Michelle Emmons of No Apologies and Dirt Dojo, spoke at our first event in 2017 in Corvallis, OR. In her story, Game Over or Game Changer, she reflected on the power of injury to bring strength and resilience through perseverance. She contemplated on how relationship with injury and mountain biking mirrored her professional life as an entrepreneur. Listen to her story HERE.
Revisiting her story, Michelle found kernels of wisdom that are important in her current circumstances as an entrepreneur building a brand new business. She feels certain that if injured again, she would take the opportunity to use the down-time for something constructive. She says, “I view recovery through the lens of an entrepreneur – when an injury happens, it opens up an opportunity. You have two choices; you can give up, or, you can dust yourself off, embrace the recovery process, and look forward to coming back stronger than ever, or just simply doing something different. A person is not judged by their circumstances, but rather, by their choice to respond to those circumstances. Our relationship to injury and the process of recovery is akin to our relationship to failure and a desire to succeed, regardless of the challenges we might encounter along the way. Recovery is hard. Not everyone completely recovers from physical trauma – it is a taxing process, both mentally and physically, and requires commitment and patience. Celebrating milestones is necessary to stay motivated, and there will be plenty of “failures” along the way. These processes are present, and critical, regardless whether we are endeavoring to heal from an injury or start a business.”
When asked if she was still grappling with this same story, she answered a resounding YES! This same story, however, continues to morph throughout her life and she welcomes both the repetition and the change. For the last several years, Michelle has been building her business venture to provide sustainable outdoor adventure in her hometown playground of Oakridge, OR. She has moved forward with two “failed” real estate ventures and is now on the third. You might be asking yourself how she keeps going. She says with each opportunity, she has learned something new that she can put into play on the next deal. She adds, “Additionally, with each “failure” (as with injury) my resiliency is tested, and my resolve to improve my situation becomes stronger during each “recovery” process – failure, again, like injury, is merely a challenge to see if I can get even closer to my goal – or, I may just set a new goal.”
Since these injuries revolve around the bike, this story wouldn’t be complete without a “getting back in the saddle” portion of the story – Michelle has set a new goal to finish a 50 mile endurance race in less than seven hours and is hopeful for a podium spot (if that weren’t enough, she also promotes and organizes the race – learn more about the Cascade CreamPuff and associated races HERE). When she thinks about the evolution of her riding and racing preferences over the years, she sees a shift to focusing on long-term fitness over the thrill of the downhill. A driving factor in this shift was her last knee surgery in 2015. It changed her perspective on where she wanted to be in both technical riding skills and competitive goals. The recovery from the surgery was almost two years long and was her third ACL replacement in her right knee in ten years. While the surgery was successful, the healing process was excruciatingly slow for her. That paired with approaching the 50 year mark caused something to click in her brain, however, old patterns are hard to break. It took another injury (a torn rotator cuff and small hole in the lung) to remind her to pay attention and drop the ego. That still didn’t prevent her from jumping back on the saddle, but it did change how she was going to approach riding. She began to ride with more purpose and thoughtful consideration. She began paying closer attention to posture and confidence as she approached different ride challenges. It caused her to slow down and ride with deliberate care and be more intentional about the challenges she accepted. This didn’t result in less challenge, but rather, this created a slower process. It meant that it might be months, rather than days, before she’d tackle a challenge such as a gap or jump. Sensibility and intention won out over ego. Fittingly, this change was paired with taking up motorcycles, which forced her to take up a “beginner mindset” and learn more about mind-body awareness on the bike. She adds, “You see, healing requires letting go. Letting go of ego so your body can take the time it needs to recover properly – learning to walk, run and ride again is actually quite humbling. Practicing “letting go” on and off the bike, continues to serve me (and others, as a result) in unimaginable ways – from being a stronger project manager at work, to build stronger relationships with co-workers as well as friends and family. When you let go, you leave the “baggage” in life behind, leaving behind resentment, assumptions, and expectations and opening up doors for open communication, effective problem solving, and mutual respect. ”
When asked about her current definition of failure, she reflects on the standard definition of failure being the opposite of success. The opposite, she points out, is not limited to one option, it actually provides multiple choices, and that failure just enhances our ability to choose differently, and in some cases, better optimizing our outcomes.
The future holds greater exploration of these themes for Michelle. She will continue to hold these lessons close as she moves forward with her latest business endeavor, Dirt Dojo. She will continue to explore on the dirt bike and embracing the suffer of endurance mountain biking. She doubts that she’ll take up downhill racing again, but by letting go, shes’ been able to take up different styles of riding and creating new goals around fitness and technical challenges. Like most important lessons in life, letting go is a continual practice. It’s rarely easy and sometimes we approach it with grace and other times we are kicking and screaming.