Remarkable Journey / Conversation with Ginny Gilder
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It's visit c desk sweet radio dot com. Okay, kelly. Let's get going. Thanks marty. This is Kelly hallway guest host of the business builders show. And I am absolutely thrilled today to have as our guest, my friend, Ginny Gilder, hey, Jenny. Hey, kelly. Thanks for inviting me. It's so good to talk to you again. All right for people who don't know you. You're in Olympia n-, you're the owner or part owner of of sports team the Seattle storm, you're an author a Yale graduate. Did you ever imagine? You'd have the career path. You've had. Okay. So the answer that question is so simple. No. Thinking when you went off to Yale. What did you think you were going to be doing with your life? Well, remember when I started in college. I hadn't even learned how to row yet. I hadn't even become an athlete. So when I was thinking what I was thinking when I started college was how am I going to survive for years at an Ivy league institution with all these people who are much smarter than I am. And then life too stunned folded of a love it. I love it. Okay. So let's go back to Yale and cassette. Making the varsity rowing team is is so pivotal in your story, and you outline it and your course correction. Okay. Let's let's for people who are listening. All right. You're five seven. You've got asthma. Not exactly the assets for rowing tame Honey t-, overcome the odds. You know, I think I was a little too ignorant to realize how high the odds were when I was a freshman. My asthma wasn't really problematic by the time. I got into my sophomore year. I really started getting sick a lot. And I my approach was oh, I'll just ignore it. But luckily, there was a very skilled nurse who worked with all the athletes who said to me, you're either going to deal with this or you're not going to be rowing. So she made me grow up, and she helped an enormous amount. And got me on a medical protocol that really lasted through my entire career. But I think I'm just really really good at ignorance the world's impo when it's not what I wanna hear. I love that. Because you had a coach sort of looked at you and said, yeah. Five seven this is not happening. You're not you're not like team material. Exactly. And I just felt so hard for rowing. I loved it so much. It was so different from meeting. I've ever done. I was in transpired. And I just wanted to keep going, and I think that's a really important part of life that people might not really think about especially when you're younger is how important it is to do what you love, and I'm not saying to ignore reality. I mean at some point reality would have won over if I hadn't made an Olympic team. Right. But you really should listen to yourself because doing something that is boring or feels tedious life can be long enough that that can really suck. It gets completely completely dragged down. I want to go back. 'cause I mean, I'm thinking of some of the interviews. I've heard you talk about that. It's kind of nice that younger women younger women athletes in particularly today. Get to take things for granted. And God bless, you know, the men have been able to do that for years. But for those who don't know the story, can you talk about the Yale rowing team and the legendary naked protest. So this was I started rowing in one thousand nine hundred ninety five title nine had been passed a few years earlier. Most of the Ivy league schools had gone co Ed in the late sixties and hadn't really thought about athletics for the women students that they were admitting when I started rowing the elements crew had just really been made a varsity sport, I think a year and a half earlier. So we would practice at the boat house, which was lovely the. The problem was it was twelve miles away from campus. And there were no locker room facilities for the women. So that meant the men would get we'd all get off water at the same time late in the afternoon. And the men would go shower and the women would go sit on the bus, wet and cold. We would then drive back the twelve miles which took about twenty five minutes. There was only one dining hall open. So we all had to go directly to dinner. So the women were sitting in wet clothes for three hours after practice. And we had a couple of women who are training for the nine hundred seventy six Olympic team who are on our squad who realize this was not going to fly when we all got back on the water in early February of seventy six it was an Olympic year is the first time women were going to be allowed to row in the Olympics. Thanks to the Canadians who brought in. And Chris ours to as our captain, basically cooked up this. Let's say alert to the athletic department, which was aware of the lack of Cicilline as but she an an Warner who was the other woman training for the Olympics decided that we were going to do a protest. A naked protest in front of the head of women's athletics. Woman named Johnny Barnette to really emphasize the problem. So she wrote a manifesto and nine hundred nine women of the women's of the crew got together. One morning. I it was early March wrote title nine on our backs in Yale blue ink covered ourselves up with our very fancy team issue sweats cotton sweats of the era and marched it's women's office. And well there was a stringer from the New York Times photographer from the daily news. Joanie Barnette was extremely surprised and the story went out the first page of the second section in the New York Times the next day AP wire it went about as viral as you could in the pre internet days and the university was shamed. And ended up building addition to the boat house. Adulterated victory. Oh, it's like it still makes me so emotional. But you still think you made the comment about the internet. We all these years later, we still sometimes have to shame people to get them to make make an effect these changes. But I thank you and your team for doing that. Because like you've said other women now can take these, you know, obviously, the facilities at the boat house or the equivalent when they're athletes they can take it for granted. But it has heck wasn't the wasn't the case back in nineteen seventy six you've made to Olympic teams amazing, but focusing on nineteen Eighty-four moment talk about coming back from disappointment. Because you really did think your Olympic career was over because of the US not participating in that Olympic Games. So the first thing I should say is that I thought my Olympic career was over before. Began because I didn't make a nine thousand nine hundred eighty Olympic team. I mean, I it's not like I had ever been on a national team. I started China for national teams in one thousand nine hundred fifty seven nine hundred seventy seven nine hundred seventy eight nine hundred seventy nine I got cut every year. So it wasn't like I was a shoo-in for the games. So the first issue was was I going to keep training for something that wasn't going to happen. And again, I was just so driven. I was so determined when the US Olympic Committee announced that they were going to name Olympic teams for every sport. I was well that was enough for me. I was going to keep training, and I was lucky because several of my national champion teammates from my team. We're also training is one of five women which huge number who is training at. Yeah. So that really helped. And then once I made the team and hit the boycott kind of the true impact, the the truth is that for me in one thousand nine hundred eighty. Making the team was such an accomplishment. I wasn't it's not that I didn't want to compete. But that was I can't say it was a lifelong dream because I had started rowing bright five years earlier, but it was that impossible dream, and it meant so much to make the team once I incorporated that kind of into my state of being if you will in my new reality, I started to become a lot more aware of kind of the political implications of wanting to do something that the country was fundamentally against and it was quite uncomfortable. Because we had all worked so hard for this, and we really were sacrificial lambs. We had no choice over this. People had worked years to make the Olympic team. Man, I was lucky because I got to try out again. But there were many athletes nine thousand nine hundred was their one and only shot so I felt a little bit like a traitor for wanting to go and being a little being unhappy that we weren't getting to go. And I also felt that I loved being an American, and if this was the sacrifice I was going to have to make I wasn't ever going to go to war. I would have to buck up and do it and recognize that was this was part of part of the deal. Yeah. Wow. Wow. So nineteen four you you continued to train you made the team. But there was some disappointment. When that one, what's what's the, what's what's the, you know, we talk about people pursuing their passion and doing something that they're really have their heart their soul in. But what's the downside of doing that? You know? The downside. I guess is the lows are low. And you don't really know the problem with committing is you end up, really, caring. So it's not like, oh, I stubbed my toe. It'll it'll stop hurting in five minutes. If you don't accomplish whatever it is you have in your sights, and it's big and you've worked at it for a long time. It can feel pretty devastating when it doesn't happen. You know for me though. I'm kind of like, I am a no guts, no glory kind of person. Even today. A lot much further down my road. I would much rather. Go bigger. Go home. Laughing PS. I've I've seen the interview a cycling around what does it one hundred ten mile crazy cycle race? I'm like, of course, you're you know, all in on this stuff. So I think really you have to decide what kind of life you want, and you have to decide what kind of risk you're willing to take a lot of different kinds of risks. There's intellectual risk. There's physical risk. There's emotional risk. There's financial risk. And I think every person if they really kind of want to have some say in directing their future has to have an honest conversation with themselves about what they're appetite is. And as it turned out, I have a pretty big appetite actually not for financial risk but for motion and intellectual risk and to a certain extent relationship risk because I'm willing to team up with people to try to make big things happen. I love doing that. And to do the work to make relationships work. Learn a lot in that rowing shell don't you? In terms of you know, everything you're talking about my guest today. Our guest today on the business builders show is Ginny Gilder Ginny. Where can people find you? Well, usually in Seattle you can come to Seattle storm game. There's a good plug get your seasons. Tickets. Get us yell say you're on the business builders show find Jiting right now. We're just to championship for the third and second time since I've been one of the owners of the team. But yeah, I have Ginny Gilder dot com. You can always check out the storm website. I tend to run under the radar Kelly. I get to talk to you, which I love, but I'm not out there doing a lot in the public. I tend to do much much more in my own backyard. I raise a lot of Helen Seattle. There's no question. You gotta meet Ginny. You've got to get to get a Seattle store and game. Are you going to get on a bike? And you gotta be Seattle. I I love every every part of that. Let's just before we jump into talking about the Seattle storm because I really do want to talk about that. I just want to kind of go of keep our footing in almost a Yale and Olympics. How's your athletic experienced influenced you as a business leader? So everything good about me. I blame on sports, but I will tell you that it took decades for some of the lessons to to actually land. It's not like I finished got my Olympic medal and trumped into the into the executive office and knew exactly how to act in the world. I really didn't it took a while to figure things out. But first of all people give up way too soon. That's probably one of the biggest is don't ever give up like don't give up. That's it doesn't mean necessarily that. If you're trying to open the door that you won't end up going through the window, and your path might change some, and you might realize that one goal is not exactly realistic. But inevitably something else becomes possible. Because of your persistence because of your dedication to an idea or some dream. That's one of the big ones the other one for me, which it really started to learn it in college and through rowing, but it really happened. It took so long is the importance of relationship and the importance and I'm not talking most intimate. Although, of course, that's important. I'm talking about whatever endeavor. You set your sights on accomplishing whether it's in sports, whether it's in business, whether it's an art. Is being able to work with whoever is going to support you in accomplishing that goal and figuring out how to deal with the tough stuff because it's easy to get along with anybody when life is good. It's when the shit hits the fan that you need to be able to talk directly to someone interest spectral way figure out how to get things back on track. And for me, that's invaluable. I said probably the two biggest things that's phenomenal thing though. Is that like say, no one ever goes it alone. Think about your own career. You know, even if you said, well, I was rowing by myself in a single scull. You still had a nurse at some point who helped you with your health and the coach and all that other kind of stuff and people tend to forget that at times mardi you're being really quiet. They're in the background as usual. I know. I know you're madly taking notes, but I am as a matter of fact, this this is a magical discussion. In a former basketball player nowhere near the level. We're talking about but the whole idea of the Seattle storm in how you got there. You're a rower what does that have to do with basketball? Well, it's a sport. Okay. I got it. Okay. Good answer. You know? Gives the back story. It was two thousand seven I had started an investment business too. Which is a very male dominated field. I was traveling all over the country. I wasn't home a lot. And I was noticing that. I didn't have a lot of women in my life, and I really felt disconnected from my community. So that was going what was going on with me in my own head. The Seattle Sonics were Anna storm were sold by a local Seattle light to a guy clay Bennett in Oklahoma who planned to move the team, and I had a friend who I had been on the board of a school with who was an avid basketball fan, and I did go to storm games is a season ticket holder and I saw her a game. And I said are you planning on trying to do anything to keep the storm here? And she said, she, you know, she was she was thinking about it. And I told her then if you if you need any help, let me now and she called a couple of weeks later, and so that was my kind of back story there. But what I say about owning a sports team is it's the intersection always a store WNBA team sports business and the move for social Justice. So I live on that corner. I love that corner. And it was owning the storm was. Was going. I felt would provide me with an opportunity to connect. With more women Mike to cone or women. It's obviously a franchise focused on women gave me a chance to work in the business world, which I find fascinating. And then gave me a chance to continue that push for equity which started when I was a freshman at Yale. Yeah. Was this aging that third piece in terms of social Justice talk more about that? You know, I'm really all about access to opportunities. So the WNBA let's is I think it's maybe twenty two years old. Maybe it's starting it's twenty third season this coming year, and that is a blink of an eye in terms of major league sports franchises. It's the one. It is probably the most successful sports Franch sports league for women in the United States. And it is just still you look at the salary gap. You look at the interest. You look at how the media portrays and how much time the media spends on showing women's sports, and you see the inequity. This is a long road. So I want to do my part. I if you know growing is never going to be a professional sport for many reasons and probably all of them good. But women's basketball is actually an interesting sport to watch. And really tell me why women should not have the same opportunities to pursue things. They love and for pay. Tell me why. They can be big silence. I'm not going to be able to come up with an answer to that one. I'll I'll just take a shot, and it's just a general just call it. Our general culture exactly I asked a change in and you're leading it you're one of the leaders in. So I have a question of follow up on that is so how in addition to the relationships you just described with the with the basketball team. How else are you sharing the lessons that you've learned with other women or business people? What else are you doing how how else are you involved insuring the lessons you've learned? Well, I would say a couple of ways first of all just we are looking at all the ways we can expand. Our storm business expanded annex on our brand and extended, and we think a lot about how can we provide support for women who seek leadership opportunities? So we're thinking about is there a business opportune. Entity there. Second of all I personally I feel like the universe kicked my butt so hard for so many years. It took me into my mid fifties. And it's true. I'm sixty okay. I'm old. Really took me until like the last five years when I finally felt like, oh, I understand all the lessons. The universe was trying to get learn. So now, I'm working on. How do I put those lessons together in a way that is not just palatable, but interesting to people say age twenty five to forty so that maybe they can sidestep some of the mistakes I made in getting to the lessons, and I'm working with my daughter on this actually his twenty-six we've created a little seminar series. That's helping me put together. My thoughts for my next book. Br. I'm gonna say braver sold on I already venturing down that even the thoughts of the next book. I mean, I personally I can't wait for that one. Because I love that whole idea of you know, how can you show people? Hey, here's here's my moment. At at. I'm fifty three so fifty three sixty whatever age, and you know hair here, ladies, here's Harry, you can fast track some of the. The setbacks or the mindset or the other crap that might be holding us back, and I would say Kelly really what the big push at the book is is engage in self reflection. It's so tempting to let the external world and your pursuit of certain goals, take you over but developing your own awareness of the world and your awareness of your biases. And how you see what's going on? How you valuate problems in relationships is probably the most important thing, you can do to really gain some freedom to choose your, life course. So we're talking about your future book. But let's focus on what's already out there. Let's make sure that everybody knows that what's available now. Because you said before we came on live that it's a great story that connects to what we're talking about today. What is the give me the title of the book again? It's course correction of is that correct? That's right. Oh, gosh. What is the subtitle? Is author. Let's just stick. With course. Correct. Correct. It's in the show notes that bold linked to that. Really? Of course correction is a memoir that it's a coming of age story that starts with my quest to really starts with my fallen in love with Ryan the first time I saw rowing shell and takes me to age forty. And basically intertwines my athletic pursuits with my own search for like who am I? And what what how am I going to be in the world? So it's a lot about family and love as well. I won't do any spoilers here. But it goes pretty deep into what it's like to learn to row not from a real technical place. I'd like to think that it's a more literary book than a than a step-by-step book. But if you're for people who are interested in the history of women's rowing or sports, if they're interested in one person's very personal story of what it took to become an Olympian. They're just interested in human interest stories, right? Those are all reasons to read it, and as you pointed out earlier people give up too soon, and your I mean, your persistence or flat-out stubbornness. To not let those kind of hurdles, and I think that, you know, for people that were like, you know, what what is what is their inner strength. What is it that is going to keep them going when you're sitting on a bus freezing cold, and you know, have a twelve mile ride. You know, what are you going to do because you love it so much and your book is extorting extraordinary in all of that. Ginny. I am indebted as always for your insight, and it is always such a pleasure to chat with you. Promise. You'll come back and share with us this next book in project will even get your daughter on with you and have a wonderful thanksgiving. Thank you as well. Thank you so much for this opportunity, always loved connecting with you Kelly. Thanks, Jay Kelley ho for being our guest host on the business builders show. You can learn more about Kelly at Jay Kelley, holy dot CO. That's Jake Kelly. Holy H, E Y. Dot c. And of course, you can learn more about me Marty wolf in the business builders show at mardi Wolfram business solutions dot com. That's mardi wolf business solutions dot com. Remember if you can get all our shows and many other great shows at C dash sweet radio dot com. Bringing the business classroom to you. It's the business builders show with Martin wolf as a loyal fan of the C suite radio show. We've got an unbelievable offer for you listeners to the business builders show. 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