Another Way

 

This is dedicated to the competitors courageous enough to let there be another way. 

 
There are two types of competitors, the comparative competitor and the compassionate one. The former views its opponents as enemies of achievement, the ladder respects its foe as a partner in the dance of progress. Both play to win.
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My whole life I’d considered myself ‘a winner’ but winning games came at a heavy cost to my mental and emotional wellness. My relationship to competition wasn’t healthy or sustainable. I was a thriving performer, but not a thriving person.

For the last four years I’ve been on a spiritual inquisition into the true nature of competition. The inquisition began in my own heart, in a feeling that there had to be another way, beyond the way I’d experienced as yet, into the true competitive joy and exhilaration of sport. 

My whole life I'd considered myself 'a winner', but winning games had always come at a heavy cost to my mental and emotional wellness. My relationship to competition wasn't healthy, or sustainable. I was a thriving performer, but not a thriving person. I was separate from grace, from myself, and in desperate search of an experience that winning, or being good, never satisfied. I longed for a deeper connection to life and those around me. A sense of unshakeable purpose, an identity that wasn’t attached to the thing I did, to beating an opponent, but to the aliveness of the competitive experience. 

Letting there be 'another way' meant stepping into an abyss of unknowns without knowing the way out. It took courage, and vulnerability to face myself, and the suffering that I'd created and bottled up over 25 years of competing without grace. 

I was vexed by questions - did I have to sacrifice my desire for greatness and my will to win to experience connection and happiness?  Was there a way to be a happy, kind, see-the-big-picture person and a fierce, powerful, do-whatever-it-takes competitor? What did it mean to compete with grace? Was there way to pursue excellence and victory without being overcome by the competitive quest?

These questions, and my willingness to explore them, led me through the abyss. The biggest transformation for me came in how I relate to competition, and sport. 

Growing up, my family called me ‘the Spaz.’ After games, win or lose (and sometimes during them) I threw huge, embarrassing, emotional tantrums. I sobbed hysterically on the pitchers mound after losing the u10 town softball championship. I threw my jersey at a coach during overtime of a 6th grade basketball game. I screamed at teammates, stuck my tongue out to the rowdy crowd. Get the idea? 

I was, and still am, a passionate person. Passion made me tough, demanding, and a little bit crazy. I wore my passion in my body. As a kid, I put my entire being into sports. I played with desperation. Life or death, that's how I saw the game. I don't know why I felt that way. At 8 years old, I struggled to deal with the extreme energetic build-up of competition. The spazzes, as ridiculous and embarrassing as they were (thank God for my patient and compassionate mother) were simply raw and unfiltered energetic releases.

In time, I began to realize that spazzing wasn’t exactly  acceptable for a teenage girl. So, I defaulted to what I believe a lot people who can’t fully understand, express, channel or articulate their emotions default too - I became passive-aggressive. Moody, and unpredictable, the energy of passion swirled inside of me, and I was ashamed to express it, let alone feel it.

The chasm felt scary and not safe, so instead of exploring it, I hid. I hid in perfection. In depression. I  dimmed my gifts, dulled my personality. I bullied myself. Isolated myself. I tried so hard to fit in, to be normal, to be calm, to be happy, to be easy, to be great, to be who I thought I should be. 

There was another side to me too. I was kind, compassionate, intuitive and deeply curious . There was a chasm between the boisterous, competitive, wild me and the kind, intuitive, compassionate me.  I felt like I had to make a choice between being fierce, direct, and aggressive or quiet, intuitive, and kind. I couldn't be both, I thought. It was either too much or not enough. 

The chasm felt scary and not safe, so instead of exploring it, I hid. I hid in perfection. In depression. I  dimmed my gifts, dulled my personality. I bullied myself. Isolated myself. I tried so hard to fit in, to be normal, to be calm, to be happy, to be easy, to be great, to be who I thought I should be. 

Competition and training became both my emotional sanctuary - the place were I was free to be wild and creative -  and an emotional attachment.  I hid in the roller coaster thrills and moods of competition. I hid in the results. I did well in school, in sports, in any domain I choose to do well in, and behind the performance was a lost, and divided, kid. I judged myself with every win, loss, mistake and critique.

As a kid, I didn't feel safe to explore the chasm of questions inside of me, and as I got older, I tended toward ignorance because I didn’t have the courage to admit it to myself that I was crazed by competition, obsessed with the exhilaration and validation of winning. For better or worse, the roller coaster was the only way I'd ever known, and until four years ago, I was too scared to admit that there could be another way. 

A compassionate competitor focuses on how to pursue winning in a way that uplifts and inspires all those courageous enough to participate in the dance - the opponent, the referees, the spectators, the parents. It means recognizing and appreciating all the parts that make the game possible, and playing your part in way that expands possibility of the game.  

It was one thing to admit there could be another way to succeed, and another thing to give myself space to explore another way. I mean, I was 9 years, and 2 Olympics deep into my international hockey career. To explore another way, meant letting go of desires and dreams on the hockey field that were rooted in comparison, and my one-track measure of success. It meant letting myself feel and suffer, without trying to fix it or make it better. It meant getting quieter. I listened more, and I listened differently. It meant offering myself the gift of compassion. Compassion does not mean weak, or soft. It simply means to suffer with, or to share in suffering. When I acknowledged my own suffering, I became free to compete from a purer place, not from comparison or judgement, from compassion. 

A compassionate competitor doesn't diminish the desire to win. In high performance environments, you have to play to win. You have to want to be the best you can be. What matters is how you compete, and where you compete from. A compassionate competitor focuses on how to pursue winning in a way that uplifts and inspires all those courageous enough to participate in the dance - the opponent, the referees, the spectators, the parents. It means recognizing and appreciating all the parts that make the game possible, and playing your part in way that expands possibility of the game.  

The last four years taught me something invaluable about life, and it is this - There is always another way if you are courage enough to let there be another way. When I look back on my playing career, the thing I am most proud of is the person I let myself become. That person always believes there is another way.  

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Discover Within, Expand Beyond,

Rachel

 

 

The Unseen

 

This is dedicated to the visionary's - the ones who have experienced the dark side of inspiration and passion, who've known madness, and created new and better realities from it.

 
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6 Attributes of the Visionary Leader

Action Style: Determination

Endurance

Strategic Analysis

Resilience

Culture / Community

Purpose

Natural Cycle


The greatness of their vision is born in the darkness of potential. They see what is hidden. They see the light within the dark, what lives beyond the edge, what no one else can see. 

A visionary sees what cannot be seen. They see in the dark, eyes brimming with madness as they explore the furthest edges of creativity, purpose, and genius. They submerge themselves in the quest to understand and reveal the deepest reaches of life. The visionary sees the unseen and creates new realities from it.

We know some of them by name - Billie Jean, Steve, Michael, Muhammad, Martin Luther, Winston, Abraham, Thomas. They changed the world. They changed the way we live, and the way we understand ourselves. And yet, for how much they've shaped our understanding, we don't fully understand them. Their passion is fierce, their devotion unrelenting. Their action, determined. They don't serve people, they serve purposes. They don’t play by the same rules as the rest of the world - they innovate and create a whole new set of rules that changes the reality we all live in. The greatness of their vision is born in the darkness of potential. They see what is hidden. They see the light within the dark, what lives beyond the edge, what no one else can see. 

The visionary is resilient in their service to the vision. They are set upon outliving their opponent, and their opponent is not a person, their opponent is the darkness, the madness, the un-manifested vision. It is only when the vision is brought to life that others can begin to understand the madness of the visionary. When others can experience the tangible result of the leader's devotion to their vision, can they appreciate the genius of their madness.

We all possess the power of vision. 


 
It was visiting hours. I stood in the middle of a the psych ward. I was looking out the window - furious and crestfallen. I didn’t know what to say. I loved her, and I also knew I couldn’t help her. I turned around, and  looked her straight in the eyes. 
She stared back at me. 
"You have a choice." I said. "We all have a choice." 
I opened both my palms, as if I was holding something in them.
"Power. It's right here (opening my palms.) It's raw. It doesn't have any rules. It can create and destroy. You choose what you do with it. No one can choose for you. I can't chose for you right now. I wish I could. I know your choice feels made for you. It’s not. You have a choice. Create or Destroy. I’ve been there. I’ve seen the madness and darkness. I know how it feels. I also know you have a choice. So, choose. The power is always there, but you choose what you do with it. Whether you live or die. Create or destroy."
 

To see the light, we must feel the darkness. Then we must choose what to serve.

Greatness comes at a cost. To be great, to be truly visionary, we must be willing to dig into the depths of the unknown and unseen, to travel into the deepest reaches of passion without being consumed by the madness of the visions we see. We must choose - to create or destroy.

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Discover Within, Expand Beyond

Rachel

 

The Art of Coaching

 

This is dedicated to the artists out there. Remember its a dance, lead with your listening, and follow your passion. The rhythm will carry you. 

 
Without listening, action becomes motion. Movement lacks purpose, and power. Maintaining empathy, listening, and compassion in the high-stakes, fast-paced results driven environment of sport is one of the biggest challenges coaches face. 

The 6 Attributes of Dynamic Leadership

Agility

Situational Analysis

Initiative / Competiveness

Networks / Relationships

Task / Role Engagement


Coaching is a dynamic dance between disciplines. A coach is an educator, entrepreneur, artist, competitor, creator, mentor, and cultural alchemist.

If my 2 month foray into the wide and wonderful world of collegiate coaching has shown me anything, it is that the label coach is a huge misnomer. The role of ‘coach’ is way more complex than its name. Coaching is a dynamic dance between disciplines. A coach is an educator, entrepreneur, artist, competitor, creator, mentor, and cultural alchemist. A coach must be as honest, versatile, vulnerable and aware as the athletes they lead. 

Why? Because sport environments are incredibly dynamic and competitive. Constantly changing circumstances challenge coaches to be who they need to be, and for whom, in the exact moment they need to be it. It requires being tough when toughness is needed, calm when calmness is required, energetic when energy is demanded, and silent when silence is best. If they don’t respond timely and appropriately to the needs of the moment - if the response is too late, or too early, too harsh, or too meek, or to the wrong audience, the action, though well intended, lacks resonance, and rather than engaging stakeholders in the dance, it disengages them.

Moment by dynamic moment, they play the role life, and sport, demands of them, when it demands it. 

Ultimately, a coach is measured by their ability to deliver results .  But which results matters most, and to whom? Wins, championships, learning, excellence in the classroom, tradition, citizenship, community, service, career growth, player fulfillment/engagement, transfer rate, happiness, profitability? 

The greatest coaches seem to do it all. They deliver results in all domains. They make a masterpiece of every moment, and in doing so, each masterpiece becomes part and parcel of a greater miracle. Great coaches win championships in every moment. They create the impact that matters most in every situation. They weave miracles thread by invisible thread. Step by invisible step. Moment by dynamic moment. They play the role life, and sport, demands of them, when it demands it. 

To use the label ‘coach’ almost diminishes the actual responsibility these leaders undertake.  They don't just coach sport performance, they create environments for personal exploration, expression, experience, and excellence - safe spaces for athletes to engage in the often messy and uncomfortable process of growth. They balance the demands of various stakeholders while enriching robust cultures of learning and development. They manage teams, teach lessons, organize schedules, build, brand and sell programs, mentor individuals, modify behavior, analyze data, strategize systems, monitor finances,  and energize excellence. The great ones do it all while maintaining humility, discipline, and an unshakeable passion for their art. 

Traction in the Moment:

  • Listen for Specific Demands of the Situation
  • Understand Needs of people within situation
  • Focus on the Impact You Want to Create 
  • Act, Speak in alignment with that impact
  • Reflect on action and short/longterm impact

The secret to mastery in dynamic environments is maintaining traction and versatility within the situation. Aligning words and actions to meet the needs of the situation, and the people involved. Timing is a huge part of successful leadership - appropriate action in the the appropriate moment, which requires vigilant awareness and deep listening to the specific needs of the moment. 

Often, the more dynamic, competitive and results driven the environment, the more brashly we act, and re-act. Hyper-focus on, and desire for external results distracts leaders from pure listening. Without listening, action becomes motion. Movement lacks purposeful and powerful impact. Maintaining empathy, listening, and compassion in the high-stakes, fast-paced results driven environment of sport is one of the biggest challenge coaches face. 

It begs the question - are coaches provided adequate development opportunities  and resources to deliver the dynamic output necessary to ensure the robust performance and growth of the athletes they manage? To whom are coaches ultimately responsible - the athlete, parents, alumni, the university, society, spectators, the media? Does society drain and distract coaches from their ultimate responsibility - the development of the athlete? 

Being dynamic and versatile is not about being a chameleon, and changing colors, it about being a champion in every moment. You can’t be everything for everyone all the time. Be who and what is needed in the moment. Stay true to your art, lead with your listening, and trust the rhythm of your soul.

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Discover Within, Expand Beyond,

Rachel

For truth, be steady

 

This post is dedicated to the city of Charlottesville, all who feel misunderstood, and the people courageous enough to be steady and honest in the face of uncertainty.

 

6 Attributes OF THE STEADFAST LEADER:

Strength / Stability

Focus

Stress Response

Support

Values

Recovery


In Charlottesville, I sensed a certain mystery, an opportunity for the convergence of deep exploration, purposeful expression and positive impact. A place to bring together what had felt like the disparate pieces of myself.

A month ago, on what felt like a whim, I decided to take a coaching position at the University of Virginia. I knew very little about the town of Charlottesville before moving here. I’d heard about Thomas Jefferson, and the downtown mall, and the Shenandoah Mountains, yet beyond that, I knew, and appreciated very little of the profound intricacies of this town.

The relocation happened fast. Coaching field hockey wasn’t in my immediate career plan. I wanted to explore the personal development of athletes beyond the playing field. But in late July, I was desperate for a change of scenery. A fresh place to be inspired and build new opportunities and relationships - a space to renew my curiosity about who I was, and how I related to my gifts, interests, and responsibility to the world. When the University of Virginia called about a coaching opportunity, it was the allure and possibility of Charlottesville that attracted me. 


Language of Leadership

Steadfast

ACTION STYLE - STEADY

Resolute, firm, and unwavering sense of purpose and principle

The place felt right. In Charlottesville, I sensed a certain mystery, an opportunity for the convergence of deep exploration, purposeful expression and positive impact. A place to bring together what had felt like the disparate pieces of myself - Praxis, yoga, sport, academic learning, and spiritual development. 

Charlottesville had it all. A complex history deeply intertwined with that of America, a world-class educational institution, a vast spiritual and yoga culture, great restaurants, a vibrant arts scene, and unparalleled natural beauty. It had the dynamic appeal of a city, and the charm of a small town.


When I arrived I was immediately struck by what seemed like a bundle of contradictions. I couldn’t quite put my finger on how to describe Charlottesville. It felt like a southern town with a Boston feel. An elite college in a humble mountain setting. A place where the extremely wealthy, the blue collar, and the homeless collided everyday. Its roads were lined with modern strip malls, the best grocery stores, splendid farms, and breathtaking historic architecture. It felt suburban, metropolitan, and rural at the same time. It felt deeply spiritual and devoutly secular. 

It was impossible to give Charlottesville a clear cut, easy to understand label. It was all of the contradictions, and none of them. Charlottesville was a real place - fully alive with all the trappings and mysteries of humanity.

The mystery magnetized me. It was impossible to give Charlottesville a clear cut, easy to understand label. It was all of the contradictions, and none of them. Charlottesville was a real place - fully alive with all the trappings and mysteries of humanity. It wasn’t some idyllic, and isolated college town. It was a vibrant and dynamic community facing the uncertainty of our times. Caught between the desire to cling to its storied history, and the responsibility to face the reality of who it is, where it came from, and how that history informs and impacts its current reality. 

When we hide, we refuse our place in the world. We limit ourselves from truly understanding who we are, and what’s possible for our existence. 

When I looked at Charlottesville, I saw myself. The convergence of seeming contradictions - different emotions, passions, attitudes, and perspectives. The convergence of past, present, and future. The uncertainty of a changing culture and identity. 

And very much, like Charlottesville, I was in a period of profound transition. I had more questions than I had answers. I knew that moments of transition were moments of great opportunity or extreme threat depending on the steadiness of the response to change.  

Change is uncomfortable. It asks us to live in the space of not knowing, and to be in the steady work that makes understanding possible. Often though, we fail to accept not knowing. Rather, we pretend that we already know. We hide behind certainty, we deny the existence of opportunities and threats. We deny part of the truth, and cling to the other. We judge everything. Its right or wrong, left or right, black or white. The labels give us the perception of control, yet humanity, and life, is so much more complex than the labels we give it. The hiding - behind labels, justifications, excuses, blame, complaints and sorries - only causes suffering. It creates a false, and narrow reality, one in which we cannot make progress or learn because we can't fully understand ourselves, our motivations, and our role in, and responsibility to the big picture. When we hide, we refuse our place in the world. We limit ourselves from truly understanding who we are, and what’s possible for our existence. 

In Charlottesville, I've learned that for truth to be possible, we must confront all changing parts of ourselves with steady work and honest endeavor. The mystery that attracted me to this place, is the very magic that I now love about it. I love Charlottesville's nuance and complexity. Its beauty and its mess. I love how real and raw it is. I love the passion in the hearts of its people. I love the aliveness this community. I love that Charlottesville, in this time of transition, has a profound opportunity to impact and shift the way that America engages in the honest and tough conversation about our who we are, and what we are responsible for. I love that Charlottesville doesn’t have the answers. I love that this place, rather than pretending to have it, instead, is courageous enough to say ‘I don’t,’ and engage in the conversation anyways. 

Change is the only certainty we face. If living in Charlottesville has taught me anything, its that we must be bold, honest and steady in the pursuit of truth. We must not hide, or pretend. We must seek to understand the complete truth of who we are, and how we impact the world. As imperfect and uncomfortable as the uncertainty may feel, we must - each and everyone of us - face it full on. 

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Discover within, Expand Beyond,

Rachel

The Gift of Charisma

 

This post is dedicated to the power, gift and talent within, and the courage to express it. 

 
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6 Attributes of the Charismatic Leader

Speed / Power

Creativity

Confidant Expression

Influence / Collaboration

Inspiration / Vision

Fueling


What is Charisma?

Charisma is the experience of being totally moved  by the raw presence of another human being - their unfiltered, honest, vulnerable, powerful self.

Magnetic presence. Power. Attraction. Charm. A divinely conferred power, talent or gift. It is that certain Je ne said quios, that powerful force of aliveness and passion in the eyes, voice, and heart that inspires,and connects. Charisma draws us in, and it also pushes us away. It creates, and it destroys. It is the experience of being totally moved  by the raw presence of another human being - their unfiltered, honest, vulnerable, powerful self.

The gift of charisma, to which we are all privy when we deeply connect to our own source of passion, is that of pure power, energy, charm, and spirit. Charisma invigorates, inspires and magnetizes. It makes transformation possible. To lead with charisma, a leader must be willing to be unconventional, willing to invoke and express emotional depth, and creativity in a simple, relatable, responsible yet emphatic way. 

Below is a personal expression of my experience of charisma. I wrote the words as they came to me. 


 

Power Action Style

 Affirms, invigorates, inspires and influences action with captivating energy and presence

 

The audience senses her presence. They feel it in their bones - they lean imperceptibly toward her even though she's invisible. They don’t know why they do it. All they know is they can’t help it. They are magnetized by her - by every word she says, by the way she says them, by the message of her presence.

She walks in the room. The silence gets deeper, more profound. Her shoes click against the hard wood floor. Poised, powerful, and undaunted by the pressure of the audiences’ clinging, she strides to the podium, asserts herself firmly behind it, clears her voice as if to speak, and then, she smiles. Its the type of smile that puts you at ease, rescuing you from the trance of expectation. That's her welcome, her way of instructing you to take your seat, open your ears, and simply listen.  Let yourself be moved, the smile says.

Then, the smile fades, and for a moment deafening silence overtakes the room.

And then, the lion roars. Words flow from her. She doesn’t say them, she expresses them with the totality of her being - her voice, her body, her eyes - with the courage of her unconventional passion.

The lion roars.

Words flow from her. She doesn’t say them, she expresses them with the totality of her being - her voice, her body, her eyes - with the courage of her unconventional passion. She shocks them with her ruthless honesty, and engages them with the articulation of her message, and purpose. She feels every word she says, she lives every word - she expresses each one with the force of her being, deeply respecting and trusting the rawness of her voice. 

Confidence oozes from her pores. With every ounce of her being, she believes, and her belief infuses the hearts and minds of those around her with a sense of belonging, power, and promise. She knows the danger of her gift. She fears her gift - its ability to move, spark and inspire. She fears the responsibility that comes with her gift - the gift of freedom and greatness. 

She chooses to step into the fear. To let life, and the gift, gravitate toward her and flow from her. She doesn't pursue it. Pursuit pushes the gift away. She welcomes it, and lets it come to her.  She understands that to share the gift, she must be responsibility for it. The gift can create and destroy. Power is never neutral. The choice is hers, and hers alone. 

Impact of magnetic presence

  1. Engage through ability to express powerful and passionate message
  2. Energize through strong emotion
  3. Express unconventional, courageous vision
  4. Infuse with Belief
  5. Connect through powerful presence
  6. Transforms  

So she chooses to use her gift to help others discover their own natural charisma - their personal spark of presence and passion. She knows she mustn’t let them cling. She mustn’t diminish them, or herself. She must use her gift to help them discover their own power, to magnetize them to impactful cause, not to a person, personality, or prestige. 

For the gift, the human gift, the gift of energy, of charisma, of power, is a force field - it draws us in and repels us away.Charisma is the gift of grace. It is volatile, and beautiful.  It creates. It destroys. 

Share your gift. She dares you.

Discover Within, Expand Beyond

Rachel



 

 

The Shepherd Leader

 

This post is dedicated to my Mom, the greatest, most impactful, quietest and humblest leader I’ve ever known. 

 
The best leaders don’t actually lead - they listen, and the way they listen subtly shapes and shifts the listening, and perspective, of those around them.  
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6 Attributes of the Shepherd 

Mobility / Flexibility

Adaptability

Optimism / Grit

Empathy

Growth Mindset

Relaxation

 

The Shepherd Leader

  • Leads with Listening
  • Encourages Contribution and Leadership
  • Creates the Container for individual freedom, group cohesion, and greatness
  • Understands and connects by being part of the group
  • Sees and serves the big picture

The most impactful leaders don't use flamboyant words or flashy action. They don’t preach, instruct, tell, or teach. The greatest leaders live unnoticed, little seen or heard - celebrated not by name or fame, but rather as the invisible force of possibility and aliveness within each person and situation.

The best leaders don't actually lead - they listen, and the way they listen subtly shapes and shifts the listening, and perspective, of those around them.  They listen for space, the opportunity for greatness to emerge in others.


Action Style

Trust

Acts freely and firmly with confidant, humble ease, and high acceptance


We call them Shepherds, these invisible, silent, devoted listeners that guide life into its unique possibility in the simplest of moments. To the Shepherd, leadership flourishes in follower-ship - in the ability to listen, adapt, and serve with patient, steadfast optimism. The shepherd is a watcher who understands the needs of the group, nurtures talent within the group , and encourages expression and contribution of those talents. The Shepherd serves with fortitude and humility. Quiet, yet expansive and powerful, the Shepherd celebrates leadership not as an act, but as an art, a force to be experienced within and entrusted to the entire group. 

Who have been the Shepherds in your life? Take a second to celebrate the people who've listened, who've quietly - without pomp or cheer - seen you, and served you - the people who've shaped the way the you listen, and who've made space for you to emerge in your own unique greatness. Celebrate them, and then devote yourself to becoming a Shepherd, a quiet, invisible, and nameless servant of the power in another.

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Discover Within, Expand Beyond,

Rachel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show the Way

 

This blog is dedicated to Paige Elenson, Bethany Lyons, the Baptiste Yoga team, and my fellow Level 2 graduates who showed me the way last week - in word, listening and expression. 

 
 
The greatest leaders embody their words. They say less with greater impact. They mind the details of practice as if each detail held the magical secret to life. 
 
Photo by  Jamie Roberts  (instagram @the.jame)

Photo by Jamie Roberts (instagram @the.jame)


6 Attributes of the Leader By Example

Technical Skill

Self Assessment / Regulation

Awareness

Communication

Goal Setting

Organization / Prioritization


 It’s not what I say that matters, but how I say it and live it that creates the impact. Do I say, express, and practice my message with the conviction of my body, voice, and action?

We live in a world of words, inundated by words on social media, in books, in conversation. Even this blog is a bunch of words. A story. Words are powerful. They are messengers that convey information, shape perspective, and  inform experience. Both the words I say, and the ones I don’t, impact my interaction with, and understanding of the world. 

The greatest leaders don't just speak, they embody their words. They don't tell me what to do, they show me how to embody it, and create space for me to embody it in my own way. They say less with greater impact. They create themselves as models of possibility, living with rigorous vulnerability, and a deep respect for how the way in which they work, express, and interact, informs how others work, express, and interact. They mind the details of practice as if each detail held the magical secret to life. 

Praxis Action Style

Disciplined Practice

types of practice 

  1. Default Practice: normal, unconscious, day to day mode of practice
  2. Deliberate Practice: focused, specific, measurable, growth-oriented mode of practice
  3. Deep Practice: intense, felt-experience of the practice

Leadership Language

By Example

The foundation of all great leadership is self-leadership, personal mastery, and disciplined practice. It's not what I say that matters, but how I say it and live it that creates the impact. Do I say, express, and practice it with the conviction of my body, voice, and action?

A leader delivers a message in order to mobilize specific action and behavior within a group of people. A leader by example delivers the message through personal experience and expression. They lead through the work of self. Becoming the model of possibility, exploring each moment with the courage and wonder to discover an opening. The leader by example exposes what's normal motion - the default - in themselves and works deliberately into the simple, deep practice of personal expression. They learn directly from experience, and relate to others from that experience. They realize that the world around them is a mirror. Before they say a thing, they believe the thing, because they've experienced the thing. 

A leader by example says less, and inspires more. Do you?

Discover Within, Expand Beyond,

Rachel

 

 


 

Below is an inside view into the personal work I did last year in preparation for the Olympic Games. What's possible for you?

 

What is Praxis?

 

This post is dedicated to Alli Tanner, Praxis CEO, my dear friend, and soon to be Mrs. Van Shaack. Thanks for always dreaming, exploring, and charging ahead, heart first. This is only the beginning.  

 
 
That’s Alli’s way, she is courageous. She loves adventure, she loves charging forward and having fun. She’s willing to chase a ball down that seems unreachable to everyone else. Without Alli’s commitment and courage to charge ahead, Praxis wouldn’t exist. 
 

Before we dig into the next blog series on Personal Action Styles, and Leadership Languages, I wanted to take a second to rewind and refresh.

Let's go back to the summer of 2004 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was hot outside. The sticky, muggy, can't escape the sun, end of summer, smells like dogwood trees, North Carolina hot. Alli Tanner was a freshman at UNC. I was a sophomore. It was the first day of preseason. Since school wasn't in session, and the dorms weren't open, Alli was crashing at my off-campus apartment. 

The day started with the gauntlet. Alli came out guns blazing and ran a ridiculously fast gauntlet. Evening dawns, and we take the field for the annual opening day, intra-squad scrimmage.  Alli, a forward, comes out again, guns blazing. She charges forward, heart first, head up, ready to pounce, chasing down a pass that seems unreachable. She closes in on the circle - she has a chance - the goal keeper rushes toward the ball, Alli doesn't stop, she keeps going, determined to win the contest. The goal keeper gets to the ball first, swings her leg back to clear it, makes contact, and bam, Alli takes the ball straight into the forehead from point blank distance. She goes down. Blood seeps from a massive gash that spans from her hairline to the tip of her nose. I swore it was so deep you could see her skull. 

I don't remember what happened next. I imagine Alli got up, got stitched up, and asked Coach if she could go back in. That's Alli's way, she is courageous. She loves adventure, she loves charging forward and having fun. She's willing to chase a ball down that seems unreachable to everyone else. Without Alli's commitment and courage to charge ahead, Praxis wouldn't exist. 

So, what is Praxis? 

Praxis is a personal discovery and actualization process built by Alli and myself to translate dreams and ideas into actionable realities. 

 

 

iNTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT MODEL

The Know You Cube

A comprehensive self-assessment tool that athletes use during the Beta-lete Program to develop a better understanding of individual behavioral attributes as they relate to the whole picture. It provides valuable, specific information on how the athlete perceives their current reality. It provides a platform to engage in purposeful personal development. 

6 Elements of Praxis Wellness

Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social, Developmenal, and Habitual

36 Praxis Attributes 

Each element consists of 6 Core Attributes. An attribute is a specific characteristic, quality, or skill. Attributes, as measured through action, are developable. 

6 Praxis Action Styles

An action style is specific way of doing, how an individual engages in action. Each action style consists of 6 Core Attributes. The 6 Action Styles are Disciplined Practice, Trust, Power, Steadiness, Malleability, and Determination

6 Leadership Languages

Each Action Style translates to a specific Leadership Language. A Language of Leadership is a method of delivering messages to mobilize action in a group of people.  The 6 Languages are: By Example, Shepard, Charismatic, Steadfast, Versatile, and Visionary.

 

Discover Within, Expand Beyond,

Happy Wedding Weekend Alli & Spence,

Rachel


 

 

 

 

The Habitual Element

 

This post is dedicated to the person in the mirror. It is the final post on the 6 Elements of the Praxis Paradigm - Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social, Developmental, and Habitual. Next week, we will begin exploring the 6 Action Styles and Leadership Languages.

 
Own your actions or be owned by them.

The Habitual Element

Sustain Responsibly

The 6 Habitual Elements

Organization / Time Management

Relaxation

Fueling

Recovery

Space

Sleep / Natural Cycles

 

The beauty of habits is that when they are created intentionally and trained deliberately, they open space for spontaneous innovation. They free energy reserves to pursue higher, more complex purposes.

Last week, I was in need of a summer read, so I asked a friend for a recommendation. She gave me a title I’d never heard of -  A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Trusting her literary tastes, I picked up a copy. In the opening chapter, I read this quote:

“If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.” 

Taking some artistic liberty with the quote, I changed a few words, and came up with this:

“If an athlete does not master her habits then she is bound to be mastered by them.”

Own your actions, and their impact, or be owned by them. There is no alternative. Your actions impact your circumstances - both your actual circumstances and your perception of them. No act, or habit, is neutral. Each and every act informs the bigger picture. Habits help or hinder progress, promote or restrict possibility, uplift or diminish personal power. Every action has an impact, and the sum of those impacts shape the context of your life. 

Life happens by choice. It is the result of small, individual, seemingly meaningless decisions, your habits. A habit is an ingrained choice of action, a tendency or practice developed to promote efficiency, and reduce decision-making fatigue. The beauty of habits is that when they are created intentionally and trained deliberately they open space for spontaneous innovation. Train solid technical skills and decision-making principles and you are free to play the game as it presents in the moment. Habits free energy reserves to pursue higher, more complex purposes. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When created without intention, habits consume our energy, debilitate progress, and restrict spontaneity. 

We dress ourselves in our habits, wearing them like a monk wears his cloth. They are so much a part of our constitution that they often go unnoticed. Invisible. Yet everything we experience is subtly shaped by our habits.

We dress ourselves in our habits, wearing them like a monk wears his cloth. They are so much a part of our constitution that they often go unnoticed. Invisible. Yet everything we experience is subtly shaped by our habits. Disciplined, intentional habits give freedom. Blind, irresponsible habits limit it.  

Happiness is a choice. That’s a phrase I heard a lot in college. When I heard it, I’d roll my eyes, and think, you don’t get it, you don’t get me. Happiness wasn’t a choice for me.

I perceived happiness as some huge, big, dauntingly magical destination that existed way beyond my reach. I was too far in the rabbit hole of fear, doubt, and denial to accept my power to choose happiness right here, right now. I didn't choose happiness, because I didn't think it was a choice. It was too big, and too far away. Happiness was impossible. So by default, I became a bystander to my circumstances, both the victim and victor of the events that happened around me. I rode a roller-coaster of emotion - somedays happy, somedays in despair. I was owned by my circumstances. Owned by winning and losing. Owned by achievement. Owned by what people thought of me. Owned by what I thought of myself. Owned by expectation. Owned by my lack of awareness, by blindness, and denial.

My default habits got me exactly where I was, and that was exactly where they’d ever get me. At some point you realize you have a choice - whether on a team, in business, a relationship, or in life - adapt your habits or risk extinction.

I'm not saying all was bad - I did pretty well and enjoyed some great experiences, but my default habits got me exactly where I was, and that was exactly where they'd always get me. At some point, you realize you have a choice - whether on a team, in business, a relationship, or in life - to adapt your habits, and how you interact with the world or risk extinction.

It took a coach saying 'You need to reinvent yourself' and a couple friends saying good-bye for me to wake me, look in mirror and see that I was not actively engaged in creating my life.

In Yoga, I discovered a practice and space where I was safe to take the blinders off. I was overwhelmed and scared by what I saw - a glimpse of how I actually was, not how I had always pretended to be. It was tough to stomach at first, I wanted to crawl back into the cave of ignorance. But looking in the mirror, and accepting what I saw was the most liberating thing I've ever done. Happiness became accessible.

I re-evaluated and de-stigmatized my idea of happiness, telling myself a new story - that happiness wasn't some big, bold, Olympic pursuit; it was simple, daily, disciplined, intentional decisions. I told myself happiness lives in unremarkable moments, in small wins. Happiness wasn't a destination, it was a daily choice. A choice rooted in habits. 

We have the power to create our habits, and shape our destiny. It is each of our responsibilities. But where do you begin?


  1. Accept Ownership. Accept that you have a choice. Its on you. No one else. 
  2. Choose your desired impact. What do you want to create for yourself? What impact do you want to have? What do you want to be possible for you? Set your intention.
  3. Look in the mirror. Become aware of your current reality. What story do you tell yourself about your current reality? 
  4. Accept Reality. Its not good or bad, it just is.
  5. Understand Your Habits. Your actions create your reality. Examine current habits. What's the habit loop - What’s the action, what triggers the action, what’s the impact of the action, and what’s the need satisfaction of the action, what behavior does it reinforce?
  6. Choose New Habits. What habits will help you create your desired experience and impact?
  7. Make a Specific and Measurable plan. Create a plan to adapt the habit loop. What does deliberate practice look like?
  8. Do the Work. Train new habits. 
  9. Trust your habits. Let magic emerge spontaneously as you focus on small wins.
  10. Re-evaluate habits. Examine impact, adapt and adjust accordingly. 

So if you want to own your experience, accept that the choice is yours, and yours alone. I support whatever you choose, as long as you take ownership of your choice. Because happiness is a choice.

Discover Within, Expand Beyond

Rachel

 

 

The Developmental Element

 

This post is dedicated to the coaches, leaders, and creators who are courageous enough to share their unique models of understanding with the world. I admire, celebrate, and thank you.

 
Growth is natural and enduring. It is not a goal to be reached or a game to be won. It is not achievable. It is process to be honored and respected. It is timeless, perfect, absolute and complete. You can’t force it. It happens when you are ready, when you’ve prepared the soil, and open yourself to it. 

The Developmental Element

Grow & create purposefully, expand naturally

The 6 Developmental Attributes

Goal setting 

Growth Mindset (Curiosity)

Inspiration

Values 

Role and Task engagement 

Purpose


I plagued myself with the fever of more and better, always trying to get somewhere, and prove something.  I searched outside myself desperate to understand and connect with something that could only be found within me. 

Be clear and simple about who you are and what you want to create. Get to what is essential. Essence is the key to development. It is the source of power, transformation and understanding. From essence, you can grow, create, and expand naturally into your potential. 

As long as I can remember, I fought the wisdom of 'less is more.' I believed that developing myself meant adding on, building, improving, bettering, perfecting, going as far as possible as quickly as possible. I lived in the weeds. Growth had a desperate, complicated, comparative, achievement-oriented quality. I plagued myself with the fever of more and better, always trying to get somewhere, and prove something.  I searched outside myself desperate to understand and connect with something that could only be found within me. 

Developing isn’t about adding on, or improving, it is  about stripping down, getting to the source of you, and letting magic emerge.

There were rare moments of connection, though, when I got so physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted and let go of striving, and just let myself be vulnerable and in the process that I experienced magic. In those moments, space emerged. I could see myself and life clearly. Those fleeting, spacious moments of wonder kept me curious, and infused me with enough courage to stay upon the path of self-discovery.  That path has not always been an easy one. It has been an essential one. 

Developing isn’t about adding on, or improving, it is  about stripping down, getting to the source of you, and letting magic emerge. The word develop means to un - envelop, to unfold or unfurl, like a Koru, the Maori word for a new silver fern frond that expands from a single point of origin in what seems like perpetual motion. Growth is like that, it is natural and enduring. It is not a goal to be reached or a game to be won. It is not achievable. It is process to be honored and respected. It is timeless, perfect, absolute and complete. You can't force it. It happens when you are ready, when you've prepared the soil, and open yourself to it.


The 6 Developmental Attributes

Goal Setting - ability to set and pursue clear markers of progress  

Growth Mindset - a sense of wonder and curiosity to explore and grow

Inspiration - To be stirred and enlivened by genius, brilliance, and beauty

Values - a set of core principles that guide behavior and decision-making 

Role and Task Engagement - specific function and contribution, willingness to play part in something bigger

 Purpose - mission, calling, intention


What is Praxis?

A container or model for personal understanding, discovery, expression and expansion
  • How I understand life, sport, growth and the world around me
  • A model to express, share and engage in conversation about how I  understand life, sport, and the world around me
  • A space, and process, for others to explore, discover, develop and express their own models of understanding

Magic comes unnoticed. Space appears, and you simply emerge into your potential.   

Thats how Praxis happened. It emerged from something within when I stopped striving to understand it. I began to see space between the parts of my experience, and space led to connection - an understanding of how the parts fit together. That fit developed into a model that helped me communicate how I understood myself, life, growth and the world around me. Praxis became a container  for personal exploration, discovery, expression and expansion. Praxis is a process.With every experience, it evolves. It is molded and shaped by every conversation, interaction, and experience. 

I encourage you to explore your own model of understanding. I encourage you to connect to what is essential to you - who you are and what you want to create. Get rid of the layers and fluff of sport, and hone in on the essence of the experience. I encourage you to explore, discover, develop and express your unique and personal model of understanding.

I encourage you to let go,unfurl, and follow the path. Create space for magic.  

PRAXIS_X.jpg

Discover Within, Expand Beyond,

Rachel