There are never new ideas, just new applications of old ideas. What started out as simple pool exercises and turned into a creative expression and a full pool training workout. American professional volleyball player, sports announcer, fashion model, and actress Gabby Reece says the pool offers a no gravity environment that lets you train hard in a way that you’re not impacting your joints and completely pounding yourself in every workout. It is also a great place to learn how to master some elements of being a human and an opportunity for you as a person to go inside yourself because the rules are always the same for everyone. Gabby reveals how she got started in volleyball, her book called My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper, her relationship with Laird Hamilton, and developing the pool training workout. She also talks about hitting adversities, navigating failures, and working through them.
I was fortunate to be invited up to Laird Hamilton’s and Gabby Reece’s, his wife, house in Malibu, California. We went through a whole hour of amazing conversation. This girl has done so much in her life. She was a full-ride scholarship player to Florida State. While she was there, she was also modeling in New York paying the bills. She co-hosted on ESPN. She did something called the Gravity Games. She’s been in some movies. She’s written three books. She’s a full-time mom, a full-time supporter of Laird, and she’s definitely a standalone person on her own. A fantastic person. The whole magic before any of this started is I drove up there with my best buddy, Jim Mora. We were invited to go into the pool and train. Not just train, but train with weights. They had a bunch of people that were there. Essentially if you can imagine jumping into a pool with weights ranging from twenty pounds to 35 to 45 pounds, going up and down, taking these breaths and going back down. The weights are dragging you back to the bottom. They’ve got a variety of these different hybrid-type water exercises, low stress in the body and focuses in on your breath and on your strength. We did this for an hour. We were all over the pool, back and forth and we never were in the pool without a weight. Some pretty dynamic people that were there, some actors. Bottom line, cool people.
Going back to the pod, it was enlightening. One of my more favorite ones I’ve done. It focuses a lot on relationships, what I went through, what she’s gone through. She’s had a successful run with Laird for the last 21 years, but they had a few bumps and we talked about it. Brave soul for doing that, I appreciated it and it made the pod that much richer. On that note, as always, I’m hopefully back from Denali. I’m returning and hopefully I can say I successfully made that journey back and forth safely. If you want to find out anything else, what’s going on, public speaking, I signed up for a TED Talk in Sun Valley. You can find me at www.MarkPattisonNFL.com. This broadcast is brought to you by VioletsAreBlueSkincare.com. Organic, awesome products to put on your face and your skin, non-toxic. Check that out. Let’s go talk to Gabby.
Listen to the podcast here:
Setting Your Own Rules And Rising Above The Competition with Gabby Reece
I’m great. You guys did great. You came, you trained and then we get to talk.
Let’s talk about that a little bit because I’ve never done that before. You guys are famous, infamous. I’m not sure what the correct word is for that, but all these different pool workouts and weights. We have a common buddy, Steve and Liz Wright. Steve is a guy that I played with many years ago in the NFL with the Raiders. He’s told me about these legendary things where he gets cooked. He’s one of these guys that was always working the hardest in the weight room and dedicated. When he says he’s cooked, I was a little intimidated coming out here. Sitting also to my right, Jim Mora, and we both got in the pool. We’re doing the seahorse. We’re doing all these other exercises that you guys have come up with. Where did this all come from? I’ve never seen it before in my life.
I would imagine that special ops or Navy SEAL guys have all done versions of this already. Laird always says there are never new ideas, it’s new applications of old ideas. About ten years ago, Laird is what we call the creative motor to a lot of things that happen. He doesn’t like to go swimming. He gets bored. We built this big pool and Laird always had the instinct that, “We’re going to pool train.” Literally how it started, we’ve got the incline in the middle of our pool. It used to be, “Grab heavy dumbbells, do Holt jumps down the incline and walk up the stairs. Do as many as you can and walk up,” and then it was wear a weight vest, tread and be there as long as you can.
You met Hutch and some of the boys. Darin Olien is not here. He’s one of the original. There were four or five of us. We were basically Laird’s crash test dummies. It started becoming a creative process. You met one of my daughters, Reece. When she was five or six, she would do this one-handed swim up from the bottom with the dumbbell that became a release. It became a creative expression. It started becoming, “How do I turn this into a workout?” or “Do I push my capacity in cardio?” or “Am I trying to work on power, strength and explosiveness?” Depending on how you wanted to use it was then also how the exercises in which format. When Steve Wright comes here and trains, they go for 90 minutes straight and they’re working on the edge the whole time. There’s a way to ramp it up once you understand some fundamental things that are important to learn here.
I’ve always been a big believer of CrossFit. Not necessarily the workout CrossFit, but cross training. I live in Sun Valley, Idaho. I’m training at altitude. I’m running up mountains. I’m coming back down to put that stress and pressure on my thighs. I’m on the bike. I’m trying to go across the board to allow my body to have longevity, where I’m trying to go and things I’m trying to accomplish. Many people get locked in on one particular exercise. They do the aerobic but not the anaerobic. This resist combining all these different things into one. With the weights, my hand and had to get out of the water and I feel all gunned up. My heart’s racing and underwater breathing.
It was interesting because you help set it up. When I talked with Laird on the pod, we were talking about the whole motivation around breath. He’s in these giganto waves and the amount of time he’s suspended underwater to survive and make sure he puts himself in the best position. At the same time on the complete opposite end, while he’s under, I’m up. I’m on these mountains that are crazy, that have not a lot of oxygen. It’s all about pressure breathing, going through the nose and not through the mouth. I’ve been on many of these mountains, every single time we have run into issues where people get hypoxia, lack of oxygen. They don’t have enough oxygen flowing through the red blood cells and they crash. They look like they’re punch-drunk.
Laird has his reasons for training, but then the other idea is how do I train hard without impacting my joints? The other great thing is you’re working in a no gravity environment. It’s important like you said, especially as you move through life. How do I continue to do what I love to do or train hard, but also do it in a way that I am not completely pounding myself in every workout? The pool also offers that environment. The last thing it offers, and you did this well, was it’s the understanding of the power of our emotions. How they impact the end result? The pool shows that quickly. If I’m ramped up, not relaxed or I’m inefficient, I can’t complete the task. The pool is also a great place to learn how to master some of those elements of being a human too.
Here’s how my human spirit came out. The last exercise that we did, if you can imagine taking two 25-pound weights in your hand with a mask on, submerging yourself, swimming the length of the pool. Underwater, on the ground because the weight has you on the bottom of the pool, spinning around and coming all the way back. I’ve got within about ten feet of the end. Other people in the group had done it and I did not make that successfully. I was pissed and I was frustrated because I don’t like to come in second or lose. We tried it again. Jim and I went together and we did it twice more. We did a total of three times, I never made it. I have to come back when I get back from Denali and redo this.
To your point though, the first time I went and you were coaching me through my breath and everything else. What was blocking me is I kept saying, “I can’t do this,” because it looked like I’ve got to swim that far under water and come all the way back. When I turned around and started making that, I thought I could make it and then my mindset switched. I had put much energy into trying to get there and back. I didn’t listen to you in the right way. I didn’t make it. It measures a lot of things in your body.
It’s like the mountain for you or the waves for Laird. It’s also completely objective. It’s an opportunity for you as a person to go inside yourself because the rules are always the same for everyone. The water and a place underneath with no oxygen is a fair place. It’s not picking on anyone. It’s also you’re not getting special treatment. It’s a truthful environment to work in. As a person you can be like, “I’m cool or I’m relaxed or I can handle that,” and then it’s like, “Let’s see.” I like that element too.
I’ve never done this and I love challenging myself. I love doing it in a way that’s low impact on my knees, my joints and all those things came together today. I’d love to come back and do this again.
You guys did great, both of you.
Thank you. The name of this podcast is called Finding Your Summit. I knew you were accomplished. I knew who you were before you help set up the pod with Laird. The amount of things you’ve been able to accomplish, mind-blowing. Congratulations to you on that. I want to start with the fact that I know you were born in La Jolla, but then you moved to Saint Thomas. Why in the world would you move to Saint Thomas?
I had a roundabout path. My father is from Trinidad, my mother is from New York. They met in California. I was born in California because that’s where they met. I don’t know that it was probably a long romance. Oddly, my mother trained dolphins in Mexico City in a circus. One and a half, two years old I was with her there and I got whooping cough. A childhood friend of hers, a couple, they raised me in Long Island for five years without my parents. In that time, my father passed away.
He didn’t just pass away, he tragically died in a plane crash.
He was flying himself and a girlfriend. I was five years old here in California, went to visit family for his birthday. The day before, the weather was quite bad and they said maybe the plane got struck by something. He passed away. Two years later, my mom met who was going to become my stepfather, who was from Puerto Rico. They relocated from Boston to Puerto Rico. I met them. I was sent for at seven and moved down to Puerto Rico. They decided to live in Saint Thomas, which is a puddle jump away from Puerto Rico.
You didn’t have any relationship with your father who passed away?
Briefly, he would come and visit me. The memory of him has been kept alive by his family. I have some natural personality tendencies towards my father. I feel a connection. I didn’t grow up with a dad. My stepdad was a loving and great guy, but he was more like an older friend. He’s too nice to be mean.
I had a phenomenal relationship with my dad. He died of a massive stroke. He was such a good guy. His communication grid got blown out. I would say the blessing of the whole thing is he passed away three months earlier or later. We had talked on many different occasions before that, when everything was good and happy. If either of us ever found ourselves in a way that we’re upside down and on life support or something, we want to have the choice of call it and we did. I can also say I’m super blessed that I was living in California at the time.
My best buddy, Jim Mora, was the head coach of Seattle Seahawks. He happened to be driving. My dad had gone into the hospital and he was going to go in for the surgery on this next day. I’d called Jim. I caught him and I said, “I’m not feeling something’s right. Would you mind stopping in?” He happened to be going past this hospital. He went in, he called me and goes, “He’s asleep.” I said, “Wake his ass up,” so he woke up. He had a great relationship with my dad and he was the last person to talk to him. It is great and it’s a blessing that he was the one to do that. I’m sad like you are. I had a long relationship with my dad, but still, there’s a sense of loss there.It's almost, in some ways, easier when you lose someone when you're younger. Click To Tweet
If I could be honest, because I wasn’t living with my father, I didn’t have it where he was coming home every day from work and then he wasn’t. The impact was a little easier that way, that he had not been an everyday part of my life. My understanding is it’s almost in some ways easier when you lose someone when you’re younger. Apparently, your teenage years is the most impactful, the most challenging. Maybe in a certain way I didn’t have a chance to even become overly attached to my dad. I always say you get low cards and you get high cards. Play the aces. There are people who live their whole life going, “I have threes and fours,” and you go, “Great,” and you’ve got kings and aces.
We all do. The name of this podcast is Finding Your Summit and I’ve had multiple summits. One of the summits was when Jim and I were playing at the University of Washington together on the football team, trying to make it to NFL. That was another summit. When I was married and raising kids, that was another summit.
It’s a hell of a summit, that one. Isn’t it?
It is. You’ve got many things going for you. I keep saying this, but it is true. You’ve got a frame. You’re tall, you’re athletic and you crushed it at Florida State in terms of a volleyball scholarship. Where did the whole volleyball, athletic thing come around?
My mother is very athletic, she was into swimming. I was six feet at twelve. I was in the Caribbean through tenth grade. There was a coach named Kenny that used to drive me to volleyball practice. I started dabbling in volleyball then. I lived on an island, at times there’s not a lot of productive stuff that you’re into. I got moved out of the Caribbean when I was in eleventh grade to Florida, and I went to a place called Saint Petersburg. I showed up at a small school called Keswick. It’s the tiniest school. They didn’t have a lot of 6’3” girls, never mind it wasn’t well-trained. They would have left and gone to a big high school to get to be on big sports. I went to the school from eleventh and twelfth grade. I was the first student to get a Division 1 scholarship. It’s small. I ended up falling into volleyball, falling into basketball. I had great a basketball coach who was a great influence on me, this guy Dean Soles. He used to take me to eat barbecue after taking me to church and telling me couldn’t I get along with my mother, did the right thing as a person.
I had a lot more offers for basketball than volleyball. I went to a BC camp, a blue-chip camp and decided volleyball was going to be my thing. I remember telling my friends back home, “I’m going to college,” first of all, which is weird coming from where I came from. We were all thinking, “We’ll get out in twelfth grade and work, get some job.” I go, “I’m going on a first scholarship,” and my friends back in Saint Thomas were like, “For what?” I was like, “I know, weird. Athletics.” I went to school at seventeen. I went into a twelve-person team, eight of us being freshmen. As coach, do you put pressure on your freshmen because they need to perform for you?
There was a bunch of seniors that left, but was the team good at that time? Florida State?
They were pretty good, but we had to be good. We didn’t have the luxury of all these older classmates who were going to do it. The expectation was we had to also perform. Probably four of us had to perform. When I went through my first two days, the under and over on me was I wasn’t going to make it the way it was. I had teammates that they were groomed from fifth, sixth grade. That wasn’t me. What I did do well, and it’s one of the pillars to me being able to navigate a lot of different things through life, is I’m coachable.
I had an important coach, Cecile Reynaud. He was an important person for me. She was fair, strong, demanding. What she did as a coach, and this is the most important thing. When she showed me when the time came, that she was first interested in me and my well-being as a person. When you show that to an athlete, they’ll do anything for you as a coach. We’re going to war. I’m going for you because I know that you care about me, not because I’m number whatever and I’m playing for you. Coaches I can understand, especially a game like football where you have many athletes. You got to plug everybody in and get everything going. How do you let these athletes know that, “First and foremost, I need you to develop and I need your life to be right as a person?” Even at the cost of, “I’m going to tell you’re not allowed to play for me and I might need you.” That moment is important for an athlete. It’s cathartic because you go, “It’s bigger than the sport.” Cecile was all about that. I went to Florida State at seventeen.When you show to an athlete that you’re interested in them and their well-being as a person, they'll do anything for you as a coach. Click To Tweet
Did you play your freshman year?
I did. I was like, “Please, I don’t want to make mistakes.” After my whole first freshman year, then I turned eighteen. My second semester I went to New York and I started going into fashion because I had the opportunity. It was to make a living because I had to be independent.
This was your job?
Summer, and that’s the only reason I pursued it. I was fortunate. I was playing whatever cards I had. I was like, “You’ll pay me to show up or whatever?” That wasn’t easy either in the way that it’s never a sure thing. I worked in the summer. I did well. I went back to Florida State for my sophomore year, two days, played on scholarship. I was hired on Thanksgiving Day to work for a gentleman named Herb Ritts, who was a famous photographer. He since has passed away. We were doing British Vogue. I had to work on Thanksgiving Day to stay legal. After that semester, I gave up my scholarship. I paid to play, because it wasn’t worth it. I was going to NCAA Tournaments. Other coaches were complaining or having me checked out and it was a gamble.
This is where Cecile stepped in. I had to take care of myself. She also understood it was bigger than, “I’m trying to be a model.” It was like, “No, this could set me up for my future, pay my bills,” and she said, “Here’s our deal. I’ll let you go for spring season. You can live in New York, so January through May. You got to come back for summer school.” I had to get enough credits to be eligible to play. She goes, “When you are here,” that meant when I’m there for season, “You’re here.” When you’re there, you’re there. I remember one time my sophomore year or junior year, I gave up a job for the weekend. That was $35,000, because I was there. She helped me navigate that and personal accountability. My teammates were not always kind. There was a lot. I was thankful for those lessons, for sure.
I’ve got two daughters. You have three. I know the way girls can be sometimes. Especially with one I’ve got, she’s a model. She’s had some struggles here and there with other girls. Back when I was playing, and we all have our own journey, our own path. I was recruited, had a lot of different options like you did. I came to the University of Washington on the upswing of that program in those days. I was 6’2”, 181 pounds. I could not bench my weight. The best thing that ever happened to me in my life was a couple of things. Number one, this guy to my right, Jim Mora, he was covering me. He’s playing defense and he broke my foot. The only time in my life I’ve ever broken anything, and he happened to break it.
I ended up in a cast for six months. I couldn’t walk around. I had to force myself. I’d never been in the weight room. Those were also part of the time. It’s like the whole high school club thing didn’t exist. It took me three years. I redshirted my sophomore year. I didn’t play my freshman year, I played mop up time. It allowed me to understand what it takes in life to get from point A to point B. You see the older players who were dialed in and they had done all the things. They were all-American at whatever at some point in time in their life. That stuff didn’t matter anymore. This is a new game. If you want to play, you got to be those guys. Jim and I were talking about this that the best thing that ever happened to me was that I had to sit. I don’t think I’d be who I’d be today if I hadn’t learned what truly working hard is all about.
This is true even in business. Once you get to a certain level, everybody is the best. This is what’s tricky about coming from a high school or even certain college levels. Usually at college, especially high-level college flushes this out. When you have the person who’s physically the most talented, the problem for them is when they hit an adversity. How do you navigate that failure? How do you work through it? If they always had this incredible, exceptional physical gift, then sometimes that worked against you. When you get into these upper level environments, again even for work, everyone’s smart. Who has the ability to problem-solve? Who has the ability to deal with injury if you’re in sports? Who has the ability to be honest with themselves and say, “I’m not good enough right now. How can I be better?” All these skillsets, it’s not usually the most talented person. When it gets dangerous, when it’s the most talented person who also has the other, then they’re unstoppable. I was a late bloomer and it was helpful.
Going back to what you’d said earlier, you said at twelve years old you were six feet. Were you awkward still? Your coordination based on size isn’t everything.
I wasn’t hyper awkward, but I certainly had doses of it of course.
You talked about adversity. My adversity is I saw a lot of dark times before I saw the light. When that hit, it hit. I was prepared for it because I’d been through this. For you seeing action as a freshman, did you go through any adversity?
No, I was navigating two different careers. I was living in New York in a grownup world making grownup money. Coming back to school and having a coach say, “Not good enough, do it again.” Having teammates say, “Why do you get to not be at spring training?” All that and trying to mature as a person. The other thing women do more than men is we apologize for everything. What I did was I tried to be less big, less good because I was trying to fit in. I’ve said this quite a bit. I know athletes that were groomed for success. I was not groomed for anything. I barely had a standing family.
I fumbled through with the grace and miracles. I ended up with some important people influencing me. Once you get success or even little bits of it, if you’re not groomed for it you feel guilty, you feel weird and you feel shame. It’s an unusual thing to know how to talk about. How do you say to somebody, “This makes me uncomfortable even though this is what I want?” I don’t know how to manage it. None of us are worthy of it. It’s understanding that when you receive grace, that it’s okay. It probably took me past my professional career as an athlete.
I was married for 24 years with my ex for 30. I was totally in, totally committed. My entire life of my playing, my accomplishments were all in a box in the garage. Ultimately, we split and I moved out. I’m living in Sun Valley. Not only do I have a vision board of where I’m going. All these pictures of mountains I’ve been on, but also for my football stuff. It’s important to acknowledge that. You’re talking about to bring that in and say, “It’s okay.” You don’t have to be conceited about it, but also grateful on some of the past that you’ve been on. You know where you’re going and it’s okay, and you’re not feeling guilty that you are who you are.
Not everyone gets to do what they love to do. If you’re at all empathetic to the world that you live in, you’re aware of that. However, you’re wasting what is being given to you if you don’t go for it. Have you ever met a guy who’s a master black belt at something, there’s a stillness? If there’s a knowingness of I’m good at one thing, I know how to protect myself and even having yielded to someone else having humbled out many times. That’s what you can bring from your past. You’ve been in more, you’ve played football. Sometimes just knowing that you can survive that, you can come up for that if you need to. However, we get that, that’s what travels with you.
Were you able to go back to the coach you’re talking about and relate to her? Part of what you’re talking about is relatability to other people who didn’t know what you’re going through. Now you’re trying to play down versus go up.When a great coach looks at you and says, “You can do this,” in that moment you believe them more than you believe yourself. Click To Tweet
When a great coach looks at you and says, “You can do this,” in that moment, you believe them more than you believe yourself. They’re seeing something about you that you don’t even know about yourself yet. She had that. She’s a good friend of mine. We’re completely different people, but I respect her so much and her work ethic. She has no children and I call her every Mother’s Day and I said, “You are a mother to a lot of people, to a lot of women.”
Going back to that stillness you were talking about with people who are in martial arts or whatever. At the end of the day, doesn’t matter what you do, you got to have a strong sense of self.
Real self. This is where I’m at now and I’ve been for a few years. This is the thing though, all of its unsustainable. To be number one, to be the best, I was here, it’s unsustainable. How do I come to the place where I feel the same about myself regardless of what’s going on in my exterior world? Especially work. Work, it’s like, “I’m doing good. I’m good. I’m not doing good. I’m not good.” How do we find the real opinion of ourselves that’s true and authentic? That’s the only thing that is sustainable. The other way that that’s helpful, it’s like you guys having this long-term friendship, is building meaningful relationships. If you’re doing good, your friends are like, “I’m happy for you.” You’re going through a hard time, they’re like, “I love you and I’m here for you.” It’s not different. You’re not better than or less than because of something external. That is the ultimate because that’s the only thing that’s sustainable.
For Jim and me, we’ve got this thing called trail talk. There’s been a lot of problem solved on the trail. To unlock that for me, it took me 50 years to figure this out. That’s what a blockhead I am. I found this when my bucket was empty and I was trying to figure out how I could refill. I needed a big goal and I want to do something athletically great. I knew I still couldn’t go back and play football. What could that be for me? Growing up in Seattle, a mountainous community. Jim and I both know a lot of mountaineers that have done the seven summits and Everest many times. I was like, “I want to become that guy that climbs and he’s the NFL guy, first guy to ever climb the seven summits.” I want to be that guy. I didn’t tell anybody about it.
I set sail and go down to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro. I was going up and I was struggling. Anyways, where I’m trying to go with this is that the magic key to unlock if for me after struggling on summit day that I made it to the top. I was coming back down and all of a sudden, these tears were streaming out of my eyes uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop it. I didn’t cry since eleven. That’s how broken in that sense I was. Football had been such a gladiator sport and I thought strength and power of how tough you are. When I finally figured out about being vulnerable as a guy, women are much better about opening that faucet, letting those things go and talking to their girlfriends. Maybe that’s why women in general live longer. I don’t know. I started sharing my thoughts, my feelings with other people and it helped my conversations go deeper. It’s like, “If you don’t want to go there, totally cool. That’s where you find truth.”
Bouncing back to what you were talking about, if you have a strong sense of who you are and what you do, all the other stuff around you, whether it goes high, low or in between. This is a frivolous thing, but I was in Denali, it was minus 60 degrees and we didn’t make it. I’ve got to go back and do it again, so I’m heading out. That or my relationships with my daughters, which is incredibly important to me, it’s made life much richer being this way. It’s like, “I am who I am.”
I have a theory about men because of living with a pretty masculine male for 22 years plus. Men’s capacity is different than women. Women will cry more freely. Men feel it deeper and longer. For example, if all the wheels come off the bus, I have to still have breakfast for my kids in the morning. What I learned from Laird, because Laird is hyper masculine, he is way more feeling and sensitive than I am. That is the harmony, that’s where the beauty is. People misconstrue that men are not sensitive, I think quite the opposite. What do they say, “To be a true warrior, one must be compassionate.” Men have that. Think about helpfulness, protectiveness, all this stuff. It comes from that place as well. For men to think, “I can’t show my feelings because it seems weak,” it’s contrary.
You wrote a book called My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper. You brought up your relationship with Laird. I’m open about my situation with my ex and she’s a wonderful person. One thing I want to applaud you on is that even though you guys had your struggles, you’re still married. You guys were able to work those. You could sort it out however you sorted it out. It’s probably one of the great failures of my life. When I said, “I do,” I meant I do forever. There are some things you control and there’s other things you can’t. Wonderful person, no infidelity, no hitting, fighting, none of that stuff. Sometimes you grow apart and go in two different directions. How were you able to patch that whole thing back together?
We’ve had two meaningful cross sections, one I would take the accountability for and then Laird had moments where he had to make some real choices. Here’s what I know. I will give him a lot of the credit in this way, which is he’s courageous in being loving and vulnerable way more than I. We’re different. Laird is the person who taught me, “If we’re going to do it, you got to put your head on the chopping block. It’s uncomfortable. If we’re going to do it, we got to do it.” The other thing that he does well that I have since picked up in the last fifteen years or so. Each day, if I had too many weird looks on my face or there was a weird tone, Laird doesn’t let it go. It’s, “What’s up?” right away. He’s out continuously clearing the decks all the time with everybody, everywhere he is. That’s how he functions.
He’s not afraid to make you uncomfortable. He’s not afraid to be uncomfortable. He isn’t afraid to get into it. It’s not our yelling and holding. It doesn’t bother him to talk about things that are highly uncomfortable, which are feelings. I would say that has a lot to do with it. Something important that I try to stress for women especially is through the entire process of being with Laird. Laird is a strong personality with a big life and all this stuff around him. I knew it was going to be important for me to keep who I was in some way.
As I’m someone’s wife and someone’s mother, I still had something that was of me. I understood clearly and early, it wasn’t Laird’s job to make me happy. That happens to a lot of women and they’re well intended. They go into it going, “I’m going to serve the family. I’m going to raise the kids. I’m going to serve my guy.” In that way of like, “I’m going to do my job,” and then they turn late 40s and 50s, I talked about this in my book, and then you’re pissed. The kids move out, they move on and they have a life. Your guy’s life is still big and going and then you go, “Nobody appreciates me. I’ve been forgotten and I’m angry. How the hell do I start again?” It’s not unusual.
What I did do unknowingly but intuitively was I knew I would get eaten alive by Laird and his life, if I didn’t fortify and hold onto my voice, my opinion, myself on some level. I knew it was still ultimately my job to make myself happy. It’s not my kids’ job. I’m not defined by them. My job is to take care of them and love them. They don’t owe me anything, even the same with Laird. Both of us clearly have enough healthy selfishness to take care of that side of our yard.
Are you talking about for you? About your ESPN, these different co-hosting things that you do, writing books, being in movies, being a model, these different projects that you put yourself in?
Let’s say if Laird gets hit by a lightning bolt and meets a 35-year-old woman and he’s got to go. I can’t be in this relationship because I don’t have a choice. I have to be in this relationship each day because I want to be. I want him to understand the only reason he’s here is because he wants to be. It works well. If Laird, anything God forbid ever happened, I still have to stand. I can’t fall apart. I love my husband passionately, in a deep way. I still have to do that too. It’s not in a disconnected way.
That makes you a better person is what you’re saying.
It works for me, but also I’m not looking and leaning to him like, “How come you have all these things that you’re excited about that turn you on? I’m here and I’m not feeling these things.” He can’t fix that. I knew it would be easier to keep the fire at least little bit, like when the kids were small and you’re on heavy mom duty. Keep that fire lit a little bit so that when they get bigger, I can blow a little more air on that thing, get it bigger again but not let it go all the way out.
The other thing, too, from a guy’s standpoint is it makes the other person much more interesting.
It’s called checks and balance, too. It’s human nature. Laird is an incredible husband, but if he thought, “She’s in my back pocket,” even though he’s the best guy, he’s not going to probably treat me as well as if he thought I probably should stay in my A game. It’s not a game. It’s a checks and balance. There could be someone reading at home and think, “They’re the ones who work and I’ve decided to stay home.” It’s not just about money, it’s about the other person understanding, “If I don’t take care of this situation and I don’t come up and bring my A game, the way I talk to them, the way I treat them, they probably will leave.” That’s not the worst thing in the world.You're wasting what is being given to you if you don't go for it. Click To Tweet
My things started to slide off the tracks but ten years ago. We’ve been not married for three. I can tell you this with complete conviction that I would have never wished what I went through in the last ten years on anybody, but many blessings have come out of this. Climbing mountains, newsletter, website, huge social following, talking to you, there’s so many people. The gratefulness I’ve been able to share on talking to people that are deaf and they’re on America’s Got Talent, no arms, no legs and kayaking down the Colorado River they’re blind. Some of these people, I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” as you’re communicating. I would have never come to this place hadn’t I gone through the situation. That’s the cards that we’re dealt for me. That’s the ones or the twos.
On the flip side, it’s the ace on the blessing that has come as a result of going through my adversity, where I’m here today. There’s another thing that I wanted to bring up. There’s a girl that I had on my pod months ago and her name is Laura Doyle. She wrote this book called The Surrendered Wife. I was like, “We got to talk about this title.” This is something that you’ve brought up. Your point of view and Laura’s point of view is 100% right on the money. If you could explain to the audience what that means from your definition? That puts you in a complete position of power and strength, not that you’re this submissive person.
There was a line in the book and the way it’s in the context it’s like, “Ready? Here we go. I’m going to say it,” I realized, and I was never taught this so I had to learn it through bumping my head against the wall a few times with Laird. If I, which came more naturally to me, took on the feminine role within our home, and submissive meaning service not doormat, the dynamic worked well. Laird is such a generous person, he’ll do anything for you and it’s simple. He would like to go chase the surf if it’s going to be up and know that you’re behind him 100%. He likes me to make him dinner and I like to cook. If I didn’t like to cook, he’d say, “Let’s go have dinner.” He wants regular intimate contact. He wants to have a regular sex life. He wants to be respected. I always say I don’t talk to anyone better than I talked to Laird. I’m mindful of the way I talk to him. It’s three or four things.
In other dynamics, I was merely sharing our dynamics. Other guys, it’s like, “That’s not what they’re interested.” I have friends and this is true. They want their chick to be super-hot, dressed up, polished nails and that’s what they like. They want all that. I have friends that are high-powered guys and they like that their wives are little bit ball crushers. It’s like the one person in their life that doesn’t say yes to them. I have those friends too where they want to save somebody, “I’m going to come in and rescue you,” whatever their dynamic is. Between us, I was saying, “I feel like I’m pretty masculine in the world. I feel like I’m alpha.” Within this nuanced relationship with my husband, I realized that I wanted to also be able to express that side of myself. He was the guy I was going to do it with. I got a lot of heat for it and this is what I’ve learned.
I was a child of entitlement. I went to school on a scholarship, athletic on a full-ride. I didn’t have to fight for that right. When I played volleyball, I made as much or more than my male counterparts. When I was in fashion, I got paid twenty times what male models. There are certain fights I didn’t have to participate in. I totally honor the women before me, but it was a different conversation of, “Now we’re here. Everything’s modern. We’re all equal. Women are making their money. What if you want to live with an alpha guy? What does that look like?” People can say whatever they want. They can say, “Men should.” How about the way that it is? How about their biology? How about the way their brains work? How about all these things that are how it is? I opted for that. Laird will take care of me on the things I’m not able to do. If it all comes down, I want to be with Laird.
It gets down to two things. Number one and Laura made this point in our conversation with her and her book. I didn’t think about in these terms. Since we had that conversation, I’ve thought about this a lot. The number one thing that guys want is respect from the woman.
The other thing is they want to be nurtured, not mothered.
Another thing that bugs me is when I go, “Do you want to go golfing or something?” to one of my buddies, and they’re like, “Let me go ask the wife if I can go do that.”
It’s a bad dynamic. It’s not sexy, by the way. People will say that to me, “Do you let Laird?” I go, “First of all, let’s get this clear. I don’t let Laird. Laird is his own person. I’m not his mother.” Another important thing too is that in the world that we live in, and I bring this into my outside life too, is yielding and service. I don’t need to be first. You can go ahead of me. I believe that if I’m going to try to be some level of mastery in some way, I have to put other people first. I know how to get mine, so to speak. I can run over people’s head and be first, but where’s the mastery in that? The mastery is in participating and making wherever you are better and you got to participate in that.
Considering being around, noticing other people around you, seeing what’s happening and all of that, we don’t teach that. That’s important and that’s also the tone in which I bring into my marriage, which is, “Why would I not have a partner that I’m actively trying to make their life better? Why would I not do that? Why bother? Why would I have you come into my house, trying to give you a bunch of hell and make it more difficult for you?” That doesn’t mean I don’t know how to stand up for myself, I certainly do.
You’re not saying that though. You’re saying what you’re going to bring the table.
That’s all I’m in charge of. I can’t be in charge of Laird. If Laird makes bad choices for a couple of years, I’m like, “It was great. Let’s figure out the co-parenting thing. I’m good. You’re not taking care of your side, but I’m not in charge of that.” It’s the same with people. If they decide they want to act badly, it will take a long time for me to exert my will.
I went through ten years of having to look inside and own up to my own faults and everything. I’ve come to the place in my life where I don’t want good, I don’t want great, I want phenomenal. When you enter into that, you have to bring everything you got to the table and make sure that you’re feeding. You’re doing what you can, so much of it is about attitude, being grateful and conscientious about the other person. Having that true partnership and something that you said before, it sounds like Laird is good in this dynamic. That is when something comes up, trying to nip it in the bud, get it out in the open and communicate about it. Communication is the key of life. To have that somebody, it can go upside down when things aren’t communicated in the right way. You’re saying one thing, they’re hearing something else and they go, “Something’s not right here.”
Another thing I learned, I was prideful and Laird taught me is, “I’m sorry.” It’s a hard thing to say. Even if, let’s say you and I are having a disagreement, and I could be 90% right. Let’s say, it’s very female of me to do that. That 10%, if you have a point within your 10%, I have to be willing to look at that. Not, “I’m right, I win,” but what in that 10% that you said could I learn from to be better that’s a valid point? The minute I learned to stop defending ground that is also helpful. You have to be with someone you trust that they don’t beat you over the head with it. That’s the other side of it. If I’m willing to say to you, “I’ve blown it,” or, “I didn’t mean to talk that way, I’m sorry,” they have to protect you. They can’t beat you up in the interim.
Again, it still has a two-way thing but you can still be responsible for your side. We have to protect each other. There has to be kindness. You can call each other out and still be kind. By the way, when someone says, “I blew that, I’m sorry,” and you say, “Okay.” It’s over. You don’t get to bring it up again because you said okay. If you said, “I’m not ready. I’m going to get there, but I’m not there today,” that’s cool. Don’t say, “Okay,” and then get up that bat later. The expectation is, “My partner’s always going to be perfect.” The expectation becomes, “My partner has my best interests at heart, they are going to try to protect me and I feel safe.”
Tell me if you agree with this. Men and women both bring different dynamics to the table. Guys are better, in my opinion, at like, “You’re pissed. Something’s going on. You deal with it and you move on,” and it doesn’t come up again. Women hold on to stuff and want to revisit it much more.
That’s the way our brains work. Men, because they’re physically, let’s say from a biological standpoint, are bigger, stronger can protect themselves more. They don’t have to remember every little detail because they’re capable of protecting themselves. What it was meant for originally, it’s when they say gossip was meant to be a form of communication in the village to let everybody know who’s safe and unsafe. It turned into other things. Initially those traits, which I agree with you, were for women to be clear, to understand, to remember. “What isn’t going to be safe or good for me or the children,” has turned into, Laird what does he say, unforgetting and unforgiving. That’s how it is.
I always laugh when I talk about being submissive, but part of my brain is much more masculine. That’s easier for me to get on with it. You have to look at the whole thing. It’s like having a goal. Why don’t I eat the chocolate cake today? The chocolate cake doesn’t serve the end goal. If I’m in this relationship and the end goal is like, “I’d like to be pretty, have a sense of happiness and I like when Laird comes home he doesn’t dread opening that front door, but it goes like, ‘I’m home.’” Besides the chaos of family, which is normal? Everything I say and do, how is that serving the end goal? Me beating you over the head, my partner that I sleep next to at night, why would I do that? It’s also having enough self-control and having expansiveness to look, step back and go, “What is it that I want? What is it that I want to give? What do I want them to experience?” and then going from there. Not just walking around, reacting.
I’ve got this stupid saying, and we got a lot of them here. I’ll give you one of them. “There’s a big difference between will and want.” We all want to be a millionaire, the fish, that or everything else. Are you willing to do what it takes? These things all take work. Everything you’ve talked about today all involve this little word called effort. Your mindset.
A little bit of self-restraint, I hate to say it. There are those moments that you want to and you feel good because I’d be right for a whole ten seconds.
Give me what the bottom line about The Glass Slipper was all about.
Ultimately why I wrote that book was I wanted to figure out why women not have the time to eat a little better and move occasionally? That’s boring to talk about. I was like, “Let’s get into life a little bit and show how if we’re not worried about creating four-year-old theater birthday parties that are perfect, that we would have more time to move.” If the expectation amongst one another wasn’t that everything was perfect, my hair’s perfect, my nails are perfect. We put that energy into training, we probably would look better or feel better than allowing ourselves to enjoy who we are more.
The whole idea was trying to encourage, especially females, not to lose their voice in the process of marriage and childhood. Trying to give them some insight into men, a little bit, just some small cues. I have learned a lot from Laird and he’s a great example. Share that information but also share it about marriage, because sometimes they don’t tell you. You read little girls the books about the white horse, she thinks the wedding is the moment, the baby’s the moment and then she’s wildly disappointed. I was like, “Why don’t we have a real conversation about it and share?” That was it. At the end of the day, that was my hope.Whatever you believe you would be, you would be. Click To Tweet
I want to plug this Laird Superfood that you’re involved in. I had this green tea with some creamer and it was one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth.
This is lightning in a bottle. Laird’s been a coffee connoisseur for a super long time. He was doing coconut oil and red palm. Paul Chek, he’s a genius. He’s more than a trainer, but he was putting ghee in his coffee. Twenty years ago with Laird, they’d be downstairs psycho-ing out with caffeine and ghee. We had somebody running a different business. Laird was meeting this gentleman and he would see the guys come over and like, “Laird, can you make me a coffee?” He’s like, “How hard can it be?” Got everything into a powder form and it’s an authentic reflection of Laird’s real life. This is the stuff he uses. There’s turmeric creamer, there’s regular, it’s gluten free, it’s vegan, it’s dairy-free. The whole notion behind it is, “If you’re going to drink coffee every day, is there a way you can do it that it’s better for you?” It’s that simple.
Jim, do you have any questions over here for Gabby?
I’ve listened to a lot of his pods. I’ve listened to a lot of people and I’ve met a lot, you’re amazing. Can I read you one quote, though? You said something when you were talking about your coach. Whatever she believed you would be, you would be. Do you know who Joe Paterno is? Joe is now deceased and he went through turmoil at the end of his career and he’s a great coach and he said this, “Your players tend to become what they believe you think they are. They pick up on a coach’s words and body language. If you don’t believe in them, they’ll know it and they’ll perform that way.” I thought that was exactly what you were talking about. That was nothing compared to the other stuff you said, but that caught my attention.
I had to even remind myself as a parent sometimes I’m going through the real small details with the girls and it almost seems naggy and weird. Before I walk away, there are times where I’m like, “I know it’s all going to get figured out. I believe in you and love you,” and then I walk away. Sometimes I realize I’m breaking it down so much that they don’t understand the most important thing that I need them to understand from whichever place they’re navigating from, which is you’re going to do it. You’re going to have the right North Star. You’re going to learn to trust yourself because that’s the most important thing. We’re going to get there. It’s this in and out thing and it’s difficult. Parenting, that’s a whole other topic.
What you said applies to everybody. You’re going to get it. Trust your gut, be all you can be, so many of these different things apply to everybody that’s out there. I personally feel, I’m looking at your life and I feel like both you and Laird is on the same plane, so is this guy over here Jim. I feel I haven’t accomplished anything. My life is getting going. I got many projects that are out in front of me that I haven’t done. I’m excited about that and that helps create the drive, the goals and the motivation. You talked about the chocolate cake, that doesn’t serve me about where I’m ultimately trying to be and go.
My two girls, one graduated from USC. Both of our daughters went to USC. They both graduated in School of Annenberg and saw Oprah, she was the speaker. She had these many fantastic things to say about caring, being humble, kind and all these different roadmaps to life. To impart this knowledge upon all these kids that are going out in the world and doing these great things. I say this all the time. It truly does take a village. You’re doing all the right things. Laird is doing all the right things. Jim’s doing all of that, but also friends, professors, and all these other things that help nourish it. We’re trying to help God.
If you ask my children and everyone reacts differently to different parenting styles. One of my daughters in particular, I’ve had to learn and change many of ways that I do it. It might work for my other two, but it doesn’t work for her. Instead of fighting it or saying, “This is the way I do it,” it’s also understanding that our children, when they talk about teachers, they are here to show us like, “You thought that works,” and that system works for almost everything else you do in your life. In this scenario, you might have to make adjustments. It’s tricky.
This interview has not been tricky, and I can honestly tell you it’s been one of the more fulfilling ones I’ve done. I appreciate you being transparent, honest and putting it out there. I do want to come back when I get back from Denali with Jim and jump in the pool.
Both of you did well and I want you to come back. We can start to layer it. What you don’t realize too is it’s like this for anyone who tries anything new in the waters, even the scariest. Your brain will go and process all this information, subconsciously and consciously, and the next time you come, it will be exponentially easier. Laird always says there’s only one first time.
That’s all true. Thank you so much.
Thanks a lot.