Aspen author Nancy Pickard writes a how-to for a ‘Bigger, Better, Braver’ life
212 pages; $18.99
Top Reads Publishing, 2020
Nancy Pickard climbed Mount Kiliminjaro at age 61 after remaking her life and moving to Aspen to start over.
Her new book, “Bigger, Better, Braver,” and the philosophy it espouses were inspired by Pickard’s move here and the life-altering change of perspective that came with it.
Pickard had long been settled in New Jersey, where she raised a family and owned a private personal training business, when her husband of 26 years asked for a divorce. As she tried to rebuild her life and plan her next chapter, Pickard sought a new life in the Rocky Mountains befitting her active lifestyle.
As she recalled, she first visited Vail over Independence Day weekend.
“We went to Vail and it was dead,” she recalled recently in a downtown park as she tossed a tennis ball to Bliss, her Australian labradoodle. “So we drove to Aspen with no plans, no place to stay, just did it. And how do you not stay here once you’ve seen Aspen on the Fourth of July?”
She bought her home here two months later and started settling in.
“My awakening has been an evolution from my divorce,” she said. “When we split up, it was like, ‘You’ve got to find yourself, figure yourself out,’ and I was feeling I wasn’t living up to my own expectations.”
She took to the mountain lifestyle and set her sights on Mount Kilimanjaro in 2017. She had run marathons and ridden 100-mile bike races, but was not a mountaineer and — more of a challenge, she admits — had never traveled alone.
“I was turning 60 and I thought, ‘I’m going to do a couple things,’” she recalled. “I set these goals for myself: to travel alone and climb Kilimanjaro.”
She trained in Aspen for about six months — climbing fourteeners in the summer and then, in winter, skiing for several hours and hiking up Independence Pass, Smuggler Mountain or Tiehack with weights in a backpack. The physical training took several hours per day, but it was her mental and emotional transformation during this period that gave birth to the “Bigger, Better, Braver” book project.
As she trained, went to Africa alone, summitted the mountain and returned home, Pickard found she wanted to share what she’d learned — she wanted to coach others to live their best lives.
“I try to get people out of their comfort zones, get out of auto-pilot,” she explained. “To get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
This summer, she was due to release her book about the lessons she learned from that experience. Pickard’s “Bigger, Better, Braver” is a self-help book with how-to instructions for living a passionate life, overcoming day-to-day anxieties, pulling out of the rut of routines and not making excuses.
But published in July 2020, the book was released into a world remade by the novel coronavirus pandemic and, surprisingly, to a readership eager for stories like Pickard’s.
“Interestingly, the book became really relevant because of COVID,” she said. “I feel hopeful it’s making its mark.”
Her message of embracing courage in the face of fear has resonated with readers coping with the pandemic. Since July she’s been on a steady stream of radio programs and podcasts — along with a spot on the popular TV show “Extra” — while “Bigger, Better, Braver” has hit multiple bestseller lists on Amazon this summer.
Her book launch at Explore Booksellers and her book tour were canceled due to the pandemic, but her message is still being heard. Pickard hosted a book launch on Zoom which drew 200 people from around the world. In the virtual space, she has been doing personal coaching for readers and she has found that her inspirational regimen fits the times.
“It’s a roller coaster of emotions,” she said. “But if you just live in your excuses and COVID, then you are missing out on 2020.”
While people are struggling with the health threats, daily uncertainties and economic losses of our unprecedented time, Pickard is pushing readers to embrace the embraceable aspects of the pandemic.
“If you can look at what’s right instead of what’s is wrong, there are incredible opportunities with COVID,” she said. “The opportunity to slow down, to get a look at your life, to spend more time with your family. For me it was a moment to pivot.”