(This post is part of a pact I made. Click here for the full story.)
To fully experience Denise, open another window to play the breath song while you read this post.
Powered by dedication and discipline, Denise is well-acquainted with competing and winning. Yet, as she has recently discovered, achieving and receiving recognition is not what fulfils her.
In her words: “With all the prizes and so that I’ve won as a (classical) pianist and tennis player I can’t say that I have ever really gained anything. Glory and acknowledgement, yes, but (when) the glory and acknowledgement disappear after a while…all that is left is me, ‘Denise’.”
Denise’s child-hood appears to have been a series of well-orchestrated moves, mainly by her family. At the age of eight she started playing the classical piano and at eleven she was enrolled at a performing arts school close to Munich, Germany to receive formal training. During the nine years that followed, she played in several concerts, belonged to an orchestra, played solos, and won several competitions. She also took up song writing and made records.
Although music took the centre-stage during her child-hood, sports were also a major part of her life. She played tennis competitively at the interstate level and taught spinning at local gyms. In her words: “…sport always accompanied me during this time to keep my head clear!” And in line with her high achieving nature, for many years she remained ranked as the number one player within her team.
Practice and dedication were at the core of her achievements in both music and sports. She had days and weeks before concerts when she practiced eights hours a day. Tennis training took up to four hours a day.
As an accomplished musician, a career in music seemed like a natural progression for her after high school. Without giving it much thought, she enrolled at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna to pursue a combined degree in music and sound engineering.
Until that point, Denise excelled at reading from someone else’s music sheet.
She began to compose her own life when, two and a half years into her university degree, Denise felt strongly that a career in music was not for her and neither was playing tennis.
As she wrote to me: “…the expectation from outside influences…(gave me) a wrong picture of myself and who I thought I had to be and who I thought would be acknowledged by family or society. Of course I loved playing tennis and the piano but sometimes I thought I had to achieve something with it or had to be the best. So after a while it became a ‘forcing it’ rather than ‘enjoying it’.”
She reached a point where physically she couldn’t hit a tennis ball. ”I think the inner frustration built up so much that it took away every spark of enjoyment. The same happened with playing the piano or studying sound engineering. I always knew I loved sports or music but I guess I just felt that I wasn’t doing it for the right reason. So this inner conflict became so big, that my body told me very clearly to stop.”
Knowing that she had to stop did not make changing her path an easy decision to make.
“…I thought if I would stop this path I would lose everything that I had built up and that I would have nothing in my hands. At this point in time I sadly believed that (my) status in society is more important than being true to (myself).”
Yet her need to stop following someone else’s script was so powerful that she feels that being in a car accident around this same time was not a coincidence. ”…A big car accident…forced me to look differently at my life and how to live it. I was definitely looking for an exit and on a deeper level the universe provided me with one…”
Note to self: How far are you willing to go until you stop to listen to yourself?
Because she had been focused on music and sports most of her life, she had little idea of what else to do. She decided to travel to Australia to take time-out. From what she wrote to me, more than a break, she was looking to distance herself as much as possible from the pressure. Not surprisingly, to this day, she has not played the piano or returned to Germany. Only on a few occasions has she hit a tennis ball.
Instead of travelling around, like most back-packers do when they come to the Land of Oz, she enrolled in a personal training course. And that stroke a chord for Denise. As she wrote to me: “I discovered an even deeper love for training and being fit,…I also felt strongly that I had a gift for helping and motivating people to achieve their goals…it felt so right to me to train people and motivate them. I was in my element. And this time nothing felt forced. It just gave me great joy to help others achieve their goals! Later on I also learned Remedial Massage to help even more people on a different level…
I can say that doing Personal Training, Instructing and Massage feels like my calling and I love doing it!”
Composing her own life is how Denise found her career Nirvana.
Note to self: To play to the beat of your own drum, listen to your heart. Who’s sheet are you reading from?
Denise now lives in Sydney, where she’s building a career in the sporting industry. She works as a spinning instructor and a personal trainer at the largest chain of gyms in the country. She also has her own business as a massage therapist. And recently launched a line of sports’ clothing under the label TranscendenceTM . She feels her clothing business is an extension of everything that she has been doing for the last 4 years.
Taking one of her spinning classes is a unique experience. (It is also a form of self-inflicted pain) With her extensive knowledge about the body’s breathing rhythm and music’s tempo, she does a fantastic job at synchronizing the body’s rhythm with the music. And because she also knows how far the body can go, she can’t resist the temptation to push everyone to their limit…and beyond.
Note to self: Reinvent yourself. To create the best version of YOU, focus on your strengths and what you enjoy.
Denise tells me that she did not plan for any of these changes – they just happened. And that’s certainly not an easy thing to admit for a person who was raised on structure and predictability.
“The thought of quitting everything and doing something new was in my head for a while but I had no idea what to do and how to do it. Until one day I saw an advertisement in a newspaper saying ‘Work experience in Down Under’. It felt straight away like my call and I didn’t even think twice. I knew I had to go and at least give everything that I had been doing a rest. First I saw this one year in Oz more
as time-out and a break. I could still decide after that year if I would continue a sport or music career or not. So the trip to Australia was the first step. From then everything else started changing…So coming to Australia has been one of the best decisions of my life. Everything started flowing from here…”
It’s clear that once Denise let go, things started to fall into place.
Note to self: See taking the first step as a leap onto your path of success – not as a jump off a cliff, into an unknown abyss.
So what has Denise’s journey taught her? (I thought you’d never ask)
“Music and sport has always worked for me! I always put in hard work, a lot of patience and discipline.”
Note to self: Anything worth achieving takes hard work and effort. That’s why if you’re passionate about what you do, you’re more likely to endure the challenges.
“I always also chose the right teachers and trainers. I was very dedicated and loved it.”
Note to self: Seek for teachers and mentors who are worthy of imitation. Their ways, good and bad, will rub-off on you.
“(Another) major lesson I’ve learned is that competitions are pretty useless…There will always be someone out there who is better than me and someone who is worse than me. So what point does it make to compete? To me competitions are ego-driven and take away all the niceness and fascination of an art like sport or music. It becomes usually all about achieving and winning rather then enjoying…”
Note to self: The race is long – and in the end, it’s only with you. Besides, what’s a trophy worth without enjoyment? (Look inside the window of a pawn-shop if you need some evidence)
She moves on to say: “If I could do it all over again I would do probably exactly the same just with a different, freer attitude. The only thing that didn’t work for me was the attitude I had, which was based on wrong beliefs about myself and life. It didn’t work for me that I thought I had to achieve something with it and that I had to have a status in society. If I would have enjoyed sport and music more just for what it is I’m sure I would have got even better results with it than what I got, because I wouldn’t have limited myself too much with wrong beliefs.”
“I can…say…that I love training like an athlete. But I wouldn’t choose the competitions again…In terms of music I also would have allowed myself to be much freer. I would have started to do more improvisation on the piano as a child rather than getting too stuck on the notes in classical piano. That would have led to more freedom in playing and performing music.”
Note to self: It’s in our nature to be free. (Have you been to a zoo lately?) Tamper with that system and you’re bound to find trouble. Be free. Start by letting go of all your self-imposed limitations. Drop them like a red-hot piece of coal.
Denise is determined to continue to enjoy her path. Even now that she has taken a new sport – kickboxing – which she’s quite good at, she made a pact with herself to not enter any competitions. “Until today I have loved it…I wouldn’t let my competitive ego take the fun out of it…I just enjoy learning it, doing it and getting fitter and fitter from it!”
Note to self: It’s possible that right now you’re on the right path. The reason you may not feel that way is because something is truncating the flow of things. Is it your beliefs? Whose expectations are you living up to? Once you remove from your path the ‘interruptions’, you will experience bliss.
“But I don’t regret anything. Everything happened the way it should!…I had to learn the lessons that I had to learn. Otherwise I wouldn’t have the awareness that I have today…I don’t think I should have started my path as Personal Trainer or Remedial Massage Therapist sooner because I wouldn’t have learned all the lessons on the way and wouldn’t have gained the knowledge about my life that I have today! So I wouldn’t be the person, the trainer or the therapist that I am today. And I wouldn’t want to give that up for anything!”
Note to self: EVERYTHING (and I mean EVERYTHING) happens for a reason. Trust the process. Be relentless about looking for the lessons and applying them.
“…it’s never too late for anything. I’m now on a level in sport and fitness than I’ve never been before and it feels like there is no end in improving myself! That’s a great experience! Also in music I feel that I’m slowly but strongly getting back into it…surely not with classical piano, but with DJ-ing and compositions in electronic music, which I can wonderfully combine with teaching spin classes!”*
Note to self: What have you been putting off because you think you’re too old to start working on?
And lastly Denise writes: “…being true to myself instead of pleasing others I became a happier person!…So all in all being true to my self has worked! Trying to impress, or TRYING to be someone (else), hasn’t.”
Make a mental note of that!