little bit of a perfectionist syndrome and me and if your audience is an endurance athlete, then I’m guessing some of them are perfectionist a little bit type A as well. And I think what was so scary about podcasting is the speed at which I’d have to do it. And then so many people would listen, I would have no idea who was listening. But for me, the biggest thing that I was scared of was actually the technical part of it. Because when I started podcasting, it was 2016. And I have a zoom, h6 Handy recorder right here. And I had absolutely no idea how to use all these buttons. That was terrifying. And I had to invest in myself, because I had to hire a producer had to have someone show me how to edit and do some of the technical part at first. And investing in yourself can be really scary. But investing in yourself is always the best investment you’ll ever make. But I wasn’t sure it was gonna work out.

Sonya Looney 3:26
Yeah, that’s something that my husband always tells me, I think it actually might be some sort of Warren Buffett quote, to always invest in yourself. And I think a lot of times we’re the last person that we will invest in will invest our time and our energy and our money into other people. But whenever you bet on yourself, that can be the scariest bet.

Shelby 3:42
Absolutely. It’s scary to risk your own money, like unless you have a lot of it’s really scary.

Sonya Looney 3:49
So when before we turned on the microphone and started talking, we were talking about book writing, and you said you’ve been trying to write a book since you were 22 years old. So can you tell me about this process? Like how did you actually make this happen when you wanted to make it happen for so long?

Shelby 4:03
I think that’s what made it harder to make it happen. You know, with podcasting, I didn’t really know about it too much before I started it. You know, I learned about podcasting. I had really enjoyed Tim Ferriss show, but it always wished that he interviewed more women and more adventures. And so I did it with book writing, ever since I was a kid. Teachers and parents, friends always thought that I would be a writer someday. And so there was all this extra pressure. I think eventually, you know, I had fits and starts so I started at 20 something and then just didn’t really work out. I wrote something a full draft at like 26 didn’t really do anything with it, stopped, quit my job at 29 took my first writing workshop, wrote an entire book didn’t do anything with it. And then I tried to get like 30 Something early 30 And then I found podcasting was like oh great. I don’t need to write anymore. But all these themes kept coming up when And I was doing wild ideas worth living podcast about adventure. And I realized I kept giving these talks to different corporations and people, companies. And there was nothing out there that talked about how to adventure, especially how to deal with fear, how to get unstuck, how to deal with impostor syndrome. And I looked at all these adventure books that I liked, and they all glorified the finish line. And so I decided I wanted to write a book that took stories of my own, along with stories, and lessons I’ve learned over the years hosting, and creating wild ideas worth living podcast. And during the pandemic, I think like many of us, we had the time and the space to be like, okay, now’s the time. And I ended up selling this a little bit later in the pandemic, and 2021. It took about two years to complete it. But I also watched my mother who was like 76 years old, bust out a book in six months during the pandemic. And that was really inspiring to me. I’m like, you know, if my mom could do it, she’s read two books, and I haven’t even done one. And this was supposed to be my life’s work. I better just go out and do it. But I don’t think the process was easy. You know, like anything in life. There are definitely some ups and downs. But I have been celebrating pretty much ever since it came out.

Sonya Looney 6:17
Yeah, yeah. And also being inspired by watching others, like, it sounds like your mom really inspired you. And in your book, you have so many amazing examples, really detailed examples of people that seem like ordinary people who are doing marvelous things. And by reading your book, people can see themselves in those stories and feel that they can do it too.

Shelby 6:39
That’s that was the goal. My goal was that I wanted everybody you know, there’s so many things right now you can do to change your life, people are experimenting with all sorts of stuff. But I really believe that nature has profound side effects. And that doing the adventure in nature can change your life, amazingly, without any crazy negative side effects. So I wanted to showcase a range of adventure, whether you were birdwatching or camping for the first time, or just going stargazing to climbing Mount Everest, which by the way, I’m not like this hardcore adventurer person, I’m pretty much pretty average, to be honest. And I’ve no desire to ever climb Mount Everest, but even a little adventure I’ve learned can go a long way. So I wanted to really share that.

Sonya Looney 7:22
Yeah, breaking it down and showing that it doesn’t have to be climbing Mount Everest to change your life and to experience art and nature is a really important message that we don’t often get.

Shelby 7:32
No it it’s funny I was when I was a little girl, I learned to surf at a surf camp. And then I ended up getting to teach at this woman’s camp who created the first original all woman’s Surf School. And in fact, we went to Canada for one of the first trips were in Vancouver, on Tofino teaching an all woman’s camp. But you know, every time I taught a weekend clinic or a week long clinic, women would come, they would learn to write a few waves. And shortly after I get a call from at least one of them, and they’d quit their job, they’d move across the country to a place with a better beach. Or they’d end this relationship that they finally needed to end for good and their life would never be the same again. And what I realized at a young age, I think is that adventure, no matter what it is, as long as it’s scary to you, and connects you with nature and gets you out of your comfort zone. It helps you build courage in a way that you can’t get by taking a drug or even really talking to a therapist. I think, adventure can catapult you to a completely whole other level. And so, yeah, I just I ended up being a journalist about it, starting a podcast about it. And then I’m like, well, I might as well write a book and speak about it to know.

Sonya Looney 8:41
Yeah, whenever you’re out in nature, nature always wins. Like it doesn’t care who you are, or what your past experiences are, it always wins. And there’s something that’s so humbling about that. And then being able to survive, and sometimes thrive in those situations gives you so much courage. I think

Shelby 8:57
so and especially right now when we’re so politically divided, you know, Nature doesn’t care what your belief system is, either. And she’ll humble you. And you have to surrender a nature. And I think for me, and I’m sure some of your listeners will relate your athletes like it’s hard for us to sometimes surrender and let go and go with the flow. But in nature, you kind of have to, or you can get hurt.

Sonya Looney 9:23
In your book you talk about like whenever after you’ve chilled out like there’s like two versions of you and your book. There’s like the past version of you. And then the chilled out version of you. What was the pivot point there to kind of transform you into the chill Shelby?

Shelby 9:39
I still have neurotic high intense Shelby and chill Shelby, I don’t think those two sides of me will ever separate completely. But for me Learning to Surf was really cathartic. And I think the ocean really taught me about being quiet and slowing down and going with the flow and exam. Luckily, what you said chilling out. There’s really, I don’t know if you have you served Sonia, very poorly. To do any watersports, you swim? No, no, no,

Sonya Looney 10:11
no, I’m a mountain biker. Yeah, the water, water and I are, we have we have yet to become friends but at some

Shelby 10:18
point maybe, okay, but on the mountain bike you flow?

Sonya Looney 10:21
Oh absolutely like you can’t, the harder you fight against the trail, the worse you ride.

Shelby 10:26
Well, that’s the same thing with waves like if you try to fight waves, they will always win. If you go with the flow, you will absolutely have a much more enjoyable experience. And I think I was a little bit of a fighter growing up and a bit of a scrappy person. And I think surfing has taught me to kind of slow down to go with the flow. And to relax. It’s it’s really good. I think all sports kind of do that for you. But surfing it’s it’s really visceral, right there in the moment, water is incredibly healing. And there’s just a great metaphor about going into the ocean. You know, once you get past the breaking waves, it’s very calm. So somebody asked me the other day, they’re like, I don’t understand why you like surfing. It’s so rough and so scary. How is it calming for you? And once you get past the waves, it really is quite calm in the middle of the ocean.

Sonya Looney 11:15
Yeah, you have some incredible stories in your book, like whenever you went on your first big surfing trip with all of these masters and you’re surfing inside this wave. And yeah, there’s so many stories in your book that are so well told that makes people excited. Like that got me excited, like, oh, that’s what surfing is like,

Shelby 11:32
I guess you’re gonna have to come to San Diego and come surfing.

Sonya Looney 11:35
Yeah. So something that I’ve had to learn about going with the flow that has been the main teacher, outside of sports is parenting. You cannot control so many things. And especially when you’re trying to strive for more in your life. And then you have these things happening that are out of your control, like being flexible is a lot easier in some cases than grinding and trying to grip something so tightly.

Shelby 11:59
I feel like being a parent is the hardest job and the biggest wild idea of them all, when I’ve probably been too scared to take on myself. I’m an auntie and like a surrogate aunt to a million little neighborhoods, kids in my neighborhood. But yeah, I mean, kids are wild and being a mom is amazing. And beautiful. So good audio. How old are your kids?

Sonya Looney 12:21
They’re one in three.

Shelby 12:22
Really? Wow. So you’re in it and you’re hosting a podcast. That’s awesome.

Sonya Looney 12:27
Thanks. So I want to talk about flow here because you you’re using the word a lot. But in your book, you also talk about the flow state. So this is a kind of a buzzword that a lot of people think, oh, I want to get in flow. This is so cool. And I think you’ve had Steven Kotler on your podcast, he’s been on my podcast as well. Can you talk about how people can approach flow state?

Shelby 12:48
I think Steven talks about it the best is with you. To me, I’ve always found flow best in nature, because you’re forced to sort of be present, like wherever you have to be present, I think you can find flow. So when you’re with your baby, I’m sure you can experience moments of awe and flow. These are two different things. But flow is kind of when you’re in the zone, where time gets shorter and longer at the same time. And where you’re really focused on whatever it is that you’re doing. So time slows up, it speeds down your focus. For me, the the path to flow has always been through nature and surfing. It’s just the easiest place to find it. There’s musicians who find it through music. I’m really untalented musically, and if you saw me dance, you’d be horrified. But I definitely go dance and do it anyway. But yeah, I think if you get outside into nature, and you can kind of like leave your device at home. I think it’s pretty easy to experience flow. For you. It’s mountain biking. For me it’s running or surfing.

Sonya Looney 13:57
Yeah, that I think the interesting thing about being in nature and then having this just manageable challenge, married with presents, comes down to doing an activity that requires your attention in that way. Like if you’re mountain biking down a trail and you are riding something that’s like just just barely outside of your ability and you start daydreaming about something else, then you’re gonna crash or like if you’re surfing and you start, you’re doing something that’s a little bit outside your your limit and then you start daydreaming or thinking about something else. Like you’re not you’re not gonna be able to stay up, right. So nature has so much opportunity for this.

Shelby 14:31
I mean, good conversations like for me, podcasting, I couldn’t really find my flow and talking to someone and having a good conversation. And one thing that’s personally helped me is I meditate, you know, only for five minutes at a time, because sometimes that’s just what I feel like committing to. But if I actually do that, the rest of my the day is dramatically different and I can focus I can be more present I can get into the flow so much faster and my meditation practice is really simple. I’ve learned from a guy named like tick, not Han, who’s sort of a famous Buddhist monk, but he happens to have a monastery and an old boy scout camp in San Diego. And so I just sit against my wall and I say, breathing in, I call my body, breathing out, I smile. And that’s it. And that changes my day.

Sonya Looney 15:21
Thanks for sharing that practice. Because I think a lot of times people think meditation has to be this overly complicated thing, or they’re worried that they’re not doing it right. And really, the important part is starting. And in your book, there’s an entire chapter on starting. And I’m very passionate about that topic as well. Because a lot of times we try and like look way past of what it’s supposed to look like, or how am I supposed to do this? And then we just don’t start because we were waiting to feel ready, and we’re never gonna feel ready. Can you tell me like one of your favorite stories from the book from that start? Start chapter.

Shelby 15:54
Yeah, first, I want to get it okay. If I go back to the meditation, there’s something that take not Han said that I found really powerful. He’s like your mind, imagine your mind and your thoughts inside of a giant snow globe and your thoughts. If you shake up a snow globe, your thoughts are like all the snowflakes floating around and shaking up snowglobe. And then when you sit down, you just imagine that those snowflakes are falling and settling down, and you can focus, I did not meditate this morning. So if I’m a little all over the place, we can play him the fact that I didn’t do my meditation practice. But back to starting up. I do have a favorite story from that chapter. Well, I’ve two favorite stories from that chapter. But I think the first one is a guy named Kate McDowell, who was a friend of mine, and he happened to be married to a girl I worked with in the surf industry, she does PR. And, you know, his starting line, in some ways, had to be pushed forward because he had a cancer diagnosis. But he ended up climbing the Grand Teton with an eyepatch after a full bag of chemo. And, you know, he told me that his his nemesis was to waste time. And I think all of us are really good. Never, none of us can predict. Tomorrow, we don’t know if we’re guaranteed tomorrow at all. So you might as well start. The other person whose story really resonated with me is I feature a sailor. And his name is Ryan Levinson and his wife, Nicole Levinson. And he told me something really powerful. He’s like, you know, you can either be the sailor that unties the dock lines, or not meaning there’s always more to do to get your boat ready to set sail across the sea. But eventually, you just have to untie the dock lines, are you going to be tethered to the dock forever. And there’s always more to do. But you can actually do that kind of stuff out in the middle of the ocean, like there is going to be time to learn. And there’s certain things that you just can’t learn until you get out on the trail. I interviewed these twins who paddled from Alaska, all the way down to Mexico on paddleboards. And the stories they told me in the book are hilarious and wild and radical. But, you know, they’d never practice actually paddling with gear on top of their paddle boards before they did the trip, which in retrospect, probably wasn’t the smartest thing. But you know, there’s certain things that you just can’t prepare for you can’t prepare, really for the cold water of Alaska until you actually get to Alaska. If you’re from a warm climate.

Sonya Looney 18:30
Yeah, there is this piece of having to jump like at some point, like if you’re gonna like jump off a cliff in I don’t know the sport like whenever they’re they’re squirrel suits, or they’re like paragliding, or whatever the sport is, is like at some point, you have to jump and hope that your preparation was enough. But I think that a lot of times we get stuck in this over preparation and this overthinking part before we start our next adventure. How do people know how much is enough preparation before they start?

Shelby 18:58
I think you have to feel like ready enough, but you’re never gonna feel ready enough. So eventually, you just have to make a deadline. I think it really helps to put down a deposit and a deadline, or you’ll delay forever if you’re like me, you know, some people are really good about just sticking to a plan and starting, but I think you have some financial skin in the game. Like for me, if I’m paying to go to the gym and paying a trainer. I’ll show up because I hate losing money. I’d rather spend money on surfboards. If I booked a plane ticket, I’m going to actually show up to the airport and catch my flight. If I bug a campsite. I’m gonna go to that campsite. So I think the easiest way is to have some financial skin in the game or something that makes you actually do the thing you want to do. But then eventually you just have to jump up. There’s this cartoon I talked about that I saw in the book and it’s someone jumping off a high dive into a pool, and in one square the pool is full of sharks. And another square the pool is like drained and it’s just like jumping into concrete. In another square, there’s like giant like Puranas that are gonna like eat the person. And then the last square the person jumps. And it’s like a little splash and it’s no big deal. I think the before starting and before jumping is always the scariest part. I can tell you that three weeks ago, before the book came out, I was totally neurotic, because I just didn’t know what people would think. I was worried they were going to not like it, or they were going to judge me or all these people were going to be asking me intimate details in my life all the time, and they would see me on the street. But the truth is like, no one really cares. I mean, people care, but like, not everybody’s thinking about you. Everybody has busy lives, and they’re thinking about themselves. And before actually starting and launching is always the scariest. I think fear keeps us safe, it’s healthy. It’s just how we manage that fear is how we get through it.

Sonya Looney 20:53
Yeah, thanks for being transparent about how you felt before the book launch. Because I think this is very relatable to a lot of people, especially when you’re doing something where other people can see what it what the potential results are of it. And there is room for people’s opinions on this. And the reminder that basically like nobody really cares, like it matters, but nobody really cares. Like I think about racing is a prime example of this. Like, if you’re having a bad race, and you’re like, oh my gosh, like everybody’s gonna be staring at my results and thinking all these things about me. It’s like, no, nobody actually really cares. And if they do notice it, they’re probably gonna forget all about it by the next day.

Shelby 21:26
I think everyone’s just like, you know, into themselves, like naturally, like we all are thinking about, there’s so many other things that all of us are preoccupied that not as many people are paying attention as you think they are. And that’s okay. You know, you usually are your own worst critic. And that’s a lot about what this book is, it’s about how to get out of your own way. And let go of resistance. So you can pursue your wild idea, because usually, we’re our biggest deterrent to going for it, whatever that it is.

Sonya Looney 21:57
Yeah, I actually have this written down to bring up is a quote from your book. It’s from the trail signs chapter, it’s we’re frequently our own biggest obstacle when it comes to embracing and starting our will to wild. So out, but how do you get out of your own way? Because it’s easy to say this, oh, we’re our biggest obstacle, and we shouldn’t care as much what other people think about us, but it’s hard to actually get out of your way and do it.

Shelby 22:18
Well, thanks for having a quote, that means a lot to me. Um, how do you get out of your own way? I think the first thing is to breathe. The second thing is kindness. It’s an absolute game changer. It’s one of those tools in our toolkit that sometimes we forget to have. But it’s the most important tool you can have in your toolbox. Even when I interviewed Cheryl Strayed the famous author who wrote the book wild, she told me, shall we, you know, I don’t really care if my kids become dentists, or lawyers or doctors, I just want them to be kind. And you have to treat yourself like you would treat your best friend, you know, you probably wouldn’t talk to yourself, you probably wouldn’t talk to your best friend at times the way you talk to yourself. So first start with being kind. And then eventually, it’s like, you just have to start and let go and surrender. To me, I think it really helps to have a community. Doing things alone is really hard. And I think for me, that’s what writing why writing a book was a little bit challenging. I didn’t have this like, like, I have friends in San Francisco. And they have this cool writing group that they’re all belong to. And they have each other and they can workshop their pieces with. And I was like alone, and my agent was like, don’t share it with anybody just write the thing. And I think I do better when I have a little bit of a team around me. When I was a kid, I was a goalkeeper on the soccer team. So I was still the weirdo on the team, who either was the hero or the villain depending on if someone scored on me or not. But I always had a team in front of me. So if you can have a community, I think that really, really helps you to manage your own fear your own neuroticness, your own self doubt. And the other thing is, is I say if you are stuck, you know, obviously look for the sign that’s a big part of my of my book is about how to look for signs. There’s going to be signs that point you to where you shouldn’t go. Obviously, if you’re feeling pain, or you keep getting stuck or something keeps happening that’s not going well. Well, that sign is saying don’t proceed, you know, listen to it. If it becomes kind of easy. Well, that sign is saying it’s a green light, keep going. But also I’m losing my train of thought sorry, I’m so sorry. Um, I just think that you have to be kind to yourself. You have to pay attention to signs and I had something really brilliant. Is this edited or No? No. Okay, cool. Wait, okay, take your time say oh, it was like signs. It was I don’t know. I probably shouldn’t agree to afternoon interviews. I feel so bad. Um, what was I say? Hey, here, we’re talking about how there’s signs that point you to where you want to go. Signs that. When you tell me the question again, how do you get out of your own way?

Sonya Looney 25:10
Yeah, yeah. And you started saying, like, you gotta be kind to yourself, you have to have community around you.

Shelby 25:18
How do you get out of your own way, he kind yourself

Sonya Looney 25:22
said, breathe at the beginning of that breathe,

Shelby 25:25

I don’t know. But we’ll just keep going. I think you just have to give yourself grace, and know that it’s not going to always be perfect. But if you just have movement, that’s motion. And forward momentum is much better than being stagnant and stuck. I think the biggest thing is, you know, move forward, try something. If it’s that you want to do a big hike, buy a pair of hiking shoes, hire a guide, go on a one mile hike, you know, just start. Once you do that, you’ll feel more confident. And that confidence will blossom and blossom and grow and grow.

Sonya Looney 26:10
Yeah, breaking something down into a building block, instead of saying I have to do the whole thing all at once is so important for building that self efficacy piece of believing that you can actually do it. Because if you say, Oh, I’m gonna go run a marathon, but you’ve never even run a 5k before, then you might be a lot more nervous. And you might be in your way a lot more than if you build up to build up to the challenge. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And you are on Travis Macy’s podcast, and he connected us. So thanks, Travis. He said, he always says that he always says that life is a team sport. And that’s in his current book, or his latest book a mile at a time. And it sounds like with this community piece, life is a team sport, doing things on your own is really challenging. And even though you could have the most amount of self belief, having support of others is what’s going to lift you whenever you are stuck.

Shelby 27:01
Yeah, I mean, sometimes, you know, you’re gonna have to do things on your own. And sometimes you doing it on your own is going to be an act of altruism, and yourself. But that’s what I was gonna say, sometimes when you’re really stuck, and you’re in your own way, it really helps to stop thinking about yourself, and to go do an act of service for someone else. Like, I’m the big believer, and acts of service and kindness are random acts of kindness without anybody knowing. It just feels really good. And giving always feels so much better than getting. So yeah, I mean, if you can, sometimes your own act of wild ideas might open up a path for someone else to go do their own wild ideas. But if you can, try to take someone along, try to have some sort of a team, you know, I had, I had a couple buddies, I would call when I was stuck writing this book. And, you know, I also had this thing, what I call is emergency candy on the trail, you know, you have to have little things with you to make the ride much more enjoyable. So emergency candy on the trail could look like actual candy, but it could also look like a reward in the form of music or dancing or a date night or concert ticket or for me a new surfboard. Or maybe it’s a glass of wine, or maybe it’s like a kombucha whatever it is that brings you a little joy while you’re going after this really hard thing. You have to feed yourself joy I actually don’t really recommend alcohol because it I don’t feel like anything amazing usually comes with a lot of alcohol. But you know there’s a lot of different types of emergency candy that you can feed yourself with, you know, some for us. My husband and I we watch really funny comedy at night and that’s like our little treat to enjoy you

Sonya Looney 28:50
give us a recommendation real quick. What are you watching right now?

Shelby 28:53
It’s usually all like teen rom coms, but I love Never have I ever I watched this show called sex education on Netflix. I mean basically anything that’s kinda like the movie American Pie. I find hilarious. I have a bit of a PG 13 Silly sense of humor. Probably stuck in like high school but I find that like those coming of age love story shows so hysterically funny. Most things by Seth Rogen or Jonah Hill make me laugh. Watch Never Have I Ever by Mindy Kaling. She actually actually there’s a really good show on Apple TV called shrinking. That is hysterical and I really love that one. And you know Ted last Oh, it’s endearing and funny guy a little like, cheesy at the end, but I really loved that show. I find the message positive and upbeat. I don’t really like scary movies or dark comedies or even sad movies. I like to keep things positive and light in my life. And you know, you were asking me about vitamin Joy earlier. And that podcast is really about the intersection of health and humor. I find that humor is a really big game changer. And it’s important while you’re pursuing your own wild idea, so if you are stuck, and you’re being really hard on yourself, if you can find a way to laugh at yourself or laugh at the situation, that will definitely help you get back on the trail.

Sonya Looney 30:18
Yeah, I like that you bring up humor as something really important. I try and practice this in my racing. Like if I see this heinously nasty looking Hill, I actually laugh at it. It’s taking practice, but I literally lightheartedly laugh at it. And I laugh even more when I hear other people going, Ah, nice, you’re coming.

Shelby 30:39
That’s awesome. You have to laugh. I used to laugh and make jokes during running races. I got in trouble a couple of times, because I told inappropriate jokes, but you have to laugh. And when I smile when I run, I run so much more relaxed and so much better.

Sonya Looney 30:54
Yeah, this positive emotions go a long way. And also, just to like you, you talk about mental health in your book, and it’s not blocking the difficult emotions and the more challenging ones. But it’s also just being aware and present for the full spectrum of all the emotions.

Shelby 31:10
Yeah, you have to surrender to it. Like we all are going to experience sadness, anger, resentment, fear. And for me, there’s two emotions that I think I’ve struggled with most recently in life. And that’s like anger and resentment. And those two are like the worst. Because we’re not really taught especially as women to like, be okay, being angry, or having resentment. And those two emotions will really eat you up and make you sick. At least they have for me. So for me, you know, feeling anger, but then letting it go and transforming it into love has been a really interesting process for me. And then resentment, like, resentment gets you nowhere. Like it’s so much better to forgive. And one of the people that taught me that was actually a Holocaust survivor who’s in the book. I know, it seems weird that there’s a Holocaust survivor in the book about adventure, but she’s an athlete, and, you know, her will to Wilde was her will to live even in the harshest of circumstances. And she told me that, you know, she forgives the Nazis who went after her and her family. And, you know, she doesn’t do it for them. She does it for herself. I thought that was really powerful that I learned that from her name is Dr. Edith Eger, she was 91. When I interviewed her for my podcast, she wrote a book at like, 91, and then followed up with another one at like, 93 or 94. I think she’s 96 now, and she’s total

Sonya Looney 32:36
badass. And that was one of my favorite stories from your book.

Shelby 32:40
Thank you. I love that you read the whole thing. That’s so cool. Very few people have read it yet. So it’s really cool to talk to you.

Sonya Looney 32:46
Yeah, well, I have the hardcopy and I also have the audiobook. So the both are both are phenomenal. When I like a book, I make sure that I both Oh, that’s so cool. I want to pull on the anger and resentment thread a little bit. Yeah. Thank you for bringing that up. That is also something that I struggle with. You mentioned, like, in theory, how to work on that. But like, are there specific practices that you have been doing to work on? Like, I mean, I don’t know specifically, what like allowing yourself to be angry or allowing yourself to feel the rhythm and then let it go? Like, what what can you give me more information about that?

Shelby 33:21
I mean, I wish I could, I wish I had like a step by step guide. I’m not there. Maybe that’ll be like the next book. But I’ve done a lot of different like self help work things, I took this class called the release technique. And really, you identify your emotions as letting go of control, approval, or safety. And anybody can look up the release technique. It’s not for everybody. But it was really helpful to me to take one class in it and just learn about it and take the parts of it that I really liked. But, you know, I got upset about someone who’d like wronged a family member and had all this resentment towards that person. And ultimately, it wasn’t harming that person. I think it really was just reading and listening to Dr. Edith Eger telling me that she forgives the Nazis, like, to me that was just mind blowing. I’m like, how did she forgive these people that ultimately responsible for the death of her parents, and I just saw the destruction it was doing to me, I also had a friend who passed have cancer. And his family member told me, you know, he had some anger and resentment. And he believes that like, the theory had an anger he had around the COVID pandemic, didn’t help things and it really hurt things. And that anger may have exacerbated his illness. And so she’s like, Whatever you do, don’t have anger, like, have anger, but let it go figure out a way to transform it. It’s it’s a really hard emotion. You have to be able to feel your anger. But for me, it sounds so hippy, but But it’s love like how can you Take something that you’re angry about and transform it into love. And, you know, I personally have this autoimmune disorder and I was so angry and so so. So someone had taken money from my parents like years and years ago and that like drove me nuts. But then this vitiligo came and vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder. For those people that don’t know that turns part of your pigment white, it removes part of your pigment. It doesn’t affect you, really any other way. But aesthetically, Michael Jackson had it. Dr. Steve Martin has it I think on his hands, Joe Rogan has it on his hands. The pot was like, oh, maybe it’s a podcasting. I’m just getting started podcasting. And I noticed my lips had been turning white, like a patch of my lips. Were turning white when I was in New Zealand, I thought it was just too much sun. And we don’t know if Sun hurts. It really helps it. There’s all sorts of theories about vitiligo. But I was so angry about it, because, you know, I’ve always been really all of in tan, and I’m a little bit more red, and a little bit more pale. And I have a few white spots. It’s really hard to see it right now. Because I’m in such good place. It’s mostly pigmented. I’ve tried a lot of things for it. But it’s been this really, I was so mad about it for a long time. And I just had to go through the motions. I just had to be mad about it, I guess. But I did all sorts of things. I went to the Buddhist monastery, I wrote a book, I talked to other people about it served. I think time is really the best answer to dealing with anything. Grief, anger, sadness, resentment. Everybody has their own process. But eventually, I learned to see my vitiligo as a gift. One, it’s that, you know, so many people have these illnesses that affect them as a result of stress. But they often, you know, get really sick as a result of that, whether it’s cancer, or heart disease, or something else. I just had this thing that kind of affected my skin. And even though it showed up weeks after I was really stressed, or, you know, sometimes it was exactly it was all it always gets exacerbated by a stressful situation. But sometimes it just shows up and there’s nothing stressful all around. So it’s not exactly correlated to stress. But I just had to learn to love it. I’m like, you know, this is something that has made me more compassionate towards other people. It’s made me more curious about health. And it’s just made me have more love for the entire human experience. thing in life, a lot of things came pretty easy to me. And then this happened. And I was like, ah, like, what is this? It was really hard. And as a woman, you know, who’s bored facing in front of a camera a lot. It was really tricky. And I live in Southern California, where vanity is really esteemed here, like people put vanity on a big pedestal. And, you know, like, somebody asked me once when the vitiligo was pretty bad, and you can’t really see it, but they asked me if I had a skin peel. And I just thought that was so funny, because like, that’s the last thing I’d spend my money on is like a skin peel. But it was super annoying, you know, for a while. And you know, all people have all sorts of different things with them. And, you know, usually mental illness is something a lot of people struggle with, but that we can’t visually see. I just had this thing that people could visually see. So yeah, my vitiligo I know, going a little bit all over the place, but it’s been a journey that’s taught me to surrender. You know, the times I’ve come to accept my vitiligo and sort of surrender to it. My skin tends to read pigment and doctors, you know, they don’t totally understand. I’ve taken like, all sorts of experimental topical creams. I’ve done light therapy, I’ve fasted on just water, I’ve tried paleo, I’ve gone vegan, and really, the best medicine that’s where there’s acceptance, and self love. And I know that sounds so hippy, but But that’s it, you know, anger and resentment are these emotions that are really tricky. And in our society of Western society, they’re not emotions, that we really have great answers on how to deal with. In the book, I traveled to New Zealand. And I think a lot of indigenous cultures handle aging, and other emotions better sometimes than us. And their answer is the same. It’s it’s in New Zealand, they call it a row Ha, which is love, a love for all things, a love for anything, a love for nature and a respect for our elders. So, yeah, trying to deal with it all with love.

Sonya Looney 39:54
Yeah, thanks for sharing that because I think a lot of people have something in their lives something that happens to them that they can’t get troll and where they are unhappy that it’s happened. And there are all of those emotions that you mentioned, the anger, the resentment, the why me and, and like you said, sometimes you can even see what those are mental illnesses. And I don’t think it’s hippy to say acceptance and self love are, are the keys to taking care of this, I think it’s very important to say that because a lot of times we are reaching for the thing that we can do, like, I gotta go do something in order to feel better. But a lot of times, it’s more about being and accepting who you are and where you’re at. And that can be incredibly challenging. And I think that that comes back to having conversations like these, where you realize maybe Hey, like, maybe I’ve been pushing too hard against this to fix it, when really I just need to accept what’s happening. And that’s the best medicine that I could take.

Shelby 40:46
Yeah, I think one of the beauties and gifts of being a podcast host is you get to be really real and authentic with someone right away, there’s absolutely no bullshit, you just get to be your true, authentic, honest self. And it’s awesome. And I’ve been gifted with this amazing gift to talk to people who share me their most intimate details of their life, and in having them share their stories, and being vulnerable, it’s really given me the courage to be more vulnerable, and share my story. But what’s interesting is as an endurance athlete, one thing I’ve had to do is slow down. Because like any type of stress sort of exacerbates this autoimmune thing, it’s really hard for me, because I always saw myself as this like, future Ultra runner or future ultra endurance athlete. And currently, right now, that’s not really something that probably would be the healthiest for me. But you know, that’s just not now. And that might not be forever, you know, maybe my path later in life is that I can pursue that. But if I have a lot on my plate, I used to just run every single day. Now, if I have a lot on my plate, I’m doing the book tour, I’m doing a lot of podcasts, I’m running like, maybe one or two miles to the coffee shop, and getting like a tea and coming home. And it’s joyful. And you know, my body hasn’t changed, I physically look pretty much the same. And I feel really happy. So I think as we age, we just have to become aware, for me, what’s helped is becoming aware of my energy output, and where that goes. And if I have a high energy day, where I’m using a lot of my brain, a lot of my emotions, that I’m going to try not to use a lot of my physical body as well. And as a kid, I mean, I just was like the Energizer Bunny I like, was emotionally like, I went hard. I went hard physically. And so as an adult, I’ve just learned to slow down and conserve my energy, respect my energy and lean into it, and listen to it.

Sonya Looney 42:51
Now, that’s such an important lesson. And I want to come back to that in a second. But your book is about wild ideas, and you sounded like being an ultra Runner was a wild idea that you had. And you’ve had to sort of let that go, at least for now. But that, like I’m hearing that wild ideas aren’t just about wearing one hat and one identity, wild ideas come from who you are as a person. And that can be expressed in a number of different ways.

Shelby 43:14
I think a wild idea has to come from your heart and not your ego. And for me, being an ultra runner is like an ego idea. Like it’s like climbing Everest, for me would probably be an ego idea. Like it’s check. And in some ways, writing a book was really hard because I had to let go of like my ego wanting to write a book, and really follow the heart part of myself that wanted to write a book, which was how can this book help so many other people? And the truth was, I had so many people calling me every week saying, hey, Shelby, I want to quit my job, but or I want to do this adventure. But and that’s what this book is for. It’s for anybody who has a big but not like, the kind of blood that the Kardashians had like, but about, you know, keeping you from doing that thing that you really, really want to do. Even if you’re scared, even if you’re stuck, even if someone tells you you’re absolutely crazy for doing and why you should do that. Anyway,

Sonya Looney 44:12
I want to come back to looking for signs. So something that you said earlier is, you know, this vitiligo was something where you’re like really pissed about it. But then you turned it into a growth opportunity, where you said, well, now I’m better in all of these different ways because of it. And that’s that, like almost like post traumatic growth experience, and also looking for signs in our lives. Like when you’re on the trail or looking for a sign of a reason to start something we can get so focused on that negativity bias, looking for all the reasons why we shouldn’t do something looking for all the reasons why we’re not qualified to do something. Or we can look for all the reasons why we can do something and those signs that you look for are programmed by how you view your life and that is something that you can train your brain to do. But it’s hard to do and winning that out especially for going back to starting and are you Looking for all the reasons why you can’t? Or are you looking for the reasons why you can? Are you looking for the reasons how this is helping you? Or are you looking for all the reasons how this is hurting you? That’s very important point.

Shelby 45:10
I think signs are personal. You know, if you want a sign, you have to ask for it. And it’s only going to come to you in the language that you speak. So it can look like a lot of things. There was a time when I was young in my 20s. And I was applying for this job and I got offered a job at vans. And I was like, okay, universe, give me a sign. And I looked down and saw some dude who was a waiter wearing a pair of vans shoes, I saw the sidestripe and you could have been wearing Chuck Taylors. So I felt like that was a good sign. Sometimes science or you know, visuals, sometimes they’re physical. In the book, I had a physical sign I kept, I was stuck in traffic and a semi truck had overturned on the 101. In Los Angeles, it was just one of the busiest freeways. And I was so stuck. And I literally realized at that moment that I wasn’t just stuck on the freeway, but I was stuck in life. And that after that moment, I needed to make a change. And I needed to unstuck by actually quitting my job and pursuing adventure journalism, which is the thing I’d wanted to do since I was in college. And I had to just do that, even though it made no sense on paper. So yeah, signs are a really personal the other day I had to give a TEDx talk. And I’m so nervous, I open this theater had 600 people. And who is like, universe, please give me aside. Like I honestly just wanted my my real father to be there. And he passed away when I was 11. And I was like, Please be here. And my dad was bald, I literally looked down the audience and saw this old bald dude in the audience. And I was like, there you go, I feel comfortable. Now I can go, I’m ready.

Sonya Looney 46:52
Now the TEDx stuff is hard to because it’s like you have to stand in the red circle, and the entire thing has to be rote memorized, which I don’t know if that’s changed, but like, for having arised? Oh, my gosh, yeah, I did my TEDx, like within six months of becoming a speaker as well. So I actually like embarrassed whenever I think about my TED Talk. But the the memorization piece, especially like you’re a podcaster. And a lot of this is not like I don’t write out questions, I don’t write out what I’m going to say. So having to do it from memory can be really challenging thing, because what if you lose your way,

Shelby 47:23
I was a little scared. But I actually practice while running. So like I took the piece of paper with me. And practice was like all crumpled up, like a five year old brings his home or to his mom. And I ran with it. And you know, I live in a busy beach town. So people just are laughing at me as I was practicing my speech. But that’s how I did it. And I don’t know, I tend to feed off of other people’s energy. So once I had that speech down, I was stoked. It was a little daunting. Doing it the exact same week, I launched my book and had several events and media appearances, and was driving all over the place. But you know, I think that’s the cool thing about wild ideas, like my latest wild idea was giving that TEDx talk and launching my book the same week. And when you achieve one of those wild ideas, you have so much confidence and courage, like I feel absolutely unstoppable and so courageous. And I don’t always feel like this. I believe that this courage and confidence from this TEDx and book launch will carry me for the next six years, at least, the same way, quitting my job and catching this big wave in Indonesia, carried me for 10 years. Yeah, I do think that these wild ideas have a really magical power to them. And they give you this boost of endorphins, and courage and confidence that you take with you for like, like you take medicine, but it lasts for like, decades.

Sonya Looney 48:44
Yeah, it’s it’s a lot of momentum. A lot. I want to I want to talk about finish lines in the last few minute minutes we have here. And I thought that this was such an important chapter in your book and something that nobody talks about, like you do this big thing, your wild idea, then you come home, and like you talked about a guy in there where like, he was a lawyer, it took them a month to get back at it after being out in the wild doing his thing and coming back. And that can be really depressing for a lot of people.

Shelby 49:15
Yeah, I mean, Olympic athletes face this a lot. They face depression and fatigue after a big event. ultra runners, endurance athletes, I’m sure face this too. And some of its scientific, some of its, you know, dopamine. And after having a lot of dopamine every single day, there’s a letdown, sometimes in the wild or life is just so simple. Like if we’re through hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Every day, we’re hiking a couple of miles, we’re setting up our tent, making dinner, and then we kind of do it all over again and everything is new and exciting. And then when you go back to your everyday life, it can be kind of boring and kind of a letdown, and the excitement is not there and the purpose isn’t there and we’re a little lost and we’re also a little funny. EEG. And I kept hearing adventurers talk about this. And authors talked about it, too. They’re like, hey, Shelby Haftar your book tours over a couple months later, like, get ready, buckle up. And, you know, I really wanted to talk about how to deal with this. And the only way is to give yourself Grace at the end of the finish line. And to try to enjoy the journey along the way, you know, a little more slow down, take the scenic route, take the side path. And then when you do finish, you’ll give yourself some grace, and some rest. I interviewed a guy who walked across the world. Yeah, he walked across the world. And I interviewed him only a few weeks after he’d done and I was like, Hey, do you have a post adventure blues? He’s like, No, I’m so stoked. I’m playing tennis. And I was like, I think I just, I was like, that’s really surprising. But I’m so stoked for you. And then a couple months later, he posted he was like, I’m not doing well. And I reached out to him, and I was like, listen, it’s okay, like, you’re okay, you’re not alone. This is normal. And no one talks about this. But it is normal to have post adventure, let down. And you know, you can just try to keep planning the next adventure and the next adventure. Or you can just embrace it as part of the process. Give yourself grace. And like, that’s when you need to connect with your community. And someone really wise told me on the podcast the other day that the way he deals with his like, crazy, big adventure, post raise blues is he goes and tells his story. And he gives back and it comes full circle. And he connects with kids. And he connects with young adults, and shares his adventures. And that itself is like his next adventure. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving. I think that’s a really cool way to handle it. That’s not in my book. But that’s just a bonus for your listeners.

Sonya Looney 51:53
Yeah, like making it bigger than you and then moving on through other people. Totally. Exactly. Yeah, something else that I’m really passionate about. I’m actually doing a master’s in applied positive psychology starting in September. That’s one of a wild idea that I’ve had for like five years.

Shelby 52:09
Oh, good for you. Is that a pen? Yeah. Congratulations. I don’t know where it’s at. I know a lot of people in that program. My mom’s my mom is an interventionist, meaning. She helps people addicted to substance abuse, or who have mental health disorders get help, especially if the family is very resistant. And, you know, it’s kind of like a wild idea, get them into treatment center, get them help. But the guys she all works with are all took that master’s program. And it’s incredible. So good audio, I’ve looked at that and think it’s an awesome program.

Sonya Looney 52:40
Yeah, I want to apply it like the ask you how you’re applying it. And I want to apply it specifically because of this finish line and achievement problem in our culture of pushing so hard to strive for this thing to achieve it to feel a certain way only to feel like, let down or like there needs to be more and I need to get back on the hamster wheel and keep going for the thing, when really well being isn’t only about the achievement. So I’m super excited and passionate about that. And that’s one of the reasons I was so excited that you put finish lines in your book, because we don’t talk about this. And this is such an important thing to think about as you’re pursuing something because it will end

Shelby 53:14
it will end you know, like this book tour will end a lot of things and and you just have to think so. Yeah, everything, everything are all gonna die. But I just think we just have to, like, know that that’s part of the cycle of life and the cycle of an adventure and give yourself Grace at the end. You know? Everybody keeps asking me Shelby, what’s next? And like, my answer is really simple. I’m gonna actually lie on the beach, and build sand corndogs, which is where you go in the water, and then you like, roll around in the sand until you’re a human corndog. And I’m just gonna enjoy summer and be spent, I’m gonna be I’m not going to do and it’s going to be okay. Yes, I have to go make money. So I do have to figure out that next part. There’s no secret Trust Fund in my family, although I keep hoping someone decides that I have like, but you know, I mean, I don’t know what’s next. And that’s okay, I have a podcast, I have good friends of good family. And I really enjoy connecting with new people. So thank you for having me on your podcast, I think you’re gonna help a lot of people, especially with this new degree and through your own work.

Sonya Looney 54:25
And thanks so much for writing this book. And for your podcasts and all the work that you’re doing. I can’t wait to link to your TED talk as well when it comes out. And yeah, congratulations. This is a really big thing like 20 years and your entire life that goes into writing this thing that was the training you did and writing it out and telling more people about it so that it keeps living on and growing.

Shelby 54:45
Well, thank you. I mean, I think I started out wanting to write a memoir. And then I was like, I’m only 20 I don’t have a memoir and be like, that’s a little narcissistic, I thought and then I heard stories from so many other cool people. You know, this book isn’t about me. It’s really an anthology of a couple selection of adventures with tidbits from me in my own life. And there’s so many cool people doing great things out there that I just wanted to introduce you to them. And yeah, thanks. I’m excited that I was on your podcast. I’m excited. This book is done. It’s been a really wild ride this last week.

Sonya Looney 55:17
Where’s the best place for people to find you?

Shelby 55:20
I have at Shelby Stanger on Instagram and I have a website Shelby I’m super easy to find. All right. Well, thanks so much. Thank you, Sonya. It was a joy

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