Ride of Your Life: a Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace
By Ran Zilca
What lessons could you learn from a once-in-a-lifetime adventure?
In 2010, research scientist and entrepreneur Ran Zilca set out from his home in New York on a motorcycle, bound for California in search of the next chapter in his life. Along this soul-searching journey, he spent hundreds of hours in contemplation on the road, met with fellow travelers from all walks of life, and interviewed leading experts in research labs, spiritual centers, and temples all across the country. Six-thousand miles later, he returned home, sold his company, and moved to a different continent.
Ride of Your Life chronicles this transformative journey, sharing the collective wisdom Ran learned from one-on-one discussions with spiritual leaders and researchers, including Deepak Chopra, Phil Zimbardo, and Sonja Lyubomirsky.
**The book is available on KDP
Day 3, September 21st: Bethesda, MD — Meeting with Coach Caroline Miller
Caroline Miller and I met last year at the First World Congress on Positive Psychology and since then, have been trying to find ways to work together. She is a successful life coach and one of the first graduates of the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Applied Positive Psychology program. Before she started helping others shift their lives, Caroline transformed her own: years ago she defeated an eating disorder and published a book about it, becoming an inspiration to thousands of others. Today, the focus of her work is the pursuit of personal goals and dreams. I could not have found a more suitable topic for my first interview.
I arrive at her house late in the morning, nervous, and tense. This is the first time I will be using the filming kit: two pocket video cameras on tripods, small lights on brackets, Lavalier microphones, and a pocket audio mixer. I hope it all works. I unpack, setup the gear, and run a few tests. Luckily for me, Caroline is a walking “positive intervention,” and she makes me feel at ease, starting with her funky multi-colored nail-polish, through the bright yellow kitchen, to the needlework on the cushions saying “Carpe Diem.” I decide to do just that — “seize the day,” and as soon as the cameras roll, I forget about lighting and batteries and just allow the conversation to flow.
Conducting a midlife review
My first question to Caroline is about midlife — a special period that is often dedicated to changes. The big question is how to harness this power of change to one’s intentions rather than being drawn by change or resisting it.
This is such a great question. I do see this a lot in my work, and I cover some of this in Creating Your Best Life. There’s a time in our lives when we biologically go through what’s called a midlife review. This is when men and women start to take a look at their life and they assess their regrets. And regrets are very normal, and they’re very common, and we all have them. However, in terms of well-being, one has two options: you either look at the regrets and you get more and more bitter, because you don’t do anything to change it, you just live in the past and you ruminate: what if? What if I’d taken that job? What if I’d married that guy? On the contrary, other people who do a midlife review take those regrets and make changes in their lives — not just set goals but also create accountability to move toward those goals. Watching people give birth to midlife dreams is like watching babies being born. People regenerate themselves with big goals, and this is biologically the time people do it.
Going on the road
According to Caroline, people who find themselves in the midst of a midlife transition are often held back by different forces. People find it hard to chart a new path and are worried about failing or being misunderstood. Deep inside, they may actually know where they’d like to go, but the thought of leaving their comfort zone is too disturbing. Her advice is to adopt an optimistic mindset of success, “just get started,” and have actions that lead to more action.
You may not realize how much power you actually have over your own destiny.
I think that in many ways, I was fortunate to hit my bottom in my early twenties with my eating disorder, because what brought me back to life was a twelve-step program that starts with the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” For many, many years, I listened to that prayer, and it really restructured my thinking in a really important time in my life when I was busy saving my own life. I did realize I had a lot of things I could control, including saving my own life that I hadn’t thought I could.
The main reason I see holding people back is related to research by Locke and Latham on goal-setting theory and is simply that most people are afraid. They’re not just afraid of change. They’re afraid of everything: they’re afraid of being looked at, not being looked at, being right, being wrong, being observed, being different. People end up being afraid of all kinds of things, and that’s why most people stay stuck in “reactive ruts.”
So, I think there’s a lot of fear, but then there’s the Petri dish that you live and work in, the people around you — do they have dreams? Do they change? Do they go after things that matter to them? Do they go outside of their comfort zone? The antidote to the fear is zest — a quality that is in abundance in children but declines rapidly by the time you’re in your forties and fifties. You need a certain amount of zest, or joie de vivre. “Why not?” as opposed to “why?” A lot of people have that beaten out of them by life, by disappointments, by people who surround them.
“How do you activate or cultivate zest?”
The best approach is to keep an optimistic mindset while, at the same time, being mindful and aware of what is going on in front of you. When I was battling the eating disorder, I thought I was a victim of circumstance. That’s the way pessimistic people think. They believe that when good things happen they got lucky and when bad things happen it was random. The world is a random set of events to pessimists. Optimists, on the other hand, believe they control the things around them. So, in some ways, you have to pretend you’re an optimist. It’s all about how you frame things. At the same time, you have to remain conscious and mindful of reality. Many of the people who survived the Sri Lanka tsunami were the fishermen who move slowly and cast their nets deliberately. They saw and felt the water rising before anyone else because they live so mindfully, and they went to higher ground. To be aware, we have to get quiet.
“How does being optimistic help you to get going? Do optimistic people enjoy the first steps they take?”
Armed with this mindful-optimistic mindset, you do have to just get started. And there’s something about the risk/benefits ratio that I find interesting, which is: in the short term, we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen when we take risks. But when you take the first risks, you respect yourself more. There’s some research called the “no pain no gain” research out of the University of San Francisco. What they’ve found is that when you go outside your comfort zone during the day, in an attempt to master something new or something you’re trying to get better at, you’ll actually be uncomfortable and unhappy while you’re doing these things. But, at the end of the day, when you review your day, those are the things you’re the proudest of. That is how you build self-esteem. That’s how you build mastery, and ultimately, that’s how you build lasting happiness.
Interestingly, this is exactly how I feel right now, on Day 3 of the Ride, sitting in Caroline’s living room. These past three days have been tough on me, uncomfortable, and in many respects, unhappy, but the pride of being out there and doing it provides me with an unparalleled sense of satisfaction.
Toward the end of our conversation, Caroline tells me about an epiphany she had when her father passed away: at the end of life, people bitterly regret missed opportunities, but they rarely regret failed attempts. On a person’s deathbed, the biggest possible regret is having missed out on the ride of their life.
That’s what I ask when I talk to clients about risks they want to take: later in your life, will you regret not taking that risk? And instantly, if it’s one of these core dreams, they say, “Yes — I have to do this.” I must have heard this ten times today from clients who are talking about different dreams, and I said, “Well — are you ready to go for it?” “I have to do this to be authentic.” You don’t always see the rewards immediately but in the long term, people regret the risks they didn’t take. In the short term, they regret the risks that didn’t work out, but long term, looking back on their lives, when people do a life review, they regret the things they didn’t have the nerve to go after.
And I really try to live my life like that. I have a personal story about this. My father died at 69, which is pretty young. And the one dream he articulated his whole life, which all three of his children knew about, was to retrace Odysseus’ voyage. And he had books — a smart guy, Stanford graduate, he had the money, he had the time, he had the intellect, and he was passionate about it. And he died. And he died…because there was always another thing that he had to do at work — he was very successful at what he did. And when he died, all three of his children and his wife, the first thing that crossed all of our minds was, “Dad — why didn’t you do it?” I was at the hospital just after my father died, and I was looking at him and the only thought I had was, ‘you’re never going to go around the Greek islands.’ That was about ten years ago, and I think that it really caused me to focus my practice on “what is it you’re meant to do here?” It doesn’t have to be “curing cancer.” It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering to other people, but it has to be earth-shattering for your own life.
- Pessimists believe that good things happen at random. Optimists believe they can affect things around them. Pretend to be an optimist
- When you go outside of your comfort zone, you may not initially feel great. During the day, you may be unhappy but at the end of the day you’ll be the proudest
- At the end of a person’s life, the regret of not doing is far greater than regrets of failure
- Your dreams don’t have to be earth-shattering to others, but they have to be earth-shattering to you
~Highlights of Amazon Reviews~
“This is a great book. Quick read of an inspiring journey across the country. This is part travelogue, part memoir and part positive psychology. The format of a diary makes the reading engaging. The author summarizes the wisdom from the road very effectively. The combination of wisdom from the road peppered with interviews with scientific experts, laced with appropriate humor makes this an awesome book. Highly recommend it.”
Michele Gielan, Author of Broadcasting Happiness):If you are thinking of changing your life, this book will be your loyal companion. Many themes run through Zilca’s story: the science of positive psychology. The wisdom of ancient wisdom traditions, the power of human connections, and the agency that fuels the process of change. This extraordinary book is both fun to read and deep in its impact, and it will make you rethink your fundamental perspective on life.”
Dr. Itai Ivtzan (author of Awareness is Freedom): “Ride of Your Life is a story about each and every one of us who is daring to ask the simple question: “What would happen if I said YES to the journey calling from within?” Ran Zilca’s journey reads joyful, painful, insightful, meaningful, and so real. There is authenticity in his words that will surely reflect your own personal challenges. Join Ran for his ride, it could be the Ride of Your Life”.
~Meet Ran Zilca~
Ran Zilca is a research scientist, technology entrepreneur, and certified personal coach, who pioneered the use of mobile devices to deliver programs of positive personal transformation.
With a combination of psychological research and computer science, Ran's companies develop innovative programs of personal growth and have worked closely with partners like Deepak Chopra and Stephen Covey. His research in engineering and psychology has been published in major scientific publications in the past 22 years, and his weekly posts on major blogs attract hundreds of thousands of readers each month.
Ran is a loving husband and father of three, a guitar player, and a biker. In the course of his work, he developed a step-by-step process of personal transformation and followed it in his life. The result was a 6,000 mile solo motorcycle ride across the country, a new book, the sale of his company, and a move to a different continent.
ICF-accredited version (providing CE credits) : Shorter, less expensive version : Even shorter, free version