Speed to speaking: My transition from world-stage success to centre-stage story-telling.

“What a shock!”  That was the comment of choice when people found out I retired in my prime.  I stood on the final podium of the 2015/16 World Cup ski season and cried like a baby.  The blood, sweat, tears, phone calls home, phone calls to assistants of CEO’s, sadness, spotlight, celebration, triumph, trial-and-error, risk, really small rewards, really significant rewards, pain, pressure, pride and, finally, peace.. they came to a head.

And so I stepped away from the season and stepped out of my head.  I asked my surgeon to tell me my 5th knee surgery would be career-ending.  He told me that, after everything I’d been through to be successful, this 5th knee surgery would not be deemed career-ending.  He recommended I look deep in my heart for my athlete expiration.  Consequently, the surgery and the idea that I may err on the side of conservative split-second decisions in the middle of a race to avoid future injuries told me my answer.  I pushed hard to explore my potential both in sport and spirit…  

So I turned a page.

I’m skipping to where I start a new chapter because the in-between was rotten.  Someone told me once, “When one door closes, another opens.. it’s just the hallways that are a bitch.”  I was bored and annoying.. both to myself and others.  I picked on myself and criticized my lack of productivity and realized that over 15 years of giving my life over to sport, I’d built a wide array of acquaintances but only a select few people I could share a beer with and exchange weaknesses.

I don’t know what phase I’m in now but I know I feel calm again.  Calm and focused.  I like my flexibility and pain-free life and can only truly appreciate it because I’m juggling an online MBA and a rapidly-growing public speaking career.  It’s the right amount of stress and structure to tap the best ‘me’.  I added a kitten to my family which puts me over the edge at times… lesson learned.  Tony the kitten was a bandaid to my underlying unresolve but he’s full of love and so we’re keeping him.

The identity crisis side of retiring from an athletic career is real.  I feel very sure of the difference between who I am and what I do.  With that said, I built a new corner of my personality through the platform of ‘what I do’.  So it’s unfair to discount the means to which I evolved.  It’s just a matter of deciding how to feel positively reinforced without CBC doing it on national television.  Or ‘likes’… Instagram likes, Facebook likes.. they're serious mental orgasms.  But now, with marketing on my course load, I’m more intrigued by why a post ‘did well’ than blowing my hair back for 24 hours (till my next post).  That’s not to say I felt I should blog to get myself back out there, but I’m digging deep to fill the void of international recognition with real, tangible strengths I hold within.  I’ve heard of a book called “Look Within or Do Without” which discusses the ability to identify our personal definition of success and make that vision a reality.  

So now the flame is lit again and I’m constantly applying the skills learned from a career of international sport into universal stability.  Public speaking was introduced to me as a career path by Jim Carroll a couple years ago.  I politely smiled and said no thank you.  As time went by, I was positively rewarded for some really extroverted situations (namely, Team Larisa).  I toyed with the idea of standing on stage in front of hundreds of corporate people and leaving them with a new angle on grit, goal-setting and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  It’s now a reality.  And the beautiful part is that people approach me in the same way they used to throughout my ski career.. “Larisa, you will never fully understand how desperately I needed to hear your message today.”  For that, I’m willing to practice what I preach and continue to put myself out there in challenging environments to share lessons learned and how I wasted years not believing in myself so that others don’t have to.  

I’ve, by no means, graduated from this transition.. but I can candidly say I’m enjoying the change of pace and change of scenery.  Retiring shmeshmiring.. I’m just getting started.