7 Lessons I’ve Learned from Finding My Next Finish Line

7 Lessons I’ve Learned from Finding My Next Finish Line

Recently I had the honour of being invited to go and speak in front of around 80 to 90 Ultimate Frisbee players, who were trying out to be selected for the New Zealand teams for the World Championships in Netherlands next year.

For those of you who don’t know, I have been an Ultimate Frisbee player for the last 16 years. It’s been a long held passion of mine and it was really neat to be asked to come and speak at this  training camp about finding your finish line, which is a big tribute to Nathan Martin, my triathlon coach from this podcast we did.

The talk I gave was specifically related to being your best self, pushing yourself, challenging yourself, crushing your goals and setting intentions that keep you motivated.

I decided you may need to hear this too, so I’ve recreated it here for you both as a full blog post and an episode on my Untapped Podcast.

 

Find Your Finish Line

 

Imagine a room full of slightly sweaty, smelly Ultimate Frisbee players who’ve just spent the entire day playing, training, drilling, strategizing and trying to be their best selves, in order to make the team to represent New Zealand at the World Championships of Ultimate Frisbee in 2020.

They’ve had a big day. It’s been raining. It’s been wet. They are a little bit cold. They’ve just eaten. And I’m the final person to speak to them at the end of the day….

It’s always a little weird to be speaking in front of friends and fellow Ultimate players you know, and also a room full of people who don’t know you at all because you haven’t played the sport in over a year (because you know you’re training for a Half Ironman right now).

I will share the pictures that go along with my 16 slides. When I speak, I’m a big fan of having lots of visuals and very few words to get the message across and engage people.

I called it “Find Your Next Finish Line – Tap into your potential. Master your mindset.”

So who the heck am I?

Well, I am Natalie Sisson. Originally born here in Wellington, New Zealand and for about the last ten years I’ve been running an online business teaching other people how to travel the world and run an online business. I’ve been to 70 countries during that time and lived out of my suitcase for six and a half years full time which is fantastic, if you’re into that kind of thing.

And during that time I actually got to play a lot of international Ultimate Frisbee tournaments, especially beach tournaments, which I love.

If you’re ever going to travel and spend some time overseas I highly recommend checking out the international scene for Ultimate Frisbee tournaments. It’s also the quickest way to make fast friends because you basically arrive in a strange country you’ve never been to before and you have this instant community of like-minded people who adopt you as one of their own.

I have been playing ultimate Frisbee for 16 years now.

Is anybody here in the room 16 or under?

I did ask that question because I was a little bit worried that somebody might be younger than the amount of years that I’ve spent playing Frisbee.

Luckily nobody was.

The next slide was my two books: The Freedom Plan and the Suitcase Entrepreneur and I said:

“So I’ve written two books but I’m posting them here really more to tell you that they are probably the only two business / lifestyle and mindset books out there that talk about Ultimate Frisbee” and that mention Ultimate Frisbee at all and talk about it in a really positive way.

Speakers note: One of the best ways to build credibility is to obviously show what you’ve done and achieved but that can also come across as a little bit wanky if all you do is go “I’ve done this and that”.

I had visuals of all of my sporting or individual pursuits and achievements but with every single one of those there was a story and from each of those stories there was a lesson.

Once again I’m just going to roll straight into how I sort of presented.

1. Sacrifice and visualization counts

In 2004, I had actually just hired a personal trainer to help me with training for triathlons and she was so amazing in terms of how she looked. She was strong. She was lean. She was muscular and I just never seen a physique like it and I asked her what she was training for and she said I was training for a body sculpting championship. And I was like, “What the heck is that?”.

I went and looked up the sport and I thought, what a bizarre sport.

You basically get really lean. You put on a lot of muscle. You eat chicken and broccoli. It’s pretty much what I ate all the time. And then you stand up on stage with this ridiculous bronze tan on you at the end of that and strike some poses.

There was something about it that really just intrigued me because in all my years of playing sport I had never ever changed my body shape. I’d always pretty much look the same. And I was so impressed and fascinated by this lady that I was like, what would it take to change my body and do something completely different?

And then I asked her how she went and she said she couldn’t give up sugar so she ended up just not competing. She clearly hadn’t wanted to sacrifice sugar and so all her hard work and dedication had gone nowhere as a result.

I just thought that was really sad to put in all that effort and not take it further.

For me, I viewed it was a nine month period of eating really clean and healthy, going to the gym seven times a week and working out really hard for an end goal. During that time, I was very mindful of my nutrition and partway through that I started visualizing.

I visualized being up on stage, doing my routines on stage and on winning – to be honest.

Every single morning when I went to the gym, I took a small booklet with my workout routine in it, the weights and exercises I had to do and so I could track what I was lifting. I used it in a very disciplined way, and filled that out every single time, seven times a week, sometimes twice a day.

At the top of that piece of paper in this booklet I had written: Countdown to comp win.

Basically, somewhere in my head, I decided that I was going to win the competition. And so I wrote it on that piece of paper and that’s the same piece of paper I looked at seven days in a row for close to nine months.

Strike forward to October of 2004 and I’m standing on the stage in Hamilton at the regional Body Sculpting Championships. I’m in the Novice Figure category. Body Sculpting is also called figure because you’re not big and muscular. You’re actually quite lean and feminine.

I did have an eight pack and an awesome arse. My muscles on my arse were so amazing and lean… that’s never going to be like that again, but it was pretty impressive looking back at the photos.

Anyway I digress.

I’m standing on stage in these sexy heels that I actually had to buy at like a stripper shop. I’ve got way too much bronze fake tan on. I’m in a tiny little blue bikini and I’m posing and showing off my abs, my biceps, my triceps and my lats.

At one point during the competition they started calling out names of people that were going to make it into the judging round and I realized, in that very moment, that I had not prepared to not win.

All I thought about in the back of my mind was visualizing winning. And here I was on the stage and they were calling out who they were going to take forward and I was like,

“Oh my God, I haven’t prepared to not win! How am I going to deal with this if I don’t make it?”

It just hadn’t even crossed my mind and it wasn’t coming from a place of ego, that I was definitely going to win, but that’s what I’d focused on and that’s what got me to this point.

Luckily a few moments later I was called forward too, which was awesome and then they called my name and announced I’d won my division.

I got a tacky big trophy and some more protein powder and I was thrilled!

Read: Four Business Lessons Learned as a Body Sculpting Champion

The very next day I was eating terrible food I’d not had for nine months like chocolate mellow puffs and all the things you shouldn’t. And basically my eight pack disappeared overnight, but it was such a brilliant lesson for me to learn that you need to sacrifice some things to get to where you want to be.

I sacrificed a lot of social events, a lot of socializing with my friends. I sacrificed a lot of late nights for early starts, a lot of the time in the gym. I was super disciplined during that time because it was a nine month period where I really wanted to be my best and see what I could achieve. Then I achieved the win which was amazing.

The other thing I learned is that visualization is one of the most powerful tools ever. In fact I shared a study where they took a team of soccer players, and half of them trained like normal, and half of them had to visualize playing their best game,  being on the field, striking the ball, running around, doing everything perfectly.

When it came down to the actual competition, both sides of the team turned up pretty much exactly the same. So those who had done nothing but visualise were performing as well as those who had been training and putting in the effort. Powerful huh!

2. Set and smash your own records.

This lesson is all about what I learned in the Sisterhood when set off in a dragon boat across the English Channel in August 2007. There were 20 of us ladies who set out from Shakespeare’s beach in England and paddled 21.2 miles across the busiest shipping lane in the world and landed in Wissant beach in France.

It was epic. We absolutely smashed the World Record time. We did it in 3 hours and 42 minutes and the previous record had been set at around seven hours.

It was incredible. We fell out of the boat when we got to France, we drank champagne and we were beyond thrilled.

I was the person in charge of making this a Guinness Book of World Records attempt. We had a timer and we had people photographing it, videoing it and we had all the rules and regulations to hand. We stuck to them and then we found out about a week after that we weren’t awarded the Guinness World Record for this.

Even though we had smashed it, I found out that we should have had a dragon head and tail and somebody beating a drum on the dragon boat while we were crossing to make it official, because that’s how you apparently hang out in dragon boats.

If you’ve never dragon boated before you’ll know that typically you race thousand meter races in these boats. They are very, very low to the water. You have a paddle. You start from high up and then you plunge that paddle down to the water and pull back with a short sharp stroke.  The whole team has to be in synchronicity to make it go forward and go at pace. So we did this for 3 hours and 42 minutes not for a thousand meter race.

If we’d had a head and tail and a drummer, we would have pretty much drowned. We were going across the busiest channel with waves and everything. So that was super disappointing. But the lesson that we learned out of that was we still smashed that world record.

We can still claim that internally, personally and as a team. We were immensely proud of what we did. So we didn’t actually need the official record to be proud of ourselves and to really congratulate and celebrate ourselves on that accomplishment. And we raised over a hundred thousand pounds for charity!

3. Team is everything.

This photo is of our Great Britain Women’s gold medal winning Ultimate Frisbee team at the World Beach Ultimate Championships in Brazil in 2007. The same year that I did the Dragon Boating, a couple of months later I found myself in Brazil competing, and yes I’d be training for both dragon boating and Ultimate Frisbee at the time.

We managed to beat the US Women’s team in the finals and up until that point the US women’s team had won every single tournament at beach pretty much, so this was the first time ever that Great Britain had won and it was such a huge achievement.

And the reason why we won, I believe, was that we’re a total team. We trusted each other, we respected each other, every single person on that team threw to every single other person, even the weaker players versus the stronger. Nobody had an ego. Nobody was putting themselves on the field all the time. We played the whole team. We trusted the whole team and as a result we won as a team not as a bunch of individual superstars.

So the reason I wanted to point that out, is that being an individual superstar only gets you so far and if you’re gonna play at Worlds you absolutely need to have a team moving in the right direction and winning together.

4. You always have 60 percent more.

I have often been told that you know you’ve always got 20 percent more in the tank or even up to 40 percent. But I recently listened to a fantastic audio book called Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, a New York Times bestseller by David Goggins.

He’s an ex Navy Seal and taken on a lot of battles in his life and done all these 100 mile ultra marathons.

I listened to him share his story and lessons while I was out training for my triathlons and it was inspiring and highly motivating.

Sure, he’s slightly crazy, but he has gone to the depths of beyond and back to really master his mindset and to realize that your mind controls everything and that you need to control your mind in order to do the unachievable, to achieve the impossible, to push yourself further than you’ve ever pushed yourself before.

Not only that, but to grow as a person and as a result of that become the best version of yourself to completely unleash your potential.

In his book, he says you always have 60 percent more than you think in your tank. He talks a lot about some of the sporting events that he’s done including running a 100 mile race with no training and making it to the finish.

This race is the most gruelling thing he’s ever done in his life and it is epic to listen to him explain how he draws on every single ounce of his reserve, his stamina, his perseverance and his Navy SEAL training etc.

But what ultimately gets him there is finding this new lease of life somewhere within his mind that he is capable of doing this and that only he can do it and that it is possible.

I then talked about when my incredible cycle trip down Africa from Nairobi to Cape Town 6,500km –  I had never cycled anywhere near that in my life.

Every day it was pretty much a 100kms of cycling and some days I’d get out of my sleeping bag and my tent and I was just like, “I just don’t know if I can get on that bike today. I don’t think I have anything left”.

I got known as Flatalie because I had so many flat tires and there were just days where I was like  ‘I just I can’t do this’, but I would somehow… like many others .

I’d get myself dressed and get into my cycle gear and get back on that bike and just push each pedal until I was moving and somehow or other, the body and the mind merged and I was off cycling every single day without fail.

Whether it was for three hours or eight or nine hours, I would always make it to the end. Even on the super long days we were doing like 180km and it just blew my mind that we always have more gas in the tank.

We are always, always capable of more and you just have to dig deep to get those reserves and when you think you can’t, you absolutely can. You’re not even anywhere near your capacity for achieving and for pushing yourself.

Just remember that you always have 60 percent more and when you’re going to be at those events or those races or whatever you’re doing in life right now, that when you feel like you want to give up, know that you have barely scratched the surface.

I think it’s inspiring and it’s going to serve me well in my triathlons coming up.

5. You can always improve.

This photo is at the 2016 World Championships where I played with the New Zealand Women’s Masters team. We came fifth. It was epic. And during that tournament, I realized even though I was a master and I was getting older, I still wanted to improve. I knew I still had so much more potential in me.

Sure, I might not be the fastest person (at all) and sure I’m probably not going to be as fit and I’m not as young as some of these people, because Masters is basically 30 and over, so our team was actually quite old on average.

But, I still wanted to improve and I found different strengths that I now had as an older player like as a thrower, a handler, I had different wily strengths and skills that I could use to my advantage, to overpower the ones that were more of my weaknesses now.

I just love the game so much and I was like there’s more that I can give to it, there is more I can do.

You should never think that you’re top of your game. You should never just assume that you’re the best that you’ll ever be. There’s always more room and ability to improve.

I also got everybody in the room laughing on this one because the photo was me with my back to the camera throwing and one of my team members looking like she was about to be hit by my disc and literally cowering, because I have quite a big throw with my left hand windup.

Also on the back of my T-shirt is my number I’ve always chosen which is 69, so I have to share because the number 69 obviously has sexual connotations and I just wanted to clarify the reason I chose that number is:

1) No woman will ever take it because of the connotations so I always get the number that I want in a tournament and a team

2) It meant that if I was ever upside down or laying out or whatever, that you could always tell what my number was. But I think the phrasing that I used was that if I’m ever up the wrong way or round the wrong side or something like that and it just sounded like I was explaining what a 69er was – so that got everybody laughing. I walked into that one!

6. Spirit trumps all.

This photo is of our New Zealand master’s teams, once again at the 2016 World Ultimate Champs in London.

We became fifth but we also won the spirit prize. We co-won actually, which is a first, with Germany and spirit is at the heart of Ultimate Frisbee.

If you’ve never played the sport before or never heard of it, the entire game has no referees and you self referee. Each person on the field makes a decision based on the rules. You discuss things. You discuss calls. You call fouls and you can retract them or keep them.

It’s an incredible game where you adopt the attitude of fair play at all times and you discuss and talk through anything. Everybody is responsible for playing fairly and to the rules on the field. Once again no referees, no whistles, no umpires.

It’s amazing and a huge part of the ethos and philosophy behind Ultimate Frisbee and why I adore it is that it’s about the spirit of the game.

It is deemed to be spirited if you help somebody understand the rules on the field. It is deemed to be spirited if you make a call and you explain why you made the call and you discuss it with your opposition and then you either go ahead with it or you retract it. It is deemed to be spirited to clap and cheer for the other team and to celebrate a great play or a great throw or an amazing bid or a layout or defence.

The Spirit of the game is just this beautiful thing that comes through in all you do.

At times over the years I’ve seen it lost especially when it’s super competitive. Some people just get downright competitive, nasty, rude, aggressive etc. But most of the time spirit wins through.

To win the prize for being the most spirited team was a real honour and more important than winning. And so I was really just trying to get that across, especially to the younger players, that it’s not all about winning.

It’s about your internal spirit, what you bring to the game and also the spirit of the game. And I think that applies in life, not just Ultimate Frisbee.

7. Mindset is everything (well 90%).

This photo is of me at the finish line of the National Sprint Triathlon Championships in Kinloch in February this year in New Zealand.

I’ve got my hands outstretched in the air and I’m joyous that I finished this race as it was a really tough race and I got my ass kicked and my ego bruised, because I had only started training in October of the year before.

I’d done about four months of training and I really thought I was going to do pretty well. Like I didn’t have any grandiose ideas I was going to win, but I thought I could be pretty good at this sport because I’ve been good at other sports and won medals and done all these things .

Yet I came in the bottom quarter in my race, division and age group and I was just pretty disappointed in that and I thought it sucked and told myself I’m not very good at this at all.

I ended up speaking to a bunch of people after the race who had been doing triathlons for anywhere from 2 to ten years. One woman was 77 and she just won her age group and she was off to the World Champs and it was amazing.

And she said “I just love the sport. But it took me so long to get good at it and every single year it’s just a small improvement that I make”.

Every single person that I spoke to had the same energy. They were like ‘you can’t just get good at triathlon quickly’. There are very few people who are naturally good at it. It’s one of those things you just keep at it and you make improvements and you make continual upgrades to your training, to your nutrition, to your attitude. And it will come.

And I remember being there and just feeling a little bit like deflated and Josh was like, “Nat, your goal was to finish and your goal was to get a certain time and you hit that and yet you’re not happy,” and I was like, “No, because I came like in the bottom quarter of the whole field which means I suck”.

He said, “No, you have to set your intentions way too high. You’ve only been training for four months. This was the Nationals. This wasn’t just some local event. This was the best of the best people turning up who were trying to qualify for World Champs and you made it to the end!  You did well and you completed it and you should be happy with that. This is the first of many events”.

I’m glad Josh gave me a pep talk in that moment and I walked away from that and I went, “Yeah, triathlon is going to be all about the long game. It’s going to be all about the micro improvements day after day, week after week”.

It’s about showing up, committing to consistent training and training with intention and just continuing to get better, and most importantly, always enjoying it.

I’m pleased to say that since that race I moved up to come halfway through the field in events that I did and more recently I ran a 10K race in Wellington with thousands of people competing in it, and I was in the top third of the entire race group, for my gender, and for my age group!

I was just thrilled because that proved to me that I had made massive strides in my running over a four month period and the discipline of running, that I have always found to be my weakest – unless I’m running after a Frisbee or a ball.

So it was just really thrilling to see that OK I put my head down. I trained better. I believed in myself. I called myself a runner. I called myself an athlete and I trained with more focus and moved up from bottom quarter to the top third.

I’m really thrilled with that and there’s long, long way to go but it just proved to me that once I reset my mindset about how I was going to turn up and once I reframed, once I focused on being my best self and being an athlete and focusing on that mindset, everything changed.

My lesson here was that you know it’s all about mind over matter and you have to have self belief and then you have to put in the work to make it happen.

To finish off I touched on the difference between Goals versus Intention.

I asked the room what is the difference between goals versus intentions? And it was interesting because in a big room most people don’t answer questions, but luckily some brave people put up their hand to answer and got the right gist.

In short, goals are focused on the future. They’re about a destination or a specific achievement and goals.

If I didn’t have goals, if I knew that I wasn’t competing in my first ever half Ironman in December, I probably would not be getting up to train and do long runs, bike rides and swims every single day of the week.

And it’s only going to get longer and harder. But if I didn’t have that goal in December that I want to be fit and ready for and I want to do really well and enjoy it, I probably wouldn’t be getting up in the morning to train.

Goals have an absolute benefit. They drive you. They give you a focus. They give you a deadline, a timeline. They give you something that you can aim for and achieve and they give you purpose.

And so they’re brilliant and they’re about a future event. You can set up your strategies for it. You can train. You can really know what you’re going for.

Intentions are in the present moment. Intentions are lived each day independent of reaching the goal or destination.

 

You have probably felt this before, when you’ve set yourself a big juicy goal and then let’s say maybe you’ve hit it, but once you’ve achieved it or smashed it you have this sense of disappointment or deflation afterwards.

My major lesson there is that you also have to have an intention of how you’re going to show up every single day. It’s not just about that one goal. Your intention should be, or I hope is to be, the best version of yourself.

To live with passion, to be on purpose, to be kind, to be generous, to be driven, to be ambitious. Whatever your intention is.

How you want to show up in this world is the absolute thing that you need to put all your energy and effort into. It’s what you’re going to focus on every single day. It’s how you’re going to show up. It’s how you are going to live and breathe and act with that intent.

When you have intentions that are backed up by these goals and milestones you’re not going to get depressed or disappointed or upset after something, because that goal won’t be the be all and end all of how you live.

It’s just the next driver. It’s the next point that you’re trying to reach, but because your intentions are constantly with you, those are the things that are always going to carry you through.

I think goals are needed, however intentions are what is going to help you show up in this world and they’re going to be with you long after you’ve hit and smashed all your goals that I know you’re going to do.

Now it’s your turn. This is what I’m challenging you with.

Within the next 30 days what is one goal and one intention you want to set for yourself?

You can share it with me in two ways, you can tag me in Instagram @nataliesisson and you can say that “@nataliesisson my one goal is X and my one intention is X #untapped” or leave a comment below.

I am going to give a copy of my brand new Freedom Plan audio book to one lucky person who comments in either of those ways.

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