Success surrounds itself with an impression of perfection — just take a look at the random account of anyone self-identifying as “Instagram famous.” A casual observer might be swindled into believing the good life being presented there equates with some level of success — a success devoid of the missteps and mistakes the rest of us experience daily.
But Sarah Robb O’Hagan knows otherwise. She’s the CEO of Flywheel Sports, was the global president of Gatorade and Equinox, has held leadership roles at Nike and Virgin, and is the author of Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat. As someone who considers herself average, it’s not an error-free existence that’s gotten her to where she is today, but the failures along the way that fueled her. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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“There’s so much misleading and even harmful advice about success,” says Sarah Robb O’Hagan, the author of Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat. “We hand our young people trophies for showing up and tell them ‘everyone’s a winner,’ and we tell employees that if they just do what they’re told and work hard to please the boss, they’ll get safely promoted. Meantime we live in a social media bubble littered with humble brags and perfectly coiffed Instagram pictures implying that everyone, everywhere is crushing it in their careers and their lives.
“But it’s just not true. That’s not the way success works, and it’s not the way the world works. I want to share with your audience my stories and those of the high profile band of ‘Extremers’ that I interviewed for my book — of epic fails, embarrassing screw-ups, and glorious rebounds — along with my research and my practical advice to help them truly become successful by developing the most of their own potential.”
Growing up, Sarah was always interested in sports — and in fact she’s been named among Forbes’ “Most Powerful Women in Sports” — but her ability didn’t always match her passion. Luckily, she didn’t let this deter her from competing, just as she didn’t let her lack of an Olympic medal deter her from achieving a leadership position at Nike — apparently not an uncommon feat on resumes there.
As time went on and Sarah made a name for herself — particularly as the global president of Gatorade who turned the five billion dollar brand around — she began to notice an interesting pattern in how her story was being reported by the media. Her biography was heavy on accolades and very light on the most interesting bits: the failures.
“In my case, I got fired twice, I was very average as a child, and I suddenly realized that the whole culture of success out there, it’s all about people chest-beating, ‘Here’s how great I am,'” says Sarah. “But if you speak to anyone who’s truly made it, there’s always going to be some self-doubt, some failure, some vulnerability, all sorts of stuff behind it.
“And I just thought it was high time someone told that story, and I knew if I was going to do it, I’d have to really be honest. And so it’s definitely warts and all!”
Don’t Find Your Passion — Make Your Passion
Popular advice isn’t always useful advice. You probably know this all too well if you’ve ever tried to “follow your passion” in hopes that the perfect job would magically appear for you, fully realized, from the ether. In reality, it’s taking the risks that expose us to a greater number of things (and, yes, carry the possibility of failure) that make passion find us. By trying to hunt down a passion we’re already imagining, we may very well miss out discovering — or making — the passion we didn’t even know existed.
“You actually have to have some struggle if you’re going to really enjoy the good times,” says Sarah. “They kind of go hand in hand, and it’s a little bit weird to send out a message that ‘Just find your passion and everything’s going to be great.’ Part of the fulfillment of achievement is about working through the struggle and getting there on your own steam. I think somewhere along the way we’ve missed that.”
Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about how to tell the difference between a worthwhile passion not easily pursued and a dead end (and why neither should be considered a waste of time), how to identify and maximize unexpected opportunities, how a side hustle can still serve a main objective, what Sarah did early in her career to get fired and deported (and how it empowered her), practical exercises that will get you out of your comfort zone and retune your opportunity peripheral vision, how to turn failure into fuel, how to break out of a rut, the importance of a support system that tells you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear, and lots more.
THANKS, SARAH ROBB O’HAGAN!
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AJ Harbinger - author of 1164 posts on The Art of Charm
AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality.
Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.
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