This time we are going to have a conversation with waterski jumper, Ryan Dodd. He is a professional Waterski Jumper, who maintains the highest accomplishments within the sport of Waterskiing and who is currently ranked #1 in the world.
We are going to talk about how he deals with fear, how his routines help him and who he is outside of skiing. We will also discuss what drives him to be the best in the world and how he deals with not being able to ski at the moment.
Ryan Dodd has been skiing for almost 20 years now. But this was not something he saw himself doing when he was younger. A few moments in his younger years still lead him to be the world’s number one. His dad was a water skier and a farmer, his dad’s best friend was a skier and his sons were the best water skiers in the world. He watched all of them ski a lot but still wasn’t really convinced. He went to a tournament and watched a kid, who was the best at that time, fall at the first buoy. This turned out to be an epiphany because when even the best in the field could mess up, he could have an actual chance. “I can do that too” is what he said to his dad. This kid’s worst possible outcome was the starting point of Ryan’s career. The funny thing is, this kid and Ryan became best friends.
The third factor that played a big part was that he didn’t want to be a farmer like his dad. His dad gave him the opportunity to pursue his dream as an athlete. He said to him that he could do everything as long as he worked hard at it. That became his biggest driving force.
He can remember the specific day when he chose to become the best in the world. It was when a former world champion gave him a new suit and said that his performance was the best thing he had ever seen. After that, it really took off for him. He won several championships, got a scholarship and he assembled the right team around him.
In his first years, he was chasing the thrill of jumping the big jumps, winning tournaments and breaking records. He went all-in with his workouts, diet and lifestyle but it only stressed him out. He knew he had to do it, so he did. After 20 years he has come to a point where he almost doesn’t need to jump but he still wants to. This feeling of choosing what he actually wants to do is the feeling of ultimate freedom for him. Because now he is choosing to emerge himself fully to see what will happen and not because it will get him something. It’s all about growth itself and enjoying it.
Like any other athlete, Ryan has a personal trainer but an extraordinary fact about Ryan is that he doesn’t have a waterski coach. The only help he gets is from his partner and some friends. The way he became the best was just copying others and asking what they did. After he became the best his interest went to all other aspects of his body and how he could improve those. Your performance is a sum of you as a human, not just your technical performance.
He enjoys the freedom of not having someone in control of you but it’s also a challenge. It forces him to step out of himself and plan everything. He has to decide where he wants to go, how he’s going to get there and who is going to help him. But because he looks at the big picture and believes that everything is connected, the best person for this job is himself.
A lot of athletes indulge themselves in months and months of daily training and workouts. For Ryan, this has never been the case, and never will be for that matter. He has learned that there is a real difference between procrastination and knowing when to stop. His biggest setbacks were a result of pushing his body to the limits. He trained himself to listen to that internal communication and he is not afraid to listen to his body when it tells him to slow down. Something a lot of other people can take as an example. The courage to just stop has made him very sustainable over the years.
Ryan doesn’t call himself a risk-taker. He likes to calculate his steps, he believes that progress can take time and he thinks it’s almost dangerous to push your body to the maximum. This mindset resulted in relatively very few injuries. A lot of people think that a tournament performance is way better than in a training but in Ryan’s case, it is exactly the same or even worse. This takes time, you have to build that because it all has to come together.
Fear is something Ryan has dealt with every day but he managed to control it. He realized what it can do for your adrenaline, focus and hormones. It can be very useful if you harness it in the right way. He also respects fear in a way that it’s a tap on the shoulder to realize he has to pay attention to a certain thing. When his fear becomes too much and it turns into anxiety, he has to go over his plans and be very specific in his steps so this will become his guide. By creating and going through a routine he restores the healthy relationship he has with fear. The only way to create that relationship is to go through the fear and that feeling of being overwhelmed.
At the moment Ryan is not able to water-ski properly because of Covid. He compares it with not getting on the most fun ride at the carnival. But by being forced to just ski for fun he realized how skiing is making him incredibly happy.
A lesson Ryan has learned throughout his life is that everything is better with a routine. He loves a good routine. Ryan admits that outside water-skiing he’s not number one. So when he’s not an athlete, he clings on to what he knows best. Even as a father he has noticed that a good routine can change everything. Putting his little girl to bed has been easier the moment they created a routine and stuck to it.
There is a world champion in each of us. We’ve spoken about fear, responsibilities, and routines. If you zoom out on your own life right now, what is the number one routine you should immediately implement?
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