How to overcome creative hurdles with Olympian Sarah Wells

This week, we connect with Olympian and founder of the Believe InitiativeSarah Wells

We cover a lot of ground in this conversation, talking about everything from creativity in sport to her time on The Amazing Race, to the founding of the Believe Initiative and what it means to speak to youth (and to corporate audiences too!). Inspiration can come from a lot of places, and sometimes it takes a loss or hitting rock bottom to find it, other times it’s driven by the person nipping at your heels…

So, how do you get creative so you can better jump over your own hurdles? Subscribe and tune in to find out. 

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Transcription Below

S4E3 – Creative Hurdles and Amazing Races with Sarah Wells

Tue, 5/31 9:20PM • 43:44


creativity, people, hurdles, challenge, race, tenacity, creative, george, cab, olympics, athlete, sport, inspirational, world, realize, resilient, inspirational leadership, olympic games, thought, leaders


Seth Anderson, Sarah Wells, Olympian, The Biz Dojo AI, JP Gaston

The Biz Dojo AI  00:00

The Biz Dojo is brought to you by beyond a beaten path. If you’re on the lookout for a personalized gift head to be on the beaten and get started on your custom creation beyond the beaten path, personalize it, because everything else is boring.

JP Gaston  00:18

When you think of a hurdle, you often think of a small fence that runners jump over on their way to the finish line in a race. This type of race and the use of the word hurdle in this way was introduced sometime around the 1830s. Since then, the use of the word hurdle has grown by over 300% peaking in the last 10 years. You’ve probably heard it around the office. But let’s rewind all the way back to the late 1800s. Meet George Washington Orton. George was known to be an outstanding athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied for his Master’s and PhD in philosophy. He was a dominant force and track. By 1900, George had accumulated over 120 victories, including 15 American championships, and had set countless track records across North America. On July 14 1900, George Borton arrived at the Olympic Games in Paris to discover that he had several events the very next day. He made his way to the field and found that the track was just a 500 meter section of bumpy grass that was cut through a grove of trees, organisers hadn’t been permitted to create a properly leveled and outfitted Cinder track. In his first event, the 400 meter hurdles, sawed off telephone poles acted as the hurdles and a small pond was used for the final jump. These were a very different to Olympics, George would finish third in this event, and just 45 minutes later and suffering from an intestinal virus. George would not only come first in the 2500 meter steeplechase, he would set a new world record. It wasn’t until the 1908 Olympics where athletes would compete alongside the name of their country. The International Olympic Committee retro actively updated metal counts by country and as a member of the University of Pennsylvania, the record books were updated to read George Orton, USA. The only problem was George Gordon isn’t from the USA in 1977, over 70 years after he had competed in those events, the record books would be updated to reflect George Horton, Canada. George was born in Strathroy, Ontario, and is now credited with winning Canada’s first Olympic gold medal, and the first ever medal for Canada with his bronze in the hurdles, a feat even more impressive when you know that at the age of three, George had suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling out of a tree. He couldn’t walk until the age of 10 and didn’t fully regain mobility until the age of 12. Though he would never fully recover, as his right arm and hand were permanently damaged, making him the first disabled Canadian athlete to metal at an Olympic Games. His disability meant that he would train differently and would discover new creative ways of pushing his body to find success on the track. off the track, George was equally creative. He was seen as an authority and eventually an author who wrote multiple books about athletics and running. He would go on to be inducted into the Canadian sports, Canadian, the Olympic, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. He’s even nicknamed the father of Philadelphia hockey for introducing ice hockey to the area in 1896 and is responsible for building the first indoor ice arena in the city. George Jordan is a man who has used creativity to overcome a hurdle or two in his life. Today we speak with another hurdler and someone who is approached life both in and outside of sport with equal parts creativity and tenacity. Olympian stairwells. Sara isn’t just an Olympian, she is a speaker and a coach and founded the believer initiative, which helps others to leverage their resilience in pursuit of excellence in business and in life. Sarah has also competed on The Amazing Race. And that competition brought with it some new types of hurdles to overcome.

Seth Anderson  04:28

Thanks for joining us today, Sarah.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  04:30

Yeah, of course.

Seth Anderson  04:31

I’m so happy to welcome to The Biz Dojo. Thanks for making the time all the way from Portland, Oregon. What is going on in Portland today?

Sarah Wells, Olympian  04:38

So I am here for an event for EY Ernst and Young and speaking to a bunch of their women mentors and female mentees and so it’ll be a blast.

Seth Anderson  04:51

That’s awesome. So is that so that would not be connected to the believe initiative? This is like a totally different thing or it’s all kind of intertwined. So The belief initiative

Sarah Wells, Olympian  05:00

you can think about as like one brand, two products and the belief initiative on hold. Our mission is to help people build resilience and self belief through action, and help them become more inspirational leaders. So on the youth side, we have programming that goes into schools and helps build these resilient leaders. And we launch chapters all across North America. And we work with these like incredible student leaders. On the corporate side, we have something called the Impact leadership program, where we actually help companies build more inspirational leaders in house. And so you know, I’ve been really fortunate in sport to stand on a bunch of stages and be a source of inspiration. And I really believe that any person can be a source of inspiration. But we simply do that by helping them refine and showcase things that are like their distinguished strengths. And so I built an entire program that helps people kind of like uncover, build the story and strengthen that inspirational leadership brand, so that companies can have more inspirational leaders in house. So that’s how you can kind of think of believe initiative, one product, or sorry, one brand, two products.

JP Gaston  06:08

Was there a point when you’re standing on those different stages where you were like, damn, turns out, I’m an inspirational leader?

Sarah Wells, Olympian  06:17

Well, like, I got into speaking like, not purposefully, I originally made the Olympics and then my parents were very proud. And so they were like, telling their friends, and so they’re like, Oh, my God, my daughter, she like, had an injury that she overcame it that she made the Olympics like she believed herself, holy moly. And my parents friends were like, come tell our kids that. And so I started speaking at my parents, friends, kids schools. And then once I did it in schools, well, then I got enough reps to get some confidence that when I was asked to stand on the corporate stage, I was like, Yeah, okay, I think I can do this. These are just big kids. Yeah, exactly. It’s just seemed like the, you know, what adults are actually easier to speak to than some high school students that are like slumped in their chair, looking at me, like, I’m like the worst thing that’s ever happened. And so speaking to a corporate audiences is actually okay. And then the feedback you get while you step off the stage, and people talk about like, hey, this resonated with me so much, or this was the thing I needed to hear today. Like, suddenly you just realize the power of storytelling in something that feels, you know, meaningful to me. But I’m like, Well, no one else probably cares about this, like, maybe my mom, but like, literally no one else. And suddenly, you can realize that like, by crafting the story, and sharing the story that people can take in, find their own meeting amongst that and inspire them into action, or encourage them to get back up or look inside themselves and ask them questions, ask themselves questions that they might not have otherwise. So, you know, it wasn’t like I set out to be a source of inspiration. But through some encouragement from my coach, who was like, I think you shouldn’t be sharing that God on the first stages. And then from being on the stages, the feedback you get, you’re like, Oh, this is important.

Seth Anderson  07:58

As you were talking, thinking about, you know, how JP and I started The Biz Dojo and felt like a lot of similarities, like we didn’t set out necessarily to, you know, create this worldwide downloaded podcast that we have created. A lot of it was just like, we knew some cool people, it was the middle of COVID, although I don’t really know when the middle of COVID is anymore. But you know, wanted to do something kind of fun and different. And but anyway, along the way, we kind of figured out that, hey, we could inspire some people, and do you know, their version of this and whatever that might be? And just as you’re talking about inspirational leaders, I’m wondering what are some common building blocks that you see in you know, inspirational leaders?

Sarah Wells, Olympian  08:36

So what’s really interesting about this question is that I’ve actually, if anyone’s interested, you can go to my LinkedIn stairwells, there’s a zillion of us, but look for the one that says Olympian. I have an entire content series around what is the definition of inspirational leadership? And so I’ve been interviewing tons of leaders asking them, what’s their version of inspirational leadership? And how is that manifested in their world? And so, you know, when you ask about, like, what is inspirational or what is inspirational leadership, it’s a zillion in one things, because it’s only deemed inspirational by the person who feels is inspirational. And so what I think people in order if they want to be a better, more inspiring leader, it may very well be inspiring leaders are consistent in the way they show up. They know who they’re getting, people can trust that they are going to stand out, like their leaders gonna stand by their side or inspiring leaders are humanize themselves. They share pieces and stories and understand they don’t know all things or inspiring leaders are sponsors. And not just mentors, they don’t just give advice, but they actually like put you on the stage for over metaphorical stage for opportunities. And so it can be so many different definitions. But what I think is the most important if we ourselves are trying to be more inspirational, it’s like, well, how can I know if I’m more inspirational if some it’s up to the other person on the other side to decide if I’m inspirational? and how you do that is, we are inspired by different people for different things. And so our best chance of being inspirational is to lean into the things that are our distinguished strengths. So in my case, it was, you know, I was resilient and got back up and made the Olympic Games. And now I get to stand on a stage and share that story and inspire other people. But it could be that someone else is really amazing at asking great questions, and someone finds them inspirational for that reason. And so I answer that question in a very roundabout way of like, there is no one definition of inspirational leadership, it can be a zillion different things. And the best way that we can be inspirational to our colleagues and peers, is to lean into the things that are our distinguished

Seth Anderson  10:47

strengths. I like that. That resonates a lot. And I think it’s a good segue into our topic of the season and the conversation, and creativity. Because for me, and you know, JP and I, we’ve talked a lot about creativity. Just over the years, I think we’re both pretty creative beings. And it’s interesting, though, because when you ask people about something like creativity, it’s almost like whoa, like, I’m not creative, like I’m, I’m operational, or I’m this or I’m that, but creativity kind of has this thing around it, where it’s like, Oh, you got to paint a picture or play a song or like, that’s what creativity, I tend to think it actually shows up everywhere. So just kind of curious, in your experience, do you consider yourself to be a creative person? And like, how does that show up in your world?

Sarah Wells, Olympian  11:31

Yeah, so I think, as you just mentioned, creativity is important in every area of life, because it’s really, it’s problem solving. And that will show up in many different ways. It’s not just art, or music, or dance or things like that. So in one example, creativity can show up in my life. In my pursuit to the Olympic Games, I ran the 400 meter hurdles, which is one big lap around the track, and there are 10 hurdles, and the hurdles are in the exact same spot. They are the exact same distance apart every race every time. And so when I want to be one of the best in the world, I have to like I do the race once and I see how it goes. And then we see the result. And it’s up to us to now every single time think creatively of how do we optimize my race strategy to be best suited for who I am as an athlete? What are my strengths, to get the results, we need to be top in the world. And so there were like little things that would be seen as the most like, not the norm of the ways that my coach and I would train because they were unique to me, and we had to be like, No, we’re not going to let someone like put us in the box of the the ways you’re supposed to run the 40 meter hurdles. So for example, as I mentioned, the hurdles are the exact same distance apart. And some of the best 400 meter hurdlers in the world. Take 15 strides between each hurdle. Now, I am actually not that tall. People think that I’m tall be like, Oh, you’re hurdler, like, you must be tall. I am not, I’m not tall. And so, at a certain point in my career, we knew that okay, well, top hurdlers in the world take 15 strides between hurdles. But in my case, I was actually like, as every time I would try to run 15 strides between hurdles, I was like Daddy Long Legs in my way there. And I’ve had my leg so far in front of me that I was almost breaking every step and slowing myself down. And so when I tried to do 15 strides, I didn’t get faster, I got slower. And so it just didn’t make sense for us to keep trying to push for that race plan in that race strategy. And so we decided, what we were going to do was, we were going to run 16 strides between hurdles, which meant that every single stride, I would actually try to shorten just a little bit, because I could have almost made 15 strides. But instead, why not add a whole extra stride. And instead on every one of those strides take off like an inch. So I’ll just run like a little bit more underneath myself in order to optimize for my leg length and to be at my fastest and carry the most momentum. And so you have to remove ourselves like outside of the box, think creatively, like what’s the way this can work best for you to optimize for the result you’re looking for. And so that’s how creativity can show up. You know, in my world of Olympic athlete,

JP Gaston  14:25

that’s interesting, because I was thinking about coming into the show, I was obviously thinking about you know, what, what are the ways that you can be creative and all I could come up with was, you are in a predefined distance. You are set in like a lane, you are as confined as you can be and you still find an opportunity to be creative and how you prepare for that.

Seth Anderson  14:47

Because that too and sorry, just to jump in there like we kind of we talked to Terry O’Reilly in an earlier episode this season, and he talked about how creativity loves about like, confinement, creates creativity based believe that’s where you find great creative ideas is when you’re boxed in.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  15:03

It’s so true actually, that’s brilliant. that’s mind blowing the simple and, like, but but true. It’s when you’re put in a position where it’s like, there’s only so many things that you can dial up or dial down or move because you’re confined by all these other different variables that are fixed. Well, it causes you to be a bit more innovative, a bit more creative.

Seth Anderson  15:25

So I took a quick little half hour LinkedIn course this morning. And it was about practical creativity for everyone. Basically, I think that’s what it was called by a guy named Dave breath. And he was saying that creativity is actually not a skill, but more a collection of skills. And it’s just like, it’s like a pyramid of like, at the top of there. At the bottom of the pyramid, the most common skill found in creativity is imagination. And then it just kind of goes through this list of skills, and there’s seven on there. And the top one, and anyone want to take a guess of what the top like defining skill of a really creative person is,

Sarah Wells, Olympian  16:06

I’m going to say something like, optimism, like just the openness, so many different ideas would help someone be very creative. So I’ll put that as my vote of number one.

Seth Anderson  16:16

That’s a good one. I remember

JP Gaston  16:17

something somewhat related. I was gonna go with like curiosity, like just what? What could I

Seth Anderson  16:23

say both of those things show up in there. And I can’t remember the exact word but they’re in kind of the middle of the pyramid. The top of the pyramid was tenacity. Ooh. So basically, not like you have the idea. You think through the idea. You try the idea. But then the people who get like that, you know, ultimate level, they have the tenacity to like really see it through. Right? So that’s like, Jedi Mind tricking me today where I’m like, Okay, now I have to like rethink of everything creativity, but like, it makes sense. Like having that tenacity. Like in your case. It’s one thing to train to be an athlete, but then like that tenacity to become an Olympic athlete, and how that plays into creativity and all that. I don’t know. It’s, it’s, there’s maybe a lot more under the surface than we think.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  17:06

Yeah, I actually think that’s really interesting of, of that almost like Venn diagram between, like, resilience and creativity. And the way that we maybe get the most out of our creativity is through that tenacious, and resilient mindset. And I’ll share a story here actually, that’s like, completely sideways from sport. But another random, an interesting fact about me was that I was on The Amazing Race, I never thought I would do reality TV. But during this hour, here we are the Amazing Race. I imagine most people understand and know what it is. But for those listeners who do not, it’s basically like an epic scavenger hunt, all over the globe, you do these insane challenges, and you don’t eat sleep, pee, drink water for like weeks and weeks on end. And it’s just chaos. And when I went on The Amazing Race, I thought that I was like, Oh, I know, pressure. I know, stress, like I’ve been on the Olympic starting line like, this is going to be a walk in the park. And that was completely untrue. Because on The Amazing Race, what they do is try to like keep you awake for a zillion hours and days, and you don’t eat sleep, pee, drink water. So you’re resource depleted. And so you’re having to do all these challenges. And there’s probably something to be said in terms of Creative Problem Solving amongst these challenges. But on the show, and on season seven, if anyone cares to watch, it’s on crave TV, hashtag not sponsored. I’m gonna ruin it for you, because I’m gonna tell you how it ends. Basically, my training partner, friend of mine, his name’s Sam EFA, we did it together. And we went through weeks and weeks challenge on challenge, you start with 10 teams, and eventually, at every checkpoint, if you’re the last to arrived, you eliminate a team. And eventually we get down to a final winner. And on the Amazing Race Canada, the winner gets a quarter million dollars a trip around the world and two cars. And we were obviously excited about the opportunity to go for this. And we make it to the finale. And we give it everything we have in the final challenges like we had been awake for weeks, we had given our souls to this experience. And we were just so depleted. We wanted it so badly. quarter million dollars, like, come on, that’s life changing. And so we give it everything we have. And in the final moments, something goes wrong. And we end up getting second. And the winners of the Amazing Race Canada get a quarter million dollars a trip around the world, two cars. Second place gets $0 Nothing. Nothing not even like here’s your lunch money. Thanks so much for coming out like nothing. And the worst part was when we came home, we actually couldn’t tell anyone what had gone on because it hadn’t started airing on TV. And what we ended up doing is like you know, week over week we hosted viewing parties. And when we make it you know people watch us every single week, make it on and make it on and make it on and make it on make it on that event. Actually, you know, all my friends and family were like, Oh my God, you win, don’t you, you win. And we had signed a contract that said, we are not allowed to release what happens, or we would owe the production company $3 million. So we’re like, zipper smells. And we’re like, I don’t know, I guess you have to watch the episode and see. And Sam and I decided to make the final viewing party a big deal. We rented a 500 person auditorium, we did a social media contest, like invited everyone to come out and witness the big finale episode. And we had hired an emcee for the event. So on the commercial breaks, we could get called up onto the stage. And we can answer questions about what had just gone on in the show. And, of course, well viewing this in the 500 person auditorium full. In the last few minutes of the show, they watch us run up and get second. In that moment, the crowd like stands up and erupts into cheer. And the cuts the commercial break. So the emcee calls us up onto the stage. And I was just overcome with emotion, like remembering how close we were, and how we didn’t get the thing. And so the emcee looks at me, and he’s like, you know, Sarah, like, we can see you’re really upset, like, why don’t you tell the audience what’s going through your head. And so I turned to the audience, and I was like, you know, we made a really big deal out of tonight. And because of that, I know many of you thought we were going to win. But we didn’t invite you here, because we won. We invited you here because we didn’t. And it is just as important to celebrate the shortcomings, as it is to celebrate the successes, because that will always inspire our next chapter, it will always uncover something that we maybe didn’t see before, that we can now pick up and apply to our next opportunity. And so, why that story came to mind to me when you just said, tenacity is like the number one predictor of being able to be creative is that in these moments, where you’re challenged to see things differently, and sometimes it takes us hitting rock bottom in order to uncover that. And that was certainly true for me, in sport, and many times, but you know, also in this story of, of only getting second on the amazing race where I now suddenly understood like, I wouldn’t have celebrated, a not winning a race like that is simply something I wouldn’t have done in the past. But through this experience of being on The Amazing Race and watching the viewing parties, I suddenly understood like how important it was to celebrate these shortcomings, because I knew that it was going to inspire my next chapter. And so I think we can learn something from those moments where we have to pick ourselves back up, we realize new things about ourselves. And it allows us to be better, more creative problem solvers in the future.

JP Gaston  22:50

I love that it makes me think of the the challenges that can exist in the spaces when you do win as well. Because when you are at the top, it can also become harder to be creative and identify those spots where you improve and stay at the top for that reason. So there’s like there’s kind of this interesting opportunity that exists everywhere. And it’s awesome that you celebrate that second place finish, because I don’t think I don’t think a lot of people have the the tenacity to go and celebrate the second place finish, let alone learn from it and move on.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  23:22

Right? No, I like this book and perspective that you have of like, yes, there’s that moment of being tenacious, in a moment where you’re kind of in a moment of defeat or things don’t go your way, but also, when everything is going your way. And it’s only gone that way. Where we suddenly it is harder, like when I think about even my development in my times, and that them getting faster. In the early days of my career, it was easy to make those leaps and bounds into new personal bests. And as things continue to go, well, will suddenly now I’m fighting for milliseconds, not seconds. And micro milliseconds, you know, like, where I’d be training till I grow up, like, you know, I’m working so hard. And I would be so pleased if I improved by like, point two seconds. And it’s like, that’s absurd. Like, what kind of mindset is that? But it did challenge us in those moments to also find novel ways to be creative. Because your room for improvement is now like you’re fighting for it for microseconds,

JP Gaston  24:31

and are you being pushed, right? Like I think when you’re in second, you’re naturally be a second or anywhere. But beyond second, you’re naturally you’ve naturally got this sort of push behind you to get up to that next level. And so when you’re in first, you have to think, hey, all of these people are behind me coming like I’m the one now, people are gunning for how am I going to stay ahead of them because they’ve all got this burning desire, to be creative to find new ways and I need Find that yeah,

Sarah Wells, Olympian  25:01

actually a sports psychologist I worked with his name is Peter Jensen. And he was a sports psychologist for many national teams, and one of which was the women’s hockey team in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, where the women’s hockey team, they think they had won the semi finals by like, blowing out the US team, like it was like six to two or like seven to two like something crazy. And he told the coaches, when they went back that night, he was like, This is bad, that they just blew them out of the water in the semifinals, because he’s like, US is coming back for the final now. Like, with everything they have, like they are fired up and hungry for it. versus our team thinks that like, you know, it’s a wash, like they’re good to go. And, and you have to forgive me if I’m forgetting which if it was 2010, or 2014, or what year this actually happened in. But he shares the story of love. Yeah, like you almost almost need a little bit of that falling short of the goal in order to have that extra fire to fight for it.

Seth Anderson  26:05

It was kind of connecting a couple of dots there. I listen to a pod you were on. I think it might have been last year the dropping in with Mercedes.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  26:14

Yeah, I do like a zillion in one podcast in a year. So at this point, it was like it could have been anything.

Seth Anderson  26:21

And you talked about the amazing race and how you guys started out like in Dead blast, like you were, you were like way behind everyone. But then I listened to you kind of talk about like your mindset and how you approach like microseconds and just like incremental improvement and like embracing the process. And that must have come in handy for you to get from like way behind the pack to coming in second place. Like, I know that you didn’t win the thing. But like, that, in itself is like a huge achievement that you didn’t give up when it probably would have been easier to just say, Ah, whatever we came we saw. But you guys kept pushing.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  26:56

Yeah, it’s that first leg of the race. So as I mentioned, The Amazing Race was just not what I expected it to be, I just thought we would be able to handle the pressure of stress, because of our past experience. And it’s just a different ballgame. And to kind of explain to everyone who’s listening kind of what happened that Seth just described, basically, we start this race. And we end the very first challenge. Sam goes into the back, I’m in like the waiting room, and I have no idea what’s happening. We’re there for hours and hours. And we watched like team after team run out the door to go get their next clue. And till I’m the last person in the waiting room of this, like voice studio recording. And I have no idea what the challenge is. Because because Sam went in to do the challenge. So I’m just like, I don’t know, I really hope that we’re getting out of here soon. But we were there for hours. And we were dead last by hours. And so we were like, oh my god, we built up this whole thing we’ve like fallen off the face of the earth like, paused our like lives and our work and all of these things to come on The Amazing Race. And in the first leg, we’re gonna get eliminated, like How embarrassing. And we ended up really honestly, taking a moment after, luckily, there was a flight in between, like the first half of the challenges and the second half of the challenges. And so on that flight, it just gave us a moment to breathe and like recoup and tell ourselves like, it can feel like in this moment, like our hands are tied, and that like we have no choice right now. Because the clues are preset, they tell you where to go, you’re stuck with your partner, you know, like there’s no changing up. And so we can feel like our hands are tied. But we always have a choice, because we always have a choice in the mindset that we adopt when facing that next challenge. And so that really enabled us to kind of have this like shift in understanding of our role and our responsibility in showing up in the challenges. And that allowed us, you know, we touched down, we navigated to the next challenge, like, well, and then I had to like dip line over this massive pond and drop a ball like perfectly in this like square that was outlined. And fortunately, we got it on the first try. And so then that way, we leapfrogged in front of a bunch of teams and ended up finishing in second place of that leg. When we were dead last by ours, like 10th by hours, you know, only the day before. So I think it was really about that mindset of understanding, we always have a choice and an a say in the mindset we adopt when facing that next challenge. And the other thing I’ll say is like a second challenge that existed. I didn’t expect us to talk so much about the amazing race over the Olympics. So I apologize if you’re like I don’t want to.

Seth Anderson  29:33

It’s all connected though.

JP Gaston  29:35

I would actually argue that in the history of the Olympics and The Amazing Race, fewer people have been on The Amazing Race than have gone to the Olympics. Actually,

Sarah Wells, Olympian  29:45

you know what, you’re actually right. You’re not wrong, which is hilarious, because actually when I tell people like yeah, I’m an Olympian, like, Wow, so cool. And then I’m like, especially in North America, and I’m like yeah, and this other thing I was on The Amazing Race. Yeah, So, like, it took me my entire life to qualify for that first thing, it took me like a few months to qualify for that second thing,

JP Gaston  30:08

a couple emails.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  30:12

But the second story I was going to share was about halfway through the 10 legs of the Amazing Race, we were way up in Northwest Territories. And I never been to Northwest Territories before which, you know, if anyone has been like, it looks like a different universe, like, is there a different country like it’s just, it’s so cold, it’s like, you know, far less populated and so it just looks so different than my experience growing up in the city of Toronto. And we get there, we have to do all these crazy challenges. And we had to like ice fish, I had to dive under an Arctic Lake, which was under a foot of ice, or sorry, three feet of ice, three meters of ice, find the clue. I can’t swim on the land animal as a track athletes, that was a nightmare. But after going through all of these challenges, and freezing our butts off, because it was like minus 30 Before wind chill, and we’re outside all day doing these challenges. At the end of it, we finally get the clue that was like, Okay, go find John, like the person that the final checkpoint and like, get your next place holding. And we had to quickly settle up with our cab that’s taking us from challenge to challenge. So like, Okay, let’s do this. And so we go into our bag of our like money that we have, like, Okay, how much is it? And it was, like $100 More than we had. And we’re like, oh my God, how did this happen? Because we had had the cab just like sit outside and run the meter and wait for us. Because in Northwest Territories, there’s probably a ton of cabs kicking around. So if you lose your cab, you don’t wanna get stuck at a challenge for too long. And so, and it promises all ties back to creativity. The we ended up being like, holy moly. Like, we can see the there’s only a few more teams left at this final challenge. Like, we got to get on this float plane and go find John, and we need to sell up our cab before we get there. So what are we going to do? And we had been in town earlier and met this like random group of geologists, who helped us with a challenge that we had to do because we could not remember how we do longitude latitude exercises. And so we’re like, I think the only answer like we have no money, there’s nothing we can do. Like our only answer is to go back to those people where we saw them in town, and go ask them for money. Like that’s all we can do right now. And so we drive back into town, and the business the geology center was was closing. And so there was only like, two or three people left inside the building. And so as we happen to walk in through the front door, the one gentleman’s there, and like, Hey, sir, we’re like, we’re really sorry, we need $100 Coming in hot here, and he very generously goes in his pocket. He’s like, uh, here’s 60 bucks. And we’re like, Oh, my God, thank you so much. Like, is there anyone else here? Just like, so greedy? Like, this man just gave us $60 Like, okay, great, what else you got? And we ended up getting, he’s like, Yeah, I think there’s one more guy upstairs. So we like, run up the stairs. I’m like, we’re really sorry, we’re back. Very nervous. We need 40 more dollars, in order to get pair cabs, we can go to our checkpoint. And so that guy gives us the extra 40 bucks. And when we thought we were screwed, like, we’re thought this is where we’re eliminated, like, there’s no way we’re gonna find $100 Like, in the matter of 10 minutes, our problems. And we went back, paid our cab got on the float plane and went to the checkpoint. And I think one of the things that I’ll note here is like, in creative problem solving, and in finding solutions, sometimes, like, we only know what we know, or we only have the resources that we have. And sometimes the best way to come up with that creative answer or solution is to ask for help, or bring people in. And, you know, this is a very silly and simple example of like asking someone for money to pay for my cab. But I also think that even in sport, like my coach, would seek out information from other coaches of like, hey, we, you know, we saw your athlete ran this time at the world championships last year. What do you think you did differently this year? Like, what does? What did? What did you change in your training? How did that help your athlete get to this place? And then we could bring that into my training and see if that worked for me. And so sometimes, it’s hard to be creative if we’re only looking at the things that we know and the resources we have. And we need to be comfortable and open minded to the idea of asking for help and asking questions and bringing that in, to help us be more solutions oriented and sometimes solve the problem itself.

JP Gaston  34:46

Yeah, and sometimes that creativity, you’re not going to that person for their answer. You’re going to that person to inspire an answer in you like I find that helps a lot for me like sometimes I just just bouncing the idea of someone and then go giving me feedback. And they might say, hey, yeah, go, you know, go to town and get the money. And then that might spark me actually, there’s this guy down the street I was just talking to I know he’s got a and then I end up going there. And it wasn’t. It wasn’t their solution that helped me. But it was their creative process that actually helped me in my creative process.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  35:17

Oh, yes, absolutely. That sometimes, yeah. They don’t always have the answer. But simply by asking for that help for or engaging in some type of conversation of kind of like, Hey, let me just talk this out loud to you can sometimes help you navigate to that answer? And even just circle back to what we’re talking about the beginning of inspiring leaders, I think some of the best leaders ask really great questions that allow someone to arrive at an answer themselves and come up with that solution. Because they they are challenged to reflect or think about, where, like, what is holding me back? Or where are those gaps, and simply by having them there to bounce that idea of off, as you mentioned, and ask a really great question enables that individual to find that solution themselves.

Seth Anderson  36:04

Oh, there’s so many ways I want to go here. But just looking at the clock, and no one we’re kind of pressed on the old time, I have this thing, and I don’t know who I stole it from or where I got it from, but I really like it. And it’s just the process is the thing. Because a lot of times, and I know you talk about this, like you get so fixated on the outcome or the goal, or you create this story in your head of once I get here, and then that will happen and that will create this life. And it’s never that like, it’s really in the process of working towards something meaningful to you that you really learn all the special stuff about yourself and you collaborate with others and all that magic starts to happen. And like, I have two young kids 10 And in five JPS got a little guy. And I wonder like how do we help our kids and I know like, specifically with you a lot of the work with the believe initiative, there’s a whole spectrum with helping youth how do we help kids had started to see that earlier sooner and and realize that the process is the thing not so much, you know, the the destination.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  37:06

So a big part of what we do at the belief initiative is that we help students build resilience through action. Because through my own experience in sport, I had kind of both ends of the expect the spectrum where I had the dream of making the Olympic Games, and I was resilient. And I got back up and I believed in myself. And then I made the Olympic Games. And that was so exciting. But then four years later, I was actually now top 10 in the world, and I was favored to win a medal for Canada at the Rio Olympics. And I only lost the number one ranked girl in the world leading into that. And so I was like, Okay, I’m going to, like, do all the right stuff. And I’m going to get back up and be resilient and believe in myself, and then everything should work out again. But I actually tore my hamstring right before the Rio Olympic trials. And even though I did all the right things like get back up, believe in yourself be resilient bla bla bla, it simply just didn’t work out. And initially, I hit rock, rock bottom, where I thought, holy moly, for four years after making the Olympics, I had told people if you believe in yourself, you achieve your goals. And now four years later, I just believed in myself, and I did not achieve my goal. And so is it a sick joke that people just tell you to make you feel better. And I actually quit sport for a year. And I didn’t know it was only going to be here at the time. In my head. I was like quit forever. I hate track and field. And I always joke that is like probably not what someone expects their motivational speaker to say, like, like give up when it gets hard. What I know in that year off, upon reflecting a ton, I realized that I actually believed in myself more strongly after not making the Olympics, even more so than when I did, because I still went to Olympic trials for the Rio Olympic trials, even with my hamstring that was not fully healed. And I put myself in the best possible position to succeed. And unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way that I hoped. But I actually realized that I am way stronger than I think I am. Because I stood on that start line anyways and went for it. I didn’t let my circumstances define my outcome. And so I realized that oh, so clearly, you don’t build self belief through achievements. You build it through action. And so the best thing that we can do, and it’s you know why I founded the belief initiative youth program, was to help students realize like, you are putting yourself in the best possible position to succeed. When you stand on your version of a start line, whatever that is for you. And you put it into action. And so how we actually help students do this within our program is they take something that they’re uniquely passionate about, and then they look for a need or a problem they want to solve. And they use their passion to solve that problem. And they think creatively on how to use that passion to solve that problem. And ultimately, what the result is, is they build resilience. They build confidence, all through action. And so we’ve done this for hundreds of 1000s of students all across North America now, you know, over 10,000 student impact projects have been created. And it’s been incredible to see students, you know, with what they’ll say about the impact it has on their lives as leaders as individuals, where I had a student just tell me only like two weeks ago, he’s like, told me that his favorite part about the program was that, at his age, in high school, there’s a lot of students who will start an idea. And then the moment that it gets tough, they’ll come up with a reason on why they should start a new idea. And and then they’ll start that thing. And then when it gets to a point of kind of getting tough, they’ll start another idea. And he’s like, this is kind of one of the first times I was almost like forced to and part of this program for like high leverage to see this project all the way through to the final result, and then showcase that what we call our inspiration Fair, which is like an inspiration for a science fair of inspirational projects. And he was like, yeah, like, I’ve suddenly realized, like how far I really can go. And that’s the power of action. That’s the power of inspiring people into thinking creatively about the ways that they can use their unique strengths and passions and skills to solve needs and problems that exist all over. And that can be something like global need for feeding the hungry, or, you know, I hate when there’s toilet paper on the floor of the school bathroom. And I’d like to stop. I’d like to change that, that look of our bathroom. And so they can, they can take this in any direction, and it helps build them to become more resilient leaders in many ways. So yeah, I guess to answer your question, how you can do that is help your students or help your young people in your lives, take action, give them micro projects, have them think creatively of how they can get to a solution and understand that it really is about the pursuit of excellence and less about the result, and celebrate those shortcomings if they arrive if they don’t get to the result they wanted. And help them realize the ways that they can pick those lessons up and apply it to the next opportunity.

Seth Anderson  41:57

Well, the last question, and then we’ll let you get back to the sights and sounds of Portland. How do you define creativity?

Sarah Wells, Olympian  42:05

I think that I would say, you know, it’s a little bit repetitive of what I’ve said before, but like, it’s about using your unique skills and strengths, to solve an issue or need. And that can be done in 1000 different ways. And I think people will find that inspiring, we see someone wholeheartedly, not just being themselves. And the word authentic is, is overused and people hate it now, but but when we see people really having their skills on display, I think that that is what we find. Inspirational. That’s what we find, like what draws us to people. And so when we can use the things that we are uniquely positioned to do, and and creatively problem solve that way, like, people view that and they’re like, wow, like, how did you get to that answer? How did you come up with that? And so I would define it as creativity is using our unique skills, passions and strengths to solve the world’s needs and problems.

Seth Anderson  43:04

Awesome. I love all the different answers we get for that, because like it’s, there’s no wrong answer. It’s just getting different people’s perspective. And then hopefully, we can curate that into something cool.

Sarah Wells, Olympian  43:14

Yeah. Totally. No, it’s like, it’s much like the question I asked you, but like, what’s your definition of inspirational leadership and it could be splintered? a zillion in one way. So I appreciate the challenge. Think about what what is my definition of

JP Gaston  43:29

thanks for joining us, we know you gotta go but appreciate the time.



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