Dylan Efron created his new YouTube series, Flow State, to inspire people to go out and try something new.
Trying a new sport or skill for the first time can be scary. Nobody wants to look like an awkward newbie in front of the pros, but Dylan Efron is learning to embrace the thrill of being a beginner. In fact, he’s inspiring others to do the same with his new YouTube series called Flow State. The goal of the show is to invite professional athletes to do an outdoor sport that they’ve never tried before, from spearfishing to speed flying, and see what happens. On this episode, Dylan tells us about some of the most impactful Flow State episodes, what it’s like working with his brother Zac Efron, and how he’s built a lifestyle doing what he loves most.
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Shelby Stanger: On Wild Ideas Worth Living, we've met a lot of people at the top of their game, setting records, and being the first of their kind, but what happens when you're already at the top, like Olympic level good at your sport? You know the ropes. Maybe even landing that impossible trick feels easy by now, but you've forgotten what it feels like to be a beginner. Filmmaker Dylan Efron hangs out with a lot of professional athletes who are experts at what they do, but it's been a long time since they worried about failing at a new adventure. On his YouTube series called Flow State, Dylan invites these professional athletes to do an extreme sport they've never tried before. They get the chance to be a beginner all over again. Here's a clip from the first episode of Flow State with pro skateboarder, Leticia Bufoni.
Dylan Efron: This is our wall.
Leticia Bufoni: Nice. I always see people rock climbing, but I was always super scared, so I was like, "I'll never try it." Yeah. I'm afraid of heights, and this is really high for me.
Dylan Efron: We're going to start with a rappel down. We've got to get rid of the fear of Heights right out of the way, because then she can stop focusing on that.
Leticia Bufoni: This is like the real deal. I'm really scared right now.
Shelby Stanger: On the episode, Dylan calmly shows Leticia how to find your footing in her first ever outdoor climb. Dylan himself is a writer, producer, filmmaker, and outdoor athlete. Fun fact, he's also the actor Zac Efron's younger brother, and he produced Zac's new Netflix documentary series called Down to Earth. Previously, Dylan worked on the production teams for films like A Star is Born, Get Hard, and Chips. Before we dive into Dylan's new series, I wanted to ask him how he built a lifestyle around the things he loves most. A few years ago, Dylan decided he didn't just want to work on films. He also wanted to become a triathlete, a surfer, a rock climber, a van lifer, and an outdoor adventurer.
Shelby Stanger: All right. Dylan Efron, welcome to Wild Ideas Worth Living.
Dylan Efron: Thank you for having me on.
Shelby Stanger: And you're in your van in Manhattan Beach right now.
Dylan Efron: Yeah, I am. I'm bumming some WiFi, so it's just full van life right now.
Shelby Stanger: I love it. I mean, you walk the talk. It's great. So, the Wolf, tell me about this. Is that the name of your van?
Dylan Efron: Yeah, that's the name of the van?
Shelby Stanger: You’re pretty good at like fixing it up and just cooking in it-
Dylan Efron: Yeah. I just fixed the water pump the other day. I didn't have fresh water, which was crushing me. Imagine surfing and being all sandy all day, or all salty all day, so now I have a hose out of the back. It's awesome.
Shelby Stanger: That's the best. So, how did you get into rock climbing, surfing, and everything you're into now?
Dylan Efron: I think there was just this moment in my life. It was probably when I was leaving my nine to five job. I left college, and I went to work at Warner Brothers for five years, and there was just so much that I felt like I had put off that I wanted to experience. I wanted to be a surfer. I wanted to be a rock climber. I wanted to do all this stuff, but I hadn't been able to yet, so I think it was just kind of that like, "I'm tired of wishing I was that person and holding back," so I just started going for it and started doing all these things that turned into passions.
Shelby Stanger: So, did you do them on the side of your nine to five?
Dylan Efron: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. I was. While I was working the nine to five, I was writing scripts, because I wanted to be a script writer. I was running Ironman, so I was training. I was pretty much running ... Like, a lot of times I'd run to work, which was a 10 mile run, work all day, and then would either bike home or run home,. The nine to five wasn't great for me, so I had to supplement that with just burning myself out as much as I could with cardio-wise and endurance-wise.
Shelby Stanger: I can relate to that. I worked for five years at Vans, which is an awesome company, but ...
Dylan Efron: Awesome.
Shelby Stanger: But I was in an office-
Dylan Efron: It's what I'm wearing now.
Shelby Stanger: Nice. I would run before work, after work, surf as much as I could ... Sometimes drive to the beach at lunch.
Dylan Efron: Yeah. It's a weird way to be motivated actually, like I always thought, "Oh, if I didn't have this nine to five, I would be training so much. I'd be pro by now. I'd be a pro surfer," and it's actually like, "No." When you have that nine to five, you wake up early, because you know you have one hour to get this done, and if you miss that hour, you're going to feel like crap. Having a job actually motivates you a little bit more than not having a traditional nine to five.
Shelby Stanger: How did you get the wild idea to leap?
Dylan Efron: Like I said, I definitely planted those seeds. I planted those seeds, and I actually ended up selling a script, and that gave me the financial freedom to take some risks. I think since then I've noticed that it's almost like this fight between being comfortable and uncomfortable, and that risk versus reward. Every time I've gotten uncomfortable and every time I've taken that risk, it's been rewarded. Every time that I would stay comfortable or put something off, I've always regretted it. I think since that initial decision to leave and start taking risks, it's been kind of something I've lived by and just keep trying to get uncomfortable, keep trying to grow.
Shelby Stanger: I'm really interested in that. So, what script was it? Can I ask?
Dylan Efron: Yeah. It was a script for the Lifetime channel. It was funny, because I had written a few scripts. One was a beach volleyball script. That was the one that I thought was going to get made, and it still might, and so I had like a beach volleyball. It was totally like Matthew McConaughey, like old surfer vibe. Then, I had one that was based on my childhood, which was trying to find this dead body, and it was kind of a Goonies-type thing. The one I ended up getting hired to write was a love triangle, and I have to say, I loved writing it. I didn't expect that to be my genre, but a few sex scenes and stuff written later, I was like, "This is so fun."
Shelby Stanger: I did not expect this conversation would go there, but I so appreciate it.
Shelby Stanger: After Dylan sold that script, he took off traveling. He spent almost all of 2019 going to France, Puerto Rico, London, Iceland, Costa Rica, Peru, and Sardinia with a film crew. They were working on the Netflix documentary series Down to Earth with Dylan's brother, Zac Efron. The series was amazing. I loved it, and I think it was so special and unique that Dylan got to collaborate on such a huge project with his brother.
Shelby Stanger: What was it like filming down to earth with Zac?
Dylan Efron: It's great, because I see both sides of it. It's like I see the pains he's going through, like the lack of sleep or how tired he is. I think if there's one person that can understand how he's feeling, or understand what he wants to do and not what he doesn't want to do, it's probably me. So, it's funny being able to be a medium between the rest of the production crew and my brother, because most of the times what I'm feeling is what my brother is feeling.
Shelby Stanger: That's really cool that you guys have such a good relationship. Do you guys do any outdoor sports together? Is there one that you guys love to do?
Dylan Efron: I'm always trying to get him to come out with me and do stuff, but it's hard when you're famous. I've taken him surfing, and then all of a sudden there's like a crowd of people on the beach. It's not so fun to be a beginner when there's an audience, so I think it is hard for him to get into a lot of sports. It's crazy when I see him get into it, because we'll go rock climbing, and things that took me a month to do, all of a sudden he's doing. I'm like, "Oh shit. I've got to step it up."
Dylan Efron: He's very quick at learning. I think he was always a little bit better at action sports than I was, so he picks them up very quickly, and I'm like, "Oh, okay." It kind of motivates me to get better as well. I get asked a lot what I was like to grow up with him, and it's like I always idolized my brother. He's my older brother, so before he was famous to now, it's like nothing's changed. When I left college, he was there for me. He'd let me move into his house when I moved to LA. He totally took that big brother to heart. I wouldn't be where I am without him, so I'm so thankful for that relationship with him.
Shelby Stanger: So, your bro is a pretty high profile actor. I have sisters and one of them is pretty high-profile, so there was always a lot of pressure for me as the youngest to achieve. Did you have that as well?
Dylan Efron: Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. I think growing up, I did everything the opposite of Zac, because he was so natural on camera. They were like, "Hey Zac. Sing something," and he'd belt a song out. He was just so comfortable and confident, and I was just like, "Well, I'm never going to do that. I'm not going to be in a play. I'm going to go play sports," so I was so the opposite. I just wanted to wrestle and be outdoors. I wanted everyone to look at him.
Shelby Stanger: I completely understand that. There's three of us girls in our family, and you would have no idea we're related, because we each tried to do completely different things. And now we're all becoming more similar. It's funny. I think you just do learn to embrace parts of yourself that you didn't realize you had.
Dylan Efron: Exactly, and I think that was probably like, "Why would I try to sing if Zac's so good at singing. I don't even know if I can hold a note." It was like, at the time I didn't take the steps that he took. I didn't take voice lessons and stuff like that, so I was just like, "Well, I'm going to go my own path. I don't need to be him," and then again now I'm starting to realize that there is so much joy in that side that I was neglecting, creativity and art that goes into performance and all that stuff.
Shelby Stanger: Lately, Dylan has completely embraced his creative side. After years of being behind the scenes and staying off camera, he decided to try something new, so he started a YouTube channel, and he's putting himself in front of the camera as the host of the new series Flow State.
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Shelby Stanger: In the spirit of being a beginner again, Dylan's attempting something different as a filmmaker. He's hosting the YouTube series, Flow State. On the show, Dylan takes professional athletes on day trips, where they try a completely new sport. If you watch the show, you can see in the footage, some of the sports are pretty wild.
Shelby Stanger: So, tell me about Flow State. What is it? Why did you start it?
Dylan Efron: I'd worked behind the camera my whole life. I was working at Warner Brothers in production. I was working on Down to Earth behind the scenes, and we're all storytellers at the end of the day. Like you on this podcast, you're a beautiful storyteller. Sometimes I'd noticed behind the cameras, I'm like urging someone to say something. I'm like, "Ask this question," and the only way that you can really do that is if you're hosting. I think I started to realize that, "Why aren't I putting myself in front of the camera? Like, why was I too afraid to do that?" I think it was that ego, like I was always just a little afraid and scared what people would think. Then, I started to do it, and I found some passion for it. I was like, "Okay. Well, I'm going to make my first series and test this out."
Dylan Efron: Firestone Walker Brewing Company was the first person to hear the pitch of my first show, and they're like, "Let us know how we can help. We want to collaborate with you. We're in”, so together we filmed my first series, which was Flow State. I wanted my first series to really represent who I am, and who I am is I love getting in nature with friends. I'm very fortunate to have pretty cool friends to go on me with these adventures, so we're doing anything from spear fishing to off-roading to speed flying. Just every random sport you can think of, and during those full day adventures, I'm getting to learn about my guests, but I'm also learning more about myself, conquering fears, and stuff like that.
Shelby Stanger: I love it. I watched the first two episodes. What can people expect when they watch Flow State? I watched a little clip, and it was wild. You were flipping cars and hanging off mountains.
Dylan Efron: A lot happens. Gosh, like, I think the fun part about this show is we're taking people who haven't necessarily experienced that sport. So, JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the best football players around, has spent so many hours in that craft. I took him in the ocean and went spear fishing, and spear fishing is not a beginner sport. You have to know how to free dive. You have to know how to equalize your ears. You have to know that you're holding a gun, and this is essentially hunting.
Dylan Efron: There's so much danger and foreign stuff, so I think seeing someone go and attack it is so cool. It's the most real emotion you can ever see. Juju's first dive, he literally had no idea how to equalize his ears, so he just went for it because he's an athlete, and he went down to 20 feet. He's like, "Bro." He's like, "It's so clear down there. This is insane, but my ears hurt a little bit. What was that about?"
Dylan Efron: I was like, "Oh, okay. You have to equalize and stuff like that," but it was so cool seeing that raw emotion of, "Oh my gosh. I was just 20 feet under ocean. I've never been there before." There's fish. There's seaweed, like so much stuff that was a first for him that he's just got this massive smile. So, I think that real emotion of seeing someone experiencing a first is so beautiful.
Shelby Stanger: I love that. I really want to watch that episode. Did you guys catch anything?
Dylan Efron: We did. Yeah, but it was a tough day. We were out. This show, we just go for it, whether it's the perfect conditions or not. It was probably one of the worst days we could've gone spear fishing with a huge swell. Visibility was like red tide, so we couldn't see much, but we went for it. That's part of the experience.
Shelby Stanger: I love the juxtaposition, like a football player goes spear fishing. A skateboarder goes rock climbing. These volleyball players go on these high-speed cars. How do you find your guests? Are they your buddies, or do you just find them?
Dylan Efron: Yeah. A lot of times, especially in this first season, I was relying on friends. I'm so thankful that I can reach out to friends and say, "Hey, you want to do something crazy?" and they say yes. I have no idea why they would do that. Like, why would you trust me?
Shelby Stanger: Do you ever have to convince some of your guests to be on the show? If you do, what do you say to them to get them to do it?
Dylan Efron: I'm very thankful that I didn't have to. I don't know why people trust me, but every time I asked, those were the first five people that I actually asked. No one actually said no, so I'm so thankful to that, because of course rejection doesn't feel bad, but it also just shows I'm looking for a certain type of person for this show. I want that person who's willing to say yes and take risks. I knew Leticia was like that, and that's why she said yes. I'm always kind of shocked when they say yes. Then, I'm like, "All right. This is awesome. Let's go do it tomorrow," but I'm very lucky that I didn't have to do any convincing or anything like that.
Shelby Stanger: That's amazing. So, now that they've seen you crash cars and flip them, do you think that you might have some rejections?
Dylan Efron: Yeah. It's funny, because from like a producer standpoint, I'm like, "Once we get the first season done, it'll be so much easier to get guests," but I'm like, "It might get harder after this first season, because we're just going to be like, "Okay. Well, is there insurance on this show?" and stuff like that.
Shelby Stanger: That's awesome. Well, what do you hope people get out of it when they watch the show?
Dylan Efron: I hope they're just inspired to try something new, because it's showing ... Like, JuJu Smith-Schuster wasn't afraid to try spear fishing, and he knows nothing about it. He's been in the ocean probably less times than most people that grew up in California, and he's just like, "Sure. I don't care. This sounds awesome," and I think that mentality of just taking that risk is so awesome when you say yes. I also think the moments that you see in this show are very genuine, like the bonds that are shared ... That only happens when you're experiencing something shared like that.
Shelby Stanger: Have you ever considered taking just an everyday average human, like randomly off the streets, and taking them on an adventure?
Dylan Efron: I would love that. I guarantee you I'd become friends with them, because I'm curious and I love learning, so I think it's pretty easy to make friends when you're doing stuff like that.
Shelby Stanger: You seem like the kind of guy who just always wants to learn new things. Where does that come from?
Dylan Efron: I think it is just the fact that I love being a beginner. Going back to that. Since I changed that perspective and was like, "All right. I needed to take as many risks as I can and try as many things," I'm finding so much joy in life, I guess. It's just like, there's so many fun things out there and so many people that are willing to teach as well. People love sharing their knowledge and helping the next generation grow. It was just a place of fear, I think, before that I was just afraid to look dumb and afraid to be a beginner. Then, I realized that was just something I needed to embrace.
Shelby Stanger: When you watch Flow State, you can feel Dylan's joys. He introduces his guests to the thrill of being a beginner all over again. I love watching Dylan guide them in difficult situations. It reminds us, even the pros are nervous to try things they've never done before.
Shelby Stanger: Maybe you talk to me about being a beginner, it just kind of sucks. Like, it's scary, it's hard, you don't want to look like a kook.
Dylan Efron: Yeah. See, where I would argue with that is I think being a beginner is fun.
Shelby Stanger: Awesome.
Dylan Efron: It's just there's this negative stigma around it that you're going to look like a kook. I love trying new things. That learning curve when you try something and you just absolutely suck, but then you try it again and you're already 50% better, I love that. I think we're all afraid to look stupid. That's all it is at the end of the day. I hear so many people that say they wish they could surf or they wish they would learn. It's like, just learn. I had no idea how to surf two years ago. I spent 50 hours in the ocean this year or whatever, and now I'm that much better, so it's all that time in the water and how dedicated you are to learning something, but it's never too late.
Shelby Stanger: I love that you've only been surfing for two years.
Dylan Efron: Yeah. I think after surfing on a nice day, I saw what the pleasure was. From then, I was hooked.
Shelby Stanger: Can you tell me what Flow State is to you?
Dylan Efron: Yeah. Flow State is that feeling when you're just absolutely present. I get it a lot when I'm rock climbing, and a lot of these action sports you can get it. It's mainly like in rock climbing, if you're afraid of falling, you're not going to be giving it 100 percent on the route. If you're thinking like, "Oh. This is going to be a scary fall," immediately you start to back out.
Dylan Efron: When you're fully in and just worried about the next move and that you know you can do this, you start to lose that consciousness of where you are and the fact that you might fall, and you're just fully consumed in that moment until that moment ends. You're like, "Whoa, I just did that," or something like that. That's like that moment of flow state for me. It's just being absolutely present, and you almost don't realize you're in it until after, but it's one of the nicest, most beautiful feelings you can feel.
Shelby Stanger: How do you approach fear, and does the fear of trying new things and getting out of your comfort zone get easier?
Dylan Efron: Yeah. I think getting easier, it does get easier, but it never goes away. A perfect example is I went rock climbing yesterday, and I still regret it today, because I didn't give it my best, because I was climbing scared. In hindsight, it was like, "Why was I afraid?" I guess the answer is that I still feel scared, and I still feel all these fears. I know that I'm preaching this, that I know that you can like conquer these fears, and the best thing is on the other side of those fears, so I have that in my head. I'm like, "I know I need to do this."
Shelby Stanger: Any advice though, if you are a beginner or newbie, and you're trying something and you're just maybe afraid you're not going to look cool, it's going to be hard, or you have fear?
Dylan Efron: Yeah. Just asked questions. There's so many times that I've been at the rock climbing gym. Unfortunately, those are closed right now in LA, but you see beginners, and you can tell they're watching you and want to ask you questions. Half the time, I'm the one that will initiate it. I'm just like, "Hey, I know you have a question? What is it?" There's so much fear that you don't want to let people know that this is your first time climbing. It was something I did too, but you have to embrace it. People want to help you, and I think once you just open that conversation, you're going to learn. People are so friendly outdoors. They all want to help, so I think you just have to forget your ego and ask for help.
Shelby Stanger: It's funny how we're so afraid of looking dumb when we're beginners, but really the people we're intimidated by are often cheering us on. Talking with Dylan reminded me that putting ourselves in brand new situations - that’s what helps us grow. And Dylan has had a lot of practice being an awkward newbie. He's traveled so much and had so many different experiences. I had to ask him about the highlights. What's the wildest thing you had to do for your TV show?
Dylan Efron: Speed fly. It was so scary. It's the most scared I've ever been. You essentially just run off a cliff with a parachute, and it is so, so, so scary. It was unlike anything I'd ever done before, and it took a lot of me just turning my brain off to even run off. That's by far the scariest thing I've ever done.
Shelby Stanger: What was the wildest thing you did for the Netflix Down to Earth show?
Dylan Efron: We ate slugs.
Shelby Stanger: I saw you eat slugs. That was pretty wild.
Dylan Efron: Yeah, but they actually tasted good, so I don't think it's that big of a deal. The craziest experience, I'll say, was showing up to Punte Mona in Costa Rica. If you seen The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio, that's what it felt like. It just felt like we had no idea where we were going, and all of a sudden these 20 beautiful young people are like waiving us to come to their island. It was like you can see the divide in our crew. Half the crew was like, "This is the best thing," taking our shirts off to blend in. Then, the other half were like, "When are we leaving? This is crazy,”. So I think that night in particular was just like one for the books. I'll never forget that night.
Shelby Stanger: Oh. That's awesome. I'm going to go back and watch the Costa Rica episode. What's the first outdoor activity you've done that scared you, but like in a good way?
Dylan Efron: Probably camping. Yeah. Camping is an easy first. I've been doing that since I can remember, like for fly fishing trips and stuff like that. Camping at night when you're not used to it is definitely weird, especially without a sleeping bag. You're like, "What's preventing a mountain lion from just coming and grabbing me right now?" or like, "What are those owls in the trees doing?" There's a lot of weird stuff going on, like right as you're most vulnerable in your sleeping bag.
Shelby Stanger: I once camped at Cougar Canyon, and we camped without tents, like just in our sleeping bags. The guy was like, "We never see cougars down here," and literally like right before we went to bed, we went on a walk, and a cougar just completely jumped 100 feet. He's like, "They're not going to come down here. There's like 10 of you guys, and one of them," and I was so terrified all night. So, what about gear? What's your go-to gear when you're on the road?
Dylan Efron: One of the most important things is supplements, because for so long I would travel without supplements. Then, like two weeks in, I'm like, "God, I just feel like crap. I need to go home," and it was because I'm so healthy. I'm taking 20 pills a day, making sure I'm getting my exercise, and making sure all my vitamins are topped off. Then, I go on the road, and I'm eating deli sandwiches for two weeks. My health would just decline, so now I fill up this entire cabinet with vitamins, and I've noticed that staying on top of my nutrition and supplements while I'm on the road helps me stay out longer and not feel that rundown sensation.
Shelby Stanger: If you could choose one outdoor adventure to do for the rest of your life, what is that?
Dylan Efron: I love free diving, but there's all this gear involved. I think just being able to throw on some shoes and go run some trails is the best thing I can do for my mental health ever. It's just the quickest way to access that sense of ... Not only are you getting endorphins from running, but also you're just immersed in nature. You're seeing animals, the sounds of the trees, and stuff like that. It's an incredible feeling.
Shelby Stanger: What shoes do you run in?
Dylan Efron: I like Ultras.
Shelby Stanger: I knew you were going to say that. That's what I run in.
Dylan Efron: Yeah. I've done-
Shelby Stanger: Superior's.
Dylan Efron: Yeah. Mount Whitney and a bunch of stuff that's like long distance trail, overnight trips, and stuff like that. They hold up. They're great.
Shelby Stanger: What's next for you? Are you going to keep traveling? Are you working on another show?
Dylan Efron: Yeah. I have a few shows that I want to do, and they're all travel and adventure based. I think my motto in life right now is setting big goals. I have that goal that I want to sell a show to Netflix. When you set a big goal, there's like a bunch of little goals that get knocked out without you even thinking about it. So far, I was like starting my own YouTube channel and starting Flow State, and all these little goals are getting checked off. I have a long form show that I'm going to be filming starting 2021. It'll be my first longer format series that I'm hoping to sell.
Shelby Stanger: Amazing.
Dylan Efron: So, that's kind of where all my energy is going right now.
Shelby Stanger: It in the realm of adventure? Can you give us like a little teaser?
Dylan Efron: It's doing deep dives into the companies that are doing the most right now, which are like charities and organizations that are really making a difference. So, I want to make an impact in this world, but I think I'm similar to a lot of millennials that we don't really know how, and we don't really know how we can help. So, I want to kind of break that stigma and show that this is how we can help like, "If you donate $100 to this charity, this is where that $100 goes," or "If you picked up a bag a day in your backyard, this is that impact that'll be shown." So, I really want to take science, travel, and adventure, and kind of merge this into really breaking that stigma of trusting charities, and let's trust the people that are actually doing the most for the world right now.
Shelby Stanger: Dylan is all about taking risks, even if he might look like a goofball first. Whether it's a new film idea or learning how to skateboard, which by the way, you can watch him try in the first episode of Flow State. It's nerve-wracking to do something you've never done before, especially when you're used to being proficient at it, but if we drop our egos and we embrace our curiosity, it can be fun to be a beginner all over again. Thank you so much to Dylan Efron for coming on the show. I love your vibe, and I hope one day we can surf together when the pandemic lets up. In the meantime, I'm really excited to watch the rest of Flow State.
Shelby Stanger: You can learn more about Dylan Efron and Flow State on Dylan's YouTube channel, which you can find in our show notes on rei.com/wildideasworthliving. You can also connect with Dylan on Instagram and Twitter @dylanefron. That's D-Y-L-A-N-E-F-R-O-N. Wild Ideas Worth Living is part of the REI podcast network. It's hosted by me. I'm Shelby Stanger. It's written and edited by the amazing Sylvia Thomas and produced by Chelsea Davis. Our executive producers are Paolo Mottola and Joe Crosby, and our presenting sponsor is Subaru. As always, we appreciate when you subscribe, rate, and review the show wherever you listen, and remember ... Some of the best adventures happen when you follow your wildest ideas.