I had the pleasure of hearing Steph Jagger speak at FEAT Canada this winter. She was awarded space on the stage for her amazing accomplishment of skiing the most vertical feet in a year. And while that was an adventure worth hearing all about, that wasn’t the message she was there to share. Her message was so much bigger. It started off like this,
“Ask yourself this: What would change if we spent as much time glorifying start lines as we do finish lines? What if we cheered as wildly for people the moment they assumed their position in the starting blocks as we do when they run through the tape at the end of the race?”
Do I have your attention? Steph Jagger had mine. I was on the edge of my seat for the rest of the night and I wanted to share a big portion of her speech with you. She provided excellent pearls of wisdom that got us thinking.
Steph, “As a person who has crossed numerous finish lines, I’ll tell you in advance – my ego and I have a vested interest in the glorification of finish lines, a lot of doors have opened for us because of our ability to cross them, but when I sat down to write this speech it dawned on me that I wasn’t terribly interested in talking about finish lines.
It’s not that I don’t have juicy little tidbits to share with you about how I did what I did.
Believe me, I do. It’s just that what I find MOST interesting about my story, and the stories of others who live with their restraining devices lifted, is in many ways, the exact opposite of finish lines.
What I’m most curious about is starting lines. And to be frank, I believe it’s our ability to get to them that prompts all those doors to swing open.
I didn’t always feel this way, but after reflecting on everything I’ve seen and done, I’ve decided that there’s nothing I find more alluring…seductive really, than the sound of a figurative gunshot as it cracks through the air, marking the beginning of a grand adventure.
Joseph Campbell, who was arguably the most prominent mythologist of our time, named these gunshots “Calls to Adventure”. He defined them as blunders, stumbled upon chances that reveal unsuspected worlds…the idea that something else is out there.
In my mind these are the moments we become capable of shifting from ordinary to extraordinary, human to hero. And THAT…that’s what I want to talk about tonight.
How do we hear our own calls to adventure? How do we recognize them when they’re thrown our way? How do we know when a starting line is really a starting line?
LUKE SKYWALKER was a bored and lonely farm boy living on a made-up planet whose name I can’t pronounce, when he received a holographic message from a droid.
HARRY POTTER was locked in a cupboard under the stairs until letters began arriving, delivered by a series of owls.
DOROTHY GALE and her ratty looking terrier were chillin in “the middle of nowhere” Kansas until a Tornado shook things up.
These famous characters and many others like them, real or imagined, have one thing in common. Prior to their calls, they were generally discontented with life.
They weren’t living in terror. Life wasn’t miserable. Things weren’t completely awful…but boredom, frustration and discontent were creeping in.
That’s sign number one.
If your regular life doesn’t feel like it fits anymore. If a general dissatisfaction is seeping in through the cracks of the walls you’ve carefully built around you…PAY ATTENTION.
This is the Universe’s way of preparing you. It’s like getting advance warning on a pop quiz that involves questions about when, how and where your life is going to change (if you let it).
And let me tell you this – being discontent is a good enough reason. You don’t have to wait until something falls apart or breaks to ask for more, different, better, to say YES to a call to adventure. You might take some heat for it, I know I did…but I didn’t care. I’d rather be happy than discontent and I’d rather be totally freaking overjoyed than happy.
But I digress…
Next comes the ACTUAL call. It can come in many forms. You might hear something or see something. You might meet a new person or get an interesting email. Mine came in the form of a small blue sign that was dangling from the top of a ski lift. The instructions were clear – it read:
Raise Your Restraining Device and I did. But that’s not the point. The point is that there are an infinite number of ways a call can show up. That said, regardless of the variety there is a singular feature you can ALWAYS count on. Absolutely, unequivocally, your call will be ABSURD. No joke. It will be totally absurd.”
So I’m sure you now understand why I just HAD to learn more about Steph. Her speech was so inspiring (and this is only a portion of it!) I was honoured to have the opportunity to meet with her via phone and have a one hour interview with her.
As she sat in her San Diego office that overlooks a beautiful Californian canyon she shared her thoughts with me.
Jami: “You are quite the accomplished woman, crossing lots of finish lines. What’s been the hardest thing you’ve ever done?”
Steph, “I’m in the process of writing a book right now, and while the book is about my trip around the world, the message that I’m sharing is about the big picture. It’s about what the trip did physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s the hardest thing for me but It’s also the easiest and most glorifying. For me to sit on the edge of emotion and explore from there is a really uncomfortable place. But when I’m willing to go there I learn, I grow, and I feel rewarded. It takes a lot of discipline to sit down and do this every day, it can be painful, and uncomfortable and it’s a lot of work. But worthwhile? Absolutely.”
Jami, “So why is it hard to be truthful? To delve into that place of discomfort? To be vulnerable if you’re all alone?”
Steph, “It’s taking that time to really investigate where the truth sits. You know the place, that’s deep down inside of you, where you have to look at your own weaknesses in the eye and sort through each and every one. I can hold a stare with my strengths, that’s my comfort zone, but my weaknesses? That’s the area that challenges me the most. It’s also the place where I need to expand and grow my comfort in. Every day is challenging but every day I do it I’m more comfortable in that zone.
Jami, “I know this is a loaded question as this takes you into a place of discomfort so I hope you don’t mind me asking! What is your biggest weakness?”
Steph, “I want to be more comfortable sitting on the edge I just described. I want to be more open and willing to share a piece of my heart. I want to share in my vulnerabilities and be comfortable doing so. I think it’s the only way we can really help one another.”
Jami, “This reminds me of an article I wrote about “The challenge with being authentic, are you afraid to show who you really are?” It led us into a conversation about online personas and the challenge and perceptions that take place around building your business online.
Steph, “It took me a lot of time to wrap my head around putting my name front and center as the brand. It seemed arrogant at first. But I feel like this is truly my calling and if has to be packaged with my name and face on the front of it to resonate with people, so be it. I now have peace with that decision.”
Jami, “Can you tell me about a time that you “failed”?”
Steph, “Hopefully I’m failing on a daily basis. If I don’t get up from my work and say “there was a place I could improve” then I wonder if I’m trying hard enough. If I become too comfortable I feel like I’m failing because I’m not putting things out there in a big enough way, hard enough, as that’s the place that we learn. So I hope I fail every day.”
Jami, “Who inspires you?”
Steph, “There are a few women who have gone on amazing journeys and then shared their stories afterwards. Liz Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed have done this and shared a piece of their hearts with us. If I could come anywhere close to that I’d love to, I think they are so inspiring.
I’m also inspired on a daily basis by the everyday woman, for example, my sister. I see all the work that she does as a stay at home mom and the how she’s pours her whole heart into being a really conscious parent. The strength it takes to make the decisions she’s faced with every day amazes me.
I love people who take entirely different paths than me. I love hearing their stories and learning from them.”
Jami, “Do you think it’s important for children to challenge themselves physically? Why?”
Steph, “Yes, I think it’s especially important for young girls to understand what their body is capable outside of outside of what the media presents as important. What your body can do physically, how strong it is, is so important. I want girls to take the power of their bodies back and to celebrate it!”
Jami “What’s your favorite local adventure?”
Steph, “Well, this is a two part answer. In my home now in San Diego I love my office. It over looks a beautiful canyon, it’s sunny and inspiring. At home in Vancouver, I’d have to say skiing at Whistler is one of my favourite places to be. Family walks in the UBC endowment lands are at the top of the list too. It’s oxygen overload and the wet forests of Vancouver… are heaven!”
Jami, “Do you have a bucket list? What are three things on it?”
Steph, “There are only two things on my bucket list. One, am I listening to where I feel I’m being called. Two, am I willing to take action on those callings. If I live like that, my bucket list will fill pretty quickly”
Jami, “Girl Guide cookies…. Chocolate, Vanilla or Mint?”
To learn more about Steph Jagger, her amazing adventures or the book that she’s writing please check out her website at www.stephjagger.com!