I had the chance to revisit my 19 year old mind this week with a reconnection that happened because of this crazy social media world. I have journals, but the chance to look back on a letter I wrote to someone else about life in that season, my sophomore year of college, was even more special. Hard to believe that I have two kids now that are living that life and older than me at the time I wrote those words. As a writer, a chance to look back on what I wrote is one of the greatest gifts you could give me. In fact, it’s the reason I started my blog… so that I could give myself and my kids that experience in the future, see the road we all traveled from my view, and hopefully learn some things along the way. The writing skills at 19 weren’t what jumped out at me though, it was the the story, it’s always the story. And my greatest realization as I read the screen shot of that letter on my Iphone, was how simple life was back then. The pace, the innocent things that caused the right amount of stress, like a final project deadline, the memory of keeping one room organized and going to bed with all of the laundry done and things in their place. The art of the letter…write, seal, stamp, send off with the hope that it will be received, and then wait to see if someone would take the time to write you back is all history now, but talk about delayed gratification in the best way.
There have been more stories in the mental health space this week, we’ve lost yet another NCAA athlete to suicide, I didn’t know her, but saying her name out loud, Sarah Shultze, brings chills to my skin. She is the third athlete in a little over a month to take her own life. I’ve never been to that dark place in my mind, but it’s scary and heartbreaking every time I try to contemplate it. As someone who has battled anxiety and a dysregulated nervous system most of my life without the words or realization of what was going on inside me, I can connect intimately to the story of human struggle. My lens is that of a mom, coach, athlete, and writer who wants to create calm and connection through these stories from the highs and lows of life. The through line this week was a glimpse of life circa 1994 and the reality of what I live today with my own kids at that same stage. There are so many differences in how we live from then to now, but the things that ground us stay the same. These are some thoughts that bring more peace to my mind:
In the course of a little over a week we've gone from Division I Volleyball highs and lows, IEP meetings with the most brilliant team at Hermosa Valley School who care so deeply it brings tears to my eyes, incredible connections and stories on ‘What I Meant to Say’, and watching my kids surrender to what is and enjoy their lives. Even with my body still compromised from this ankle reconstruction, nothing brings me more joy. We are so much more than what any one moment brings, but the chance to look back this week was a gift that I am grateful for. Presence is key, but perspective is the gift that helps us see where we want to grow and BE BETTER. When we choose the right one, we have the energy to tell the story we are meant to tell. If you ever need help reframing that perspective, I’m here, reach out, the world is safer than it feels sometimes. Your life is meant to tell a beautiful story of joy and resilience, and there is always a supporting cast who helps make that happen. Trust it, believe in it, and surrender to the beauty that is this imperfect life because the only thing I can tell you for sure is that you are enough today, and whether it's a high or a low right now, it will to change.
With love and optimism,
***IF YOU NEED IMMEDIATE HELP CALL The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
In addition, 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. While some areas may be currently able to connect to the Lifeline by dialing 988, this dialing code will be available to everyone across the United States starting on July 16, 2022.
Every athlete I know, including myself, has always wanted to BE BETTER. My mission and this concept can sound a little brash to some but it’s not meant to be harsh, or make anyone feel like they aren’t measuring up. The goal is to put the emphasis on BE (instead of do) so that we can find BETTER. And in these high stakes environments in sports, if we can find 1% BETTER and understand the intangibles of our character we can push the limits of our potential. And that is the story that the challenged and rising Stanford Men’s Volleyball team is telling right now.
What a difference a year makes. When the last ball dropped against Pepperdine at BYU last year, it was supposed to be over. This smart, young, and talented group of men who have played at the top of their sport and loved volleyball for most of their lives would have to find another place to play if they wanted to continue at the NCAA level. They had all played through the club volleyball ranks, and shown that they had the skill to play at the next level, but they almost lost the ability to execute this chemistry together when Stanford cut their program last year. Fast forward one year, and the family of coaches, alumni, parents, and fans who fought to save the program will surround them tonight as they play for an MPSF Conference Championship, one year to the day they were knocked out last year. The optimist in me always believed this was possible. They are here because they defied the odds and defeated the #1 ranked team in the country. Beyond their incredible technique, there were some intangibles that are the hallmark of great athletes that made the difference.
So what were they?
CONFIDENCE- in themselves, each other, and the alchemy that results from that belief. Even when they were down in the semis, their belief that they could win radiated all the way into the stands.
LEADERSHIP - Volleyball is about chemistry, trust, and leadership. It’s possible for everyone on the court, and even on the bench, to lead if they understand their talents and those of their teammates. It’s a game that can’t be won alone, and true leadership fits together like a puzzle where each contribution fits seamlessly into the others.
GRIT - There was a feeling that they wouldn’t give up. Even losing the fourth set by 10, down 4-7 and losing an 11-7 lead in the fifth set, the tenacity to win the point never wavered.
The love for growing the technical skills of volleyball is a must to play at the highest levels of the game, but athletes should never forget to develop the intangible skills that create relationships, memories, and skills that will last a lifetime. Tonight I’m hoping these qualities, along with the beauty of their technical game, will earn the Stanford Cardinal a conference championship, the first since 2010, and a bid to the NCAA tournament. This Cinderella run is too fun to watch and write about, but no matter what happens, these guys are where they are supposed to be, playing together and writing a story that will serve the world far beyond the outline of that 30 X 30 court.
Let's go tonight Card! Rooting for you all the way to the National Championship!
People care, or they are curious, or both:) When people ask me what happened to my ankle, I tell them I had ankle surgery.
“Wendy, you need to start saying I had an ankle reconstruction.” said my amazing PT.
“I did?” I said.
Well, suddenly it made a lot of sense. Both because of the intense pain the first couple of weeks and the new beginning I feel now. There is space where there wasn’t before and with that space I have the opportunity to get stronger and grow to new levels of fitness and performance. I love it when my body and life parallel each other:) I believe this even at 47 years young. I get to decide what high performance looks like for me, and nothing is more exciting to me than plotting that path to BE BETTER…body, mind, and spirit.
While I’ve recovered and haven’t been able to be physically active while I heal, I’ve incorporated new recovery tools like breath work, cold exposure, and red light therapy with a disciplined process and my HRV, sleep patterns, and window of tolerance to balance the ups and downs of life with a more regulated nervous system have improved and my mind is strong. Shout out to the N=1 mentorship with Shift Adapt’s Emily Hightower and her amazing insight. Just because one aspect of our lives is compromised, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other areas we can shine light on to understand better.
On Monday I will be 100 % weight bearing and I’m ready to begin the physical journey with a stronger foundation than I had two months ago. I’m so grateful for new beginnings, and all about making them happen.
It’s Easter weekend, time to think about so much more than these volleyball games that give me so much joy to watch. Breaking down volleyball strategies with great players, coaches, and fans is one of my favorite things to do. I love the technical, the mindset, and the strategy…but even more than that, I love the stories behind the games and the relationships that have enriched my life in the deepest and most healing ways. That’s why I’m having such a great time with my new podcast, What I Meant to Say. Easter is about resurrection and new beginnings and that is something that resonates with my story over and over again and also with the people in my life that support my growth on a daily basis. Gratitude builds energy for the road ahead, I can’t recommend the practice enough.
Here are some takeaways that have come from this slow down to grow stronger process:
Everyone needs a place to feel safe to grow. My life has been forever changed by the healing place I get to call home and the people that have made it that way. Over the last few years, it’s been filled with good calming energy, but the gratitude I have for the cosmic connection that Cari Whitmore has provided in this healing time made my home feel safe when I felt vulnerable. She knows how to make my coffee…talk about a love language:) These talks, healing meals, connection, and care are part of a bigger story that is still playing out.
Surround yourself with people who believe in new beginnings. Mindset is a game changer. Do you believe that life is what you make it or that life is happening to you? Your thoughts determine your days.. While I stand squarely in the belief that the buck stops with me and the choices I make to shape each day, the people who chime in, send encouragement, and support a growth mindset are game changers in my life. Thank you to all of the people who have provided this for me over the last few months.
Self reflection is the key that unlocks the new cycle. On the podcast I recorded last week with my life long friend, school psychologist, coach, and parent Russell Raypon, as well as the one from this week with former volleyball pro, father, and cancer survivor Matt Prosser, we concurred that self reflection is a major key to unlock potential and growth, not to mention more meaningful life long relationships. I can’t wait to release these over the next few weeks. There is a new ‘What I Meant to Say’ podcast that comes out every Wednesday. Check it out wherever you listen to your podcasts!
Affirmations work. From time to time, the 2am demons still come to visit. Do you know them? They wake you up and remind you of everything that you haven’t finished and ask you if you are crazy to believe you can do what you believe you can when you wake up every morning? Affirmations are my go to in these moments to send the demons packing. Whatever you focus on will grow, believe that in every moment and use affirmations when your belief wavers. Belief in yourself is a muscle that can always be strengthened.
Decide what is important to you in your life, and be intentional about making it happen. It doesn’t matter if other people get it, move forward, and as you do, you will attract the people who are meant to be part of your new beginning. Here’s to strong foundations and the community and connection that support them. Thank you to the people who have supported me on this journey, from my cup of coffee to the encouraging Instagram DM, to the strangers who have helped me through airports. I’m grateful for every single thing that has brought me to this point, excited about the road ahead, and grateful for the processing skills that have helped me get to this place. It's been a reconstruction in more ways than one.
Happy Easter everyone, believe in new beginnings and everything is possible.
With love & optimism,
When I learned to play volleyball, there were nine players standing on a blacktop volleyball court on the playground of my elementary school. I was in 6th grade and the coach was a teacher, standing in his slacks wearing his tennis shoes and carrying a clipboard. He was about 6’6 and a basketball guy, but he taught us to rotate in a zig zag from left to right through the three rows of players and what I remember most was that I wanted to get to the back of the court so I could serve. That serve was underhand, the kind they don’t even teach kids anymore, but there was one game at an opposing elementary school that I served 15 points straight and we won 15-0. These are my earliest volleyball memories, and they still make me smile. I was a beginner, and for a kid who didn’t like school much at that point, learning the sport was the most fun part of my day.
Have you ever heard of a beginner's mind? It’s a zen buddhist term that teaches us to approach everything with an attitude of openness and without preconceived notions of what we know or how things “should” go. A mindset like this allows us to stay curious and keep learning no matter what level of the game we have already mastered. It helps us stay humble, even as we progress through skill levels and keeps us hungry to learn more. No matter what age or stage of the game you have come to, and even if your game is that game of life, do you allow yourself to approach things with a beginner’s mind? From my perspective this approach is one of the greatest tools we have to BE BETTER at what we want to accomplish.
Conversations with other coaches are something that I have a passion for. I could talk for hours about the best ways to help people unlock the potential that is already inside them. I was lucky enough to record an epic conversation this week with my dear friend of over 30 years, Russell Raypon. Our conversations go back to when I would pick him up to carpool to high school when we were 16. Today he is a husband, father, school psychologist, basketball coach and amazing writer with his own blog. During our ‘What I Meant to Say’ podcast conversation, he hit on the topic of how to convert potential to performance. As athletes, that is always something we are after. As Russ broke it down for me, he described a conversation he had with his wife, who was a professional ballerina and trains dancers today, the top three things they saw that converted potential into performance were:
But beyond these things, Russ and I agreed that self awareness was the key to long term high performance. Why? Because when we understand the why beyond what we are working toward, there is a different well of energy that we are able to draw from. We stop working to produce a certain result, and find joy in the process. This is what I refer to as a High Performance Zen lifestyle, that embraces beginner’s mind, helps us understand ourselves better, continue to sharpen our edges to BE BETTER, and be kind to ourselves in the process as we travel the path of learning new things. I believe in High Performance Zen so much, I have even created a course to help train it. Self awareness and coachability go hand in hand. The greater our self awareness the easier it becomes to reframe negative thoughts that have the potential to sabotage high performance, we are able to stay mentally tough, and keep our head in the game.
I’ve come a long way from those blacktop volleyball courts in 6th grade, but one thing that has never changed are the life lessons that I have gained through sports that have made me a stronger, tougher, and better person. The mission of BE BETTER with Wendy Jones is to inspire self awareness to create strong athletes, connected teammates, and better humans. These golden conversations on ‘What I Meant to Say’ are just the beginning. Embracing my own beginner’s mind and drawing from the well that converts potential to performance in my own game of life and grateful for every single person who has supported me and said yes through this amazing creative and worthy process. Look for the good and you will find it.
With love & optimism,
Epiphanies have always come to me in the water. As a swimmer, I used to wish that there was a device that would record my thoughts as I stared down at that black line. People say it’s a lonely sport, but as an adult with real world thoughts and challenges, it was an introvert’s dream. These days, post my Feb 14 ankle surgery, those deep thought processes are confined to the shower. This morning I was reconciling a conversation I had with Matthew, my 14 year old, who happens to be a very literal thinker.
“BE BETTER?” He asked. “Mom, that sounds harsh.”
I paused. Over this process of developing a mission driven business, I have wrestled with my ego, I’ve written, watched, learned, taken notes, had the best conversations and made connections with people I never knew were headed my way. But I have also sat frozen on my couch, completely overwhelmed, drowning in information and fear of failure, so the last thing I want to sound like to anyone reading or listening is harsh. What I figured out in that process though, is that no matter what our ego wants to tell us, this game of life, or even a battle on the court, it is never an all or nothing proposition.
Every life is filled with moments of victory and defeat, love and loss, process and achievement, but what ends up defining our journey is the way we learn to respond to whatever crosses our path. It was here that I learned to gain confidence because I believed in my ability to adapt, rather than base my confidence in what I already knew for sure. What a game changer. Yoga and mindfulness practices helped me learn to sink into a feeling of being instead of doing, and things began to flow, on the volleyball court and in my life. And that’s where the concept of ‘BE BETTER’ started. ‘BE BETTER’ isn’t harsh, it’s meant to give the grace to take it slow, so that we can feel safe enough to self-reflect and know that perfection is an illusion, so we don’t get stuck and try to do more and more to feel worthy. That is the prescription for burnout, not greatness.
Over the last few months, I added a podcast called ‘What I Meant to Say’ with the vision of giving ourselves some grace when we get the chance to tell our story with the benefit of hindsight. Another tenet I hold on to is that we go through difficult times in our lives, not just to make us stronger, but so that we can help others, and my hope is that these conversations will do that. With three releases so far, I can see the stories of athletes and leaders from all walks of life connect and synergize in a way that not only teaches growth mindset, but inspires us to make choices based on love not fear, and abundance instead of scarcity.
As I listened to these first three conversations, Episode 1 with Toni Rodriguez, Episode 2 with Savvy Simo, and Episode 3 with Kahlee York, all three NCAA beach volleyball alumni and current up and comers on the professional scene, and BE BETTER featured athletes. Through their stories, they connected a message of tenacity, sensitivity, and self care that makes both a good life and a great leader. Each of these vulnerable stories recounted the highs and lows of their journeys and will inspire you to live authentically as you compete in your own game of life. Their stories reinforced my belief that the best way forward is to compete with ourselves and collaborate with our communities so that we can be strong on our own and better together. To get where I am meant to go, I have had to stare down at my own black line and not worry about what is to either side of me, but when we come out at the end, I believe in the community of support that is there for all us just trying to BE BETTER, one breath at a time.
With love & optimism,