This is a story. A real story. A story of trials and triumphs. It is even a story with a happy ending. And there are plenty of lessons in it we can all take away. Myself included. It is about someone – a normal every day someone – that realised that you can continue to aim big regardless of where you are in life. Best of all, it shows we are a winner, the moment we make a definite choice and then step off in the direction of that goal. The result we achieve is much less important than the feeling that we gave it ‘our best shot’.
I met Leanne over a year ago now, through a mutual friend of ours, when she was just at the point of deciding to make her ‘comeback’ and decided to use our 30-Day Happiness Challenge as a springboard. She was 39 years old and on the cusp of turning 40. She had a daughter that was just over one year old, another daughter who was six, two young step-sons, the sometimes inherent challenges of step-family life and ex-spouses and a head full of thoughts. Hardly the stage setting, you would think, for the decision to become the number 1 Water Ski Racing champion in the world. In fact most of us would think that she was about to bite off a lot more than she could fully chew…but it was George Bernard Shaw who said “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”
When I heard more of Leanne’s story she revealed that she had actually placed 2nd in the World Water Ski Racing Championships in 1989 and 1991 when she was 19 and 21 years old respectively. She had achieved a high level of success at an early age and not knowing really how to best deal with her success (a fear often as big as a fear of failure) she started to party hard and make a series of decisions that would continue to take her down various paths over the next 15 years which eventually ending in divorce with a 15-month old daughter and her self-esteem a little worse for wear. I recently read a quote by J.K. Rowling that said, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life“.
The other thing to note here is that Leanne’s journey off the bottom rungs back to the top of her game did not happen overnight. It took a further 5 years to break things down, put them back together again, look inwards, reflect, seek help, break things down again and build them back up. I have come to realise that in this ‘I want it immediately’ society we live in, we think that there is something wrong if things do not happen quickly. Or we must be doing it wrong. When the truth might actually be that it takes time to create something worthwhile and to become the person you need to become to achieve what it is you want to achieve. I believe that success in any field does not happen because we figured out the right marketing strategy, or the winning formula, or the million dollar idea; it happens when we become the person that we need to become to succeed at the level we want to succeed.
So at 39 years old with 2 + 2 children, a wonderful supporting husband (who just happened to be her childhood sweetheart), a great race crew, a great practitioner (who was how we got connected), an enthusiastic life coach (aka: moi), a clear vision of what she wanted to achieve and 20-years of reasons. The stage was definitely set for Leanne to realise her dreams.
Now did she work hard for the year leading up the Championships? You betcha! Did she worry about money for the fuel, the boats, the baby-sitting, etc. Of course she did! Did she wonder whether her training regime and physical trainers were doing it right? Yep! Was it hard in general. Of course it was. Although there was that time in Bali where we were running on the soft sand together and she left me for dust. I nearly popped a lung and she didn’t look like she was doing it that hard actually.
The World Water Ski Racing Championships 2011 were held in Queensland just in the last couple of weeks and before she had even got there, in my mind, she was already a winner. She had given the goal her complete focus. She had trained hard. She had asked for, and got, some great support from all around her (often from directions unexpected). She had done the visualising work. Daily meditation. She had the internal and external game covered. So for me we could stop this remarkable story here. A story about a woman that decided that it was still ok to dream big, and reach for the stars, regardless of the fact she was nearing 40, had a busy and sometimes complicated family life, and had her own fears to deal with. But we won’t.
Leanne went on to compete at the World Water Ski Racing Championships. She won her first race by a good margin. The second race saw a boat cross her ski line and caused her to come from behind into 5th place – a little shaken as it was a similar event that put her in 2nd place almost 20 years prior. The 3rd race she came second. By the 4th and final race she was in first place on points but had a very determined young woman in second place breathing down her neck (the one that had beaten her the day before). A bit of a nail biter all round.
I got the chance to speak to her the night before the final race which was great. A couple of people had commented that she was not in the frame of mind that would expect her to be in at this stage of the game. In fact she was unsure of what she was feeling. My perspective on this, which I shared, is that there is no way that she ‘should’ be feeling. This is a new place. Somewhere she had never been before. It was a new day. There was lots of stuff coming up which was decades in the making. So don’t try and read into it. Just feel what you feel. Don’t decide it means something. Just let it be what it is. Apparently this was something she needed to hear and felt better for it.
So in Race 4 she did what she had set out to do over a year previous and 20 years in the making. She came in second, but was so close and already ahead on points that she got to tick off what had started as an idea over a year prior. Leanne had made a comment a while ago where she said “the thoughts (of the World Championships) started to consume and excite me.” I love that. It is like the thought moved throughout her whole body, energised her cells and became a part of her. She became what she saw in her mind. Reminds me of an article I read about Arnold Schwarzenegger, where he said that he was going to be the No 1 Hollywood box-office movie star (at the time he was Mr Universe but did not speak English well). When asked ‘how?’, he replied that first he sees what he wants to become in his mind and then he moves in to occupy the image.
I was very proud and excited to hear about Leanne’s win. And I am excited to interview her soon to ask what is next. We have already talked about her using her own experience to help others face and accomplish some of their bigger dreams. My belief is that if we share what we learn along the way it is like we get the benefit from the experience every time it helps someone to achieve what they really want in life. So I am starting to see, in the back of my mind, the full story of Leanne’s journey, so that it might be an inspiration for others.
- 40 years is definitely not too old…we are barely at the half way mark and if we take care of ourselves physically and emotionally we can continue to achieve big things. Big things are not limited to our 20’s and 30’s.
- Having a clear vision that ‘consumes and excites’ you is a must to achieving your goals.
- The stronger the reasons (like the desire to see what you are capable of) the more emotional power you will have.
- You are not truly living if you don’t scrape your knees every now and again.
- Life is a ‘team’ event. The better your team, the more they will lift you up, and the higher you can climb. Also when your intimate partner is behind you 100% it helps you to walk (or ski) on water.
- Hard work is a must. Having said that I have also come to realise that all successful people have worked hard to get there, but not all hard workers are successful. So hard work is not enough. Hard and smart with some fairy dust is the way to go. 😉
So well done Leanne and thanks for the chance I got to be a part of your success!!