Lessons from 2015 and Big Changes for 2016

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2015 was big. I learned a lot, improved a lot, got a little taste of what I am capable of, and continued to progress as an athlete and a person. It was a good year — not quite the year I was hoping for, but a very, very good year, none the less. And while not everything went according to plan (does it ever?), I do feel like this year was a good reinforcement of what I already knew — that I’m heading down the right path. It may have taken me a year and a half of drifting to find this path, but now that I’ve found it, I know it’s the right one. It’s an incredibly liberating feeling to know you’re doing the right thing.

Of course, finding the right path doesn’t mean it’s been easy. Turns out, trying to be a professional, freelance athlete for a living isn’t all fun and games all the time (although, often, that’s exactly what it is). This year has proved to be a massive learning experience.

Here are three major lessons:

1. There will be more failure. I had some spectacular failures this year, but there will be even more to come. But that’s okay because I’ll get over it, just like I got over my abysmal performance at Whistler when I tore my hamstring and basically just gave up on the race. Just like I’ve gotten over it every other time I’ve royally mucked up a race or injured myself or disappointed myself in some other way, from mundane to catastrophic. I used to think my ability to “get over it” was a bad thing, because I could easily forget how poorly I did on something and go back to laughing and joking around like it hadn’t happened. I used to think this meant I didn’t take myself seriously enough, or that I didn’t care enough. It wasn’t until this year that I realized it was probably a good thing, maybe an incredibly good thing. This year I’ve renamed that thing, and it’s new name is resilience.

2. Dream big, but make goals that you can control. Recently Macky found this book called The Chimp Paradox: A Mind Management Program. Initially I was pretty skeptical (and I still have some qualms about the book’s use of over-simplified science and excessive exclamation marks), but reading this book ended up helping me quite a bit. For one, the book draws a line between “dreams” and “goals.” Dreams are things that you want to happen, but that you will never have complete control over because the outcomes depend on other people or on luck, i.e. winning a race or scoring a big sponsorship. Goals are things that you have 100% control over, like getting out of bed at a certain time, or getting on your bike and doing a workout. This was a pretty monumental realization for me, because in the past my “goals” had always caused me more consternation than they did motivation. I was afraid of setting serious goals because I knew I would be disappointed (read: total mess) if I didn’t reach them. I was afraid of setting small goals, because then it would be even worse. This new philosophy has freed me to acknowledge my dreams, and create goals that will lead me in the right direction. Which, actually, when you get right down to it, isn’t that hard.

3. Don’t be afraid to be a work in progress. I had some moments this year where I got really hung up on what people expected of me, and forgot to appreciate how much I had improved over the course of the year. Because I improved A LOT. Of course, other people improved, too, and I didn’t improve as much as I needed to to get the results I wanted, so it was easy to forget that I’m actually doing pretty well considering where I started. There remains a massive gap between where I am and where I want to be, but I’m starting to accept that all I can do is work to lesson that gap. And accepting my starting point is a huge part of that. And also, you know, being patient, which I’m really, really good at….haha.

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I’m working on a post about New Year’s Resolutions and goal-setting, that I hope will show how I plan to take these lessons and build on them in 2016. But that’s another post. For now, a brief synopsis to bring you up to speed on some changes that are coming my way in 2016.

Because 2016 is bringing some pretty big changes. For one, Macky and Sean and I will be moving away from the “team” format that we’ve had for the past two years and building individual sponsorship programs. While Macky and I will still be representing many of the same companies (including the same bike sponsor!!) and working together on many projects, we will be negotiating separate contracts and managing our programs independently. This wasn’t an easy decision, but ultimately it makes the most sense for all of us — we’re different people and we each bring different value to the sponsorship table. This decision has had the added benefit of forcing me to establish my own value as an athlete and build my own brand — in other words, grow a pair and ask for what I’m worth. If you know me, you know that this is something I struggle with, and the past few months have been full of very exciting moments and some, ahem, minor catastrophes (that I handled like the grown ass woman I am by only occasionally flopping on the floor and beating my fists into the ground — sponsorship is stressful, okay?). I’m pleased to say I’ve pulled it off in the end — I’ve established more individual relationships with my sponsors, I have a better idea of how I can represent these brands, and I’m working with companies that I feel are a stronger reflection of who I am as an athlete. Oh and I’ll be bringing in close to a living wage, sooo movin’ on up in the world!

Secondly, as implied above, both Macky and I will be leaving Pivot Cycles and moving to a new bike company. I’ll be releasing the details on this in a few weeks time, but for now you’ll just have to guess (#teaser #sorrynotsorry). Like most big changes, this brings some bittersweet emotions. I will always be grateful to Pivot for taking a chance on me when I had very little experience, and allowing me to start my career as a professional athlete, and I consider many of the Pivot crew my close friends. Oh, and I loved my Mach 6. But change is good, because change is growth. And I couldn’t be more excited about the new opportunities that have come my way in the past few months.

Syd Schulz

Pro mountain biker.

Average human.

I write about bikes and life and trying to get better at both.

more here

3 thoughts on “Lessons from 2015 and Big Changes for 2016

  1. Lot’s of big lessons! Thanks for the post. As always, it was a great read and I’m glad to hear you’re doing well and weathering the bumps in the road, even if you do get bruised or tear your hamstring along the way. Can’t wait to see what you’re up to in 2016! Hopefully our paths cross soon.

  2. I enjoy watching your journey, Syd. Just don’t underestimate what a factor aging will become. But you are a Schulz. At least you have that going for you…

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