First Water, as unique as its journey
With roots in mindfulness and elite Olympic performance

Like so many life plans, the path that we envision turns out to be quite different from the one we eventually live.

My journey started on a high school track in Montreal as a teenager. I excelled at the 110m hurdles, “good enough” to win two national titles and set a varsity McGill record – that stood for 30 years.

My Olympic dream ended – or so I thought at the time – at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic trials, where I fell short of qualifying for the Games.

It proved to be an important early life lesson in holding goals lightly, allowing them to change and evolve as I ended up at my first Olympic Games eight years later in Sydney as the athletics Team Manager. I have since had the privilege of representing Canada in a total nine Olympics in different capacities.

My primary role with the Canadian Olympic Committee, as Director, Olympic Performance, was to prepare Team Canada for what is the most unpredictable event of anyone’s career.

Our basic approach was to look at what was unique about any upcoming Games environment and figure out how we needed to prepare differently by adjusting our plans in order to manage our external distractions. We had great initial success with this approach, resulting in a 67 per cent conversion rate in Beijing in 2008, as compared to a 34 per cent in 2004 when Canada won 12 medals in Athens.

We quickly realized that something more was needed than simply adjusting our plans, because planning can only take you so far for something that is completely unpredictable.

This is where mindfulness came in as a powerful practice, tool, and way of being; because you are then ready for whatever comes your way as a present moment experience.

We evolved by cultivating an attitude of acceptance of the risk, complexity and unpredictability of the Games as inherently uncontrollable; and for us to thrive within the uncertainty of the Games required shifting our paradigm towards adaptability, resilience and managing our internal distractions.

In short, what we are all having to deal with in life, and especially in 2020:

  1. having to adjust our plans
  2. having to navigate unpredictability

I began my mindfulness practice in 2010 alongside an active vinyasa yoga practice; and more recently embarked on a journey to increase my capacity to live and perform mindfully by becoming a trained mPEAK instructor through the Centre for Mindfulness at the University California, San Diego.

My message is we conquer ourselves – not the mountain – because like any journey in life, whether it is going to the Olympic Games, or anything else, it is the journey not the outcome, that is important.

And as much as winning is important – what’s more important is who you are when you are trying to win that is the most important.

Bringing my Olympic experience together with my mindful performance enhancement training, I founded First Water Performance to help performers – from all areas – looking to reach new heights, sustainably.