So I was in total denial that I was sick because I I didn't understand that your brain can get injured just like your knee. I just I didn't understand that. And so I was of the mindset, as I had always been in my life, that I needed to keep pressing forward and fix all on my own, whatever it was that I was feeling. And then I started to have these even darker thoughts. And that's when I felt like I understood my mom in a way that I never wanted to understand her.
Like I it's you have these thoughts that, like, you want to die. And it was terrifying because I always I've always been afraid my whole life for the moment that that might happen to me. And where that fear came from was I have a photo book of her when she was like a teenager and she looked really happy. And I was like, there's no way. I just don't believe that this six year old knows what's going to happen to her.
And that was so scary because I was like, is it going? Am I a ticking time bomb? Does it just happened? People her brother took his own life like it runs deep in her family. So I just knew that there was a possibility. And then when it did, I thought that that was just my fate, that like that was it now happened to me. And because the narrative I was told about her was she just had to go like she just she was so sick that she had to go.
And I was like, well, I guess I'm so sick that maybe I have to go because I don't know what else there is. Now, I'm Alexi Pappas and this is the Rich Role podcast. The Rich Roll podcast. Hey, everybody, welcome to the podcast, Good news voicing Change My Coffee Table podcast compendium is restocked. We're on the precipice of once again shipping signed and unsigned copies across the globe. So to learn more about the book and grab your copy, visit Rich Roll Dotcom Slash v.C.
OK, so. What happens when you have two very big but very different disparate dreams vying for your focus, do you choose one at the exclusion of the other or instead you risk it all to pursue both? This was the dilemma faced by today's guest, a woman who I think it's fair to say knows a thing or two about what it takes to execute at the highest level. Her name is Alexi Pappas, and Alexi is many, many things.
She's an Olympic athlete. She ran the 10000 meters for Greece in Rio and holds the Greek national record in that event. But and this is where things get really interesting. She's also a poet. She's a writer who has contributed to publications like The Atlantic, The New York Times, Outside and Sports Illustrated. She's a filmmaker. She co-wrote, directed and has starred in two independent features tracked down, which, astonishingly, she made in the very same year that she competed in the Olympics, which is mind blowing.
And her second movie is called Olympic Dreams, which was the first non documentary style movie to ever be filmed at the actual Olympic Games. In addition, because all of that obviously isn't enough. She's also a newly minted wonderful author. Her just released memoir, Bhairavi, is just a fantastic read. I can't recommend it more highly. Basically, Aleksi is my new favorite person. This conversation is spectacular and it's all coming up in a few. But first, we're brought to you today by juv juv spelled J w double V is a wall or a door mounted futuristic panel peppered with tons of little light bulbs that isolate and emit red and near infrared wavelengths of light.
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So make your next move with a beautiful website from Squarespace. Go to Squarespace dot com slash rich. Roll it. Make sure to use the offer code. Rich, roll a check out to get ten percent off your first purchase. Again, that's Squarespace Dotcom slash rich roll and our offer code rich roll a check out to get ten percent off your first purchase. OK, Alexi Pappas, where to begin. Well let me say this, although I'll actually somebody who's been widely profiled everywhere from The New York Times to Rolling Stone, my interest wasn't truly piqued until this recent and amazing, I might add.
New York Times op doc on Aleksi came out, which was produced by a friend of the pod marathoner and New York Times editor Lindsey Krauss. Credit Lindsay for doing an amazing job on this project and this short film.
Poignantly portrays Aleksi struggle with depression, and I felt that. A somewhat parallel narrative to my conversation with Olympian Caroline Burkel, anyway, after watching it, I knew immediately that I wanted to have Alexi on the podcast. So here we are. This is a conversation about a very interesting and unique path that this woman has a car for herself. It's about setting and working towards audacious and disparate dreams, in her case, athletics, filmmaking and writing that are all competing for her attention.
It's about how and why she refused to pick just one lane. It's about navigating setbacks, how trauma can fuel success. It's about healing that trauma, and it's about finding the joy in the journey. But more than anything, this is about being what Alexie calls. How is it possible that this delightful human is so good at so many things simultaneously? And what is the cost of setting the bar so high?
Well, let's find out.
This is me and Alexi Pappas.
Well, I am so thrilled to finally meet you and talk to you and to kind of introduce this, it's a little embarrassing, but I like I knew who you were and I had a sense of the things that you had done and are involved in, but I didn't, like, know you. And then when The New York Times OP came out, I was really moved by that and Lindsays, a mutual friend. And that kind of prompted me to do a deeper dive into your life.
And that happened to coincide with your publicist reaching out about doing the show, which was I was like immediately, yes, please come on the show. So I spent like the last week really enjoying, like, all the different things that you've done. I watch both movies. I'm well in your book. The book is so good.
It's fantastic. Like you did such a remarkable job. I love the movies and you're like my new favorite person. So I'm all nervous to talk to you. And this is just super exciting.
Well, it's exciting for me and it's exciting for me in more ways than one. I admire what you do. I admire how how committed you are to what you do and how interesting and interested you are. But also my best friend since two years old, you are like the greatest thing to her. And you've kept her. She's actually covid nurse and you have kept her company on like mountain runs and long drives to the hospital and in in Denver.
And when she learned that this was happening, suddenly she was like, this is the most exciting thing you have ever done, Aleksi. And I've done. I am very proud of my life. I feel so much pressure. I know it meant so much to me in the same way that she used to love like Rihanna, for example. And I didn't love Rihanna music growing up. But Amanda, my best friend in the world, loved Rihanna music so much.
And, you know, when someone you love is like joyful, you begin to like the things that make them happy. I felt like my excitement was like compounded with the joy and excitement that she had. And she really is the coolest person I know. And since you're the coolest person she knows, then that makes this very exciting.
Amanda, thank you for that. I appreciate it. Thank you for listening. Anything that's super cool. Thank you.
There's so many things I want to talk to you about. But the first thing I have to do this first, like I have to understand how you could possibly compete in the Olympics in the same year that you co-wrote, co directed and starred in a feature film. And I feel like it's so insane. And what's interesting about about you and myself and our different backgrounds is that I think there are very few people like like an average person can kind of understand what it takes to be an Olympian or what it takes to make a feature film.
But I'm deeply connected to both of those things. I wasn't an Olympian, but I train with a lot of Olympians as an entertainment lawyer. I've been, you know, deeply involved in the production of many independent feature films. And I have, you know, a very tactile sense of what's required to execute at the highest level to realize those dreams, each in their own right, you know, our feats of impossibility. But to accomplish both in the same year is so astounding.
Like, I just can't even wrap my head around it. It's such a magnificent accomplishment.
Thank you. Well, I have to do it. Well, like the movie. I mean, I love tracked down. I love Olympic Dreams and four track down to be your first feature that you and Jeremy did together. I was just you know, I was really amazed.
I really appreciate that. And I think sometimes our our our willingness to stretch ourselves and try something that we've never done before is is made more powerful by the fact that we don't know what it will really take. Yeah, but once we're committed, I think people like us will will do what it takes. And, you know, I was noticing I know this isn't I don't know if I can say this on here, but this is a new studio, right?
This is a new setup. And you have a shower in your bathroom.
I know that we just finished construction on that like yesterday.
And is it so that you might train and shower and then do some of your work here 100 percent, so that the idea that you have created you've created a life around being able to to to transition from one thing that you're doing in a day to the other. And I think the that's practical. But there's also something mental about. Shifting gears and being of the hyperfocus with any one of your tasks in any given day and then being able to consciously shift to the next one, and I think some of the the misconception that people might have when they look at the things that I've done on paper or in any given year is that I'm doing them all at the same time.
And the truth is that I'm trying to do one of those things really well in any given moment and then excellently transitioned to the next task. And I think that in that year it kept me healthy as an athlete to end practice at a certain time and to not have practice last all day, because as you and I know, you can run for several hours, but you can't run all day. Yeah, but some people let that happen, whether it's mentally or physically.
And so in some ways, ending practice and just worrying about how are we going to fund this movie was a blessing to my Olympic trajectory as well, because you couldn't just sit and stew and obsess about things that you don't have control over, like it allowed you to shift gears and stay fresh with both things because you had other pursuits outside of just that singular focus.
Yeah. And and it even simplified running, because if I thought about how challenging it was going to be to do this workout, I could also have the perspective of how simple it is that I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other when it felt like so complicated to try to put together a feature film. So I think the feature film People Dynamics, you know, how how what it takes to put a movie together is so different than what it takes to just keep running when you're in a mile repeat.
Right. And likewise, the pain of doing that male reporter doing multiple was very painful compared to the ease of sitting on a couch and making phone calls or writing a script, which is hard, but it's not like my body hurts, I'm doing it. So I think they were Tweedledee and Tweedledum to each other, just playful in their own right, are so overwhelming.
There must have been moments where you just felt like this. I'm climbing a mountain that is double the size of Everest.
Yeah, it felt it felt hard.
I have a great partner too, you know, like I do have Jeremy with me and I was never pulling all nighters while my goal, my number one goal was to go to the Olympics. So I think part of it, and perhaps you can relate, is knowing what is the priority in any given moment and always knowing what my star was.
And then everything needs to fall under that. So like that, I am going to sleep at least eight hours a night and that's like non-negotiable. Even if we need to stay up late editing, there's a time when I need to stop. Right. So maybe those boundaries are more clear because I knew what the priority one was and priority two. But it was stressful like.
Hmm. But it was stressful in like a thrilling way because. I was playing a game running and I was making a movie, and also no one's ever done anything like that before, which is kind of exhilarating and intimidating, I would suspect. And I'm sure you get the balance question all the time, like how do you balance your life? And I hate that I don't look at life in that context. It just seems confusing to me. Like it seems my sense is that it's more with you, it's more about synergy.
Like, are these things in synergy with each other? Do they feed off of each other or do each one of these things make me better at the other one?
Do you feel like you're thriving? Right. It's like more of a feeling. And what how do you answer it when people ask you that question?
I mean, I used to feel I used to feel guilt and shame because my life is not really balanced in that traditional sense. And I would strive to make it fit into those buckets. And at some point I just let go of that whole thing. And, you know, look in in the macro and I'm sure this is the case with yourself in the macro, your life is very much in balance, but you're shifting gears between intense focus on different things that give your life meaning and, you know, make you excited when you wake up in the morning.
But to the average person on a day to day basis, it would appear that you're very much out of balance.
Yes, OK. Now I feel like I understand what you're getting at because there were people during that time who were like, I think you and Jeremy should take a break and like, go camping this weekend. Like, I think you guys need a night off or like, I'm I think you need I think you should. I think and that was like, you know, I was at an age where it was like. I felt a little weird about it is like I know I'm living in Oregon and there's so much great camping, but all I want to do is work on these projects, like I was so happy being so overflowing with what I was doing.
And I feel like what you're saying is, similarly, you you like live to work, but your work is your choice and your work is your passion.
And so it's your pleasure to have this, like, bubbling cauldron that someone might look at and and not think is healthy.
Yeah, I mean, there's that. But it's also the intensity that you bring to whatever it is you're doing. Like if it's an ultra endurance race or you train for the Olympics or trying to execute on a feature film or me, you know, doing what I do here, I get joy out of being totally immersed in whatever it is that I'm doing. And I'm not effective unless I can say no to other things and sort things out so that I can give my best.
But that means that other things in my life that are important to me are getting adequate amount of attention on that particular day. So the gear shifting is important such that everything in my life that I care about is attended to properly. It just doesn't happen on an hour to hour or day to day basis necessarily.
Yeah, right. I know you. Can you feel it. You're fine. Yeah, that's right. Yeah.
I feel like when I watch Track Down that your erstwhile boyfriend in the movie was sort of a proxy for the people who are saying take a break or go camping. And I found that movie like it's so heartfelt and authentic and and beautifully realized in so many ways.
But it was also very stressful for me to watch that movie, because my sense is that you were trying to craft an alternate universe in which you weren't somebody who has many different interests and allocates your energy across a variety of disciplines. But to stand in the shoes of that person who's all in 100 percent on just that one thing. Yeah. And you're tiptoeing outside of that, you know, on the precipice of of trying to qualify for the Olympics.
And I was like, just wait two days. I can't you just go back into your altitude and rest until like Thursday or whatever day it was like your race is tomorrow. Yes.
Well, that's funny, because so many people who don't know me think that it's a track down, is a documentary. And I was like, well, first of all, that would mean a number of different things.
If it wasn't if it was actually a documentary like that, we caught me losing my virginity on camera and things like that, which I didn't actually think that right now we've we've had that.
We also had people who did not believe that Plumm as a character was real. And these are people who are outside the writing world like really prestigious, like film advisors. Um, we were in a Sundance lab with it. And, um, some people just didn't believe that someone like that could exist, someone who had never kissed a boy at age 21. And that and that's very real.
Like it's incredibly real to you, but to the world. She isn't known. And that was part of the reason why I wanted to put her on camera and to say that this person does exist. She's a patchwork quilt of people that I know and experiences I've had. But she could exist. And those are the types of characters that I'm interested in putting in my movies is like the characters that I know are real. The world doesn't know them yet and these scenarios could exist.
Yeah, I know that girl like I've been around a lot of people very much like that. Yeah. Have you read David Epstein's book range?
So I've been thinking a lot about that book in the context of your story, because for people who don't know, his thesis is essentially that people who are super high performers by and large defy conventional wisdom.
They're not the Tiger Woods or the Plum's who go all in at a very early age on one singular pursuit, but rather there are people who dabble in lots of different things before they finally end up like kind of deciding what their lane is. And you're somebody who is, you know, a beautiful case study of of that thesis. And Plum is of the 10000 hour, you know, Malcolm Gladwell kind of rule. And, you know, I say conventional wisdom because there is this idea, like if you want to excel at that highest level, like you have to be that plumb type individual.
And in truth, more often than not, it's not the case. And the people that are like the plums and. Burning out like they they they you see this individual who is not fully emotionally realized, right. And and her her strength, which is her focus, is also her weakness. It's her blind spot that's holding her back from performing at the highest level because she still has so much to learn and grow because she's so siloed in her life experience.
Yeah, it it reminds me of this advice we got from our college coach when I was at Dartmouth and we were going to a national championships. It was like the first one I'd ever been to. I was like a junior. It was for a relay team. And he turns to us, this is Mark Coogan, who's also an Olympian. And he was like, and this isn't an Ivy League reference, but he was like, just remember that you're smart and you can think and that that's a strength, too.
And I think he he felt bad because some of us were writing our final papers on the bus like we were balancing a lot. And but I think what he really meant was that we had some perspective to bring into that race, whatever that meant, and to use that as a strength. And I have felt that in races where just being able to think critically or zoom out a little or have some perspective does help. And I think that's what that's what you're saying about like a character like somewhere that hyperfocus is is really.
Noble and useful, but the range, the the bringing in people dynamics, understanding the world in a different way can be a strength, too.
Yeah, yeah. It's it's it's it's a balancing act. Right. Because you do have to be all in in some way, but you have to provide that room to be a human being, especially in a sport like running, which has to grow with you.
Like probably all sports are like that, but running as much as any has got to evolve as you're evolving.
And I think it's the people who try to keep it what it always what it was or what they think it should be that become bitter, which is just not the word we want.
But by cutting this unique path that you've car for yourself, I would imagine along the way there's been a lot of people who are, you know, sort of naysayers or trying to dissuade you or saying you're taking on too much or why don't you just do it this way for sure there.
I mean, from the very. Minute that I graduated college, there were there were certain opportunities that would have. Either there were opportunities that would have actually blended my storytelling and my running goals into one much earlier than I was ready. So this is we're getting a little esoteric here. But but but basically, when I first graduated from college, I wanted to be a filmmaker, an actress and an Olympian. But I knew that until I had. Created those platforms and had those stand on their own, they wouldn't be able to come together in in the way that I feel that they have now.
And so I made certain choices where I think I was being encouraged to be the filmmaker runner right away. And I needed to make choices for my running career that would set me up to be a great athlete, independent of the film career. Yeah. And I needed to make choices as a creative that would make a great movie regardless of if I was a great athlete or not.
Right. I mean, this is something that you and Jeremy talked about with Dave Chang on his podcast, which I really enjoyed that conversation. But the idea being that that your filmmaking success cannot be contingent upon name recognition around you as an athlete and your performances have to stand on their own. Yep. And and you've done that like you are. You know, you are the athlete that you are and has nothing to do with your filmmaking. And you don't have to know who you are to watch these movies and enjoy them.
It has nothing to do with your you know, how fast you can run 10000 meters or a marathon or anything else. Thank you.
And maybe that speaks to to range. I think those people who are seeking these the range of of experiences, I would hope that all those people are still seeking to do the to seek the best of those worlds. Right. Like if we're I don't know, like I don't love cupcakes, I like them. But if I'm going to go, I want to find, like, the best cupcakes. You know, I want to, like, go to the peaks of these worlds because there's something to be learned from people and communities that are chasing the best of any world.
Right. And that's why I write like I listen to David Chang's podcast, because I like how invested he is in his craft. And I know I can learn from him even though I'm not in the food industry. Right.
It's the mindset. It's the approach. It's the respect for the craft, the attention to detail, the quality, all of those things, whether you're an athlete, a filmmaker or a writer or a chef, they're all related.
They're all relevant to pursuing something and trying to be excellent at it.
And I think that for me, that comes from like a really melancholic place, if I really think about it. And I've never thought about it this way, but I think that I always wanted to write like I did not have a mom. Right. I lost her young. And I think I always wanted that or was curious what that could be with full awareness that I could never have it really, truly how I would want it. But I did know that I could have everything else.
And and I talk about this in the book as the mentor buffet is what I call it. But what I, I think what I meant was, well, I'm just going to go chase. The best of every other world and try to patchwork quilt into something that can fill that need for that Keystone mentor as best that I can. So I think it comes from that, like I truly think it was like a survival thing of I can't have the very best of the very singular thing I would like, but I'm going to chase and and shamelessly draw from and dig myself into those other every other world if that interests me.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, in the book you did a beautiful job of of kind of underscoring or illustrating this, you know, void in your life. And I want to go back and hear more about this, of not having a mom and and these and like your hypervigilance whenever you are in a situation in which daughters were with moms, whether it was Girl Scouts or the feeding of the ducks and all of these experiences where you looked at it almost as some something exotic that you couldn't quite emotionally connect with.
And that tracks like all the way through your life, even to the point where you're at the Olympics and you go to get like a makeover. And that experience of having that person have you comb your hair and like all of that, like you were, it was so foreign to you because you didn't grow up with a mom who taught you these things.
Yes. And and I think it takes a certain muscle to feel like the world is a reservoir that gives rather than takes and that it we all have a choice to make about that, whether we see the world that way or not. But if we can see it as something where we're allowed to get things in and soak it in, then we can get it anywhere we look. And I think that wears off for a lot of people eventually. Like you feel like I'm formed as a person, I now will create content and put it out rather than take it in anymore.
And that's fine. Like we don't need to take in from everywhere. But the world is remarkable. And there are a there is a lot that we can get from it even in adulthood if we see it that way. Yeah, that's so true.
Well, let's let's take it back. You're growing up in Berkeley. Let's go all the way to the beginning. OK, so walk me through you as a young girl, four years old. Well, I was I was born in Berkeley and grew up on an island called Alameda. It was more like a peninsula Bay Farm Island, but never heard Alameda referred to as an island. But yes, I guess it is.
I think it's like the island city. But then Bay Farm was a peninsula, which is essentially the Oakland airport. It's right there.
And that was a safe island to be. Like you could walk with your friends to the ice cream shop, as we did, and your parents would generally think you were going to be OK. But yeah. So when I was young, the first like four or five years of my life did it coincided with my mom's like really intense, you know, downward spiral. She she was manic, bipolar.
And I think, like, my birth really catalyzed a really tough turn for her. She was addicted to painkillers. She had scoliosis. So this was in the 90s. So there was a lot of over prescription, I think, of painkillers. And so she was addicted to them and she was very smart and able to obtain them in any way possible, which now my dad and I were able to actually have a laugh about. When I read him the book, I read it to him out loud, which was a really, really fun.
It was a really meaningful weekend. But he he opened up a lot and she was very scrappy about her drugs.
And she got them and she was depressed and she was getting help. That, I now understand, would not have helped anybody in her position and that I only understood in the last year or two discovering paperwork from her care in Berkeley. But she was in and out of our life because she was in institutions or drug rehab. And so I just I never, you know, had that relationship with her where, you know, I don't remember really touching her.
And that has always been a strange thing for me, an obsession maybe of like just what it would be like to be embraced like that.
The one then the one recollection that you have of physical contact with her was her giving you her cigarette. You're like this tiny little girl. Oh, never.
I'll never forget that. I mean, and it's so when I wrote that, too, I was afraid that people might read it and think she was a bad person or like a bad mom. And I think that's why a book is a really important medium as compared to like one off social media post or other forms of sharing, which is fragmented like. And I and I wanted to write that in a way where perhaps you didn't understand her fully, because at that age I didn't either.
And that's why the book, you know, I tried to emotionally progressive rather than just linearly. Right. So she was smoking a cigarette and which she did often. And it was just me and her. And she I rarely remember her giving me attention, but she did in this moment. And she offered me her cigarette and I smoked it right.
And I was far so amazing. Oh, it's so you know what's so heartbreaking? Well, yeah, but what's heartbreaking is what's cool about it. And what's been tough about it is that I realized much later that all I've looked for ever since then is that feeling of somebody I admire so much, sharing something with me. And it means so much because it makes me feel. Like. That, again, you know, well, her you know, her condition was very acute, she's in and out of these institutions.
And when she would come home seemingly in a state of relative fitness so that she could be with her family, everybody's on pins and needles. All the attention is on her 24/7. And it's interesting how that, you know, that that blueprint gets imprinted on you. And then as a you know, as a kind of survivor of this trauma, you then become this person who is like, I want the attention on me, you know, like, how can I get the attention?
How can I be seen in a certain way? And so many of the pursuits that you've gone after are kind of like, well, what do you do?
You you make movies or you become an Olympian. That way it's undeniable that everybody's going to have to pay attention to you.
Yes, it was a completely effective and unhealthy pursuit of charming awesome when it gets messy and complicated.
Right. But I was chasing, I think for so many years, external external solutions to an internal problem like it was. So it was so effective, though, right? Like I was like I can put myself through as much pain as humanly possible in a good way because I consider running pain or the vulnerability of being, you know, acting with someone as good pain. I was like, I will go to the world's edge in the in the game of good pain and just watch me.
And it has been tremendously powerful. Like I can go to the end of good pain.
And what does that, you know, diving deeper into the relationship with pain, like how does that act as a therapeutic for some of these issues?
Well, it's not the feeling of pain that is therapy. It's the feeling. It's the. It's the feeling of mattering that I get as a result of enduring that pain, and that's that's not been an entirely, I think, healthy.
Thing to chase, to chase, I want to matter because I didn't feel like I mattered enough for my mom to stay. I now understand that not to be true. But for so much of my life, I think I'd tell the Olympics, I thought that my mission in life would be to not be like her, to be as far from her as possible, which I saw as being successful and happy, and the ways that I might have chased that were chasing these external goals.
But through running, did you you know, there is something there's something cathartic about running and that relationship with pain that does work to kind of salve emotional wounds in a certain way, like in a in a kind of meditative way. Like it's a way it's almost like performing an exorcism, you know, of unconscious, you know, things that are going on in your in your awareness that are traumatic.
Yeah. That's how you feel about it.
Yeah, I have. I do. Yeah. I do not know for you, though. No, no, I think I do too. I think that I feel that as long as I'm in the territory of good pain, then that's a good application of myself. And I think that. She could have been chasing good pain, too. She just didn't. Didn't have the right right mentors like she just didn't have the guidance to go there instead of there.
Right. But running does feel like that to me. It feels like a really it's an it's a you're on the outer most limits of yourself mentally and physically with running. And so it is you are dancing on that edge and. Yeah, and it's good. We'll be right back. But first, let me tell you about my love affair with Novartis ORGANIC'S. You guys know I'm all about health, I'm all about organic, I'm all about superfoods, and I'm all about sustainability.
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OK, let's get back into it. So much of your life was premised on differentiating yourself from your mom, like out of a fear that you might, you know, follow in her footsteps in a certain way. And I would imagine that you felt like you had, you know, escaped that in some way.
But as the, you know, Opdyke shows and as you talk about in your book, like nonetheless, you have this experience with depression in the aftermath of the Olympics. You know, most acutely, it must have been terrifying when that was visited upon you. You must have thought like, oh, my goodness. Like, am I going to end up like my mother?
Yeah, it was I mean, when I started having I first of all, I didn't have the vocabulary that I tried to share in the dark. I didn't have that vocabulary when I started experiencing these symptoms. So I was in total denial that I was sick because I. I didn't understand that your brain can get injured just like your knee. I just I didn't understand that. And so I was of the mindset, as I had always been in my life, that I needed to keep pressing forward and fix all on my own, whatever it was that I was feeling to the point where I wasn't sleeping.
But I tried to force myself to sleep. And, you know, that's it's called falling asleep for a reason. You have to let it right, let it happen.
And being a good type athlete, you're trying to feel everything into existence.
And then I started to have these even darker thoughts. And that's when I felt like I understood my mom in a way that I never wanted to understand her. Like I it's you have these thoughts that, like, you want to die. And I don't think you really want to want to die, but the thoughts say otherwise, and that's when you're sick. And it was terrifying because I always I've always been afraid my whole life for the moment that that that might happen to me.
And where that fear came from was I have a photo book of her when she was like a teenager and she looked really happy. And I was like, there's no way. I just don't believe that this 16 year old knows what's going to happen to her. And that was so scary because I was like, is it going? Am I a ticking time bomb? Does it just happen to people? And, you know, her brother took his own life like it runs deep in her family.
So I just knew that there was a possibility. And then when it did but before I understood that there was a way to get better, I thought that that was just my fate, that like that was it now happened to me. And because the narrative I was told about her was she just had to go like she just she was so sick that she had to go. And I was like, well, I guess I'm so sick that maybe I have to go because I don't know what else there is now.
And that's so embarrassing, honestly, to share, because I don't feel that way anymore. But I didn't understand. And I think it's sad that even someone who was susceptible to these things, you know, my family history was public, right? There was no prefab, if you will, if you want to call, like if we want to use this body. Comparison of the brain is a body part. I had no Prešov. I had no preparation to deal with this.
And it wasn't until my my dad, because of his experience with my mom, made me get help that I met a doctor, Dr. R.P.M., who told me very simply that I was sick and that my brain had a scratch on it and that it could get injured like any other body part, but it could also heal like any other body part. And suddenly everything like it literally turned around in a day.
Not I wasn't happy, but I believed that I could be on a path to healing and that I could commit to it just like I would an Olympic dream team.
Did it also provide you with a little more empathy for your mom?
Oh, 100 percent. Like my I've gone my relationship with her has been such a roller coaster where I didn't know how she died for a long time. So I felt sorry for her because I used to think she died from smoking. Right.
And then I was really going out until like seventh grade or something like that. Right.
And it was Amanda, our dear friend Amanda, who loves you, who she should be here today.
She's here today. She's saving lives.
She's saving lives. So we were in middle school and there's this day where everyone was supposed to make tombstones for people that they cardboard tombstones, people they knew to have died of smoking. And I wrote my mom's name felt very brave. You know, those moments in your life were like, today's the day where I'm brave.
So brave and I wrote her name down and it was, in retrospect, really embarrassing because that's not how she died and everybody else knew, but I didn't know. And it's in the yearbook. It's in my seventh grade yearbook. This picture, it was on No Smoking Day. Her name is there, like us and everyone else wrote Walt Disney for some reason. And then Amanda pulled me aside and she told me that her mom told her she should tell me the truth.
And it was really a gift that she told me because it's good to know.
Yeah, but you must have been pissed off, too, that you were the last person to find out.
I you know, I've never been able to, like, truly be mad at my dad for anything relating to my mom. Like, I was angry in the in the preteen way, but I wasn't angry in the real way and I was never going to tell him. Like I remember I was like, I'm not going to tell him that I know, because clearly.
This is I just. And there's a chapter in the book called Dad said that's about just this, where you're just more angry at the circumstance that he's in. In general, it feels unfair. So I wasn't angry at him for not telling me, just like I'm not angry at him for any of the strange or unusual parenting that he's done.
Well, your dad was in an impossible situation and he rose to the occasion like a champ. I mean, the things that he did to, like, raise you and your brother are quite amazing. And I want to get into that in a minute. But on this subject of of of depression and elite athletics, we're in a moment right now where we're having conversations that we should have had a long time ago. It's very much in the kind of mainstream parlance.
I recently had Caroline Birchall on the show, an Olympian who, you know, has her version of your experience. We've talked about the weight of gold, that documentary and kind of what Michael Phelps is doing right now to talk about these issues.
So there's an openness, I think, to this discussion. But I think what what makes your story a little bit different and unique is that most of these athletes are so singularly they're like Plumm, like they're just on this track and then they either make the Olympics or they don't. And then they're faced with this existential crisis about what they're supposed to do with the rest of their life. And they're only 20 for 30 at, you know, at most.
But you're unique in that you are ready not only had a complete grip on what it is that you wanted to do outside of sport, you're already fully immersed in it and successful in it. So that transition away from athletic performance into, you know, creative pursuits, that path was already, you know, being blazed by you. And yet that was not enough for you to escape.
You know, this experience which whether genetic or whatever it is, still visited you and was still, like, very difficult.
Well, perhaps that's like the epiphany that some people have when they realize that running hurts for everyone, no matter what. Like, I when I talk to people and they realize that running still hurts me, they're amazed. Like they're like, wait, it hurts you just like it hurts me. I'm like, it does hurt me. I just have a different relationship now with pain. And I see it as more of a sensation, not a threat.
But I think the thought that that anyone is immune to this kind of scratch on your brain or these illnesses is just like that misconception or it's like no, actually anxiety about the future or a fundamental misunderstanding. About the brain or whatever it is that leads to these mental illnesses can happen to everyone and to think it's like how growing up is hard for everyone, like whether you're extremely privileged or challenge or no matter what I think, and in different ways, growing up is always going to be challenging.
And so probably to assign a godlike maturity to someone who's at the top of their game is not the right thing. Right. Like, we might be really, really mature.
Our bodies might be totally piqued on paper. We might be doing great. But there's still we all have to go through the emotional maturity and growing up.
And and if we haven't been given the vocabulary to see our lives a different way or to see those challenges when they come differently than we're going to. We might mess, right, right, right, I mean, it's it's that identity that you shoulder as an Olympian, but also the projection that everybody places on you. Right, like you're supposed to be, you know, immune from these sorts of things. That's right. So then, of course, that makes it more difficult for the person who's suffering to actually reckon with what's happening because there's guilt and shame.
And, you know, why is this happening to me? I have no reason to feel the way that I'm feeling right now.
When you feel like the world sees you as completely a completely different way than you see yourself, there's nothing more mindblowing. Difficult than that. When it's so weird, it's so sad.
And then to talk about it feels indulgent, like you're going to for sure. You're going to burden somebody with you're like, you know, Nadhum Olympian over here with your little depression problem for sure.
But but again, I think that's like a you know, that's abstracting it to like we are in a place where we can accept, I think, as a as a world that elite athletes and high achievers can have these mental injuries, these mental illnesses. But I think the most important thing now is like. What do we do about them? And that was something that I found, I find that sometimes, you know, we point fingers at the like the pinnacle institutions that we're chasing.
But actually, I truly think that this kind of education or shift has to happen much younger and on a more universal level, not just at those pinnacles.
So what would that look like if you were in charge and could put those things in place?
Well, let's look at body, the way we approach the body and like how that's progressed over the last, let's say, 10 years, like 10 years ago. I don't think my dad or my friend's little sister would have seen a pity for their body without having an injury, meaning like regularly take care of their body. And so just looking at that world, we've come a long way to accepting that our body is something not only elite athletes should take care of, but everybody should take care of and that we should take care of it before it's a problem.
Ideally, if you are able to have that kind of support and it's not, there's just like systems and you can all you can get that kind of help if you can and need it. Right. And I think with mental health, the the comparing it to.
Healing an injury is so simple to me and makes so much sense, so what it would look like to me is accepting honestly that our brain is a body part and it can get injured. And when it gets injured, just like when we break our leg or feel something strange in our leg, we have no shame about sharing that something is off and we get help and we know where to get help. And it's either built into the system that we're in, like a team might have a physio, they might have a psychologist, too, or someone can refer you to their favorite physio or their favorite Cicotte.
Like there's just more accessibility, just like there is in the world. Mm hmm. And then we get that help and we are as kind to ourselves as we are hard on ourselves knowing that it's not going to resolve overnight. Like nobody is demanding that somebody broken leg healed tomorrow. And so why are we demanding that somebody is depression healed tomorrow?
Because it's uncomfortable for us to talk about. Right. We want to pretend that it doesn't exist or because of shame or right.
Because it's invisible. But if we, like, think about it more like an injury, like no one can see your torn hamstring either. But they know that it's there if you say it and they believe it's there. So if we just see it as more of a physical injury, which it is, then I think it becomes a little less subjective and a little more objective. Right.
Well, I also think in the athlete context that, you know, at a university, every athletic department has, you know, a whole, like, complex around physical therapy. But the mind is only beginning to be addressed in that world. Yeah. And it's so important, like we're just now beginning to really understand how critical it is that our emotional well-being is attended to and needs to be rehabbed from time to time in the same way that, you know, your joints do.
Totally. I think that's, uh, that's. That's it, and and that I can only speak to my experience, but that change of perspective saved my life, like it allowed me to buy into a process and believe in it and believe that it could work. And I remember being told. You're going to be sad every day for a long time, and it was not unlike hearing when I broke my foot, your foot is going to be broken every day for a long time.
It's going to take 12 weeks to heal, but it will be healing. And I started to think about myself as like a like a crockpot, like a soup where, you know, so I was told that I was going to be sad and that I should rather focus on my actions and that those were the only things I could control. And I thought about myself as that soup where I was going to put in actions and I wasn't going to know in what ratio like.
You know, how much did medication help versus cognitive behavioral therapy versus finally getting the sleep I needed versus simply waiting for a period of time versus going for walks like you never know what kind of ratios. Right. What the perfect ratio is. But you do know the soup is cooking. You're putting in ingredients. You're stirring. You're waiting. And it will become soon bright and in the meantime, just being told like you're going to feel this way allows you to be in acceptance rather than beating yourself up because you woke up again and didn't feel good.
You don't have the secondary emotion of being offended by the sadness as much. You almost are like. You wake up with the sadness like it's, you know, I don't have a child. But I think about like if a baby's crying and you're at the grocery store, the baby's crying, we still got to get the milk, you know? So I think that in that way, sometimes where you almost have a sense of humor about it or at least some levity to understand that it's there, it will be there for a while and you're in the process of making it go away.
It almost sounds like stepping outside of it, like not self identifying with it. It's this thing. It's not me.
Yes, it's it's this. It's entity, it's a sadness that and and I was told that actions change first, then thoughts, then feelings and in that order and that was another life saving rule, basically, because what I've observed from my mom was that her caretakers were trying to force the feelings and she was trying to force the feelings to change. And we can't they they follow our thoughts which follow our actions.
Right. I always say mood follows action. Perfect. Right.
So you get to the other side of this. What is your daily regimen now for kind of, you know, maintaining your mental well-being?
Yeah, it's a that's a great question. First of all, I found it very difficult to find, like psychiatric psychological care in general. It was hard when I needed it. I had to ask for favors. And that sucked honestly, that you can't get it as readily as you might be able to see it. And I've still found it challenging. I've still found it labyrinthian to find good care. But I've found like continued support. I work with I work with the psychiatrist here to just, like, make sure I check in.
And I also I work with a team like a it's not just sports psychology. It's like psychology. I work with a woman named Natalie Pacetti and she's helped me like continue to to unbound some of the, like, childhood personal laws that might be driving me in an unhealthy way and might be limiting me. So this is like an ever unfolding thing and I'm working on it. But on a day to day level, I think I'm also monitoring myself.
And so I take a little bit more seriously. If there's a night where I'm like restless and can't sleep, that's a moment to pause and figure out, like, what is keeping me up at night? Because prior I was like plowing ahead and never not slowing down to to wonder why that was happening. And then there's this one tool that my physio gave me that I think is the coolest thing in the world, which is. Can I share?
Yeah, I can, talking a lot closer to what we're here to do. This is so cool. I want to hear this. OK, so I had this video. He is from Japan. I was working with him. His name's Cudi in L.A. and he I was having like some symptoms in my hip one time. And instead of like, look at my looking at my hip right away, he asked me about my face and he was like, have you noticed anything?
Because I was like, is my hip broken? Like, what's going on? He was like, OK, back up. Last week when this started, did you notice anything in your face? And I actually had like a small red discoloration under my eye that was abnormal, almost like a little a little mini sunburn. And he was like, OK, cool. So you have the most nerves in your face, your stomach and your hands. And when your body is starting to get overloaded, whether you're stressed out or it's overtraining like the cells only no effort.
So he was basically saying, when you start overdoing it, your body wants you to succeed. So it will give you signs that tell you to pause. And he told me that I needed to pay better attention to my face because this was not a broken hip. This was just a nervous system overload. And my nerves, once your face is ignored, will start shutting down parts of your body for a bit.
And then eventually, you know, it'll keep shutting you down because it wants to preserve you. So from there forward, I started paying close attention to I have wonderful Greek skin and I don't get a lot of acne. So when I get a pimple, it might mean a day off literally. And for other people it might be a cankers or an eye twitch or just whatever is abnormal for you and your face, I suppose, or your stomach. But the face is just a really obvious one.
It just means that you're starting to get overloaded. So what I'm doing now is trying to pay better attention to the signs, the very first signs of overdoing it so that I don't get to the point of not sleeping for three months. Right.
That's fascinating, isn't it? Great. Yeah, that's very cool. I've never thought of that. I mean, it's it's sort of a kind of an acupuncturist kind of ironic way of looking at things like everything. You know, your body is this organism that's trying to always find its balance point. Right. And when something's out of balance, there will be some kind of symptom that might show up in a in a very unpredictable and different way than you might suspect.
That has nothing to do with whatever is actually wrong. Right itself. Right. It's just it's a little glimmer, a glimpse into paying more attention and that the body wants you to succeed.
Right. It's not I feel like so often more like my body hates me today. And it's like your body never hates you. That can't be true, right?
I hope not. I hope not. Yeah.
And so maybe we shift our focus, you know, maybe we shift to feeling like our bodies, rooting for us. And it's telling us in all the languages that it knows it can be mad at us.
Yeah, it could be frustrated. Right. But always trying to help.
Right. That's a very optimistic, cool way to look at it.
Yeah. And I've shared that with, like, elite athlete friends. And it's really when they think back to an injury, they can recall like I had a concussion or that week. And now we we in my small satellite team, my teammate community, we pay better attention to our faces.
That's a good practice. Well, let's let's go back a little bit. You know, let's talk about you growing up with your dad. Back to the kind of David Epstein range thing. Like you weren't, you know, a track stand out from the get go. You were playing all different kinds of sports. You were like a soccer standout originally. Right. And dabbling in track. But then you were forced to, like, quit the track team or you got fired from the track team because you wouldn't go all in on that and let go of the other sports, correct?
There were there was leadership at my high school that felt in running we needed to not do anything else. There were other sports where it felt like athletes, particularly male athletes, were embraced for being multisport athletes. But I was definitely not embraced in that way. And because I was not willing to, at fifteen years old, quit soccer and student government and all these other things, I was like de facto kicked off the running team and and I was good.
I was like one of the top runners in the state. But I didn't love running at that age because I didn't love the the team. There was no team environment that which is my favorite part about sports. It didn't feel positive, the coach. I just it wasn't a positive environment, so I naturally did not feel like I could specialize.
He tell you that you had to quit student government, too? Yes. So I was kicked off the team twice. The first time was because of soccer.
And they overlap in seasons.
They yes, there were there were some soccer practices overlapping with the running season. It was like it was club soccer. Right. So they do overlap. And then the next year, my senior year, I was like, OK, maybe I won't do the soccer overlap, but I was vice president of my class and I wasn't allowed to do that either. And. That was hard as well, because what I feel so I feel that today that would have been like a New York Times piece in itself.
I mean, you know, high school track, right?
I agree. I agree. And I was committed. You know, I was there when I could be, but I was trying to, like, be a whole person. And I don't think any 15 year old should be told to to quit anything, you know? And I just remember feeling like I was a bad kid. And I I didn't I didn't like that. I didn't like how shameful it felt.
To do what I was doing, but at the same time, you demonstrated healthy boundaries, like there's a self-awareness and a sense of self that you demonstrated as a young person, because I suspect, like, if I was in that situation and I was showing promise as a track athlete, I probably would have just done what the coach wanted me to do and quit everything else and gone all in on that. Well, you might have and then you might have not had.
The joy to last you through 10 more years of training, right, or maybe I'm not seeing it would have been the right decision. I'm just thinking, like, I don't know that I my boundaries would have been much more porous and influenced by people of authority. You're somebody who knew yourself well enough to say these other things are important to me. I'm not going to do what this guy wants me to do.
Yeah. I've always, like, been really unable to do things that are against my gut. Like, it feels so bad. It feels bad. I know my gut is really loud, so to speak.
So like a Greek thing, he had the Greek God so loud with the loudest guy microbiome. Yeah, my very vocal I don't know, it just it didn't feel right.
Even though there wasn't like a bigger national discussion about it at that time, there wasn't even social media. So nobody would have known about this. I think I knew that it wasn't quite like a healthy thing. Right. Right. So you go.
But you obviously do really well in school.
You can go to Dartmouth, you know, going all the way to the other coast for college and you end up running there. But what's amazing is that you I have a hard time believing this, but you were like the slowest on the team originally that I couldn't even I mean, I was like, really fit for being a defender center defender and soccer.
Your you are sprint fast. You're Meti no one's going to knock you over, but you can't run for miles. It's a totally different body type. It's totally different.
I was like, you know, dense. I was really, really dense. And I think that that agility and that athleticism carried me and kept me healthy. Not a single injury until after the Olympics. Pretty like solid, but it did mean that when I got to Dartmouth, I was really a fish out of water like across the country first winter of my life and could not run more than four miles without walking.
And it was humiliating, like to be very honest. And I was failing classes because I was not super prepared for the academics there. I definitely called my dad and I was like, this was all a mistake. Wow. What did he say?
He said, just keep try and relax, because that's all he ever says. And I knew he wasn't going to be the type of parent. He's not a dragon parent, but he wasn't going to give me the option to, like, quit anything. And I knew and I wrote this in the book that the the good thing in the bad thing about not giving up is that it works. And I knew that it was going to be a long climb up.
Like my I just wanted to score a point, but that I could do it, like no matter what anyone else thought of me when I was really, really slow, I knew that with time and patience I could do it. It just was going to be really uncomfortable.
Well, you had said that that you had this feeling that there was a champion inside of you. Like that's something that you carried with you like this this idea that there was greatness packed inside of you, even if it wasn't being manifest in that moment.
Like, where does that where does it come from? Well, I think that comes from my mom, too, because when you feel and I don't know how healthy this is to say, but when you feel so like. That was just it was so wild, what I saw and experienced as a child, like some of the memories of her, were so unbelievable that I truly felt that if the most unbelievably bad things were true, then the most unbelievably good things could be true, which I think is a survival.
It's interesting thing and also that I was special, like I was special because this awful thing happened and then I would. Be capable of the opposite, like it was almost like if this is true, then the opposite must be true too. So there is always something inside of me that was like. That believed suspended disbelief or believed that. That I was. I don't know, like part mythical or something, you know, something like that extend to being an Olympian, like when you're the slowest on the team at Dartmouth, are you thinking I'm going to go to the Olympics?
So no. And that's another really interesting thing that I think is important, important for people to understand is that I never planned more than a year of my life in advance. And that's so important to share, because had I planned five years in the future, I would have counted myself short. I would have put a limit on what I was capable of because I definitely didn't even think about being capable of going to the Olympics when I was a freshman in college.
But I also didn't think past a year. So I wasn't like, it's not possible. I just didn't think about it. And this is still how I live my life, where I'm like the next year. These are the goals. This is like I have big dreams, but they're more how I want to feel, not like what I'm going to accomplish. And I think that's an important thing to share with people, because probably most of us might sell ourselves short if we were to ask ourselves, where will I be in five or ten years?
Mm hmm. I don't know. Maybe that's not true. But for me, it was.
Well, I think that that that we all wildly overestimate what we can do in a year and wildly underestimate what can be done in many years, five years, 10 years. Have you said that before?
I've said that before. And is that how you live your life? I don't I mean, I set goals for myself, but I don't dwell on them. I'm really focused on what the next thing to do is. I try to stay more present, which is sort of a variation, I think, on what you're saying. And I've learned to trust my intuition and my instincts. So I hold those goals like they're out there, but I hold them loosely and I'm always making adjustments.
And how important to you and I'm so genuinely curious, is it that other people, like, believe in you? Like, does it did it matter more when you were certain time in your life or does it did it ever matter? Doesn't matter now.
I mean, you know, I'm an unapologetic people pleaser and, you know, premised huge parts of my life on on external validation. So I'm very connected to, you know, that. Aspect of what drives achievement. Yeah, but some of the course corrections that I've made later in life were really motivated by trying to figure out what what drives me as opposed to trying to do the thing that's going to get me the accolades or the approval of people that I care about.
Yeah, and that's still a struggle and a growth thing, you know.
Yeah, it's I there it reminds me of I went to this class day speech like the year before I graduated at Dartmouth and it was like, here's five pieces of advice. And one of them was like, your time in the basement is not a waste of time.
Like, you know, some of those things that are just like the great you know, I've spent a little bit of time in the frat basements of Davos, you know, the private Jeremy.
That's how I met the love of my life and the urinals along the wall down there, just the worst.
It's unbelievable. Yeah, it's it's where it's and.
Yup. So but one of the things he said was that as long as you're not doing something actively bad in the world, like working for a company that hurts people, you know, as long as you're not doing bad, you're probably doing good. And what he was addressing, I think, was that so many of us in college were like, we should work for a non-profit, we should go into the Peace Corps. Like there were certain pillars that meant you were doing good in the world.
But what he was trying to say was that as long as you are not doing bad, as long as you're manifesting the greatest version of yourself, you're probably doing good in the world. And that was really helpful this year because I was about to go chase an Olympic dream, which felt very selfish. Exactly. And even some of this creative stuff, I mean, it's it's a team effort. But I'm pursuing the arts. And I think to hear that meant a lot to me because it meant that simply following my north stars would do good in the world, even if it's, you know, it's not right.
The same idea of good. Right.
Like flipping the lands lands such that you're not looking at it as indulgent, but actually like the world needs everybody to be the best version of who they are. Like, we need a little bit more of that messaging out there, I think.
Yeah. Yeah. And it was it was that was important because it can feel a little some of our I think some dream chasers can feel selfish. And I think it's only selfish if it's not your real dream or if you're not committed. Like it's only not great if you don't commit all the way.
So you end up committing all the way kind of. Right, because you're doing other things. But I'm interested in in that like was there an inflection point in your running at Dartmouth where it all started to click in like you go from being the slowest? I mean, by the time you graduate, you're you're killing it, right? So you're progressing as you go. Was there a moment where it all connected for you or was it just a gradual growth?
It was gradual. It appears more sudden because junior year I like started scoring team points. It kind of seems like it was sudden when I was a senior. But the truth is that the reality is that it's gradual. And I think that's how all dreams are. They like they happen very, very slowly and then all at once. And most people only see the all at once moment. It was you know, I added practically. I mean, this is what actually happened.
I added ten miles a week to my mileage every year for four or five years. It was just ten miles a week. So I was like thirty miles a week. Forty as a sophomore. Fifty as a junior, sixty as a senior. Seventy miles a week.
Any adjustments. Just tiny because and I stayed healthy. Right. And then shifts in shifts that I always tried to see as choices, not sacrifices. I drink a lot of beer my freshman year and I stopped drinking a lot of beer my junior year. Right. So like certain choices that I made that were helping my performance, but I probably wasn't mature enough as a freshman not to explore those things. That was what I felt I needed to do and it did help.
I just think information is helpful. Like I remember someone came and talked to us and he was like a heavy night of drinking. He was like a pro athlete, sets you back two weeks in training. And that simple equation made it a lot easier for me to make those decisions, to be honest, because it wasn't this abstract, like, drinking's bad. I was like, how bad is it? And he's like two weeks bad. And I'm like, OK, so if I value my time and I don't want to go back two weeks and training, I won't.
Drink that much, right? You know, it doesn't mean never drink, there's a time and a place where you wouldn't care about the last two weeks of training, like at the end of the season. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Does that make sense? So it was like little decisions that then added up. I think having Mark Coogan become my coach, he also gave me permission to believe in myself and it came from the right place. It was different for my dad to say, Lex, you can do it than to hear it from an Olympian.
Right like that. That's powerful. And I think that's back to the question I asked you of. How much does it matter to you that people you revere and admire tell you I give you permission to chase this? Well, it's everything, right? It's everything.
And that idea of mentorship or having those kinds of heroes is like a recurring huge theme in your book.
Yeah, but you seek them out like a fisherman. Like, I feel that some people think these mentors are just going to come to you and sometimes they do in the form of a coach that you're you happen upon. But oftentimes we have to. Grab the mentor and allow them in, and it is true, like when that one person that you have so much respect for just says something that maybe they, you know, a week from then they forget about but makes all the difference in your life.
Yes. And that also goes to what I say in the world, because now people have their eyes on me.
So I need to those braves running around with guns on top of their head. I love how some buttons, maybe, you know, some of them are boys and maybe they don't have a bun. Maybe they do.
It's the most adorable tribe of fans out there.
Thank you. Yeah, it's really cool. And how you communicate with them with with verse and poetry and the inspiration that you share, I think is really cool. And so, like, so uniquely you.
Thank you. I'm trying to give them something to imitate or to latch on to that I feel comfortable with them imitating or would have hoped that I could have latched onto when I was there in their shoes, because I don't think it's that useful to say I just ran 120 miles a week at this minute average because that's not that useful to a 15 year old girl like that. You don't need to run that many miles, but they can put their hair up like me or they can go on a long run, whatever that means to them.
Or they can dare to have a big dream. They can dare to have a big dream.
And I'm someone who will take your dreams very seriously. So. Like with my friends, I don't think I'm the person to call and cry, too, because usually I just will try to navigate and figure out what the next solution. Yeah.
Where did the SO tell the story of how the Brady thing started?
Yeah. So bravely. Brady started when I wrote a poem on social media which was run like a brave sleep, like a baby dream, like a crazy replace can't with maybe and brave was this word came from the word brave but not a real word. And I think, I think it stuck because. So many of the words that that I chased growing up felt very that they felt very outward facing so strong, pretty. Fear those felt like words that I presented to the world, to the world and brave because it's not a real word, because it comes from the word brave, felt more like a choice, like an inward facing word that you assigned yourself and that you decide exactly what that means to you.
And I liked that. I liked giving the world something and giving myself something that I could simply choose to be.
And it's also not telling you that you need to be brave. You just need to be brave. Yeah, I kind of used to be in the orbit of Brave. It's very it's very inviting and non-threatening. Yes, I think so, too. Right. Because you're just you're making choices to chase your dreams.
And it has it has a lightness to it, I think.
And hopefully it's playful because Jeem chasing dream chasing is hard enough that I think. Finding some lightness is right, right, and and it becomes like a thing, this Brady thing explodes, becomes the name of your tribe, it becomes the name of your book. Yeah, well. That I give my editors credit for because I was like I was like, we can't call the gravy, no one knows that this is. And they're like, that's all.
They will have to do it. Yeah. They're like, who will make gravy? What is this? What is it? Tell me more.
Yeah. I'm grateful to to put something in the world that I feel is adding to the world. You know, it's I think it's a good tool. And I think it's a it's a good lesson to to tell yourself that you can just decide that you're something and not it makes it more inevitable. Like when Jeremy and I have a goal or dream, we usually talk about it as if it's real before it's real, whether it's we named our pug Bernini before she even existed.
We were just like when we get Bernini, Bernini, Bernini, and then we got a pug. But I think it's the same with any dream we're chasing. We're like, talk about it as if it's real and put a label on it and then the world and you will will write everything tends to then coalesce around it.
I think that's really powerful. I mean, anybody who's made an independent feature will tell you this. Like you just start making it like you just assume the money is going to happen. And all these elements, like all the variables, the eight billion variables, will somehow come together. Yeah, it starts with that belief and then the action on the belief, like just start moving forward as if it's all sorted out.
Yes. And, you know, that's the very opposite mindset of I was just thinking about like when I was sick, I thought I knew the future in a way that was really unhealthy because I was like the future, like it will be bad. This will never get better. And I feel like the minute we think we know exactly what's going to happen, this is it's a little bit of a shift of what you're just saying. But that's a that's actually a red flag.
Like when you're like this will never get better. I think, like a healthy mind is one that's like, you know, these are inevitable goals, but I don't really know how it's going to happen or.
You know, like but not letting the unknowing prevent you from from chasing.
Yeah. From chasing it. Yeah. Yeah.
So on the brave poem thing like you, this is not like a one off, like you're a poet, like you study poetry.
I, I was the graduate at the top of my writing class and I took a lot of. Writing, I would I would imagine it's reflected in your book, I mean, one of the things that that I love about the way that you wrote this book, you know, most athlete memoirs are terrible. And it's generally because, in my opinion, because they're written by an athlete typically with a ghostwriter near or at the end of their career. And they're used as like marketing tools to extend the longevity of that career or to try to create, like, interest in this person for sponsorship reasons or whatnot.
And and they're they're like overly heroic and they just feel not dishonest, but not terribly honest either. And it's the rare person who can execute on an athlete memoir with a level of vulnerability and like, you know, emotional awareness that that you have done here and with, you know, all these writing chops that you have, it just makes for a very potent combination.
And I love the way that it's it's it's very lyrical in the way that it's written in that, you know, there's a linear story, but it's not really about the linear story like you've extracted out the most, you know, emotional, important moments and described those kind of you know, it's more like a string of pearls than it is like this happened, then this happened, then this happened. And, you know, just the honesty and the humor and the level of self-awareness I think is really beautiful.
Thank you. That's that means a lot. And I know you know your stuff.
I'm like, well, you know, as somebody who's written a book like this, I was embarrassed, like I was embarrassed for myself reading this book.
Now, this book is so much better than I was like, I should have done it like that. Like, why did I do that? You know, this anyway, it's quite an accomplishment.
I really, really appreciate that. And it's definitely the proudest thing I've ever done. Yeah, I feel I feel like, man, it's so it's fun when you've done something and it's about to be released in the world and you know that you did your best. Yeah, I really like that feeling. Yeah.
And it's like a real thing that exists in the world.
Yeah. It's a tangible thing and it's and and I'm not it's funny when you're like your editors, like there's no more changes and you're like, OK, I accept it. But this is the this is it. Huh.
And Tara Schuster was one of the blurbs and she said that it felt like a kind knife. And I thought that was like a really big compliment because I think what people are expecting in this book is like more poems and encouraging some things and those are in there. But those some things came from something really dark and really challenge. Right. And I think that what she said and what you said are really, really mean a lot to me because it means that I communicated and it's one thing to have an experience because I didn't need to write this book honestly for myself.
I've had these experiences. I'm very happy with where I am. But I really wanted to work hard enough and find a way to communicate them.
And that's a whole other world is just putting it in a way where it translates and it speaks to people who don't know you probably right in you don't.
It is an athlete memoir, but it's really not about that. It's about like it's just about life, you know, and you don't shy away from the darkness. I mean, there's some really difficult stuff in there. You know, one of your one of your memories of your mom, like, I just was I was it was really painful to read.
It was painful. Yeah. I can't imagine. I can't imagine.
It was so crazy. Some of that stuff, it's like and it's so I don't know if you can relate, but when you're writing like a memoir, you're like, wow, is my life like where is it? Like you know, it means they talk about Dolgen.
You're like, really? Yeah. You're like it's like you thought you were worthy of writing.
Like that takes a certain gusto I think just like chasing a dream. And you're like, I think I can do this but.
Yeah, I just, uh, I think I've been to the to the peaks of of some worlds and to the bottoms of some world, and that means that hopefully I can reach the people in between. Yeah. And that's a unique role to be in because. You know, I know how much it meant when certain people said certain things to me. It it went 100 times further than if somebody else had said it. And we've said this on this in this conversation before.
But I recognize I was in a position to. Say something and that the more detail I could go into at this book, like the more specific I would be, the more it would reach, right. Isn't that the rule of storytelling?
The more specific we can get and the more specific, but also the more honest in the more vulnerable. Right. Because that's that's where people can really find the emotional connection. Yeah.
Well, you know what's funny about this last week with The New York Times thing is I feel like I'm at a turning point right now where the truth is that I've worked really hard to make sure that my film, my acting stands on its own pillar and my running stands stands on its own pillar. And I actually finally feel that I've let those worlds talk to each other in this book in a way that might allow me and I feel it to just.
Be exactly who I am a little bit more comfortably, and I think that all comes from within, right? Like I'm in the Hollywood world, but I still feel like I didn't come up like all these actors did. I'm I was spending a lot of time performing on a circular track or off track. And I think before I might have seen myself as needing to hide one world when I was in the other. And now I actually feel like it's OK that I have come, that I am exactly who I am.
And I wish I had felt that way sooner. But I think it's OK that I feel that way now.
It's interesting that you say that because your movies are so reflective of, you know, your emotional experience as an athlete like they are. They do stand on their own, but they're also inextricably linked to each other.
But that was a smart decision as a filmmaker to tell a story in a world that I'm in and know and have access to. Right. Like that was a businesswoman knowing, I mean, and a creative person knowing that the best story I can tell is my own or the world I'm in. So and I think all filmmakers do that, even if it's an emotional reality. They know not in actual reality. Right. So I think that was still my filmmaking cap on.
It wasn't me saying I really wish these worlds were one. It was just what's the best movie I can make? And that was the best movie I could make.
Right. Because it's inspired by your own experiences and it's something that you know very well. And it's interesting. And looking at the book like things that actually happen to you are then translated into some narrative that shows up in one of your movies through one of the characters.
Yeah. You know, I wonder I think a lot of filmmakers are like that, right? A lot of writer directors, I'm sure. Yeah, I'm sure. I'm just doing what they do.
It's kind of like, look at your book.
I'm like looking at the people that blurbed your book and it's like it's just this weird Venn diagram of of worlds. It's like Shalane Flanagan and then like, wait, Jay Duplass, like Mindy Kaling, like what is going on here? Like, it's it's wild that you, you know, that you have your feet planted so firmly in these two different worlds and how they intersect and to speak.
And those people have been I mean, Jay, as an example, you know, I met him on a run here like I met randomly. So he's a runner.
And I just figured you guys are in some cool Hollywood group where you all sit around and share each other's screenplays or something, right?
Oh, no, no, no. Yeah, I'm sure. But the truth is that I met him while I was running and it was pouring rain and he was running. We were both on long runs and I recognized him and I just listened to his book and I, I was running with a girl who had no idea who he was. And I was like, we have to stop. I'm sorry. Like, I have to, you know, you know, those moments, this will never happen again.
And he knew who I was because he knew Nick Kroll and he had seen Olympic dreams. But I don't feel like this is something that I. I try to make the most of opportunities, and in that instance, I was like, can I send you, you know, like a link to our movie or whatever? And we eventually got lunch. And he's a mentor now. But that was he. He's someone who there are a few people who I think, like, understand both worlds and who are helping helping me see myself in their world.
And that means a lot to me.
Like, cool, that's really cool. So but the point is that I think is just that like, I'm so I'm very grateful to to that to the people who do that for me.
Well, and you're very you're your awareness of that. Your consciousness of that is reflected in how you communicate to your audience. Like, I can tell that you're very mindful of making sure that you're fulfilling that role for the people that are out there looking for you to give them a lead.
Hopefully. I hope it. I hope the book also gives them a more realistic view of how it happens. Right. Because if you see someone just where they are in any one moment today, you probably would assume any number of paths got them there that aren't the real way that got them there.
And when you're an Olympian that's on steroids, whatever it is, just think that Olympians are, you know, they just come out of the womb fully baked superheroes.
Yeah. And it's usually more circuitous or unexpected. But what does that what message does that send to kids and is it like don't chase the Olympic dream or just like chase the Olympic dream, but make sure you're also manifesting your full self? What are we telling them? Well, I don't know.
You tell me what you're telling them. You're the one doing the telling. I mean, I would say that that if I had to translate what you're trying to put out there, it's it's it's saying it's OK to have a big dream. It's OK to feel different, understand that it's hard. Anything worth doing or doing really well is going to be difficult. Yeah. You know, but embrace those challenges like be brave, like in everything that you do.
Like brave bravery is the recurring mantra. It's like I don't know how many times it's said in your movies and it's the title of your book like this is this is the thing.
And bravery is to is to, you know, exercise courage in the face of fear. It's not about not being afraid. It's about having the having the willingness to, you know, try your best deal with the fear, right. Yeah. Yeah. I think it's about trying your best. So maybe that's also it that. As long as you're trying your best, it'll it won't go as you thought it would, but you just keep you keep trying your best.
And it is brave to try your best because trying your best means, if you fail, you'll know that you did try your best, whereas sandbagging is like where you purposefully don't try your best so that later you can tell yourself that narrative. Right. So perhaps the bravest thing of all is to try your best, because then whatever happens to you, you know, was like your honest effort. Right.
And to try your best requires you to be vulnerable. When you're not when you're sandbagging, you're hiding. Right. You're indulging that fear and you're giving yourself an out. And it's scary to say I'm going to remove all the excuses and put it all out there. And whatever happens, happens.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I had a question that just came up that I wanted to ask you, can I ask you? You can, but this is a podcast about you.
I know, but I know it's always going to come back. All right. You're very good at making it. Always come back. Do you like.
Because I was thinking about, like, manifesting your greatest self. And one of the things is like the people you spend time around, because it just occurred to me that, like, you know, with your life, you've structured in a way where you spend time with people in this context that that maybe you admire, that you'd like to spend time with. Do you purposefully put yourself in situations to be around people like that? And do you also take an effort to not be around people who don't?
Do that for you, whatever that is. Well, to the former point one hundred percent, what do you think?
This whole podcast is basically a grand scheme to be able to, like, hoodwink cool people like yourself to spend time?
Like I hold them hostage here and force them to answer all these questions. And then I and then I incorporate them into my life like it's very indulgent and self-serving in that regard. Like I seek out people that inspire me and I give them a compelling reason to come and meet me by amplifying and sharing what they have to have to say. And, you know, quite often, like these people then become people in my life, like in the way that you met Jay, like a lot of guests that I've had, are my friends now.
And that's the most incredible gift, because these are people I can call on for advice or who have made themselves available to me. And I don't take that lightly. I don't take it for granted at all.
Like, it's a huge, huge gift. And it's just been the most expanding, like expansive experience that I could have ever structured for myself to the to the point about avoiding, you know, it's the adage is you're the average of, like, the however many people you spend the most time with. Right. So choose wisely, like spend your time with high vibrating people that are that are demonstrating characteristics that you aspire to manifest in your own life.
Of course, that means spending less time with people who are dragging you down. That's a little bit more difficult for me, but I feel like I've done a pretty good job of of over time setting healthier boundaries around that kind of thing.
That's cool. Yeah. What about you? I yes, I think that I'm doing a better job of that as well, but also recognizing that I think separating the work from quality time in my life. And that includes, you know, when Jeremy and I, we work together, so separating our work time from our quality time together, but also understanding in my own life like there are circumstances where we must we have colleagues, we have interactions, and hopefully those are people we love.
But there's sometimes there's work. Right. But but making sure that I preserve the time that I need to, like, reinflate or fill myself back up, because that will, you know, could be important.
How is the athlete mindset contribute to your creative pursuits? Like it's you know, most people who are kind of involved in that world don't come from an athlete background and certainly not as robust an athlete background as you have. Do you do you feel like there are tools and tactics that you've learned as a runner that benefit you when it comes to breaking a story for a script or, you know, executing on what needs to be done to get this movie up on its feet?
For sure? There's like so let's just take the idea of, like, writer's block, OK? So like people have created this idea that there is such thing. And I think that would be like showing up to a workout. And I know you always feel great every day, but it would be like being like I did not even try. I can't even take a step. And it's like, OK, it may not go the way you think it's going to go, but you can warm up and you can do certain things that will point you toward success.
And as athletes, we put on our outfit that will set us up for success. Maybe we let our clothes the night before we eat the food we know is going to set us up for success. We go to the, uh, the trail that we know we love or go to the track, you know, we meet people. So there are things that we put in place to show up and give ourselves the best chance to try our best.
And I think with the creative world, it's similar, like where the outfit that makes you feel like you can. Right. Sit at the desk that you like, use the pen that you like or computer, you know, get the right lighting like, set it up for yourself. And I think that has been one thing that I do a good job of is like curating the environment to try my best to make it conducive to your success.
But at the same time, there, the big difference in my mind is that as an athlete, it's much more binary, especially as an endurance athlete. It's like if I okay, if I put in the hundred mile weeks and I do these things like you're you're setting yourself up for, you know, the best result, like it's you know, it's mathematical in some regards.
But, yeah, creativity is is elusive and mysterious and doesn't always come when you summon it.
Yes. But I think that then I think we can. To the rule of thirds, which I was told by a coach, this is in the book, but I think it's life changing the rule of thirds. It's amazing. So my my Olympic coach told me after a particularly challenging workout where I could not hit my split's before going to the Rio Olympics, that that was OK. It was the rule of thirds. And he was an Olympian, says, you know, I always soaked in everything he said.
And I was like, what's what's the rule of thirds? And he said, you're when you're chasing a dream or doing anything hard, you're meant to feel good. A third of the time, OK, a third of the time and crappy. A third of the time. And if the ratio is roughly in that range, then you're doing fine. So today was the crappy day along your dream chasing. Right. And if the ratio is off like you feel to good all the time are too bad, then you you got to look at if you're fatiguing or are not trying hard enough or pushing yourself.
So I think with those days that you're talking about where like creativity doesn't come or doesn't feel great, you still show up because maybe that's your crappy day. But it doesn't mean you quit the goal. It doesn't mean you freak out. It means that you show up and live through that crappy that or that dip because you're chasing a dream and you're doing something hard.
So I think I've been able to embrace the ups and downs of the creative dream chasing by way of understanding the parallel in the athletic world. And likewise, in running, I rarely win like I've won races. But to not win a race doesn't mean that I haven't done really well. And there's a lot of no's you get in Hollywood, like when you're trying to make a movie. And I think just being able to weather the nose like weather all of that and take it not as a loss and to take criticism like blood work, I think that's another thing that was going to tell me more about that.
I like this.
OK, so blood work, right? If you don't get your blood checked, tested, it doesn't mean that you don't have low iron or high cholesterol. It just means you haven't found out about it. Right. It's fact's it's blood work. And I think similarly with creative criticism or feedback, we might get on a script or whatever. If I don't ask for the feedback, it doesn't mean that I did a good job. It just means that I'm refusing to know what I could have done better.
And looking at it like blood work has felt a lot less emotional and offensive. It's just like this is just feedback. It's just my blood work and I want to have it so that I can improve. And that helped me a lot to flip that switch. Right.
Like resiliency, plus the hustle and the dedication of getting up and showing up on days when you don't feel like it are things you learn as an athlete. That, of course, are life lessons. I'm thinking I'm reminded of an anecdote that I recently heard Timothy Timothy Olyphant tell.
He was he was on my friend John Moffett's podcast, and he did. A lot of people don't know this, but like Timothy Olyphant was an amazing swimmer, like at USC. He was like, very good. He didn't make the Olympics, but he was like a very outstanding athlete. And when he decided he wanted to be an actor and, you know, came into the awareness that, like, it's one in 100000 or 10000 that make it, you know, the odds are stacked against you.
While he was waiting tables, you know, he would ask these other people who are trying to be actors like, well, what are you doing?
And they're like, well, you know, I'm going to auditions. Or, you know, my uncle knows a guy who might know a guy who's going to set me up here. Meanwhile, like Timothy's like taking classes, like he approached it like an athlete. Like what? What are the steps that I need to take to put myself in the best position for success? Yeah. And he's like, when he would hear those stories, it's like, well, those are that's one less person I have to worry about, you know, competing against.
And it's interesting how the my point being that. There is something to be said for the athlete mindset approach to creative pursuits. We look at creative pursuits as like these. These, yeah, unpredictable, you know, realms in which, you know, not always the best people succeed. And some people who are less deserving are rewarded, like it's very much not a meritocracy, but there are things that you could do to put yourself in a position to succeed when that moment arises.
Yes. And and to build a stronger foundation. Right. Because the people for whom they have random connections or this and that, it's easy to feel jealous of people who you perceive to be having a shortcut or two. But it's if you can always, like, lean back on a strong backbone of whatever that means, whether it's his his preparations of his classes or whatever that means to you, like that backbone will it'll be there. And but I do think that every artist has to face a moment, probably every athlete, to where you ask yourself, are you interested in this goal or are you committed?
And that's that's a that's a big difference. Right. Where if you. Are merely interested in a goal, you're going to find the reasons why it wasn't possible for you or you're going to you're going to back out when it when it hurts or when you get one. No. And if you're committed, then you will keep showing up. So that's how I feel about that. How does it work, working with Jeremy? It's great. So I think Jeremy and I are similar to you.
Are thriving when we're doing these things we're so passionate about, so we were not misaligned in that, we're very much aligned, that we enjoy our work and we enjoy working together. It's a different way to love someone when you have a common goal, because it makes us both family and teammates, which are different. Right, like family you love no matter what. And, you know, it's it's family, friends, I think you choose. And that's a different kind of relationship.
You don't rely on them for anything. And teammates, you have a goal.
It's very, very fun and it's a really enriching experience to share a goal with someone, it's hard to because you kind of need them to show up and you're leaning on them as a team. We have different strengths, so we've learned more about what each of us brings to the table. And I, I would not be where I am even as an athlete without him, because it's so much a blurred line of like getting it done, whatever it takes, whatever.
I mean, you know, but there's no way in making a movie that you're not going to have conflicts over what you think is the right way to do something. So how do you navigate that and keep your relationship intact?
Yeah, that's a good that's a good question. I mean, we. You know, I think you go back to the rule of thirds like being in love is also a dream of sorts. And so it doesn't always feel good, like it does feel crappy a third of the time. But that's because I'm not married to myself. So. So it's not always going to be you know, and when we are working on something, I think we.
Instinctively know when when to like give or take, like we respect each other enough to respect the other person's idea, even if it wasn't our own and we have tried to put into place.
Vocabulary that allows us to move forward during conflict more gracefully. So, for example, we will use this word recalibrate. Which basically just means. If something needs to shift like I need to. Try to respond to his ideas in this way, even though my instinct, my whole life has been to respond in this other way. If I can have the maturity to just recalibrate and never go back to that old way, and he can allow me to be a mature person who can grow.
That's a kind thing for him and for me. So we use this word recalibrate when we need to, like, grow and grow instantly. And I think this harkens back to that word Bravia of like, you can choose to be a baby right now and then your baby for the rest of your life. And I think with recalibrating, that can be anything from I'm no longer a person who apologizes every two seconds, which I used to be. Yeah.
I'm just not that anymore. So I think that has helped us to grow when we need to to level up and have a crazy amount of emotional maturity.
How old are you? I'm 30.
I could, but I don't even get me started on what I was doing when I was 30. But, like, that is impressive.
Well, it's not. And it's not always. That takes a lot of. We don't always write, we like we are normal people who fight, right, but we really love each other more than any of that at any of these. You know what?
I think it's also just that this whole film world and the running world there, sandboxes, and we're playing in them. Right. Like I went through this depression with Jeremy and like that was the worst thing. Right.
So I think also we have the over our the overall stability and safety to know that we're playing a that's always important to. Right.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, you just I mean, you haven't lived in Los Angeles that long, right. So when you were making these movies, you weren't even living here. So you were kind of outside of, you know, the sort of downside or the, you know, toxic aspects of, you know, quote unquote, Hollywood.
Yes. And even now we live in the valley, just like you do.
And I think that's a little but not so out of it that you're not going to run into Jaideep floors when you go running.
That was that. Oh. But that the feeling that that could happen. That's amazing.
Well that's a crazy thing about living in L.A. or you know, in New York to be like, you know, you could just run into anybody. You can these people that you look up to who are doing the thing that you aspire to do are like around at the grocery store.
Yes. And before that, I felt like I needed to create these interactions. And that's why podcasts are important, because when I lived in these mountain towns, I craved those like those interactions I craved like the spontaneity, you know, I craved mentorship, basically. And I was living in a tiny town. And so I think I created those moments by listening to podcasts. And I still love podcasts and audiobooks, but it has a different role in my life than it did when I never thought there would be a possibility to run into someone, which was mostly the case when I was in Eugene, you know, for example.
Right. Well, the mentors are just different there. You're going to run into different running mentors and mentors.
That's true. That's very true. But, yeah, I don't know.
We have to talk about Olympic dreams when we talk about this. We could talk about it. I look at track down.
And as insane as that was to compete in the Olympics and make a feature film in the same year, it's like, all right, well, how can we up the degree of difficulty? I know we're going to make a movie, a feature, a narrative feature film in the middle of the Olympic Games in the Olympic Village. It was so funny, so crazy.
It was so fun. So it looked fun. It looked hard. I mean, it didn't come off looking hard, but I was you know, as I'm watching it, I'm like, how the fuck did they do this?
This is unbelievable.
Well, we made friends with the Team USA chiropractor for their bobsled team because Jeremy so we had a one one man band. It was Jeremy, Nick and I. And Jeremy was the cinematographer, the director and the sound guy, because these permissions to go into the village are so difficult and rare. So Jeremy was in the most pain, I would say, by carrying all the equipment. Right. But it was really felt like the feeling you'd want to have on any set, which is intimate, like.
Friends trying to pull something off like it was a pure adventure, right, and I feel I felt so happy there, I felt so happy and I was healing actually a broken sigh and I was in pain, but I was more happy than I was in pain. I remember that.
I remember it was like a little bit painful, but I was so joyful that it was like over time that it's like this perfect melding of the two worlds that you care most about, like coming together for this special experience.
I mean, we should say the movie is is about an Olympian that you play and her her experience of competing at the Olympics and dealing with the emotions of the aftermath and this encounter that she has with a tennis player played by Nick Kroll, inspired by this real Dennis that you had become friendly with when you were in Rio and and what ensues with their relationship and how, you know, their pain meets and how they they both kind of come away from that experience a little bit more complete.
And I think to me, it felt like there's definitely. Overtones of of lost in translation in the movie, like there's a similar sensibility to it, but there's also a little light dusting of Curb Your Enthusiasm at moments with Nick. You know, like when he's interacting with these athletes, like, that is hilarious.
And it was cool because these athletes to these were all real athletes competing in that Olympics. And I would find them in the dining hall or in the game room. And if they didn't look super stressed like they weren't about to compete, if they looked relaxed, I would ask if they wanted to come to a scene for this movie we were making with Nick Kroll. And what was cool is that athletes were very used to being on camera and being interviewed.
But that's a certain posture that we have. And there's certain ways that we talk. And because of the small crew that we had and because Nick is so good with people, he was able to draw out, I think a real human side of them and a different side than than the typical coverage might offer. They were just being themselves.
And it's it's all pretty much improved. Right. Like when you see these athletes in the dentist chair and Nick Kroll starts tight, he starts talking about, you know, his ex fiancee and how he's having a hard time. And the look on the faces of the athletes, they're like, what am I supposed to do? It this is so great.
And that was partly because Nick knew his character really, really well. And that's like when we do improv in movies, the most important thing is that we know who we are so that if we're in any scenario, we know what our characters would do. So that was like that was, you know, speaking back to how do you compare the athletics to the arts? Just preparation. Right. We were prepared so that whatever that circus of an environment brought, we could we could do it.
And you have a ticking clock, right. Like this has to be completed by the time the games are are done because you're not going to be able to recreate that environment for sure.
And you don't want to get in anyone's way like. Right. The last thing you want to do is like alter someone's Olympic experience, the real Olympic experience. So we were really careful. Right. About that.
But you're in I mean, just so people understand, like you're you're in the Olympic dining hall and it's filled with athletes who are eating and you're just navigating around them. So there's this documentary kind of vibe to the whole thing.
Yeah. Yeah. And it it was such a privilege because the best part about the Olympics to me as an athlete was the village experience. Like the village is pure magic. It is. It is everybody with their guard down 24 hour dining hall. Everyone's in these costumes like I mean, their uniforms. You have to wear your country's uniform. It's like a Wes Anderson movie, but real, real life. And and to be able to, like, give people a peek into that world and and do it in a way that that wasn't documentary that had a narrative through line that could have happened with such a like thrill and such a joy.
And the thing I was most nervous for, same a crackdown was when my Olympic peers saw the movie. So Gus Kenworthy was at the premiere and working in the movie and was in the movie. But I was really nervous for what he would think, just like I was nervous for what my running peers would think of track down. Because even though I want this movie to speak to a broader cinematic audience, I wanted to speak to the world that I'm representing first to make sure, you know, I want it to be authentic.
And it was such a I felt really grateful that people who are Olympians were like, yeah, I would show my kids that one day just to show them what it was like to be at the Olympics, you know, felt it was what it was like.
Yeah, there's an emotional honesty to it. I mean, you see, you get glimpses of the high highs and what we, you know, as average people would project, that experience might be about. But you shine a spotlight. It's really about those moments in between, like what does it feel like after you're done and you're just wandering around the village trying to figure out what's going to come next or sitting alone in the cafeteria or going back to your dorm room and not really gelling with your roommate and just feeling lonely and then feeling guilty that you feel lonely because you're you're basically living your dream at the same time.
Yeah. And that Olympians just don't we don't prepare for the moment afterwards, because if we did, we probably wouldn't get there in the first place and we probably wouldn't do very well if we were thinking about anything but that.
Right. You can't you can't plan beyond August. Yeah. And that's you know, that's it's funny because. I've noticed that that is true of other worlds, too, like I and I mentioned this, but I met I met Jimmy Kimmel on our press tour for Olympic dreams when Nick was on his show. And we talked about this like post Olympic depression, like just the subject of the movie. And he was like, that's exactly how I felt after I hosted the Oscars.
And I was like, oh, like this resonates with people who have had singular goals.
And there's this dip after where it's normal. But if you're not prepared for it, which most of us aren't, it's such a bizarre feeling.
You see it with you. I mean, you hear about it with musicians. They play a big show, but then, you know, they're on tour and it's a different city every night and they're just alone in their hotel room afterwards. So the weird juxtaposition of like this extreme experience followed by this kind of weird, you know, liminal space where you're just by yourself, right?
Right. I am. I am sure there's that in every world.
Well, the only thing, though, in your in the movie was I was like, where are her teammates? Like, she would be like realistically like she would have a team and there would be a coach there and there would be people around for her. So you created a more extreme version of that experience.
You know, not everybody has a coach like there are country heads, but most people can't have their coach in the village with them there.
So there's a team like a team, Olympic coach, there's a team, Olympic coach. So Penelope was supposed to be from a UN like I know like any country to make that was sort of the AOSIS hope. And so she was not really from a designated place and that was just a universal athlete, is what they call her and which I was down with. But yes, certainly, I mean but at the same time, when I think about my experience in Rio, I was alone most of the time.
Part of that was by choice to be so sad.
Why, though? Because I had. So I was so. I was all eyeballs, I was like taking it all in and I was sitting with a different person at the dining hall every night, like, I remember one day I sat and I ate with this girl and I did not know who she was because before she competed, but it was it was Katie Ledecky and the swimmer and. Right. We had just like a normal lunch together. And it was just very early in the games.
And those opportunities came about because I chose to go to the dining hall last night. So I did that by choice so that I could have a different experience.
Except when the dentist asked you to hang out, you said no or you didn't show up. I knew what I knew what happened at the village pool. OK, no things. All right.
And just I hear you, by the way. I give Gus Kenworthy a movie immediately, like that guy's a movie star like me.
He was so naturalistic in his acting, he crushed it.
He acts. He, like me, has these two. He is multi hyphenate and multi interested. And that was cool for me, actually, because I hadn't met so many people like me.
And I told him I was like, this is cool to know that we both it helps me to know that you exist because he it felt like I was meeting somebody like minded like kismet.
Yeah. Has he done other movies? He was in American Horror Story. He was. I didn't know that.
So I think he he will do more of. That's cool. Yeah, that's cool.
You talked about this with Dave Chang, but I thought it was worth spending a few moments on the moment where after you've raised. And we don't really know how you did. We know that you're not thrilled, but there's a creative choice to not basically show the scoreboard and what place you came in or anything like that is just a quiet moment of reflection and where you're processing what's going on. And then you witness a medal ceremony and you see these women getting their medals and you're having an emotional moment with that as you're watching and then the aftermath of that, where the grips, you know, the gaffers or whoever, they come out and remove the podium and you're like, oh, yeah, this is just a big show.
And it's like on to the next. It's like the circus is in town for a very brief moment of time. And we're just putting on a big show.
I love that you notice that because and this is where I think you and Jeremy will get along very well, because that was his. That was his. He's like, holy Jeremy's vision, and I think it's he likes seeing, like the mechanics of things like that that we don't see, like on NBC, you see the medal ceremony, you do not see it being cleaned up. And that was part of the the fun of Olympic dreams. Was that showing that the texture underneath and like what what happens the moment after?
And I really love that you pointed that out because it's when you're at these events in person, as I'm sure anyone who who who is involved in other like events, there's so much more that goes into it than just the event.
Right now, it's like when you're at Disneyland and there's a whole, like, city underneath your feet of people that make that whole place function.
Yeah, it's so strange. And it's not it's not sad. I think it's just interesting. Right.
Well, I think it it it gives you perspective like, oh, I thought this was like one thing, but I realized, like, maybe this isn't everything I thought it was. You could put a spin on it. I don't think it's necessarily sad, but maybe like I see it as more transactional, like this is a commercial enterprise.
Hmm. Interesting. Yeah. Which maybe is cynical. Yeah.
Or maybe because I love the Olympic dream. I'm not casting aspersions on that. But the production of the Olympics is different from the aspiration of the Olympic dream.
Yeah. But at the same time, like when you think about all the volunteers, are all the people that make those moments happen. It's also cool to think about that. It is so much more than just the athletes and the spectators.
Like there is this whole like, you know, there's the there are those people that make it actually happen. And we actually got to interact with quite a few of those people, because when we were you know, when we shot in, for example, the the Olympic Stadium with the flame, with nobody in their right, we had people helping us, like, open those gates who knew we were there to do the movie and just to know, like there there are all these people who have been at so many games, but on the other side, they're they're the ones making it happen.
It's kind of cool. Like it's kind of like when you think about like the chaperones at the dance, you're like, yeah, we need those.
We need the people to help make prom, prom.
And, well, you give some attention to those people in recounting your own experience just before competing in the book where you talk about like the timing person and they're the people that are telling you go here, like some people are very detached from that role. And some people are like very nurturing. And yes. But just recognizing that there are all these human beings that are like, you know, the Greece to all to the engine.
And they are not your parents and they are not your coach. And you're right. And that's where you're like, aren't the coaches there? And like, actually quite a bit of the Olympic experiences. Is you taking it away from that?
Yeah, you're away from that. And that can really scare people because so I think that where people go wrong with I think the right approach to the Olympics is to not see it like any other event, to see it as something exceptional and different when we try to sterilise it and create it to be just like every other race or every other experience, it will never be that it is so different. And the people that I knew who tried to recreate their comfort zone didn't do as well.
Because it's not your comfort zone. It's different. Right. And maybe that's like a lesson for any thing we've never done before. Like, it will be different and control what you can control, but also embrace that some of these things are. Just going to be different. Yeah, I mean, I understand the impulse to try to reduce it down to size so that it becomes manageable, because when your whole life is oriented around that moment, it's very overwhelming.
Right. So to say, like, I'm just going to make this like every other race, but then you're less resilient when you arrive and you're told to do all these things and you're kind of instructed to go here and there and it's all very different that's going to throw you off and destabilize you and perhaps undermine the performance that you're trying to create for yourself. Yeah, yeah.
If you could be in the village, what was your what would you like to be? What was like the most?
I mean, I'm obsessed with the Olympics, but I've never attended an Olympics, so I don't know what that experience would be like. I have lots of friends who've been Olympians. But, you know, it was cool in the movie. I was like, oh, that's what it looks like inside, you know, that it just looked like really cold and like a bunch of tents.
You know, it was it pulled the veneer off, like the glamour, you know, projection that I had. I think, you know, like a bunch of young people. Yeah. A bunch of kids hanging out. And you in the book, you describe it as summer camp, basically. Yeah.
That's how it felt. I mean, real was very romantic. Real was not cold. Real was very, very romantic. I guess the Winter Olympics are romantic in their own way, though. Everyone's huddled and yeah, I just need to keep each other warm.
I know it's I think I'd rather be at the Summer Games. Yeah.
But it it did look like being in the cafeteria was cool because that's where you're going to have those collisions with all those interesting people and the people watching. And you recreate with Gus something that, you know, you talked about in the book, this idea of like trying to imagine what sport all of these athletes play and like what role they have and. It's pretty cool. It was so fun. The dining hall has the best people watching, simply the best it.
It should be mentioned that you can't just go to the Olympics and make a movie like that. You you. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you got the support of the IOC because they had seen track down or whoever the person in charge had and granted you this unprecedented access, like you basically could go wherever you want it.
Yes, this was very rare. The president of the Olympics was was really taken by track down, which he saw randomly on a flight, which is the same the same with Peter, saw it randomly on flight. So thankful for those airline, you know, distribution deals.
Well, and also just when you create something and you put it out in the world, you don't know you never know who it's going to connect with.
Yeah, that's true. I'm sure you feel that way about this podcast where anyone can find it. It is weird. Is it weird? Well, it's weird that, like, your friend is like that's an example of that, right? Yes, it was. That was like that.
Put it in perspective for me where I was like, wow, this really, you know, these we make things and we can't always know or control where they're going.
But you have the head of the IOC and PTA and I have Amanda surname Amanda. Right.
So it's and I will take Amanda every time. That's you know what?
That's the right decision. She is she's my best friend since two years old. And she's she appears to be the only friend in my book.
I think to I was like, I really well, good. Sometimes, you know, the characters. It's important to keep it relatively simple. But she is also.
You changed a few names. We did, yes. So I'm sure you also worked with a team to know what was smart to say and what not to say.
I wish I could tell you that I did, but I didn't. We don't what team? We had to make sure that I didn't have any of that. They were like, that looks good. Wow. That's we had a lot of changes.
I got to rewrite it. I did a new edition of it and I and I went back and changed a bunch of that kind of stuff because it was, you know, I wish I had had more awareness around that.
Yeah. I guess it's just important that I mean, there were certain people, like with Maya Rudolph's chapter and with the chapter where I mentioned interactions with Bill Hader, like I made sure to talk to them and share the chapter with them and get their blessing, because I felt like I had those names. I wanted to have them in there because it was important that it was them. But it was also important to me that they felt comfortable with that.
Yeah, it was more like, you know, the virginity loss stories and things like that.
I really like these names.
Well, yeah, of course you're telling some story about something that happened in high school or should behave badly. There's no reason to use no names. It's not useful.
I think like this this like it's just not useful. Right. So. That's that, so you have a TV show that you guys are working on now, right?
Yes. So Jeremy and I are the creative world is a lot like playing tennis where you the ball will be in your court for something and then you hit it out of your court.
I'm sure you can relate and you don't know when you're going to get it back in certain scenarios. And that's why it's important to have multiple projects at once because you don't want to just be waiting there with I'd like to to have nothing to do is your choice. And so we we always have multiple creative projects going on. And right now the book is obviously a big focus releasing it. And then this TV show Opportunity came about after the Rio Olympics.
And I can't say so much about it other than that. It's very exciting and set in the Olympic Village world and it's going to be fabulous. And it also feels like when you shift from one event to the next another event in running where I've only made feature films and now we're learning the television world and we're still making feature films and have those going on. But I'm sure you can relate to I'm still playing the same sport, but it's a different event and there are things to learn about television that are different than than feature.
Yeah, 100 percent. Meanwhile, you're going from 10000 meters to the marathon.
Exactly right. So I'm I'm trying to switch events. And the marathon is still a mystery to me, I'll be honest, but I'm still curious about it. So.
But you had to. When was that? You ran like a PR? Not that long ago. I ran a nine minute PR this year. But I know that I that I have more in me, and that's because. I mean, it's a feeling of where your mind and your body are on the same page, and I started to get that in the tank, like, I certainly felt that in Rio and I haven't felt that yet in the marathon.
And so I know that I have potential still, how many marathons have you run to? Right. So how could you possibly have it fully dialed?
You couldn't, I suppose, or you could. I only ran five, 10 k's in my life so far. So it's like. It's not like. That's true.
That's true. Real was my fifth or something. I'm real. Might have even been my fourth, but I didn't. I'm a late bloomer in the sport and I don't think it's how many times you've run the event. I think it's like. I think the. You know, I I don't think it's just dependent on that, but it does help, you know, the experience helps. What about you? I mean, what what look at you trying to turn the tables and turn it off.
I let you do it once or twice. So I still want to run another marathon.
I want to write a great record. What? The Olympic qualifying standard got really rough this year. Oh, my gosh. Yeah, they dropped it down significantly by like 15 minutes. Yeah.
I think that is going to change the dynamic at the Olympics where it'll change it a bit. Right. Because if a standard is more accessible, it means that you're definitely getting the best in the world, not just the best, you're getting the best of the world when it's accessible and the faster and faster the standard gets, the more you're getting the best in the world. So it just it's a shift, I think.
So you still have to you still would have to drop a little bit of time for you to make that standard again for Greece, right. So how's it looking for Tokyo?
Well, that time is competitive, but doable. That's how I feel about it. And I think part of it has been where and when are the racing opportunities? And there have been a few, but it's normally because of covid. It's normally not the case that you're wondering, will I get a chance to race safely? It's normally like, can I run this time? Right. And now there's both of those factors. And so most of covid I've been.
Focused. Well, first of all, I was supposed to run a race in March, and I ended up getting I went over to Greece. You got stuck for five months, like I was supposed to be there for like three weeks. And so that was a really, you know, life changing experience. And I shifted you know, I changed coaches out of necessity because I was over there. And I also shifted my focus once the Olympics was pushed to working on my weaknesses and just trying to use this time.
And it's still what I'm doing. And so my goal is to race in the like I think like second half of spring if things I'm hoping the world shifts, but I'm also trying to respect. That there's a pandemic going on, you know? Yeah, so what are those weaknesses? Yes. So I think I know you're working with this, like, trainer guy.
Yeah. Anthills, right. You sharing about that. So I was like, who is I need to see this guy.
Oh, he's amazing. So, yeah, Dag and Monica are. So I have my great coach who worked a lot with me on drills and agility. And so like I really tapped back into the more athletic side of myself, like soccer instincts. Those are things that I feel have worn off over time. And so that's my coach. Yoni's in Greece. And then with Dag and Monica, I'm starting to access and feel muscles that I've never felt before.
And they're really it's posture related muscles. But I can now flex like the muscles around my spine, just like I might flex my bicep. And I've never been able to do that before. So, like, just to flex, I'm like doing it right now and I've never felt that muscle. And so what they've done and it's because we have time to do this, like we've timed to start a little bit back to basics of like, can I hold myself in a better position to sustain what I believe and they believe is a perfectly sustainable practice of running right.
For longer. So they really have helped me believe that running is something I'm meant to be doing, because I think sometimes runners eventually in their career are like, maybe I can't do this anymore, maybe it's too hard or your body is more nervous. I just want to work on supporting a movement that humans are meant to do. So it's been a lot of mind shifting to focusing on muscles I never knew I had.
That's fascinating. I need to know more about this guy. We'll talk more afterwards because I need a little bit more of that in my life. Yeah.
And I think as athletes, you you want to it's natural to kind of want to double down on your strengths. And and everybody's so concerned about making sure that they're maximizing their fitness or getting their volume in and their speed work and all of that.
And it's especially as you age, it's those pesky little things that become much more important and they're so annoying. But if you do them and they're pretty easy to do, you become a much more robust, resilient, injury proof athlete.
Yes, and I've always found that when you can and to be in person with someone is a really big I mean, here we are talking about this and in this time. But it's so with a coach or with strength. Work like doing things remotely is it's just there's something about being in person with someone. I mean, I'm sure that's why you're doing this right now with me in person. Like it's different.
Yeah, it is. It's it it's it makes it tricky. And you have to be safe and respect protocols and things like that. But there is a huge sorry, I didn't mean to step on your words, but it is you know, the interpersonal connection is so important.
Yeah. Yeah, I think so too. And, um, it's. Yeah, what? Yeah, it's I'm excited to talk to you more about it, because essentially it's a little bit contrary. Most people are like everybody's unique. Everyone needs different things. And this and that and their philosophy. Doug and Dr. Monica is more like actually we're a lot more like cars than we think, and we should be able to like support this structure and do this thing.
And there is a blueprint. And we can if we strengthen certain muscles that you didn't know you had. Right. You can support the. This speaking of, you don't want to be unique when it comes to like body and injury things, and I think that's what's been so comforting is they're like, now you're not unique. You just.
Well, we all have the same bones and muscles that start there. Exactly. Exactly. So it's been really helpful. And I like working with people who have a diverse perspective. So like a lot of the work. They do is with tennis players and football players. And I think I've worked with a lot of running specialist people and that's been helpful. But sometimes it's refreshing to step outside and just mix it up a little bit. Yeah. And just look at the body.
Not not just. Right. Yeah.
Yeah. How much of the running is on pavement versus trails? Oh, I love trails. I mean, why did I move to the valley.
Because I wanted to soak up all the trails on a baby. I love it.
So I try to run soft for all easy runs. I end up needing to go on a track or on roads for some of these workouts because I have to train my body to do certain to handle certain services. But I'm on soft and on trails as much as I can. And I love it. I love. I love how undiscovered the trails of L.A. seem to be. I know that there are people running here, but it's not something that people talk about in the world.
It's crazy to me because. The trail system, the amount of like untouched land in Los Angeles is pretty extraordinary, but it's kind of blind to the casual observer who's just driving on the freeway like you see the hills over there. But then when you're actually up there, like, yeah, there's a few runners and now with gravel bikes, there's more people on bikes. But overall, like, there's barely anybody up there. And you could be up in Topanga State Park and it's like natural LANPHER as far as you can see.
And you're right in the middle of Los Angeles, it makes Central Park look like a speck compared to what's available here.
And when you're out there, OK, what's is it quote him. I mean, when you're up there, you're like, why isn't everybody up here?
Like, there's no for such a densely populated urban metropolis? I'll see, like, three people, you know, in like over a course of multiple hours. Yeah.
And I feel that the greatest gift that people have given me here and that you could give someone if you're if you're interested in running or trails or walking, is to show them a trail like I just to because you don't know that they're right.
And I'll be you know, I'll call myself out on that like I lived here for years before I ever went and explored any of it. And then when I did, I was like, oh my God, I had no idea.
Yeah. Yeah. So I'm I'm loving it. I feel it's my it's a forever place for me. And I've met friends through the trail system, like while on the trail I met friends and it's just like a treasure trove. I love the early mornings and the in the sunsets are the best. Right. And it's it is a good way to get to know. A city is on the trails, I think we got to end this shortly here.
I don't want to be too indulgent with your time, but before I let you go, I think a good way to end it is with just a few. Sort of brave thoughts for the person who's listening, who is maybe feeling stuck or struggling or feels like they're not entitled to have a dream or that aspirational life that they seek, you know, just feels too inaccessible. Well, to to you bravely listening, and I take your dream seriously, even if you do not.
So you're allowed to take it seriously. As well, I think also. Pravy. The way that you feel right now will probably not be how you feel forever. Even if it seems like you will, I think that would have been a nice thing for someone to tell me. I think my dad sort of did tell me when I was feeling really down, but I didn't believe him. So I hope that helps and. Just know that we're satellite teammates.
I love it sometimes feels great, teammate. I am in love with everything that you are about. You just delight me and I'm so pleased that you took the time to come here and share today.
I want to tell you more about our film projects, too, please. You're going to come over for dinner and I'm going to subject you to a lot of vegan food.
Like it or not, one of my trading partners is vegan and I lived with her in Mammoth for a month. And I learned so much. And Jeremy has not to like. But Jeremy is technically not supposed to eat like dairy, for example. Right. But I just we didn't understand how simple that shift would be until I lived with her and I just saw what she was eating and just ate with her. And that was really helpful. So we're more all right than we used to be.
To be continued perfect.
And, uh, I can't wait for your book to be out in the world and for everybody to enjoy what I'm enjoying right now. So nothing but mad love and respect for everything that you and Jeremy are about. And I can't wait to see what you what you do next week.
And I planted some seeds and those flowers are going to sprout next year. Cool.
In the meantime, pick up Reavie at your fine independent bookstore or on Amazon because we're in a pandemic.
I didn't realize it's still being recorded but Jeremy, I'm like no dairy allergy and if you want to learn more about Aleksi what go to your website.
You're easy to find on the internet yet post.com Alexi Pappas anywhere. Anything else you want to alert people to. Just get that brave book. All right, come back and talk to me again. I will. Thank you for having me and thank you for your very welcome belief in me that for coming.
It's huge. School peace, peace plans, plans.
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Today's show was produced and engineered by Jason Carmello. The video edition of the podcast was created by Blake Curtis, portraits by Ali Rogers and David Greenberg. Graphic Elements courtesy of Jessica Miranda Copywriting by Georgia WELI and our theme music was created by Tyler, Pietje, Trapper Pietje and Harry Mathis. You can find me at all dotcom or on Instagram and Twitter at Rich Roll. I appreciate the love. I love the support. I don't take your attention for granted.
Thank you for listening. See you back here soon. Peace plans after a.