2017 was a great year for me. So much growth in all areas of my life. Professionally, I learned a lot about myself. Here is a sample of one of my weeks of growth….
How a crazy, busy and scary week helped me in my self discovery.
It wasn’t just another week. This was one incredibly hectic, not a minute to myself, but rewarding week. I was the sideline broadcaster for the Canada / USA soccer game, a Keynote Speaker for a large corporation, a guest of the Royal Canadian Navy and the host of TEDx Vancouver.
I often speak about how in life we all need to ‘Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable’. This is what this week was all about. Every day was different. I met many new, interesting and inspiring people and formed friendships that I know will be lasting. Much of the week would turn out to be unpredictable and presented the unexpected; yet it was so incredibly gratifying. I learned a couple things about myself.
I can trust my intuition.
I can trust that all my years of playing at the highest level as a high-performance athlete will pay out in the end.
I can trust in what I know.
Earlier in the week I watched Christopher Bennett, who is one of the best in the business, do what he does: Turning great speeches into exceptional TED speeches.
Watching someone who has mastered their art at work was exciting! I immediately started learning. I have presented many keynote speeches, but to cut a 45 minute keynote to a 12 minute Ted Talk is very difficult. In the midst of it, he turned to me and said,
“Whatever you have for your opening speech, scratch it. Google: Best Oscar Openings and that’s what I want.”
In that moment, I knew I would grow from this experience although a part of me was terrified… Growth is not always a comfortable experience. I knew this meant I would be literally living in the uncomfortable.
Thursday – Broadcast TSN: Broadcasting Canada / USA soccer game
I was part of the broadcast team for one of the biggest rival pairings in women’s soccer, Canada vs. USA. Most soccer fans recall the 2012 Olympic semi-final game where we lost in the dying seconds of the game and watched the GOLD medal slip away from us. To this day, Canadian soccer fans still talk about the questionable call that gave the Americans the free kick.
Throughout my professional career, I have played in many big matches against the Americans; they always found a way to beat us. These games already meant a bit more and today was the same. I could feel it in the air. The sold out passionate crowd hoped that on this day, the tables would finally turn. The energy in the stadium was electrifying.
Even though Canada had the momentum, the game ended in a 1-1 draw. I believe had it not been an international friendly and the game was forced into overtime, that Canada would have walked away with a win this time. It would have been a great victory for the team, and a victory for the women’s game in Canada.
Trying to wind down after a game like that is always hard. I remember as a player it would take forever for my adrenaline rush to subside, finally allowing me to fall asleep. Although it isn’t quite as intense when doing television, there is still the rush of a live event and only time will let that ease. Fortunately, an alumni event followed the game. There was no better way to wind than spending it with former teammates I had not seen in almost 18 years. What a special night that was a perfect way to end the day!
Friday morning: Keynote and 2 appearances
It was still dark out when my alarm went off at 5 am the next morning. I was headed to Whistler to give a keynote for BCAA. These are the talks that make me come alive. I get to challenge people to live and work their WHY. This time it was to a high-performing crowd. My challenge was to make them understand that even though they made the Going the Extra Mile (G.E.M.) achievement, where they stood now was not their end, but rather their beginning.
I think when it comes to success we all have to understand what our end in mind is and when we achieve it we need to do a reset.
When you reach your goal, it’s important to set new goals and aim to do more. We might wonder, if we always keep raising the bar, then when will we ever truly satisfied? Success has many different definitions, and the moment we feel we have reached the top and there is no where else to go, I believe it is time to move on. Without the resetting of goals, you will lose your drive and passion; and living continuous moments and days without drive or passion, is to me, wasting away the fortunes of life. Life is a privilege.
I looked at the men and women in my audience, some with tears, and knew that my words were truly resonating with them. After my keynote, when the CEO came on stage and shared his emotional response of his purpose in life, I knew I had accomplished my goal that day.
The follow-up conversations, where audience members shared their personal stories and struggles and showed their vulnerability to me were so powerful.
It is moments like these that I know I am exactly where I am meant to be. The intent of my speaking is to challenge people to see their own greatness and help them in their process to finding their purpose on this earth. When that is acknowledged, then their own story and struggles begin to make sense. That is what happened for me. When I realized that when I shared my struggles with my audience that I was helping others, it helped me to know that there was a purpose in my dark moments. To be able to share my story and have people respond with sharing their stories with me… that is priceless.
Another great high – feeling like I’m living my purpose.
Friday afternoon: Royal Canadian Navy
It was a quick drive back to Vancouver to join the Royal Canadian Navy on the ship.
My visit was to be a continuation of a conversation I had earlier in October, when I spent 3 days on the HMCS Regina, with the crew, on a trip from Victoria to San Francisco. That 3 day trip, where we learned all we could as we lived in the bunks and went through drills to truly understand that a day in the life aboard the ship, would have a lasting impression on me. I was eager to see some of the crew again, and when I saw them that Friday afternoon, their exuberant welcome warmed my soul. These are the men and women who spend their lives serving and protecting us. To the Royal Canadian Navy I am so grateful for the amazing lessons I learned on that ship from these remarkable human beings.
PEOPLE FIRST. MISSION ALWAYS
Our Canadian Women’s Team shifted from good to great when we all connected on something greater than ourselves. I will never forget that moment in 2011, walking off the field, broken. Our reality was that we were expected to finish amongst the top of the 16 World Cup teams, but instead, after sacrificing all that we could in that time, we finished dead last. Nine months later though, with a clear vision and purpose, we stood on the podium and watched our flag being raised at the Olympics. A dream come true.
One of the reasons I loved my sail with the Canadian Navy was that being on the ship reminded me of the amazing team environment that I was a part of every day with the national team. The Canadian navy are vision clear on their purpose and you can see every one of the 225 intelligent men and women on that ship stay aligned with the team’s WHY. My time with the Royal Canadian Navy allowed me to explore more fully, my own vision, my own purpose and my own why.
Friday evening: Cocktail Hour with TEDX speakers
I stepped out early from the Navy reception and sprinted over to the TEDx private cocktail hour which was an opportunity for me to get to meet the speakers. Each conversation helped me identify where I wanted to go with my introductions. To me it wasn’t just what they did, it was who they are. The truth is people want to know ‘why should I listen to you?’ It was my duty to answer that question and draw the audience in even before the speaker came on stage.
Saturday: Rehearsal Day TEDX
With live events, I have learned to expect the unexpected. Although this was my first TEDx event it just seemed like a lot more was going wrong than going right. The pressure of performing LIVE was intense. Nailing down introductions that would intrigue the audience while at the same time honour the speakers’ accomplishments and purpose, all within limited time, seemed at first, to be overwhelmingly difficult. 12 Speakers and 3 Performers, all with their own personalities and expectations.
I had to be ON! I knew that every time I went on stage I had to ADD. To speak about what I heard, relate it to something in that moment or a personal story, and remain authentic so the audience would stay connected to me. I had to be ON every time. Rest and quiet time would be key leading into the event. As the day went on, and some actions caused things to be pushed back, it got later and later.
By the time I got home, late on Saturday evening, I knew that I would not get the rest I wanted and needed. This would be my first big event like this and all of a sudden the negative thoughts began to consume me and before I knew it, I started to second guess myself. It was almost like everything everyone had told me NOT to do, I was doing.
My husband Jason, my assistant Stephanie, and I worked into the night making sure that the information on each speaker was properly organized and accurate. Jason, aware that I was overwhelmed stopped me in the midst of it and said,
“Stop underestimating your ability. When you get on stage, trust your intuition. That’s what you’ve always done and you’ve found success in that. Just do that and you’ll be fine. Just be your authentic self and they will love you.”
It was exactly what I needed to hear. I closed my eyes and went to bed for a few hours, trusting in the process. I knew my ‘script’ was not perfect, but I had put in the time and as I had learned through sport, on GAMEDAY you have to let go and trust. I had done the work. I had dedicated myself to what I knew best. I knew my strengths and worked on my weaknesses. I could not control the full outcome, but I could control how I performed if I just trusted in it. It was time to trust in all of it. The team, myself, the process and whatever the outcome may be, life would go on..
Sunday: TEDx Vancouver.
I heard 5 things always go wrong with live events. Before I even stepped on stage there were 2 significant glitches. It was a day of continuous change and required me and my assistant to be like chameleons: adaptable and calm. The most important thing was that the audience was oblivious to any mistakes; they felt that everything was going according to plan.
The theme for the day was Distortion. I spoke about the distorted world we live in and shared my very own distorted moment. It occurred in 2012, while I was standing on the podium, watching the flag rise and feeling so many different emotions. It was then that I had an epiphany. I would never forget that moment in my life. All my life I had dreamed of that moment, standing on the podium, and I always felt that in that moment everything would be perfect.
The truth is, in that very moment, mixed in with the tears of happiness, something inside of me said
“There is something more… There is something more”
There is a saying that goes, “Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.”
I began to question if my need to chase perfection was my strength and my weakness.
Months later, my coach John Herdman would pull me aside for a discussion that would shake things up within me. I will never forget it. We were on a trip in Brazil for a tournament and he said,
“I am going to take my coach’s hat off for a second to tell you this.
If you think your purpose on this earth is to kick a soccer ball for Canada, then I have failed you.”
I will never forget that conversation because it definitely rocked me. It made me think. It confused me.
What did he mean?
Soccer was my purpose…..
I had done it for 15 years at the international level at that time….
That conversation would lead me to search for my purpose on earth and to find the answer one of the biggest questions I think anyone can ask themselves.
WHY AM I HERE ON THIS EARTH?
That question would lead me to becoming a UNICEF ambassador which was to me, my proudest moment… even over winning a medal. It was my moment of distortion. The moment I thought would be my best moment of all time, wasn’t. Instead, because I listened to that voice within, I was able to encompass much more.
How distorted my understanding of accomplishment had been.
Today, I wanted the audience to be truly prepared for the day, during my opening remark, so I made them give me a standing ovation to acknowledge that I may be the first ever facilitator and host of a TEDx that got a standing ovation in the first 3 minutes… ha ha ha!
No, the truth was, that I wanted them to know they would be part of a special moment for every speaker. Yes we had polished speakers coming out on the stage, but we also had some novice speakers who were, for the first time, speaking in front of an audience like this, on some very personal topics which made them extremely vulnerable. In preparing the audience for the day, I gave them permission to laugh, cry, and even stand if they felt like it because in their hands, they held the power of making this moment for the speakers, one of the best moments of their lives.
Think about this. Speaking every 15-20 minutes. Closing, wrapping up, and introducing. Schedules changing. A million things going on around me. But my job was to walk on stage and act as though everything was perfect. As a host I had to be present – to listen, to engage, and to learn from every moment, on and off stage. I had to know what was going on. I was on call.
The day passed quickly. Emotions ran high. The speakers were phenomenal, vulnerable, and authentic. A middle aged woman shared her very personal story of 7 miscarriages and the challenge of becoming pregnant later in life. Through her talk, I understood the importance of sharing our stories, talking openly and being comfortable in the challenges we face.
Colin Giles reminded us to be fearless and to take risks and that failure is necessary for success.
Michael Ableman who truly lives his best self each and every day, inspired me and the audience to know the potential each of us has to make a positive difference in this world.
Caliden got us all thinking about living life in the moment, unscripted.
Bal Arneson inspired us to accept the idea that through conscious choice, we each have the power to write our own life narrative.
Cameron Herald, the CEO whisperer, emphasized the power and necessity of vision in our successes. He simplified it all by saying the corporate world has complicated everything. Being Vision Clear is the most important part, the rest will follow.
Another speaker, Maestro Fresh Wes, who transitioned from a hip hop artist to an actor and author, empowered us to think about our own second acts in life and not to be afraid to tap into new things.
Through Ginger Gosner-Myers, we became witness to the atrocities of residential schools and were given a reality check on truth and reconciliation.
Ryan Guldemond shared his view on creativity, reminding that changing our lens, allows us to look at things differently and allows for creativity and artistry.
Serinda Swan, a beautiful human being, inside and out, suggested that only when we lose our superpowers, in her case her hair, are we be able to find our true power.
When David McCann spoke, there wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre as he shared an emotional conversation about a his journey, in an effort to make amends for the mistreatment of our first peoples children who were abused by members of the Catholic Church. His efforts resulted in a 17 million dollar reconciliation agreement for abuse victims with the province of Ontario and the Catholic Church.
And the amazingly hilarious and outspoken Joely Fisher made us laugh and cry as she shared stories of growing up as a Fisher and explored the trending topic of #METoo and how it affected her growing up in Hollywood. A strong feminist, mother, author and many other accolades, she had us tuned in for the entire time.
The event ended. I stood on the stage, tears streaming down my face, as the audience gave me a standing ovation, but this time I hadn’t asked for it. This was hands down one of the most powerful moments of my career. People acknowledged and appreciated my role, my contribution. I felt, this was my first standing ovation where it wasn’t because I was the Olympian who won a medal for Canada but rather because I was Karina LeBlanc who had stories and could add to what all the speakers brought to the day. Someone came up to me and said, “Oh my gosh, I totally forgot you were an Olympian!” This was huge for my transition, my evolution in letting go of my past and not allowing my past to define me but trusting in my future.
What I learned from my crazy, busy and scary week is that my years of playing sport and being comfortable with the pressure of performing has helped me in life and shaped me into the person I am today. In spite of the stress, I felt alive and at home the minute I stepped on the stage in the theatre. I trusted myself that no matter what was going to happen that day I could rise to the occasion.