Interview with Courtney Chaal

 

 

 

Hi everybody.  I am very excited to bring on a special guest, Courtney Chaal.  She is an entrepreneur, she is a human who is very focused on becoming better and better at being human, which I appreciate about her, and she was a former high level synchronized skater.  I’m bringing her on so you can get into her brain as a skater turned businesswoman.  For all of those moms with young girls who are very ambitious and very dug into their sports, you know it will come to an end, and this will be a glimpse of what’s possible, how you can channel your athletics into an amazing, grownup life.

Rebecca:
Hi Courtney!  Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Courtney:
Hi, and thank you for such a lovely introduction of me being focused on being a better human, I love that. I’m going to start rolling with that as well.

Rebecca:
Just so you know, I’ve had a friend crush on Courtney for quite some time.  I’ve been following her on Instagram.  She is an amazing copywriter and she supports female business owners.  So, of course, I’ve been keeping track of her and just so many good things about the human rather than just the business professionals.

Courtney:
Yes, and I think businesses is, just like skating wise and athletics and even I did marching band and played the flute in high school, all of those were just ways for me to learn life lessons and channel how there’s so much more than just the activity that it is.

Rebecca:
Yes, definitely.  So would you give us a little background on kind of your athletic history and then where you are now?

Courtney:
Yeah, so I grew up in the Ann Arbor, Michigan and basically lived in an ice rink my entire life.  My brothers played hockey.  We had an ice rink in my backyard I think when I was like five and it flooded the basement which is this really specific memory.  For most of my life, I could skate better than I could walk.  I laugh because when I was in high school, my skates were like three sizes too small for my feet.  I literally couldn’t walk in them, but once I got on the ice, I was like, “Okay, I’m good,” so skating was always more comfortable for me.  It was such a joy for me, so I figure skated my whole life.  I was just very passionate about it.  I just found the sport really fun.  I think anyone who’s been in these sports knows this, but you get to a certain point, you have to decide how seriously you’re going to take it.

Private Lessons

I hadn’t been taking private lessons and I really didn’t want to quit.  I convinced my mom just spend a whole bunch of money to hire my coach who was actually a Canadian national champion, Karen Preston.  Now I live in Canada and I have so much more respect for here.  So I worked with a coach extensively for years.  When I was in middle school, I decided that jumping wasn’t my thing, so I got into synchronized skating, which for anyone who isn’t aware started in Ann Arbor.  We were the Hockettes, the original team, so it was a big long history there, and I really found my group there.

Deciding to Quit

I skated with the Hockettes from seventh grade through 11th grade, made it to the junior level and was on team USA.  I went to Switzerland and Nationals and all that and realized at the end of my junior year of high school that it was the end of that level of competitive skating for me.  So that’s my story within sport.

Rebecca:
So you’re a junior in high school, was it just a really smooth transition out?

Courtney: 
I actually tried out for the team the next year, so it was such a roller coaster.  I thought I was going to quit for a couple of years.  I actually got back into skating recently as a 31-year-old, which was super weird to do – weird in the sense of you just don’t see a lot of people doing that.  It’s a really serious sport.  What I remembered by getting back into it recently is that I have a pure joy for the sport, but the sport itself, I don’t feel like nurtured that pure joy, I feel like it kind of smacked it out of me, and not by no one’s fault, just like how it’s set up.

It was such a serious sport and there were so many rules and so much “this is how you have to do things”, it just felt really stuffy to me, and I don’t think I had the words to explain that back then, I just knew that I was done.

Getting Involved Again

I always missed skating.  I’ve had dreams for the last 15 years that I was skating.  I missed it so much, but something just wasn’t fun about it for me anymore.  It was actually after nationals my junior year of high school.  We got off the ice after skating our long program and I just started bawling because I knew it was my last competition and I just was so emotional about it.  Then I went and tried out with the team the next year knowing I probably couldn’t let go, and then I did.

When I ended up quitting and not continuing on with the team the following year, they actually ended up doing the program I wanted to do and they won Nationals, and that was really hard for me to watch from afar.  Like I said no, and they went on to do these amazing things.  So it was definitely a roller coaster for me, just the missing the skating aspect for probably, well until now, really.  I still miss it, but for a couple of years, it was very much like, “Oh my god,” I really missed the big things about it.

No Regrets

I didn’t regret my decision, but it was hard.  I also went through a massive identity crisis, like, “Who am I?  What am I doing?  What do I like, who are my friends?”  It was very, very challenging for me.  But I will say, looking back on it retrospectively, I’m so glad that I ended up when I knew it was my time because I did witness a lot of my past teammates who really struggled to ever let go of it.  I don’t want to make any judgments, but I think it might have held them back in their adult lives because they just didn’t know what else to do with this passion for this sport and all these years put into the sport.

Rebecca:
Yeah, I see that because gymnastics is my sport and I’m like so deeply rooted in it.  It’s a part of your identity and then when you step away from it, it’s kind of like, “Oh, who am I?”  I was like, “Well, I must coach.  That’s what I must do.  I have to get back in it,” and did, but it’s like, can you then go beyond that and become who you’re meant to be?  You do have to let go of something.  That’s a really interesting question.

Courtney:
Or just morph it, right?  Because I think I am still who I am.  I still love this sport for the same reasons I loved it back then, but I’m an adult, and it’s such a good thing to learn as a teenager or whatever age that things don’t last forever.  Even if you go to the Olympics, even if you do those things, it doesn’t last forever.  And you see that… what do they call it? The gold metal of depression.  When people win the Olympics, all of a sudden they have, they’re forced into that crisis.  It’s something you have to deal with at some point, no matter what.

Morphing Your Identity

Even if you do become a coach, even if you do continue on with the sport, there’s going to be a shift.  These sports are so hard on your body.  I actually have scoliosis now and some issues with my hips and my back, and I wasn’t even that in that intense of a skater compared to a lot of really, highly competitive skaters.  So, yeah, it’s about earning how to morph your identity, which to me as a business person is something I’m doing all the time.  Learning to change your identity I think is a lifelong skill, and once you do it, once you realize it’s okay, you’re going to live through it, it makes you a lot more adaptable in the world.

Rebecca: 
Yes.  Now, you’ve had a couple of rough spots in your life, and I remember reading that when you were in college, four members of your family passed away.  So, you’ve had the first transition of, “I’m, I’m a skater, that’s my life.  Okay.  Now I’m not a skater,” and then you end up in a spot like that.  How did that change your life?

Courtney:
It was like, “I’m stopping skating.”  I was 16-years-old going into my senior year of high school.  I had other things like I said, I was also very dedicated to band and marching band.  So that was very, very similar – I learned a lot of life lessons from being in that kind of activity as well, even though I don’t play the flute anymore.  Then it’s that transition out of high school, going to university.

Dealing with Loss

The summer after my freshman year of college, my Stepdad died.  It was very dramatic, and then about a year later, my uncle was killed by a drunk driver.  Three months later, his mom, my grandma died from complications from ms and also a broken heart.  Six months after that, my grandfather, the father and the husband of the two who had passed away died of pancreatic cancer.  All four of those deaths happened between the ages of 18 and 21.  I just turned 21 when my grandpa passed and I was a senior in college.  So for me, from the age of 16 until the age of 21 and graduating from college and then after college I moved to France, there was very little consistency.

Becoming Adaptable

I think all of that was so hard, to be put in that kind of pressure cooker when you’re that young because you don’t realize how terrible of age it is to be going through that kind of stuff.  I didn’t know any different, but I do know that it’s because of that, that I was adaptable.  It was because of those things and the way I reacted to them that I decided to move to France, that I decided to start my own business, that I was put down that trajectory because if I had just kind of kept doing the same thing I was always doing and stayed with the same friends, which a lot of people I know did, and it’s no judgment on that. I just saw a lot of people being really scared to be in life and um, I just didn’t want that to happen to me.

I think death has a funny way of forcing that into your face.  I think I was in a kind of permit existential crisis for about a decade. I’m feeling much better about it now. I think my thirties are going to be great. But um, yeah, it took me a while to, um, to realize that, wow, I’ve been through the, I think of it as I’m saying this right now. It was just constant. It was just constant change.

Rebecca:
And change is something that you see in successful businesses.  They roll with it.  They pivot, and those who stay stagnant…

Courtney:
You’re either growing or you’re dying essentially. Right? Like you have to, you have to choose one or the other. You don’t get to be stagnant.

Rebecca:
So you were forced into that all this change to finally go, “Okay, change I can handle.”

Courtney:
Yeah.  And I do like change.  I embrace change.  I think when tragedy strikes or when, let’s say you’re at the end of a skating career or in gymnastics or whatever that is, at the end of college, the end of high school, whatever that is, you can either choose to kind of hold onto it or you can choose to embrace the excitement that is life.  For me, the lesson I took from that, and that’s based on my personality, is I’m going to make the most of my life and I’m going to go out there and I’m going to do all these things because life is short and I don’t know how long I’m going to be here.  That’s kind of what woke me up.

Rebecca:
Oh, I always love how people’s crazy paths that aren’t perfect and aren’t straight line them perfectly up with where they’re supposed to be.

Courtney:
I don’t know what I would’ve done otherwise.  I don’t even know who that person would have been.  I think when I was 16, 17 I would’ve been like, “Oh my God, never, I can’t deal with that,” And now I’m like, “Oh my God, I couldn’t be who I am if I hadn’t done that.”  So I think that’s a healthy way to look at your past experiences, even though obviously losing loved ones is terrible and you wouldn’t want that to happen, it does happen.  It’s a part of life.

Rebecca:
And think of any family member who’s no longer with you, would they be like, “Oh, she’s really not killing it,” no.  They’d be so, so proud and so excited.

Courtney: 
I think that’s kind of what motivated me as well.

Rebecca:
So, okay, failure is a big part of sports, big part.  You know, you’re failing and trying and failing and trying and failing and failing and failing a million times before you get a new skill, before you reach a goal.  There’s so much failure and they’re still a little instant gratification in sports, which is why I have so much respect for athletes in today’s world where it’s like, “I’m not sure Google it,” you know, it’s not instant.  And so what failures did you have either in sport or in business that really gave you a lot of wisdom?

Courtney: 
I never won anything in sports.  I want this to be abundantly clear.  I have so many bronze, pewter silver metals, a lot of seventh-place finishes.  Never won a gold medal in my life.  So, part of that is interesting because part of me thinks I held myself back from actually wanting to win, so I kept myself just under so that I wouldn’t be disappointed, and that’s a whole nother psychology to get into.  But also, I didn’t have this “I have to win the gold medal” thing that wanted it.

Holding Back

It’s a lot of like assessing my own psychology and how I hold myself back because I did this with college too.  I only applied to colleges I knew I would get into.  So this is something I’ve been working on for more than 10 years now.  After realizing that, and a lot of those things I did after members passed away, realizing, “Oh my God, I’m holding myself back,” as I went for a job on campus that was the most prestigious student job on campus.  And I got it.  There were only eight people hired from over a hundred applicants.

After that I went after an opportunity to live in France, then I went after starting my own business, and I am currently going after a goal to have $1 million business.  I’m much less afraid of saying or declaring I want things now and actually going after things I’m not sure about.  But this goes back to me when I was a baby.  My mom always talks about how I didn’t like to learn to walk like a normal baby.  I would not let go of anything until I was 100% sure I could do it on my own.  So I didn’t stumble, I didn’t fall, never, and I think that’s really dangerous.

Failure vs. Progress

Going to failure, I don’t even like to use the word failure sometimes because I try to avoid it so much that it’s not even a possibility, and so I think maybe not calling it failure, but calling it progress, like you have to do those things.  I eventually, obviously did learn to walk pretty, and I started running a little bit after skating too.  I ran a couple of half marathons, so I think I’m ok with my legs, but I think I would have learned faster if I had just gone for it, and I can see that playing out in other areas of my life.  I just feel like it’s some really innate, deep psychology.  If I was doing that as a baby, like, where’s that coming from?  So I feel like what I’ve learned is to embrace admitting that I want things, because my way of avoiding failure was just saying I didn’t want it anyway.

I think that’s a little bit different than how a lot of people face failure which is they want it and they’re afraid to try.  I just wouldn’t even say that I wanted it because I didn’t want to have to deal with not getting it.  So I’ve learned that’s just a bunch of fake stories, none of that’s real.  What was I afraid of?  People would judge me?  Nobody cares.  Nobody cares that you didn’t get a medal you wanted, they genuinely don’t, and if they do, that’s about them, it’s about you.  They need to deal with their own stuff.  You do see this sometimes in these sports, parents really put a lot on their kids, but that’s about the parents that like living vicariously through the kid. That’s one thing I’m really happy about – I didn’t have that, I have had to learn how to admit that I really do want something like I really want it and I really want to go after it.

Rebecca:
And then you have to actually risk the failure.  That’s something in my business I can relate to, everything you’re saying.  I think a lot, probably 80 plus percent of my clients, are similar in that they’re going, “I have to perfect it, perfect it, perfect it,” before they go to the medium beam, before they go to the high beam.  Meanwhile, there’s some kid who will just fling stuff on the high beam.

Courtney:
This is why I was terrible at jumping.  We had the harness, and Karen, my coach, would put me in the harness.  I’d do an axle and she’d say, “I didn’t do anything.  I was holding with my Pinky,” but I’d want her to take me out of a harness.  I’d freak out. So that was a big mental hurdle.

Look, for anyone listening to this who’s like, “I’m really dealing with that,” I’m going to be honest, I didn’t handle it well as a teenager.  As an adult, however, I’ve been able to see where else that is showing up in my life, where I freak out and I let my mind stop me from jumping, from taking the leap, literally from taking a leap, and it’s okay if you don’t solve the problem now, too.  This is a lesson you can learn over the years, many, many years of your adult life.

Courtney:
Yes.  That was what stopped my career too, was that fear and that holding back, and so that’s literally what I specialize in now, which, you know, again, those weird roads of failure and things not going well, and now I’m like, “12-year-old girl who can’t go backwards, I get you.  I am you.  Let’s hang out.

Courtney:
And I still don’t want to jump in the air on ice skates!  I give people so much credit and I think I want to just add another piece here.  If you’re really not enjoying doing something, that’s something to listen to as well.  If your goal is to compete at a certain level or do things that at a certain level, there are just things you’re going to have to do and then you have to make a decision – are you just going to deal with it and accept it as a part of the process, or are you going to not do it?  And it’s totally okay either way, but if you’re going to go in, you got to go in 100%, you can’t be 25% like, “Well, I can always fall back on this,” because then you’re not committing to the goal.

Rebecca:
I love how you’re kind of setting it up.  You gave yourself permission to succeed, permission to put it all out there and maybe you still end up with the bronze, but you’d put it out there anyway.  You say, “I want the gold, the Olympics.  I want the national team.  I want a college scholarship, dang it.  I want that school,” and maybe it’s not where you’re going to end up.  I didn’t end up at my dream school, but I have the dream career.

Courtney:
And you probably had the experience that was right for you.

Rebecca:
It was so much better than I would have had at this huge school and up at a little school where I know my professors and it was perfect for me.

Courtney:
I had the same experience.  And if you want the big things, you can’t do the minimal effort to get there.  This was me, I was always like, “Well, I’ll do 80% effort, but I want the gold medal.”  Well, 80% effort isn’t going to get you the gold medal.  You have to look at what is required for the gold medal can be kind of an analogy for an assemble for anything, right?  If I wanna make $1 million in my business, I need to actually plan for 2 million.  Why don’t I make the effort for $2 million, then $1 million becomes more of a sure thing.  It’s not a sure thing, but it’s more of a sure thing.

If I’m going to plan for a million and I make an effort for half a million, I’m probably going to land at like $300,000.  Are you willing to put in twice as much work as you think is even required for the effort?  It’s about looking at that honestly without having an emotional reaction, but then making a decision and asking, “What are the real consequences?”  Then, really thinking through that, and that’s adult maturity. That puts you so far ahead of the game, just learning how to really accept the consequences of your decision.

Rebecca:
Yeah.  And I talked to a lot of kids who were right at that wall where it’s like they either push into discomfort-land big time and get the dream, or stay comfortable and mediocre. And I imagine that with people who you coach and business people, there’s a lot of that wall where they stagnant, stay stuck, decay or push into the discomfort and really see what you’re made out.

Courtney:
And as long as you’re comfortable, you’re not growing, so you cannot grow and be comfortable at the same time.  That’s an oxymoron because the definition of growth is outside of your comfort zone.  That’s a good lesson to keep in mind for everything in life, relationships, everything.

Rebecca:
Everything.  You can have anything you want in this life, I believe, if you’re willing to be uncomfortable.  And if you’re not, well, you’re not going to be comfortable anyway because you’re not going to be happy with what you’re up to.  So, everybody, comfort is the key.

So you wrote an article about how to stop feeling like a fraud and I’ve talked to a couple of skaters, quite a few skaters actually, who will have thoughts that come up, like, “I’m not good enough.  I’m not good enough for this coach.  I am not good enough for this team.  I’ll never be good enough,” and I felt like your perspective on that applies.

Stop Feeling like a Fraud

Courtney:
I love this because I always thought I was the weakest link and I probably was in the bottom half of my team in terms of skills.  That’s such a great question because it asks me to apply what I now know on like 16-year-old Courtney.  I’m like, “Wow, I really, I really could have helped her.”  I think the most important thing to know about feeling like a fraud is everybody feels like a fraud, especially if you are a teenager.

One of the greatest realizations I did have in some aspects of my life as a teenager, is all this anxiety I had about myself and like how I’d show up with “do people like me” and dah, dah, dah, was everyone else was thinking the same things about themselves.  They’re not thinking about me because I’m not thinking about them.  So I realized, “Oh, I can just like let that go a little bit then,” which didn’t make it just go away, but that really helped me to not care so much about what other people thought.

Sport Culture

I do realize in some of these sports it is kind of a cultural bubble.  The culture inside of figure skating is a weird culture, I think.  I’m going back into it as a 31-year-old and it’s the exact same here in Vancouver as it was for me in Ann Arbor more than 16 years later.  Across the continent, same exact culture.  It triggered all those feelings again of “people are judging me, people are watching me, people are making fun of me”.  I’ve had an opportunity to be like, “Wow, 16-year-old Courtney is back in full force of feeling that way.”  Just practicing, there are people out there who appear kind of fearless.  I always like to imitate them, and I’m not even talking about the really good people. I’m talking about when you’re at skating practice, there are always a couple of people who aren’t the most graceful looking skaters, they struggle a lot, but they’re out there and they’re practicing and they’re doing all the repetitions and they’re going for it.

Some of those girls are the ones that outpaced me in their skillset because I had more of a natural, maybe look than they did, but they worked harder than me and they were willing to look a little bit “silly”.   Who cares if I thought they looked silly?  That’s my problem that I thought they looked silly, they worked their butts off and they actually excelled where I didn’t.  So that’s another good lesson for me was how much did I hold myself back by fear of looking stupid?

Rebecca:
That, I think, is a huge thing for skaters.  Probably the number one thing I think that holds back thee confidence is that “people are looking at me” because they actually are in skating.

Courtney:
There are parents up at the window.  I mean there are a lot of people looking at you.  It’s really annoying.

Rebecca:
When you can be at peace with that, that’s when you can be free to thrive.

Courtney:
So much power.  Think about how many areas in life that applies to – public speaking, speaking your mind to people who might not agree with you, there are so many areas of life.  If you can kind of accept that and accept that you have no control over them and that’s 100% their problem, whatever they’re thinking, all you have control over is your own thoughts, your own actions, your own behavior, that is the most empowering thing I think you can do.

Not Your Monkey

Rebecca:
Yeah. We have a saying in my online community, “That’s not my monkey,” that monkey you’re carrying on your back is actually your mom’s monkey.  How much you’re spending on your gymnastics?  Not your monkey.  Just go get your skills.  That’s her stuff.  You don’t have to carry it.  Why carry everyone else’s monkeys around?  It makes you skate like a weirdo.

Courtney:
A lot of athletes have a sibling in the sport, too, so that can get really messy with the emotional stuff.  I know there are a lot of sisters, a couple on our team, where one sister was always being compared to the other sister, and they had different bodies, different ages, different passions, different everything.  My brothers were that way in hockey.  It’s a different sport but still, one was always being kind of compared to the other one.  Especially with siblings close enough in age that they are at a similar level or on the same team, just remember, all that is your territory is your own body, your own mind, and you can decide how you’re going to react to what’s going on around you and no one else has control over that. And likewise, you don’t have control over how anyone else’s is acting.

Rebecca:
I have a friend who says, “You just stay in your own hula-hoop, your little hoop, you’re going to be fine.”

Courtney:
You cannot control anything outside of that Hula Hoop.  Don’t waste the energy.

Rebeeca:
Why even bother?  Don’t stress yourself out.

Support Squad

So, I like to talk about support squad.  Parents, coaches, partners, I know my husband is a huge support in my business.  He’s always over in the corner being like, “Oh yeah, you’re going to fail, sure.  Just like last time. Okay.  Whatever.”  He believes in me so deeply that I’m more able to believe in myself.  Who was your support squad growing up, and who do you have now?

Courtney:
Growing up was really my mom.  She was so encouraging and it’s really interesting to reflect back on.  She was very involved, but she was not living vicariously through me.  She was always like, “Whenever you want to stop, you can stop.  Whatever you want to do, here’s the things to think about.  Here’s what I see.  Here’s how I see you acting.  I’ve noticed a change in you.”  She really helped me to develop a lot of that emotional intelligence and, and have some wisdom about my own behavior because I wouldn’t always notice like, “Wow, I’m really showing a lot less passion for the sport now,” or I’d be skipping stuff or I wouldn’t be working as hard.  And she would see it, but not in like a critical way.  I did see people whose parents were very critical of them and nitpicking, and my mom would rarely sit and watch me practice.  When she did, I didn’t mind it.  I wasn’t worried about it because she wouldn’t criticize me.

Otherwise, I would say my coach Karen was absolutely incredible.  She was such a wonderful coach.  For me it was really important to have a coach who was strict in a sense but was also really warm and caring and that’s how she was.  She was absolutely a really, really wonderful person. I knew that she cared about me and then I also wanted to work hard for her and I think that’s really important in a coach.

I will also say I had a lot of great team members.  I did have some team members I didn’t like so much and synchro is about 20 girls on the ice, probably like 25 on the team in general, sometimes more.  You have a bunch of 16-year-old girls, honestly, probably like 14 to 18 and there’s a lot of drama, so I think my team was also very supportive and I really learned so much from being around them.  I would say that’s really was my biggest support system.

Now, I would say it’s mostly my business friends.  I have been in business now for eight or nine years, and through that time as I’ve made friends, I’ve made friends with other entrepreneurs, I’m doing programs and I invest in myself and I put myself in the room with people who are doing big things.  Because of that, I’ve gotten to know a lot of really incredible people and they’re really my support system.

Self-Validation

My husband is very supportive.  He doesn’t really understand anything I do, but he doesn’t question it and he doesn’t say, “You need to do this,” but I think a lot of entrepreneurs, especially women, we will go to partners or other people for validation when they shouldn’t be the ones giving us validation.  There’s no reason my husband should be giving me validation on things I’m doing in my business, but a lot of women do that. And I think a lot of women do that in all ages of life, in different activities. Validate yourself!  I think it’s so important to learn.

I probably leaned on my mom too much when trying to decide if I should quit skating because I knew in my gut it was time.  I needed help working through that process, but ultimately I made that decision and that was really scary.  I wanted to put it on her to decide, and she was like, “No, I’m not deciding this.”  I have to own my own decisions and the consequences of those decisions, and even if it’s the right decision, there are always consequences to the decisions.  So yeah, I think that I would say those are my biggest supporters.

Rebecca:
Awesome.  I have moms, ask, “When is it time for us to quit?”  I’m like, “Oh, boy, it’s not an us, it’s her,” that’s not what I say but I say, “What does she want to do?  What does she say?”  And they respond, “She says she doesn’t want to quit,” so I’m like, “Well, I mean, there’s your answer.”

Making Your Own Decisions

Courtney:
My mom did such a good job at that and I have to give her so much credit because she didn’t want to interfere.  My mom was kind of like a snowplow parent or helicopter parent.  She was like that, and in some areas, I think she kind of enabled my brothers and I a little bit too much, but she also really encouraged us to make our own decisions.  Maybe if you’re listening and you feel like your daughter is doesn’t know or she’s unclear, it might be because you’ve been making a lot of decisions for her and maybe it’s time to start allowing her to make decisions, and she’ll probably make some questionable ones at first, but that’s how you learn it to make decisions.

I have seen so many people who went to college and they’re in their early twenties and they hadn’t been used to making their own decisions and trust me, it’s better to help them while they’re still living in your house then when they’re 25 and dangerous.

Rebecca:
I tell the swim moms, “Let them forget their goggles when they’re 12, so that they won’t forget their goggles when they’re 19 in college.

Courtney:
Yep, exactly.  My mom was a team manager, so she always had the schedule and people would ask me when things were, and I never knew because I didn’t have to know anything and I didn’t have to think about anything, and that’s to my detriment right now.  Literally right now, one of the things I’m working on is being better at being on time.  Well, not on time, but sometimes I forget things and my schedule is a little bit of a mess, and that comes down to the fact that when I was a teenager I didn’t have to be held accountable.  When I forgot my homework, my mom would come bring it to school for me.  I should have been held accountable for that, then I wouldn’t have to be working on it so much right now.  So it’s a little bit like words of caution.

Rebecca:
Yes.  Good tips.  I’ve talked to a woman who’s a college recruiting expert and I said, “How do you set the 12-year-old up for success in college?”  And her simple, quick answer was, “Let them fail now.”  Let them fail now so that they realize that they’ll get through it and then they start making better choices.

Courtney:
Yeah.  Going off to college is scary enough.  I remember the first I went to the grocery store when I was a freshman in college.  I cried because I had no idea what to do.  I thought that when I bought a sandwich, all the sandwich stuff would be in one place.  You know what I mean?  Like it was organized by meals.

Rebecca:
I learned from my mom, you just go to the freezer section and get things that go in the microwave, so I was actually totally set for college.

Courtney:
That’s perfect. Yeah, I cried. I bawled my eyes out.

Rebecca:
So everybody, let your kid do the shopping once or twice.

Courtney:
I learned, but yeah.

Rebecca:
So I know another thing you talk about is happiness.  Why create this career for yourself if you’re not going to be happy?  I figure why do the sport if there’s not going to be this foundation of joy underneath it?  So I like to ask guests, what are your top tips for performing happy, or for allowing happiness to be one of the driving forces in what you’re passionate about, what you’re committed to?

Courtney:
I think that there’s a lot of daily grind, especially when you’re working hard in a sport.  Like you said, there’s a lot of instant gratification in our world, and when you think about right now, all of the athletes who are preparing for the Olympics, we don’t see any of that right now and nobody’s thinking about them, but the second the two weeks of the Olympics comes, everyone’s obsessed with them.  “Oh my God, I want to do that!”   They’ve been busting but for four years, even more, so I think remembering always what is inspiring you to go after this goal.

For me right now in business, I don’t think the goal is always happiness all the time.  I think it’s about enjoying what you’re doing, having desire to do it, and feeling fulfilled by it.  It doesn’t mean you have to love it every second, and I think that sometimes we confuse that.  You’re not going to love every second of it, but you have to be willing to put in that time that maybe is a little bit painful, is a little bit difficult, you know, those early mornings, those cold, early morning ice skates, are you willing to do that?

Remember Your “Why”

And remember why you’re doing it.  Once you remember why you’re doing it, journal.  Get to know yourself, set goals, make vision boards, watch and read things that inspire you.  I love to go on Youtube.  I think this is probably great for athletes – watch little video clips of what other athletes are doing to reinspire you about your sport during those times where you’re like, “I just really don’t feel like it.”

Rebecca:
And what is driving you right now?  Why of why a million?

Courtney:
Oh, because it’s fun.  Because why not?  Because it’s an amount that to me is like so crazy.  When I started my business, I was living in Paris.  I got a French degree and then I moved to France and I was like, “If I could just make $30,000 a year forever, I’d be happy.”  Now I’m like, “What if I made a million?”

It’s a game to me.  It doesn’t give me my self-worth, it’s because I’d be able to buy a lot of cool stuff and have a cool house.  I don’t know. $1 million isn’t going to buy me a house in Vancouver, I’m just going to let everybody know that, but I want to get to a place where I can do really cool stuff.  I want to be able to take my family on vacation and rent a private jet.  Why not?  So that’s why I’m doing it is basically because I can’t think of a good reason not to.

Rebecca:
Great.  So for you athletes, why not aim for the Olympics?  Why not aim for the dream school?  Why not?  It’s fun!

So you’ve got that little sparkle about, “Ooh, that’d be awesome, and now I get to work,” and then you remember, “Oh yeah, this is fun.”

Courtney:
And then I think it’s important then to break the goal down, because I’m not on track for a million this year, but a million wasn’t my goal this year.  I have it broken down so it’ll probably take me two more years to get there.  I have it broken down into very specific amounts.  So I think if a goal for you is to get to the Olympics or to  get a scholarship to college, whatever it is, break that down into what needs to happen, like however many years there are to go – what needs to happen this year, what has to happen next year, what needs to happen in the next 12 months.  Take each month and really break it down so that you can have actionables today.

Because saying, “I want to make $1 million,” would just paralyze me right now because I can’t just go out and sell something for $1 million right now because I’m not there yet, so breaking it down is the next most important thing, and then get to work.

Rebecca:
And that also puts your fear of failure at bay because you’re like, “Well I don’t have to worry about that.  I just have to do this piece.”

Courtney:
And the failure is about not taking the action.  There’s this concept in business, lead versus lag measures.  Lead measures are the actions you’re taking, the things you have control over.  Lag measures are the results that comes from that.  You literally have no control over if you win a gold medal or not.  You do not have control over that, especially in figure skating.  So people realize that.  It’s a  very subjective sport.  Also, who knows what could happen.  There’s so much luck in that during that week if you have an illness and someone else doesn’t.  I mean, there are so many things that come into play, but you do have control over the actions you take.  And that’s the win, is taking the actions.  The result will come if you take enough of the actions, the likelihood of you getting the result will be there, but taking the action every day is the win.

So don’t wait to get the gold medal to feel that way because nothing external outside of you has control over your happiness, only you do.  If you learn to be happy without it and it becomes a game to you, a really fun game to play, that’s great.  But if you need this achievement to validate yourself and to feel good about yourself in order to feel loved by your parents, not a great motivation, my friends.  Not a good motivation to do that.  So find those things from inside of yourself, and then yes, go after the big stuff, but only when you have a sense of detachment from it because that’s when you actually are less susceptible to injury and to getting sick and to having all these dramatic problems when you’re approaching it from this like very lighthearted sense of fun.

Rebecca:
Amazing.  Courtney, it has been such a pleasure.  I know there are girls that are definitely going to be inspired by this and hopefully learn from your mistakes and mine.  Everybody, please learn from our mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself.

And then that little teeny sliver of life that is sport can skyrocket you into any life that you want to create for yourself.  You are absolute evidence of that.

Courtney:
You have so much time, I have time.  We all have so much time.  You have so many things you have no idea where you’ll be in five, 10 years.  So yeah. Yeah.

Rebecca:
So dream big.  It’s been such a pleasure.  If you have an idea for a service-based business or an online course and you want Courtney’s beautiful mind on your idea, then make sure to follow her on Instagram at @Courtneychaal or go to her website, Courtneychaal.com.

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