Running *IS* Rocket Science – Lessons from Running Marathons on All 7 Continents

 

– The MOVEMENT Movement with Steven Sashen Episode 101 with Dr. Melissa Corley Carter

 

Dr. Melissa Corley Carter. Melissa is a rocket scientist and Air Force officer turned writer, artist, leadership coach, and resilience champion. After her 20-year dream to become an astronaut was shattered, Melissa eventually rediscovered her true purpose: to build grounded leaders, connected humans, and powerful teams that change the world. Now she’s living the dream, dancing with the universe daily and joyfully embodying her soul’s journey as The Barefoot Dancing Rocket Scientist. Melissa is the author and photographer of the forthcoming book, Running the World: Marathon Memoirs from the Seven Continents.

 

Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement with Dr. Melissa Corley Carter about lessons from running marathons on all 7 continents.

 

Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

  • How having grounded feet will lead to having a grounded soul.
  • How running on 7 continents introduces you to a lot of different terrain to run on.
  • How aligning your intentions can help you find inspiration to do great things.
  • Why running a marathon is about being part of something bigger than yourself.
  • Why everything, particularly running is absolutely rocket science.

Connect with Melissa:


Links Mentioned:
resilienceactually.com

 

Connect with Steven:

Website

Xeroshoes.com

Jointhemovementmovement.com

Twitter
@XeroShoes

Instagram
@xeroshoes

Facebook
facebook.com/xeroshoes

Steven Sashen:

Running is just part of being human, it’s not rocket science, or is it? Maybe running is rocket science, but we’re going to find out more about that on today’s episode of Movement the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body.

 

Starting feet first, those things are your foundation. We’re going to break down the propaganda, the mythology, and sometimes the flat out lies that you’ve been told about what it takes to run or walk or hike or play or do yoga, whatever it is you like to do. And to do that enjoyably, efficiently, effectively, did I mention enjoyably? It’s a trick question, I know I did because look, if you’re not having fun, do something different until you are. You won’t stick around and do it if you’re not having a good time.

 

We call this the Movement Movement because we’re creating a movement that involves you and I’ll explain that in a second. About natural movement because we think that using your body the way bodies are designed to be used is probably going to be the most efficient, effective and enjoyable thing to do. The movement part about you is simple, this is a grassroots ground swell thing to break through years of propaganda. All you need to do is simple, follow us, tell people about what you discovered.

 

Go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com. You can subscribe and hear about upcoming episodes. You can find out all the places that we have episodes, you can find out how to find us on Facebook and Instagram and all those places that you can find us at. It’s all obvious, just got to jointhemovementmovement.com. Okay, I didn’t even introduce myself, I’m Steven Sashen and I do whatever I do in addition to being CEO of Zero shoes.

 

Let’s jump in, Melissa such a treat to have you here. Why don’t you tell people who you are and why you’re here.

Melissa Corley Carter:

All right, awesome. Thank you so much for having me Steven. My name is Melissa Corley Carter, and who am I? I am the barefoot dancing rocket scientist. We can unpack that in a little bit but basically I actually am a rocket scientist. Turned writer, artist, leadership coach, and what I like to call a resilience champion. I’m all about resilience. I spent 20 years chasing the dream to be an astronaut and when that dream was shattered I eventually rediscovered my true purpose in life which is to build grounded leaders, connected humans and powerful teams that change the world.

 

What that basically means in other words is what you do for people’s feet and their bodies, I do for their souls which is help them live more naturally and authentically, and have more fun doing it. Really we’re doing the same thing because I think when our feet are grounded, our souls have a lot better chance of being grounded as well. That’s a little bit about what I do.

Steven Sashen:

Please tell me that you actually own a t-shirt that says, “Yes, I am a rocket scientist.”

Melissa Corley Carter:

I own more than one.

Steven Sashen:

I love it. I think the only one that could top that is, “Yes, I am a brain surgeon.”

Melissa Corley Carter:

Right, it’s funny actually in one of my graduate school years, my roommate was actually studying neuroscience. We joked that we had a rocket scientist and a brain surgeon in the same room.

Steven Sashen:

I like it. I like it. By the way, you have in the background of where you are a book that has your name at the bottom of the book. Why don’t we touch on that really briefly, we’re going to come back to it. Since that’s part of what got us here, say something about that. Also say something about all the things on the wall to your right, to my left. I like people’s backgrounds, they say quite a bit. Hit me with your background.

Melissa Corley Carter:

All right, awesome. I do have a book coming out, it’s coming out in June and it’s called Running the World Marathon Memoirs from the Seven Continents. I did run a marathon in all seven continents and it’s not just writing, it’s a coffee table book so there’s photos and stories of the journey and lessons learned, life lessons. It was just obviously an amazing experience so that’s what it’s about. It’s ostensibly about running, it’s also really about the journey towards living an authentic life. That whole shattered dream astronaut thing, it’s kind of about that too and recovering from shattered dreams and building the resilience to really believe that the true dream is being fulfilled in every moment that you show up as you.

Steven Sashen:

Now before you go to the stuff on the right of you on the wall, I want to touch on the book a bit. First of all, since I’ve seen this, it’s beautiful and inspiring and interesting and fascinating. Running is one of those things where you can just go out your front door and do it but you did it on all seven continents. I want to highlight the seven part, six of those, piece of cake. The seventh one, and I’m not talking about North America, a bit of a challenge. Do you want to say more about just what inspired the journey, literally technically how you did it, especially that wacky seventh continent one.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Yes, Antarctica.

Steven Sashen:

Oh that, I was thinking Australia, whatever.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Nice, nice. Awesome. I also do just want to take a quick moment to say thank you Steven because your names on the back of the book too. I thank you for the shout out that you gave to the book for reading it, so thank you. Really where to start with the journey. As far as my first marathon, I had gotten into running just a little bit more, my mom mentioned, “Hey, there’s a marathon in Big Sur,” and Big Sur was a place that my family had spent a lot of time, really loved it and I was like, “Oh wow, if I had the chance to run in Big Sur, that would be really cool.”

 

I ended up deciding to train for the marathon and then it was at that expo that I passed a table that had a brochure for something called The Seven Continents Club. It was all about running marathons on all seven continents and just from the beginning, it just grabbed my attention, it grabbed my imagination and I thought, “Wow, that’s really cool.” Of course, the first place your mind goes is, “Antarctica? Really?” I’ll say that was actually part of the piece that also pulled me in. Somehow all the others seemed… it just all seemed doable but Antarctica was a step beyond, that’s amazing. How cool would that be, literally.

 

While it might have been some slight deterrence of, “Oh my gosh, how can you actually do that?” It was actually what pushed me over the edge because once I got the idea I was like, “I can’t not do it now. How do you not go run in Antarctica once you had the idea?” It really just grabbed my attention and excitement.

Steven Sashen:

To the point that you made, how do you do it technically?

Melissa Corley Carter:

Well, in fact it was interesting. It certainly ended up feeling like we had run a marathon in Antarctica but it was different from what I expected. There was a lot of mud, it was a little rainy, it was a little windy. We were on the Antarctic peninsula so I will say what surprised me, we were there at the end of the Antarctic winter so it was February, so it was as warm as it’s ever going to be. It was actually about 40 degrees, but it was also about 40 mile an hour wind. It was windy, it was raining, it was muddy, it was rocky. It was intense. It was definitely the… definitely felt like you ran a marathon in Antarctica.

Steven Sashen:

Was the winner a penguin?

Melissa Corley Carter:

The winner was not a penguin. We saw lots of penguins and there’s lots of cute pictures of penguins in the book.

Steven Sashen:

How many people did run? Backing up, I’m just so curious, how’d they set the course?

Melissa Corley Carter:

We ran on King George Island which has a lot of international bases on it. It was actually kind of fun. We ran a multi loop course so we started in Russia and then we ran to China and then to Utagawa, and then came back and then ran to let’s see Chile, and there was one other one. Anyway, we basically ran from one country to another, to another, to another, to another. There were people doing the full marathon and people doing the half marathon. Some people were running, they did that loop twice and then added an extra half loop on and then there was a half loop for the half marathon. There were probably about 100 people in all.

 

We actually took a ship from the southern tip of South America across the Great Passage to Antarctica. It was a two week cruise basically, a rugged cruise.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, I love the idea of going to Antarctica and the part that makes me the most nervous is that boat ride part. Every time I watch a video of people going across the straits, that looks like the least fun thing I can imagine as a guy who tends to get seasick.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Oh yeah.

Steven Sashen:

You can Dramamine the hell out of yourself, but even still. The thing with Dramamine is, “Wow, I know I’m seasick, I just didn’t feel like throwing up yet.” It doesn’t really work for me. All right, so back to the things that are on your wall, what’s to your right?

Melissa Corley Carter:

On my right are actually collages that I made for the marathons. There’s actually pictures of them in the book as well but I like collage, I like taking pictures and after my marathon in Athens, I had gotten the race poster and I had all these other kind of souvenirs and things and I was like, “I should make a collage out of this.” Then I went actually back to Big Sur and made a collage from all the things that I had saved from that. Then it just became a tradition, I made a big collage after each race. Had them on my wall and I’ve actually had them on my wall for quite a while and didn’t get the idea to make this book until the summer of 2019.

 

But they’ve been standing here waiting for me to do something for quite a while.

Steven Sashen:

This is going to sound like a weird question, and I say that only because it sounds weird in my head as I start to ask it, is running on the different continents, let’s leave Antarctica out of the equation for a second but is running these events, or even just running at all on these different continents, different from place to place? If so, how? I’m also curious about the training component versus the doing the marathon component when you’re in these different places.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Sure. Yes, running from continent to continent, running the marathon is very different. Depending on what the terrain is, particularly what the weather is, the somewhat challenging part is you do all this training at home in an environment that you’re familiar with, eating the things you normally eat and running the paths you normally run. Then you go to some other country where sometimes, especially if you’re… for a lot of them I was with a tour group so we would go to the traditional places to eat. Now all of the sudden, and I tended to be a little bit nervous about the things that I ate right before a marathon because it would affect how I felt during the run.

 

All of a sudden, you’re in a foreign country for the first-time eating things you don’t normally eat and being jet lagged. You’re on the other side of the world. There’s a lot of factors at play that influenced it. Certainly for instance, the Great Wall of China was crazy. That one actually took me the longest and there was a lot of other stuff involved in why that took me the longest but there are stairs that go practically straight up and you’re not really running at that point. It’s more like hiking or climbing.

 

For me though, I’m not very fast so I was always… my goals were to finish and not be last. Set the bar low and clear it often as some of my favorite authors like to say. It was really about the adventure. I didn’t really worry that the terrain was different or that who knows what had happened during the past few days. When we try to run around… even running through the city, through the city blocks to do some training, but by the time you actually get on the trip, you’re either in shape or you’re not. You’re going to make it or not.

 

I really just tried to approach each one as an adventure and I was never really tied to finish time or anything like that. It was really about the journey itself, and one of the big things that I came to through the course of all of my marathons was that the run is the win. It’s not about winning, it’s about how you run the race and just have the experience and savor the experience.

Steven Sashen:

I think you missed an opportunity though. See, this goal to not be last, you missed the opportunity of people really cheering you on to get in before they shut the course down. As a sprinter, as a 59 year old, I’ll be 59 in a couple weeks, I say let’s call me a 59 year old sprinter. I can tell you that when I’m an open race where there’s high school kids all the way up to people in their 80’s, the high school and college kids, people go crazy because these guys are super-fast. People over 80, people go insane because they’re over 80. People in my age group, they leave. They go out and have lunch and they come back, we get no attention whatsoever.

 

It’s a thankless job. How did the locals respond in these different places?

Melissa Corley Carter:

They loved it. There were people at all of them, except maybe Antarctica because there weren’t really people there besides people associated with the race. In most of the places, there were and actually I would say Kenya, we were also in a wildlife park so not so many people on the side of the road cheering you on. But in the places where we were just running through town or running through the streets and stuff, people just lined the streets cheering and shouting and waving and everybody loved it. It was really cool. We really did have the support of the locals. It always motivates me to see someone cheering and clapping so yes, I’m sorry that you are in that category that nobody cheered for. I’ll cheer for you.

Steven Sashen:

The biggest explosion in an audience that I’ve experienced, there was two, they were kind of back to back, this is about 12 years ago. I’ll do the second one first. The second one was my wife and I we ended up in Berlin just in time for the World Track and Field Championships where Usain Bolt set the world record. I happened to be because Laina’s she was an exchange student in Germany, her host sisters husband was the head of Berlin tourism. We land in Berlin he goes, “Do you want to go to the meet?” It’s like, “Yeah.” We end up in the VIP section with nobody else there so we’re like five rows off the track at the 70 meter mark watching Usain Bolt run 9:58.

 

I saw 9:58 and I kind of explode and he next to me is like, “What’s all that about?” I’m like, “Just wait,” and two seconds later you hear 70,000 people lose their minds. It was a week earlier in Finland for the World Masters Track and Field Championships where I had a horrible race, but that’s not important. There was a guy there who’s 101, so he came out on his walker, he puts the walker down, he takes two steps to the line they hand him the shot put which I think for 101 weighs like two pounds, doesn’t matter. He’s like, “Ugh,” it goes about 10 feet and the crowd goes insane. We’re all thinking, “I want to be that guy.”

Melissa Corley Carter:

Sure, yeah.

Steven Sashen:

It was so much fun. If somebody wants to emulate any or all of what you did, what would you say to them?

Melissa Corley Carter:

I would say take it one step at a time. Ask yourself what you really want, what’s the goal behind the goal, that’s always a big thing for me. What do you hope you will achieve by doing this? Make sure your intentions are aligned because if you’re doing it just to say you did, then it may be a struggle. If you’re really actually excited about it and really into doing what it takes to prepare for it and to complete it, go for it.

 

It’s challenging and it’s a long period… it took me five years to go through them all. Some people it takes longer, some people I don’t know have probably done it faster, I’m sure there have been. It’s all about doing anything for the long haul is all about taking one step at a time and being patient with the process and enjoying the process, not waiting until the end to celebrate. I’m also all about celebrating small wins and acknowledging our progress along the way. And being willing to adjust your course and your training plan. If you’re training for something and you get injured or you have some kind of backslide, take a deep breath and just start small again.

 

It’s really about giving yourself grace and patience and just plugging along one foot in front of the other.

Steven Sashen:

It’s an interesting thing, I get calls and emails from people all the time saying, “There’s this marathon coming up in six weeks, I want to switch to Zero shoes and run it,” I go, “Oh, whoa, whoa, why don’t you just switch and then see if you’re ready and if you’re not, then just drop the idea because you’re ready when you’re ready, and you’re not when you’re not.” The number of times where I paid to enter a meet and then for whatever reason couldn’t, the first couple times like, “Ugh, I just wasted $35.” The last couple times like, “Yeah, you know, whatever. It’s $35.”

Melissa Corley Carter:

Right.

Steven Sashen:

With some of the people you were running with for some of these races, this idea of how’d you put it, sort of having the right motivation not to just do it, which is the anti-Nike slogan of course, don’t just do it. Talk to me about either some of the other things, more specifically that would be motivating other than, “I just want to do it,” and if there was anyone that was running with you that had that just get it done to say I did it thing, could you see that their experience was different than what you were experiencing?

Melissa Corley Carter:

Great question. I think for me personally as I have reflected on why I run or why I think people run, I think people run marathons or take on any big challenge because it’s not just about running marathons, marathoners are just one manifestation of people who like goal setting. I think we really do that to connect with a part of ourselves that hopes and believes that we’re stronger and greater than we think we are. Or that we think is possible.

 

I don’t think we necessarily verbalize that, it’s not like, “Oh, I’m going to go run a marathon because I just want to know that I have some power, some inner power.” We don’t think that consciously but I think that’s what comes out of getting beaten down and getting back up again and getting injured and coming back from it, or doing too much too soon and getting back to it. I think there’s that internal motivation of, “Can I? Can I do it?” And learning that we can do so much more than we think is possible. It’s really about self-discovery and I don’t know that I really noticed anybody running alongside me who wasn’t I don’t know, who had some kind of a superficial motivation. Maybe they did, but I think especially the Great Wall, which was just a unique experience of running with people that I had not normally done, usually I just sort of banter with whomever I happen to be passing.

 

I hadn’t actually started or finished a marathon with anyone besides the Great Wall which again, you can read the book for more details but I ended up running the first 21 miles with a woman who paced me the whole time, and then I came across someone else who was pretty much done, had given up and I was able to bring him through the finish line. There was a lot of just amazing teamwork and comraderies and it became not at all about the race, but about the human aspect and human connection.

 

For me, running a marathon, even with people I never even learned their names, it’s really about being a part of something bigger than yourself and being out here with the same crazy goals as somebody else for completely different reasons. Everyone’s motivation is a little bit different and I do think again, at heart it’s really that connection to something greater. But people have different conscious motivations for it. It’s really just being a part of that together as everyone is fulfilling their conscious and unconscious dreams.

Steven Sashen:

It’s funny, you want to discover you can do more than what you think, my goal is to always do less than I think. I’m a geek. For me, running 26.2 miles, I don’t like to drive 26.2 miles. A friend of mine used to do a joke, this guy names Billy in Cornell, he used to say, “The triathlon is two mile swim, and then 112 mile bike ride and then a marathon, and I was going to do one the other day but you have to wake up at like 6:00 AM.”

Melissa Corley Carter:

Nice. I think one of the funniest videos I’ve seen is actually you in your little short trip, where you go in the little lap pool and then you’ll ride the bike and then run. It cracks me up, hilarious.

Steven Sashen:

In one of my videos, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, just do a search on YouTube for worlds shortest triathlon and you’ll see I did a triathlon in 5.8 seconds. That was only because the transition slowed me down, I think I could have broken 5. My goal actually is to find some fitness club, some fitness chain like Lifetime Fitness or someone who wants to do that event as a fundraiser for something, because it’s just so goofy. We’ve actually done it in other places, and people just show up and they wear costumes and it’s just a riot to just see who can do the super-fast goofy triathlon. We did it once with a slip and slide and adult big wheel bikes and the run was a sack race.

 

Just anything that’s a wet thing, a wheeled thing and a human powered thing. It’s really, really entertaining.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Love it. Love it.

Steven Sashen:

We teased at the beginning of this episode, and by we, I mean me in this case, about running and rocket science. Can you say more, because you were the one who gave me this idea that running is rocket science. I want to talk about astronaut things as well because that’s really fascinating. What inspired you to make me say running is rocket science?

Melissa Corley Carter:

Excellent question.

Steven Sashen:

I am blaming you entirely, just to be clear.

Melissa Corley Carter:

I’ll take it. I’ll take it because it’s true. I think it’s true. Rocket science is really essentially, if you think about it, about three things. It’s about going from where you are to where you want to be, it’s about acknowledging progress and adjusting course, and it’s about letting go to lift off.

Steven Sashen:

Oh, that’s interesting.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Yeah. That’s the, for me, the metaphorical relation of rocket science to everything. I think everything is rocket science but particularly running in this case. I tend to focus on resilience in my life as well. Running, going from where you are to where you want to be, it’s not just in running from point to point, but where are you in your wellness and your fitness level and where do you want to be? If there’s a gap in there, taking one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, you close that gap. It’s all about figuring out what’s in the middle and how you get to where you are to where you want to be.

 

Acknowledging progress and adjusting course, if you have ever watched a rocket launch or seen a movie like Apollo 13, you might have noticed that there is a constant stream of dialogue. As you’re launching they’re talking about, “Oh, we just hit max cue,” which is maximum dynamic pressure. There’s milestones along the way that are constantly being communicated about. Technician control, the astronauts, everybody’s talking. If they’re approaching the International Space Station, you know how far they have to go as they’re closing in and they’re constantly reporting on it. There’s all this acknowledging where we are in the process and even more than acknowledging, it’s really about celebrating.

 

I mentioned earlier celebrating the small wins, you don’t just wait until the end to celebrate, there’s… again, in all the movies, they always cheer and clap as soon as the rocket tears the tower. It’s not like we wait until it gets where it’s going to cheer. Acknowledging the progress. And then adjusting course.

Steven Sashen:

Well wait, the first one, talk about the running aspect of the acknowledging and small wins. Also how you were doing that during your running around the world.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Yes, absolutely. It’s really again, not waiting until the end of the marathon or the end of the run to celebrate. For me another thing that came up in the book a lot was hills. Hills emerged to me as an actual physical manifestation of celebrating small wins. You have emulating hills, you get to the top of the hill and there’s a little bit of respite. I’m also a run walker so I don’t run the whole thing, I intersperse my runs with walking. Particularly at the top of a big hill, I would tend to walk and take a breather. It was, “Wow, look how far I’ve come.”

 

It’s sort of built in weigh points where we can acknowledge our progress and celebrate how far we’ve come. It’s also a way to not be paralyzed by the monumental endeavor of running the whole marathon. It’s hard to contemplate even driving 26 miles, I’ve driven some of the marathon courses I run thinking, “How did I run all this way? I can’t even believe I did that.” How do you not be paralyzed by the magnitude of that endeavor? Well, taking it a hill or just the next 100 meters or whatever, taking some small chunk that you can focus on gives you the… or it gives me anyway, the motivation to get through that part of it and then see what comes next. So yeah, breaking it down.

Steven Sashen:

I like the idea that since they don’t design the courses where they give you a beer or chocolate when you do get to the top of a hill, that you do it internally and find the thing that works for you as the acknowledgment. It can be, look, I don’t run marathons again, but I can totally imagine it can be overwhelming if you don’t chunk it down. If you don’t start to think of it in smaller pieces and what you’re doing for each one of those pieces. Ironically, it’s actually no different in a 12.5 second sprint, it’s just there’s just different pieces that you’ve got to pay attention to. It’s not that you acknowledge the wins per se, you’re certainly not going, “Hey, I made it,” but if you get out of the blocks well and drive well, you definitely acknowledge that, that definitely carries you into that next phase, the max velocity phase, and if that goes okay, that definitely carries you into the part where you start getting slower in the last 30 meters or so.

 

You’re just holding on and then you finish and then you lie down because you can’t breathe. You don’t celebrate that, actually the joke that I have about sprinters is at the end of a race everyone always says, “How’d you do?” And my answer is now, “Do you just want a number, or can I give you the excuse first?” That’s the other thing, you can never get it perfect, it never is exactly the way…

Melissa Corley Carter:

Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s a huge piece of it too and I’ll say that’s part of the third rocket science piece which is letting go to lift off and that’s letting go of attachment to outcome. For me, perfection is not about doing it exactly the way you wanted to do it, it’s about, “Were you engaged throughout the process?” Perfection is, “Did you do what you wanted to do? Did you adjust as you went and consciously go through the whole process?”

 

Again, run is the win is that sort of… the perfection piece is not 100%, it’s giving it 100% of your effort and feeling good about the effort you put in.

Steven Sashen:

Pardon me. I don’t know if this is unique, well I’m sure it’s not unique to running, in fact I know it’s not unique to running. Ignore everything I just was thinking. The thing about sprinting and I imagine it’s really no different for any competitive event, let’s put it that way, you can never get it right. It’s never perfect. The intermittent reinforcement component is so high, it really is like going to Vegas and playing slots because every now and then, certain parts or the whole thing feels great and you can’t reproduce it, or it feels really great except for that little thing and you’re thinking, “Oh, if I had just…” which if you figure out that, “Oh, I had just,” thing out, the next time there will be a different thing that doesn’t go the way you planned.

 

What’s so funny is people often think that that’s a problem, but that’s actually the thing that motivates you to keep moving forward because our brains are wired with that intermittent reinforcement thing to have that be additively interesting to try to find that little nit that you need to pick, et cetera. Which I find…

Melissa Corley Carter:

And being okay with that thing, and saying, “Either I’m going to work on it next time, or that thing is not as important to me as I thought it was so maybe I’m not going to do it.” Go ahead.

Steven Sashen:

What’s interesting about that is, and I’m wondering about this, I wonder how many people are doing enough running or whatever it is, any event, to really learn that lesson, because the way I’m thinking… this is going to be a weird tangent. When I moved out to Boulder, Colorado, one of the reasons is I was doing Zen archery. The imperial bow maker of Japan lived in Boulder. He spoke almost no English even though he had been here for 20 years. But the thing about Zen archery is they refer to it as a moving meditation and what’s interesting about it is that when you’re doing this practice where you’re always on the edge, you’re always trying to perfect something that you can’t perfect and the way you hold the bow, the way you hold the string, you’re always right on the edge of being out of control. You’re playing this very fine line between controlling and being out of control. Put all these things together and basically there’s two things that happen over time. The first is you realize that you only get four thoughts. It’s, “Am I doing it right? Am I doing it wrong? Are people watching?” A little anticipation or anxiety or fear or frustration, that’s actually more than four thoughts.

 

They kind of coalesce into four basic thoughts, “What do people think of me? Am I anxious and looking forward to the future? Or thinking about the past?” I don’t know, there’s a fourth in there somewhere. But then there’s the next phase that happens after a number of years, and the reason that I bring up the topic of, “Can you run enough?” Is that when you’re doing the Zen archery thing, all this gets… and this whole thing is compressed into small amounts of time. From the time you pick up the bow and arrow to the time you shoot maybe 30 seconds to a minute, let’s say. But then you do it over and over and over and over and here’s where you get to the last part where those four thoughts, you just stop giving a crap.

 

You just don’t care what they think anymore. When they come they just come and they go, and you just do the job. You shoot the arrow. Those things just are not an issue. The irony in regular Zen practice is it’s very hard to get to that point because you get so many different thoughts and with running, same thing. For me it took years to get to the point of just not… if I got injured it’s like, “I’m off for a couple weeks.” If a race didn’t go well, “Eh, the race didn’t go well.” But I wonder how many people can have the opportunity to do enough to get to that point where those thoughts that are arising, those things that you believe, “Eh, whatever. It’s just a thought.”

Melissa Corley Carter:

I think that’s why we’re here having this conversation. It took me years to get there too and it was a lot of… there’s a lot of mindful breathing and a lot of practice before I got to the realization of, “Oh, you know what, if I just put one foot in front of the other over and over again, the finish line will get here.” It doesn’t seem like it takes you that long to figure that out, but it took me a long time. There was a huge…

Steven Sashen:

It’s a tricky one. Because again, we’re not wired to think about what’s happening in the very next moment and to focus on what’s happening now to get to the very next moment. We’re wired to think about what it’s going to be like in this imagined future when we accomplish the thing that we think is going to make us happy that never really does. That’s how we’re built. It’s an upside down way of approaching what you experience.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Right. I teach mindfulness too and of course it’s a lot of the same principals, it’s not about not having thoughts, it’s about redirecting your attention to your object of focus when you do have thoughts. Again, that piece of being willing to adjust course, that, “Okay, that run didn’t go very well, I didn’t make it to that meet. I don’t know that I can run this whole marathon so maybe I will do some walking during the marathon,” being willing to listen to our bodies and listen to our goals and adapt our goals. That thing way out in the future that we’re planning for, I mentioned earlier the goal behind the goal, I think it’s really all about figuring out what is it we really want when we decide to do something? What is that thing that we really want and what are maybe some other ways that we can get there?

 

We have this predefined success that traditional society tells us, “Oh, you need the fancy car and the white picket fence,” and whatever else, the corner office to have made it. And yet people work, and work, and work and they get those things and they wonder why they’re not happy. It’s because they didn’t actually want those things, they wanted what they thought that thing was going to give them.

Steven Sashen:

Yes, exactly. That’s the thing. We imagine that if we get something, that’s the thing that will make us happy despite the fact that that has never been true. There’s a book by Daniel Gilbert from Harvard called Stumbling on Happiness and the basic premise in a few sentences is that we’re always trying to figure out what will make us happy or keep us from being unhappy in the imagined future. We’re horrible at predicting either of those and we’re even worse at remembering how horrible we are at predicting them. Then we think we’re special because if we interviewed a million people who got the thing that we thought we needed to be happy and found out that it didn’t make any difference for them, we’d still go, “Yeah, but if I got it.”

 

“I know all those people who won the lottery were no happier when they got the money, but if I won the lottery….”

Melissa Corley Carter:

Right, of course.

Steven Sashen:

It’s a very funny thing of human cognition that we do that.

Melissa Corley Carter:

It is, but I think that the more we can learn, and I do think that there is a shift in consciousness in progress. That yes, we are wired a certain way but our wiring does have the capacity to change. I think the more that we can realize that actually all we need to be happy is to be present in this moment, it’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around really, but it’s not even just a mind thing, it’s a connection to the universe.

Steven Sashen:

It’s one of my favorite things is in this very moment, is there anything that’s lacking? Really look and if you don’t imagine something a minute from now, a year from now, whatever, in this moment you can’t find anything lacking. If you really sit with that it will become really hard to think or talk because everything is just so literally awesome.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Absolutely. One of the lessons that’s kind of in the book but also as I was thinking about life, something I’ve realized is that a lot of times what we are chasing is already here. It actually takes pausing to notice that it’s already here, to recognize that. I’ll say, I was active duty Air Force for a little over 11 years and I’ve been a reservist for the last six, after I stopped doing active duty I was thinking, “Gosh, what do I actually want to do?” Because I was in this quandary, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

 

I kept thinking, “Travel photographer would be really cool.” It took me kind of a while to finally realize, “Wait a minute, I’ve been a travel photographer. I’ve done that. Here’s the book.” But yeah, a lot of times we think that something is out in the future, some lifestyle or something that we want and if we took just a little bit of a pause to take stock of where we actually are, maybe it doesn’t look the way we were imagining it in our minds, but the actual essence of it, we already have. I think that would go a long way towards de stressing because we’re constantly obsessed with getting this thing that we think we don’t have when we actually do already have it.

Steven Sashen:

I think there’s another part which is that we confuse what happens at the end, which is the getting something part, and you don’t get satisfaction when you get that thing, you get satisfaction because once you have it you can no longer want it. Wanting is a stressful state to be in. You can’t want something that you have, so you automatically let go of that stressful anxiety producing striving thing and it’s very easy to confuse that release with the phenomenon of getting something.

 

Now the flip side is, I say anyone who says money can’t buy happiness has never driven my car. I have a Subaru BRZ that I threw a super charger in. But I actually came up with that line when I had a Toyota Celica Turbo all track. With both of those cars, because in fact the Subaru is co designed with Toyota, every time I look at it, it has just the right shape. I just love the look of it, and of course driving it’s super fun. There’s something to be said for not thinking that this is about some sort of internal happiness thing, but finding things that you interact with on a regular basis that you appreciate.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Yeah.

Steven Sashen:

That’s something that I think, I’ll say it this way, I know it’s something I overlooked literally other than my car, because I really never owned anything. But my wife and I just bought this house and we had to do some renovating and it’s wacky, we’re walking around, everything in there down to the door hinges, we picked. There’s nothing that I see that is not enjoyable because it’s something that I enjoy, which sounds kind of circular and stupid.

Melissa Corley Carter:

So now we’re in Marie Kondo territory. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but also just find joy every day. I’ve kept a gratitude journal since 2014, every day I’ll write down things that day that brought me joy and its life changing, it really is. You actually start to see, when you’re actually looking for things to be grateful for, the life changing power of gratitude, you actually start to see more because the activating system when our brains find what they’re looking for and the patterns and everything. The more you look for the things to be grateful for, the less the other stuff gets in the way and you actually form new neural pathways.

 

I know you’re all into the cognizant science. It’s truly life changing.

Steven Sashen:

You’ll appreciate this one. Only recently I started reprogramming my brain. When I realized that one of the things that upset me twice a day, or two times during the day, was driving to and from work because invariably there was someone driving 15 miles under the speed limit, and did I mention I own a sports car? I found it just endlessly frustrating when someone was driving 40 in a 55 mile an hour zone. No, I would never use the right or left turn lanes illegally as passing zones, but that’s not important, the important part is that what I decided somewhat spontaneously a couple weeks ago that anytime somebody was driving under the speed limit in front of me, I would use that as a reminder to think of things I’m grateful for.

 

The fun part is that experiencing the gratitude thing is fun and I can’t say that I no longer am bothered by people who drive under the speed limit in front of me, I will say that I’ve noticed a diminution of my anxiety about it, my annoyance about it. It hasn’t gone away, it’s not like I’m just loving it but it’s undeniably losing its grip which has been really interesting and I’m feeling the effect of that in other aspects of my life that have no relationship to driving or anything, there’s this underlying hum that’s kind of kicked in lately, it’s really interesting.

Melissa Corley Carter:

I love it. I love it. There’s a perspective shift there too and I want to credit my two of my coach trainers, Jen Barley and Karen Sullivan, they love to say, “You are the traffic.” The next time you’re annoyed about the person who’s driving too slowly or the person who’s tailgating you or not using their turn signal, think about you’re their traffic.

Steven Sashen:

Again, sports car, people don’t tailgate me.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Sure, fair enough. But just in general what you’re annoyed about that other people are doing, is what are you doing to annoy them? The world does not revolve around you.

Steven Sashen:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Melissa Corley Carter:

It’s a huge shift and can change your attitude about everything.

Steven Sashen:

Sorry, I know we go on these tangents but that’s what happens, my favorite the world does not revolved around you story is Zen archery story. I’m at an intensive retreat where we’re just practicing all day every day, and I happen to be at the front of the line where the imperial bow master, the emperor of Japan is sitting five feet in front of me watching me like a hawk. I take my first shot and he gives whatever correction there is, and then I’m doing the second shot and I could not be more self-conscious because I knew this guy was looking at me like a hawk. The whole thing, it was okay, but the self-conscious factor was through the roof.

 

As soon as I finished, when you finish, you’re looking towards the target and he’s sitting in front of me if I were looking straight ahead. I finish shooting and I turn my head back and I’m ready to catch a glance of whether I did better or worse and he’s asleep.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Yep.

Steven Sashen:

I almost burst into hysterics. All that self-conscious effort for nothing. He did not care about me at all. It was great.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Absolutely. Yeah, and actually I’m going to bring that around to that third piece of rocket science again which is letting go to lift off. Again, rocket science wise, obviously as the rockets lifting off, it’s letting go of fuel. All the smoke and the flame and even in space, you make course adjustments with fuel and thrusters and are always letting go of something in order to get to where you’re going and to go faster. The rocket accelerates as it loses mass from the fuel.

 

What we need to let go, whether it’s in running or whether it’s in life, is that again, attachment to outcome whether it’s self-consciousness, “Are people going to approve of what I’m doing?” Or so many times we just kind of live our whole lives according to someone else’s expectations and don’t even get to what ours are. There’s a huge piece of letting go, rewriting old stories. There’s always some kind of fear story that’s getting in the way if we aren’t humming on all thrusters. That letting go piece really helps us lift off to our highest potential in life.

 

In running it’s letting go of time goals or distance goals, or you get out there and you listen to your body instead of saying, “Well, my chart said I had to run 20 miles in X time today so I’m going to do that to my own detriment.” Be willing to let go of your expectations to do what is best for you.

Steven Sashen:

One of the ways that I know thousands of people now have discovered something similar is when they’re finding out how much fun it is to be barefoot and they start walking around barefoot more often. Even to this day, I’ve been doing it for 12 years but to this day I’ll walk into places and I have the thought that someone will be disapproving or someone will have some opinion. Mostly I don’t care but that’s in part from living in or around Boulder where being barefoot is the least unusual thing you could do. Walking around breastfeeding their dog or something.

 

That’s actually a really fun one to discover that most people don’t care and the worst thing someone’s going to say is something you already believe like, “You’re crazy for doing that.” “Yeah, I think that too sometimes. I totally get it.” “You’re going to get injured.” “I worry about that too every now and then,” hasn’t happened yet but I’m concerned about it. “You hippy freak.” “Never smoked pot but I know where you’re going with that.” My favorite thing to say when people talk about being barefoot, I go, “Would you have the same comment if we lived at the beach?” They go, “No,” I go, “Then just pretend we’re in beachfront property.” It’s a fun one.

 

We only have a few minutes, but I want to touch on this briefly, how does one train to be an astronaut?

Melissa Corley Carter:

I would say, let me just say, I didn’t actually make it to being an astronaut. I wanted to be an astronaut. I studied all the math and science I could in high school and majored in engineering in college. Got a PhD in astronomical engineering and just did all… I enjoyed them while I was doing it. I always told myself, “I’m not just going to check boxes to get to the astronaut thing, and if I decide that I don’t like what I’m doing, I’m not going to keep going.” But it was ever since fifth grade, an astronaut came and talked to my class and I was done. I was that kid who always wanted to be an astronaut. Just kind of went a little further down the path than a lot of people do.

 

I was just doing all the things, I was preparing and getting all the science background. Doing the things. I always had bad eyesight so I knew I had disqualifying eyesight but eventually they started allowing corrective eye surgery. I was kind of waiting for that time, I knew that I would need that, definitely I would never had cut it with my eyesight as it was. They started allowing LASIK and I went on and got LASIK, 20/20 vision, good to go. I actually applied in 2012 and again, had all the background for it and everything and it turned out that my pre-LASIK eyesight was so bad that I was disqualified anyway.

Steven Sashen:

Oh my God.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Yeah.

Steven Sashen:

So weird.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Apparently in the fine print it’s like, “Oh yeah, if you were more than minus eight, don’t even bother because risk of detached retina.” Things like that. Quite honestly, so many people apply, they can afford to be picky. They don’t need the person who has had eye surgery, they have bazillions of people who have perfect eyesight who are qualified.

Steven Sashen:

Although I imagine for a while it did have that ring of, “You had a bad haircut in junior high so we’re going to have to pass.”

Melissa Corley Carter:

Yeah, it was devastating. I really had wrapped up my entire identity in wanting to be an astronaut. I told everyone I had ever met that I was going to be an astronaut. For me, this was not just about not being an astronaut, it was identity, it was, “What am I going to tell people?” I was kind of afraid of who I would be. I didn’t know who I would be. There’s a lot of this in the book too, kind of going through this… coming to terms and recovering from this. But with decades of life experience and looking back, I do realize now that I think when I was in fifth grade and had this whole astronaut thing, it was really an intuitive knowing, this sounds a little woo-woo but intuitive knowing of my connection to the universe. I want to be connected to the cosmos.

 

I think when I was in fifth grade, there’s this tangible idea I’ll be an astronaut. You like space, be an astronaut. Okay, cool I’ll do that. What I’ve come to since then is that the universe is a pretty amazing place and the more we listen to our intuition and get grounded and connected, again the barefoot piece for me is really all about grounding and connecting to our true sources of inspiration and power. I am literally, I feel connected to the universe on a daily basis. I am living the dream.

Steven Sashen:

I love it.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Literally. It’s exciting. Getting to that point, I think again the book, and what I feel like my example of life is really about that resilience of realizing what it is you really wanted, and yes, this thing that you wrapped your identity around was maybe not the best way to go about that. I am actually so grateful today for the gift of that rejection, that it freed me up to do my real life’s work. It took me a while to see that, I will admit, but I see it now and I am grateful every single day that I get to do what I do.

Steven Sashen:

The effort comes through in the book along with the running part and all the stories about that and the information about that, and of course the photography makes it really delightful. If people want to find out more about what you’re doing and about the book, please tell them how they can do that.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Excellent, yes. My website is www.resilienceactually.com and you can find out about the book at resilienceactually.com/runningtheworld, all one word. You can find out, go to individual services, see what I do to work with people and I do kind of a few different energy healing, energy leadership modalities and really help people rediscover their spark and joy and zest for life. I think it’s from that space that we make our highest contribution to the world, and that’s really what the world and humanity need.

Steven Sashen:

I’m required by law to say that unfortunately someone who didn’t become an astronaut just said something about making space or finding space. Just FYI.

Melissa Corley Carter:

Nice, nice.

Steven Sashen:

Well Melissa, thank you so so much. I hope people do check you out and pick up the book. It’s delightful in many, many ways. Your journey is one that many people can learn from, many people are already on our experiencing. It’s one of the things that I like about it, the sprinters I met were a bunch of moron’s, were all working really hard for something that just gets worse over time and were really competitive even though there’s no value in being that way. We’re all old enough to realize that we’re like that so it’s like having a secret handshake with other crazy people. I know there’s other crazy people who are on the distance side, or the travel side, or the personal travel side as well who will enjoy what you’re up to.

 

For everyone else, thank you so much for being here. A reminder again, go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com to subscribe and hear about upcoming episodes, find all the past episodes, see how you can interact with us. If you have any questions or comments or recommendations of people who we should chat about, drop me an email. I’m at move@jointhemovementmovement.com. Most importantly, between now and whatever we do next, go out, have fun, and live life feet first.

 

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