If you had told me 20 years ago that my greatest life lessons would be learned while wearing lycra, I would have laughed at you. As a twenty-something high achiever in the financial planning industry, becoming a triathlete was the furthest thing from my mind. But life had other plans.
Over the next decade, my life had its fair share of twists and turns. In fact, it is here that I began to realise that adversity is a given in life. I met my husband-to-be, entered the financial planning industry and was attacked and sexually assaulted all within the same month. Although it was brutal and left me with a fractured body and heart and a mind that couldn’t rest, I was determined to get on with life, so that’s what I did.
I got married, had two amazing children and became one of the top financial planners at a major bank. I’m proud to say that I was the only female in a national team, and I was 10 years younger than anyone else. Unfortunately, at the age of 34, my marriage ended and while grappling with becoming a single mum and going through a divorce, I faced the first of several health scares – I had a heart attack and ended up in intensive care. Doctors were baffled that my heart was still beating. Again, I chose to get on with it, so that’s what I did.
But life had more in store for me. Less than two years later I was diagnosed with melanoma. Just like when I was attacked, I was determined not to let this stop me from living life, so I signed up for my first Ironman in 2014; I wanted to move forward rather than backward.
My drive to keep pushing and driving forward was in fact my way of trying to distract myself. Deep down I believed that swimming 3.8 kilometres, riding a bike for 180 kilometres and then running 42.2 kilometres would help me outrun or outswim my past.
In fact, the exact opposite happened. I had hit a point in my life where I had to face it all. During the endless hours of training, I found myself doing a lot of soul searching. I had to deal with a lot of experiences and emotions that I had kept locked away. This is how I learnt some essential life lessons – all while wearing lycra!
I decided to take these lessons I’ve learnt, which I apply to my life and business every day, and share them with the Business Chicks community.
You can only control what you can control
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you fight or how much you refuse to give up, things, like cancer, can win. That was a hard concept for me to accept. I’ve always believed that if you want something bad enough, if you work hard enough, you’ll succeed. But I realised that’s not how cancer works, and that scared me. Instead I focused on what I could control, which was training for my first ever Ironman.
Today, my philosophy in life is just get things done. Every night I write a to-do list for the next day. Then as soon as I wake, I jump out of bed and start ticking off the tasks. Usually, the first task of the day is a swim or a run. I never hit snooze on my alarm. I never let excuses, like “I’m too tired”, stop me from training. I just get it done. Of course, these things can be difficult at times, but they are entirely within my control, unlike cancer which was out of control. The lesson is you can only control what is within your control, so you might as well let go of the rest.
Follow your intuition
If you have a feeling that won’t go away, take the time to understand what said feeling could be telling you. For some people it might be recurring dreams, for others it might be getting goosebumps when talking about an idea. If you’re like me, you get butterflies in your stomach that you simply can’t ignore.
And, in my experience, it’s important to tune into those feelings. Because, by doing so, you are listening to advice from the person who knows you best — yourself.
I had this feeling when I signed up for my first Ironman and when I started my own business. I knew both would be hard, but somehow, I understood deep down that both were the right decision. More recently I had this feeling ahead of launching my Business Fitness program, a financial education course for Australian women business owners. Knowing that women in business face more financial barriers, and have less access to resources, skills, credit or capital to enable their businesses to thrive and grow, I felt compelled (obsessed even!) to help these women achieve financial freedom. When something is meant to be, you will feel it.
Never give up
To achieve success in life you must be prepared to take on the challenges and never give up.
Some of the greatest life lessons can be learnt in nature. When it comes to triathlon, you are at the mercy of two opponents — the voice inside your head and mother nature.
The waves in the ocean are like the challenges we face in life. They stand between us and success — us and the finish line. Unless you want to quit, you have no choice but to take on the waves — so that’s what you do. Slowly you make ground and, eventually, you reach that first buoy and turn to start swimming across the waves. If you hold on, if you keep persevering to that final buoy out in the ocean, then the waves that have been your worst enemy become your best friend because you ride them into shore.
If ironman competitions – and life more generally – have taught me anything, it’s that you must live it with a lot of grit, determination and passion. You must take chances and give everything your all. Adversity is a given. Courage is a choice. That’s true of business and life.
So, what courageous step can you take today?
Amanda Thompson is an award-winning financial planner, Ironwoman and the Founder and Director of Endurance Financial. Her Financially Fit Women course has been designed to give small business owners a clear understanding of how to make their organisation profitable, pay themselves what they’re worth and achieve their long-term financial goals. The course empowers participants to build confidence, overcome any limiting beliefs and develop a positive relationship with their finances, while arming them with the insights they need to take positive action in their business.
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