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Confessions of a Swim Team Drama Queen No. 5

Meg shares her views on empowering women in the workplace and the value of a good mentor.  

 

A season of change is upon us. As many are preparing to walk across the stage to bridge the gap between academia and real life, I am reminded of words my mom shared with me in my graduation note that said, “The final steps of a journey create an arrival.”

These words resonate even today. Recently, I was fortunate to be chosen to represent Fairfield Inn & Suites in a campaign called Every Day Connect. The program is dedicated to showcasing relationships with mentors of who have had a life-long impact from one’s college years and beyond. Not surprisingly to most, I asked my university swim coach Tim Wise to meet me in New York for these interviews.

Tim and I spent a full day together, which was the biggest treat of the trip. Although it’s been years since my college swimming days, it was easy to reconnect and reminisce about the intensity of the sport; some of the biggest physical  and emotional challenges I have ever had to face. Speaking with Tim brought back fond memories. My favorite quote from Virgil’s Aeneid is: “Endure the hardships of your present state / Live, and remember as there will be better fate.”  

As the idea of women in the workplace and gender inequality takes center stage in the media, the trials and tribulations of my developing years in college stick in the back of my mind. Now, I don’t mean to whine here, but being a woman in any industry in the post-grad world is not easy. In fact, I feel it’s safe to say that many young women (and men) in this day and age are still figuring out what they want -- how to achieve their goals or break from what may be perceived as “normal.” There are two philosophies that have helped empower me in these often confusing and terrifying times:

1. Survival & Risk: I thank God every day that I was brought up in a modest home with loving and supportive parents who told me I could do whatever I wanted but never handed me a check. NOT having money after college and having debt meant survival. I learned, and am still learning, that having financial responsibility makes you learn a lot, fast. It used to be just me – now it is 150 employees. I didn’t have the burden of a trust fund – I had the comfort of being broke for so long that I was (and still am) resourceful and hungry.

2. Swimming & Friendship: The thing I’ve known my whole life is who I am when I’m in the water. Having an outlet and a network of swimmers through The Olympic Club gave me support and guidance at the most trying times – from bad breakups to a near-fatal car accident. I was saved by swimming and swimmers throughout my 20s. I have also learned that it’s ok to be dependent on others at certain times in your life. As an overly-independent 22-year-old, I thought, “hey, you die alone, you should make it alone.” Quickly after college, I learned that we are actually all together in this life, so let’s help each other - in business and in our personal lives. Those support lessons have translated well into Golden Road’s culture of supportive women in our workplace. I feel the positive energy every day guided by the excitement of our business developing alongside our friendships for people of any gender.

As graduation commences, I just want to say to these young ladies looking for their place… This shit is hard so hold on tight, don’t let go, and carry on! You WILL get through it and be better off on the other side. It is interesting to reflect on our journey and how fortunate I am to have landed in LA with Tony’s support and a network of amazingly talented folks who help me and Golden Road every day. I am sure life doesn’t get any easier or slow-down.  But those post-grad years of finding your passion and your voice, are tough survival years – and I strongly believe – will help overcome future challenges.


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Confessions of a Swim Team Drama Queen 4

Over-Prepare & Let it Flow

 

Having been a 50 freestyler, the shortest event in college swimming, it was not commonplace for me to need to train the meters my coach enforced. Yale Swimming Coach, Tim Wise, had me train with the distance swimmers and attend more than the required workouts to "over-prepare" my body and mind by swimming over 15,000 meters/day for weeks on end, concluding with a training trip in Puerto Rico. Sounds like a tropical break from the depths of Connecticut winters, but trust me it’s quite the opposite. The final workout was over. If we weren't so tired, we'd be celebrating. Tim said “Ok, Gill, on the blocks – 50 freestyle for time.” I looked at him like he was crazy and started crying in my goggles. There was no gas left in my tank. The whole team was out of the water watching and I was their captain – I needed to lead. 

My best friends Morgan & Caroline were in the water below my block. Caroline smiled. Morgan yelled "Go, Meggie, under 27." I gave him a glare, like “You're crazy, Morgie, no way...” At that moment, my mind was able to call on what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmikalyi calls flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. I remember every stroke of that single 50-meter lap, which should have been the toughest race of my life; my body and mind in extreme pain and exhaustion. Yet the engagement and enjoyment was of one of the greatest moments in sports performance for me. It was also one of the fastest swims of my life.


 
Instead of panic, fear, or anxiety, I felt joy, engagement, and total flow.
 

Flow has stayed with me. Studying and learning to call on flow has been a huge influence in my business life. Recently I visited the Forbes office in San Francisco where I was told I was going to be featured as the Food & Beverage 30 under 30 honoree. The editor sent me links to last year's video interviews and I was given a time to show up. The week leading up, I prepared by calling various beer industry sources. I felt I had a unique opportunity to share a two-fold message about the beer industry that hadn’t been shared by Forbes - craft beer is single-handedly contributing to the growth of the beer industry in America - and the role the Los Angeles market and its brewers are playing while simultaneously contributing to the growth of their communities. Like my 6 hours of training/day to prepare for a 22-second swim race, I over-prepared by answering every question the editor had ever asked a Forbes honoree with stats from some of the beer industry’s top leaders. I was ready.



When I showed up at Forbes, the editor told me the format changed. None of the questions would be the same, there'd be no pre-interview, and we would only be given a few seconds to answer. A Forbes Hot-seat. In this moment I was able to call on Tim's lesson. Instead of panic, fear, or anxiety, I felt joy, engagement, and total flow. It is better to over-prepare leading up to a big event, even when there are surprises and things that don't go your way. I enjoyed every bit of my day at Forbes; the surprises, challenges, Forbes staff, and of course the inspiring other 30 under 30 honorees. While the environment changed, the over-preparedness paid off, and I felt at ease and in Flow with my entire Forbes experience. 



Special thanks to following folks who helped with my prep for Forbes: Julia Hertz at the Brewers Association, Jenn Litz at Craft Business Daily, Andrea Riberi at The Nielsen Company, Bump Williams & Jeff Nowicki at Bump Williams Consulting, all Golden Road distributors & especially John Anderson of Ace & Mission Beverage Co, George Couch of Couch Distributing, & Tony Yanow, Phil Jamison & Paul Burgis at Golden Road Brewing


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