Quest for Success Teaches Simple, Universal Lessons

Published on November 25th, 2013

Among the Americans campaigning in the new Olympic multihull event – the Nacra 17 – is Sarah Newberry of Miami, FL, who shares of the lessons since beginning her journey a year ago…

What an amazing experience it was to be able to participate in the 2013 TEDxYouth@Miami event. I was honored and humbled to have shared the stage with so many young and brilliant people. It was especially cool that Max Blum, one of my students, was there presenting and had inspired me to create my own talk.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, and who haven’t watched the video, I’m going to use this post to share the things that I spoke about on stage, and a little more. Just a quick update: right now John Casey is on his way back from an AWESOME Cata Cup event in St. Barth. He headed over there a few weeks ago to race on the Cirrus F18 with Luke Ramsay, our training partner in the Nacra 17. I was jealous but so so excited for the guys to get in some great sailing in one of the most beautiful venues in the world. Thanks to St. Barth Properties for their endless support of John Casey, and, consequently, me!

Since he’s been gone, I’ve been hitting the water with some talented sailors, spending an ungodly amount of time in the gym (with great training partners like Kristin Lane and Emmett Moore), and working hard on chipping away at all of the (much less fun) on-the-land tasks involved in an Olympic Campaign. Before JC left, and after he gets back, we’re in full on winter training mode here in Miami and thoroughly enjoying it. We’ve had so many gorgeous days out in the gulfstream, and in the bay, and are really pleased with the strides we’ve been taking forward with the carbon rig and our performance as a team. You can’t beat 18 knots in 8 foot swell and deep blue water! Oh yeah, and 80 degree weather…

In between all of this fun stuff, I put together a talk for this year’s TEDxYouth@Miami event. If you’re not familiar with TED or it’s little brother, TEDx, an event like this is made up of a combination of TEDTalks video and live speakers that are curated to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. You can find more information on TED and TEDx here.

Three years ago I had my first TED experience, and it marked a very important moment in my maturity, and it empowered me to use my passion to set some of the biggest goals of my life.

As a TEDX presenter I had the opportunity to share a little about my relationship with the water, my family’s love for the sport of sailing, and some of the successes that I have had as an athlete in this sport. I was a young adult considering who I wanted to be, reflecting on what I loved and was passionate about, and trying to discover how to create a lifestyle in which I could pursue these things.

So, naturally, I decided it would be a great idea to announce, in front of a global audience, my intention to start a four-year campaign to compete for an Olympic Medal in the 2016 Games.

Looking back I’m not sure where I got the nerve to make this announcement, but I’m glad I did.

An Olympic Campaign can be described as an intensive, four year project with a major focus on peak-performance in the year of the Olympic Games. Being a campaigning athlete means that we sail up to 200 days a year, travel around the globe to train and compete, and balance physical and mental fitness with logistics.

Since I began this campaign, as most of you know, I teamed up with one of the most talented male sailors in the United States, John Casey, began a full time training schedule, won two US National Championships, one North American Championship (Nacra 17 NAs 2013 in Pensacola!), a World Cup event, and were the top ranked American team at the US Nacra 17 National Championship. We even got a taste of what it’s liked to be ranked #1 in the World and we’re working hard to keep chasing that level of success.

Now, instead of trying to figure out how to follow my dreams, I am in active pursuit of success and I have learned that there is so much work to do and so little time to do it in, and that this is something that never, ever changes when you set extraordinary goals for yourself.

What has become more and more clear to me as I train, compete, and travel as a full-time sailor is that the quest for success as a world class athlete teaches simple, universal lessons. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Accept the possibility of failure. Know that you need to fail in order to grow, and understand the potential for failure to occur. While I have experienced some of my greatest successes over the course of the past two years, I have also experienced some of my greatest failures – and, at least in those cases, they taught me more than winning ever would have.

  2. Believe. No matter how many times you have lost before, you WILL win the next one. This belief is directly related to how much work you put in to accomplishing the task at hand.

  3. Keep good company. People who are as talented and excellent as you want to be challenge you to work harder, improve faster, and be MORE CONFIDENT in your ability to come out on top. Surround yourself with excellent people, you will be even more challenged to be excellent yourself.

  4. The only way to win is to share your secrets. Winning is a collaborative process, and you cannot succeed by keeping those around you down. Share with your competitors, and they will become your best training partners.

  5. Empower the people around you. Don’t just empower your teammates, classmates or co-workers. Share your experiences and your skills with people you meet. YOU are the only person who knows the lessons you have learned, and you can help build your working environment through a willingness to share with others. By doing this, you inspire those individuals to share in the same way, and you show others that it takes a lot more than speed and talent to become a true champion.

  6. Never stop learning. I was at TEDx as a presenter because I taught my student Max how to sail, and he taught me, through his presentation on his own sailing experiences,  that perseverance and confidence are two things that even the youngest student can learn and even the highest level coach cannot simply teach. You have to have a desire to succeed and the patience to learn from mistakes.

There are no magic tricks involved in becoming a champion and this is not a list of tips for getting ahead in life or sports or business. Becoming a champion is as simple as becoming a person who strives for excellence and seeks to help create it.

And that is who I want to be. Not just one of the best competitors in the world, but:

A person who knows the risk of failure and has total confidence in her ability. Someone who believes, faithfully, that she will win because she has prepared to. I want to be a person who is always looking hard for ways to help create a stronger culture of excellence and who is willing to share, endlessly. And not only a competitor and athlete, but a friend and supporter who empowers the people around her to achieve.

Finally, I hope very much that even after the Olympics are over in 2016, and well up until the very last days of my life, that I will have succeeded at always being a good and curious and generous learner. That is really the key – learning from failures and successes, and never failing to take pleasure in the process.

People train their whole lives to win a medal. I am training to win a medal, and this endeavor is training me for life. What’s the difference between me and a true champion? Just a little more work, everyday.  And that is a simple, universal lesson.

Thanks so much to Arvi Balseiro, Lisa Herbert, Cindy Ley, Sheryl Rudnick, Ivonne Labrada-Leichtling, Naomi Siegler, Amy Lehman for facilitating so much of this event, Andrea Livingston, Michelle Fotiadis, Jennifer Geimer, Karen Gulaskey, Tom & Lisa Mozloom, Cheryl Rogers, Tracy Ross, Jill Sevilla, and more for helping run this event. I am honored to have shared the stage with Jared Keinert and 2 Billion Under 20, Lauren Maunus, McCall Horton, Philip Koenig, Anyssa Chebbi, Haley Oberhofer, Michael Anthony Espino, Noa Richard, Josiah Mozloom, Max Blum, James (Woody) Beckham, and Jay Flores!

Source: Newberry/Casey Multihull 2016 Olympics  – November 25, 2013

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