As part of the Empowerment initiative, Growth Is A Journey is very excited to highlight a story that is well known to so many – as any world champion’s story would be – while reflecting so well the essence of growth as a journey which more often than not starts with a first step of challenging oneself to go beyond fears, insecurities, and unknown.
Siri Lindley‘s amazing and beautiful story of challenging what’s possible and of self-discovery includes becoming a world triathlon champion. But Siri is not only a strong and world-renowned athlete and coach, she is a beautiful human being who lives to see others grow and resonate with her own story of overcoming self-doubt and insecurities: “Creating strength from struggle and learning to live my life from a place of Love, not fear, is such a powerful one: a story that can relate to business, family and all aspects of life! It is my mission to share my message, as I know it can positively influence so many on multiple different levels!!!“ This article – published with Siri’s permission -is a testimony to Siri’s humbleness and love for others. Thank you, Siri.
Who is Siri Lindley? Siri dominated the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Rankings over the course of her career as a pro, winning 13 World cup races between 2000-2002, and becoming the 2001 and 2002 ITU World Champion and World Cup Series. After transitioning to coaching in 2003, Siri coached a number of Olympic and Ironman athletes and champions. Her accomplishments lead to her being inducted to the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame. Besides triathlon coaching, Siri is also a public speaker, an author and a life coach, and together with her wife, Rebekah Keat, Siri is the co-founder of Believe Ranch and Rescue, a non-profit with a mission to rescue horses from slaughter, abuse and neglect by giving them love, care, a home and a second chance.
How did Siri’s story start? Siri grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and as a kid who had to go through the sadness and pain of her parents ‘divorce, she had a lot of anxiety, insecurities and fears. She partially managed them via her love for sports and finding mentors and friends in her coaches. She played three sports in high school – field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse, which she continued playing at Brown University where she earned a degree in psychology. A turning point in Siri’s life was her just missing the qualification for the national lacrosse team after her graduation – this event caused her to be heartbroken and feel lost. In 1992, at 23 years old, Siri was introduced to triathlon by watching a friend race at a local event. The challenge of the sport caught Siri’s attention and despite her very poor swimming skills at the time, she fell in love with the sport. Across a variety of ages, sizes and abilities, everyone “was looking alive” – the opposite of how insecure and afraid Siri had always felt- and “pushing themselves to the limits to see what they are capable of“. All of a sudden, the sport of triathlon presented a vehicle for Siri to challenge herself to dig deep inside, beyond her fears and insecurities. In 1992, she competed in her first triathlon event and despite the race being a total disaster, Siri had made her mind to become the best she can be in the sport and go “as far as she can possibly go”; by 1996, Siri was starting to get better competing at the national level, and by 1999, Siri started rising to the top rankings at the international level.
Siri’s most important lessons in her journey to the podium? Siri’s journey to becoming a world champion encompassed a couple of key lessons that are now woven in Siri’s coaching philosophy:
- Strength is not about doing everything on your own. By 1999, with a 3rd place in the ITU World Cup series, Siri got obsessed about making the 2000 US women’s Olympic triathlon team. She had gotten so close to proving to herself and everyone around her about how strong she had become on her own, that she felt she had to isolate herself in Australia to focus on her practice, living like a monk for six months and visualizing her perfect race every single day. The big day came and instead of the perfect race, within 200 meters, Siri got dunked into the water, which caused her to finish the swim near last and qualify only as an alternate. She had made the race to be all about herself and it was too much. In acknowledging what happened, Siri was able to move forward instead of making up an excuse and not getting any better.
- It is not about winning a race, it is about the hunger of going out and being better than you were yesterday. Following the failed Olympic trials, Siri accepted an invitation to train with Brett Sutton, an eccentric Australian coach, known for his tough love while being one of the best triathlon coaches in the world. For several months, Siri went through a regiment of killer practices, designed to challenge her physical and mental limits and abilities. Instead of quitting, Siri blossomed: she understood that in order to do what she dreamed of doing, she needed to do whatever it took to make that happen, break patterns of self-doubt and insecurities, and change her thinking. Later on, Siri discovered why coach Sutton accepted to train her: he had seen Siri in an early race, and despite being in the 42nd place in that race, during the last few minutes of the race, Siri was absolutely killing herself to catch the 41st place. Coach Sutton had seen Siri’s hunger and desire of being better than she was yesterday. “If you do that, success is inevitable“, Siri says, “having that hunger, passion, work ethic, respect for team mates, and that appreciation for this amazing opportunity to race at this level” changed everything – “it wasn’t about having to make the team or winning a race, it was about the gratefulness of being there and doing my best“.
With the learned appreciation of whom she had become and the gratefulness to race at an elite level, eight years after declaring to her mom that she would win the world championships, Siri’s dreams came true at the 2001 and 2002 Triathlon World Championships and World Cup Series.
In her journey as a coach -life coach and triathlon coach via the Team Sirius program for elite and amateur athletes-, the following Michelangelo quote is Siri’s favorite and representative of her coaching mindset and vision: “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set her free”.
Another type of battle? In late 2019, Siri had to make another big decision – upon being diagnosed with leukemia, Siri made her mind that she would not accept her life to end so soon: “I am going to survive. I am going to survive and I am going to thrive again.” With strong determination and support from her family, friends and beloved horses, after going through intense treatment that involved a clinical trial and a bone marrow transplant, Siri is cancer-free with another lesson learned: “It’s taught me that life is not a straight line and to never expect that. Yet as someone who finds the gift in everything, no matter how tough, no matter how hard, I mean, this has brought me to my knees—but there has been so much grace and so many gifts.”
During this time of trials, Siri drew often from her life and lessons as an athlete: “You can be in a race and be having a tough day and things are really hard. If you focus only on how bad you feel, how slow you’re going, you’re just going to get worse and worse. But if you’re out there and your legs feel a little tired but your breathing is great and you start focusing on putting out your best effort, focusing on what you can do, not on what you can’t, then suddenly your legs will start feeling better. This kind of thinking is energizing rather than weakening. The lesson in all of this can be related to any aspect of anyone’s life.”
Common throughout all her endeavors, trials, challenges and triumphs, Siri notes: “What I’ve realized through my journey is that we are so much more powerful than we could ever imagine, as human beings. But we don’t want to believe that because it’s scary to think about what we really are capable of. And I’m a believer because I’m living proof that the impossible is really possible. I’m also a believer that you’re going to be afraid, but you’re going to do it anyway. And that’s what courage is, isn’t it?”
For more information on Siri’s work, mission and initatives: Siri Lindley Life Coach