There is no better teacher of resilience than nature. Nature doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor. It doesn’t care what you have achieved in life. When you’re out there, exposed to the elements, that is when your resilience really gets tested and built. Adam’s guest for this episode sees nature as a petri dish from which she can harbor wild ideas. Her whole career has been marked by adventure, resilience, and adaptability. Shelby Stanger is the host and creator of the hip podcast, Wild Ideas Worth Living, where she has spoken to countless CEOs, athletes, activists, and thought leaders. Shelby is always chasing adventure herself. Her willingness to take on challenges and dive into uncertainty all contributed to the epic life she’s living. Tune in and listen to the wisdom she has to impart to the world in this exciting conversation.
- 00:00 Shelby’s love for and fascination with people
- 11:30 Building a healing relationship with nature
- 23:06 Nature is the ultimate resilience teacher
- 29:01 A culture of kindness
- 33:16 The importance of fun and humor
- 36:34 Attitude, resilience, and “falling up”
- 40:12 A message to young people and their parents
How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world?
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Wild Ideas Worth Living: How Nature Teaches Us Resilience And How Changing Your Attitude Makes All The Difference With Shelby Stanger
I’m happy to spend a little time with you. I’ve got an incredible guest, Shelby Stanger. She’s a neighbor of mine. I didn’t even know this until recently, but she’s in the next town over. She’s at Cardiff-by-the-Sea, this beautiful little town, Southern California, North County, San Diego area. If you don’t know Cardiff-by-the-Sea, it’s a place you’re going to want to visit.
Shelby Stanger is the host and creator of the hit podcast, Wild Ideas Worth Living, an REI Co-Op Studios production. Over the years, her work has appeared everywhere from Outside Magazine to ESPN. She has spoken to organizations like The Girl Scouts of America, NPR, and Creative Mornings. She’s always chasing adventure herself. Shelby has surfed from Canada to Costa Rica. Sand-boarded down desolate dunes in Cape Town. Paddled down a remote portion of the Amazon River, and got so many bug bites, by the way. Interviewed countless CEOs, athletes, activists, and thought leaders. She regularly consults with highly motivated individuals and brands to tell better stories and even launch their own podcasts and wild ideas. She is amazing. Buckle up. Have fun with me and Shelby Stinger.
Shelby, I’m already salivating at the idea of where we’re going to take our conversation. At the outset, what’s one thing that’s not part of the introduction that you hear quite frequently that I read out loud? What’s one thing that you would love for people to know about you that’s not part of your standard bio or intro?
I love people and I have a lot of energy, but I will talk to everybody. Some people like dogs. I love dogs, but I really like people. That’s probably something you should know.
That’s a good thing to know because I don’t think everybody does love people. I don’t have any statistics to prove that or back that up, and I’m not a cynic or anything. However, there are some people out there who as evidenced by their behavior or their attitude, don’t dig people. I’ve also known people as you probably have too, that you thought liked you, but in the end, they were not so much.
I just think that everybody has a unique story and they should tell it or I want to hear it. I love how people go through life, and I love finding out what they’re passionate about.Everybody has a really unique story. And they should tell it. Click To Tweet
Why do you love people? Thank you for sharing that. What I’m getting at is, was there a time in your life when you didn’t love people so much, and now this is how you’re living a better life by loving?
No. I grew up lucky. I had a mom who talked to everybody at the grocery store and at the gym. The guys who bagged our groceries. There was a Vons in Solana Beach where CVS is now, and they came to my birthday parties growing up. I learned at a very young age that everybody’s unique and has a cool story. If someone doesn’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving, we should invite them.
My mom was a professor at San Diego State. Often, our Thanksgiving dinners growing up had a very motley crew of personalities from her students to the people at the gym, to the guys at Seaside Market, or Vons, or someone she met on the beach. What’s great about that, and I didn’t realize that until recently, is it made me good at interviewing people and good at my job. I love people. I’m able to talk to all sorts of people and figure out what makes them tick. People always ask me, “What’s your superhero power?” I’m a very average surfer, maybe an average writer, an average podcaster, but I think I’m really good at connecting to all types of people and finding goodness in them.
You’re genuinely curious about them and their lives. I’m thinking about how important it is. We’re going to talk about a lot of things but change and resilience. The Darwin quote comes to mind. A lot of people, when I ask about resilience and how they think about it, I’m almost always in a context of a keynote presentation to a more corporate audience when I’m asking that thing or in a workshop. I’ll say that, and they’ll go, “It’s the survival of the fittest thing.” That’s what we know about Darwin or one of the things we remember.
I go, “It’s interesting that that’s the case because that’s not what his quote is all about. That’s not what he said. He said it’s not the survival of the fittest or the smartest, even. It’s the survival of the most adaptable. It’s the people who adapt to their changing environment that are the ones that will be around the longest.” To be able to fit in or find yourself curious enough to want to fit in around people that are so different or have a different experience is a superpower.
You are making me think about why it is that if I travel to Alabama for an event, I’ll fall in love with Birmingham. I’ll be there for 3 or 4 days and I’ll love everything. I’ll vibe with everybody I meet and enjoy the whole thing and be sad when I leave. A week later, I might be in Springfield, Missouri, and it’s totally different, but I still love it. Are you that way? Do you love wherever you are? Are you like a chameleon? How do you relate and connect to people that are so different from you?
My sisters and I are different, and so I had to live with people that are different from me. I do like going to different places and trying to find goodness in them, but I tend to like places with beaches, mountains, or trees. I don’t always like cities. Maybe I’m a little bit more biased when it comes to places than people, but writing a book was lonely and hard for me. What was hard about it was that there weren’t enough people around when I was writing. It’s a solo activity. When I grew up, I played soccer competitively, Olympic development into college. I ended up playing at the only Division 3 school I applied to. I was going to go D-1, but I wanted to also be a journalist, have a life, party, maybe join a sorority and volunteer. I ended up going to Emory University.
What I learned is that I like being the goalie. I was the goalkeeper. I’m used to being the hero or the villain, and I’m okay with that amount of responsibility. It sucked. I don’t ever want to play goalie again, but I like having a team in front of me. Writing a book for me was a little tricky because it was just me. I have a podcast all about adventure, too, but I have a team. I’m the host, but I have all these great people at REI and at our production company that I work with to tell stories. I like having other people around.
I love having a team that is a part of the whole thing that we’re doing, too. It’s remarkable not just how important that team is, but literally how much more enjoyable the whole process is. For people that don’t know, there are a lot of moving parts to a podcast. You and I are vibing. We’re going to have a conversation here, but there’s so much that went into getting this thing set up.
The post-production on this is going to be its own universe of stuff. There’s how we’ll get it out to the world and what that looks like. That’s its own thing. There are so many things that are part of it, including it getting transcribed, turned into show notes, and turned into blog fodder that gets on the website for SEO. There are a lot of moving parts to this simple conversation that we’re having. If I was to do that alone, I’d be burned out and pissed off. I know me. I would never do it.
I’m the same. Our podcast, the one I host for REI is REI’s podcast now. I sold it to them. It’s called Wild Ideas Worth Living. We also script it now, which is cool. We’ll do an hour-and-a-half to two-hour-long interview and then it’ll become a 30-minute show.
That’s nice. REI, what a great collaborator. What a great company to be aligned with. I imagine that’s why you did it because it is very much a values alignment for you.
When I was a kid, I wrote down on a piece of paper, “Encourage other people to go for it.” I was fifteen. I wrote that as my own little mission statement. I was always a mainstream sports athlete. I played soccer. I ran cross country and track, but I found the most joy in outdoor sports in nature. Surfing was the first outdoor sport I’d ever done.
My parents weren’t outdoors either from New York and Pittsburgh. They didn’t camp. They were like, “Do you want to go camping?” I didn’t camp until I went to camp when I was a teenager and I fell in love with it. REI, when I started my podcast, I had a long career as a journalist and then as a marketer. I worked for Vans. I did international sales and marketing. I did women’s marketing early on when I was very young. I quit to be a journalist. I was freelance writing. Also, moved to Costa Rica to teach surf lessons, which my mom thought I was absolutely crazy for doing.
I then went back to consulting. I worked with brands like Nike, prAna, and Body Glove to tell better stories. In 2016, I’d been a freelance journalist. Magazines were getting smaller and I loved Tim Ferriss’ podcast. I had a big crush on Tim Ferriss’ podcast, but I wish he’d interview more people who were adventurers because that’s the lens through which I saw the world to which I connected. I wished he interviewed more women.
That’s why I started a podcast called Wild Ideas Worth Living. I wanted to interview people who had this wild idea and made it a reality. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by people who took the road less traveled and who were outliers, who did their own thing, didn’t have a direct path, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids. I was always interested in people who did it a little differently. I grew up in the southern part of San Diego. Do you know who Slomo is?
No, I don’t.
Slomo is this guy who is a doctor, but he rollerblades in slow motion down the boardwalk. I was fascinated by people like him who were these caricatures of themselves. He was this mainstream doctor and he rollerblades down in the boardwalk in slow motion on Mission Bay Boardwalk. When I was nineteen years old, I was a journalism student at Emory University.
By the way, I’m going to parenthetically say for people who don’t know that area, you got go and check it. It’s worth the trip to San Diego among other things. That environment is like Venice, but not really. It’s like a cleaner Venice, but it’s not that clean either.
It’s so funny because as a kid, I’d run down the boardwalk. At Thanksgiving, there’d be this other guy who would be mostly naked and he’d have a Turkey coming out of his Speedo or something ridiculous for every holiday. I thought it was awesome as a kid. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I’ve always been fascinated by people who took a different path. There had been a lot of times in my life where I felt stuck or scared and afraid to take a path that made zero sense on paper. For me, I always got my best answers not from writing a ProCon list because those gave me anxiety, and stress, and made my stomach go knots, but by going outside in nature.
Science proves that in nature our blood pressure relaxes and our nervous system chills out. There’s a study in 2019 in Frontiers in Psychology. That proved that twenty minutes a day in nature can reduce the stress hormone cortisol. I don’t think I realized that as a kid, but for me, nature has always been cathartic and a good place for me. It’s basically a Petri dish for me to harbor wild ideas of my own. I got the best ideas when I was out in the water. Sometimes I got the best ideas when I was swimming in the middle of the ocean and La Jolla Cove. It’s so inconvenient because who carries a pen and paper when they’re swimming, so I’d have to memorize the idea and words that would come to me.
I find that nature is healing and it’s where our best ideas come from. All of us are coming off this pandemic, which sucked. A lot of us are struggling still with mental health, but most of us are starting to travel more, do stuff, and gather more, which to me is joyous because I love people. That’s why I’m loving doing these interviews. For me, I wrote this last book because I wanted to encourage people to go do a wild idea, especially one in nature because it’ll improve your life and maybe even change it.
What I’m tracking there are so many things. I wrote a book some years ago called Pivot, which was about my movement out of a conventional profession. I was a lawyer for eighteen years and doing something pretty rad and different. People have often thought it was nuts, especially other lawyers. They’re like, “A) How did you do it? Tell me. B) How could you give up that golden whatever?” The ProCon list, I couldn’t agree more. Ball it up. Maybe it works for some people, but for me, ball it up, and throw it in the circular file because that’s not the process for figuring out whether you’re going to take a make a pivot.
That pivot by the way too doesn’t have to be a giant leap. I’m going to not push back, but I want to offer another perspective on this wild side thing because for me, getting a nature mind or having an ocean mind, which is my nature more than it is the woods. I love to walk in the woods and I live in a tree house in Martha’s Vineyard on one coast and on the beach on the other coast. One town away from you because we’re neighbors, funny enough. The way my mind responds to nature and where it certainly responds to the water is it creates all this space. It quiets it, the classic meditative thing, but it also creates all this space, and then space becomes creative itself.
The greatest ideas, inspirations for books, and all these things come from that time when you get into nature, have a nature mind or an ocean mind. I so agree. Invite people to explore what that wild adventure might be and it might be like you said that you carve out twenty minutes a day. Legitimately, twenty is all you need. The research is clear on that. Just go walk in a grove of trees. If you’ve got a bit more time, you can toggle your day. Some part of the morning or some part of the afternoon, you get to be near the water, in the mountains, or in the forest. What that will do for your mental health, for your creative juices, and so many things.
That’s what’s so great about nature. It forces us to be quiet and sometimes also to surrender. There’s no ego in nature. Nature doesn’t care what you look like, how much money you have in your bank account, and what you do for a living. It doesn’t give an F. You’re forced to give an F about yourself because nature doesn’t care. It also is good at holding space for you. In the water, it’s so big and it’s so vast. You talk a lot about resiliency, but a lot of people are trying a lot of things right now to improve their life.There is no ego in nature. Nature doesn't care what you look like, how much money you have, or what you do for a living. Click To Tweet
Here’s what some of these other things like taking a substance or going to therapy don’t give you that nature does and an adventure does. An adventure in nature gives you perspective. One of the things I suggest people do, you don’t have to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail or bike from Alaska to Patagonia. I’m not going to do that. I’m never going to climb out of Everest. Just watch the sunrise or the sunset for a week or a couple of times a week. That in itself is pretty powerful. We know that looking out into the horizon from a mountain vista or looking at the ocean at the horizon, increases our perspective physically. That helps us increase our perspective mentally as well. You get the space that you don’t get inside the four walls of a house, a cube, or an office. It’s when you’re outside.
A computer screen or a cell phone.
That was also why writing a book was so hard because I was writing it on a computer. I was like, “How can I make this computer waterproof in the middle of the ocean and write on my surfboard?” I couldn’t figure that out and I want to figure it out. It would’ve been cool. It’s challenging.
Solitary experience, just like you said. Yet, even in that, having written a few books. I had three books that came out in 2022, which is insane. It’s the way the pandemic worked.
You’re a machine.
No, hardly. It was a team. I wrote alone a lot of times, and then I also wrote in collaboration. The editing was a beast. There were a lot of people involved from the publishing house to family and friends. It takes three villages to write a book, yet it’s still crazy that I will get people to say, “There’s a typo on this page.” After 15 edits of the thing, there are 1 or 2 typos that are in this book. It is humbling. The whole experience is like you are in nature, as you said. You’re so small in the midst of this vastness.
For me, and I think you feel the same exact way, it takes your ego, which is a part of us. It’s a necessary part of our survival. It’s vital to our success. At the worst of it, it’s oversized for what we’re doing in the world. By that I mean, we need a perspective on our own egos and nature affords that. What else affords perspective on your ego is falling down and getting slammed in the water. As a surfer, you and I both know what it’s like to get slammed and have tons of water over your head pounding.
It’s a great experience and it’s somewhat optional, too. You could go out in nature and get your ego in check. That’s a lot easier on your body, mind, heart, and soul than to allow the forces of nature to slam you because your ego’s a little out of control. What do you think of that? Have you known anybody like that that resonates with you at all?
There are ways to have a relationship with nature and you can go to her in different ways when you need it. If you need healing, lying in water is healing. Watching the sunset and going for a quiet hike is great. Nature offers a lot of chances to be a great teacher. That can include going surfing, going rock climbing, or doing an adventure where you’re going to fail. You have to get comfortable with it. You’re going to fall off your surfboard. You’re going to fall rock climbing. Usually, the consequences aren’t that bad if you’re locked in with a rope. If you’re not, you’re a high consequence. That’s the point of nature. When you talk about being slammed by water, there was a time where I was teaching surf lessons in Costa Rica and I would paddle out every day.
Where were you?
I was in Nosara. I lived in Nosara. I taught surfing before it was crowded and filled with rich tech executives that have changed the town, but it’s okay. It’s still a great place. Every day I would surf whether it was big or small. Mostly, it was big because it was summer and it was south swell. The waves used to scare me, and then it’s sandy bottom there. The consequences are small. The risk is not that big in the scheme of life. You can get hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing, but not like going to Indonesia, Hawaii, or somewhere like that. I treated each wave like it was giving me a massage. I was enjoying the beating of being held underwater. I changed my relationship with things that were going to be heavy and tumultuous.
That’s how life is. You can relax during tumultuous situations. Going through the rinse cycle after a wave breaks on your head, you’re rinsed underwater, and you’re going upside down. If you can relax through it, you’ll come up for air and you’ll get a chance to take a breath. If you panic while you’re getting rinsed through the rinse cycle of the ocean, you’re going to lose your breath and it’s going to be high consequence. It’s a good metaphor to then take to your everyday life.
This is why I felt so called to write this book. Nature’s been the best teacher. Ever since I was a little kid, I teach surf lessons to women. I taught at Surf Diva, the first all-girls surf school. Women would come for a weekend clinic at La Jolla Shores. This was before there weren’t many surf schools. Now there’s a lot. They’d go for a week-long clinic in Costa Rica. I’d get a call from 1 or 2 of them every single time, a few weeks or a few months later.
They’d say something like, “Shelby, I quit my job. I ended my dysfunctional relationship finally for good. I’m moving across the country to a place with a better beach, often by me.” Their life would never be the same again. There are changes they would make to keep going for the positive. What I learned is that even a little time in nature, doing something wild to you, it’s what matters, can propel someone to massive positive change.
You talk about resiliency, which is my mom’s favorite word. My mom happens to be an interventionist on drug addicts and people with substance abuse. She’s one of the top interventionists in the country and we’ve had a lot of traumas growing up. My dad died when I was young. I’m the fourth child of three. There was a son that she had that died of sudden infant death syndrome at eight months. They protected me as a little kid. They were always afraid I was going to die. She’s like, “Maybe that’s why you do such crazy stuff because you’re raised in so much fear that you have to keep breaking out of it.” I’m like, “Maybe. I don’t know. I’m going to let it go.”
Being in nature teaches you resiliency as well. Trees are resilient. What’s so cool about some trees is that even in fire, there are certain trees that will only seed during a wildfire. It only sprouts new seeds and new trees if they’re burned. I love that you talk a lot about resiliency because nature is the ultimate teacher at building courage, gaining perspective, and gaining resiliency.Even a little time in nature, doing something wild, can really propel someone to massive positive change. Click To Tweet
To me, metaphors are super helpful. What you said earlier about being put through the rinse cycle in surfing reminds me of a conversation I had with Dave Kalama, who’s a big wave surfer.
I’ve been with him on a paddle board in Fiji. He’s cool.
He is. He’s a good guy. In fact, I remember we did that podcast. He ended up in the book, Change Proof. The book starts out with this metaphor of the ocean and in particular of a rip current, what we used as lifeguards back in the day called sucks. The beginning of the book is about a suck and how people respond to it.
It’s very similar to what you just said. When we don’t relax in the face of that threat of the change being, “I’m not on my surfboard anymore. I’m underwater. I could die here. All this is dark, scary, and unknown.” We’re living in that world right now. We’re living in a very time that for a lot of people is filled with darkness, unknowns, and uncertainty.
As you pointed out, if you can relax, what ends up happening is the wave will release you. The conversation with Dave was interesting because he was surfing out at the site, Jaws, which Maui’s famous for this 60-foot wave over there. Laird Hamilton is made famous among others. He said it was a day when Laird wasn’t around for whatever reason. He was out doing some other crazy thing. He was the favorite to win this competition, which would’ve changed his career a bit. He got in his ego, what we were talking about earlier. It was such that he expected, which is a good thing. “I’m expecting I’m going to win. I’m visualizing myself with the celebration.”
He was there and he finds himself on a 50 or 60-foot thing and he’s on the face. He’s already passed it, he’s already finished the wave, and he’s celebrating. The next thing you know, he’s literally sliding on his back at God knows what speed. You’re almost like a rock that’s skipping across the water. He’s skipping down the face of this massive six-story building of water, and then it breaks and puts him under. He got a breath, he was good, and then there was a second wave that he got in the wash and they couldn’t get him with the jet ski, so the second wave got him. Now, he’s under two waves.
He comes up. The jet ski and his partner were there to get him. He realizes, “If I don’t hold on and if I don’t get out of here with this jet ski now, I’m dead. I don’t have any more air left to survive another way that’s going to put me 40 feet under the surface. He’s talked about relaxing his body when he was under following the bubbles because it’s so dark and he’s so deep that you don’t even know which way is down versus up. It was the bubbles that were going to the surface that he knew how he could swim to get there.
It’s reminiscent of what you’re saying. When we fight it or when we’re tense in the midst of what is scary, we’re defeating our energy. We’re limiting the creative opportunity that exists in that space. That was the same thing with the rip current. If you relax and lie on your back, the rip current will spit you out. You may have some swimming to do from where it spits you out, that’s true, but you will not have exhausted yourself to the point where your lactic acid and everything is seizing your muscles and you’re ready to drown if somebody doesn’t come get you. In the time we’re living in, people have to relax. We all probably have to get a dose of relaxation. Nature does that, too. It gives us that moment to relax.
I want to go back to something you said earlier, too. You talked about these companies that you’ve been associated with and aligned with including REI. My question is, what’s the best culture? If you could answer this question for me, of all the companies you’ve worked with, including Nike, etc., were you able to get a front-row seat for what the culture at those organizations was like? Can you tell us which was the best culture you’ve ever been a part of?
I’ve only spent the most time at Vans and at REI. At REI, I’m just a contractor, but they won an award by Forbes. They’re the most social conscious and eco-conscious brand out there. It’s cool. Their culture is amazing, friendly, and bright. I don’t get emails at certain hours. Nobody emails me on the weekend. They value also going outside my coworkers on my team. Two crazy adventures and we talk about it.
Vans was awesome. I was there early. I had this unique opportunity right after college. I was the first female journalist for this thing called the Vans Warped Tour, which is a 60-day punk rock concert series that goes to 60 cities and 60 days with 108 Vans, personalities, skateboarders, motocross riders, and a motley crew of people at every single stop. It’s this traveling punk rock circus with massive chaos. I was this young, one of the only females, on the tour journalist. I was 22 years old. What a summer for a 22-year-old. It was almost famous.
The Founder of Vans was a guy named Paul Van Doren. His son Steve was the face of the company. He and I shared a bunk bed on the tour bus and he’s this jolly guy. He’s never had a drink in his life. He would get dessert before dinner. He was fun. He would be out there selling T-shirts and talking to people all day. I had to write 2 stories a day and take 108 photos, which was hard because it meant I needed to find a phone line at the end of the day to send the photos because there was no Wi-Fi in 2002.
Warped tours are held at dirt parking lots and fairgrounds, so there was no phone line except for ones occupied by tourist staff. You didn’t want to mess with them. They were dealing with tickets. They were scary. They had Mohawks and tattoos that were intimidating. They ended up being the nicest people, but they were scary to a 22-year-old girl.
Steve was out there all-day selling T-shirts, selling shoes, helping people, getting excited, and then we would pull into a truck stop or McDonald’s and some random town. Some kid would recognize him, “Do an Ollie. Show Steve.” He’d be like, “What’s your number? What’s your address?” The next day, that kid would have a fresh pair of Vans on his sidewalk. He’d make time for everybody. I learned from Vans to show up and be kind. That kindness is such a game-changer.Showing up with kindness is such a game changer. Click To Tweet
I learned a lot at Vans. It was awesome. I was there up until 2009. The culture there is strong. I don’t work in-house at REI, but I can tell it’s a wonderful company. They make gear that gets people outside in nature. I don’t know what’s better than that. I didn’t have a ton of insight into Nike, I was pretty young. I got to work at Body Glove for a while. It’s a family-owned company. They would crack open a bottle of wine at 5:00 and go sailing, scuba diving, and surfing at lunch. That was probably one of the most fun companies I’ve ever worked at. They’re cool. The whole family still works there.
Their grandpas were the people that founded Body Glove. They were some of the first scuba divers. They had this amazing collection of shells. In surf companies and outdoor companies, what’s cool is a lot of these outdoor companies are trying to expand who belongs in the outdoors. For a while, it was pretty insular at the time. I was probably one of the few girls at a lot of these companies. Now, you’re seeing a lot more diversity, which is cool.
They’re all founded by this passion. This passion to do the thing that they sell so that you can do, whether it’s going outside and sleeping in a tent under the stars, climbing a mountain, going surfing, or riding a skateboard. Like Body Glove. they create wetsuits so that you don’t freeze when you’re surfing. I’ve always been lucky that I’ve worked with kind and cool companies, and then I consult with a lot of companies. Those are probably the top three that I’ve worked with that are the most interesting.
Kindness doesn’t get enough credit, I don’t think. There are a lot of words in corporate language.
Kindness is big and fun. You’ve got to be fun. If your company is fun, then your culture will be fun and customers will associate you with fun. Everybody wants to have more fun. We all take ourselves too seriously. I also appreciate companies with a sense of humor. That’s important. Humor is important in nature and the will to wild, because there are going to be so many times when you’re scared and you don’t know what you’re doing. Humor can be a great spot.
You can pause and laugh at yourself. Here’s a call to action for everybody tuning in to this. Seize a moment where it’s possible to laugh at yourself for a second. Just have a chuckle at yourself.
I was young when I worked at Vans, so I would be in these executive meetings and I was probably one of the youngest ones. They would be like, “We’re going to penetrate the market.” I would giggle at the word penetrate. I was very immature. Sometimes there are some words that make you laugh. You just talked about Jaws. I was at Jaws. I got invited to cover Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who would be one of the first to surf Jaws. It was quite remarkable to watch waves at Jaws.
She was towed in on a jet ski and it was incredible to watch her. I was on the boat with her. She turned to me right before going out into the water and was like, “Can you put my hair up in a ponytail? At that moment, I was like, “She’s doing this and she has one arm.” You never realize that about Bethany because she’s one of the top surfers in the world, regardless of the fact that she only has one arm. She surfed these three waves. It was incredible. We went back to the boat, she grabbed her son and started nursing him because she was a new mom. It drove home the fact that she’s a badass no matter what.
The next day, she decided to paddle surf Jaws without a jet ski. She wanted to feel what a beating at Jaws felt like. She did it. She surfed on her own, then got one on the head. She came up laughing after one of those beatdowns that Kalama had. That’s the point. Some things in life are going to suck. They’re sad, they’re horrible, and there are things going on in the world that suck. If you could try to at least laugh at yourself when you suck, that’s a game-changer.
If there was a poster for what badass is, she’s on it in my book. Bethany Hamilton, if you want to check her story out, google her. I don’t even know if I’m going to say it here. If you don’t know, you need to go find out. I’m not going to be the source of info. She has got one of the most utterly insane stories of resilience and being change-proof. She’s an epic human, athlete, and mom. You name it. If I was saying, “What’s a through line for somebody like that?” to me, it would be this attitude word. The word you probably heard when you were a kid.
My dad would be saying to me sometimes, “Change your attitude.” I’m like, “I don’t know what that means. What is my attitude? You’re being a little sorry for yourself.” I didn’t know how to change my attitude. It’s a funny refrain because it’s been a long time since my dad told me to change my attitude. We’ve got to be able to change our attitude. When you have the life experience that she had, it would be fine to have an attitude of, “This sucks.” That’s it. Don’t expect any more from me. I don’t have to expect much because who even survives something like that? Let alone picks up their life and is stronger.
To me, resiliency is not about bouncing back. We often will say this when we’re doing our work in the world. We talk about it as bouncing forward because it’s bouncing back stronger. It’s not going back to the status quo. When life changes things in a radical way, it’s because what existed was no longer tenable. It’s our job to adapt to that new environment and surf it.When life changes things in a radical way, it's because what existed was no longer tenable. It's our job to adapt to that new environment and surf it. Click To Tweet
Part of why I wrote a book is I watched my mom write this book during the pandemic so fast. I was like, “How did you do that?” A publishing company contacted her to write a book called Addiction in the Family. Her book before that was called Falling Up. She has this saying, “You have to fall up. You’re going to fall down a lot in life, but you have to learn to fall up.” There were a lot of hardships that she went through besides my dad, like her own life.
Life is going to throw things at us, but we have to fall up. That is part of the resiliency perspective. Nature also teaches that very well and fast. When you surf a wave, you’re going to fall a lot. When you rock climb, you’re going to fall a lot. What’s so cool is that you fall and fail enough times. You try more, and then the failing becomes less. The trying gets easier, and then the success becomes more present and commonplace. I always recommend people who are afraid of failure to try bouldering or go to the climbing gym because you have to fail. It’s part of it.
That’s painful. I don’t recommend that. Golf is cool, but I don’t feel like there’s enough nature in golf. It feels a little manufactured. My parents like golf. I like golf. It requires patience.
You’re walking out in the woods for three hours. What do you mean?
Yes but you got manicured grass. It is pretty nice. You could have a drink. I like that you can have a cocktail or a snack. I’m a big fan of snacks. It’s part of the book. You need to bring your own trail candy on the trail, whatever that looks like for you. It doesn’t always have to be a suffer fest. If you enjoy kombucha or watermelon, which is totally inconvenient to bring in your pack, bring it. As long as it’s safe, you’re not in a bear country, and you do the things that you’re supposed to do, you got to pack your own trail candy.
You’ve worked with young women a lot in your life. I would like to get your thoughts on how girls are doing. I’m a daddy of 4 and have 3 of those as young women, 22 is our youngest, 30 is our oldest now in 2023, and then we have a son as well. Having spent so many years watching young girls grow up and develop into these amazing women and my wife being the most amazing role model for them. I want to get your thoughts on how girls are doing now because even our girls, while the youngest is 22, they’ve all been involved in social media. They’ve all had a smartphone since whenever.
It feels like anxiety, depression, and suicide among teens, not just girls of course, but high incidence of these things in that teenage demographic of young girls. It’s disturbing, confronting, and something we need to be alert to. I’m curious what your thoughts are on what’s going on. For people tuning in to this right now who have either young girls in their home, daughters, or friends or family that they’re looking at and maybe are concerned about how they’re doing. Any thoughts that you could share on that?
I wish I had better answers. I feel the same about you and I have a lot of empathy for young women growing up now. My next move is to go back to working with young women. It feels like it’s needed right now. I don’t know if I’m the one to do it, but everybody who has a mom that’s a teen somehow puts them on me. I think I have the maturity level of a teenager, so I tend to relate to teens well. We just have to be kind. As adults, show kindness and compassion. We need more humor. We’ve lost that. Kids used to be funnier. The pandemic was hard on a lot of children.
Social media is not going anywhere. The only thing we can do is teach kids another way. I always believe that nature is such a good thing to take kids into. Not every kid loves nature, but most kids like time in nature. You have to do it in the way that they want to experience it. Bring yummy snacks. Make it fun. Maybe they don’t like walking in the woods, but most kids like taking a zip line through a bunch of trees, and there are zip lines in California. Go on cool hikes. Take them kayaking. Enter them into surf lessons if they want to. That’s one of the cool things about outdoor sports. They build courage and confidence.
I have a friend whose kids surf and she’s well-adjusted. Other kids at school are vaping and sneaking out and this kid’s like, “Whatever. I’m a surf nerd.” She calls herself a surf nerd. She likes to study and she likes to surf. She has her head on glued pretty tight. I also think parents have to give themselves breaks because I see a lot of parent friends beat themselves up. It’s hard. We’re in a different time than when we grew up. All we can do is be nice to ourselves. That’s the biggest thing. We need to show kindness to ourselves to model that for other kids.
Probably the most interesting woman I’ve ever interviewed is Edith Eger. She’s the oldest person I’ve ever interviewed. She’s a Holocaust survivor. She says, “Self-love is not selfish. It’s self-care.” It’s not narcissistic. All of us have to be better models. A lot of us adults have anxiety and stress. We show it to our kids and all we can do is our best, self-love, self-care. We have to say nice things about ourselves. As women, it’s tricky. I’m getting older. I’m getting wrinkles. All my friends are talking about them and I’m like, “I’m going to have a lot of wrinkles. I spent 30 to 40 sitting in waist-deep water pushing girls into waves, staring at the sun, and squinting. It’s part of my life and I have to embrace it.”
Trees don’t judge themselves for being wrinkly. I’m not saying we all have to be like trees, but we have to be better role models as adults to kids. Be nice to ourselves. Say nice things to ourselves. As women, we got to support each other. I also think we need to be nice to young men. It’s hard to also be a young man. I was a product of Title IX, so doors opened for me. As a woman, I got away with murder because I was one of the only women who could ride a skateboard. I pushed Mongo, which is not cool and I got the job at Vans. I had a great Journalism degree and I was smart and had a little bit of charm that probably got me the job and some skills, but being a woman has helped me in my career.
We have to help everybody. There’s a spectrum of people right now and it’s cool. We’re entering an age where there are all sorts of different people. They identify with different things. I’m torn on labeling anything. I think that we’re all people. We’re all pretty close to the DNA. If you look up at stars which is why I recommend going outside so often, you see that we are just a small dot in this wide universe and we’re much more similar than we think we are. Whether we have different beliefs about politics or whatever, we’re all just this small dot in this giant universe. Go outside. It teaches you to have more love and to surrender.We're all just small dots in this giant universe. Go outside. It teaches you to have more love and to surrender. Click To Tweet
Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of things that were interesting inside the house. I grew up in a small little apartment. I shared a tiny room with my brother. We had TV. I didn’t grow up in the Ice Age or something like that, but we were outside a lot. We were outside without a tether. We didn’t have a phone. Our parents didn’t know where we were and we didn’t know where they were, although they were at work so we knew that much or whatever. We had to be home for dinner. If we didn’t get home for dinner, it could be dicey if they had to come out looking for you.
It was a different world. I’m not doing the, “The world was better back then,” thing. I’m not going there. There were things from the past that we would love to have back now. There are things from the past that sucked for a lot of people that we don’t want to revisit. It’s a mixed bag, as you said. It’s interesting looking at other people parenting their kids now. My wife and I are a little further removed from that having just paid my last tuition bill in UCSD and UCLA.
Congrats. That’s incredible.
We managed to get into a bunch of UC schools. It was fun. In that perspective, I see that filling up the kids’ schedules endlessly with thing after thing, not having space to close that loop. Space is creative. When you create space, it becomes a creative thing. Kids maybe don’t have a lot of space and time when they’re not being observed. They’ll quote helicopter parents out there. They maybe also don’t know what it’s like to fail and to go back to something else you said, because they’re constantly being made to feel successful regardless of whatever outcome they get.
These are things that, as parents, take a pause and take a beat for a minute, even a second. Just think, “Do I need to hover? Do I need to plan? Can my kid have some unscheduled and unsupervised time?” If that means inside in front of a screen, I would say no. The only rule is to get out of the house. That could be completely toned deaf to the world we’re living in now.
My friend and I have this joke podcast that’s parenting advice by people who aren’t parents because we’re not parents. I give my sisters who are parents all sorts of advice, and they just roll their eyes because they’re like, “You’re not a parent.” I have to say, if you’re a parent, give yourself a hug. You’re not that powerful enough to totally screw up your child. Don’t give yourself that much credit. Be nicer to yourself. You’re not going to F up your child. All you can do is model kindness.
You said it about your sister. I’m going to call out my own family on this one. I say this to my brother. I go, “Your kids are amazing, but you’re so hard on them.” My nieces and nephews are the most amazing beings. I’m like, “Let me understand something. Where did our parents who screwed up plenty and are not perfect people and none of us are? Clearly, they screwed up badly because you’re doing so poorly that you would have to be such a different parent than they were with you.” He’s a super successful guy with four amazing healthy kids and a great marriage. “Where did they F up so badly that you need to ride your kids so hard? They didn’t ride you a tenth as hard as that.” I don’t know. It’s a funny thing.
I’m lucky. My sisters are good parents. I watched them. I have friends who are good parents. I live in this community. I don’t know if you heard kids chirping outside, but a lot of people had babies during COVID. Johnny, my partner, and I are like aunties and uncles to a lot of kids. I don’t know if we’re going to have kids of our own. I’m at that age where I probably need to make that decision, but I definitely want kids in my life. If you don’t have kids of your own, being that auntie and uncle to other kids is important because it does take a village. We have to support our parent friends. Good on you for raising four kids. That’s a lot. I’m impressed.
This is why I looked the way I do. My wife and I are exhausted.
You look great. Thank you so much for having me on your show. I appreciate it.
Quick note to the audience out there. If there are some things in this show that not just resonated with you, but might help a friend, family member, or colleague, please as always share the episode. It helps us get this to a larger community. I don’t know how the algorithm works. We just know the algorithms in charge. Sharing it is great. Reviewing it and leaving a five-star or some other-star review makes sense. Please do that. You can leave a comment or a question for Shelby or me by going to AdamMarkel.com/Podcast. Leave that comment or question and it’ll be us that answers. No bots, no robots, no AI, real humans doing it. We’d love that.
With that, I want to say again, Shelby, thanks so much for being on the show. Wherever you are tuning in to this, think about some of the things that Shelby said and shared. Make a moment in nature, take a pause, and feel stillness or something. It’s going to be beneficial to you. Again, thank you all for being here. As always, I’ll say ciao for now.
I love that conversation with Shelby. She is somebody clearly who has had an epic life, leading by example, loves nature and what nature does for us, and how it opens us up. We talked about the creative opportunities that come from creating space for opportunity and creativity. We talked about how we create great business cultures. She shared a little bit about her experience working for Vans and with other profound brands along the way.
We talked about how our attitudes are such a big impact on the experience that we have and how we can change. At least, we brought up the question of, “How do you change your attitude?” That was something I shared for my personal life and my dad that would sometimes say to me when I was a kid, “Change your attitude.” I didn’t know what that meant. How do I change my attitude?
What I realize now is how important it is that we are the ones who are in charge of our attitudes. We get to choose our attitude. Choose it at the moment. Even choose it for the day. That’s a life-changing ability. The capability to do that is transformational. As a leader and as somebody who’s wanting to live a great life, you’ve got to be able to be in charge of your own attitude. If you can be in charge of your own attitude, my view is you can be in charge of your own destiny.
We talked about Wild Ideas Worth Living, which happens to be the name of her podcast. We talked about the ProCon list and whether that thing works for us. We talked about the nature mind and developing a nature mind. For both of us, she’s a surfer and I’m a surfer, and we love the water and in particular, the ocean. We talked a little bit about developing an ocean mind as well.
She’s got an epic book that’s out that I think everybody’s going to want to get their hands on. It’s Will to Wild. Please go and buy that book. More than ever before, we’ve got to challenge some of the conventional wisdom that’s around us, even within us. Be willing to get out there and do something wild. We chatted a little bit about how big a leap are we talking about here. Does it have to be a massive life-threatening leap or one that brings up tremendous fear, like the proverbial jumping out of an airplane or climbing Mount Everest? You’ll have to see whether that resonates with you.
My personal belief is that it doesn’t have to be. It’s the little changes that we make and the little changes aggregated over time that produces this exponential transformational change that is possible in any business and any relationship. The relationship we have with other people and the relationship we have with ourselves is possible in our bodies. That’s the long game that I’m playing. That’s the resilience training work that we do in the world, that our company does in the world. Helping organizations and leaders create that longevity within their teams so that we’re creating cultures that are work cultures of resilience and wellness as opposed to cultures of burnout.
There are so many work cultures of depletion, exhaustion, and burnout that I couldn’t even begin to name a list if I was even inclined to do so because it’s more the rule than it is the exception. That’s old paradigm thinking. That’s 20th-century thinking. We’re already well into the first quarter here of the 21st century. That paradigm has to shift and has to be different. That is why I love and I’m so committed to the WorkWell way.
If you want to check for yourself how exhausted or resilient you’re feeling even now in this moment, all you have to do is go to ResilienceRank.com. Three minutes, and you will get your own personalized score in four specific zones of resilience, mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual. It’s yours for asking. It’s entirely our gift to you. It’s free. As well as the resources that you’ll get as a follow-up to that. Take advantage of that.
Let us know what you think of the show. We’d love to get your five-star review. We’d love to get your comments for Shelby and me. You can go to AdamMarkel.com/Comment, and leave a comment there. Again, as promised, it will not be any AI. There’ll be no bot. There’ll only be a human responding, and that’ll be me and/or Shelby. We’d love to hear from you. For now, just enjoy. If you love this episode, as always, my only request is that you share it with a friend, a family member, a business, or a colleague. Take care and thank you so much.
- Shelby Stanger
- Wild Ideas Worth Living
- Tim Ferriss’ podcast
- Surf Diva
- Change Proof
- Addiction in the Family
- Falling Up
- Will to Wild
- Edith Eger – Past Episode from The Wild Ideas Worth Living Podcast
About Shelby Stanger
Shelby Stanger is the host and creator of the hit podcast, Wild Ideas Worth Living, an REI Co-Op Studios production. Over the years, her work has appeared everywhere from Outside Magazine to ESPN, and she has spoken to organizations like The Girl Scouts of America, NPR, and Creative Mornings.
Always chasing adventure herself, Shelby has surfed from Canada to Costa Rica; sand-boarded down desolate dunes in Cape Town; paddled down a remote portion of the Amazon River (so many bug bites); and interviewed countless CEOs, athletes, activists, and thought leaders. She regularly consults with highly motivated individuals and brands to tell better stories and even launch their own podcasts and wild ideas. You can find more at ShelbyStanger.com.