Did positive power transform Jade Wilcoxson into a champion?
As a young woman in her mid-twenties Jade was diagnosed with pre-diabetes – a disease that had ravaged her father’s family. The news meant she had a genetic predisposition and could fall victim to the deadly disease. Receiving that diagnosis at such a young age was alarming… but she had a vision of something better for herself.
The path she envisioned would change her life. It began nine years ago when she learned of her pending illness. Back then, at 26 she had a doctorate and was embarked on a career as a physical therapist. She had always been active and athletic, had played competitive soccer and liked to ride her mountain bike. But given her genetic makeup, that wouldn’t be enough to beat diabetes, a disease that plagues more than 8% of Americans. Almost 25% of Americans are pre-diabetic and most aren’t aware of their condition – so what to do?
Her brother provided the catalyst. He suggested a century bike ride and to start training to compete in a hundred mile bike race. Jade was always competitive with her brother so she agreed, bought a bike and started training for the race.
It was a challenge for her. But when she thought about her physical therapy patients, the difficulties they faced and how they worked so hard to overcome them – that positive power fueled her determination to keep going. Here’s how she described it in a recent WSJ profile:
“It takes months of hard work to go from not being able to move in bed to being able to walk at home safely, and it is painful work. Those patients inspired me.”
The work she did with her brother paid off. She rode so much better than she expected in the century race, she decided to enter more races and continue to challenge herself.
She trained harder and started winning. Two years ago she entered the 2011 Sea Otter Classic and came in second – finishing just behind Kristin Armstrong, who had won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Riding at that level was something Jade never thought she could accomplish. She decided to quit her job and turn pro – which meant leaving not just her patients, but the security of a paycheck. Now, here’s the part of Jade’s story that’s unusual – her newly-minted vision of herself as a pro competitor came at an age when many women road racers were starting to retire. Even so, Jade’s natural talent, dedication and determination to win began to propel her across a lot of finish lines.
It’s expensive to be a pro cyclist and there’s very little money in it (top women only earn about $30,000 a year). She has all the qualities of a winner, but what is it that motivates her? From the WSJ:
“When I get on a bike, there’s a switch that’s flipped and I want to beat everyone around me.”
Is it as simple as that?
This May she won the sport’s top domestic trophy – the USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships and could be a contender for the 2016 Olympic Team. As she found: it takes more than grit, talent and training to ride at her level. It also takes what I’ve been calling positive power:
The one thing I have learned is that just because people are “pro” doesn’t mean they don’t struggle with the same issues that everyone else does. We’re all just people, we all have issues. I still look in the mirror to see if my pants make my butt look too big. I still struggle sometimes to get out of bed and get my exercise in. I still worry that I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, bla, bla, bla. It’s all just negativity that we all deal with on a daily basis, and we all have to make the choice everyday to push that crap out of your mind…
She didn’t invent the need to battle against negative thoughts – all those little internal messages of self-doubt that say “you’re not good enough” or “don’t bother, you’ll probably fail.” Those negative voices often hover around the edges of consciousness. But as others have found, they hold you back from discovering what you can accomplish. I suspect her efforts to stay positive and fight the negativity are what give her the winning edge.
As Jade puts it, she’s found it essential to overcome that internal negativity, focus on positive power and channel away thoughts or feelings that get in the way of what she’s trying to do. While we can’t all be highly successful competitive athletes, we can learn from how she puts her energy into staying positive. From the same interview:
Before a race, if I’m suffering from self-doubt (which happens a lot)… I talk myself out of the negativity because I know that all that negativity is just stemming from fear of failure. I have a small book that I write positive affirmations in repeatedly the morning before a race. It sounds ridiculous, but it really does make a huge difference… It’s so easy to get lost in negativity and self doubt. Once you learn how to control those emotions and turn them into positive energy, you can accomplish anything!
So what do you think? Is it all in the mind? Is it just new age sentiment or is Jade on to something important? Leave a comment and let me know.