15 minutes that changed my life

I was one of the very few athletes who put a stake in the ground and lived by it. I verbalise my goals because I like to hold myself accountable, and I choose to layer it with responsibility.

Expectations arise the minute you verbalise a goal.

As a 16-year-old, I declared I wanted to become a world champion. At 22 years of age, I was No.2 in the world. Working four different jobs, about 60 to 70 hours a week, earning $8000 a year from my primary sponsor. At the time, women’s surfing lacked sufficient economic or industry support, making it an even more significant challenge to aspire to become a world champion.

The 15 minutes that changed my life happened one night while working at the Old Manly Boatshed. My shift started at about 6.30pm and finished at 3am. I was picking up glasses, delivering drinks and pouring beers to earn a living.

One of my employers, who had an enormous amount of respect and empathy for me, pulled me aside after work one night. He said, “I see how hard you’re working, I know how much you really want to win a world title. I believe in you, and I know you don’t have time to earn the extra amount that you need to afford your round-the-world air ticket, so here’s a $3000 cheque. Go for it.” I see you. I hear you. I believe in you.

It was a catalyst moment. A stepping stone for me to be able to fulfil my dreams. To travel, compete and gain the experience I needed, to become not only a one-time world champion but a seven-time world champion.

We go through life aspiring to achieve something great, but when people recognise ability, passion, enthusiasm and tenacity – when people realise it in you – that is very reassuring.

The measure of success is how you trounce disappointment. It’s not what you endure, it’s how you overcome it. I’ve always been surrounded by great people who have picked me up, dusted me off and pushed me back out into the world.

Our thoughts and attitudes can hold us back. The greatest obstacle to our success is our self-imposed limitations and misconceptions, or our unwillingness to budge. We’ve all got to be held responsible for our lives. We’ve all got to take responsibility for the choices we make, our values, the people we surround themselves with, and the experiences we have.

I wasn’t born a world champion. I wasn’t born with the ability to become one either. When I sit on the beachfront looking at the corner at Manly, I reflect on being the only girl in the water. When I started to infringe on the northern end of the beach, I encountered harassment, intimidation, threats, and often kicked out of the water with tears in my eyes, my tail firmly tucked between my legs. They said things like “You’re a girl, you’re not allowed out here”. But I broke down those barriers because I had the tenacity and the clarity of vision to stand up and fight for what I believed in. Why? Because I craved success more than I feared failure.

My passion for becoming the best surfer in the world prevented any dream-thief who didn’t have the courage and the conviction to set a goal, let alone the determination to achieve it, tell me that I wasn’t capable of doing something. There are many people out there who will tell you that you can’t. What you must do is turn around and say, watch me.

Our values govern our behaviours. When you’re clear on your own values, you live a life according to your own purpose. You’re no longer a rudderless boat. You’re no longer waiting for other people’s opinions or decisions to determine which direction you head in.
What is driving you? Who is supporting you verses sabotaging you? Do you fear failure? Do you fear success? Taking the time to answer these questions will empower you to take control of your life and your tribe.

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