Our Podcast Guests Inspired Us to Try New Things and Revisit Old Passions—Here’s What We Learned

new things


Amanda McGrory rekindled her love for her sport—wheelchair racing—by going back to graduate school.

Late July founder and CEO Nicole Bernard Dawes finds sanity and stress management when she steps out of the office and onto her Peloton bike.

Exhale executive vice president Fred DeVito never set aside his passion for music, continuing to play the upright string bass even as he built a high-powered career in the fitness industry.

Based on these examples from our high-achieving guests, we at #WeGotGoals HQ set out on our own experiments, pledging to try new things or re-engage with activities we’d loved in the past. On this week’s hostful episode, we reported back on what we found.

Jeana Anderson Cohen signed up for a three-day intensive course at improv institution Second City. Each day featured eight hours in the classroom and a nightly homework assignment to write a four-page script. “It was hard. It was fun. It was revealing. It was everything,” Cohen said.

Ultimately, the course provided just the creative boost she was craving. And working on “yes, and”—a vital component of improv that demands actors accept and build on their collaborators’ ideas—tapped into an attitude of openness she’s carried back to her work.

“It gets me out of my own head. My ideas aren’t the only ideas,” she said. “Rather than saying ‘Yes, and how about we do it this other way?’ It’s more like, ‘Yes, and I hear where you’re coming from, that’s really smart and we could add onto it.”

Maggie Umberger felt particularly inspired by her podcast interview with author and time-management expert Laura Vanderkam. Building novelty into your routine, even when you’re busy, ultimately convinces your brain you have more time, Vanderkam pointed out.

So Umberger begin dedicating precious hours to things she’s said she enjoys, but had slipped off her schedule. Some are brand-new to her: She’s started writing her own stand-up comedy routine. She also revisited her past as a dancer by heading to an advanced hip-hop class.

“For so long I didn’t go back to the studio,” she said. “I knew I used to be better and I didn’t want to feel bad at something that I used to feel good at.”

In some ways, her fears were confirmed. “It was humbling. I was terrible,” she said (though the rest of us wondered if she was “regular-person bad” or just “former dancer bad,” which is probably pretty different). Getting out there and doing it anyway—even if she tripped over some of the choreography—reminded her that she could survive minor setbacks, and even have fun and create meaningful memories along the way.

That’s similar to what Kristen Geil learned from her experiment: making homemade sushi. Geil admitted to being a creature of habit. Her anxiety begins growing when she doesn’t have a plan for the day, week, and month.

For the sake of the podcast, she bravely broke from her routine of assembling meals in bowls and ventured to a fish market, where she bought all the necessary ingredients. She started making the meal at 9 a.m. on a Thursday, which felt rebellious in and of itself.

Sure, she didn’t completely change her ways: “I didn’t eat it until that night because I’m not a monster,” she said. But the effort paid off in more ways than one. “It led most immediately to my boyfriend coming home the next night with scallops and making this incredible gourmet zucchini noodle, homemade Alfredo sauce, and sautéed scallops meal”—thus kicking off a mini-competition to one-up each other in the kitchen, with delicious results.

Bigger picture, it made Geil feel accomplished, and more open-minded about her options. “Once you show yourself that you can add something new into the day, that you can change up the routine, it becomes so much more possible to do it,” she said.

And as for me—I’ve always loved live music, either at festivals or indoors at clubs. In recent years, I haven’t made it a priority. There are lots of good reasons for that, from time to money to early-morning workouts that mean I’m often going to the bed by the time the opening act’s warming up.

When I fall away from it, I forget how moving music can be—and the experience of watching artists craft it live can never be recreated on a Spotify playlist. So this summer, I picked a few live shows and even one day of a festival, packed my fanny pack with eyedrops and earplugs, and showed up.

Doing so not only gave me welcome, mindful breaks from all the focused work I do in writing and running, it also allowed me to challenge my self-definition a bit. Yes, I’m often more tired than I used to be—but I’m not too old and worn-down to hit an 11 p.m. Lollapalooza aftershow if I plan it right. And, if the act is as fantastic as Lizzo, I might even dance a little (though, I can assure you, I’ll always be far more terrible than Maggie).

Listen to the full episode to hear more about our experiences, the links we saw to our past episode on failure and resilience, and what new things we’re planning to try next.

You can listen to #WeGotGoals anywhere you get your podcasts — including Spotify! If you like what you hear, please leave us a rating and a review. Make sure to listen all the way through, because at the end, we heard from a real-life goal-getter just like you. (Want to be featured on a future episode? Send a voice memo with a goal you’ve crushed, a goal you’re eyeing, or your best goal-getting tip to me at [email protected].)



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About Cindy Kuzma

Cindy Kuzma is a freelance health and fitness writer and a contributing editor at Runner’s World magazine. She grew up in Texas and moved to Chicago to earn her master’s in journalism at Northwestern University; once she saw the lakefront running trail, she decided to stay. She’s finished 19 marathons and also loves lifting heavy weights, yoga, live music and running to the Green City Market from Andersonville and taking the bus home with a ridiculous haul of fresh veggies. Cindy is the producer and co-host on aSweatLife's podcast, #WeGotGoals. She’s written for Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Prevention, Shape and other publications as well—you can read her work at www.cindykuzma.com.