The puzzle

As I look back, particularly on the chaos of the past fifteen years, I’m always a bit surprised by the fact almost everything that’s happened in my life fits together in a such an orderly way. One thing, whether an achievement or an error, led directly and inevitably to the next. Had I changed even one decision, I would not be where I am now… or even who I am now.

If I hadn’t married the first time, I would not have worked on the 2002 Connecticut gubernatorial campaign and met one of my mentors, Art House. Also, if not for the campaign, I may not have divorced and needed a job when I did. This led me to Washington D.C., where I gained banking experience – experience that qualified me to work for Art in public affairs for a bank in Connecticut. If I hadn’t been working for a bank in communications, my dear friend Amy would not have offered me a job at Citi in New York. Had I not taken that opportunity, I would not have met my husband and moved to England.

At the time, it often felt like the winds of chance were blowing me to and fro with no discernable plan; but in retrospect, it all seems so organized – each step clearly rising from the one before. Even experiences that seemed like outliers have proved themselves important (my year-long stint at a PR agency not only taught me useful skills, but introduced me to people who have been good friends and enormously helpful).

Yet, all that personal moving and growing and puzzle-piece fitting slowed to a crawl after Conall was born. Of course, parenthood makes you grow and learn, but this is a different kind of personal development.


As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I returned to the sport of diving to deal with subconscious prodding, which took the form of recurring dreams. When I discovered I simply could not dive any more, not because of my mind or body conditioning, but due to some strange allergy, I thought that was it for me; I could once again allow diving to sink back into my past. I would never have guessed I was just at the start of a new chapter, the first words of which were, “Would you be interested in coaching?”

Fitting it in

I feel invigorated after every session at Dacorum Diving Club and love working with all the coaches and divers. In particular, the head coach’s son, a rising star with unlimited potential, reminded me of all the reasons I was once so passionate about the sport. Though I’ve found new friends, new skills and new challenges, I initially thought this was just a hobby – an outlier – not a piece of the puzzle. I was wrong.

Shortly after I started coaching, I read an op ed in the New York Times by David Brooks, called Genius: The Modern View. Brooks writes the following:

“The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.”

This struck a deep chord in me. ‘Ah ha!’ I thought, ‘This explains it!’ The premise has significant implications for any sports club trying to develop young athletes, so shyly, I sent it to our head coach (HC). I didn’t know him well, yet, and wasn’t sure what he’d think. My hope was that we’d have an interesting discussion about it, and maybe it would help us work with our young divers in a different way. Well, his interest exceeded my best expectations.

I’m embarrassed to say that despite my fascination with the subject, it never occurred to me to purchase the books referenced in the op ed to learn more. But the same is not true of HC. He told me he’d ordered not only The Talent Code and Talent is Overrated, but also Bounce, a book Amazon had suggested. He seemed a little surprised I hadn’t bought the books and immediately offered to lend them to me. I am extremely fortunate that HC has a curious mind, as well as a strong drive to learn and excel. Because when he shared the books he’d bought, that’s when this outlier fit back into my life’s puzzle…

If it hadn’t been for the recurring dreams, I wouldn’t have gone to diving. If I hadn’t gone to diving, I wouldn’t have met HC. If I hadn’t met HC, I never would have read these books. Without these books, I would not truly understand what it takes to succeed. These books have completely changed my outlook, my approach to personal goals, and even my parenting style.

That’s the exciting thing about life: even when you’re traveling a path that seems familiar or mundane or irrelevant, you can suddenly find yourself in a momentous place and come to realize that whether you knew it or not, your steps were always taking you where you needed to go. That’s why we must follow our inner promptings, even when they seem nonsensical. (Like going back to diving at 35.)

In part 2 of this post (next week), I’ll talk about the ideas in these books and why they have affected me in such a profound way.