Jen Blackman Lavelle: The Triathlete

My amazing wife, Jen, continues to be that much more amazing every day and inspire me on a daily basis.

While many people have a hard time in challenging situations, Jen is one of those people who thrives when challenged, personally and professionally, and seeks challenges out. Triathlons are grueling, both physically and mentally, but Jen couldn’t be happier out there training and competing.

Jen competed at the Stonebridge Playtri Triathlon this weekend in the sprint triathlon event.  She was out of the open water swim a full minute ahead of the next fastest woman and about 8 minutes faster than the average time in the event. Not only that, but she got out of the water looking fresh and ready to press on while everyone else seemed to get out thanking their lucky stars they survived the 750 meter open water swim!

Jen has been a swimmer her whole life.  Her parents incentivized her when she was young with ice cream.  The need for ice cream quickly faded, and she found herself swimming hours a day, improving and competing all the time. Before too long, she was at Highland Park High School and a 16 Time Texas State Champion. Continuing her career at SMU, she didn’t stop racking up awards and accolades:

  • Former American Record Holder (800 MR Freestyle)
  • 6 Time NCAA All-American
  • 2008 Olympic Trials Competitor
  • 2008 SMU Women’s Swimming Captain
  • 2008 US National Champion (400MR Freestyle)

I started out talking about Jen challenging herself, and clearly, she is a phenomenal swimmer, so what am I talking about here? Two weeks before her first ever triathlon, I was doing drills in the parking lot with Jen teaching her how to ride a bike. Seriously. I watched her topple over several times (she made me stand back and have her do it on her own, I’m not a bad husband, I promise!) Fast forward to this past weekend, and she won her age division and placed 5th overall in the triathlon! This is a woman who challenges herself… and will not take no for an answer, from others or herself.

Driving up to the race, I said (in the most reassuring voice possible) “Just finish – get your first triathlon under your belt.” When I told her twin sister my advice to Jen, she laughed saying “Right. Jen didn’t hear a word you said. She’ll win – just watch.”

And we did.

I’m so proud of my wife. This was her first race, and she’s only going to grow from here, never stopping when it comes to challenging herself.

A picture from the race this weekend – with Jen not only doing great on the bike, but smiling!

Don’t Take No For An Answer

I had the privilege of speaking at TEDxSMU Hilltop last week.  The title of my talk was “No = Go”, and I shared some of the “no’s” I’ve heard so far in starting my own company, Mizzen+Main.  The only reason I have been able to bring to life my dream of starting a company is because I refused to take no for an answer.  I hope to share that message as much as possible – our community, country, and world need people to stop taking no for an answer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between the no we tell ourselves and the no we hear from others.  I’m not sure which is more powerful – to be specific, detrimental – in one’s life.  No matter what, we have a choice in how to respond to either “no”, which is to say the negative power “no” can have in our lives actually means little, because we always have the power within ourselves to effect a different result.

While telling oneself no is likely a product of being told no, whether directly or indirectly, both have can have similar effects: inaction and a deteriorating sense of confidence; however, the buck stops with you when you tell yourself no.  You alone are responsible for telling yourself no, which also means you have all the power in the world to achieve the exact opposite result – telling yourself yes.  When others tell you no, you are not powerless though. Push back and get the answer you want, find a different way at the moment, or reorganize and get the answer you want when the time is right.

I’ve seen many people not get what they want out of life because “no” is the paradigm they live with – from others and themselves. This isn’t meant to be a “go get ’em” motivational post.  It’s a comment on the power of no in people’s lives and hopefully sparks a thought on the opportunities that are possible if more people didn’t take no for an answer.