PYP 189: Dave Wiskowski on the Simple Practices that Healed His Depression

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In 1987, fresh out of college, I took a job as a teaching intern at a fancy prep school in central New Jersey. One of the students who never made it across my radar was a quiet, blonde fifth grade boy named Dave Wiskowski.

In his class photo, he’s not smiling, unlike many of his classmates. He told me that he was struggling with depression at that time, any for many years later. Like many people who find themselves overwhelmed by life and negative emotions, he became adept at self-medicating through food, alcohol, and self-pity.

In his early 30s, Dave found himself pre-diabetic, miserable, obese, and ashamed of himself.

Now, Dave is an impressive plant-based endurance athlete; fast as hell, determined, and committed. And along the way, Dave discovered that helping others achieve their goals was even more fun and meaningful than chasing his own.

Now Dave crews and volunteers and supports more than he competes, and his influence on the world has magnified a thousand-fold. Our interview came about due to a series of what you might call coincidences: people who knew people who met people whom Dave has helped, guided, and encouraged who then mentioned to me what a wonderful guest Dave would be.

And then came the prep school coincidence, and my discovery of that photo.

Also, we had an amazing conversation. For some reason, my mixer got mixed up, and the audio settings exporting to my primary recording device were, to put it kindly, shit. As in unlistenable.

Luckily, I made a backup on Skype. But Skype is a temperamental friend, and while Dave's part of the conversation came out fine, my own voice is very soft and sometimes disappears altogether. The good news is, Dave is the one you want to listen to 🙂

In our conversation, we covered:

  • childhood depression and the double-edged skill of self-medication
  • the low bar of “managing” depression
  • how depression makes any change more difficult
  • looking at impossible goals
  • the boring strategy of putting things into practice
  • it’s simple: committing to a healthy path and practicing day in and day out
  • “that period of time is not that long”
  • you can achieve the impossible in a year
  • gaining expertise from making mistakes
  • “if I was wrong about diet, could I be wrong about everything?”
  • compartmentalizing eating and alcohol use
  • the 5-year-old treadmill in the basement with 20 miles on it that started it all
  • “after 30 minutes on a run, I couldn't possess a negative thought”
  • letting go of ego and sarcasm – and wondering what to replace them with
  • how to get to the “right way” when there's a middle ground of unknowns
  • “peace, kindness, and love”: just words until you go do them
  • crewing for other ultra runners and being behind the scenes
  • the blessing of doing significant work and not getting the credit
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.


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Dave's video interview with Jason Cohen, director of Big Change documentary

Charles Eisenstein's New and Ancient Story – a resource for those of us “in the space between stories” in our culture

Ready to embark on your Big Change journey?

Are you tired of knowing what to do, and still not doing it consistently? The Big Change Program, led by Josh LaJaunie and myself, will help you take the steps to finally live according to your knowledge and values.

Check out today's blog article, Abandon Hope, for insight into the philosophy and practice of Big Change as Josh and I understand and deliver it.

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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


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