Blog Interview with Living Cross Fit Legend Gemma Root
This week's blog is a special edition, why? Well, I got the honour to interview New Zealand's living Cross Fit Legend Gemma Root!
For those unaware Gemma is an active high performing athlete in the demanding and highly disciplined sport of Crossfit (and if you don't know what Cross Fit is I suggest you Google it, I can tell you now it ain't your average boot-camp or run of the mill fitness session!).
What drew me to Gemma outside of her achievements in this highly competitive sport both at a National level here in New Zealand as well as at the International level, was actually her approach to personal transformation and in particular her consistent hard work and efforts in her chosen sport. I wanted to understand how Gemma's journey could be applied to someone on the general path of personal development and success.
So let me start by giving you a quick background of Gemma's success to date. Gemma began competing at a professional level back in 2014 before hitting the World Stage in Los Angles the following year in 2015 and significantly improving each year, below is a snapshot of Gemma's success in Crossfit to date.
Not bad for someone who loves to have a good laugh and be silly right, and all of this sounds super impressive, and it absolutely is! But what is more impressive is the fact that Gemma has only recently picked up this sport. However, with that type of track record, you could be fooled into thinking that person had been training for these world-class events at an early age. But as Gemma states, "When I first started I had done no form of fitness for literally years. I was 28 and I was 18 years old when I last kicked a soccer ball!" Gemma is now 33, and if my math serves me correctly that is 5 years from no form of fitness to one of New Zealand's leading Cross Fit champions and leaders in this space! Now that is what is really impressive!
But as I have highlighted in previous blogs success is often a by-product of other factors, factors often not seen by the rest of the public, and when I interviewed Gemma I was hoping to extract these factors and share them with you, so that you can apply some if not all key takeaways to your everyday life.
So with that being said, below are my key success takeaways from interviewing Gemma Root and how I believe you can utilise what she is doing and continues to do, to then help you succeed!
It all starts with having the right mindset!
Gemma personally believes that having a mindset is not only important but is a must when it comes to personal success, especially when it comes to sports. Gemma continues to elaborate on this particular point by saying, "there are so many elements to a mindset that goes beyond being just positive. It is above being mindful and being aware of your thinking, understanding it and being able to set yourself in the right frame of mind to be able to attack anything that comes your way".
I love this framework that Gemma is outlining, yes mindset is absolutely critical, but the right type of mindset is the key here, simply being "positive" or having a positive mindset is not enough to get you through the difficult challenges, what will get you through is a mindset that is founded with a strong element of self-awareness and I couldn't agree more with Gemma on this one.
Give yourself permission to succeed!
WOW!! This particular takeaway was something I was not expecting to hear. Yet it was one that stuck with me the most when interviewing Gemma. Think about this for a second...How often do we actually give ourselves permission to succeed, seriously how many times?
Before I elaborate on this point let me get you familiar with the concept known as "tall poppy" syndrome, if you haven't heard about it let me enlighten you with this short and simple definition of it. Tall poppy is when anyone has any form of success then the public has this process of cutting the person or group back down to reality by shaming them for being successful. The unfortunate thing about tall poppy syndrome is it has somewhat startled many people to "give things a go" and as a result (myself included) won't even attempt certain things because we are afraid of succeeding in the fear of getting "cut down".
So again when Gemma pointed this out, it really resonated with me and it should serve as a reminder that we should give ourselves permission to succeed more often, and as Gemma states not only should we give ourselves permission to succeed but also permission to be "happy...to be worthy enough...and to be good enough".
Focus on the journey, not the outcomes.
Too often we are fixated on achieving goals, which is not a bad thing, the problem, however, is not having the balance of both the journey and the outcome. In today's society where social media is at the fingertips and instant gratification is becoming the new norm for success, i.e. showing off your stacks of cash and lavish lifestyle, then we begin forgetting about the journey and transformation, and instead focus all our energy on the end result, and often this results in an outcome with no substance and meaning, in other words, you feel empty rather than fulfilled when you've achieved your goal. For example, you may have become the best employee in your company, but in doing so you threw your colleagues under the bus or used them to gain an advantage rather than build potential friendships or "win-win" partnerships along the way, and so when comes to celebrating your success or outcome, nobody is there to celebrate with you (more on this point later).
So it was no surprise that I was happy to hear Gemma relay this back to me when she said: "If you focus on outcomes you miss the fun of the journey and you devalue small accomplishments that you get along the way". The part I really like about this is "devalue", often success breeds success and as legendary brain coach, Jim Kwik famously says "little by little, a little becomes a lot!". So remember that success is much about celebrating the end result as it is about celebrating and appreciating the journey you are on!
It is OK to have feelings!
This takeaway sounds odd, but what Gemma points out in particular, is this idea that when you have setbacks and failures (and you're bound to have plenty of them!) it is completely ok to deal with them using emotions. There is a saying that "time heals all wounds" and I'm sure we can all relate to that saying to some degree, but so does expressing your emotions and I loved how Gemma said in response to dealing with setbacks was "feel everything that you need to feel, cry it out, be mad - get everything out. Do not dwell on this though, once all of those emotions are out, to start being kind to yourself and then reassess how you want to come back as a much better version of yourself".
Work on what sets your heart on fire!
This particular takeaway is super important because it sets the tone of how effective you can become. Eventually, we will all develop as people, go through various phases in our lives, but how effective are we during these times? In other words, are we following "societies status quo" or are we, as Gemma rightly points out to me, following something that "sets your heart on fire!".
When Gemma breaks down this concept she elaborates on additional key points which I believe to be critical to one's personal success. The additional key points are; put in the work or effort, in other words, no short cuts, nobody else is going to lift that weight for you, and at the end of the day, you still have to put in the work to get the result you are after! The other key point is ensuring that what you are working on, or chasing has a chance to make you truly happy, or as Gemma poetically puts it "things that make your soul happy".
At the end of the day your happiness is so important, and the reason being is it feeds into so many other elements of success such as mindset, but in order to be happy you still have to work on things that make you happy in the first place, which means you still have to put in the work to achieve that happiness. In fact, across this blog interview Gemma underpins work ethic as being critical to her success, and when asked about lessons learnt she spoke about the following "Working on what you love, what sets your heart on fire and being true to you is so incredibly important in order to live a happy life". This sentence alone is a key takeaway in itself because it goes back to Gemma's earlier point of "working on what you love" and if you do that effectively then it will drive you towards a more fulfilled life.
Put in place a supportive support system!
Often when it comes to "personal success" it can have a "lone wolf" connotation attached to it. It almost has this selfish theme about wanting to be successful, but the reality is anyone that truly reaches a level of consistent success never ever does it alone, and the ones that claim to have done it all by themselves are often one-hit wonders, flukes or never to be seen again! At the end of the day, all significant success requires some level of support and help along the way and Gemma was quick to acknowledge this point.
In fact, Gemma humbly states the following "I could not have achieved anything close to what I have, without the people around me at that time and now. I am very blessed to have always been surrounded by incredibly kind, thoughtful, supportive people inside and outside of the gym".
If there is one thing I admire in a person it is the ability to be self-aware. Awareness for me is the starting point of all success, without awareness you are unlikely to ask for help when you need it, or worse, wont even know that you need help in the first place! That is why having a supportive support system in place not only helps you succeed but allows you to develop more effectively, the right support system can motivate you, inspire you, pick you up, redirect you, hold you accountable and celebrate with you! (If you are keen to read more about how support systems can help you more in your path to personal success, then click this previous blog here).
As I wrapped up the interview I asked Gemma one more question which was; "What advice would you give to those either wanting to follow in your footsteps or follow a similar path of transformation?"
Gemma's answer was; "Enjoy the process. Don't rush because things will happen for you. Find gratitude in the small things, like the people around you and being able to transform your body to whatever you can be. There will be ups and downs, but you will find some love and something good in everything. Have faith in yourself. If I can do it, then anyone can".
So to conclude, success is damn hard, especially meaningful success that sets your heart on fire, but if you have the right mindset, give yourself permission to succeed, celebrate the journey as well as the outcomes, be ok with expressing your feelings and emotions during setbacks or failures, work on what will make you truly happy and then combining all of those takeaways with a support system, then you will have every chance to accelerate your personal growth as it has done with Gemma.
Till next time,