Sunday as I condensed the Bloomer inventory from 11 boxes and 9 bins to 6 boxes and 9 full bins, the song "Dark Horse" came on the radio 3 times. No I was not too lazy to change it, I was just deeply focused multi-tasking: mental strategizing and physical counting. (Besides, there really wasn't anything to change it to on the old Tuner on the 3rd floor). So this morning on my ride in the grey day, when the tune lingered into my climbing rythme, I decided to go with it. No, I'm not going to pay tribute to Katie Perry now. Rather, let's talk about that "perfect storm". You know the one that resides deep inside of you. Somewhere between intuitively feminine, boldly maternal, jealously timid, yet courageously tenacious, lies an energy that drives you to be your best.
Today, I am compelled to talk about the elephant in the room. That natural instinctual feeling you get that makes you just hate her. I mean really? Who does she think she is so______________ .... fill in the blank with pretty much any adjective and it will demonstrate my point: it's not what you say it's how you feel it. It's our human nature to get our panties all in a bunch about competition. Once I learned as an athlete that, the greater the competition I surrounded myself with the better I became, everything in my life changed. I realized showing up was half the battle. It's easy to be the best in one little circle, so only through expanding our network can we really rise up to reach our potential.
With that in mind, take a moment to think about a woman in your past that really fuel your fire, but you secretly can't stand her. What is it about this woman that charges you? What adjective do you fill in the blank with about her? Was she faster, prettier, smarter, stronger, louder? Now step back, and ask yourself how YOU embodied that characteristic then? Now? How have you changed since she inspired you?
Yes, she inspired you! As a woman racer, I first noticed this negative energy inspiring positive change with the guys I was racing. I was just out there to do my best and happened to crush the egos of many men along the way. Yes, I liked to beat the men and I was flattered by the attention that it would give me after the race as guys are much more bold about rubbing it in each other's face about being beat by a girl. There was even a year at Downieville where I beat so many guys on my singlespeed that they decided to go 10 deep on the podium just to make that 10th place guy stand under me in 9th. That's how guys are. The lesson really didn't occur to me until a couple of years later, when I was racing to the top of a hill (in a Grasshopper Race) how much I was fueling these guys to try harder. In this one particular moment there were two ladies standing at the top of the hill cheering everyone on. I had broken off the back of the lead pack and was fighting my way passing and getting passed in the middle of a long race. This one particular guy, that I had just passed, was the fittest I had ever seen him. Leaps faster and thinner then last year and he was giving me a run for my money up this hill. But when he saw the ladies he took off and passed me back. I couldn't believe it as he had never challenged me before. I stepped on the pedals and had to give it everything I had to pass him back before the top. We battled and I crushed him that day, but that was last time. The next time I raced him, he was fired up and made sure to let everyone know he beat me. Bam! It hit me! This competitve energy may have been presenting itself through ego, but it wasn't hurting anyone, in fact, we were both better for it.
Once I started applying this concept to the rest of my life, success unfolded rapidly. Suddenly, I could tap into that energy and cultivate positive growth. The clear lesson here is how we put our emotions into action. I am bringing this up to inspire you to take a deep breathe and look closer at how you respond to the flow of negative and positive that comes at you each day. Do you hate her for being perfect? Do you infact need to work on suppressing the characteristic in yourself that drives you crazy in her? I am speaking directly about women here because I believe that it is the connection of women that will solve some of our biggest social and economic problems.
In that tone, I would like to pay special tribute today to Sheryl Sandberg. I am definitely not alone in the world wide web as having mixed feelings about her work. I could easily rant and question the ethical reprocussions of her success, but she is the first woman on my list of women of inspiration that I don't think I would really enjoy just hanging out with. That said, I am inspired by her 'Lean In' movement as her point is very valid: sitting shyly in the corner of the room will hardly move you up the ladder. I also believe strongly that women thrive in circles and need to cultivate these intimacies on many levels in order to break through our own struggles. As long as I can remember, I have sought out other women as mentors, peers and mentees in order to grow. Far too often I witness women remaining stagnant in life and clinging to just one small circle of friends. I believe it is essential for us to work through cultivating these circles in ways that push us to expand and grow our connections, in order to effectively evolve our communities.
I will admit that I was more excited by the anticipation of her book "Lean In", then enlightened after reading it BUT that doesn't nullify the positive growth and clarity that I have achieved since digesting it. So for that, I do recommend adding it to your reading list. Thank You Sheryl for being a women of inspiration.
I hope this Dark Horse sort of reflection inspires you to look closely at the labels you hold on the people around you. You just never know where that next inspiration is going to come from but in the end all energy can be neutralized through intention. Smile and enjoy the ride and you just might just notice the struggle is just proving that you have it in you to fight... to be your best.