Today I have a special treat! My sister, Julia, wrote a guest post. She is a professional ski racer who as had many accomplishments through out her career including racing at Sochi on the US Olympic Ski Team. However, every journey has it’s ups and downs and this year she is taking a new outlook on her career and goals. Tomorrow she kicks off her season with the first World Cup Downhill of the season at Lake Louise in Canada. Below she talks about her journey, game plan and goals.
I feel the excitement stirring in the depths of my stomach again. I haven’t felt it for a while, maybe years now. My vision was tunneled by one thing: win, win, win. With a singular focus I lost sight of why I was ski racing and where the joy actually lies. You may wonder, “Where is the joy, if it’s not in winning?”. Well, hang on to your hats ladies and gentlemen because I am about to blow your mind.
First things first. Something you should know is I am one of the most competitive people on the planet. Whether you know me or not, believe me when I say, if someone says challenge or competition, my ears perk up like a hound who has caught the scent and I’m ready for the chase. It is a part of me. I have tried to tone it down but it is a monster that can’t be tamed, so now I openly embrace it. Actually, I have not so much embraced it as I have learned how to use it in a productive manner. And when I say I have learned, I mean I am learning. Everything is a process and some days are better than others which brings me back to my binoculars with ‘win’ written on the end.
In my competitive manner, I have had the outcome so pinpointed in my mind, I lost focus on the process. I wanted to be the fastest and the best right NOW! Which, ok, don’t we all? The problem with that is I didn’t buy into the process to get there. I would become so outraged, resentful, frustrated, or worse self pitying that my emotions controlled me. It took me away from what I could control like improving my skiing, staying focused on what I need to work on to get faster and NOT just going through the motions. So when things started to go array, which, it’s a long season, at some point they will, I couldn’t grasp how to make it stop. My mind was so weighted down by the fear of losing, of not qualifying, of failing, I couldn’t think clearly. I was Atlas holding the world on my shoulders. See what I mean…. the joy was gone.
Worse, I was gone. Not literally but in the sense where I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. I am a happy person! I enjoy competition for the game, the challenge, the fun of showing what I got. I forgot about that uncontrolled, all consuming excitement that we have when we are kids playing games. And isn’t that what skiing is, just a game? Yes, it is my career and the stakes are higher, but if we look at the chalk board and erase the rest of the math, aren’t we are left with x? When we do the same with all the bullshit that surrounds ski racing, we are left with the same; the simple fact is that ski racing is a game to be enjoyed.
So I come to this, if ski racing is not just about being focused on winning, then what it is the point? Winning is the goal but it is really just an outcome; a combination of one’s hard work, dedication, and defeating adversity. It is not the only thing we should strive for. What we should seek is improvement, overcoming obstacles, and putting your whole heart into something to see what you are truly capable of. I feel no greater joy than when I have fresh air in my face, and I make the perfect turn resulting in a a sudden rush of acceleration and adrenaline… Ah, it makes me giddy thinking about it! Those things are the markings of true success. The little victories need to be celebrated just as much because they are what help get you to the end goal.
Please, don’t be misunderstood, I want to win. My goal is to kick everyone’s ass. I am just saying that this year I am choosing to focus on a the little victories along the way. Mainly, the fight to improve, the people on my team who believe in me, and the reason I pursued skiing to begin with, the unadulterated bliss and fire it lights in me. When I am so willing to put (literally) my blood, sweat, and tears into being the best possible athlete and version of myself I can be, that is victory. When I stand at the end of my season, my career, my life, winning will be standing tall and being able to say ‘I gave it everything I had.’ And no matter what ‘everything I have’ entails I will have used all the talent and work ethic I possess and that is all I can do.
I remember my first trip to Chile with the World Cup team. My body felt as though it was carbonated. I sat on the plane and bubbled over with excitement. Somewhere along the way, through the roller coaster of success, failure, injury, and management, I lost sight of that kid who sat on that airplane so thrilled to ski with the best in the world, to learn, to go fast, and to just ski. I have said many times, ‘I just want to ski.’ And this year, that is what I will do. Win or lose, I am going to ski my heart out!
Want more? Follow Julia all winter long:
Instagram: http://instagram.com/juliawfordFacebook: Julia Ford
I will also be having her post updates here on my blog so check back frequently.