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Uncomfortable is OK Podcast

Making it easier for you to get out of your comfort zone.

Chris Desmond explores the science, the stories, and the strategies of getting out of your comfort zone and finding your magic.

Lessons learned from Kathy Tracy. Rowing the Atlantic and the ABD to Victory

Aug 28, 2017

A couple of weekends ago I got a chance to go and share a cup of tea, a Pain Au Raison, and an awesome conversation with Kathy Tracey. I’d been pointed in Kathy’s direction by Liv Spencer-Bower, world champion canoe polo athlete who appeared back in episode 26 of the podcast. Kathy came to speak with the team as they were prepping for the world champs and by all accounts was insightful, inspirational and not afraid of the uncomfortable. The conversation I got to have with her didn’t disappoint. Kathy’s whole life has been interspersed with times and activities that have made her feel very uncomfortable. Facing these situations and working through them has given Kathy a detailed understanding of how to approach them, the questions to ask, and the strategies to take to find a path through. I got to speak with Kathy about her world record feat of becoming the first all-female crew to row the Atlantic Ocean. We also spoke about her ABD to Victory process she uses both in her leadership coaching and in her personal life.

Kathy is a massive proponent of pushing outside your comfort zone which she emphasises throughout the podcast;

“It’s about doing something that hasn’t been done, doing something that is going to stretch you beyond your wildest dreams, and somehow getting to the other end of it, and having this amazing potentially life changing experience”

“You have to push outside your comfort zone, you don’t find anything extraordinary inside it.”

“The learning you get from being outside your comfort zone is 200 times what you would get sitting in your comfy chair reading a book”

“Your stretch comes, you grow as a person, and you learn more when you’re pushing outside the zone. There is no swap for that”

You can listen to her episode for this and for her description of what it was like to row the Atlantic, because I want to focus on her ABD to Victory. This is a process that Kathy has developed over time and with her rowing. She uses this with the clients she works with in her leadership coaching, as well as consistently applying it in her personal endeavors.

A is for Acumen

The question is, what do I need to make myself successful in this? This means knowing your subject, for Kathy this time round it meant understanding what was involved in rowing across the ocean. Figuring out what equipment was needed, how to stay safe on the ocean, how to work well and resolve conflict with the rest of the crew while on the boat for 67 days, and how to raise the money to fund the venture, and a myriad of other things.

Acumen isn’t just knowledge of the subject you’re going to be working on. More importantly it’s knowledge about yourself. Do you know your strengths, do you know your weaknesses, do you know how you impact on others, and do you know what is probably possible? All of us have strong points and weak points. We don’t always understand these in ourselves, especially if we’re doing things in areas we aren’t familiar with. We also operate within environments and systems such as work, family, and community. These environments and systems influence us and we in turn influence them. Sometimes these influences restrict us, they shape our beliefs and the stories that we tell ourselves about what we are capable of. These beliefs can limit what we will attempt or how high we will aim, they aren’t based on our potential, they’re based on the stories we are told by others and more importantly by ourselves. Understanding ourselves, as well as our limiting beliefs is vital in allowing us to strategically approach big goals through identifying potential barriers and breaking down the large goal into manageable chunks.

When Kathy decided to row the Atlantic, she didn’t have the knowledge, money, or skills to do it. However the crucial factor was that she believed in her potential to do so. She figured that she could learn what she needed to know about rowing across the ocean through research and conversations with people who had done it. She believed she could get fit enough to complete the task through training and practice of ocean rowing. She thought her team could raise enough money to do it through inspiring others to believe in them. It turns out her beliefs were all correct and Kathy and the rest of the team became the first all-female crew to row the Atlantic.

B is for Bravery

Boldness is required for and great undertaking, acknowledging that it’s going to be uncomfortable at times, and being OK with that.

Often we hold ourselves back through fear. The fear of becoming uncomfortable, whether that is looking stupid, losing pride or status, being different, upsetting others, making mistakes, or many more things. This slows down our learning processes because we are scared to attempt things, and it’s through the attempt and the failures that we figure out what we need to succeed.

Being brave isn’t an absence of these fears, it’s about working your way through them. Obstacles are going to come up in our way, early identification is key, it then gives us time to think our way around them. Sometimes we have to take a big breath and just go for it.

Rowing the Atlantic is a pretty scary task and there were plenty of hairy moments that needed bravery to get through. Preparing for the task required bravery as well. Kathy needed to be brave to stand up to people who didn’t think her crew could do it. She needed to be brave to approach potential sponsors. She needed to be brave to get a crew together. Bravery came in many situations for Kathy right from coming up with the idea.

D is for Discipline

This is about getting up in the morning, putting on your shoes and going out, even if it’s raining. It’s about driving yourself and getting things done. Almost always, the key to success is consistently getting out there and doing the work, slowly getting better and slowly getting further along.

The motivation to keep yourself disciplined can wax and wane through any endeavour depending on a variety of variables. This can be through external circumstances, how well you’re looking after yourself, or sometimes even which way the wind is blowing. It’s easy to stay motivated during these good times, much harder when things aren’t going to plan. One way to keep the discipline up when the going gets tough, which I think is especially useful in the initial stages, is to imagine what it will be like when you reach your goal and the feeling you will have. Make sure you don’t imagine for too long and you actually get out there and get going. Another tactic that works well once you’ve got going is to celebrate your successes along the way. You may not have achieved your final goal but you’ve likely been ticking things off along the way and learning new skills, these are things enjoy.

To learn more about the ABD to Victory and how to apply it, go over and visit Kathy Tracey and Thinking Spaces.

You can listen to the whole episode here.