Natalie Cook – on passion – not steroids! by Christine Green, EO Brisbane Member
I don’t think I have met someone as switched to ‘ON’ as Olympian Natalie Cook. During her gold winning reign, volleyball went from a low ranking Olympic sport to the top 4.
Set at the Beach House at the Sandstorm sand volleyball courts in Brisbane I had an up close and personal evening with Natalie at the most recent EO Brisbane event. Upon reflection we were being led on an evening of motivation and strategic learnings. Here is what we learnt.
Be number one: There is an ‘I’ in team and ‘me’ in team. I need to be number one to achieve. People don’t remember bronze or silver. When you treat yourself as number one you can support your team. Not many know that Natalie is also academically elite (accepted into medicine) and holds a black belt in taekwondo.
Everything is gold: Positive affirmations, visual reminders all work. To win a gold medal: surround yourself in gold. Wear gold shoes, clothes, paint the fridge gold. Touch it, feel it, see it, believe it.
Work the room and be in it: Natalie ambled up to our group before the seminar, shook hands and enquired about us and our businesses with genuine enthusiasm. She shakes hands, hugs, gives penetrating eye contact and hangs on your every word. She was working the room (beach house) before the event and we didn’t even realise it. I couldn’t stop looking at her. Her face is beaming, her smile is infectious, her skin is glowing, her words are succinct, her physique is lithe and strong. I instantly felt older than my years yet immediately inspired.
Strategy & Systems: After a court side ‘wake up’ chat, volunteers were called up for a training session and game of ‘last man standing’ volleyball in the sand. After a few pointers on technique and rules we pitted the Brisbane EOers against the Olympian. The last EOer to touch the ball on a losing point had to leave the court. My strategy was to ‘fly under the radar’ of my competitors by touching the ball as little as possible but when I did I was sure I would score a safe point. It worked. I won. Choose your strategy to suit the conditions. Natalie shared many tactics and strategies to achieve Olympic gold. One is known as doing the “Steven Bradbury” (Google it). When you see your competitors fall or falter, go in for the kill and stay on your skates.
Choose a business partner: Choose your partners well. Natalie had to make choices. She based her decisions on who would be her best partner to achieving her winning gold.
Discipline and Try other things: We were having a quiet chat alone at end of the evening. I mentioned my appreciation of martial arts and my attempt to learn ‘a bit’ and get more discipline. She casually said that she’s also a black belt at Taekwondo and accomplished golfer. She’s academically excelled and was accepted into medicine.
It’s easy: The Easy button. During her most gruelling training sessions she would tape a red ‘Easy’ buzzer to a pole nearby. When she had reached her limits, brimming with tears and about to vomit, Nat would run over to the buzzer and thump it hard. The buzzer repeated a message she committed to live by “That was easy”. It impressed on her brain to endure and celebrate getting to the other side. I want one of these buzzers! Actually I want lots of them for our office desks and home.
‘No’ is never an option: Getting to the Olympics is a financial challenge for most athletes and their families. The Cooks were no different. As a teenager she sold meat pies from a local manufacturer to raise money. Her business brain was calculating the return on investment. It was character building to cold call and not take no for an answer. She would sell door to door and leave orders for people who weren’t even home. Selling pies got her to her first international tournament.
Positive thinking: She asked her coach – if you walked in the park and there was only one beautiful tree but you could see thousands of cigarette butts on the ground. What would you do? His answer “Scoop them up, make a mound, then climb the mound to get a better look at the tree”.
If it seems tough, adopt a superhero. Natalie visualises her favourite superhero and leaps tall buildings in a single bound to get to the next goal. She even has a costume to bound around her office in. Keep perspective and positivity.
Gold medals – sharing the inspiration with others: If you want to hold Natalie’s medals you can. They’re not hidden away in a safe. Natalie totes them with her on her travels and shares them with everyone with pride. They are scratched and showing signs of wear. That’s all part of sharing the joy and inspiration with others.
Education is power: Surely a young woman so dedicated to multiple sports would have pushed scholastic commitments to the side. So I asked her “In case of needing plan B what were your school results like Nat?” Nat: “I achieved OP1 and studied hard” I was left flabbergasted. She had the choice of any plan she desired including pursuing a career in medicine.
As I’m the mum of an aspiring teenage athlete I asked Natalie for her best advice – quick as a flash she said “tell him to go sell pies”. Advice we can all live by!
PS: as for those gold medals – they’re really heavy and feel divine!