In this episode of MarieTV, we do have some adult language. So if you do have little ones around, grab your headphones now.
Marie: Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. If you’re someone who wants to be a champion in the game of life, this is the episode for you.
Abby Wambach is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA World Cup champion and the highest all time international goal scorer for male and female soccer players. She’s an activist for equality and inclusion and the New York Times bestselling author of Forward: A Memoir. Abby is co-founder of Wolfpack Endeavor, which is revolutionizing leadership development for women in the workplace and beyond through her champion mindset, individualized coaching and team-bound focus.
Abby lives in Florida with her wife and three children. Her latest book Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash our Power and Change the Game, is available now.
Marie: Thank you so much for being here so I need to fangirl for a minute, so when you and I first met, I think a couple years ago now, and that you are even like familiar with my work, I was losing my shit. I was just like, ah ah I can’t take it, so thank you for being here.
Abby: When I married Glennon, all of her friends became my friends and Glennon loves her some friends, so I’m a huge fan of you and what you do and what you stand for.
Marie: Thank you. We need to get into this like big time.
Abby: I know, it’s so great.
Marie: Y’all. Wolfpack, so I read this and I had to send Glennon and Abby an audio text because I was freaking out about how much I loved it and my little copy has all kinds of stuff in there, which we’re going to get into, but if you don’t have this book, you need to get this book for yourself, for all your friends, and even for people who should be your friends. They will be your friends if you get them that book and make them read it.
I want to start with something actually from your previous book in Forward. You wrote, “At a young age, I learned that you can own your own labels by defying them and defy them by owning them.” You also wrote, “Here are a few of my labels.” No, I loved it. I was like it’s real good. You wrote, “My labels, tomboy, dyke, lesbian, butch, bitch, coward, failure, control freak, rebel, fraud and a few more on the flip side, phenom, inspiration, captain, champion, advocate.” What was life like for you growing up and embodying all those labels?
Abby: Well, I think that I grew up in a big family, I’m Irish Catholic backgrounded, and I’m the youngest of seven so having so many people always in my life, and then playing on sports teams, I realized really early on in my childhood that you have to find your people. And the way in which we all kind of process through our lives like you find your people based on usually what you do, what you think, what you believe, and obviously, I was very, very attracted to sports and that defined me and feeling that kind of identity, I was able to kind of grow in my confidence and I think it really helped in certain parts of my self esteem.
But here’s the thing, I think that we, in terms of the whole of our lives that trajectory, we’re just trying to figure life out. And life is super hard and it’s not easy, and when you are exceptional at something like I was at playing soccer, you can wrap so much of your identity in and around this idea or this thing or this object or this job, whatever it is. And the older I get, the more I am trying to kind of unravel myself from the identities or the labels that I so desperately clung to that gave me who I thought I was.
Actually, this is a great story. After I retired, Glennon helped me kind of uncover the fact that I thought that soccer made me special and she just is so great. I mean she has so many amazing one liners, it’s amazing. I’m like always writing stuff down living with her. She said, “Baby, soccer didn’t make you special. You, what you brought to the game, made soccer special.”, and I think that that’s something that as I get older and I get more wise and I make more mistakes and I learn from the things that happened in my life, that’s the thing that I really have truly uncovered and ironically now, with the second book… The book Forward was about trying to disassociate or change or defy these kind of labels that not only myself but the rest of the world is always trying to put on me, on us, on women, because it’s a smart way for people that are in power to stay in power to keep all of us, the rest of us down here separated, apart, and the way you do that is by creating boxes for people to live in.
Now it’s just like, get rid of the labels, folks. Be who you are. I think the only label I kind of want to attach myself to now is just human.
Marie: And on that, we continue. In the opening of Wolfpack, I literally cheered. I was reading it in the car, and you wrote, “Recently on a call with a company hiring me to teach about leadership, a man said, ‘Excuse me, Abby, I just need to ensure what you present is applicable to men too,’ said you, ‘Good question but only if you’ve asked every male speaker you’ve hired if his message is applicable to women too.'” I was so damn curious. I’m like, what did he say? What did he say when you said that to him?
Abby: Well, just to give some context, I was actually in the middle of writing this book when this thing happened. I was going to speak at this… it was literally the women’s division inside of… a lot of companies, a lot of bigger companies, they create these women specific parts inside of their company so that people feel seen and there’s all sorts of groups that companies have to round out and make sure that everybody feels seen and heard. So I went in. The women in leadership folks, they brought me in to talk about my story, and on one of the pre-calls before I came into this event, this guy, he just didn’t think about it. He didn’t think the whole way through and when it happened, because I had been mining my life for the gold, because I had been really focused on trying to figure out why I know what I know, I was able to actually call him on it in the moment, which not many people have access to because life happens, right? Life is hard and people don’t spend enough time mining their life for the things and the reasons why they are or why they do the things they do.
Of course, I said it in the nicest possible way, because I don’t believe that the way to the future is to get rid of every man on planet Earth. I think that we have to figure out how to be bridge builders. I pride myself in trying to understand and approach certain situations like this with curiosity instead of judgment. Glennon has taught me that and I just asked him. I said, “Well, I think this is a valid question, but only if you ask the same question of a male speaker who’s coming to speak to your employee base, because at the end of the day, a male speaker comes and speaks and if he isn’t thinking about all the other women in the room or the few women in the room, whatever your demographic is, then and only then would that question be offensive.”
I provided a solution for him. I kind of gave him an out and of course he backtracked and tried to work himself out of it but it was interesting because when I actually got to that event, the women in the room remembered that conversation. The women that were on the phone, who set up the whole event, remembered that conversation because there are ways in which we can interact that don’t have to be abrasive or aggressive. Sometimes we do, let’s be real, but there are much more insidious moments that happen in our daily life, that we have to be courageous enough, know what we know about ourselves, know and understand consciously why are we, why do we believe the things that we believe as a culture and why has culture evolved?
Years ago, women got the right to vote, and why are we here? How did we get here? What’s the history of humanity? So I had just, I mean… what was beautiful about it is that I had just done all of this research and digging into myself and digging into the history of the world, so I had a pretty good response. This is one of those feel-good pride moments where I was like I didn’t leave wishing I had said something different. We all have those.
Marie: I have so many of them in my life, like when I look back when someone says something and I can remember so distinctly it almost feels like a gong, and I remember just being and it’s hard for me not to say something. I love to talk. I always have something that’s not always a good thing coming out of my mouth, but there’s always a response, and there’s times in my life when some men have said something to me and I literally just stood like a deer in headlights, and then I had those moments where it’s like later I’m like, oh my goodness, I could have asked this or I should have said that.
I just wanted to highlight that because I think it is unique to be able to, especially in a moment where you catch something to be able to address it without aggression, especially if that’s not what’s called for.
Abby: Well, and I think that there are ways to defuse situations and there are certain moments where defusing it is good, and I think that there are other moments that happen where an escalation is necessary and balancing and finding out and feeling out what those times are, and what is specifically called for in those moments is really important, something that I always kind of fall back on is if I don’t know what to say, especially if somebody has said something offensive, you have to say something and you have to figure out what that something is sometimes beforehand. Envision somebody saying something, whether it’s sexist or racist or something just offensive, something that could offend you.
My thing is, we don’t have to be that way, you know? Because it’s calling somebody to a higher level of themselves. You don’t have to be that way, you know? And it doesn’t mean you’re trying to demean them, it doesn’t mean that you’re trying to embarrass them or call them out necessarily. It just means like, let’s try to get up here. We’re living here right now. We don’t have to be that way.
Marie: Yeah, the inspiration for Wolfpack, you referenced that you watched a TED Talk, and it was about this incredible repopulation in 1995 of Yellowstone National Park when wolves were reintroduced to help control the deer population. I want to talk about that a little bit because I found it so incredibly fascinating. I spend some time out in Eastern Long Island and there’s a whole lot of deer and I read some articles on the Times. I didn’t watch that TED Talk but this idea of reintroducing a predator just to have the ecosystem balance back out. Let’s talk about that.
Abby: Yeah, well, I think that first of all, when I saw this TED Talk, I was so interested, this is years ago, so interested. I was like, wow, that is so incredible. I didn’t, little did I know that years later, it would be the inspiration for the speech I gave at Barnard graduating, the commencement speech at Barnard, Radio City Music Hall. It’s amazing. But when I think back on where I was then, I would never have been able to foresee the future and it becoming a book. What called me to it and what engaged me and what fascinated me so much about the science experiment, essentially what this was, is that we believe and our world is in a lot of ways, feels like it’s blowing up. There’s all these fires around the world but we have to start thinking about solutions.
I think that sometimes, the simpler solution is sometimes the path of least resistance and putting wolves back into an environment where the river banks were collapsing, and all of the vegetation and it affects everything. We have to get really honest with ourselves. This is not like a conversation about saving the planet. This is actually a conversation about saving humanity, because if you can put connection and make connection with these wolves and find yourselves and find ourselves in the wolves and for this book, and for this purpose, it’s women, any marginalized group or oppressed group out there can think of themselves and should think of themselves as the wolves. This metaphor that I’m trying to make through this beautiful story of these scientists thinking that these wolves being reintroduced in the Yellowstone National Park could actually turn the ecosystem around and then it does, that’s how I want to believe women can positively then impact whatever it is we need to impact on this world to make it better.
I’m not as a leader, as a leader on the national team, as a leader in my life, as a leader of women, it’s my job to provide inspiration, motivation and solutions. And I think that too often we forget why or the desperate need for people right now… I mean everybody on their phones and all of the news and I mean, it’s insane. It feels insane to even want to click on the New York Times app or the USA Today app or your Twitter or any social media to get an understanding of what’s going on out in the world. I want to be a part of the solution and this story, it just really spoke to me and then pairing it with the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale fable, it just made sense and it rounded out and I thought made the speech lovely.
Marie: For anyone who hasn’t seen this TED Talk, basically when the wolves were actually reintroduced, everything in that ecosystem rebalanced, so the plant system regenerated, animal ecosystem, the landscape regenerated, and the wolves who were feared initially, became the salvation and I loved the message that women, who are feared by many to be a threat to the existing system, can actually become our salvation.
We went off right to Red Riding Hood, which I want to talk about next. This power of stepping off the safe path, so Little Red Riding Hood, right? She needs to stay on her path to stay safe. What you’re telling us is like, oh wait, no, it’s always when we step off the path that really good shit happens. That’s been true my entire life and every time I’ve tried to fit in to follow some conventional career path or what I thought I needed to be in terms of what a successful businesswoman looks like, I was miserable, not successful, not making any impact, not feeling good, no traction, no creativity. For me, it’s always been whenever I’ve stepped off that path. I’m like, woohoo, this is fucking awesome.
Abby: Yeah, and that is every successful woman’s story. They could point back to a time in which they didn’t follow the pack, that they didn’t follow the rest of humanity on this one little path. Little Red Riding Hood is… I look at my daughters and because I became a mom recently, marrying Glennon and she and Craig had these three beautiful children, you look at them and you look at life very differently because you start thinking about it from a chronological perspective, like what are the things that I learned? As a child, what were the values that brought me into the success of my life? And truthfully, the fairy tales, all of the fairy tales and I know that there are different ones that are coming out more now.
“Nevertheless, She Persisted” and all of those really cool ones but thinking about the most basic ones that everybody knows and really thinking and getting into the meat of what it is, why are we trying to keep little girls more quiet and on a path? Well like I was saying earlier, what other better way than keeping people alive is just fear, just fear-monger, put as much fear into the people you’re trying to hold power over so that they do stay in line. All the successful people I’ve ever met, both male and female, are the ones that have gone into uncharted territory, that have stepped off the path, that have created their own way.
I mean, that’s such a big, big secret to getting to a different place, a more successful place, a more fulfilled place in your life and it pisses me off that our daughters and our sons are taught this complete opposite message of the way I want my kids to grow up. Because I also am very aware that playing sports at a young age and excelling at them at a young age gave me a specific and real level of confidence. I understand too that being in a position of privilege of that, that gave me access that not many other kids do, and so I have to fight for all of those kids to make sure that this message is democratized and allows access for little girls and little boys to understand that they can be what they want to be but to go and create your own path. I mean that’s what I did and that’s what all the successful women in my life have done as well.
Marie: I love rule number two in the book, which is about be grateful for what you have and demand what you deserve. Can you tell us the story of when you realized at the ESPYs about the big difference between you and some of the gentlemen you were on stage with.
Abby: Right, so it was pretty close to right after I retired, I found myself on stage standing next to Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning and we three were all getting what is called the Icon ESPY. I remember when I first got the call and even when I was standing on that stage, just feeling like holy shit. We women, we finally made it. I was so grateful. I mean, I was just so fucking grateful.
The applause stops, the camera light turns off, and we all three walk into very different retirements. And the message here is, I was grateful on stage and like I was saying, a person in a privileged position where I was invited into some rooms that not all women were, I was offered some chairs that not all women were, and so when we got back, when I got back into my hotel room that night and like this feeling of anger and frustration with myself at first, of course, because that’s what women do. We blame ourselves. And then as I progressed and processed through my feelings, the system in place makes it and almost requires women out they’re when they are given something, whether it’s a promotion, an award, an achievement, a raise –– something that they’ve earned, that they have worked for, that they deserve –– that the rule out there is to just, you’re only allowed to just be grateful and say thank you, right?
My anger forced me to reconsider and recognize that we can’t, I can’t, as a leader, just be grateful anymore. Women have to stay with who we are because gratitude is important to us, understanding how we gain our level of success, how we gain the raises and the promotions. It’s because of so many, not just us, it’s because of the world, the universe we’ve created in our environment, but we also have to freaking demand what we deserve. Thank you AND. I’m so blessed to have had the chance at playing on the national team. I’ve met many people and that experience of walking offstage and I think we all can understand what the massive difference between Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning and Abby Wambach, why our retirements were going to be different.
Marie: The bank accounts.
Abby: Yeah, they’re they’re sitting on piles of cash and they earned that money.
Abby: They earned that money. This doesn’t mean I think we should have split our monies down the middle. This just means I have to be more of a voice. I have to put myself in more of a position where I’m inspiring women to not have the experience that I did. That is what I want for my life. I always said that I want to leave the game better than I found it. I know that I left the game better than I found it, but I think I needed to think bigger. I think I needed to think more about leaving the contract situations better and it was better than when I found it, I know that, but I think that I could have done more and I think that part of what I need to impart on the next generation, not just of professional athletes, but of women, all women everywhere, is be grateful and also demand what you deserve.
Marie: Yeah, because pay equity is a real damn thing.
Marie: It’s real. I mean, you know, Abby and I were talking off camera about how we both really love money. I’ve said this many times in the show and I sometimes say it because I want to wake women up. It’s like, oh, I can actually say that. I was like, yes. I also love my values. I love people. I love my team. I love being generous but I’m not going to apologize for wanting to create and having created financial freedom for myself, wanting to pass that along to my team, wanting to support other women of feeling good about getting that coin and getting it back into the world and directing those resources to companies that are doing the right thing, organizations that are doing the right thing, different areas of society that need that monetary energy.
Abby: Right, well you said it there. We don’t love money because we want to like-
Marie: Make it rain and roll around in it.
Abby: We’re not trying to mess around and throw thousands of dollars on a bed and lay in it. That’s not what we’re saying. What we love is freedom.
Marie: That’s right, freedom.
Abby: I think that that’s what people really do not truly understand or not really give themselves a time to think about why is it important to have pay equity. Well, pay equity, it means freedom, because women have to work on average more than 10 years longer to earn the same amount as a man that’s doing the same job over the course of their career. 10 years is freedom. 10 years is time, 10 years is the value in which you create with your family and the love that you get to foster in your child and your children and your spouses. Money is freedom. Money is respect, and until that gap closes, we are lacking in freedom and respect. That’s what we’re attracted to.
I do value so much going out and earning a dollar. I do value that because I value myself, and so the message here is that women out there, if you want to just say, I love money too, great. Well, we have to talk about it more honestly. It’s like, I actually just want to be free.
Marie: That’s a really great feeling.
Marie: It’s a really great feeling. Let’s talk about failure, because there’s a section in the book about making failure your fuel. You share that women –– or excuse me, the world –– needs to see women take risks, fail big and insist on their right to stick around and try again and again and again. A champion never allows a short term failure to take her out of the long term game. This is a line I bolded because I love it, “A woman who doesn’t give up can never lose.” When you first retired, you went through a rough time. There was muffins, there was drinking, there was feeling like a fraud and eventually you hit a rough spot where you were arrested for a DUI.
I think so many folks in our audience, no matter what background they come from, what profession they’re in right now, are so scared of failure, and especially how that might play out in a very public way, whether that’s on social media, with their families. I’m curious if you have any lessons to impart about that particular failure and what you can share with us about how to move forward.
Abby: I mean, any successful person in the world will tell you that the failures of their lives, I mean I have won gold medals and achieved the highest level of success that I could as a professional athlete, and when I look back on my life and think about the things that I’ve done, they’re awesome. I really have lived a beautiful and an amazing life, but the reason why I was able to achieve those things wasn’t because I won something earlier and wasn’t because life was super easy for me. It’s because I struggled and I failed and I failed again and I learned that that was actually a muscle I needed to grow.
I grew this muscle and this ability to get back up after failure. People ask me sometimes when they want to talk about the DUI, they’re like, do you mind if –– off camera –– do you mind if we talked about that? I think that’s great but here’s the deal. I actually think that that period of my life, this from the outside, this moment, this terrible decision that I chose to make ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me and it’s because of the mindset that I have and it’s because of the muscle that I grew about what it means to fail.
Women in the world feel that they cannot ever fail because there’s so few chairs at the table. There’s so few opportunities out there for women, and from a statistical perspective, I understand that fear, but it’s a scarcity mentality, we can’t operate and we can’t grow and we can’t make actual change if we are afraid of failing. The failures of our lives are the things… My wife talks about this, I love this story. People, when we raise children, we want them to be what? Wise and brave and kind, right? What are the things that make our children wise, brave, and kind. It’s failure. It’s not not having ever failed. It’s failing and failing again, and failing again. If we can all realize that failures are not going to kill us, they’re going to send us into a different trajectory or onto a different path, which might be or needed to be necessary for your life and for your future but failures are an opportunity to reflect, to reassess, and to begin again and again and again.
I mean, and it’s not easy. When I was young, I used to grab my ball and go home because I couldn’t stand losing so much, and the more you do it, it’s not like you like losing less. The more you do it, you just lose less. Does that make sense?
Abby: Because you learn shit along the way. If you’re not trying, if you’re not pushing the boundary, if you’re not risking something, then what is it for? Then don’t even try. I don’t want people in my life that aren’t taking risks. I don’t want people in my life that are always playing it safe. I want to be taking risks. I want my life to have meaning and to have texture and to have stories. Nobody’s story is a straight line. Everybody goes through peaks and valleys and when women especially fall down, the other women around her need to see that, right?! The other people around her need to say, hey, don’t worry about it. You’re going to be okay and begin again.
Marie: Yes, you’ve touched upon something where exactly I was going next: the toxic illusion of scarcity and how important it is that we support one another. I underlined this because I underlined practically your whole book, “Maintaining the illusion of scarcity keeps women competing for a singular seat at the table instead of uniting and building a new, bigger table.” You say that this is not our fault, but it’s our responsibility to solve.
I love that. I think scarcity is one of the most toxic fucking myths of our society in every form. There’s not enough love. There’s not enough money, not enough creativity, not enough opportunity and it’s all bullshit and it keeps people at each other and feeling so small and like, oh if some person gets X, Y, or Z, that’s the only one and it’s just so… In terms of helping each other break out of this myth and see it from a new perspective, I love that you wrote when a woman scores, there are only two options for the wolfpack. We’re either rushing or we’re pointing. Tell us more what that means, especially for the non-sports folks.
Abby: Yeah. I mean this, the idea of this is we need to champion each other and I think that we have to believe that all boats rise. When it’s one person’s victory, it’s our whole team’s victory. I tell the story in the book about how when a goal is scored, oftentimes, like the camera goes on the goal scorer and they replay the goal. And later on in my career, I learned this value because when you’re young, you want all the accolades for yourself, because you have none, so you need a little bit of self esteem and confidence so your ego is driving most of what your decisions are and the ways and your behaviors.
As you get older, you get a little bit more wiser and you realize, oh, we actually collectively can be better together. Our national team, we weren’t competing against each other, even if it was another forward that was coming off the bench for me or that was vying for that starting position that I was in. I was never competing against that player. We were competing with each other and it’s a total mind shift because it’s like what Ava DuVernay said. She’s not in the business of worrying about trying to break glass ceilings because she’s over here building her own new house, and I think that that is so huge.
The scarcity mentality is in place because that’s a perfect way for the people in power to stay in power because here we are down here all fighting against each other worrying about that one seat.
Marie: The scraps.
Marie: Not recognizing there’s a whole bounty.
Abby: Exactly and we have to know and believe that we can create our own future, our own destiny. It takes time and it’s hard and you’re going to fail and you’re going to begin again. But the tables that people are invited to, like Shirley Chisholm said,” if there’s not enough seats at the table, bring folding chairs.” We have to figure out ways beyond the limitations that are placed on us because of society and culture and what we know to be true, even us. I want the younger generation to figure out how to better what we’re doing, how to build beyond what we’re doing, because we’re only two finite creatures and our legacy will be one thing, but we need to have people continually building on our legacies. Because we stood on the shoulders of giants also.
Marie: Absolutely, and I love what you said though. It’s about celebrating each other so if you see someone else win, lift them up, and if they’re having a tough time, be there to say you can get back up, let’s do this again.
Abby: Here’s the deal. We’re all going to… We’re human, so envy, jealousy, all that stuff is real. This is not to say that when I was benched in the 2015 World Cup that I was totally fine with it. This is not to say that when somebody else gets chosen over me, I feel like oh that’s fine. Complacency is one thing and caring and actually having value and allowing yourself to feel hurt about maybe not getting the promotion or not getting the raise and you see somebody else but where we are right now, the only way forward is that women have to actually support, celebrate and champion each other because otherwise, this stuff is going to stay the same. Nothing is ever going to change unless we actually change our approach.
Marie: Let’s talk about give me the effing ball. That was another favorite part of this book. The old rule is play it safe and pass the ball and the new rule is believe in yourself and demand the ball, so I would love to hear about that moment in the game that really marked where you stopped pretending to be less powerful than you knew you were.
Abby: Yeah. Well first of all, I’m like the biggest person on all of the teams that I ever played on. I already have this internal identity of I’m too big and I don’t want to like, you always want what you aren’t.
Marie: The grass is always greener.
Abby: Yeah, the grass is always greener, so I always wanted to be smaller and faster and more technical on the ball but I just wasn’t so I almost dimmed my light in some ways because I was this big and aggressive and powerful goal scorer that there’s a part of me that wanted to just kind of fit in and psychologically, I think that over time, it took a long time for me to really understand the power that we all have and my strengths are different than yours. And I actually witnessed this. One of my idols growing up, her name is Michelle Akers. I found myself, I was on the U-18 national team, and she because at the time, there was no women’s professional soccer league, and she had nowhere to play so she had to go and play with the younger team.
She was this 30 year old, chiseled, just badass, badass mother. She’s awesome. I’m lacing up my boots and I look up and there’s my idol and I’m like, now terrified, right? We’re playing in this 5v5 drill, which in the game of soccer, it’s just like a small version of a scrimmage, so that’s five against five. The goals are very close and three quarters of the game, her team… Our team is winning, her team is losing but what she’s doing is she’s showing us where to be and she’s teaching us the techniques and the tactics of the game because it’s different than an 11 versus 11 side game.
She’s doing her best, and then for the last quarter, she realized her team was down a few goals and the fury like, you could see it hit a head, and so she ran to the goal, her own goalkeeper who had the ball and she was like an inch from her face and she just yelled at her face and she goes, give me the effing ball. Until that moment, I didn’t know that women especially were allowed to be demanding. I didn’t know that we could ask for what we wanted, and on the other side of it, I didn’t know that a woman… I’d never seen a woman demanded what she wanted, get what she wanted, and then go actually do something with it.
I saw somebody in her that I dreamed to become. I saw a woman who completely own who she was and then take on the responsibility of that demand. That’s two parts. All women everywhere are going to read this book and be like, give me this. You have to back that shit up. You have to own it. If you’re going to ask for something, you got to do everything you can to make sure that that demand was worth it.
Marie: Yes, I love it because I feel like that’s one of the great things I think about getting older. I used to try and play down my strengths and like, “oh, I want everyone to like me,” and I’m like, fuck that. There are certain things, I’m not good at a ton of things but there are certain things I’m dangerous and I’m like, “nope, give me that. I got this shit. You can just sit down and take a nap because I got this,” and it feels so good. It feels so good. It’s so freeing.
Abby: We have to actually encourage other women to do that. I do a lot of work in the corporate space right now and what I have found is that other women who see somebody that they work with, another woman demand what they want or men see or hear a woman demanding what she wants, she’s then classified as bitchy. And we really got to cut that shit out because men are then the exact same thing is said from from a guy’s mouth and he is, you know, badass.
Marie: Or confident.
Abby: Or confident, and for me, it’s just like that is such a double standard. It’s insane. I think part of where things get lost is the demand has to be followed up with real, true follow through.
Marie: Yeah, that action and that ownership and the follow through. I love it.
Abby: Right, totally.
Marie: Leading from the bench, can you tell us the story of that last World Cup and what that taught you about this idea of leading from the bench? What does that mean?
Abby: Yeah, this is actually one of the things that at the time when I was going through it, it was hard because… Think about, I had been on the national team for 14 years. This was what I knew to be was going to be my last World Cup, my last big tournament for Team USA and I wanted the storybook ending. I wanted to raise that trophy, having played nearly all of the minutes and having had such an impact on my team that… you know, and it wasn’t about fame or the attention. I just wanted to be the one.
I had been the one for so many years and after sitting down with my coaching staff throughout that tournament, I realized you know what, this isn’t going to be that and I had an option. We decided that I would be better for my team if I came off the bench and closed games out. I was 35 years old at the time. I wasn’t going to be able to play more than 90 minutes in those latter stage –– the latter stage games potentially can go into overtime.
Because of all that, I had to really do what was best for the team and I realized and I realize now, after having written this book, I realized that I wouldn’t have learned the full nature of what it truly means to be a leader. What it truly means to be a leader is to be able to let go and to let your leadership actually flourish through other people. That’s what legacy is. It’s not what you did. It’s what you did for other people to let your legacy move forward, to see your legacy move forward through other people and what they do and how they treat people and how they respond.
We all will have moments of being benched, every single one of us in whatever way your benching is. It’s not what happens. It’s how you respond to it, so I had a choice. I had to decide what kind of a teammate was I, what kind of a person was I? It was the greatest test of my life. It was one of the most difficult things I ever had to go through, and I do know that looking back on my deathbed, I do know that’s one of the things that I’m most proud of because I instilled and held up the values and my integrity through one of the hardest things that ever happened and it was actually that very thing that taught me everything I needed to know about leadership.
Marie: You on the bench, as you tell, were cheering and getting up.
Abby: I was obnoxious.
Marie: Finding everything in you though to not sit in what would have been understandable disappointment, perhaps mixed with a little self pity, whatever that was. And you just found it in you to keep getting up and keep being probably like the best fucking damn cheerleader and the best coach and the best support and the best presence for your team.
Abby: Yeah. You know, I didn’t have to do that either. What I know about leadership and what I knew then is that people’s reactions, your reaction is being watched and that’s going to affect the environment. When things happen, because they will, when decisions need to be made, because they will need to be made, people will watch how leadership reacts. It’s like Glennon tells the story of being on a plane and what do we all do when there’s any turbulence on a plane? We look at the flight attendants, and if you don’t know what to do, just keep serving the peanuts. Just keep serving the peanuts. This is the moral of that story and I think it’s true.
I think like I wanted to be my the best version of myself and I didn’t want to just sit on the bench and not cause a problem. I want to actually be an active participant in whatever role I was given so I just kind of flipped the situation and asked myself what would I want. If I were on the field, what have I needed throughout my whole career and and the players that served me on the bench, that served me during this time to help me figure out the pathway through this hard time for me were all the players –– Lori Lindsey, Rachel Buehler at the end of her career. I watched some of these players and the way that they were on the bench and imparted that into my actions for those days and for those games, and I’m super proud of that.
Marie: Yeah, you should be. It was so inspiring to me because it just re-cemented this idea that all of us are leaders, can be leaders and we have an opportunity to contribute from wherever we find ourselves in the environment.
Abby: If you’re not a leader on the bench, then don’t call yourself a leader on the field.
Marie: Oh, mama. All right, listen, I would love if you can, I marked this all up with some fun little flags. If you would read leadership from page 41. Are you open to it?
Abby: Yes, I’m not a great reader.
Marie: I’m sure you’re going to do fine.
Abby: I’m starting to sweat a little like fifth grade is coming back to me and the stuttering.
Marie: You’re surrounded by love.
Abby: All right. Leadership is not a position to earn. It’s an inherent power to claim. Leadership is the blood that runs through your veins. It’s born in you. It’s not the privilege of a few. It is the right and responsibility of all. Leader is not a title that the world gives to you. It’s an offering that you give to the world.
Marie: Come on, mama.
Abby: This is like the mic drop?
Marie: Yes. That’s the book drop moment. That was so beautiful. Thank you for writing this book. Thank you for giving the speech. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being brave and fucking badass and awesome and thank you for being my friend.
Abby: The book is great, because I love reading, but my attention span isn’t that great these days. I’m trying to get better with my phone addiction, and so you can probably get through that book in 45 minutes to an hour, and it’s palatable. You can pick up one chapter and sit on it.
Marie: I’ve already read it twice.
Abby: Oh, you have?
Marie: Oh, yeah. Oh, I’ve read it twice.
Abby: I’ve read it like a billion times during editing, writing a book.
Marie: I have all my little flags and all my little underlines, and it’s all over like I said at the top of this, get this for every single woman you know, every single man you know, all your friends. It’s real good.
Abby: Actually, the beginning of this book is really fun. It’s one of my favorite parts of it. Not that I’m going to read it.
Marie: You can, you know.
Abby: I make a charge to the reader.
Marie: Do it.
Abby: Since I identify as a woman, this book is written from a woman’s point of view. The leadership ideas, however, are universal –– and I go through that recently I’m on a call with a guy –– women have had to find themselves within content presented from the male’s perspective for forever. It’s essential to flip this and allow men the opportunity to find themselves within content presented from a woman’s perspective.
For me, that part of this book is maybe one of the most important things because that’s my olive branch. The opposite of patriarchy isn’t matriarchy. We need to build bridges. We need to figure out ways that the philosophy and the ideas that I’m presenting in this book are applicable to everybody, though I believe that women are going to probably buy this book more than men. That’s fine, but all men out there should read what it’s like to be a woman and what women have to go through on a daily basis, whether it’s the assaults or cat calling, or getting less money for the same work a guy does.
Women have to, and men have to figure out how to, solve the problems together, so guys, read the book. Know your people better, know your wives better, know your employees better, know the people around you better.
Marie: I love you.
Abby: I love you, too. Thanks for having me.
Marie: Thank you. Now, Abby, and I would love to hear from you. This was a very packed episode with a lot of different insights. I’m curious which was most impactful for you and why. And most importantly, how can you turn that insight into action right now? I want you to leave a comment below and let us know. Now as always, the best conversations happen after the episode over at marieforleo.com, so head on over there and leave a comment now.
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