Seven years ago I stood in front of Nono’s jui jitsu on Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach and watched my kids learn the sport, the girls liked it...the boys, not so much. Either way, it made them tougher and better able to defend themselves even though no one is still wearing a gui today. It was a challenging amount of discomfort for them. As a parent, finding that recipe for the right amount of pressure to put on them is difficult in itself. It also presented me with the chance to chat with volleyball legend Kerri Walsh Jennings as her kids were rolling on the same mat as mine. She turned me on to a new podcast, Finding Mastery, that became a ritual, and, little by little, like the way you don’t see your own kids grow in front of your eyes until they are 6 inches taller, it helped shape my outlook and challenged my growth to become more confident and adaptable to whatever life sent my way. I discovered my personal philosophy:
“To create calm and connection with every breath and movement.”
And then learned how to take that, and my life experiences, and turn it into a purpose that could help others:
“To connect generations with stories of resilience and optimism through sport that inspire each of us to challenge ourselves to find our own greatness, and accept the stories of others with more compassion and less judgment.”
Think more empathy, less cancel culture.
Sport can create better human beings, not just in strength of body and beautiful execution of form...but by the growth of our mind and character, and help us discover the resilience of our own spirit. This is what I write about most weeks, because it relates to my journey and the greatest purpose I was ever given… to be a mom to four amazing kids. I never knew how much i would love it, and after 20 years it still puts a lump in my throat.
What i have been amazed by is that as we discover our purpose, people come into our paths that provide synergy and support for our journey. As I have shed layer upon layer of self doubt and stayed my course, I have been amazed at the people that have provided me with strength and connection, but this past week, there was a new one that blew my mind and heart, by the grace of social media.
I was beyond humbled and inspired to have the gift of an hour and 40 min podcast worthy conversation with 2012 British Gold Medalist David Smith. This time, I sat and we chatted over Whats App, him post swim in Jamaica and me post volleyball from the comfort of my living room. He told me his harrowing story of athletic greatness, to cancer diagnosis, to a tragic mistake during surgery to remove a spinal tumor that left him paralyzed on his left side. He told the story with strength and vulnerability like we were old friends. I don’t think there is any human quality i appreciate more than realness. Our conversation is worthy of a book, not just a blog, and I’m saving some content for a bigger project I have in the works, but i wanted to give you a glimpse into what I learned this week...I’m so grateful for this conversation.
As a multiple time world champion and an Olympic gold medalist, David has used sport to become the best in the world, but in the darkest days of his life, he has used sport to become the best that he can be. Our conversation connected on so many levels, beginning when he told me how he discovered Michael Gervais on YouTube and then his Finding Mastery podcast.
“He’s gotten me through this and he doesn’t even know it.”
Suddenly, i began to understand how we found our way to this conversation. From the power of blue therapy (surfing and water immersion to heal) to his relationship with his girlfriend who is on the autism spectrum, to the understanding of what a philosophy and purpose can do for your life, we had a lot of mutual understanding for creating safe space, calm, and empathy, and how that leads to deep healing. Does it occur to me that i am not worthy to compare my journey to a story like his...every single moment. Did it seem to occur to him? Not for a minute. It reminded me of the importance of not comparing our stories, the hero’s journey is there for everyone, it plays out on different stages. If we belittle ourselves, or our struggle, we can never achieve our full potential, because we will always feel small and unworthy...and no one is small or unworthy.
We discussed the power of being over doing and the book he is working on that he wants to read like a story...my favorite and the most powerful way to make humans feel safe and able to learn. He has such a grasp of the way athletes need to embody their recovery in a way talk therapy often cannot do. When we talk through our challenges, we engage our prefrontal cortex but our experiences are embedded in our limbic brain. As we move, we are able to bring better balance to our nervous system and find release for deep seeded trauma. Sport can be the healthiest release and help us avoid addictions that cause us and others further pain. But my most powerful take away from this golden conversation was how the journey to the greatest self discovery and healing is an expression of vulnerability that empowers other people to find that same realness in themselves. If in our greatest moments of distress, we can find a safe place to land, and not just be strength on display for everyone around us, we foster the most beautiful connection. As David put it so well,
“Everyone needs a hug.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you @davidsmithmbe for your time and switched on insight. Can’t wait to capture more of this gold and read your book!
Because music gets me through every week and Tim McGraw came our with a new album….here ya gol
And P.S. @savestanfordmvb watching you guys play and have fun tonight was a joy - this fight isn’t over yet!
With love & optimism,