Because of what my mom instilled in me early on, I learned to see people — all people — for their values and how they perform and thrive. Take gender out of the equation. It’s about performance. Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of inspiring women, athletes and CEOs alike, and they’ve all helped reinforce the virtues that underpin who I am and what I’ve accomplished. These values also uphold EXOS, the organization I founded with my fiercest business partner and wife, Amy. Here’s what these values mean to me.
The 1990 women’s basketball team at Washington State University was one of the greatest teams I ever coached, and it’s because of the accountability they had for themselves and for one another. They showed up and brought their A-game every day, and also expected that of everyone around them — including the coaching staff.
Every person on the team was about elevating one another because they knew their success paved the way for the next girl and the next girl. And for many women, their success is bigger than themselves. That unlocks something powerful. When you approach things from that perspective, when you feel a responsibility to ignite change, there’s a reserve tank of motivation that can help you persist — whether in sports or business.
One thing I learned early on from women in sports is they weren’t given anything; they earned everything. As young girls, they earned the right to play sports with the boys who may not have thought they should. They earned the right to have sports teams in high school and scholarships in college. And they continue to earn it.
It makes me think back to Tracy Morgan, an incredible strength and conditioning coach and my first-ever hire at the International Performance Institute in the late ‘90s. Tracy showed up every day oozing excellence. Or Sue Falsone, EXOS’ first physical therapist, who went on to become the first female head athletic trainer in any of the four major professional sports in the U.S. They both continued to earn their titles day in and day out.
As much as we’re making strides as a society, it’s not an equal playing field. Not all the Tracy’s and Sue’s out there get a fair shot. Female athletes specifically know there may not be as big of a payout at the end of the road. That doesn’t stop them. They find beauty in the process it takes to improve their game, while at the same time working hard to level the playing field.
The women I know are always paying it forward. There’s a humility that comes with having to earn everything. Yes, it takes grit to succeed when the odds are against you. Women know this. But they have also taught me that you can’t have grit without gratitude. The centered self beats the self-centered every time.
WNBA basketball player Diana Taurasi reminds me of that every time she comes to EXOS. She has always treated everyone equally since the first time she walked in the door. She looks everyone in their eyes. She’s very genuine. Her amazing athleticism is supported by her ability to elevate an entire room, truly appreciating what she has and leading by example to lift others up with her in the process.
Arguably one of the most important values women continue to demonstrate is that to go far, you go together. They know the power of building relationships and connecting with their team members. They wrote the book on it.
It’s not just that women go together, they also go deeper. The high level of emotional intelligence that high-performing women display brings out the best in them and in others. By exploring what’s uncomfortable and “going there,” even when it’s scary, they’re able to shine when it matters. There’s an unspoken confidence and trust in one another that unites the team, precisely because of the depth of relationships they’ve forged.
Always Live Your Values.
Values are only valuable when they inform your actions. When Sarah Robb O’Hagan joined EXOS this year, she brought with her not only a stellar track record of success and all the skills of a great leader, but also the values she lives by. She embodies the core virtues we deeply respect at EXOS. Today, and every day, I celebrate her and high-performing women everywhere. Despite all obstacles, keep leaning into what makes you unique.
EXOS will always be a team of the absolute highest performers, regardless of age, gender, race or background. That has always been and will always be the EXOS expectation. Our team can’t do what we do without strong women and their leadership — as my mom taught me and so many other women continue to prove.
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