For the past 30 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
-Steve Jobs from a commencement speech at Stanford University
A few weeks ago I was sitting in my car, waiting outside of the local Thai eatery, Wild Ginger, for my take-out mango curry when lululemon’s latest blog post “what do you do that’s full-on?” popped up on my iPhone. There was something in both the title and the timing that froze the moment, making my stomach do a butterfly dance.
|(link to lululemon blog post)|
First, I need to go back. The last three plus years of my life, since starting studio s from scratch, have been both VERY taxing and equally exhilarating. I started my business with the simple strong desire to make a positive, lasting difference in peoples’ lives and to create my own playground where any/ all ideas I produced could hypothetically come to fruition. After years in the business and a deep desire to continue my work, I did my research, made a plan, searched for locations, secured the loans and pulled the trigger.
|studio s opening night….the party is over and I’m christening the machines in my party dress.|
I can distinctly remember the moment I signed the lease. It felt like every Christmas morning I’d ever experienced was put into one giant instant. Minutes later I walked out of the bank where the notary public had firmly stamped the lease with my signature on it and I thought, “OH SHIT, now I have to make this happen.” I didn’t have an inheritance or a pile of cash saved up for emergency use. I didn’t have a business degree. I didn’t have any woman (I hate to say it, but being a woman in business is different) in my life who had traveled this exact path. I didn’t have an existing fitness business whose model I wanted to mirror. Some may call this stupid, naive or too risky. But I knew that to succeed it would take more than numbers on a spreadsheet or extra money in the bank. I had passion. I had conviction. I knew I was a hard-worker with decent ideas and a hell of a moral support system. Most important of all, I had belief in myself and my vision.
|My #1 supporter taken during the studio build-out.|
The process of building a business is forever life-changing. No one wants to hear the story of woes. If you’ve started your own business, you know what it involves. If you haven’t, then you probably don’t care about the details. To say that studio s has dramatically changed my life for the better is to drastically understate how much I love my “job” and my community. But, there are difficulties–late night, early morning, around-the-clock, use every physical-mental-emotional-spiritual-resource difficulties. I recently read in a blog post by Stephanie St. Claire that “entrepreneurship is the most life changing relationship (like marriage
or parenthood) that a person can have.” I can vouch for that.
Business involves risk. Risk is scary. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve endured, it’s damn scary. Luckily, I didn’t realize how scary until I was already knee deep in the process. But, thank goodness. I couldn’t be happier. Every day I get up, I’m terrified … and I’m fulfilled. For me, the two go hand-in-hand. To get out of my comfort zone and see what awaits is to be truly alive. Despite the many, many hard days I can go forward without regret, without wondering what could’ve been.
You can measure opportunity with the same yardstick that measures the risk involved. Theygo together.– Earl Nightingale
So, when I saw lululemon’s challenge to live full-on, I thought, “Sure, I know what that feels like and it’s produced a lot of good in my life, but could I expose myself in new ways?” November 2013 was to be a trial of literally doing one thing a day that scared me. The month was incredibly memorable. I succeeded. I failed. I started out the month strong, invested myself in the process, and then life reminded me that sometimes things aren’t as neat and tidy as checking items off of a list. Sometimes life itself is uncomfortable and requires growth.
November 1st was a bittersweet and very scary day. I had taken more than six months to make the difficult decision to let go of personal training one-on-one. I did this in order to focus more on the business end of studio s as well as regain some personal balance after working 80-90 hours a week for the last four years. (I know this sounds like an exaggeration and I wish it were, but it’s not.) My personal training clients are not just my clients but my friends. I spent upwards of two hours per week with most of these people, some of them for the last five years. We would work out, sweat hard, weigh in, talk about life difficulties, insecurities, hopes, dreams and experience the ups and downs of time together. It was sacred, it was special and something I know I was born to do. But, it slowly became clear that letting go of something I love dearly was the only way to continue to grow, as a business and as a person. I needed more time to not only practice what I preach in life/fitness, but to be able to live full-on in more and different ways. November was the start of a whole new chapter, one I had not seen in quite some time–a 40-hour work week.
|Diana, one of my long-time clients and friends at the 2nd studio s anniversary party.|
On November 2nd, I was in bed reading as evening began to fall. I realized I was reaching the end of day number two without having risen to the challenge. And that’s when it hit me. Day two was the time to cross off one of the crazier items: running naked through the woods. I quickly recruited Chris–like that was hard–and we got busy undressing and then redressing with just winter coats, sweatpants and headlamps.
We pulled up on a back street near Ault Park and hiked with purpose towards the woods. I couldn’t believe how my heart raced as we approached the entrance. I was really nervous! We quickly clicked off our headlamps and as we ducked down one of our favorite trails, our eyes began to recalibrate, making the pitch black a fuzzy shade of gray. At first, all we could hear was the cracking of branches and the rustling of leaves. But then the outlines of the familiar trail began to take shape, including a bench just on the edge. One layer of clothes became no layers and we were, as they say, off and running.
|Yes, I have real proof of the deed but it’s not internet-friendly.|
It was more than fun. It was freedom in it’s rawest form. I could’ve tromped through the forest darkness all night. I had let go and the cold air against my bare body felt like the true meaning of happiness.
As the days passed, I grew in my ability to pull the scare trigger faster and faster. What before would’ve been a major pause in my action became a quick curiosity to see how I felt each time I tried something new. And something else happened. I began to notice my general hesitation in life; my tendency to yield to what I’m used to, to do what feels comfortable and familiar. I realized I didn’t only need an item on a list that I thought scared me. I needed a new approach, a willingness to be a little bit uncomfortable in many moments versus a lot uncomfortable in a few big moments.
|Speaking with one of my heroes–NY Times best-selling author and powerful, passionate human–Anne Lammot. At various time in life, I’ve been transformed by her writing and inspired by her boldness.|
|Yup, I registered to run in my undies for charity. Cupid Undie Run|
|Mid-run just after signing up for North Face 50-miler #2. Can you see the apprehension on my face?|
|My beautiful best friend.|
But the big moments weren’t over either. Mid-November late one Friday night as I was preparing my classes for the following morning, I got an unusual phone call from my step-dad Ben. He seemed alarmed. My mom, who had just returned from presenting at an event, told him she couldn’t remember anything that had happened there, how she got home, nor a few events from earlier in the day, including her workout with me hours prior. First you must know, my mom is one of the sharpest, best thinkers I’ve ever met. She is also the picture of health and has taken care of herself, as we all should. This was REALLY out of character. We decided to meet at the ER and rule out the worst imaginable scenarios–stroke, brain tumors, etc.
The hours that followed felt like a nightmare coming true. Seeing her first-hand in such an unusual state was a shock I hadn’t prepared for. This was my super fit, healthy mother after-all. This just wasn’t what I had ever pictured. During this strange window of time, she ceased creating new short-term memories and, as a result, we had the same conversation 40 times. Literally, the same three sentences. If you’ve ever watched the movie 50 First Dates then you know exactly the phenomenon I’m speaking of. As it started to sink in, I became physically sick. The room started spinning and I felt a wave of nausea come over me. As the nurse entered the room, I quietly excused myself and found the closest empty bed to catch myself on. I didn’t care if it was dirty or clean–I was getting ready to pass out.
Four hours later, after pulling myself together as she underwent a litany of tests, we left the ER with very few answers. We knew that her brain wasn’t bleeding and there had been no stroke. She was still very mentally fuzzy but seemingly starting to come out of it–repeating less and less.
By the next morning, she was completely back to normal.
Days later, she was diagnosed as having experienced a very rare amnesia event that can happen to perfectly healthy people with little chance of recurrence. But for a few hours that night in the hospital, I thought my life as I knew it was over. As we waited for answers in the days that followed, I was anxious, worn down and unsure. I couldn’t mentally escape the traumatic night in the ER. It’s been said many times that our reality can change in an instant. I didn’t know precisely what that meant until November 15th.
In the weeks that followed, I needed a break from my list. I didn’t need to add scarey to my days, I was already terrified of the doctors finding something more and by the possibility of what could’ve happened that night. I put the challenge on hold. But as I began to process what had happened at the hospital and the days following, the need to live full-on became more apparent. Making my list, undertaking the challenge and then being surprised with life events were directly connected.
I don’t know how many more moments I get with my mom. I pray and hope thousands upon thousands more. But, none of us are guaranteed a single one of those moments. Life’s fragile and fleeting nature is precisely why we MUST live full-on. The challenge does not end with November. It will be an ever-evolving list as well as small interactions where I step out of what I’m comfortable with in order to experience more of what this spin around the sun has to offer.
23. meet a few of my heroes and make a confession
24. register for next epic race=NFEC 50-miler
25. write a book (in progress)
26. admit to some of my BIG goals