Many of the blog entries I’ve posted here are intended to share what I’ve learned, to help others when I can. In this post, I’m asking for your help.
20 years ago this July, I was part of something special.
At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, I was on a rowing team that won 6 Olympic medals; Canada set the rowing world on fire! When my rowing partner, Kathleen Heddle and I won our 3rd gold medal – and a bronze the next day – we set a standard that has yet to be met by any Canadian Summer Olympian. I was so fortunate to be part of such an incredible era in Canadian Rowing and I want to do something to recognize this 20th anniversary: I want to do something that gives back.
When the opportunity to ride in the 200km Ride to Conquer Cancer came along I knew that this was my opportunity. Many of my teammates and my family – and yes, my teammates are like family to me – have been affected by cancer. I’ve lost both of my grandmothers – one who inspired me to dream huge dreams and the other that I never had a chance to get to know — to cancer. I’m not going to name them as it is there story to tell, but too many rowers that I know have had to fight –and I’m so fortunate to say – and beat cancer. Cancer doesn’t care about your age or your fitness.
My father-in-law has recently beaten his 2nd cancer with the cutting-edge science of stem cell treatment. I want to be part of the team that sees way more victories like his.
I would be so grateful if you would help me to recognize the 20th anniversary of something special – by doing something special. It’s ambitious, but so is Olympic gold and conquering cancer; my goal is to raise $20,000.
Just as every stroke made a difference, so does every donation. When we got home from the Olympics and traveled from coast to coast to coast, Canadians told us that they had been pulling for us. Was this you? Were you screaming at your TV, dreaming our dreams and willing us to win Olympic Gold. Did our win make you feel proud to be Canadian and inspired to try something that challenges you? I’m hoping that if this group would pull for us then, maybe can “pull” for us now. I’d be honoured if you would.
Here is my donation page if you’d like to help
ps – why Team BMO? It’s pretty simple, a friend asked me to join her team and the idea caught my imagination. 200km will be tough for me. These days I spend my time parenting not training. My cardiovascular strength seems okay, but my strength???… I’ve got some work to do in the next month.
In many different ways I’ve written about being open to new ideas and change. In my book I shared a story about snowboarding through a gladed run. This particular story spoke of the importance of looking and moving to the spaces around the problems and not looking at the problems themselves. If you want to hit the trees, I concluded – look at the trees. If you want to ‘hit’ the fresh powder, well then …(For that full story click here, but I’ll also put a link at the end of this message.)
Previous to this post, I’ve also written about the value of being young and naïve vs. well seasoned and experienced. I have found that it’s not uncommon for experience to sometimes act as a burden when it comes to problem solving. When we think we know it all we start to become those who know less and less. At some point, because of our experiences, we inadvertently become closed off to challenge of new or changing ideas. That’s when we hear from others, or think to ourselves, “I’ve been doing it this way for X number of years – why would I / should I change?” Our well-honed routines provide us with the comfort that we know what we are doing but they put us at risk for becoming less curious about what we could be doing differently.
So, I come back to my opening remark; do you look for solutions to your problems, or do you find yourself finding problems in your solutions?
This isn’t the type of message where I offer an easy fix-all solution. There isn’t one. It is simply a question that I ask of myself, and I am suggesting that you ask it of yourself. I believe that simply this act of self-reflection will lead you to do a bit of both, which is, in my humble opinion the right way to go. In order to perform at any efficient level you must be looking for solutions to problems but you also must have a sense of what problems might arise.
Having an idea that a problem might present itself is much different than assuming that a problem will present itself. The former allows you to anticipate change and challenge; the later leaves you unwilling to change at all.
Before I sign-off – another self-reflective question; (and it’s one of my favourites!) In conversation do you listen, or do you wait to talk? !
Previous posts on being open to new ideas.
See the Spaces
An excerpt from The Power of More, How Small Steps Help You Achieve Big Goals
… I was burnt out, exhausted both physically and emotionally. I needed a change, so at the age of twenty-eight I retired from sport. Or so I thought. The next year would help to remind me of some important and really doable goals that I had once set for myself.
In my retirement I unwrapped myself from my overprotective lifestyle and learned to snowboard in Whistler, B.C. I thought this would be a good time to go and play on a mountain instead of at a lake; I affectionately referred to this season as “the year of the broken bone.” Before retirement, my health had affected not only my performance but also that of my rowing partner. In this “arranged marriage,” Kathleen Heddle was my dependant, and I was hers. If I got sick or injured, I took Kathleen down with me; a port is no good without a star- board. This had made me particularly sensitive to the dangers of getting injured by doing something dumb. There would be little forgiveness if I showed up with a non-rowing injury. I had pretty much turned myself into a one-trick pony in bubble wrap. This was the first thing I wanted to change. I wanted to have fun, to be carefree, and I was prepared to accept the consequences. For the first time in a long while I felt as if I could take an unplanned risk. What joy!
Living in Whistler and learning to snowboard was fantastic, but I still craved structure and focus. At the suggestion of a friend, I took a course, got certified, and—with the help of Intrawest, the company that owned Whistler Blackcomb was quickly teaching adult beginner snowboarding. What a blast! I would free-ride in the morning with the other snowboard instructors, and then, from ten to noon each day, I’d teach a class. Saying that I snowboarded with the other instructors may be a bit of a stretch. The truth was that I had to do everything I could just to keep them in my sights. If this was a cup (of rice that) I was trying to fill, mine was still mostly empty.
Just as I hoped to progress and learn every day, I watched the other instructors improve their abilities too. They kept trying to get more height off a jump, to do a new trick, or to master a bigger feature. I watched how they would try every day but never put a timeline on their learning. They were definitely ambitious about snowboarding, but they were also patient. It made me realize that I had forgotten patience when I was rowing. I was also struck by how playful sport can be— there was so much joy.
The lifestyle I created as a snowboard instructor made a few other things apparent to me. Not the least was that I wasn’t cut out to be a great snowboarder! I missed Read on…
As an Olympic Champion who’s been to 9 Olympic Games in various roles, I’ve been physically exhausted, emotionally exhausted and mentally exhausted. Until I became a parent – I’d never been all three at the same time.
For the first 5 months of our daughter Isabel’s life, other than parenting, I felt that I was getting nothing done. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do (or to create) something more… it’s that I wasn’t physically, emotionally or mentally capable of doing much of anything. My brain’s logical and creative side shut down, giving way – I assume – to let myself develop some survival techniques – aka-parenting skills. I’ve loved it, but at the same time it has been frustrating to feel so…limited. This wasn’t what I’d hoped for.
While I was pregnant I thought I’d have lots of time to write and read during my maternity leave. I was looking forward to the time that I would have to think stuff through – I get a lot done when I’m at peace and doing nothing. I was going to branch out and put all of my creative thoughts to page. After all – there would be huge chunks of time when I’d be doing nothing but watching a baby. (A naïve mistake I realize but this is what I thought.) Ha! While I did have time, small, randomly spaced blocks of time, I had no idea that I would have no thoughts! (None that I could remember 5 minutes later anyways!) Exhaustion has a way of throwing your mind into utter chaos.
I always find my most, creative thoughts in the steady beat of repetition; this is my idea of peace. Long steady-state rows, runs, bike rides and even walks provide my brain with the white noise that it needs to clear through the chaos of everything and find inspiration. In 2007 in Beijing, I learned the wisdom that accompanies making time for doing nothing. That year I went to China 5 times helping Canadian athletes and teams familiarize themselves with Beijing and the sports venues that would host the 2008 Olympic Games. I became quite the tour guide of the Great Wall, the Silk Market and the Forbidden City. The later, the Chinese imperial palace, was where the Emperor (and Empress) lived and presided over court. It is also where first became aware of the Confucius phrase Doing Nothing. Read on…