No one owes you anything

AMELIA BOONE is a four-time world champion in the sport of obstacle course racing (OCR) and is widely considered the world’s most decorated obstacle racer. She has been called “the Michael Jordan of obstacle racing” and “the Queen of Pain.” Her victories include winning the 2013 Spartan Race World Championships and being the only three-time winner of the World’s Toughest Mudder. In the 2012 World’s Toughest Mudder competition, which lasts 24 hours (she covered 90 miles and ~300 obstacles), she finished second overall out of more than 1,000 competitors, 80 percent of whom were male. The one person who beat her finished just eight minutes ahead of her. Amelia is also a three-time finisher of the Death Race, a competitive ultra-marathoner, and has risen to the top of her sport while simultaneously working as a full-time corporate attorney. She has been selected as one of the “50 Fittest Women” by Sports Illustrated.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
During a tough period in my life, I purchased a handmade wrap bracelet on Etsy inscribed with the quote “The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.” [Quote attributed to Neale Donald Walsch] I wear it on my wrist every day as a constant reminder to myself to live in a place of gratitude.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?

“No one owes you anything.”
We live in a world that’s rampant with entitlement, with many people

believing that they deserve to be given more. My parents raised me to be self- sufficient, and impressed upon me that the only person you can really depend on in life is you. If you want something, you work for it. You don’t expect it to be given. If others help you out along the way, that’s fantastic, but it’s not a given. I believe that the key to self-sufficiency is breaking free of the mindset that someone, somewhere, owes you something or will come to your rescue.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
In 2011, I shelled out $450 to participate in the first World’s Toughest Mudder, a brand-new 24-hour obstacle race. Saddled with law school debt, it was a big expenditure for me, and I had no business thinking I could even complete the race, let alone compete in it. But I ended up being one of 11 finishers (out of 1,000 participants) of that race, and it altered the course of my life, leading to my career in obstacle racing and multiple world championships. Had I not plunked down the cash for that entry fee, none of that would have happened.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

For every major event in my life—everything from races to job changes to breakups—I assign a song. Most of these come organically: what I was listening to at the time, lyrics that spoke to me at a moment in my life, or a song I sang on repeat during a race (a common habit of mine). I keep these songs in a playlist, ordered chronologically. I can go back through and listen to that playlist and relive major experiences, both highs and lows, in my life. It has a profound impact on me and my ability to recall and relive memories and major milestones. Examples:

World’s Toughest Mudder 2012: Macklemore, “Thrift Shop” (rapped to myself to make sure I was lucid and coherent in the middle of the night) Studying for and taking the bar exam: Augustana, “Sunday Best”

Oh, and I eat a Pop-Tart before every race. Most folks consider that one strange.

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Beliefs and feelings on objectivism aside, when I read the book in my teens, Dagny Taggart’s character spoke to me on a level I’d never experienced with any other novel. It was life-changing for me during my formative years in figuring out who I was and what I wanted in life (granted, I’m still figuring that out).

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This one isn’t necessarily because of the book itself (though it remains one my favorites to this day), but because of when and where I read it. My fifth grade teacher saw that I wasn’t being challenged by our class reading, so she gave it to me as a side assignment. My ten-year-old self struggled mightily through it, but I’ll never forget the feeling of accomplishment when I turned the last page. When I reread it later, I realized I didn’t comprehend at least half of what was happening the first time around, but that wasn’t the point—the point was that I had a teacher who believed enough in my intelligence to entrust me with it, and that gave my nerdy ten-year-old self all the confidence in the world. And since then, I’ve read every Dickens novel.

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed. I’ve kept collections of quotes since I was a young child. The beauty of quotes is that they can speak to you outside of the original context at different times in your life. I picked this up during a tough period in my life, and many of the quotes are still pinned to my bathroom mirror.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“Resting is weakness.” So many athletes have gotten into the mindset that more is better, which sets you up for burnout, injury, overtraining, and adrenal fatigue issues. While this mindset is common with athletes, it’s applicable to high achievers in all areas of life. Growth and gains come from periods of rest, yet “rest” has become a four-letter word for high performers, and that needs to change.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

This may sound odd, but I’ll tackle a chore like scrubbing the bathtub or cleaning out the fridge. When I feel stuck, sometimes accomplishing a task, however mundane, gives me the momentum I need to refocus. Either that, or I’ll work up a sweat, preferably in the form of a trail run. Nature and endorphins are always the answer.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
If you are struggling to figure out where you are headed in life or what you are passionate about, pay attention to activities, ideas, and areas where you love the process, not just the results or the outcome. We are drawn to tasks where we can receive validation through results, but I’ve learned that true fulfillment comes from love of the process. Look for something where you love the process, and the results will follow.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
I’m risk-averse by nature, and in the last five years, I’ve learned how to run toward fear, instead of running away from it. My nature has always been to take the straight and narrow path, to take the path with fewer unknowns. But by forcing myself to face the unknown (e.g., Joe De Sena’s infamous “Death Race”) and embrace the uncomfortable, I’ve found that I actually thrive in it. So I now take fear and discomfort as a sign that I should be doing something. That’s where the magic happens.

Previous post “Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another: ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’”—C. S. Lewis
Next post “Be a good wife/husband/mom/ dad/friend. Look at Paul Newman’s life. Do that.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *