Living Fearlessly Authentic with Two-Time World Champion Triathlete, Siri Lindley
In this episode Jennifer Simpson Carr goes on record with Siri Lindley, two-time world champion triathlete and coach.
More About Siri Lindley:
Siri Lindley is a triathlon coach and former professional triathlete. She is the 2001 International Triathlon Union (ITU) Triathlon World Champion as well as the winner of the 2001 and 2002 ITU Triathlon World Cup series and 2001 ITU Aquathlon World Championships. She has coached a number of Olympic and Ironman athletes and champions. In 2014, she was selected to be a member of the inaugural ITU Hall of Fame class.
In addition to coaching, Siri is a public speaker and author. She has also worked as a television sports analyst covering triathlon and field hockey events for NBC during the 2004 Summer Olympics. She has reported on NCAA Field Hockey, the NCAA Final Four, and the Big 10 Tournament for NBC, CSTV, and TVNZ.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Siri, welcome to the show.
Siri Lindley: Oh, I’m so happy to be here, Jennifer. Thank you for having me.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Thank you so much for joining us. I am honored to speak with you. I’m so excited to talk to you about your journey as an athlete, a coach. Also, I’m a big fan of The Bed Head Chronicles so I’m excited to talk a little bit about that too.
Siri Lindley: Yeah, well that makes me so happy. Thank you.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I would love to learn more about your journey as an athlete.
Can you share what fueled your drive to become a world champion triathlete?
Absolutely. Well, so I had been a team sports athlete for my whole life. And all through college, I played field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse, and I loved it. I loved being a part of a team, but around the time of my senior year in college, I realized I was gay. And that was a hard thing to realize, it’s like, okay, I’m going to get used to trying to be okay with who I am. And everything was kind of fine for a couple of years until my father found out and he called me and he was crying on the other end of the phone. And I said, “Dad, what’s wrong?” I started thinking like he was sick or something horrible had happened. And when he finally found his words, he said, “Somebody told me you’re gay and I couldn’t possibly have a daughter that’s gay. Tell me, I beg you to tell me this isn’t true.”
I found the courage in me to say, “I’m the same me, I’m the same Siri but I’m gay, please love me anyway.” But he hung up the phone and I didn’t hear from him for the next two years at all. And for the next 20 years, maybe a phone call on Christmas. But, in that moment, my dad was my hero and his rejection made me feel like all that I had become, all that I had achieved meant nothing now that I was gay and I couldn’t live with that. So, I decided that I was going to take on something that seemed impossible so that I could prove to myself most importantly that even as a gay woman, I could achieve something that I think is incredible. I can inspire people, I can make a difference, I can feel worthy from within and that I could be loved most importantly by myself.
It was pretty much a couple of days later that I discovered triathlon. I’m 23 years old at the time, I didn’t know how to swim, but I watched a friend of mine doing this race. And it was so cool because there were just people, all different ages, all different sizes, all different ability levels, but every single one of them was pushing themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of. It’s like they were finding themselves through this sport, and I just knew that was going to be my path. And did my first race came in dead last, humiliated myself. I mean, people were laughing at me because I was like running with my helmet on, I forgot to take it off, finished in dead last.
But instead of feeling I’d lost all my passion for it, I decided on that day that I was going to become the best in the world in this sport. Crazy. My mama was there with me was like, “Siri, this is just insane. Go do something that you’re good at. I mean, this is crazy.” But it was the deep reason why the emotional reason why was that I needed to take on something where I could prove to myself that I was worthy, that I could believe in myself, that I could put in the work and do whatever it takes to make something spectacular happen even though I was gay, but it was just the most powerful journey of my life, and literally eight years later. So, some people think you set a goal and oh, boom, in the next year world champion, now.
I failed often and thank God I did because it’s through our failures that we learn and we grow the most and that’s how we make progress. You have to fail in order to succeed, but I failed so many times, but eight years later I achieved my dream and I became the world champion, and basically that was my impossible dream coming true. But I’m no different from everyone listening to this. We all have the ability to do that, but it’s a matter of backing yourself and having a real deep reason why it matters to you in order to stick to it and never give up until you get there.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I want to thank you for sharing that story. You’re an inspirational athlete, but particularly to the LGBTQIA+ community. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a personal story: my sister and her wife were the first same-sex couples to be married at West Point almost 10 years ago, which took a great deal of courage. At the time it was the first and it was groundbreaking, but at the same time it was a very small wedding because of concern for backlash or protesting. Your courage to set a goal and achieve something is such an inspiration. For people who may be feeling like you did initially, to hear you story… it will touch people to hear how successful you have been and your journey to get there. Thank you for sharing that that with the world.
Siri Lindley: First of all, thank you so much, and congratulations to your sister and her wife; I think that’s extraordinary. It’s people like her, people like us that decide, “No, I’m going to show that being gay, it’s my superpower because it means that I can live authentically.” I’ve always, since that point just been, “this has me and I’m going to show you that I am no different.” If anything, when we all decide whether you’re gay or straight or whatever you are, but when you decide to live fearlessly authentic and bring all of yourself into life, you are capable of not just achieving so much more, but having so much deeper relationships and everything is more powerful when we live authentically. Thank you to your sister and her wife.
I just feel blessed to have had the opportunity to really, to I guess I’m thankful for my mind and my toughness and my resilience and stuff that I was able to do this. But to now have somewhat of a platform where I’m not necessarily talking about gay rights, I’m just being, I just talk about my wife and how in love I am. I just talk about people that I love and adore that are gay and it’s a matter of just making it. There’s nothing different, there’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing to talk about, this is just who I am and this is my life.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that. I know that our CEO Gina always says that as a team, we need to be able to come to the office – virtually or in person – as our authentic selves to be able to do the best work and support our clients in the best way. I appreciate that sentiment.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been listening to your audio and video series, The Bed Head Chronicles, which I find extremely motivational, whether I am listening in the car or on my phone. I love them. You cover fantastic topics like purpose, intention, recovery. As someone who still exercises regularly, it’s such a nice combination of both mental and physical awareness and intention. I want to know:
What inspired you to share all of this wisdom with the world?
First of all, you’re making me so happy that you’re enjoying it. So, thank you.
That really means the world to me because it really matters to me.
The Bed Head Chronicles came about because I’m someone… Again, I live very authentically.
One of my main jobs is I coach athletes and I wake up in the morning. Before I got cancer, I had longer hair and it was blonde hair, but it would stick up like all over the place in the morning. Oftentimes we’d start so early that I’d show up at work to coach my athletes with my hair all over the place. People would say, “Oh, my God, look at your hair.” I’d say, “This is just me.” I would rather have a little extra sleep and show up and be able to be here and give a 100%. I decided this is about being authentic.
A lot of the topics that I cover is being able to truly find home within yourself and learn to love yourself, learn to appreciate yourself, learn to embrace the fact that we’re all perfectly imperfect and understanding that when we can love ourselves, support ourselves, back ourselves, believe in ourselves like we would, the people we love most in our lives we then are able to have such a greater impact in the world around us. At the same time, it’s like we give permission for others to do the same. That was kind of the premise behind it. Then I lost all my hair and it’s there was a time I was bald and I’m doing, this is The Bald Head Chronicles because I don’t have hair anymore.
A lot of the topics that I cover are things that I’ve experienced in my life, overcoming anxiety, overcoming fear, overcoming, being able to change the narrative in your mind and how you speak to yourself. And I keep it short as you know, they’re anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes at the most, but just little nuggets that I’ll wake up… And I don’t have a plan and I don’t write it out, I don’t schedule anything, but I wake up and I have an idea on my mind. I think this is important and this could really catch someone’s life today. And I just speak about it, so it’s very kind of off the cuff, but I’m so happy that you enjoy it and I think it’s pretty powerful for a lot of people.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I know that it is for me. And, I am now even more impressed, which I didn’t think was possible, that you are coming up with this unscripted. That gives me a whole new perspective on just the things that you are coming up with that you feel inspired to share. So, thank you.
Siri Lindley: Well, I thought it was probably totally obvious that it was unscripted, but I’m happy that it wasn’t totally obvious.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: You mentioned a little bit about self-talk, self-love, and language. On our show, we discuss topics that impact our audience both personally and professionally, and now more than ever those two are very intertwined.
While in the legal marketing and business of law industry, I personally feel we have very smart, talented, motivated, and collaborative people, many of us, including myself, suffer from imposter syndrome. So, I’d love to talk to you more about what you call “recognizing your inner gremlin” and “the power of language.”
Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about how you define your inner gremlin?
Absolutely. I think that as humans, we are our most harsh critics of ourselves. Things that we get upset, falling short or not doing something as perfectly as we wanted to. The way we talk to ourselves and treat ourselves and hammer ourselves for that is so much harsher than we would ever treat someone else that we witnessed doing the same thing. So I call this my inner gremlin and it’s that voice in my head. That’s not the important thing is to recognize that this isn’t you. This is a voice that came somewhere in your childhood from the day you were born to maybe five or six years old. Maybe a teacher that said, “No, no, no, you can’t dress like that, you’re going to be made fun of.” Or, “That’s not appropriate to dress that way” or “Oh, don’t dream that big things are hard and just do the little things.”
Whatever it is, a voice that either belittles you or gets angry if you talk. Don’t talk, this is time for adults, stay silent. This voice sticks with us sometimes for 20, 30, 40, 80 years. In moments where we need to speak up, or we want to just be free and dress away that we feel comfortable that voice is saying, no, no, no, don’t dream too big, that’s too hard, you can’t do that just focus on the small things or oh, no, you’d need to look like everyone else because you’re going to be frowned upon or laughed at or whatever it is. The problem is that this voice came from when we were five years old, it’s not relevant anymore, we’re adults now. We can be we evolve into our authentic selves.
When we are highly critical of ourselves, I like to ask myself when I hear my gremlin being super critical with something that I’ve done and I try to picture my wife, who I love more than anything in the world, I try to picture her face and her having done exactly what I just did. And what would I say to her? Would I be saying the same things that I’m saying to myself? Or would I have a different about it if it were her? And all the time, if you put someone else’s face in that experience instead of you then you can speak to yourself like you would that person you love more than anything. And it’s not that I would lie and say, oh, you’re amazing if she did something horribly wrong, but I would be a lot kinder and speak with a lot more sensitivity.
Our inner gremlin, especially when it comes to imposter syndrome, me trying to become a triathlete when I didn’t know how to swim and my first race and I’m running with my helmet on and gagging on the side of the road and people laughing at me, in that moment, all I knew is that I had never felt so alive in my entire life. But as I got home and I started seeing the faces of the people laughing at me, then my inner gremlin comes in and says, “What were you thinking? You’re such an embarrassment. What an idiot, you ran with your helmet on, how could you?” And that conversation that goes on. And it was so evident on that one night, this was so long ago, but I remember it. And I’m like, if I’m going to make this happen, I need to shut down that voice. I need to name it.
You name your inner gremlin. I named it Igor. Like “Igor, I don’t need to hear this because if I listen to you, I’m just going to quit and never give up” or “I’m going to quit and never achieve what I dream of achieving. So, Igor, it’s time for you to go.”
It’s you acknowledged that voice, give it a name which detaches you from it and you realize it’s not your voice, and let it go and then bring forth have that kinder voice that is going to help you get to where you want to go. And that was at that time, that voice was Siri, you’re such a hard worker, you’ve got such great work ethic, you want this, you’ve got the passion. You’re willing to obsess over this, you’re willing to do whatever it takes. Just one step at a time. That’s the kind of voice that’s going to energize you, give you hope and keep you moving forward.
So if you have imposter syndrome, understand that it is not helping you to listen to that voice that’s telling you, you don’t belong. Don’t listen to that voice that’s telling you look at that person, look what they’re doing. And then you start comparing, that’s only going to lead you down a negative spiral, and it’s going to hold you back. You need to step into your power and instead of comparing, be grateful and appreciate what is great about you. What is it that you know is great about you? Is it your work ethic? Is it your passion? Is it your attitude? Is it your relentlessness? Is it your intelligence? Whatever it is instead of comparing and feeling less then make that voice go away, whatever you name it, and sit present with yourself and look at what you can appreciate and be grateful for about you.
And once you’re just focused on you and what you can do then you free yourself to being able to achieve at the highest levels. But that voice, that gremlin doesn’t help us, and so you have to acknowledge it, give it a name. You can know that it’s there, but decide not to listen to it. I actually have a little story that may help you guys because when I was going through all of this, I had this vision that I’m sitting in my house and there’s some person outside my window yelling and screaming these horrible things about me. Like you’re terrible, and you’re mean, and you’re ugly, and you’re dumb, all these things.
Now, if you had that same person outside your window would you open the door and let them in? Never right? Never. Yet we’re letting that voice inside our minds. So you need to stand guard at the gates of your mind and decide who you’re going to let in? What voices you’re going to let in? And which ones you’re going to keep outside? I hope that helps, but that always works for me. I’m like Would I let that person inside my house? No way.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I love that analogy. As someone who is a very visual learner, I love the idea of naming that voice and really visualizing it as a person to combat. I want to ask you a little bit more about the positive language and the power that we hold. You’ve given on your video series some really great examples.
Could you share with our listeners an example of the weight our words carry and how they impact our view a situation? Also, using the power of positive language to really change your mindset on how you’re viewing a situation or a challenge?
Absolutely. I mean, I forget what I talked about in my Bed Head Chronicles, but I mean, your experience of any situation can be completely changed by the words that you use. I don’t know if you know of anyone in your life that had one bad thing happen and you say, “Well, how was your day?” “Oh, it was a horrible day, this one thing happened.” Now using the word horrible makes that one thing that happens so much worse than it probably was instead using language of, “Oh, well, something difficult, I had to experience something difficult.” And that is a lot less like, “Oh” when you say that word.
But things like when you having something really hard that you’re going through, something really difficult. I got leukemia and I was told I had a 5% chance maybe of surviving, but there was no way. I’m like, okay, this is an opportunity, this is an opportunity for me to grow and to learn and to realize that there is something that I am meant to learn through this progress. So a problem is more an opportunity, okay? Instead of I have a problem, I have this great opportunity to grow, okay? Instead of… I’m trying to think of the ones that could, do you remember one of the ones that I use?
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Yeah. So that really resonated with me because you used the analogy that someone said they were “devastated” over disappointing a client. And I thought, “oh, my goodness, with our audience that probably happens on a daily or weekly basis.” A client is disappointed or someone that we report to is disappointed. And now I’m taking over your example…
Siri Lindley: I love that and thank you for the reminder because this is like in anything, we’ll use that as an example. Like, oh, I’m, so my mom sometimes says that she runs a dog grooming parlor and she like cut a nail a little too short. I’m just absolutely beside, I’m absolutely devastated. It just makes your inner experience a million times worse than it has to be, instead just change the language to I didn’t do my best, I made a little mistake. It takes so much less of a toll on your body than the word devastating. And things like you’re going into a key meeting, say, you’re meeting with a client and it’s so incredibly important. And you sit there and you’re talking to yourself and you say, oh, my God, I’m so nervous, I’m so nervous.
Siri Lindley: What if you said, I’m so excited? Because what your body does with nervousness and excitement is the exact same thing, okay? Your heart rate goes up, you get a little sweaty, your palms get sweaty, whatever, same exact thing happens with your body. So instead of saying, oh, my God, I’m so nervous which disempowers you, how about I’m so excited which energizes you. So just the words that you use with yourself, the words that you use to communicate. We can be so much easier on ourselves and we can support ourselves with the words that we use. Especially I think with athletes and people that get nervous because they want to do a great job. Feeling nervous doesn’t make you feel strong because you feel like you should just be fired up and ready to go, you are, you’re excited.
Siri Lindley: And all you to do is convince yourself that, of course, that’s what I’m feeling, I’m just excited. I’m not asking you to lie to yourself, but it’s the same thing by your giving it a disempowering meaning, yet I’m going to give it one that empowers me. So just little things like that. And things will come up all the time, I mean, it’s endless, but just choose your words wisely. And that’s not just with yourself, but with the other people, choose your words wisely and understand the impact that it can have because it really is powerful and it can change everything.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I appreciate that. I’m going to link to not only the landing page for The Bed Head Chronicles, but several of the episodes that I’ve really enjoyed personally and hope that our listeners will get hooked too as I have.
Siri Lindley: I have one more for you actually that I thought of, Jennifer. I’m sorry. But Bed Head Chronicles that I just posted was about failure. When we think that we have failed, it’s a horrible feeling and that can demoralize you and that can keep you from trying again or taking on big things again. And I changed the definition of failure to learning. Failure is learning. When I fail I learn, when I learn, I grow, when I grow I make progress, so I need it. So it’s more empowering thing. And it’s okay to fail because I’ll learn rather than just failure as that’s it. So that’s just one more that for all of us when you are in a business where you are having to take certain risks, you have to be willing to fail if you want to succeed ultimately.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Thank you for that. Siri, I could talk to you for hours.
Siri Lindley: I know, so can I. I am so sorry, I kept you on so much longer.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Absolutely not. I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today for joining the show and for sharing the stories and the wisdom that you have. I’ve really enjoyed our time together.
If people want to learn more about you where can they find you?
Siri Lindley: Probably the best, I have a website www.siri.lindley.com. I’m also on Instagram @sirilindley, and we run an amazing horse rescue at Believe Ranch and Rescue.
If you’re interested in healing of horses, you can check us out there. We’re doing some magical work here with horses and humans and I’d love to share that with all of you.
Jennifer, thank you.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Thank you so much. It was great speaking with you and thank you to our listeners as well for tuning in today.
Siri Lindley: Thank you, everyone.
Learn More & Connect
Learn more about Siri Lindley
Learn more about The Bead Head Chronicles
Learn more about Believe Ranch and Rescue
Jennifer Simpson Carr
Learn more about Jennifer Simpson Carr
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The information provided in this episode does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials included are for general informational purposes only.