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As I sat on my $98/night bed in Kamloops, half working on a course, half tuning in to the Lance Armstrong interview on Oprah TV, Oprah grabbed my attention with the question “Did you feel in any way that you were cheating”.  “Did I or do I?” Lance answered…. Interesting clarification….  “Did you?”.  Lance’s answer first surprised me, then upset me, and finally, forced me to consider my own point of view.

“I went and looked up the definition of cheat,” he added a moment later. “And the definition is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”

So, is it cheating if we all do it?  And what are we really upset about?  The cheating or that he lied to us?

At the end of the day, many people are equally offended if somebody cheats or lies, but what is it about Lance in particular that has unnerved us?  Is it that we trusted him for some reason, or is it that we truly feel that doping is wrong?  In my opinion, the public’s reaction has far surpassed the disappointment of a cheat, but has morphed into something more personal, something that for some reason requires Armstrong to deliver an apology that we believe, in a way that we individually think is right, with proof that he has, somehow, changed, and a punishment that will last long into his life.  For some reason, we require more than is required in most families, workplaces, and churches.  So how did it get to a point that he has hurt us this way? And what can we do about it?

I started to think about times in my life where I had been caught in a lie, or maybe didn’t play as fair as I could.  I know the magnitude is much lower, but maybe some of the conditions were the same – why did I do it?  I knew it was wrong, it didn’t really feel good, but I found a way to justify it in the moment.  I think that the common element was that I felt I had to do it to survive the moment.  Right or wrong, something was at stake… Now I can’t speak for Armstrong, but I can tell you that the world of sport can sometimes feel like everything is at stake. In fact, this is the intention of the organizations that run sport – they need it to feel this important to make money and build the brand.  I remember moments where I felt like I would do anything it took to win, to be successful.  It was the only way I would be able to pay rent, or buy food.  I was lucky in that my world did not include things like EPO, doping, millions of dollars and a reputation that was on the line.  My world was relatively small, and relatively protected.  But what if it wasn’t?  What if I had been approached by somebody that I trusted, and what if it was as common in my world as taking a vitamin C?

I’m in no way saying that I would have taken this path – on the contrary, I grew up in a household that vehemently defended clean sport, and a mother that won a medal clean in an environment that provided that opportunity for her if she was interested… but I can see the conditions that may have led Armstrong (and most others in his sport) to win at all costs, including his own health and potential public fallout.

So in an effort not to defend Lance, but to perhaps understand him, I again ask, why is it so personal?  Do we recognize the dark side of ourselves in him?  Does it scare us that even a hero like Armstrong could fall to temptations and greed – because where does that leave us?

I’m in no way saying that the penalties and fallout are not appropriate – in life there is cause and effect.  Instead I’m hoping that we, as a society, can use this as an opportunity to learn about ourselves and what we do to win, our view of sport and excellence, and how we react and respond when somebody fails – do we turn our backs or do we help them to rebuild?  Because this will be our legacy.

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From bad to worse..

8-1

That was the score of the Canucks loss last night.  The players looked visibly shocked, the coaches had no idea what to do and a city bustling with Olympic-like pride and gusto was immediately humbled.

Predictions were generous before the game – Canucks were getting better every game, every series.  Luongo seemed poised and confident, and our record was improving – 7 games in the first round, 6 games in the second, 5 in the 4th… and what was left?  A Four Game sweep of course!

So, if not a sweep, now what?

As an athlete and now a coach, I’ve often gotten caught up in the energy of “perfection”.  It’s what makes athletes, coaches, GM’s and franchises excellent – seeking perfect performances and doing every little thing that it takes to accomplish that.  And here’s where it gets tricky… we can train with perfection in mind but the second we try to play games perfectly is where things go wrong, because it’s very rare for a game to go exactly as we planned or envisioned…  We then miss opportunities as we search for the perfect play; we get caught up in our own mistakes, failing to move on from them; and when things don’t go well  we start to play with fear and caution.

There are a couple of ways to analyse why it happens that way- For all of those “The Secret” believers out there- Law of Attraction is the source of this. What we think about we attract.  Fear breeds the manifestation of fear.  Worrying about making mistakes breeds mistakes etc. etc. etc.  Our minds do not know the difference between what we want and what we don’t want.  It just produces what is on our mind.

And for those scientists out there, it’s pretty simple what happens.  Fear and nerves cause blood flow to pool in the stomach, thereby starving the extremities (aka arms and legs!), and so movement is not only restricted but our reflexes are much slower.  Looking back on last night’s game, does that sound familiar?

This is the “perfectionism trap”.  Perfectionism is great when things are, well, perfect.  But it quickly breaks down when things go wrong as it seems that there is no way out as we have already failed to be perfect.

So what now for the Canucks?  How do you regroup and come back from that performance?  I can’t say that I have the exact answer, but I think that the worse thing that they could do is overanalyze their performance.  They could go into strategy and technical aspects of the game and get caught up in what to change, but the truth is that the change that needs to happen is within them already.  They need to be okay with not being perfect, and have a little humour about the lesson they were given.  Trying to avenge a loss, or prove something to their fans will give them just that – a game spent trying and proving.  it’s uninspiring to watch, and even more uninspiring to play that way.

But I imagine they already know this.  They play week after week, in do or die situations.  They experience the best and worst of themselves on that ice day after day and so they are used to this and get coached through it.  They know how it goes.  But what about everyone else?

I’ve always said that the reason I was addicted to volleyball was because I could go through years of growth in 1 hour on the court. There is a start, middle and end to the game; you see what kind of teammate/partner you are; you see how you think and react when things are close- do you make the right play, do you get scared, do you blame your coach, yourself or teammate?  And then you finish the game, debrief, need to forget it and move on, while implementing new better ways to be in the future.  If this is not life, I don’t know what is!

But normally we don’t get to do the whole thing in such a short time.  Usually it gets stretched out over weeks, months, years and it feels neverending.  A bad play in hockey may see your team at a disadvantage for 5 minutes, but in life a bad decision could cost us years of discomfort, which really wears people down.  And so it gets really tough to forget the mistake and move on… to move past it with the information we learned and make different choices.  In fact, often there is so much time between the action and the result that we often lose sight of what caused what.  And then we (accidently) keep making the same mistake over and over and wonder why we ended up in the same place again.

It happens with work, money, dating, and family.  I’ve seen numerous friends find themselves in relationships with THAT guy that they tried to avoid.  Or people that keep ending up working with terrible bosses or who are perpetually broke no matter what kind of money they are making.

The question is, do we need a referee and a coach around or can we figure it out on our own?  When we make a mistake, do we know ourselves well enough to call the penalty, put ourselves in the box for 5 minutes, and then get back on the ice and play differently?  Or do we keep trying to play “through it” and force our game plan no matter what the other team is doing?  And though the Canucks got to walk away after 2 1/2 hours of playing with an 8-1 loss, what does that transfer into in real life?  Losing 8 things in real life is a much bigger deal – it may include a relationship, a house, a job, confidence, trust, time.

For me, I get stuck trying to be a perfectionist for sure.  Because it has served me in the past.  It has made me great at things and yet there is no doubt that there is a cap that it places on my life and so it’s important to look at my current situation and have a sense of whether I’m learning and changing myself or if I’m just trying to change the game.  Because 5 minutes in the penalty box may just be the perfect little time out – I mean, who knows what can happen while you’re in there… !

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Anybody that knows me well knows that I have always been a huge believer that we create our lives exactly as they are right now.  And I don’t mean we voodoo control life… just that life presents itself the way we we intend it to or expect it to- it’s why people that believe everybody is out to get them tend to keep finding themselves in situations where they must defend and protect themselves, and where I can walk around downtown Guadalajara, MX at night completely unscathed. And trust me, I have no idea why or how it works this way!

But as a believer in this philosophy, what happens when things work out differently than I want or expect?  What happens when something comes up that I feel I didn’t intend and maybe don’t even want?  This is where I get stuck because if I was completely in control, then it wouldn’t be this way, right?

Or maybe sometimes shit just happens.

I came across a quote from one of my favorite writers and philosophers, Kahlil Gibran:

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

The thing is that sometimes things just feel scary, or difficult or upsetting.  My instinct is that it’s not okay to feel these things and it means something is wrong.  I usually just push those feelings down as far as I can muster, and try to “get over it”.  Smile and keep moving forward. But does this actually allow me to explore myself and my world to it’s full capacity or do I cut off some self expression when I do that?  A year ago I would have read the quote above and thought…”k, i’m doing it all right, just smile and pretend all is okay until it feels okay”.  And now, for some reason that doesn’t seem sufficient to authentic happiness and growth.

I do think it’s important to see ourselves, others, and the world in a positive, powerful light and there is always the opportunity to do that in any situation.  That is the TRUTH in life, and this is who I know myself to be deep down at my core. But there is something about the full experience of being human which includes the spectrum of emotion- joy, sorrow, love, patience, anger, fear.  And it’s good – ALL of it is good!  But it’s the thought and action after that determine who we are in this world.  After our full experience of being human, do we stand for who we truly know ourselves to be regardless of the situation we are in or our feelings we have?  For me, I’m starting to think that really is what creating my life means….

Something tells me that the awesome kid in the video below truly LOVES her life!  And her life probably includes a few tears 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg

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These guys dont have a chance 🙂

Oh to be in the dating world – so much fun, so much excitement, so much craziness… SO MUCH.

The last 13 years of dating for me has been somewhat of a blur – there was an 8 year long term relationship stint (3 in a row!) that defined my youth.  First the crazy rugby player, completely opposite to me in terms of values and beliefs but that caused so much excitement and turmoil, it must have been love!   Then there was the one I thought I would marry at 21 which of course didn’t pan out (I mean, I was 21!) … followed by the first real grown up relationship I had that ended with a cross-country move.

So I was by definition a “relationship person” by 26 and followed that with 5 years of singleness, of which I account all of my dating saavy to.  Am I actually dating saavy?  Probably not.  I mean, I’ve come  a long way from the naive 18 year old from the prairies, but I have figured a few things out along the way.  Maybe it was the actor who declared his commitment to me, immediately followed by a month being MIA, the California born-and-bred art director who believed that he had talked to mermaids, or the pro basketball player who had all the wrong moves, here’s a little about what I learned that’s out there for the ladies these days 😉

Of course, I’ll use a little sport analogy – what else would you all expect?!  Maybe you’ve dated one of these guys, or married them but feel free to share which you think has the most long term potential, which is a flop, and definitely let me know if I missed any (I mean, I haven’t ever watch a cricket match… maybe they are the holy grail of men?!)

The Pro Basketball Player : 

Okay, we all know it.  He gets all of the chicks, and I mean ALL of them.  He looks at us from the corner of his eye (as he’s being interviewed of course!).  He has fans and admirers around him always. We think we are the special one, that he’s somehow been looking for a long term, committed and stable relationship all along and had to go through ALL of those women to find US.  We start imagining our fairytale futures which he obviously has the looks, money and social connections to provide.  The problem? He never really had to work in a relationship before so he doesn’t do all those things we want like call back, plan dates and ask us questions about ourselves. And a few months after he notices that other girl and she starts planning their fairytale life too…

The Pro Basketball Player Wannabe: 

He’s the guy at UrbanRec who wears the bright yellow jersey, a bandana and has the armband tattoo.  He’s playing coed to meet the ladies but he never passes to the girls (even though he misses most of his shots!).  About once a month he gets into a fight with one of the guys he’s playing and we watch with disdain as he treats this fun league like the NBA playoffs.  But then the UrbanRec social happens.  And for some reason we had one too many drinks and we start talking to Wannabe and he’s actually nicer than we thought.  In fact, we had such low expectations that we are totally blown away by him, and mistake our average conversation with a massive connection.  And then we get a response to our “it was great meeting you” text with “fo sho”. Oops.

Next.

The Volleyball Player:

Hmm, this one may be a little touchy since I have loads of wicked volleyball friends out there (and many of my lucky girlfriends married them!!)  but hey, I gotta be fair 😉  You see the volleyball player competing.  He’s tall, he’s hot, he’s possibly without a shirt on the beach…. he hits the ball so hard but still – there’s a net between him and his competition.  He doesn’t really like body contact and is he hugging his partner after a play?  So in spite of that you make a date for Saturday…and how perfect- the sun is out when you wake up!… you can go to the park, or for a walk… BUT nope – a pick up beach game happens and the date is cancelled.  Well, not cancelled, it’s postponed and maybe you can help him ice after and replay every single point he scored during the game. But no big deal right?  There’s always next weekend (oops, is that the volleyball BC season opener?  or the following one (a Cliver tournament? – ah, bad luck!) – well, what about a weekend in July?  Oh, right, Corona Open followed by Centre of Gravity Tournament.  So you are officially in a winter only relationship 🙂  The thing is that this guy is the ultimate guy in so many ways.  He’s got great genes and he’s smart.  He isn’t going to ever get in a bar fight.  And he’s so wellkept, even his fingernails are perfect… so perfect… I mean, seriously, how did he get his nails to look like that, is it a french manicure? I’m a little jealous…

The Swimmer:

Swimmer’s have always been confusing to me.  They are the most fun people to hang out with, but they are willing to stare at a red line on the bottom of a pool for 5 hours a day.  You meet a swimmer and he’s awesome.  Funny, outgoing and smart, he’s the perfect catch (it seems).  But he has some weird things that just don’t feel right.  Maybe it’s a small obsession with training or the fact he is in bed at 8, but you start to feel like you are simply along for the ride, and that he is only available when it’s convenient, which is between 10am-12pm mon/wed/fri.

The IronMan Triathlete: 

My boyfriend claims that this is the ultimate man 😉 Not gonna lie, I think I may agree with him on this one.  The ironman is a rare breed of man.  He dedicates his life to something that very few people follow (though there is a cult following).  He doesn’t do it for the admiration or the fans or the glory.  He does it because there is something about racing for 10 hours that fulfills a personal journey for him.  But here’s the question.  Does the IronMan triathlete ever feel truly fulfilled or is he seeking forever?  And can you ever move to the top priority or is this semi-obsessive sport forever in his mind?  On the bright side, endurance is a great thing in many areas in a relationship!

The Cliff Diver: 

This athlete makes for a fast and furious relationship.  He will take you places you have never been, you will try new and novel foods, locations and experiences constantly.  He’s the most fun we’ve ever had. But is he safe?  I mean, literally and figuratively, will he take care of us?  Or does he coax us to always jump, even if he’s unsure where we will land?  This guy, though flashy and fun, bores of everything after one or two tries and can you blame him?  He’s so much more exciting than…. us?  So some of us try to be as cool and fun and carefree as CliffDiver but it never feels quite natural and we’re pretty sure once it’s not as fun, he’s gonna move on.  And then fun becomes kind of boring and we just want to sit and have a tea.

The Rower: 

Yep, we’ve found the perfect athlete.  Physically gifted, probably went to Yale.  Other than the morning practices, he’s a keeper (though he never fails to bring us home a latte! ) He’s perfect.  Just so perfect. And yet why is perfect so darn boring?  Can we have a little more drama please?  Or a joke? Okay okay, I know how that sounds but the rower is the guy that we know we should want but for some reason we don’t.  We call it “lack of chemistry” or “he’s nice”.  Whatever we call it, we feel we are lacking something and I’m not sure whether that’s about him or about US.

The Decathlete: 

A jack of all trades, the decathlete does it all.  He can run, jump and throw and he does all of these things well, but he’s a decathlete because he never really excelled in one thing.  And I’m not saying that as a bad thing, but this guy is always doing 10 things at once!  His computer is on, the tv is going, he is texting and folding his clothes.  There’s so much to talk to him about but his mind is everywhere else and you never really feel like he’s focused or present. Everyone tells him how much potential he would have if he just focused his energy on one thing but he can’t decide what he likes best and what he wants to do. It seems his life is always in the “in-between” stage as he searches for the next gig, the next relationship, the next ______. And 3 years goes by and he’s still not sure how he feels about a long term commitment 😉

The MMA Fighter (not including GSP of course!): 

Tough, strong and fierce, this guy turns us on because he scares us a little!  We know he’s bad for us but for some reason we see his soft side and we want him to see it too.  Our friends warn us, and we don’t introduce him to mom and dad because deep down we know that they are right – he’s trouble.  So we start hanging around with his friends instead of ours, and as we get to know him more, we learn that he too has a pattern of bad relationships.  And he helps us see that we aren’t perfect either and that the two of us really deserve each other. As time goes by we start to wear cutoff shirts, short jean shorts and clear heels and we wonder how we ever lived without a spray tan before…

The Rugby Player: 

He impressed you with his beer bong world record and he’s that guy that everybody loves!  Centre of the party always, you are the IT couple.  There are people around you always – and lucky for us, it’s mostly the guys.  Actually, the guys have been around every night this week and it’s another boys night this friday…  But it’s cool because he always comes home to us (even if it’s 5am) and somehow he always makes his 8am game warmup and kicks butt on the field!  He’s totally exciting and up for anything and when he casually jokes about a potential threesome, we laugh, give him a punch in his amazingly defined shoulder, and then casually wonder if he’s talking about adding your friend or his?

The Figure Skater:

Move on ladies, he’s just not that into you!

But all jokes aside, each one of these guys is awesome in their own way – and I am sure we could easily do some female categories to even it all out (perhaps that’s a later blog!).  I want to make sure everyone does know that I am using these sports as analogies – I’m not actually saying we should or shouldn’t date a decathlete!  I know many decathletes that act like rowers or basketball players in “real life” 🙂

For some reason, I have never really had a type – I’ve dated every kind of “athlete” listed above, but for others, they keep finding the same ones over and over…

The question I pose is this:

Is there a cheerleader for every football player?  And if so, what type of a woman is right for each of these men? Any ideas as I’m currently trying to set one of my best friends up and she is almost always attracted to the MMA Fighter or Decathletes.  I kind of feel like she would do best with a swimmer or ironman but do we just have a type and that’s it or is chemistry negotiable?

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So the Olympics have come and gone.  For many people it’s a massive crash after 7 years of planning, organizing and creating.  It’s the calm after the storm, and even though everyone is exhausted, there is this energy and life in Vancouver that I’ve never seen before.  It’s patriotic, it’s proud, and it’s powerful.  It has reminded me of who I am, and who WE are.  A nation of excellence, of freedom, of anything is possible.

And so where to go from here?  In my opinion, we are only a success if we can bring the spirit of the games into our normal lives.  Not that we hold onto the past three weeks, clinging to a reason to feel the way we do, but that we see that the real reason that we were so inspired was that we came together as one to support our athletes.  Win or Lose, Rise or Fall, we had their back.  We were all one team, whether we were stuck in line waiting for a bus, cheering on our most talented Canadian Olympic team in history, grieving for Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, or sitting at Canada Hockey Place watching Crosby score the game winner, we were one.  And maybe that’s the point.  Maybe we finally got it.  When we are there for each other (as Canada was for our Olympic team the past 4 years), amazing things happen for everyone.  THAT is what the Olympics are about.

And so I’ve learned a few lessons that will definitely make a difference for me as I pursue my own Olympic dream.  First of all, I need others.  I need to invite people to go on this journey with me – to cheer me on, laugh with me, cry with me, heal me and guide me.  And in return, I will give everything I have to this dream and I hope in some small way it will make the world better and will create opportunities for all of the people that I am lucky enough to have in my life.

Secondly, I learned that excellence is a state of mind, and not a result.  I think we could all tell when an athlete was going to perform well.  They had this energy about them – an unshakable confidence, laser focus, and yet a lightness in their eyes.  They could smile, even when the pressure was on.  And that’s what I am taking from these unbelievable Canadian athletes.  They had humility but it was different than before.  Where we were once afraid to be great and somewhat uncomfortable on the top of the podium,  we now BELIEVED  that we were meant to Own the Podium.  And yet we were still “Canadian humble” but our humility was in who we were afterwards- Gracious winners. 

So now, bring on the Summer Olympics.  Bring on the sun and sand and bikinis.  Bring on the GOLD.  Ready for the ride of a lifetime?

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Running in the Zone

One thing that I know in my sport, and that most athletes know, is that we play best when in the zone.  For those who don’t know what that is, it’s this mental place where time seems to sit still, everything feels like it’s moving slowly (like in my sport, I see every cue a hitter gives me as to where she will hit the ball), I feel “on”, the game feels instinctual, and there is flow.  It is creative and though the game changes as I go, I just mold my game plan to it (I’m not attached to my plan), finding opportunities and ways to score no matter what I am given.  The one thing that always strikes me is that when I’m in the zone, I don’t seem to remember every single play that happened and I don’t think about every play that will happen… I am mindless, in some respects, but at the same time, totally mindful. Simply put, I’m present.

In a work situation, I notice the same thing. There are days where everything just works.  People are positive, documents get finished, time flies, yet all is accomplished, solutions are found.  And in relationships, it doesn’t feel hard.  You know where you stand, you may not know where you are going, but you trust the future.  We are in the zone and making things happen. 

 There are hundreds of books, writers, and sport psychologists making shitloads of money showing people how to get into the zone.  They give you tricks, processes, ideas, and yet it’s all to get to this coveted place “the zone”.  So what if it is actually simple?  What if the trick is actually to not TRY to get into the zone, but to LET yourself go into the zone.  But how?  What can we do to turn our minds off, so to speak?

Last year, I had one of the profound opportunities of my life.  I was face to face with  my favourite writer, Eckhart Tolle.  I actually had the chance to ask him anything I wanted, and here’s what I asked:

“How, when I believe that something matters and I want an end result, do I not think about it and just play?”

The reason I asked that question was because I found that when I was playing I would struggle with thinking too much about the outcome or the past when the game mattered.  I knew it wasn’t a state that allowed me to perform to the best of my abilities.  Simply put, my mind was getting in the way.

So what was his answer?  Well, he just stared at me.  Seriously.  He stood 1 foot from me, face to face and just looked at me. 

So here’s a little peek into what my mind was thinking during this time: 
“What’s he thinking? What is he going to say? Was my question good? Did he understand what I was asking? Am I supposed to be doing something?  Do I look away? Is this awkward?  Yes.  This is awkward.  No, this is nice.  Hmmm…”.  And then, I thought of nothing. 

Almost at that moment he finally spoke “Leah, do you know what I was just thinking of?”    No.     “Nothing”. 

Why?  How?

He said that when he was younger he spent loads of time thinking, analyzing, considering, and as he got older, he realized that he had more truth in BEING than he had in THINKING.  He was not his thoughts.  Truth was not in thoughts (and I just gave you a glimpse into some of my crazy thought patterns so this is a good thing for me!!) .  And it reminded me of a great stat that I learned about some of the top athletes in the world.  Compared to the 10,000 thoughts that normal human beings have a day, those elite athletes only had 2,000.  And they are experts in performance.  So then… less thinking = better performances?  Seems that is the answer to my question. 

So this is what I did (care of Eckhart) – for 1 hour a day, I practiced presence.  Every movement, touch, smell, taste etc. I focused on.  If I was washing dishes, I felt the hot water on my hands, smelled the soap, felt the coldness of the plate, and I took my time.  My eye was on the prize, and the prize was the moment.  If my mind wandered, I gently brought it back.  And I’ll tell you how surprisingly relaxing and refreshing this was (and I thought it would be boring!).  The notion was that if I practiced “turning on” my presence doing mundane tasks, then it would be more accessible when I needed it on the court.

If you agree that the only path to the future comes from the present, then shouldn’t we  focus on every present moment?  Like the dishes, for example.  I focus on washing them, putting them away, because later that night I will cook a meal, serve it on the clean dishes, the meal will be digested, and used for energy which will then allow me to perform on the court.  So washing that dish IS important in the chain.  Eckhart said this “either everything is important, or nothing is important”.  It’s a mantra that sticks with me. For me, EVERYTHING is important.

So, let me know if anyone has any other suggestions and ideas with how to be present and practice presence .  And is everything or nothing important?  I’d love to share and discuss!

www.vivvos.com (presently the best under?wear in the world)

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