Resilience. A chat with Lululemon

December 15, 2020

The leadership team at Lululemon recently asked me to share some thoughts over Zoom with their membership group (approx. 7000 strong from Edmonton, Chicago, Denver, and Toronto) connected to a speaker-series focused on internal soul-searching and resilience. Here’s a quick summary of my talk.

In May of 2020, shortly after the world was locked down due to the global pandemic, and only 6 months after I started my new business - my father (and best friend) passed away. It was sudden. He was too young. I wasn’t ready for it. None of us were.

In the aftermath - still in lockdown - I found myself sitting in my home office, isolated and alone, spending way too much time staring blankly out our window into the trees behind our house. Waves of grief, anxiety, and panic flowed through me as I attempted to support my Mom, take care of my family, process the pandemic, and continue to keep my clients on track…

After about a week - grief-stricken and in shock - I received a few phone calls, texts, hints, and reminders from friends and family. Nudges to get out of my funk and focus on some of the tools that have been passed on to me by some amazing people in my life; strategies and insights that I have come to lean on - in a big way. Tools that have helped me stay on my path and that have kept me from falling into my default tendencies: to muscle through, bury it, fight harder, stomach the pain…

I’ve come to realize that the path to “resilience” is really the antithesis of what many of us were taught.

From a bird’s eye perspective, I’ve come to realize that the path to “resilience” is really the antithesis of what many of us were taught. Muscling through the pain and anguish of loss, change, crisis - is a sure-bet passage to more pain and suffering. Fortunately, my teachers, instructors, coaches, and mentors have led me down a different path. A path that approaches crisis and anguish with gentle, vulnerable, and patient compassion.

As one who aspires to be someone who can lead myself (and sometimes others) through crisis (vs. getting absorbed or drowned in it), I’ve used the following tools to refocus, get connected… to ground myself in a positive and compassionate way.

  1. Anchoring... When I started my first business, I attended a "success seminar" of the speakers - Mary Lou Hill - is an expert in a field of mental study called Neural Linguistic Programming. NLP is designed to help performers (in all fields) achieve flow state - that mental and physical state that athletes often speak of when they reach the pinnacle of performance. Anchoring involves the use of visualization - leveraging all of the senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell...and that 6th sense - the atmosphere inside of you) to replicate a moment in time when you felt at your best. The idea is to close your eyes, and put yourself in that moment, imagine what it felt like, tasted like...absorb that moment and "place" it (as if it were a physical thing) into the palm of your hand. Then simply squeeze and let that same atmosphere wash over you. Essentially, anchoring to that moment, the practice, will allow you to surrender to that same mental state of high performance; or calm, or whatever atmosphere you choose to anchor yourself to.
  2. Box Breathing... In 2015 I organized a band of renegades to train for a simulated "Hell Week" with 5 Navy SEALs in San Diego. In the heat of battle, when everything is (literally) blowing up, Navy SEALs are trained to use a technique called Box Breathing to re-centre themselves. It's simple and effective. Breath 4 seconds in, 4 seconds hold, 4 seconds out, 4 seconds hold...repeat until vision is restored, heart rate is reduced, and a sense of calm is brought to the storm. As one SEAL put it, "everything is better when you are calm...relationships are better, focus is better, the mind is better...everything is better".
  3. The Vision of Future Self... Carolyn DeVoest is a childhood friend and the founder of Better Your Best Coaching based in Vancouver. Carolyn approached me shortly after she started her business and suggested that we exchange services - my advice on marketing for some of her coaching sessions. To be honest, I wasn't sure I qualified for "coaching" at the time. I kind of thought I had it pretty much figured out (was I ever wrong!). Regardless - I agreed to the trade. During our first session, Carolyn asked me to close my eyes, slow my breathing, and imagine meeting my future self - 20 years from that day. I visualized a journey - transported to this future place and time. I "landed" next to a small cabin in the woods. I could hear the rush of a river flowing nearby. The sun was setting through the trees and a muddy mountain bike was leaning against the front porch. I approached the door to the cabin and walked inside. It was simple, well kept, and well-lived in. And then I noticed someone standing in the doorway behind me. It was him. Or should I say, "me"...20 years older. He looked a bit weathered but suntanned and healthy. What a great opportunity for some advice, I thought to myself. Looking into his calm eyes I asked him, "so... what have you got for me? What do I need to know?" He looked back at me with all-knowing eyes, smiled, placed his hand on my shoulder, and shared two words with me - two simple words that would forever change my life - over and over and over again... "Let go"

The coolest part of the story? I feel like I can ask him questions from time to time - and to date, he hasn't led me astray. Despite a rather dark sense of humour, his motivation is always pure and unconditional and he has a lived experience that is powerful.

He reminds me of my dad.