When someone leaves a job, it’s not unusual to say that they left to pursue new adventures. Usually that just means that they took a similar position elsewhere! But since leaving the Running for Real team, Maria Vargas truly has been having adventures.
It isn’t that she’s a lucky person who’s had opportunities fall in her lap, or that things just happen to go her way. Rather, she says, “I think a lot of it is mindset, and mindset leads to action. The more you do things, the more the universe will start kind of moving things in your direction.
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“I love the phrase, ‘It’s your world.’ A lot of things in life are out of our control. So it’s really great when they are in our control. And so it’s a balance of that and also allowing things to unfold as they’re going to unfold and not resisting the change.”
Allowing things to unfold is uncomfortable for many people. But, Maria says, we can approach it the way we do running, as a regular practice. “We don’t have to go on big trips to get the spirit of adventure or meeting people and being fulfilled. You can intentionally talk with people in line at the grocery store, at a coffee shop. Last year, I asked my Uber driver on the spot to go paragliding and she said, ‘Yes.’. And that led to a huge experience. A lot of times it’s just about kindness, like giving people a few minutes and you never know who you’re gonna meet. And then suddenly you’re a person who talks to strangers and has spontaneous experiences. Maybe to the bystander, it might appear like things just happen to you. But you know that deep inside it’s a habit; it’s a practice and a mindset and a philosophy.”
Maria is currently living an example of following that practice. She was in Paris for a few days, and while in a coffee shop, was chatting with the barista. “For whatever reason, I don’t even know why, I decided to ask him if he knew of anybody who was renting an apartment. And he said, ‘I don’t know of anyone off the top of my head. But if you want to exchange numbers, I’m happy to just ask around.’ And so we did; we exchanged WhatsApp numbers, and maybe two or three hours later he replies and he says, ‘My friend is actually leaving for the summer and she has this beautiful apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower and she’s willing to talk with you and see if you can rent her apartment.’ And so I got in touch with her. We made an agreement and I spent a week in Switzerland, came back to Paris, and now I’m here in her apartment for the next three weeks.”
Along with the right mindset, it’s also important to have the right environment for personal growth. Your surroundings need to support your change, and that includes the people with whom you surround yourself. Maria refers to the saying that you’re the sum of the five people whom you spend the most time with. That doesn’t necessarily mean the ones you physically spend the most time with, but rather the ones who are the closest to you.
For Maria, those people are the ones whom she thinks of as being on the same frequency that she is. “It’s almost like every human has a radio frequency and sometimes when you meet someone who’s on a similar frequency channel, you just click. And so in my head it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re not always gonna be on the same frequency with everybody. But if, let’s say 70 or 80% of the time, we’re around people who are on similar frequencies, that’s when I feel really fulfilled or happy.’ And I feel like there’s more growth because there’s this mutual understanding that you can’t really put words to. There’s people who aren’t gonna be on similar frequencies and that’s okay too. But maybe it becomes a priority as we grow to find more people who are on those similar frequency radio channels.”
Maria has been embarking on adventures with Yes Theory lately, another example of how being open to one experience can lead to others. She was a fan of Yes Theory, and In November, she attended the premier of Project Iceman, a film they produced about Anders Hofman, the first person to complete an Ironman in Antarctica. She was in the receiving line, and, she says, “I was like, ‘Wait, I’m about to meet Ammar from Yes Theory and Anders and I don’t know what I’m gonna say to them.’
“I was the next person in line and it occurred to me to share with them that they had inspired me in part to do this 10 mile open water swim a couple of years ago. That was around the time when I had heard that Anders had done this Ironman in Antarctica, and in part, that’s what inspired me to say yes to swimming 10 miles. And so I was next in line and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll tell them that story very quickly’ and I did and I think it might have just stuck in their heads. I’m not entirely sure. We probably had like 30 seconds worth of an interaction.”
Apparently it did stick in their heads. In March she got a message from Ammar, one of the founders and hosts of Yes Theory. “This was a Wednesday. He said, ‘Are you doing anything on Friday?’ I was like, ‘No, why do you ask?’ And he said, ‘Yes Theory is filming an episode in Florida. And we’d like to send you along with one of our videographers to film this episode. They didn’t really tell me the details other than I would fly to Orlando. So two days later, I fly to Orlando and we record this episode. I go boxing for the first time ever.”
Three weeks later they contacted her to tell her that she had been selected to go on a bigger event for their larger channel. “They didn’t tell me when or where or what we were doing or who we were doing it with. And so we kind of sat around waiting; it was me and two other people. One of them is from Australia and the other one is from Canada. And so finally, one of the last weeks in May I get an email and Yes Theory says, ‘We would like you to come to Germany next week’ and this was a Tuesday and they wanted me in Germany the following Thursday.
“I had already planned a trip to New York and Montreal that week and I would leave the next day. So I had to pack everything for an indefinite unknown amount of time and unknown what we were doing or where we were going within like three hours. And so, anyway, I go off to New York and Montreal and then they fly us into Germany and there we have this epic adventure with Yes Theory and it was like a bunch of strangers who just became friends instantly. And this is so special because it’s one of those things where I had it on my bucket list two years ago to one day do an adventure with Yes Theory and then it happened.” When Maria’s episode is released, you can watch it here.
As much as saying “Yes,” has worked out for Maria, she makes the point that “Life isn’t just about saying, ‘Yes,’ because when you say, ‘No,’ it also means saying ‘Yes’ to something else.” For example, while she was filming with Yes Theory, she was invited out after a long, tiring day. She decided to say “No” to the invitation and “Yes” to getting some rest, instead. “I think the important thing is when you consciously and intentionally say, ‘No,’ you should know what you’re saying ‘Yes’ to. If you say ‘No’ to going on a run, that probably means you’re saying ‘Yes’ to rest or to traveling or to something else.”
At the end of the day, she says, it’s about finding balance. “We have to have some sort of structure. We can’t not, but we also have to just release ourselves a little bit from our own constraints that we place upon what we do. Sometimes it’s just being a little bit more flexible with your plans. I don’t think there’s such a thing as coincidence; there are no coincidences. It’s only opportunities and doors to be opened and the people that you meet if you’re open to them. Then that sort of ends up taking on a life of its own.
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