All I Want for Christmas

Merry Christmas!! I hope everyone had an amazing holiday full of family and friends, warmth and love!

When asked for my Christmas list earlier this month, I had to laugh: what I wanted the most was not something anyone could give to me. It is something I have to earn myself. That said, just as executives-in-the-making seek out mentors and leaders to coach them to excellence, I believe that working with swim/bike/run experts can help me defy the odds and achieve the big goals I have set for myself in the sport.

During my two years at Chicago Booth, the academic focus was always on “first principles.” All of my professors emphasized that if you understand the fundamentals, you can handle any challenge, no matter the complexity. This is a theme that has run through my academic and professional lives. The liberal arts education I received at Laurel School, and subsequently at Dartmouth, rarely touched upon specific professional skills. But the reading, writing, and analytical skills I acquired over my years at both institutions could be applied to any assignment, quantitative or qualitative.

I believe the same is true in sport, whether in skating, where the goal is to launch yourself in the air to complete three revolutions before landing again on a blade only 4mm thick, or swimming, where you must harness a liquid and leverage it to propel your body forward. Regardless of the event, the ability to perform at an elite level first requires the mastery of basic, fundamental movements.

Whether moving through air or water, the fine details matter -- first principles are key!

Whether moving through air or water, the fine details matter -- first principles are key!

With all this in mind, I gifted myself with an opportunity by seeking out Sheila Taormina and spending the week prior to Christmas working with her in Florida. We identified critical stroke fundamentals that I was missing and began the process of replacing incorrect movement patterns with correct ones. Working with Sheila was an eye-opening experience – she came to each session hungry to break another bad habit of mine, and I was equally determined to execute each stroke change she brought to the table. It was a powerful combination. Her thought, care, and engagement over the course of many 3-hr sessions at the pool was incredible, and I couldn’t be more grateful for her time and wisdom!

While I felt like I had hit a bit of a plateau coming into that week, I knew I had more, and I knew I must find more in order to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself in 2018. I left feeling like I actually had a grasp on the first principles of swimming – conceptually, my brain understands, and physically I am able to execute here and there. While it is still coming together and will require continued vigilance, I left with a stroke that I feel has so much more room to grow.

After a couple days full of family, eggnog, waffles, and lazy afternoons by the fire, I’m back in the pool and out on the roads. I’m looking forward to building on the strong foundation that Sheila and I have built this winter in Clermont. Lots of work to complete before the 2018 season begins, but I’m feeling re-energized and excited to embrace that work!