Every year I come up with a word or phrase embodying my athletic drive and goals. The short mantra always encompasses great personal meaning, and offers substantial motivation when the going gets tough. 2014 was the year to "DWIT." The complete visionary goal, "Do What It Takes" to win an Ironman, shaped my entire methodology for how I lived each day. In 2015 things were shortened to one word: "Believe." Much of this steamed from the unfinished business from 2014. Although I fell short of my ultimate goal I feel confident that I set myself up for success. Outside of my unwillingness to give up my job, I did what it takes. I gave up an awful lot in pursuit of this goal! (Many argued walking away from full time work was the final ingredient - including coaches - but I held onto my long term vision for life and never entertained this foolish discussion). Here in 2016 my motivational mantra shifts a bit to include not only my athletic drive, but also my career aspirations. PASSION. My recent pursuit of passion hasn't been easy, and came with great risk. Oh but how sweet the reward is....
Many have asked why I haven't raced yet in 2016. My answer lacked certainty and commitment. I've been focused entirely on making a major pivot in my career. "Where there is great risk, lies great reward." Right?!?! Normally by this point in the year I've raced 1 or 2 Ironmans and a few 70.3 events. Neither injury nor illness has kept me out of the game. However, I'm here to tell you that emotional stress is equally as debilitating. Finishing every Ironman takes extreme tenacity, commitment, and mental fortitude. One must go deep into the well, suffer mentally and physically, and rise above. This holds true on a daily basis...especially for those of us juggling sport with work, family, etc. etc. Physically training was going well, but the past few months left me emotionally drained. I simply haven't possessed the mental nor emotional fortitude to toe the line.
Often we hear career advice along the lines of: "if you're passionate about what you do for work good things will come, and you will find long term success." I am pretty sure this is Oprah's soap box speech. Sadly many are severely misguided by this often endless pursuit. I'm not saying that someone can't find success when following their passion, but instead argue that proper thought should be given as to whether this passion offers financial feasibility. Tony Robbins talks about this very point in his recent TED talk. He discusses the tremendous work that passionate people put into their passion, and also mentions the need to question whether your passion offers a potential payout. This resonates with me and made me think of so many friends trying to make a living from their athletic talents. Yes, we all have the passion for the sport, but the financial support within triathlon is not going to change simply by us exuding more passion. While we can stride for change, we must accept the reality (or at least I must).
From the second I got my pro card I believed that only a handful of triathletes have the luxury and comfort of calling themselves a "professional." Professional to me means the ability to make enough money to support oneself (and family) now AND into the future. By future I mean retirement. If there is one thing I know from my years of professional racing, it's that every single solitary professional athlete toeing the line does so with great passion! No one has enough talent to mask the passion needed to reach professional ranks of triathlon. Few are able to take that passion and turn it into (my definition of) a profession. THIS is why I've never given up my career to focus 110% on triathlon success. I enjoy testing myself physically and mentally, and believe working full time is the right decision for me. I am thankful that my sponsors understand, support and applaud this decision.
So...in fewer words: my long term career means a great deal to me, and falling victim to lay off's in 2015 left me gutted! Immediately I looked for jobs within the software space. After months of working with a company to define and strategically lay out my job roll things feel through. Family and friends tried to reassure me that one door closing meant another would swing wide open. I honestly didn't want to hear it! Let me set the picture for what I mean when I say that things feel through last minute. My entire house was packed into boxes, and the movers were schedule to come the following day. As if God hadn't been hearing from me often enough, my prayers turned into sob fests- complete with panic attacks and insomnia. In the blink of an eye I was no longer moving across the San Francisco bay. God's plan left me in a state of turmoil, however deep inside I finally accepted that the software industry wasn't the industry to bring out my passion. It was time to search deep inside my soul. It was time to regroup, refocus, and ultimately embrace risk.
I left everything behind, and committed every fiber of my being to pursuing a passion I've had for quite some time: to take my eclectic skill set to the athletic footwear and apparel industry. There was only one place to go; I loaded up my car and drove straight to Portland, Oregon. Go big, or go home. I wanted to play with the big dogs (or should I say "Shoe Dogs"). It was time to pursue a chosen career in an arena that enabled me an opportunity to combine my experience in business, law and athletics. Time to fight for my passion.
I began networking with all the major athletic apparel companies. It wasn't long before my career goal took shape and my desire became defined: Nike was it! I spent weeks...no months, networking, job searching, and learning. I began researching the global giant and trying to figure out the complex Nike matrix structure. I couldn't believe how willing Nike employees were to meet with me and help me figure out which internal team would be the best fit. I filled notebook after notebook with valuable insight from daily networking meetings. In the end I met with 30+ equally passionate and driven individuals. I was on campus at least 3 days a week meeting with people who graciously shared their Nike career path. I sincerely could write a book about this entire experience! Tenacity with a capital "T." I read memoir's about the early days of Nike and channeled the founders visionary drive as I continued my fight through the coveted Nike doors.
|Is it crazy that while cleaning out the drawers in my bedroom at my parents place |
I had one newspaper from my days at UofM...and this was the front page?!?! Foresight?
With my triathlon racing days winding down I know a great void is inevitable. I've raced 20 Ironmans, and know my body doesn't have another 20 to give. With each networking meeting I gained substantial confidence that this void could be filled through my (paying) profession. I am ecstatic to report that I landed an amazing job on Nike's Innovation team. I follow this sentiment with the fact that I never would have landed this role if I had walked away from my legal profession back when I started professional racing. I needed to travel each and every road (through career and sport) in order to land myself here.
The past month has been chaotic! After 13 years in California it was surprisingly easy to say goodbye. This next chapter shows great promise. Ultimately a resounding "YES" landed me on the perfect team within Nike's organization. I've found a position that perfectly aligns my experience in business development, law and professional athletics. While I am far from settled in Portland, I am happy to be in a great mental space so I can test my fitness at Challenge Roth. This bucket-list race is the perfect place to exude my passion for the sport and praise for answered prayers. I questioned God's plan so many times the past year- but He delivered in a miraculous way. I have my yes and won't let it go to waste. It's time to JUST DO IT!
|My whiteboard desk on my first day at work.|