“The stronger your VOICE – whether intentional or intuitive – the greater your chances for provoking greatness.”— Misti Burmeister
I could regale you with another story of a savvy business leader who adopted the VOICE model and transformed her team and her business. But instead, I’m going to tell you how Annie the Mermaid gave me a sixty-minute VOICE lesson I’ll never forget.
Nine weeks ago, I met Annie the Mermaid, as she called herself, at my weekly swim lesson.
Annie was substituting for my regular coach, and didn’t know how far I had progressed since day one, when I didn’t even know how to put a swim cap on. So, she started my lesson by reviewing the basics, and then asked me to swim a few laps.
Bored and a little bit impatient, I said, “Alright, Annie, I’ll do this drill, but you’ve gotta give me something more challenging after this, OK?
She smiled and agreed, and I did my 100 meters, haphazardly doing the 6-strokes-then-look-up drill, which is meant to prepare you for an open water swim, where you don’t have a black line to guide you, or a whole lane to yourself.
I finished my lap and looked up at Annie, expecting some suggestions for improving my technique.
“Get out of the pool,” she said.
“It’s cold, Annie,” I said, trying to hide the little bit of irritation in my voice. “I’d rather just stay in the pool.”
“If you want to get ready to swim three miles in the open water, get out of the pool!”
How was getting OUT of the pool going to help me learn to swim? It made no sense to me, but Annie was undeterred by my resistance, and I got out.
I followed her all the way over to the kids play area that had a ramp entrance into the pool, and a small opening at the other end, connecting back to the swim lanes.
“On race day,” she explained, “you’re going to have to run into the water and start swimming. So, I want you to run down this ramp, swim to that wall, back to this one, through this opening, and then back to your lane, till you get back to the wall.”
“But there are kids all over the place!” I nearly screamed.
Annie just smiled, shrugged, and said, “Watch out for them.”
“Fine,” I thought, and though I was concerned, I ran into the water.
The kids continued jumping off the side of the pool, which was extremely nerve-wracking, and I had to dodge several people before I was finally swimming in the clear.
I suddenly realized how getting out of the pool was helping me.
I finally I made it to the wall, out of breath, but exhilarated. For the second time in one lesson, I looked up at Annie and was completely unprepared for what she said next.
I was sort of looking for a high-five, but instead, Annie yelled to me, “Don’t you touch that wall.”
“Don’t touch it?” I said, as I waded in the water.
“Nope. Get back into your lane, and turn around and swim back to where you started, and then you RUN up that ramp.”
When I did, Annie was there to give me a double high-five! It all made sense now, and I was feeling great.
That was, until she immediately spun me around, gave me a little push toward the pool, and said, “Okay, now do that two more times.”
“Two more rounds, I don’t know if I can do this,” I thought.
“One stroke at a time,” I told myself, and sure enough, I finished all three. After the third round, Annie said these magical words – “Keep at it the way you are, and you’ll do great on September 21st.”
With that, I literally pictured myself at the finish line, high-fiving Annie the Mermaid.
As tough as Annie was on me that day, she knew exactly how to provoke my greatness:
Vision – We both knew what success looked like: Misti completing a three-mile open water swim on September 21st.
Ownership – Annie prepared me for the open water swim experience, not just the swimming part. She owned her part in the deal. Following direction was my job (even though a big part of me was seriously concerned about the concussion I might get from a kid jumping on my head!)
Intention – Annie intentionally gave me a drill that would challenge, and even panic me a little, knowing it would prepare me for the nerve-wracking start of a race, and the exhilaration of the finish.
Community – Because we both share a commitment to the greater Swim Across America mission, I feel more connected to Annie, and I know she truly cares about my success.
Energy – Experiencing Annie’s goofiness and her unwavering desire to help me conquer this challenge fueled my energy and boosted my training even more!
Annie the Mermaid, like all the best Provokers, didn’t follow a script for provoking my greatness that day. She did, however, use her VOICE to teach me some very important lessons, and I heard her loud and clear.
The stronger your VOICE – whether intentional or intuitive – the greater your chances for provoking greatness.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Do you have an Annie the Mermaid who has helped you find your greatness? How did she do it? Share your story today.
Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes