Overcoming Barriers to Achieve Your Dreams with Olympic Gold Medallist, Alisa Camplin–Warner – Your Dream Life Podcast Episode 6
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A FULL TRANSCRIPT OF KRISTINA KARLSSON’S CONVERSATION WITH ALISA CAMPLIN-WARNER LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE TO THE INSPIRING AUDIO PODCAST HERE>
Kristina: 00:00:04 What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail, if you had all the money, all the time, all the knowledge, all the resources that you needed? What would you do with your life if you simply knew that anything was possible for you? My name is Kristina Karlsson, founder of global Swedish design and stationery brand, kikki.K, and author of the book, Your Dream Life Starts Here. I love exploring these sorts of questions to inspire people to dream. Before I started kikki.K, I had a dream that I could bring Swedish design to the world to create beautiful products that bring sparks of joy into the everyday lives of millions.
Kristina: 00:00:48 Now that I have achieved that dream, I want to help you dream big. I want to create a global movement to inspire 101 million dreamers to transform their lives and transform the world in return. Each episode, I’ll be talking to some of the world’s most inspiring people, exploring the powerful impact that dreaming has had on their lives. We’ll be diving deep into the power of dreaming with real insights and ideas that you can use immediately to build a dream life of your own, whatever that means for you. You are going to love having a front row seat on this conversation with Winter Olympic Gold Medallist, Alisa Camplin Warner. Alisa’s story of how she followed her dreams and, one, what is likely one of the most remarkable Olympic gold medals of all time is so inspiring. It contains so many practical pearls of wisdom and learnings you can apply to chasing your own dreams, no matter how big or small. Alisa had always dreamed of being an Olympian with a real hunger to make it happen, but by the age of 18, in her words, she still hadn’t found her sport. That is until one day, she simply decided she would be an Olympic aerial skier, you know, the ones who ski down a really steep slope, hit a massive, big jump and spin and twist impossibly up to six meters up into the air before landing flawlessly on another steep slope. Her first challenge, she just needed to learn how to ski.
Kristina: 00:02:35 Alisa set herself an eight-year dream and against massive odds achieved it, famously winning gold after landing a triple twisting double somersault at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, just six weeks after breaking bones in both of her ankles. In a lesser known story, four years later, Alisa then overcome huge expectations, personal doubt and unimaginable pressure to win bronze at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, just four months after her second major knee reconstruction.
Kristina: 00:03:12 Now, a motivational speaker, professional senior leader and television host, Alisa is also the deputy chair of the Australian Sports Commission and was the performance manager for Australia’s 2018 Olympic Winter Games team. A perfect example how inner strength, positive attitude, self belief and just taking one step at a time can set you on the path to achieving your dreams. Alisa defied all odds in her Olympic career using mindfulness, visualisation and mentors to push through every physical, emotional and mental setbacks she was faced with. You will also find her experience with career transition after her skiing career fascinating. A true hero and a good friend of mine. I can’t wait for you to hear and learn from her amazing story of chasing dream after dream. Let’s get started.
Kristina: 00:04:11 Well, Alisa, welcome to the Dream Life Podcast. I am so excited to have you, and I’m so grateful to be able to share your story both here but also in my book, Your Dream Life Starts Here. I have read your story and, obviously, I’ve heard your story through you a lot of times, but every single time I read it into the book, I just feel so inspired. When I feel something is impossible if I read your story, I think everything is possible. Before we dive in, I’d like to ask you if you had any dreams as a child before we get into your story.
Alisa: 00:04:47 Oh Wow. Okay. We’re going a long way back. That’s cool. Well, listen. I grew up in a street in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne that was full of children. It was one of the traditional cul- de-sacs and all the parents would come out on the street in the afternoon and all the children would play. I was the oldest of three girls, and there were 16 boys in our street. I grew up mainly around boys, and so there was a lot of sport, cricket, football. We were playing all sorts of games in the street like hide and seek and things like that. It was a fairly sporty and competitive and fast paced street I guess you could say I grew up in.
Alisa: 00:05:29 My first dreams were to beat the boys or keep up with the boys at least. I don’t know whether it was just riding bikes around the street or running races or who could throw rocks the furthest. I just wanted to be a part of the clique. Once I could see that I could keep up, then I wanted to beat them at things. I think that’s where some of my early dreams started. I then joined sports clubs with some of the boys in the street. My younger sisters both did ballet, and that wasn’t my thing, so I started little athletics with the other boys. I’ve been going to running races every weekend, and I wanted to win the next race, and sometimes I would win the girls’ races very easily. The organizers would put me in some of the boys’ races, and so then it became the challenge to not finish last or to then try to finish first.
Alisa: 00:06:25 There was constantly things from getting involved in stuff in my local community that gave me these small, little things that I was always trying to achieve. The more I got involved in different sports, my family would encourage me, and we would watch sport on TV or we would go to sporting events. We would watch Commonwealth Games or Olympic Games. I even remember my parents taking my sisters and I to see things like the Russian Ballet or the World Table Tennis Championships or the Australia Games at the athletics where they had major athletic competitions in Melbourne, just so that my sisters and I could see people who were the best at what they did, and so we could admire people who are masters of what they did and to see the competition and to be part of the crowd and the cheering and to watch people.
Alisa: 00:07:20 I think my parents really fostered this idea of thinking that you could be great one day at something and exposing us to different types of sports or cultures or events where we could perhaps think, well, perhaps that could be me one day. By watching the Olympic Games and growing up in Australia where sport was a really big part of our lifestyle, that then made me think, well, wow. I would love to go to the Olympics one day. The more sports that I did and the older I grew and the more things that I started to win as a junior athlete, I just kept thinking, well, maybe I could go to the Olympics one day.
Alisa: 00:07:57 Yeah, I think that’s where it all started for me. There were just constant quests and dreams and desires. Even if it was trying to climb the highest tree in the street, there was always something new. I think by being in an environment where there was lots of kids and my parents showing us what was possible, I just kept thinking that the world was unlimited. I had this limitless ability to try things in my life.
Kristina: 00:08:24 That is so inspiring. I love you to continue on with actually sharing your story, the whole Olympic, amazing, incredibly inspiring story in your own words.
Alisa: 00:08:33 Sure. As I said, I was a very sporty kid, and I had caught the Olympic dream very young. I remember being as young as five and watching Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games and thinking, wow, I want to go to the Olympics one day. I did track and field as a younger athlete, but when I was 12, I started to develop problems with my ankles and so I was having a few issues, and I had to take some time out of sport. That was at the time that I moved into high school, and my high school had an amazing gymnastics program. On my very first day at school, I saw a gymnastics performance, and I saw people doing back flips and I thought, wow, I want to learn that. I said to my mom, “I want to join the gym program.” Because I had been in track and field, I had really strong legs, and so the gymnastics teacher grabbed me and put me into an accelerated program. Before I knew it, I was training morning and night, and gymnastics was my big dream. I got really good at gymnastics, but I was also a little bit old and missed the boat to potentially pursue gymnastics as an Olympic dream, but I loved it and I was passionate about it. I kept doing it. There was this constant quest of tricks and skills and things that I could learn. I’m not going to say it was easy in gymnastics because I was naturally good at all the power things, but the things that took skill and technique took me longer to learn. I really had to learn how to persevere with things and to keep sticking with things that I wasn’t good at and to try and fail and try and fail and keep going.
Alisa: 00:10:05 I moved through the ranks at gymnastics, but I actually hit a pretty big barrier in that I’ve got some stress fractures in my lower back, and that put me really out of the sport. I was 16, and I had won state medals, and I was bitterly disappointed. I had to take time out from my back to heal. In the meantime, my sisters were playing junior field hockey, and I thought, all right, well, maybe I’ll play field hockey for a while, but that didn’t work out for me. I had a good girlfriend who was sailing at a national level. She asked me if I would crew her boat for her. I spent a year sailing and thinking, oh, maybe we could be sailors, but at the time, sailing didn’t have female categories at the Olympic Games. I ended up coming back to track and field when I was in my final year of school, so about 18. Sydney was announced as the host nation for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. My old track and field coach rang me up and said, “Listen. Come back to track and field. I reckon you’ve got a shot at trying to qualify for the marathon for the Sydney Olympics.” I thought that’s it. That’s going to be my last chance to pursue an Olympic dream. I got going. I was training really hard. Things were going really well. I had a training group. Half marathon times were looking very promising, but I really wasn’t loving long-distance running. I found it very lonely, and the training felt like work. Even now, I’m still applying myself to it because I really, really, really wanted to get to the Olympics. It just wasn’t lighting my fire.
Alisa: 00:11:46 It was ironic because it was that time that I saw an Australian woman, Kirstie Marshall go the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in the aerial skiing, and that was a lady called Kirstie Marshall, and she qualified in first place for the women’s aerial skiing final. I remember watching her compete that day and thinking, wow, in this country, in Australia, we actually really know how to do this sport. She was number one in the world. She could very well have won the Olympic medal on that day. Whilst it didn’t work out and go perfectly for her, it made me really think, wow, actually, we know how to get people into the start gate and capable of winning in this sport. I thought, well, I used to be a gymnast. Maybe if I just learned how to ski, this could happen for me.
Kristina: 00:12:33 I love that.
Alisa: 00:12:34 I know. It sounds like I was clutching at straws in the beginning, but in my mind, I thought, well, we must have coaches, and we must have this whole system in winter sport that can teach people how to do this. I’ve just got to find those people. I really desperately still wanted to go to the Olympics, and I knew because of the gymnastics and my ability to compete well and my ability to persevere through hardship that if I could maybe just speak to these people, maybe it was possible that I could transfer from marathon running to Winter Olympics. I just thought, what have I got to lose?
Alisa: 00:13:15 It was actually then a few serendipitous things that happened. I actually went along to a ski show where the local freestyle skiing team from Mt. Buller was doing a jump on the trampoline day, and I met some people from the ski team there. I actually bumped into Jacqui Cooper who was also one of Australia’s early successful aerial skiers, and she was really encouraging about convincing me to try.
Alisa: 00:13:41 I met a guy called Geoff Lipshut, who really was the guy that created aerial skiing in Australia as a program, and he then created the whole of those winter sport programs in Australia. I sat down with him and I said, “Listen. I would like to go to the Olympics as an aerial skier. Would this be possible? How would it work?” We sat down and we built this goal plan together and said, “Well, Kirstie Marshall, she’s the number one in the world. What makes her able to be great? How did she get there? How good a skier is she? How good an acrobat is she? How strong is she? What does she do in the gym? We talked through all the different things, and he was very interested in sharing the sport with me, and he could see that I was really serious. We shook hands and made an agreement. If I signed up to learn how to ski at Mt. Buller as my commitment to trying to get into the sport, he would then help with some coaching of doing my first somersault into the water, which is water jumping, and that’s how acrobatic winter athletes train in the summer season. That would be a full-year commitment for me doing a winter and then a summer training. If at the end of the year I had shown full commitment and I had achieved these small, little things, he would then help me to pursue the sport as far as I could possibly go. I found someone that was willing to help foster young development and get more people in the sport and somebody who’s very knowledgeable about what it took to become number one in the world because he had helped Kirstie Marshall, and that was enough to make me think that it was all possible.
Alisa:00:15:22 I signed up to learn how to ski. From there, I just fell into the system. It’s like one thing after the next. There was the next short-term goal, and I would chase it and tick it off. I had eight years to get myself through the ranks. It sounds like I’m blowing through a number of years, but obviously, I had to learn how to ski, and that was a big commitment, driving to the mountains every week. I was at university, and I then had to take up some part-time jobs in order to pay for the skiing and the accommodation and the lift tickets and all of that. I learned to ski, and I thought, oh, this is cool. I love it. I want to learn how to do the jumps next. I moved into the summer training, and I learned how to do jumps into the water. I thought, now, I’ve got to be able to show I can do it on snow.
Alisa: 00:16:09 I was new to skiing, and I sat down every year with the coaches and with that guy that had helped me in the beginning, who was becoming a mentor for me. Each year, we would set new goals. Eventually, I joined the Australian Development Ski Team, and I took my first trip overseas, which was actually ironic. I went to Sweden for my very first time outside of Australia. We went to a little mountain called Hundfjället where all I did was just do jumps, after jumps, after jumps, and there was a lot of smashes and a lot of accidents and a few concussions and a lot of bruises, but that’s where I put in the hours of hard work and lots and lots and lots of jumps, trying to perfect my take off and try to learn how to land.
Alisa:00:16:59 I’ve built momentum year, after year, after year. Eventually, I joined the national team program as a junior athlete, and I became a team member to Jacqui Cooper and to Kirstie Marshall, who were number one and two in the world, so there was an amazing role models in my team. Both of them were very hard workers, and Jacqui Cooper particularly was pushing the boundaries of the sport to doing triple somersaults. I knew that if I was going to even have any chance of catching up to them, I would have to work twice as hard in the gym and on the trampoline and doing numbers of jumps every single day. I just kept working hard and making progress and, yeah, there were setbacks along the way like injuries and things like that, but every year, I would make great improvements and my world ranking would improve, and the degree of difficulty of jumps that I was doing would improve.
Alisa: 00:17:58 I would be able to smell that the opportunity to get to the Olympics was getting closer and closer and closer. Eventually, as I got closer and closer to the Olympics, my world ranking was moving. I was 30th and then I was 15th and then I was seventh, and I qualified for my first world championships in 1999 in Switzerland, and I finished in seventh place. I earned some funding and some scholarship support money, which meant that I could do more camps and more training. My original dream had just to being able to represent my country at the Olympics, and then all of a sudden, it was looking like I might actually be able to do jumps that would put me in a group that could rival for a medal.
Alisa: 00:18:44 With two years out to go to the Olympics, I was starting to be able to hit the podium, and all of a sudden, it looked possible that a medal would be in my reach at the Olympic Games. The next week, I would fall on both of my jumps and end up finishing almost last. I was very perplexed by my inconsistency and how I could sometimes be great and sometimes then not have my best when I really needed it. That’s when I realized that I actually needed to also go and get a sport psychologist to help me because actually, the inconsistency was coming from a lack of mental preparation, my inability to perform at my best when I needed it. That was also actually in training. I was very inconsistent in training as well.
Alisa: 00:19:36 About 12 months before the Olympics, I had this big epiphany that I was really prepared in some areas, my physical strength and my degree of difficulty but really under-prepared in other areas. That meant that I actually needed to go and find additional resources outside of what the national team program was providing. That meant finding more money and a little bit of courage to go and seek the resources that I needed. I was very fortunate to find a wonderful sport psychologist, and I also went out … Also, the sport was changing a little bit at the time. I needed to actually recognize that there were some really big environmental factors happening, and the technical way that the sport was changing meant I also needed to go and find a different technical coach to help me with some of the technique I was using.
Alisa: 00:20:25 Once I found those two people the last 12 months before the Olympics, it was a very, very exciting and transformational year for me. My training started to become more consistent in the way that I performed once I got my mental skills underway, and the technique then was embedding more quickly, and all of a sudden, I was starting to look like I was a real contender for the Olympics. I actually had to then learn how to deal with the expectations for myself that I had in the last World Cup events and the buildup to the Olympics because all of a sudden, my dream getting to the Olympics turned into a dream of actually getting a medal at the Olympics. I didn’t want to go into the Olympics very overwhelmed.
Alisa: 00:21:07 I had wanted to go to the Olympics pretty much since I was five, and then I’m 27, the Olympics is on my doorstep. It was a real combination between getting a physical preparation, the mental preparation, and the emotional preparation right such that when I got to the Olympics that I’d actually be capable of performing at my very best. I know this is a long story, but I’m wrapping eights years I guess of dreaming into actuality.
Alisa: 00:21:36 The last few weeks before the Olympics, I did some competitions, and we used them as a rehearsal for the Olympics. It was two back-to-back competitions. On the first day, we used that to pretend it was like a semifinal for the Olympics. I actually won that competition. I remember speaking to my sport psychologist that night and saying, “Wow. I feel a little bit nervous.” She’s like, “Okay. Tomorrow, we’re going to go out and treat this like the final.” She said, “You shouldn’t feel nervous.” It was the first time I had ever actually won a competition. I had some random second and third places, but first time I had won. It wasn’t a World Cup competition, but nearly everybody in the world except for the Chinese were at the competition, so it was a very strong field, and it was a good indication that my degree of difficulty was going to be rewarded by the judges and that I could land those jumps when I needed to.
Alisa: 00:22:28 That was a confidence boost, but it also made me nervous. Well, my dream is actually really, really becoming possible here. She said to me, “You need to understand that you’ve worked very hard for this, and this is actually what does happen when you put in the hard work. The good things follow, and you need to trust in that, and you need to be prepared to accept the rewards of your work.” I think that was very calming for me. She said, “The next day, you need to go out, and don’t think about trying to win again. You just need to focus on the process of doing all the little things like you did today, like you do every other day in training. It’s no different. Just concentrate on all the little things that would lead to doing two good jumps, and that’s all you have to worry about. Just focus on what you can control.”
Alisa: 00:23:13 The next day, I went out in this competition, and I actually won the competition, the second competition. Yeah, that was a huge turning point for me. It was maybe a coming of age for me, realizing that I was ready, I was ready to show the world and to just trust that I had what it took. It’s ironic because the next competition after the Christmas break, that six weeks before the Olympics, I had an accident, and I cracked both of my ankles. I had little micro fractures in both of my feet, and so I wasn’t able to compete for the next few weeks leading into the Olympics.
Alisa: 00:23:52 At first, I was quite shattered because I thought, well, now my dream is all gone. What am I going to do? I cried and I cried and I cried. My sport psych, she said to me, “Okay, have we finished with the pity party now? Because just sitting on the couch crying and wondering what if and giving up, that’s not going to help. Can we get down to the gym and let’s get on the bike? Spin a few laps without the tears, and then we can get along to visualising because over the next week, six weeks, you need to be mentally prepared that when your ankles are ready that you’ll be back and you’ve lost no time.” It’s ironic because I could have easily just thought it was all over and given up. Whereas, instead, by shifting my attitude and realizing, well, now I can visualise every day the perfect preparation for the Olympics. I can be just as ready. I worked super hard in the gym. Every day when my teammates and my competitors would go out and trained for the Olympics, I would put on all my ski uniform and lie on my bed and I would visualise. In the morning, I would visualise just perfect technique and execution of my jumps. I would go and have lunch with my teammates. In the afternoon when they would go to the gym or training, extra training, I would then go back and put on my ski suit and I would do a second training session, and I would visualise training in all sorts of bad weather or having a bad take off and then saving the jump or having a wobble on the first jump and having to do an amazing second jump to get a higher score so that I could still make it through, and all scenarios and variable visualisations.
Alisa: 00:25:33 I would go out on the weekends, and I would watch the competitions that I couldn’t compete in because I was still injured. I watched all my competitors. By being a student of the game and just watching, I learned a few things, and that was that nobody was perfect. I also watched some athletes have great competitions, and then other people have a fall, and they were all having this really rollercoaster journey towards the Olympics and they’re all getting super excited and super disappointed and flip flopping around on their confidence. Whereas, because I was injured, all I could do was just have this really visual controlled mindset about how I was going into things. My sport psych said to me, “You’re really lucky because you got injured six weeks before the Olympics, and that’s as long as it takes for a bone to heal. These other people that are having injuries now, they’re going to miss out. How lucky are we? We’re in the best position possible, and they’re all having this up and down experience going to the Olympics where we’re having this perfect mental preparation.”
Alisa: 00:26:33 I actually was able to turn my injury into a really significant strength. When my ankles were just good enough to start training in the last few days before the Olympics, I actually did some really, really, really good jumps. I surprised myself actually. It just goes to show how strong the mind can be. Finally, one of my competitors said to me, “Wow, Alisa. That’s one of the best jumps I’ve ever seen you do. It’s like you’ve never been anywhere and all of a sudden, all that injury went away.” I just found this inner calm that actually I had this really great preparation. Those competitions that I won eight weeks ago, that was enough evidence that I was ready. My jumps have gone nowhere. My mind is strong. My body is now strong and I’m ready.
Alisa: 00:27:22 When we moved on to the actual Olympic venue, I just had some of the most beautiful training I’ve ever had, and I just kept everything really calm. Every day, I went home and I just did some mindfulness things like drawing and relaxing and meditating and stretching and just tried to keep the lid on everything, keep it very calm. I’d go out and I’d train. I had great training. The day of the semifinal, I qualified in second position. It was actually the day that Steven Bradbury had won Australia’s first ever Olympic gold medal in the short tracks. That was a huge day for our country.
Alisa: 00:28:00 I’d qualified in second, and I knew that I just had to be really believing in myself. My coach said to me, “Do you want to train the day between the semifinal and the final?” I thought about it, and I thought, do I need more evidence that I’m ready? Do I really need to go out and train, or would I be better just letting myself rest and trusting that by energizing myself that I’ll probably be better for the final? That was a real decision point. Do I believe in myself, or do I train and maybe get myself tired and more beaten up? And I said to my coach, “You know what, I think I’m ready.”
Alisa: 00:28:41 I just had a really relaxing day and went out, had a nice early night, got all my stuff ready, got all organized the night before, followed all my routines, woke up, had my normal breakfast, did my normal warmup. I remember leaving the house to go out for the Olympic final, and I was putting sunscreen on my face, and I was standing at the door. My coach had the door open. He was holding onto my skis. As I put the sunscreen on my face, I thought, do you know what, there’s not a single thing I could be doing, I could have done to be more ready for this day. I trained hard every day. I never cut corners. I never cheated. I never did less jumps. I never did less sit-ups. I did everything I possibly could. I listened to every piece of advice. I went to bed. I did all the running. I did everything, and it doesn’t matter what happens today, I know that for the rest of my life, I can live with myself. I did everything possible to make this the best day.
Alisa: 00:29:41 I walked out of the door with my coach, and I went and I had a wonderful training. I just did one jump at a time. I stayed in the moment. As it turned out, I did two of my best jumps, and that was enough to win an Olympic gold medal. It’s crazy, because I’m so calm about it now, but it was all just prepare, prepare, prepare, believe, believe, work hard, work hard, listen to my team, my coaches. And then the minute I landed that jump, I was like, “Wow, I’ve never thought about what it would be like to be in this part of my life,” because every single part of my life for eight years was about that moment in time. It’s funny, because I landed the jump, and there was just this absolute relief. I screamed of joy, and the crowd, and there was so much noise.
Alisa: 00:30:31 And then when they announced that I won the Olympic gold medal, I just was so shocked. I knew it was possible. I knew the two jumps I was going to do, if I landed them, I would maybe get a medal. It was just dependent, all I could control was my jumps. Who else was going to do whatever on the day, who knew? But what I did was good enough to win. I just was so excited and so astounded and so relieved and so satisfied, it was the most unbelievable moment. I can’t even really use words to describe it, but it’s taken me 10 minutes to explain how it all went down, I suppose. But yeah, it was probably one of the greatest things of my life. I’ll forever be grateful.
Kristina: 00:31:16 I mean, it’s just so inspiring, and every time I hear it, it just makes me cry. It’s just so beautiful and so inspiring. Tell me, just after you’d done the jump, did you think ” I’m done now,” or did you feel like this has got you more inspired to do more?
Alisa: 00:31:35 It’s really funny, because that was sort of the first time I’d ever won a significant competition, and of course it’s the Olympics, so it’s the epitome of sport. The best in the best are at the games that day, and I won, and I was like, “Oh my God, I cannot believe that I won.” And then the minute I won, it sort of took me back to my childhood when I’d watched people win Olympics. I thought, “Holy moly, this can’t be it. I can’t have the world think that I came, I won, and I left. I can’t be a one-hit wonder. Now I need to win more.” I’d worked so hard to be the best in the world, and I thought, “Well, I don’t want it to just be for one day, I want this to be for more.” I also wanted to know what more was inside me and how good I could be.
Alisa: 00:32:23 So all of a sudden, I’d won and I’d achieved my dream, and inside of me became the next dream. What more could I do? I decided almost subconsciously that I wanted to win the World Championships the following year, so that I could imprint myself on the sport and that generation of the sport. I wanted to go on and win more events and be dominant for a period of time, because I think I realized I’d watched a lot of Australian athletes in many other sports. I always thought I would be a summer athlete, and I’d watched Summer Olympians in my country and aspired to be just like them. Between Steven Bradbury and myself winning those two gold medals within sort of 36 hours of each other, all of a sudden Australia had become aware of winter sport in our country. I wanted to show Australians, and young Australians particularly, that winter sport was an option where we could be competitive on the global stage. I thought, you know what, I need to win more competitions, and I need to show young kids that they could be just in this position too.
Alisa: 00:33:35 The next year I went on, and I realized actually it wasn’t as simple as I thought. You know, I had come in under the radar into the Olympic Games, and no one really knew much about me. Jacqui Cooper was the previous World Champion for our country, and then Kirstie Marshall before her, and no one had really seen me much. I wanted to be able to show people that I could consistently fly the flag for our country. Being the Olympic champion then meant that everyone was trying to beat me, and I had never been in that position before. I found that that was quite difficult. That gave me some new goals, which was trying to win from the front.
Alisa: 00:34:19 I probably made myself a bit sick trying to keep winning. I got away from many of the holistic things that had been, I guess, my secret weapons in going into the Olympics. You know, trying to be nice and calm and focusing on the process and not worrying about outcomes, just thinking about all the things I could control to execute my jumps. So I kind of almost had to relearn how to do it properly and to take the pressure off myself and not worry about media and expectations.
Alisa: 00:34:47 So whilst I did win the World Championships the next year, it kind of came at a cost, and it wasn’t as fun anymore. That then presented me sort of the next goal, which was I need to learn how to win and still enjoy what I’m doing. That sort of took me into another year of skiing, and I won more consistently, and I had more fun, and I felt that I was able to then be a better role model to the next generation of athletes, how to be a little bit less stressed and to take pleasure in being grateful for being world number one, and being more mindful and actually enjoying the privilege of what I got to do every day. That was the next level of learning and growing and maturity for me as an elite athlete.
Alisa: 00:35:35 And so it’s funny, you know, like you said what’s next? In some ways I didn’t have to find what’s next, what’s next found me. I then kind of got to another major decision point, which was for me, I got halfway between two Olympics, and I’d won a lot of World Cup competitions. I was the world number one two years in a row. I was the World Champion. I was the Olympic champion. There wasn’t a huge amount left for me in this sport to sort of win, so it wasn’t really about any external things anymore. I’d learned how to compete and to win in a way that I was able to respect myself, where I took the pressure off and I was calmer, I was less stressed, I was having more fun.
Alisa: 00:36:20 So I was sort of like, well what am I still doing here? But it’s funny, because when I thought about maybe retiring at that point, I realized that the only thing left would have been to try to defend my Olympic title. I kind of thought, well if I walk away at this point, would I ever wonder if … well, I didn’t really care about winning again. It wasn’t so much about could I have won a second Olympic medal, it was more about wondering if I would have left the sport because it was easier to leave than to try to defend. I know that’s a little bit a of a flip, but part of me thought, well am I running away from a fear of failure by actually retiring right now, going out on a high? Rather than sort of trying to defend an Olympic title, which no one had won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in our sport, and actually nobody still has.
Alisa: 00:37:12 At that point I realized, I actually will respect myself more for trying and maybe failing than actually walking away and never knowing if I was leaving just because it was easy to leave right now. It was at that point where I decided I would try and defend my Olympic title, and at least if it didn’t work out, I would forever respect myself for having the backbone and the strength to just see how good I possibly could be, even if that meant never amounting to anything more at Olympic level.
Alisa: 00:37:46 Then I decided quite quickly, well I don’t want to go to a second Olympics and try to win with exactly the same thing I won last time. Really, it was my job then to push the bounds of the sport, which I had seen Jacqui Cooper do with complicated triple somersaults, and I wanted to do complicated double somersaults. At Salt Lake City, I won with two different versions of a triple-twisting double somersault, so I thought, well when I go on to the Torino Olympics, I want to try and do four twists in two somersaults, which no woman had ever done at the time. I tried to do that, and then unfortunately, I blew my knee out and I needed a reconstruction of my knee, which meant that I missed the entire winter and the opportunity to defend my World Championships. People said to me, “Well, you could retire now, because you’ve kind of got a good excuse.” But then I thought, well an excuse is nice for everybody else, but I’ve gotta fix my knee, so I may as well fix it. And then I thought, well I don’t want to die wondering.
Alisa: 00:38:45 So I fixed my knee, I came back, and I qualified in a competition at Mount Buller to try to actually get back for the Olympics. Then I went back and I had a couple more months of training on the water before the Olympics. My triple-twisting double somersaults came back quite quickly, because I did a lot of visualising when I was injured. I learned how important visualisation was in the build-up to Salt Lake City, and that meant that I didn’t fall too far behind when I blew my knee out.
Alisa: 00:39:15 But I did get very, very afraid. I got really scared, in a similar way to anyone that would stand at the top of the in-run of an aerial skiing jump and go, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to go off that.” Yeah, I got really afraid. I don’t know why. I didn’t expect that. I did a lot of visualisations of jumps, and I did a lot of physical rehab to get through my first knee reconstruction, and it was a very, very lonely and isolating time, actually. And it was probably one of the lowest points that I got mentally, but I got myself back physically, just by using short-term physical goals.
Alisa: 00:39:47 But it’s funny, when I came back, I actually stood at the top of the in-run and thought, I don’t really want to do this. Why am I here? It’s funny, because then I saw this really young American girl, and she just skied down right in front of me and stood at the top of the jump site and jumped in line, and I thought, oh my gosh, Alisa, if that young girl can get herself off the jump, then you get your butt down there and you damn well find yourself some strength and get yourself there. I really had to push through a fear barrier for the first time at that point. Once I got over that hurdle, I had a few more months left, and I thought, well I’m ready again, so what am I going to do? Am I going to go to the Olympics with those triple-twisting double somersaults, or should I try those four twists again?
Alisa: 00:40:33 I knew I didn’t want to blow my knee again, so instead of doing the four twists the same way, I thought, well I’ll use a different variety. I tried a different version of a quad-twisting double somersault, and it was going okay, but on the very last jumping day, at the end of the summer training before the Olympics, I actually blew my knee out again. Yeah, it’s funny, my coach actually said to me, “You know what, I think this is a sign. You’re never going to get back in time. You should just retire.”
Alisa: 00:41:03 One of my teammates, who I’ve got a huge amount of respect for, Lydia Lassila, she had blown a knee and used a cadaver graft to try and come back really quickly, and not to do the traditional knee reconstruction. And so I thought, well you know what, I’m going to give that a shot, because I’m not sitting on the couch and watching some person I could beat with my eyes closed get a bronze medal, and just wondering for the rest of my life could I have got back? I would rather try and fail.
Alisa: 00:41:32 And so I went off, and I had a cadaver surgery, and 56 days later, I stepped out for my very first day back on the skis, which is incredibly fast. There was a lot of risk in it, but I passed all my physical tests, and I had all these goals I needed to hit every week. I had nothing to lose, and I just thought, stuff it, I’m going to give this a shot. I just kept making progress, and I did some jumps, and then I got on the plane and I went away, and I did some skiing.
Alisa: 00:42:03 My very first training was at a World Cup competition. I had three days of training on the competition, and one of them got canceled for bad weather. I did a couple of jumps, and then ended up my second day back on skis. And this is, of course, after missing the season prior with my first knee reconstruction. I did a pretty simple jump, but I did it so well in the competition that I actually made it though to the second round, which we didn’t expect.
Alisa: 00:42:29 So I had to come out in the second round of the competition and do a jump I hadn’t done in two years. I did it, I did it pretty well, and I think I finished, I want to say in sixth place, which gave me a second qualification for the Olympics. The next week was the last cutoff point for the Olympics, and I need to get a second qualification, and I was able to do that. I think I had like nine days of training before the Torino Olympics, and I guess to cut a long story short, the Torino Olympics, no one expected me to be there. Even one of our doctors said, “If Alisa makes it, that would be like a miracle, but no one should expect her to be competitive.”
Alisa: 00:43:08 I thought, hang on a minute, don’t you underestimate me. I made it through to the final, and the day of the final was the most horrendous weather. Everyone around me, all my competitors were freaking out, and I don’t know if it’s because I already had an Olympic gold medal or because I’d spent so many times training in bad weather and pushing my boundaries or visualising all sorts of different scenarios, but I was just so calm. And I thought, you know what, I’ve got nothing to lose. These difficult circumstances mean that all that extra training people did that I didn’t get to do, that’s equalized us now. These bad conditions, the person that adapts best will do well. And I thought, bring on the bad conditions. I love that this is hard, and that just makes everyone else’s life hard, and I’m going to love it.
Alisa: 00:43:57 I did two great jumps, and I came away with a bronze medal. I’ve got to say, that bronze medal was probably the most satisfying thing ever. It was just as beautiful as the gold. It was so hard to get, and whilst no one else really cares about that bronze medal, it’s really special for me, because it was a very difficult four years in so many ways. I had to learn so much, I had to find so much backbone and inner strength. I kind of know that I appreciate it, but it’s not until I just talked you through that I actually realize. I never dreamed to get a second medal. I just wanted to not die wondering what was possible and to see what my best could possibly be. I discovered more about myself in that quest to defend my Olympic medal than perhaps I did in winning the first one.
Kristina: 00:44:51 I mean, it’s just an extraordinary story. I’m so grateful for you sharing it. Congratulations on that eight years of absolutely not giving up. I’d love to dig a little bit deeper on the visualisation, because that was very, I think, important to you, obviously. I’d love to share with our listeners how you do that.
Alisa: 00:45:13 Yeah, sure. And thanks for being patient with my long story. Eight years to get to the first Olympics, 12 years to get to the second, and that was my whole career, from start to finish. So hard to put into short words and short sentences.
Kristina: 00:45:28 No, I love it. I could go on for hours. I mean, it’s just so extraordinary, I just feel like this will be so inspiring for our listeners, because I think what you went through, it was just so difficult and against all odds. And what you achieved is just … yeah, just remarkable. There’s just not any other word to say it, so I love it. I thank you so much for sharing. It’s such a great-
Alisa: 00:45:48 No, that’s very generous of you. I did feel like a bit of a guinea pig a lot of the time. You know, I watched the men a lot for inspiration, and my sports psychologist, she was very valuable too. And she was the one that introduced me to visualisation. She actually taught me that visualisation was a skill that you need to commit to. First of all, I had to learn how to get myself into the right mental frame for visualisation to be effective. I guess the effort it took to become good at visualising, I needed to understand the value I was going to get from it. First of all, you can only do maybe 30 to 40 jumps on water per day. You can maybe do 50 jumps on a trampoline. You could probably do 20 jumps on snow. That’s about as much as you can do.
Alisa: 00:46:41 So how can you get an advantage over your competitors? Well, that is to visualise doing extra jumps. You can get more repetition, more numbers. You can also visualise all sorts of different scenarios that maybe haven’t eventuated in real life, but if you visualise them first, when they do eventualize, it’s like you’ve been there before, and you’ve practiced how you’re going to respond, and so you’re emotionally more calm and you’re more practical and you’re more ready. And that might mean that you have a competitive advantage over your competitors.
Alisa: 00:47:10 For me, being able to visualise a lot of perfect jumps meant that I could do more training in different ways, training smart, perhaps, not just physically hard. But it also meant that I could visualise training in different ways that might give me a competitive advantage later if different scenarios, like the bad weather in the Torino Olympics, actually eventuated. Once I knew that there was a real advantage in being really good at visualisation, it made me commit to the practice of learning how to be great at it. First of all, I had to learn how to use relaxation techniques to get my mind into a really clear place, and that was just using things like deep breathing and capturing my thoughts when my mind wandered, and just centering back to my breathing. A lot of mindfulness and meditation practice teaches you the same thing. I would do either a breathing program or just letting different body parts, sort of working from my head to my toes, just breathe in and think about my head and let my head relax on the breathe out. And then I’d breathe in and think about my shoulders and let my shoulders relax. And then my arms and my mouth and then my tummy and my legs.
Alisa: 00:48:18 That would sort of take me through a step-by-step process of getting myself in the right relaxed frame to visualise. Then the visualisation itself, people visualise sport in different ways. They can visualise either like a video camera, like you’re watching yourself in the third person. Or you can do it in the first person, so it’s like you’re doing it in real life. For me, I would do it in the first person, in real life, and I would try to do it really in slow time, in half time. For an aerial skiing jump, for example, I would visualise myself skiing down into the jump, going up the jump, and I would use my body parts to sort of help bring the visualisation to life.
Alisa: 00:48:59 I would squeeze my tummy as I was coming down and standing up tall for the jump, and I would squeeze my things so it felt like I was pushing against the ramp as I was going up in the air. I would try to use lots of different parts of my senses. Visualisation can become stronger when you can feel your body, hear different noises, feel the rhythm that you might experience in doing the action. Some people can even visualise using smell, for example. There’s not a lot of smell in aerial skiing, so that wasn’t as helpful for me, but certainly I tried to hear my skis and the sound of my arms dropping against my legs, and trying to replicate the weight of my skis on my feet when I’m visualising, by squeezing my ankle bones together like it was squeezing my ski boots. And trying to feel the rhythm of an aerial skiing jump.
Alisa: 00:49:52 So I’ll often say to people, “If you put a Hula Hoop on, the Hula Hoop has a rhythm as it goes around your waist, and an aerial skiing jump sort of has the same rhythm of flipping and twisting.” So for me, using rhythm and sound and noise when I was doing visualisation actually made my visualisation experience feel stronger and more real.
Alisa: 00:50:16 One thing with visualisation I’d have to say if I’m giving a tip to people, is it’s quality, not quantity. For me, I had to actually learn to get the quality real. For example, in the very, very early days of learning to visualise, my sports psychologist would say to me, “First of all, just visualise simple things.” So for example, pick up, like, a toothbrush. Hold a toothbrush and look at it, and turn it over, look at it from every dimension, feel your fingers on the bristles. What noise does it make when you flick the bristles? What does it smell like? And then just close your eyes for a minute and then try to replicate what you can see. Replicate yourself turning it in your hands and try and think about what it smelled like. See if you can remember what it listens like when you clicked the bristles, that sort of stuff.
Alisa: 00:51:05 And so trying to actually practice the skill of using different senses and visualising in different ways was like an investment in your skill of visualisation. Same goes with just walking. I would walk across the room, and then I would lie down, and then I would try and visualise what it felt like to walk across the room. What did my feet feel like? What pace was I going at? How did my arms swing? Where were my eyes looking? And then I would work out whether that visualisation was strong and accurate, and I would then stop the visualisation if it was poor, and I would get up and I would walk across the room again and try to be more aware of actually what the walking across the room felt like, so that when I lay down and visualised again, I could actually practice just doing it at a higher quality and more accurate.
Alisa: 00:51:58 That investment was worth it, because I knew that visualisation was going to be a very powerful skill for me as an athlete. Slowly over time, I would just visualise very basic jumps and not make it complicated. And I would visualise landing the jump and skiing away. I would always stop and start the visualisation in the same place, so I’d visualise the jump in the start gate doing a warm-up, turning and facing the jump, doing the jump, landing the jump, skiing away, stopping the jump, and standing at the radio, where I know my coach would give me feedback on a normal competition or training site.
Alisa: 00:52:32 I would always have these open and close entries to the visualisation, and I would go into the visualisation session like it was a training session, so I’d know what I was going to visualise, and I would visualise those jumps. I would know if I was going to visualise a single jump, and just trying to fix a technique, or I would visualise doing a set of different jumps and progressing through a jump repertoire. Or I might visualise doing the jumps when it’s snowing and the conditions are different. So the visualisation became very, very, very powerful for me, and I would have to say once I learned how to do it, I would have visualised tens of thousands of jumps leading into the Olympics. I visualised every night before I went to bed, and I would do a visualisation session at home every day before I left to go training.
Alisa: 00:53:25 I know a lot of athletes now do use visualisation and a lot of mental skills, but at the time that was very, very new, and I was one of the first people back in 2002 who actually had sourced a sports psychologist to work with them. I’d definitely say I was able to get a very quick start on sports psychology, and it was actually a very strong differentiator and competitive advantage for me in both the 2002 and 2006 Olympics.
Kristina: 00:53:54 Thank you so much for sharing. So detailed, and some great tips for the listeners to learn how to visualise. Thank you so much.
Alisa: 00:54:01 That’s okay. I know I did go into detail, but at least I can share something with people.
Kristina: 00:54:05 Oh, absolutely. No, I love it. One thing that I do, which I find really useful to remember, because sometimes when you have a lot of dreams and a lot of goals, and you get a little bit sidetracked, I find it useful to have a vision board. Did you ever put things up like goals or visualise pictures on a vision board during this time?
Alisa: 00:54:24 Yeah. One of the things I used to get to the Olympics was I had goal planner, and so every year, right from when I sat down in that very first meeting with the gentleman from the ski team, I write down goals. I always was very clear on writing what my goals were, and I would have several short-term goals for all the different dimensions of the sport. So goals for going to the gym and getting strong, goals for being a good skier, goals for being a good acrobat, and then towards the end, mental skills, related goals. I had dietary goals. I had competition goals for gaining experience.
Alisa: 00:54:59 So for me, goals were really huge, and for me, writing them down was always important so that I had clarity. I think the other thing is for me, I had some mantras, and that was more like the tone or the culture of the way I went about what I went about. I had “Leave no doubt” written on the back of a piece of paper on the back of my bedroom door, and that was leave no doubt every day that you’d worked hard enough, that you’d worked smart enough, that you’d done everything that you could. Leave no doubt in your mind that you deserve to have success come your way. Leave no doubt that your coach knows that you’re putting in every effort, so he in turn will give you effort back. Leave no doubt in the eyes of the judges that you’ve done the best jump possible to deserve the best score.
Alisa: 00:55:48 So for me, that was about taking ownership, you know, that I would do everything that would leave no doubt that good things should follow my effort. That was sort of defining the “how.”
Alisa: 00:56:00 For me, how I did things was probably more important that what I achieved. For me, the process of working towards my goals was where my respect for myself would be gained from, and I felt that if I put quality into the effort, then I was putting myself into the best possible position of having success, and even if success didn’t eventuate because of things outside of my control, at least I would ever have no regrets about the way I went about what I did.
Kristina: 00:56:31 Yeah, absolutely. That’s a question that I get a lot. How do you deal with self-doubt? Because obviously over the eight years of chasing your big dream, you would have had a lot of self-doubt. What do you think is the number one tip for our listeners to deal with a self-doubt?
Alisa: 00:56:48 It’s interesting I learned quite quickly that self-doubt comes in lots of different forms. For me particularly, self-doubt wasn’t about thinking that I couldn’t do something because for me, I’d work really hard and I’d put a lot of preparation in. So, in my mind, it’s like, “Well, it should work out.” But my self-doubt was more that I had such high expectations for myself that I almost got in my own way. I was too serious and too desperate and too intense. So I actually had to learn that self-doubt can be very negative but it could also be wanting things too much. So for me actually, I just needed to quieten all the expectations down. There has been times where obviously we can all sort of think, “Oh, have I bitten off more than I can chew?” Most of the time, I can talk myself around, and I guess my tip would be for people is you need to speak to yourself like you would speak to your best friend. You’d never tell your best friend that they can’t do something. You would never tell them that they’re a loser or that they’re crap or they can’t do it. You’d always encourage them. You always encourage children to try things, you always encourage your friends or your work colleagues, so why shouldn’t you do that for yourself?
Alisa: 00:58:03 I certainly found when I started doing that and became my own best cheerleader that all of a sudden, I had this really strong powerful force of belief behind me that had to be positive belief because if I put too much pressure on myself, I became too desperate. So for me, I needed to make sure that positive self-talk also gave me space to try and fail and to just go out and do my best not to be perfect because perfection is impossible. I just needed to have this positive, encouraging, nurturing kind of self-talk.
Alisa: 00:58:37 It’s funny too that one of the things that I would also say for a tip with self-doubt is you need to, often when you’re doubting yourself, say “Well, why is this true? What evidence do I have that this doubt should exist?” Usually, when you ask yourself to be factual, you can’t really find evidence to being so negative and you realize, “Well, I’ve got nothing to lose but to try.” Sometimes if you’re scared of what’s scary now but it will be scary tomorrow, so you might as well just get it over and done with. I would definitely encourage people to try to be factual because sometimes it’s our emotions that are saying, “Don’t try, don’t try. You might fail.” Well, actually, there’s probably only learning that can come from trying. There is no really such thing as fail. So, perhaps in saying to yourself that what’s the worse that can happen, then you at least give yourself the space to try and not to be so harsh on yourself.
Kristina: 00:59:31 Yeah, absolutely. Some great tips there. Thank you so much for sharing. In my experience, one of the most important things you can possibly ask yourself when you’re moving into the mood of chasing a dream is who. Who can help me with me this and who have successfully done this before? I know you spoke a little bit about this but I’ll have to dig a little bit deeper and see if you have this question of who as part of your process.
Alisa: 00:59:53 Yeah. Who is massive. You can very rarely achieve anything on your own. Yes, you need to be personally accountable and work hard, and everyone really needs to be honest with themselves. Am I doing enough particularly when nobody is watching? But you can only achieve so much on your own. Certainly for me, working with teams not just coaches and sport psychologists but also strength and conditioning coaches and surgeons and physios when I was injured, and the doctors and also the people at the National Sports Federation, and even at times working with my teammates who also are my competitors sometimes, but working with them on the jump site so that we could give each other feedback and advice or work together to lobby for additional resources that we might need, the who became really, really important.
Alisa: 01:00:46 Once you respect that everyone has a part to play and you turn that respect into gratefulness and you be open to learning from other people, it’s amazing how much momentum can come underneath you and lift you up. I am so lucky for the people that I had around me and my team, but there was also people that I needed sometimes that weren’t there and I actually had to go out and find them. So I would definitely say to people don’t be afraid to look for the resources that you need and don’t be afraid to ask because what’s the worse that can happen? Someone can say no and you just go, “All right, well, I’ll ask somebody else or I’ll go somewhere else to find these resources.” You need to work with great people if you want to achieve great things, but if you don’t have the particular skills in the people that you have at that moment in time for what goal that you have in front of you, then you need to go and find those people. I am definitely a huge fan of looking for experts and watching people who have achieved great things before you and surrounding yourself with great people. Those great people can be people that can bring certain expertise, but of course you can’t expect too much from everybody because some people are good at some things and not at others. So you need to appreciate the good things people bring, and if they have gaps, go and find other good things from other people.
Alisa: 01:02:10 Again, it takes a lot of different people with lots of different skills. I’ve always gone to seek help from people and I find if you’re able to articulate your goal and you can show people that you respect their input and their feedback and you put that into place, you follow advice or even if you don’t think in the end the advice works for you, but you tried and you can show them that you tried and it didn’t work and you tried a different way. If they can see that you’re genuinely committed and they’re not wasting their time, they will often get excited by your dream and keep giving and keep investing and keep tipping in, and the momentum of one person’s energy added to another person’s energy doubles and triples and before you know it, there’s just this great momentum around you.
Alisa: 01:02:56 What’s particularly important about that is when you don’t have the energy or you trip up and you fall, then you have amazing people around you to pick you up and to encourage you on and to remind you why you started your dream in the first place.
Kristina: 01:03:09 Yeah. Fantastic advice. Thank you so much. I love that. It’s been a big part of my dreaming as well always asking who. What was life like for you in the time after you decided to retire from aerial skiing, after reaching all your goals that you set up for yourself? What was the process like of starting all over and choosing what you would focus on next?
Alisa: 01:03:29 Oh, that’s a really good question. I still loved what I was doing when I came to the end of my aerial skiing career. I loved the training still. I loved competing. I’d also had those last two years really going into the Turin Olympics, where I was injured, so I kind of felt like I had missed out on actually enjoying the last years of my career. It would have been really easy to keep going, but I was 31 and I knew that as a young female who had invested in a university degree, I had done a business and IT degree at university. I had worked for IBM for a number of years as my way of paying for my early years in my skiing career. I also had done lots of part-time jobs.
Alisa: 01:04:11 I knew that I would eventually have to retire from skiing and go back and get the next part of my life going. So, at 31, I decided, well, now is the time to do that. It would be too easy to keep going or even to maybe move out of being an athlete and being a coach and continue living the lifestyle I enjoyed as an athlete. But I also knew that if I didn’t make the bold goal and go back and find my next part of my professional career, I wouldn’t have got the next part of my life moving before perhaps finding a future husband and having time to have children. I thought if I was selfish and reveled in being an athlete for too long, I’d actually might sabotage other chapters of my life.
Alisa: 01:04:57 That enabled me to realize that it was the right time to pivot and to go exploring and find something new. It’s funny because I’d finished so cleanly and beautifully and completely one full lifetime dream, my sporting dream of being an Olympic athlete that I actually was very, very desperate to find my next dream. One option was for me to return to my professional career at IBM and to resurrect my professional career. But I also felt, “Well, what am I next passionate about? What do I love?” I was really struggling to find what would be my next real dream. Yes, I had my professional career in IT and business, but was that a dream or was that just a convenient career?
Alisa: 01:05:41 So I really spent a lot time actually trying to work out what my next passion would be and I was looking at things that were hobbies. Could those passions actually become careers? I started trying to explore different things that could open my eyes to different possibilities. I was reading different magazines and I was watching different kinds of TV shows on business channels. I started following different people on the internet and I spoke to mentors. I went on this … Sort of got this short-term goal to be very explorative about actually trying to discover what my next dream would be.
Alisa: 01:06:24 Ironically, I actually didn’t discover it and I was very frustrated because I was like, “This is at the pivot point of my life. I should pivot perfectly from one dream to the next,” and I couldn’t find it. What I decided was I would go back to my job at IBM. I would just take some more time for my dream to appear. I know that sounds a little bit weird but I thought, well, I can make a great investment in brushing up my professional skills, return to the workforce and just perhaps maybe time will identify for me what might be the next option because I was becoming too desperate about trying to find my next purpose in life. So I went back and I’ve got involved in sales and then all of a sudden after about a year back in the workplace and feeling comfortable again as a bit of a professional and reintegrating, and it did take time adapting from being only athlete to going back to working in a professional environment, someone said to me, “Well, I think you would make a great people leader” and so I started … I did a people management course and then was given my first opportunity to lead a section of IBM. I did actually work with the person that made that suggestion to me to make another goal planner around becoming a people manager.
Alisa: 01:07:38 Over time, I was able to strengthen up a few attributes that would help me to be a good people manager and then I went and got a mentor, sort of again looking for an expert. Once I took on my first people management job, I actually discovered what my next passion was. I won’t say it was a dream but it was a passion and it was a big goal and that was to become a really great leader. The reason that I became passionate about that is because I could help inspire, motivate and enable people in my team to achieve their personal goals and in turn their professional goals that we collectively could achieve on behalf of the business which was ultimately helping our customers to achieve their dreams.
Alisa: 01:08:29 All of sudden I discovered that helping people and coaching people, which is what my coaches in sport had done for me, to find their purpose, to be excellent at what they do, to plan and to prepare, to work smart, to think of all the things that could go wrong and put risk management things in place that would enable them to be successful. All the things that I’ve done in sport I could help people do in my team in business, and all of a sudden, we all started achieving great things. Our team hit all of our numbers plus more and we became the best team. Then things went from strength to strength and I started to build this sense of confidence as a people leader and I wanted to become even better at that and to grow as a leader.
Alisa: 01:09:19 I think in that I discovered two things is that I liked helping people and helping people to become their best self. I also have capability that I enjoyed developing as a leader. So that in its turn helped me find my next way in life and in work, my professional work in business which was to become a company director and to help people in training and development and becoming more mentally tough and resilient so that they can achieve their highest possible performance. That has become a big part of my professional life today.
Kristina: 01:09:58 Yeah. Fascinating. It’s super inspiring to hear how you went from being an athlete to doing what you’re doing today, and it’s amazing to hear that you are inspiring other people to live their best life. Thank you so much for sharing.
Alisa: 01:10:11 That’s all right.
Kristina: 01:10:12 If you could go back to your younger self, say when you were in your late teens, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now? It’s so nice to look back, isn’t it? If you only knew what you knew.
Alisa: 01:10:25 Yeah. I’d want to roll out a list I think. You just don’t know so much when you’re 16. I was probably very harsh on myself, and I think you need to be kind to yourself to give yourself space to learn and grow. That means tripping and failing and making mistakes and picking yourself up and trying again and learning. I probably had such high expectations of myself as a young person that I was too tough and I didn’t realize that life is a very, very long journey and you need to evolve and grow and shift and create new dimensions. It’s not all about winning and losing. It’s not yes or no, win or lose. It is actually about the journey. Sometimes you got to pace yourself and take all the highs and lows and look at things in bigger blocks of time.
Alisa: 01:11:25 For me, I now look at things in phases and blocks. I don’t go ” Was I happy today? I’m not happy or I’m unhappy.” I say, “Well, am I a better person this month than I was last month?” Have I taken more steps for this month than I did last month?” So, yeah, I think when I look back at a 16-year-old, I was really hungry to take on the world and shake it up. Now, I realized that it’s one step at a time. Definitely having the dream and the purpose and the short-term goals is really important, but you also need to enjoy that, and you got to be passionate about what you’re doing.
Kristina: :12:06 Yeah. Great one. Great advice to your younger self. Thank you. Obviously, you know one of my favorite thing is to read and I know that that’s one common interest we have, and we’re obviously in the same book group which I absolutely love and gets me an opportunity to see you often which I also love, but I’d love to hear if you could share one your favorite books to our listeners.
Alisa: 01:12:32 Oh, wow, geez. A favorite book.
Kristina: 01:12:35 Yeah. That’s really hard.
Alisa: 01:12:36 Oh, my goodness. Can I pick a genre?
Kristina: 01:12:38 Of course.
Alisa: 01:12:39 I really enjoy reading autobiographies. I really like to read about other people particularly people, ironically given our podcast, that have dreamed big and pushed new frontiers, particularly women who have broken new grounds. I love hearing about people who have backed themselves to really try to do something new for the first time because it takes a lot of inner courage. I found that I have to be courageous a lot in my life and sometimes that can be quite isolating, and I find solace in reading about other people who have done that.
Alisa: 01:13:18 Whilst I don’t always get to meet people, and certainly our book club has brought together an amazing group of people who have all done amazing things and we get to give each other advice and learn as well as to discuss our books, but I really like to take away simple messages from other people. By reading their autobiographies, people are very generous with their sharings and their learnings. Most of the time it’s been the hardships people have been through and the setbacks that they’ve experienced that give me great opportunity to reflect and to put perspective in my life and the challenges that I faced or hurdles that I might be currently coming across. It gives me the courage and additional ideas and resources to try again and just to hang in there and to keep trying and to keep going. It makes me think, “Well, if they can, why can’t I?” There’s so many amazing stories of people around the world, so I never lose interest in learning about other people.
Kristina: 01:14:21 Yeah. That’s a great one. I love that, too. I find it so amazing that you can pick up a book for 30 to 20 dollars and learn so much. It’s really is an amazing education to read books and take what is relevant for you.
Kristina: 01:14:38 The last question I have is: What is one dream that you’re currently working on?
Alisa: 01:14:42 I probably have two and they are a little bit connected. For me, I’m making changes in my life right now, and my dream in that aspect is to make sure I’m living the life that I want to be living every day that I’m making decisions and choices and I’m being disciplined and conscious about the way I’m living. My dream is to not let life just move me along, that I choose to live the way I want to live. I have mostly done that in my life, but I was very purposeful with the Olympics and I want to make sure that I’m very purposeful in the next phase of my life.
Alisa: 01:15:19 The second big dream I have is putting that into practice with my work and my work, as I said, is I love helping people and I’m a consultant and I do a lot of resilience training and high performance training. I do find in this thinking well, thinking positively, mental well-being space that it’s very difficult for people to find what is real. I find that there’s not a lot of honesty and a lot of people are either trying to pretend that their life is perfect in social media or even on the reverse of that. If you watch the daily news, it’s almost like everything happening in the world today is so tragic and so sad and so bad. I feel like everyone is losing a sense of what’s real.
Alisa: 01:16:05 My second goal is for all of my work and all of my communication to just to be real, to be honest, to not sugarcoat everything. Particularly in the mental well-being space, I think people need to feel more normal, and so I’m doing a web-based TV show now called Real People Real Stories, and I’m sharing the stories of everyday people, everyday people who have everyday stories about everyday opportunities and challenges that they face because we have these kinds of conversations with our friends and our family and we support one another but nobody actually is willing to admit to hardship or challenge or frustration or being scared of opportunities or being afraid to follow their true purpose.
Alisa: 01:16:49 So, for me, I want to be very authentic and very real and that is my dream. I think that that hopefully will be an important part of my legacy that I’m not trying to be perfect and I have bad hair days, no makeup, wrinkles, being a bad … being not my best self today because the kids drove me mad, and I can honestly say today was a hard parenting day or tomorrow was an amazing professional day but I didn’t do enough for myself and I got burnt out, or whatever it is, whatever my journey is, the ups and downs, I am very committed to honestly sharing that so that other people can learn from my journey and to realize that life isn’t all about looking perfect and that normal is just every day and that there’s joy to be found in that and that we should appreciate the inner strength that it takes to get through the hard bits in life.
Alisa: 01:17:46 Now, I’m going to continue to bring that to life in different ways, and certainly in the consulting and the work that I do, that’s what I try to do to bring evidence-based research and capabilities and tools and techniques but tools I make sure that it’s very real in its application.
Kristina: 01:18:04 Fantastic. I will make sure we are linking to your TV show on our show notes to make sure our listeners can follow you.
Alisa: 01:18:13 That will be great.
Kristina: 01:18:14 Yeah. That sounds amazing and I’m really excited to see that, too. Thank you so much. It’s been the most insightful, inspiring and beautiful hour or so to hear your journey. Thank you so much for being so generous in sharing your journey. I am sure that our listeners will be so inspired to look at their dreams in a different way now because I think what you have achieved is just remarkable, so thank you so much. Also, thank you so much for being part of my book that is coming out, Your Dream Life Starts Here, because I love sharing your story and I know that people get so much out of hearing your story in the books as well.
Kristina: 01:18:54 Thank you so much. I look forward to hear about your new dream and thank you for being part of this Dream Podcast.
Alisa: 01:19:01 Thank you, Kristina. It’s been a privilege to share. I feel very fortunate to be living the life that I’m living and I guess if I’m going to say one thing, it’s just one day at a time. Try to be your best self today. One small step forward towards your dream and it’s amazing how those steps add up and before you know it, you’ll have achieved it.
Kristina: 01:19:22 Just amazing. What an incredible story and what inspiring learnings for us all. I hope you enjoyed hearing Alisa’s story of dreaming and doing as much as I did and that this episode has left you feeling energized and excited to start visualising and manifesting your own dreams.
Kristina: 01:19:42 One of the most powerful lessons I took from Alisa’s story is that it truly is possible to achieve anything you set your mind to no matter how wild or unachievable the dream feels to you at first. The way she defied all odds and overcame barriers to achieve her dreams in particular using visualisation and the way she overcame self-doubt really inspired me. I am such a strong believer in writing down, visualising, and chasing your dreams.
Kristina: 01:20:14 This really is at the heart of my book, Your Dream Life Starts Here. It’s well worth reading and exploring for yourself to help you create your dream life whatever that means to you, and it’s a great starting point if you want a little guidance on your journey to uncover and chase your dreams. Another great place for you to start is to check out my 101 Dreams audio guide at kikki-k.com/dreamlife. It’s a really powerful step-by-step exercise I have recorded to help you tap into your heart and get down on paper a long, long list of potential dreams you may want to chase. I’ve helped thousands of people around the world with this and I think you’ll find it a great use of your time and a brilliant place to start. I would really, really appreciate your support with my big, crazy dream to inspire 101 million people around the world to write down three dreams on paper and go and chase them.
Kristina: 01:21:11 If you find this episode useful, be sure to subscribe to my podcast and leave us a review to help us inspire even more people, and please help us to spread this inspiring dreaming message and Dream Life movement to even more people by posting about it on social media with the #101milliondreamers and #kikkikdreamlife. Until next time, dream big.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A FULL TRANSCRIPT OF KRISTINA KARLSSON’S CONVERSATION WITH ALISA CAMPLIN-WARNER LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE TO THE INSPIRING AUDIO PODCAST HERE>