In 2018, we were all graced with 14 inspiring stories from amazing humans over 50, living complicated, beautiful, sometimes challenging lives.
I asked a lot of questions.
Some resided in the hard to answer category. No questions went unanswered, a few were requested not be published.
I truly admire all the fearlessness and vulnerability exhibited during these interviews. I thought it would only be fair to turn the tables and let them ask me questions.
The idea was this.
Each Badass was given the opportunity to ask one question. They have no idea what the others asked. They are all finding out the answers for the first time right here. This was an intensely reflective and inward looking process. There are some answers I have not spoken outside my own head. And some moments in my life I have not thought about in a very long time.
Here are those questions and my answers.
Badass Tom Rosen:
My question for you: Is there a finish line?
For my shell, that wraps me in skin, muscle, arteries, veins, blood, water, bile and bone. Yes.
Every day I wake up and take a breath I’m fully aware this journey has an expiration date. Fortunately, we can watch, learn, be humbled by and participate in the ancient ritual of impermanence.
We can also choose to live in denial and ignore it and only feel our mortality when it truly hits close to home.
For me, and I will use words that sound familiar because we’re all trying to make sense of what we don’t really understand but intuitively feel. My soul. My consciousness. My spirit. My being. My light.
The ME inside the MEat suit, no finish line.
That me will be running all over this universe. Pulling, pushing and grinding for all of eternity in some form, some shape, or in some way. Hopefully with peace and joy, in whatever form it may be, conscious or unconscious.
Badass Karen Eastwood Fikar:
What is the one (if there is just one) moment when you hit your very lowest point and just thought you had lost all will to fight?
My lowest point I do remember. It was a Saturday morning. I was hung over, and had to go to some social event. Historically I haven’t been the biggest fan of large social events. I wish I could say it was anxiety, that would be easier to understand. I would classify it more as mixture of despair and anger. The anger part I never understood, I’m not sure I do today, but I would feel it.
The usual process was, get myself there, start drinking so I could get to the numbing, feel good, party boy part. Unfortunately, on the other side of that was the dark, too much too drink, stick of dynamite guy.
I was in the bathroom trying to will myself into the shower, I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t move. Total emotional and physical paralysis. I starting crying uncontrollably. I say this with zero pride, but I couldn’t remember the last time I cried. At this moment I had no idea why, I was in complete chaos as a human.
I’ve never felt lower.
I’ve never felt more helpless.
I’ve never felt more weak and insignificant and lost and worthless.
If that bathroom had a hole I would have lowered myself into it and disappeared.
I was done.
I wanted to be gone.
Being here in this world made no sense to me anymore in that moment.
Pam walked in and I somehow had to explain the unexplainable. What was going on? My response to her made no sense to me and I finally realized how deeply I was dealing with depression. With clear focus I could finally see the face of the dark monster.
The black dog.
Badass Steve Werner:
Victim or Hero and Why?
Victim 1964 – 2014
Since birth because I can’t pinpoint a specific age, but I believe the roots of victim mode start very early. We are taught it. Society likes us in a chaotic victim mentality. It likes us drinking, smoking, doing drugs, doubting, judging, eating poorly, seeking perfection and failing, self hating, and buying stuff we don’t need to feel worthy.
Why? My Fear. Selfishness. Ego. Self-Pity. Weakness. Shame. Guilt. Depression. Anger. Alcohol. Lack of compassion. Lack of gratitude. Low self-worth. Self hate. All characters in a story I was writing in my head. These characters and many more kept this victim story alive everyday. Other people’s opinions, judgments and criticism fueled new and more pathetic chapters.
Hero 2015 –
Why? I started to acknowledge life is too short to be a victim for the rest of it. I’ve wasted enough of it being one. This existence is a gift, and I have a responsibility not to waste it, for myself, for those who love me and even for those that don’t. To live as fearlessly as I can. To not allow judgement by myself or others to destroy the path. You may not always agree with me or like me. You have that right. But I also have rights, and I’m doing my best to live my authentic self with conviction, peace and joy.
Badass Joe Berkeley:
How has sport influenced your life, and your life influenced your sport?
Sport influencing life.
Ultra running and spartan racing has taught me great lessons in humility and destruction of the ego. I have a great appreciation for the obstacle is the way philosophy. The stoic philosophy. It has helped me find a path free from alcohol and a life with less self-destruction both emotionally and physically. It has opened the aperture wider on a more eclectic group of friends. I am so grateful. It has shown me what belongIng looks and feels like and has also given me the freedom of true solitude and peace. It has brought joy to me and my entire life. It forced me outside exploring nature and inside exploring who I am and why I am here. A process that I will continue for as long as I am here.
Life influencing sport.
I started running again because of the influence of three people dealing with cancer. They shared their journey in three different ways but the end result was as cliché as it sounds, life is extremely short and beyond precious.
I know we all know this. But I was not recognizing it nor acting upon it. So I dedicated myself and my life to stop talking and start doing. Their life and their willingness to fight for it influenced my return to running and racing. Ultra running in particular was a result of the lessons I learnt by witnessing their life, battle with retaining it and eventually the loss of 2 of those 3 lives. My appreciation for the moment. My gratitude for the gift I have of putting one foot in front of the other. My understanding that from suffering much joy and humility is born. My path in the woods was directed and informed by the life and death of three amazing humans.
Thank you Ben,
Rest In Peace, Shalin and Eric.
Badass Mark St. Amant:
What was your rock bottom?
This demanded much reflection.
I would like to answer this one visually. The summer of my 15th birthday I starting drinking. Let’s look at the event from this perspective.
I became the pilot of a large passenger plane that day.
I started flying through the world with everyone I love or loves me aboard that plane. That flight in the beginning had its normal up and downs due to my inexperience at navigating and with drinking. But I became prolific at both very quickly. At least from my solo view in the cabin.
Other pilots navigate this flight very smoothly for a long time and then out of nowhere there is a sudden nosedive, and horrifying free-fall and a spectacular fireball that everyone witnesses and a lot of people get hurt.
On some flights the passengers rush the cabin because they fear the pilot is out of control and a crash is enviable and they want to take the yoke away before the fatal crash.
My flight flew low and hard for 34 years. Maybe that’s my nature. Maybe I created that nature. Maybe I had a death wish. I honestly never thought I would see 30 years old many times in my darkest moments. Maybe I was just plain selfish and self-centered.
I flew just over the tree canopy. Clipping objects. Just missing large mountains and tall buildings. The plane was falling apart around the passengers but never enough to stop the flight. I never turned around and looked into their faces to truly see how the flight was going.
I just kept flying.
I scraped earth more than a handful of times but somehow muscled my way back up into the air again scaring myself and the passengers but after a while that probably felt as normal to them as me.
Then one day about 3 years ago I just got sick of flying and I was just emotionally and physically worn out as the captain.
The gauge was empty I was empty.
The plane in pieces slowly landed and scraped across the earth to a silent stop.
I hit rock bottom when I released the buckles on the safety harness got off what was left of the plane and I turned around and truly looked into the faces of everyone I had taken on that flight.
That my friend was rock bottom.
Excruciatingly painful bottom.
I walked away from the old debris. And I slowly started building a new plane. And I starting learning how to navigate this journey in a way that everyone aboard it would have the most peaceful flight I can offer.
It is not turbulent free and honestly that might not be possible or a reality.
But I’m doing my best. Those that stuck around I owe them that. Those who want to return I’m building a plane with endless seating.
I humbly welcome you aboard.
Badass Darla O’Conner:
Have you ever felt like giving up?
Tough question and because you didn’t qualify to any specific event or subject neither will I. I was 16 or 17, walking home late at night drunk. I grew up in a mill town. A river runs through it that flows from New Hampshire to the Atlantic Ocean. I was crossing one of the two bridges that link one side of town to the other. I do not remember the exact circumstances of my anger and despair but it was fueled by alcohol and teenage angst. I was by myself. In the middle of this bridge, in the wee hours of the morning, in a dark emotional place. The river was low and ran very shallow based on ocean tides. I climbed over the rail. Lowered myself to sidewalk height and hung over that river. I remember looking at my hands as I felt the full weight of my body on them and the decision I was going to make.
Yes. I felt like giving up.
Badass Papa Smurf: You came up with this idea of asking questions to people and for me, the process was a deliberate inward look at oneself. Can you tell us where this idea came from and what you hoped to accomplish? And what have you gotten out of this whole project?
The idea for over50badasses happened while I was in a challenging place. I was between jobs. It was Christmas. I was freelancing and my world although it was chaotic, turbulent and uneasy caused a great surge of creativity and hope that anything was possible. A friend had been encouraging me to start a blog for over a year. Her vision was for me to share my training, races and thinking. I couldn’t get past or around it being about me. I didn’t want to do a blog about me. It just kept falling down right there and would never get up. During this time I was considering all kinds of things. Career change. Changing cities. New jobs. My mind was open and free and the blog idea popped up right at that time and it hit me right in the heart and head in that order. Maybe because I was feeling so alive and full of promise, like I had my whole life in front of me not behind me.
Celebrate others who had turned 50.
Celebrate humans who quietly do amazing things.
Celebrate humans that are perceived on the downside of the hill by society who don’t see themselves or their lives in that way.
I wanted it to have an aggressive stance. Thus the name and logo. Not out of anger but of unapologetic pride.
What I hoped to accomplish was to tell stories and offer another perspective to the constant negative perception around being 50 and older. That life wasn’t slowing or ending or the best was behind you.
Over 50 was a vibrant, take no prisoners time in one’s life. We weren’t this age group that was slowly retreating to the bench or the retirement home or the scrap pile.
What have I received by doing this?
Connection. Inspiration. Friendship. Tribe. Belonging. Wisdom. Teachers. Humility. Love. Strength. New pathways to see and live my life.
Creativity. A pure creative platform that has its own life and the freedom to do whatever I want with it. It brings insane amounts of joy to my life.
Every interview is it’s own unique experience. Opening and reading the answers are literally like receiving gifts. But most of all I have nothing but gratitude. For the conversations. I feel insanely privileged to be allowed these conversations.
Badass Joey Davis:
I’ve never experienced depression and for most of my life I was the guy who never understood it, I thought it was one of those things where you just need to “cheer up” and “be thankful” or “appreciate what you got”. In recent years I’ve watched close loved ones struggle with depression. They’re smart, loving, educated, capable people who seemed disarmed by this invisible illness and it forced me to take a deep dive into understanding this illness, and while I now realize it is real, just as real as any other illness, I still don’t know what to say or how to help, I feel paralyzed by the topic.
How can I help a friend or loved one affected by clinical depression? I feel helpless and don’t know if I’m supposed to try to cheer them up, just be quiet, or offer some kind of help.
This is a really compassionate and caring question. I would hate to answer for anyone else who suffers from depression but I can give you my answer. I would also encourage you to ask the people you would like to help.
Just asking the question might be enough. To know how much you care. Depression is a lonely dark place. It’s as confusing to the inflicted as to those who are watching.
I personally dislike the overly positive, everything is going to be alright, you are awesome, be thankful approach. I deeply understand those words and trust me when the black dog comes to my door I’m the last person who wants it there. Overly positive input just creates more darkness because I feel guilty that I feel the way I am feeling. Which creates more darkness.
It has the opposite effect of its intent.
I do tend to want to isolate myself. Not sure that is the best path but one I fall prey too. I do like when someone listens or understands where I am and I don’t feel like I’m being judged or patronized or I feel false sympathy.
That also creates more darkness.
It’s been a long time since I felt the darkness but I had it arrive about a month ago. I had quite a few people reach out. I was very grateful and overwhelmed by the kindness. I let that create guilt and shame. I need to be better at opening up and accepting in that state instead of closing off and judging myself.
The one person that got through to me and really made a difference was the one that shared their darkness. She shared with me some very hard things she was going through and gone through. Her rawness and honesty really struck a hole in the darkness I was experiencing and created a space for the light to get through. I felt less alone. I felt less shame and guilt. I felt like she understood and her goal was to just be real about herself. Her goal wasn’t to help me. Her goal was to let me know I was not alone. It changed my entire mood almost instantly.
Badass Steve Myers:
You’ve interviewed quite a few of us Badasses: I’ve read them and relate to a lot of them. Great minds think alike. That’s why we’re all in this category right.
What are the top 5 things you relate to and practice that your interviewees shared with you?
The depth of gratitude that has been expressed in some of these interviews is truly humbling. Some of you have faced and conquered crippling obstacles both emotionally and physically and are grateful for them and what they have done for you. How can I not learn something from that and also appreciate what I have.
All of you have an amazing relationship with fear. You all had to push through that giant invisible wall to get to where you are or where you want to go. It informs me and causes me to be more brave. More fearless. I deeply appreciate that.
I love when I ask a question of any of the badasses and I read it and I can’t believe the answer. Maybe because of its honesty, or its rawness, or the fact I never saw it coming or didn’t expect that level of openness. The ability to put yourself out there. Be vulnerable. Present the imperfect self as easily as the inspirational stuff. To be allowed the gift of being seen. I never expect it. But it has definitely informed my everyday existence and why I am answering your questions.
Within each story there is some level of suffering. Some physical, some mental, others just the pain inflicted or caused by perusing things you love or stopped loving. To see and feel it in all of you in big and small ways has made me even more accepting of it. Suffering is the birthplace of joy. It’s one thing to read it in the words of spiritual teachers it another to read it from people you relate to and inspire to be around. Thank you for sharing that with me.
This concept, mission, digital space was never created with the intent of personal or inward reflection. The idea was celebration.
The reality is that almost every one of you have sent me a note telling me this process created a deep inward view of yourself. Some of you have expressed gratitude for this experience and some have expressed that it has opened up paths, thinking, doors and ambitions that didn’t exist prior. In complete and utter transparency the process happens on my side also. This process has caused me much reflection not only on a daily basis but in a historic timeline view of my life. It was the reason I wanted to turn the tables and give you the opportunity to ask me question. I knew this process was going to cause an intense inward journey that would become a place for growth. It felt like the perfect way to end the year and start a new one.
Badass Andre Bergeron:
You have recently been quite open about your issues with depression. As one who has had a long battle with “the black dog”, you have my empathy and sympathy. It is a rot that can kill even the fruit around it – as so many families can attest.
One of the areas for me to address was “perfectionism”. I was never “good enough” – at anything (in my mind). Therefore anything I worked on, I went after it with a vengeful pursuit of conquering that which was inadequate – me (or, so I perceived). Failed policy. Working hard is a noble thing. Working hard to hide is ignoble and soul crushing.
I note your assiduous dedication to Third Eye (thank you), your exceptionally demanding physical pursuits, and your adherence to doing only the best possible work in your craft. Are these areas where you are looking to be… perfect?
Is perfectionism a focus point on the graph that would represent the arc of your depression? If so, how are you addressing it?”
I can certainly understand why you would ask this because I have asked myself the very same question.
I have rolled it around in my head quite a bit, but here it is out in the wide open for anyone to see.
I don’t believe that perfectionism in the purest sense is the driving force or the focal point of my depression. For me that would be easy to point to and in a strange way somewhat socially acceptable. I knew it was more.
I have no illusions of being perfect. I’m not even sure I even tried in some aspects of my life to even get better. Honestly if that was my goal I think I would have suffered even deeper into the dark corners.
My dedication to things is born more out of my work hard, blue-collar root system. My dad was a huge influence on me in that regard. He worked 3 jobs. Hard labor. My dad and his dad believed in doing things with full committed effort. If someone was going to pay you to do something you owed them your best effort. Try your best. Simple, but hard.
The things you referenced; The third eye, training and racing are forums where daily dedication and hard work have reaped benefits that have created a more peaceful and joyous life for those around me and me, which by definition has kept the black dog from my doorstep. The third eye was my effort to create a place where good could have an address. I feel a responsibility everyday I wake up to put something in there that might help someone. It’s not hard to do that. It’s very joyful and humbling.
As for my career I have always felt like I snuck into advertising, a career I didn’t really belong in. I always felt bringing a hardworking, disciplined, passionate, work ethic to the world of creativity would just give me an edge and kept me connected to the blue-collar world I escaped. I’ve always felt like an outsider. That right there may have been a huge source of conflict and pain that caused me some level of depression. Unworthiness.
Honestly, I over indexed on working hard. Way over. I worked like a junior art director for 20 plus years. I definitely was in the workaholic category and I believe that mentality and mindset definitely lent itself to fueling depression.
It also created guilt and shame. Spending so much time at work, traveling, at the expensive of my family and life. Something I did not deal with in real-time or really at all. Just shoved it down a dark hole. I was perfect at doing that.
I felt like I was working hard mostly in the noble sense, in my head. I wanted better for my kids but truthfully even that was soul crushing and came at a price. I didn’t feel like I was being the father I should be. Just writing this I can feel the darkness.
I didn’t have enough life in my life.
I have thankfully found more balance and more peace by not making work my only source of creativity or accomplishment.
Racing, training, over50badasses, the third eye allow me a more humble, pure and satisfying expression of creativity and accomplishment and connection. All of them at their core are belonging and connection vehicles.
Work is an isolation and connection breaking apparatus. It takes you from the most important things in your life.
Racing, over50badasses, the third eye are humbling in a much more positive way. Being a creative in advertising can be a very negative feedback loop. You get a lot of negative input about what you create and who you are.
My intent has never been perfection. I have always felt equal gratitude and guilt for escaping my very humble middle class upbringing.
I’m also not looking to run the perfect race. Make the perfect post in the third eye. My goal is not to be the perfect employee, friend, father or human. There is no such thing unless you count eulogies because you would believe that everyone who dies was the most amazing human on the planet.
I am trying to get better. Give my best effort.
I feel a sense of karma and responsibility to do that with my time left here. With authenticity, hard work and discipline. Discipline is freedom.
I fail. A lot. I know I do. I hope those around me can forgive me and allow me some grace in my imperfections.
I think the true focal point on the depression graph for me is in the crosshairs between balance and acceptance.
I believe I beckon the black dog from the corners when I only recognize and believe my failures and don’t acknowledge and accept my successes. I also call him towards me when I only accept criticism and create that as absolute truth and I don’t celebrate or acknowledge any level of praise.
The P word for me is Peace.
I am the only one who can create it. And I am the only one who can disturb it. I’m simply dedicated to doing my best to add as much good in the world until I have to leave it with as few visits from the dark corners.
That is my focus point.
Badass Chris Robb:
Scott I was wondering, what brought you to this place in your life that has you so full of life and acceptance and gratitude and care? Did something trigger you to start really thinking through your life or has it been a gradual realization that brought you to this place?
I think there are pieces of this answer in some of my other responses but I really thought about this and I think I have one that won’t be repetitive.
On my 50th birthday my wife planned a surprise trip to New Orleans. She invited 3 other couples.
At the time I was not racing or running and I had just started my spiritual journey. I was training very hard but most of the results where on the outside I hadn’t done anything to the insides yet.
10 percent body fat.
100 percent fucked in the head.
We were at the airport. We were all in the bar. I looked around at the 7 people and I will include my wife in this and I was completely stumped by why they would do this. I felt like I had done nothing to deserve this. I mean absolutely nothing. They were giving up multiple days, money, and their precious time to celebrate my birthday.
I just kept asking myself why?
I was embarrassed. I felt completely unworthy of anything I was receiving from these kind humans.
I didn’t dwell on it at the time but it definitely informed how I approached those days in the big easy. I fully committed to enjoying every moment and making that time down their worth the trip, for them. I felt like I owed them that. I was giving instead of taking. I stepped outside of myself and my self-imposed barriers. I was open and let them see me. It was very freeing.
When I got back home the complexity of my feelings and the depth of what happened sunk in. I still to this day don’t feel like I deserved that trip and the grace, kindness and love from those people.
But it opened the door. Actually it ripped the door from its hinges. That trip changed me. It was the birthplace of immense gratitude. I’m honestly doing my best to return the gift I received that weekend to anyone I can.
It took me 50 years, but better late than never.
My liver is not grateful for that trip.
But every other single part of me is.
Badass Kim Witczak:
I have known you for years. Many would say you had a hard exterior and could be intimidating. Of course, I always saw your amazing soft side that was revealed in our deep conversations. I will never forget the conversation we had on the road around Love Languages. However, there was definitely a shift that occurred from our days working together at Fallon. Now you are an open book, open heart, and cry.
Was there some circumstance in particular that shifted things for you? Sometimes we have to break for things to change and other times we choose to change. What was it for you? And how did it manifest for you? Pushing your physical limits to know you were ENOUGH and ALIVE?
Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be? – Charles Bukowski
I choose to find out. I choose to break. In a simple sentence.
I was sick and tired of being me.
I looked in the mirror. How I felt, how I looked both inside and outside I could no longer stand. I felt like coats and coats of paint and crappy materials, had covered up what I believed to be the original layer of me. I felt like I was restoring an old house, stripping layers in the hope of finding something more beautiful. I was shocked that someone would ever cover it up with this bullshit linoleum or shitty wallpaper. Except I was the one who did it.
How did it manifest?
Destruction. I had to be honest and brutal with myself and I had to break myself both inside and out. Which I am in the endless process of doing. Spirituality and destruction of ego have been the two main sources of change for me. I was definitely asleep in the spiritual sense. I was spiritually dead. I had to accept and acknowledge my own toxicity and stop blaming anyone but myself. Which also is a life long process. Awakening has allowed my emotional palette to broaden. Openness. Vulnerability. Compassion. Gratitude. Whole heartiness. Acceptance and daily reflection on my impermanence and imperfections. Strange that you specifically mention crying. Which is the washing of the soul. I was virtually incapable of tears for a large part of my life. Yes. I cry like a baby. Openly and freely. I’ve never felt more strength and power in that freedom.
I have exposed myself to amazing teachers both ancient and present. I am deeply thankful for Buddhism, stoicism and Taoism and the wisdom they have offered me. I am also very grateful to teachers in my everyday life.
I am nothing and I am enough.
Pushing my physical limits was and is a big part of my journey. It does not teach me that I am enough. It teaches me I am nothing. The journeys I take in the woods both as an ultra runner and as a spartan are not paths that feed the ego. They are ego destroying in the most beautiful sense. They teach you humility. Those woods are big and powerful. I am not. That rock that trips you at mile 85 and throws you to the ground without mercy and without apologies humbles you. Face down in dirt on hands and knees. Struggling to get up. Every step forward that feels like you can not bear another is a reminder of your insignificance. How weak you are. How fragile you are. How easily you can be broken.
I cry when I cross finish lines. In joy and utter humility.
I’ve learned to be alive by living.
Training and racing make me feel alive, Words can do no justice to that feeling. I will try to explain what I feel like most days. The Killington ultra beast this September 2018. I was on my second loop. There was a section just for the ultra-beast racers. It was barely a path up a mountain. It was in thick woods. Rocks. Dirt. Trees. Dead silence. The path ranged between rough hiking and literally hand over foot on your knees climbing. This was a fairly brutal and uncomfortable section of woods. It’s intent was only to break spirits and minds. I was going through for the second time. I was alone. No humans, no voices, No human sounds. I forget hearing the sound of my own breathing. The trees hummed and the rocks vibrated something ancient in the silence. Everything felt 4-d if that even makes any sense. I was just climbing this beautiful, brutal mountain side and my only thought was this.
I don’t want this to end. I want to stay in here. Please can I stay here.
I was overcome with joy and peace. My mind was a silent as the woods. I was just vibrating in harmony with my surroundings. I accepted it and it accepted me. Unconditionally.
It was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. I was suffering as a physical body but was experiencing equal amounts of joy as a spiritual being.
I was completely alive.
Badass Amy Favat:
One day, if you were told by some higher power or being you must choose to be one of the following for the rest of your years left on this earth which would you choose to be – a fierce, dedicated, strong warrior, or a quiet, spiritually contemplative monk? Whom would you decide to be for yourself and why?
I’m answering this question last because it’s the very question I face every single day.
It’s incredibly reflective, intensely personal and at the very core of my path. Amy’s question couldn’t be more in my head than the very voice in my cranium that I share my daily journey with.
Given a single pure choice by a higher power, I would humbly choose the quiet, spiritually contemplative monk.
The easy choice is the fierce dedicated strong warrior. My wiring, temperament and instincts are geared towards fighting, struggle, confrontation and suffering. I don’t say that with any pride I say that with 54 years of living with myself.
The quiet, spiritually contemplative monk is the much harder path. That path is one of complete self-destruction, internal change and one predicated on true strength, courage and dedication. That path would reframe and change behavior I have cultivated over my lifespan here.
It would break me. It would break all of me. It would not feed monsters nor create new ones. It would be the hardest thing to accomplish. It would be the most humbling and unassuming path.There would be no accolades and zero fanfare there would be just peace.
That is the path worth walking.