Series 23: For the Love of Finishing Strong | Episode 02
Running Toward the Goal with Abby Wambach
We’re kicking it with a legend today on our series For the Love of Finishing Strong: Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup champ (and Jen’s good friend) Abby Wambach! Abby shares her road to soccer stardom and the lessons she picked up from great leaders along the way—like her coach Pia Sundhage, who showed Abby how powerful and holistic feminine leadership can be. Abby takes us on a journey through her life post-soccer and how she’s using structure and discipline in new ways to help her meet her goals. Together with her wife Glennon Doyle and their Wolfpack, Abby is showing the world what it looks like to bring your full, authentic, and vulnerable self to leadership and why it’s important to make sure everyone in the room is seen and has a voice. And at the end of the day, Abby reminds us that life isn’t about achieving gold medals or winning world championships—it’s about the journey and the people who are walking beside us along the way.
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: You probably know that we are in a short series called For the Love of Finishing Strong. And I’ve got to be honest with you, I am kind of doing this series for myself. It has been a year and I know my own tendency, which is to hit this portion of the year and just slide into entropy, right? Into absolute inertia, which never does what I want it to do for me. What I want it to do is feel like a break, like I’m taking a break and I have a breather and I’m resting. But it has the opposite effect on me. It makes me feel sluggish and behind, and off task, and that just doesn’t work for me. It’s not good for my brain. So I thought, I wonder what it would look like to consider finishing not just 2019 strong, but this entire decade strong.
So that is why we are here, and I wanted to talk to people who could essentially shepherd our thoughts toward crossing the finish line of this year with energy, and with integrity, and with excitement and enthusiasm for what has been and what is to come. Who can lead us in that place?
This one is a real winner, because she holds up a mirror and says, “These stories that you’re telling yourself, are these really true? Because I see something a little bit different.”
She does this really well, and we talk about this at length. In 100 ways, she is helping women and men become their best selves. She’s one of my favorites, and I think the world of her. My guest today is Abby Wambach, no big deal. Abby is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA World Cup champion, and—this is just so special—the highest all-time international goal scorer for male and female soccer players.
I mean, talk about finishing strong. She literally finished her soccer career at the top of the game. Now, Abby is an activist for equality and for inclusion, which we’re going to talk about. She’s a New York Times bestselling author of not one, but two books. Her first one is called Forward. And her latest, which I love—in fact, I was with her on her tour stop in Houston as her interviewer—is called Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game. You don’t have to know beans about sports to walk away with so much depth from this book.
She is the co-founder of Wolfpack Endeavor, which is essentially revolutionizing leadership development for women in the workplace and beyond. Her reach right now is incredible. Abby lives in Florida with her wife—my good friend, the wonderful and amazing Glennon Doyle, who I also love—and their three children.
She is a really special woman, a special friend, a special leader. I admire both the internal work that she has done with a lot of transparency, and all the lessons that she so generously shares with her community.
You’re going to love this conversation. I scribbled a handful of really furious notes while she was talking, because so many things she said meant a lot to me. So I’m happy to bring her to you today, I really am. I hope you love this conversation with a woman filled with character and courage, my friend Abby Wambach.
Jen: Well, it is lucky, lucky, lucky me, and lucky everybody listening, because my friend is on the podcast today. I love her, and you love her. Abby, hi.
Abby: Hi. Jen, you are one of my favorites.
Abby: Not only do I stalk you online, but your work, your writing, your humor [is great]. The second I met you, I knew we were going to be friends for life.
Abby: So thank you for having me on your amazing podcast.
Jen: You are amazing, and I had the exact same reaction to you when I met you. I can remember what arena we were in.
Jen: I remember where I was standing. Weirdly, I remember what I was wearing, and you said some really meaningful things to me.
Jen: And I’m like, Oh okay, I get it. I get the Abby thing now. I get the Abby mania. Sign me up as president of your fan club.
Obviously, the world knows a lot about you, and your wildly impressive career on and off the field. I know you know this, or I think you know this, but one time when you and Glennon were early in your relationship, I don’t even know where you had been, but she sent me a text and she’s like, “So Abby is way more famous than I knew.”
So funny. I wonder if you will just indulge me for just a minute, and go backwards in your story, because I’d like to hear a little bit more about your growing-up years. I want to know about young Abby. What were you like, and what were you into? Was your personality kind of baked in, or did you have a metamorphosis? Because I did. If you had met me in second grade, you would never have believed [that’d I’d be who I am today], because I was shy—so, so, so, so shy. So anyway, I would love to hear that. Would you walk us through the early years?
Abby: Yeah, sure. It’s so interesting, just hearing that question. I’m in the middle of doing some personal work for myself, about the stories that I tell of my life, and the things that I remember. Because as I get older, the story that I’ve told myself just gets cemented deeper and deeper into my psyche.
Abby: [Cemeting deeper] into my memory that that is what I think is true.
Abby: And I think that our memories work much differently than that. Maybe my story isn’t completely true all the way through. I’ve been doing a lot of rewriting and trying to get to the truth of what my story is, and I think that this exercise has been really healing in many ways, because for a lot of my life, I’ve attached myself to some of the traumas of my childhood.
Abby: More so than the joy. I’ve always been such a joyful person, and an optimist, that I’m trying to go back and filter in more joy in the times that I experienced true happiness. Because I think as an adult, we can wrap our minds around all the times that we were wronged or all the things that our parents did to screw us up, that we forget about all the things that they did that made us wonderful and beautiful, and the life that we had. But yeah, I was a fun loving kid and I knew that I had exceptional athleticism.
Abby: From a very young age, I was cut, I was like a little Olympian. I looked like a little Olympian. I had quads and triceps and abs. And ironically, those all went away when I actually became a professional athlete. I was like, Where’s my muscle?
Jen: Where did my body go?
Abby: It was just underneath a nice level of skin that didn’t give me those six pack abs. I never had six pack abs.
Abby: I was like, Why did I have them as a child? Anyway, I really enjoyed not being bored, let me say that. I think that, throughout my life, [boredom] definitely led me down certain dark roads.
Centering myself has always been a struggle, [so has] being still. Now in my retirement, and almost four years sober, I’m learning, truly, the art of discipline, which is the thing that children really struggle to learn, right? It’s doing something and staying committed to doing something over and over again. Something that’s going to help you.
Jen: That’s good.
Abby: I was committed to a sport, but I really wasn’t committed to reading. I wasn’t committed to my school. I wasn’t committed to eating as healthy as I possibly could. So I’m doing all of those things now, and the story of my life that I have told myself is that I’m stupid, and the only thing I have to offer the world is my sport and this craft.
Abby: So I’ve had to, by virtue of needing to stay alive, I’ve had to refocus my energy on that, because I retired four years ago.
Abby: Who am I without soccer? I’ve had to literally recreate that vision for myself. It’s been an interesting few years, learning about this discipline thing. I’ll tell you what, I really should’ve done this much longer ago, because structure liberates, and that is for sure something that I found. It’s a laziness, like, I don’t want to do this. It’s an authoritarian thing.
Abby: It’s a control thing that I had to give up a little bit. I really did have a great childhood, and in some ways, had a hard childhood. I was the youngest of seven kids in a huge family, and I had to fight for talk time or attention. I have to equally respect the life that I was given, and also rail against it in some ways.
Jen: It’s interesting to hear you talk about that, because most of us, when we consider you and what you’ve done in the world, I would think of you as an incredibly disciplined person. You should write a book on discipline. So it’s interesting to hear you apply that skillset outside of the one thing that you’re so naturally good at. Your success is so easy to access. But to apply that elsewhere completely fits into the conversation I want to have with you over the next bit.
When I was a kid, I learned about the world through the lens of other men and women that I really admired and that I respected, and then I adjusted my path [based on] what I was seeing. So who, if you even remember, had any influence on the kind of woman that you wanted to be, the kind of athlete you wanted to be?
Abby: Yes, I did. I had a lot of influences. It’s interesting, because now, our daughters have influences. They’re able to find people that look like them, that sound like them, that are doing the thing that they’re doing. And I didn’t have that same experience, because growing up in the women’s sports world in the ’90s, in the late ’80s, there were very few opportunities for women in the professional world. You had women’s golf and women’s tennis. 1972 is when Title IX was passed, so now you’re seeing a couple of generations later having a real impact. So yes, I had women that I looked up to, but you also have to remember this is pre-internet.
Jen: Yeah, great point.
Abby: The women’s national team started around the mid ’80s. I was born in 1980, and when I got into my teenage years and started to tryout and train for higher level teams, regional teams, and national teams, it started to get into my consciousness to think about, Oh, who else is doing this at the oldest level? My consciousness started to get aware of Mia Hamm, and April Heinrichs, and Carin Gabarra.
Abby: Michelle Akers, and Julie Foudy, and Kristine Lilly. These women who I actually ended up playing with.
Abby: Ironically, ten years later. But I had pictures of Mia up on my wall before the ’99 World Cup.
Abby: When the women won the World Cup at the Rose Bowl, Brandi ripped off her jersey.
Jen: Yeah, of course.
Abby: And women’s sports kind of took off, because this one tournament really, truly made women’s sports marketable.
Jen: It did.
Abby: [It became] something that both men and women could watch, which turned the entire industry upside down. I’m so grateful that I was part of that long lineage. I wasn’t on that team, but I was on the youth national team. I was able to take that baton and continue on. It’s interesting, because I think about my parents and my brothers and sisters, and the inspiration that they gave me. And like I was saying earlier, as much as they inspired me and helped me and drove me everywhere, they also motivated me in ways that I didn’t realize that I was specifically needing. I’m not saying this works for everybody, but I was kind of unmotivated, a lazy kid as it related to my physical abilities, so my parents would have to bribe me into scoring goals. They would pay me in college, which is ridiculous. I know that’s not the way you’re supposed to do things now.
Jen: Like, pay you for goals?
Abby: Yeah, yeah.
Jen: That’s amazing.
Abby: Yeah, it’s like paying a kid for an A.
Jen: Yeah, sure.
Abby: But the problem is, that actually motivated me.
Jen: It worked for you, yeah.
Abby: It worked, so I credit my parents for finding the thing that motivated me. And, of course, I watched all of the Olympics.
Abby: I thought that I was going to be a figure skater at one point. Not because I was good at figure skating, but because it was my favorite Olympic sport to watch.
Abby: I’ve had some really cool mentors. Pia Sundhage was my coach from 2008/2009 to 2012, and she was one of the most impactful coaches I ever had, who showed me how to lead in a completely different way, a more authentic way, which I had never really seen a woman do before. That was really, really important, and I think is still driving much of the culture inside the national team.
Jen: Yeah, I’ve heard you talk about her before, and I loved that story about how she turned what leadership—but specifically coaching—looked like on its head, at that level. And I see that in you, I see that shine in the way that you lead. I think leadership is one of your greatest gifts. The way that you, right now, show up for other people, and this approach in which you do it, it’s humble and wise all at the same time. It’s gracious and it’s generous.
You manage this authenticity that sometimes I think women strong arm. They power through in some sort of effort to feel really strong in spaces that are predominantly occupied by men. And yet, you’ve had that example set for you, and I see you setting it for other people in the way that you’re leading.
Jen: I’m curious—and this is probably a sliding scale, so I’m not sure how you’re going to answer it—but when along the way did you start to understand that you sincerely had the gift of leadership? Not just soccer, not just scoring goals, but leadership. I’m curious if that excited you or if that scared you, or maybe both.
Abby: Yeah. Well, I have to go back to the beginning, because truly this has been an ongoing struggle, I would say. I wouldn’t even say a responsibility or an honor. Being a leader is a struggle.
Abby: And that’s a struggle that most leaders have to constantly embrace. Every single team that I played on growing up, I found myself to be one of the best players. It was just what happened.
Abby: I was scoring goals, not necessarily my fault, or because of me.
Abby: It was just like, that was my job—that was what I did. And often, especially when you’re really young, if you are scoring goals, they assume you to be some sort of leader, right?
Abby: I think because, at the time, I was young, I was given this challenge of holding people’s complete confidence. Because when you’re one of the best players and you know it, when you walk into a room, you can feel everybody’s attention turn to you.
One of the things that I promised myself to always work on is to make sure that everybody in the room is seen. Because I know what it’s like to be the attention-getter, and I want to make sure that everybody on that team or everybody in that room has a voice, and they feel seen and heard. That has been what I’ve practiced.
Abby: Since I was a little kid. I think it’s because being the youngest, I didn’t get a lot of attention. I think as I grew older and watched some of these older players, the way in which they chose to lead was different than the way that I would choose to lead.
Abby: The team that I stepped into was generationally different than the team that I started on. And I it’s a very small thing that people don’t realize, and it’s a detail that people don’t understand, that twenty years ago, a coach or a captain could stand up in front of the team and say, “This is what we’re going to do and this is how we’re going to do it.” And then the team would go and do it.
Abby: But now, it’s a totally different ballgame. You, as a leader and as a coach, have to figure out what motivates each player individually. Because when you gather a group of people together, the best way to come out with the best plan or the most goals, or the win, is to make sure that everybody has a voice.
Jen: That’s good.
Abby: Everybody has a say, and everybody has a turn. That is how you create championship teams. It’s not one or two people making the decisions. That is so twenty years ago. The modern way of leadership is getting the best people in the room, coming up with the best plan together, and then creating the strategy to go unleash on whoever you’re playing against.
Jen: Yeah, totally.
Abby: I really struggled early on in my leadership. When the older players left, the team was like, “Abby, here you go. Here are the keys.” And I tried to be what they were.
Jen: Did you?
Abby: Thank goodness Pia came into my life, because she showed up and showed her specific, unique version of what leadership looks like.
Jen: Oh yeah, talk about that for just a second, for those who don’t know.
Abby: Oh my gosh. It was so life-changing. And up until that point, I had only really been coached by men and women who operated like men.
Jen: Sure, yeah.
Abby: [They] showed up in the environment believing and talking, being really stern and hardcore.
Jen: Of course.
Abby: And not embracing the full beauty of their femininity. I think that’s what Pia did so well, she embraced the full being-ness of who she was.
Abby: Both her feminine parts and her masculine parts. She just brought her total self to the team. She also—which is the most difficult thing for a leader to do, because you have to give a way some control—let everybody around her bring their full selves to the table, too. You have to find ways to connect all of those people, rather than searching for ways, because this is a very American trait: “Oh, this doesn’t fit, you’re out.”
Jen: Totally, yeah.
Abby: “This doesn’t fit, you’re out.” Once you believe this one thing, then you’re all the way over in this camp, and you don’t belong over in this camp anymore. That’s all BS.
I think that’s why teams are such a great equalizer in our world today, because we can slice through the politics and the BS of it all and still be sitting with each other at the end of the day. We’re actually just people, and we’re allowed to believe in different things, and we still can sit and break bread. Let’s be real here.
Abby: So long story short, Pia showed up and she played us a song at our very first meeting, with her guitar. For the first part of the song, I was thinking to myself, Who is this lady here? We’re screwed, that’s what I’m thinking.
Jen: Right, We’re screwed.
Abby: Everybody was leaning back, and as the song kept going, I looked around and I found all of us. At the end of the song, she just had us.
Abby: It was like we were wrapped around her finger, and I was amazed. When greatness meets greatness with no judgment, in those moments, there’s magic.
You can’t meet other moments or people and have that moment of magic. You can’t meet them if you don’t bring your full self. If you’re leaving half of yourself at home, or you are pretending to be a more male version of yourself going into work because you think that that’s what work is calling upon. Actually, the opposite is true right now. The thing that is going to solve so many of our problems is feminine leadership. It’s the ability to be able to call on all these different parts of ourselves and then utilize that and whatever is necessary into whatever the task at hand is. That is leadership, and that is a leadership that I’ll follow.
Jen: Yeah, same, that’s what I’m drawn to. It’s not just what I’m drawn to, it’s what I’m moved by. It’s what inspires me. It’s what changes me and pushes me, and I just think it’s a great time to be a woman in leadership on any strata. Of course, I’m listening to you as an elite athlete, talking about this on a professional scale. But everything you’re saying translates to women in all the areas that they lead. It’s a very, very strange risk to take, to show up true-faced, to show up authentic, to show up vulnerable in spaces. To lead out of the strengths that you have and out of the tenderness that you have.
Yet, all my experiences say that is where the magic happens. That is where meaningful change exists. That is where barriers are broken down. So when we look sideways at a lot of women in leadership right now, the ones who are really making a difference are the ones you just described. Those are the ones.
I want to ask you this question because I’m interested to hear what you have to say on this. This series right now, on the podcast, is on finishing strong. Not only are we about to finish 2019, but we’re about to finish a decade, which just sometimes gives us a moment to pause and really consider both the last ten years and the next ten years.
You understand finishing strong in a really unique way, because you’ve been an athlete at the top level. So you’ve, a billion times, had to push past what your mind or your body was telling you wasn’t possible, that you could not do it, that you could not finish. I would love for you to talk for a few minutes about everybody right now who is staring down the possibility of defeat, [for whom] the potential for finishing strong feels too elusive or too impossible. [For those whose] minds and bodies and the rules, spoken and unspoken, are telling everything opposite. How would you coach us, more or less?
Abby: Yeah. Well first of all, I think the mentality of finishing strong is either there or it’s not. I also understand that I’ve had a lifetime of practice at this, so it gives me a little bit of a privileged edge over other people. It’s not easy, it’s not easy to not give up.
Jen: Yeah, right.
Abby: I’m telling you this, and this is what I think might be the most true thing that I could probably say on this podcast. Most of the successful people that I know—and some are the most wildly successful people on the planet—have found success in their life [because they] just didn’t give up.
Jen: That’s it.
Abby: That is it.
Jen: It’s pretty simple.
Abby: I know that it sounds so freaking cliché, but try to step aside from that for a minute.
Abby: Just not giving up. Because for me, it wasn’t ever about winning, though that helped.
Abby: Winning always helps, and having a definition of what a goal is and defining what a win means. That’s actually been something that’s revolutionizing my retirement. Before every meeting I have, I usually say, Okay, what is a win here?
Jen: That’s good.
Abby: I need to know what I’m going for. We define what that is, and then I have structure, and I’m fine. Even if I fail, and I don’t win in that meeting or whatever it is, I at least have some structure. I just think it’s really important for people to understand that most people are trying their very best.
Jen: That’s right.
Abby: Some things just don’t work out. But that doesn’t mean quitting, because what does that mean? I am a person that pivots.
Abby: And if you are not in a position to pivot, whether it be financial or emotional or family-wise or whatever, I get that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pivot in your mind.
Jen: That’s right.
Abby: So for instance, the other day, I was training for a half marathon, God help me.
Jen: Oh my gosh, why?
Abby: Yesterday I had to run twelve miles, and I was on my eleventh mile.
Abby: Which always is the easiest mile to run after a long run.
Abby: Because you just get it done.
Abby: But yesterday, I was suffering so bad. And I kept telling my running partner, I’m like, “Just go, I’ll see you back at the house. Don’t worry about it.” And she’s like, “No,” and I’m like, “Listen, I cannot run any faster.”
Abby: I wasn’t even looking at my watch, I was just continuing to move my feet. Literally, I felt like I was running with bricks on my legs. And I finished, and I was no slower than I was in any of the other miles. It’s just that I felt that way. So, what I’m telling you is that everybody feels like they’ve got bricks.
Jen: That’s so true.
Abby: Okay? And if you just keep moving forward in one way or another, something is going to happen. The fact that you get to keep moving forward is the whole thing. Because listen, I’ve been to the top. I’ve won the gold medals. It’s not about the end, it’s about who you do it with. How you feel and the self esteem that you build in your life for who you are, and who you’re developing into. It’s the dreams and it’s the dreaming, and it’s the accomplishments, and it’s the accomplishing. It’s not about the final thing.
Jen: That’s great.
Abby: Because, by the way, it’s maddening. I’ve got a gold medal wrapped around my neck, and I step off the podium, and all I’m thinking about is how I can do that again.
Abby: It’s not been two minutes.
Jen: Right, it immediately evaporates.
Abby: It’s poof, gone.
Abby: That’s probably a problem of mine. Who knows? But that is life. No matter how high you can climb, there’s always a higher place or another thing. I’m also working on trying to lessen my need for materialism, the things that give me worth.
Abby: And as a female athlete, of course, I think that I was traumatized, because I see all of these guys making hundreds of millions of dollars.
Abby: They’re driving all these cars, so I think, Oh, if I can just get that car, then I’ll be worthy.
Jen: Oh, yeah.
Abby: I don’t know, I’m totally sidetracked here. I just think it’s important that people don’t stop moving forward. That’s the deal.
Jen: I couldn’t agree more.
Abby: It’s just so simple.
Jen: That’s the definition of it, but you know what? You just touched on something that I would love to talk to you about. Let’s take the idea of gaining any worth, any personal worth, out of it. Because as you just said, that’s a complete house of cards. What has been really, not just fascinating but encouraging, is to watch how people have come around about women’s soccer this year, on obviously their huge global success, but also about what you just said. This really important, long overdue conversation about fair compensation and what it means to be paid fairly for your work, for your investment into a sport, for your name, and your likeness.
I would love to hear you talk about this. What has it made you feel like, seeing this level of exposure? Because we’ve talked about 1999, the Brandi era, which was a huge turning point for a ton of us. We can all remember where we were when she ripped that shirt off. But now it’s this next leg of the race. What has it felt like to see this happening around your sport, specifically? And people in power, if you will, putting their weight behind this conversation, too? What do you think is coming next? What do you hope to see next?
Abby: Well first of all, thank you for asking this question, because this is one of the things that I love talking about the most, for a lot of reasons. Obviously, I’m invested in the team and what happens to them. But where I’ve gone with this conversation is bigger, it’s wider. Stay with me for a second here, because I think that your listeners might get a little nugget or two out of this.
Abby: It’s been mind-blowing for me, because I’ve been going through a bunch of unlearning from my childhood. And where that begins for me is being the youngest of seven kids.
Abby: And having four older brothers and two older sisters. Growing up, I was just like one of the little boys. I was running around with my shirt off.
Abby: For way too long, and they would put me in goal, and I learned a lot from my brothers. I also learned a lot from my sisters. But I have an internal belief system that I deserve to be treated like my brothers.
Abby: So I’ve taken that arrogance, I guess I could call it that, with me throughout my life. And I think that soccer also gave me a lot of confidence to walk into a room and to say how I feel and demand what I want.
Abby: But I think we have to truly understand the sexism and misogyny that runs even through our own selves, even though we’re the feminists out there.
Jen: Sure, oh, it’s very internalized.
Abby: Oh, it’s so important to uncover your own stuff before you even start looking at, let’s say, this women’s national team debate about equal pay.
Abby: Because what do you really think about women getting paid the same as men?
Jen: Yeah, that’s a great question.
Abby: Because this has been happening forever, in every industry.
Abby: What’s been so fascinating is we see this women’s national team step up and start playing, and not only are they playing, but they’re playing in a motivational and inspirational way, and they’re winning.
Abby: And they’re doing it on the grandest stage, and they’re marketable. And oh, they’re also not getting paid the same. Here’s the number one debate that I hear: “Well, the men’s team brings in more money than the women’s team.”
Jen: Right, it’s factually untrue.
Abby: Right, like that shouldn’t even matter. Let’s be honest.
Jen: Great point.
Abby: I get it, we live in a capitalistic society. But it shouldn’t even freaking matter.
Abby: But still, since 2015, our women’s national team has brought in more money for U.S. soccer than the men’s national team.
Abby: And they are still getting paid less than the men’s national team.
Jen: Right, it’s so unfair.
Abby: The other thing that we have to really consider, and this is a little bit deeper and maybe boring, so I’ll kind of go through it quickly, is this idea of original investment. Because the sports world and the business world have been always dominated and started up for men by men, they have had this original investment. And essentially what you see is that compounding effect of that men’s original investment. It’s literally like the Warren Buffett theory. Men have been in the game longer, so they’re reaping so many more returns.
Abby: We’ve only started investing in women recently, so we just haven’t gained enough time and enough momentum forward. What we need to do is create policy, and we need this women’s national team to win their lawsuit.
Abby: So that we can continue to breathe more possibility into the hearts and minds of all of us, not just women, by the way. This is something that will also affect our boys, our young men, and our older men. Because there is something that happens to them too, when they feel like they are only in control and power, then they aren’t allowed to be their complete and full self.
Jen: I agree.
Abby: Because they’re not allowed to be vulnerable.
Jen: That’s right.
Abby: You know? Why do you think men are always so aggressive—not all men, but most men, the emotion that they get straight to is aggression, is anger?
Jen: That’s right, yeah.
Abby: It’s because they’re not allowed to be as fully human as us women want to be, right?
Jen: That’s right.
Abby: We’ve all got to figure out how to get back to being human.
So long story short, we have to find our own sense of how we were raised and what kind of misogyny we were raised with, so that we can start to unpack and uncover this stuff. So when it does come up, we’re not going, Oh, well the men make more. We’re not justifying what’s been happening because we’ve participated in it. We’re saying, Oh, wow. I am a responsible person, and though it might not have been my fault, it is now my responsibility to step up and to say the thing when it needs to be said, and to do the thing when it needs to be done.
Jen: That’s great, and it’s possible. I also came up through an industry, if you will, that has been created by men for men, largely, so I discovered as a grown-up that I was primarily happy to just receive some crumbs from the table.
Jen: And I saw that as, Well, lucky me, I got a crumb.
Jen: Some people aren’t even in the room.
Jen: So discovering that our voices have power is really something. I see it—and I know you see this too with the girls—in our daughters. That is where I’m beginning to see, as you mentioned earlier, this residual effect of more women in leadership, more women at the table, more women hired, more women at the helm, all of it. It’s starting to have this trickle-down effect to our girls that we didn’t necessarily experience at their age.
Jen: We were still the crumbs-at-the-table generation, to some degree.
Jen: What in the world are we going to see in twenty years? It’s already exciting. It’s exciting, but I like what you’re saying, because this isn’t an area where women can go, “Well, you know, it’s going to be better in the next generation. We’ll just have what we have.” We have a huge mantle on our shoulders here. We have a responsibility to have those conversations and to say those words out loud, and to challenge the systems that prioritize the diminishing of others.
Jen: And then to see that at work, we’re watching it in real time, right now in our generation.
Jen: It’s exciting.
Abby: It is, it’s so exciting.
Jen: I feel really hopeful.
Jen: I want to talk for just a minute about Wolfpack. You know how I feel about it and you know that I love it. I’ve talked about it quite a bit to my community, so they’re familiar with it, too. But in it, you gave this community eight rules to essentially change the game. They’re simple but profound approaches that every single person can cultivate in our own lives this very minute. I told you that I immediately sent it to my daughter.
I want you to pick one, whichever one you’re feeling really strong about today. I would love for you to talk through one of the rules that you handed us and why you think it matters right now, and how you would put that in the hands of people who are rounding out the year, rounding out the decade.
Abby: Yeah. I think that making failure your fuel is one of the most important lessons that will extend whatever they’re doing. That they will quit much longer down the road.
Abby: If it is in fact they’re going to quit. I grew up in a culture on the women’s national team that embraced failure and this idea of making a mistake. Sports is such a unique environment where you’re actually only expected to be perfect a few times—soccer, specifically. You’re only supposed to be expected to be perfect a few times a game. You’re supposed to be consistent, and what that means is you’re going to make some mistakes, and you’re going to not make some mistakes. But mistakes are part of the actual game.
Jen: That’s right.
Abby: So dealing with the things that happen and seeing them as a result of something, and trying not to proceed down that same path to then have the same result. The definition of insanity, that’s kind of the whole thing.
Abby: If you make a mistake, just try not to do the same thing again that led to that mistake.
Abby: But the thing about mistakes, which is like the next level of mentality and mindset, is to see it as the most beautiful gift, like, Oh yeah, I get this. Because if you’re introspective or you are trying to look inside of yourself, I’m sure your community does, it’s an opportunity for growth. There’s these things called growth mindset or fixed mindset.
Jen: Yeah, right.
Abby: All the best, smartest people in the world have this growth mindset mentality, which means: Oh, I’m going to make mistakes and that’s going to be a part of my process. It’s not going to define me. The best people I have ever met and that I talk to constantly about this stuff, when they look back at their life, they don’t think, Oh yeah, that one time when I did this great thing. They’re like, Oh yeah, that time when I fell down.
Abby: That time when I fell down is what makes me most proud about my being able to step up and get up. That’s what our minds are on. As all of this sports leadership philosophy leads me, it affects the way that I parent.
Jen: Yeah, totally.
Abby: One of the most profound things that has happened to me recently is Amma, our youngest…
Abby: …she has what’s called Osgood-Schlatter’s. It’s a little calcium development underneath her knee and it’s super painful.
Abby: I grew up in this big family where my form of mothering for any kind of injury was always like, “Rub some dirt on it. You’re fine.” And so instinctively, when Amma came home and started experiencing this pain, I kind of went into that role of instinct mothering. I remember just feeling really bad about that, and I remember doing a moral inventory with Glennon at the end of the night and saying to her, “Listen, babe. I just don’t feel like I did the right thing. I think that I just totally bailed and was afraid to get close to our daughter.”
And she just said the sweetest thing. She said, “Babe, we’re going to make mistakes as parents and all we need to do is to talk to our kids about it, and tell them that we’re sorry. I’m sure Amma would love for you to explain this and to apologize.” And so I was like, “Okay.” So I stayed up all night and I was planning out all of the words and all of the things that I’m going to say.
The morning time comes and she’s up, and she’s making her lunch for school the next day. And I go into it and I said, “Amma, I just want to explain something that happened last night that I didn’t feel really great about.”
Abby: I went into the whole thing and I said, “I’m so sorry. I don’t want to be the kind of parent that doesn’t reach for you. I want to be the parent that holds you, even if I think you’re faking it.”
Jen: Yeah, that’s good.
Abby: “I want to be the parent that holds you and says, ‘I am here for you, I love you, and I’m so sorry you’re feeling this pain because it sucks. It totally sucks and it hurts.’” And of course, she was ten at the time, and she was like, “Okay, great.”
Jen: Right, “I knew you were going to say that,” totally.
Abby: I think one of the most important ways in which we can teach our kids how to fail well is to do it right in front of them.
Jen: That’s it, in real time.
Abby: And to explain it right in front of them.
Abby: In real time, yeah.
Jen: Oh my gosh. I wish that I haven’t learned that lesson a million times out of experience, but I have, and it’s true. You see that begin to play out in the way that our kids learn to handle failure and learn to handle their own mistakes, and learn to say “I’m sorry.” There’s really no better way. I mean, that is the best example far beyond our teachy, talky words about it all. It’s just what they see us do, what they hear us say.
Jen: This is a question that I want to ask you before we wrap it up here. I’m thinking about myself in 2010, the very beginning of 2010, and now here at the very end of 2019. When I entered this decade, well, I just had three kids.
Jen: Brandon and I had just hit the fifteen-year mark. And then here at the end, I’ve got five kids. We’ve just hit the twenty-five-year mark.
Abby: Oh my gosh.
Jen: So many things are different in my life. My community has changed, and my leadership has changed. I would love to hear you talk about [[what you see] when you look over the last ten years of your life, this decade. It’s so powerful, Abby, to watch you right now. Everything about you tells me that you are strong, and you are healthy, and you are happy. And you are just thriving. Everything about you right now just says thriving to me. So how would you talk about the start to finish of this decade?
Abby: At the beginning of this decade, 2010, I was thirty. I was recovering from a leg injury and really out to prove myself to the team that I was going to carry on into the future. I think what that also did, that kind of goal, that kind of mindset, brought upon this fraud complex.
Jen: Oh, sure.
Abby: I was so good, in some ways, that I felt like a fraud in all these other parts of my life, because I wasn’t the best in the world at, I don’t know, paying my bills, or remembering to do my laundry, or cleaning my house. There is a price that gets paid when you rise to the level that I was at for so many years, and the only way I could figure out how to function or deal with it was through drugs and alcohol. And by drugs, I mean prescription drugs. After I broke my leg in 2008, it became a mindset that I thought I could only perform if I had a painkiller.
Abby: If I knew that I had something at the end of the night to be able to sleep.
Abby: Just fast forward five years, and it turned into something that I had no control over.
Abby: I wasn’t well, and it was just totally pulling apart my life. The first five years were blessed with so much joy in terms of my career.
Abby: And then all of this secrecy and shame in my private life, which is so bizarre. There were such contrasting experiences, so now as we’re heading out this decade, I find myself feeling, and I said this to Glennon a few months ago, I said, “Babe, you know what’s so cool?”
And she said, “What?”
I said, “I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Jen: Oh, it’s so great.
Abby: I have no shame, not an ounce of shame in me. And of course, I have made huge mistakes in my life.
Jen: So great.
Abby: I’ve hurt a lot of people. You know Glennon, she lives inside and among her integrity.
Abby: There is probably no person on the planet that I know that is more integrated than my wife, Glennon.
Abby: And I feel like I get all of that, all of the edges of that just seep into me. I just have found that it has given me space to explore some of the stuff about myself that is probably the reason why I was experiencing all of that drug and alcohol problems. I was afraid of myself. I was afraid of what I would find. I was afraid of doing this work and I was afraid I was going to be presenting as the strongest athlete on the planet. I had some serious fear stuff going on. And now I’m just like a little onion, slowly peeling back the layers.
Jen: That’s great.
Abby: It’s exciting, because I keep learning new things, and I keep unlearning things. Like, Oh, I thought that thing was the truth. And it’s like, Oh no, no, no, no, that’s just a story.
It’s not totally true, because it’s not true all the way through. So yeah, this has been a mind-blowing decade, and my wife she works harder than any other person than I’ve ever met, and that also rubs off on me. I love to work, I’m a workaholic. I love being out in the world. I love doing what I do. And more importantly, the best thing that’s happened to me in the last ten years is just getting to know these three children and my wife and myself on this family level that I didn’t know I had in me.
Abby: I’ve never really done family before.
Abby: I’ve been on the road my whole life, playing soccer.
Abby: And doing this stuff. So it’s been a joy, it’s been a real joy. And gosh, I can’t wait for the next decade to be done.
Jen: I know, right?
Abby: I just have had so much joy. Yeah, totally.
Jen: It’s been a joy to watch and learn from you becoming a mom like, boom, just like that.
Jen: That’s how you had to learn.
Jen: You didn’t really get a runway.
Abby: Instamom is what we call it.
Abby: Instamom, yeah.
Jen: Isn’t it something to think about? Ten years from now, we’ll both be empty nesters.
Jen: I don’t know, I tell Brandon, “Let’s just party. Let’s party, let’s set ourselves up for the next ten years in a way that we want to be living our most full life.”
Jen: Okay, we’re going to wrap it up here. These are three sort of rapid fire questions that I’m asking all the guests in the Finishing Strong series. Here’s the first one, and you probably have more than one, so you can pick. But who is an example to you of what it means or what it even looks like to finish well, finish strong?
Abby: That is a great question.
Well, I know that this is going to sound so bizarre, but I’ve been watching Hillary Clinton. I don’t know where your folks fall on the political spectrum, but I have been watching her over the last couple of years, since 2016. And if you have any clue what it’s like to be famous, she gets the worst of the worst of it, and what she has done in terms of opening up doors for women to even be in the room and conversations, she’s done maybe more than anybody else. I am so curious to see how her story finishes, because she has had so much impact.
Abby: I think that she’s doing it now behind closed doors, in some ways. But I think that the way that she’s now pivoting is very fascinating. She’s taking some time and she’s being a grandparent and all the things, but it’s very fascinating watching her, because there might be no other woman inside our political structure, and our government’s structure, that has had more impact for women.
Jen: That’s a great answer, I love that open-ended one.
Here’s the next question. With the idea of a goal in mind, be it a really big one or even a small one, I don’t really care, but is there a thing that you have inside your mind, inside your thoughts? What’s your motivation to keep your foot on the gas when you have a thing in front of you that you’re like, I really want to see this through?
Abby: Yeah. It’s interesting, I don’t know if it’s just a gift that I was born with or whatever. But the thing that always kept me coming back to the game day in and day out, grueling days, days that I didn’t want to be there, days that I did not want to lift, I didn’t want to do sprints, I didn’t want to be at practice. I was thirty-five years old, I didn’t want to do it anymore, and the thing that I have been gifted with is this challenging notion that I don’t know what my limit is until I know.
Jen: That’s good.
Abby: And that is the reason why I can keep my foot on the gas, is because I don’t know how much time I have down here.
Jen: Yeah, that’s right.
Abby: We all have a finite time, that’s the one thing we do know.
Abby: And I want to get as much freaking done as possible, because it’s going to take not just me, by the way.
Jen: That’s right.
Abby: It’s going to take me and the next iteration, and the next iteration, and the next iteration, because progress is slow, it’s just the way that it goes. It has to start somewhere, and I’m committed to doing my part. Everybody else just has to be committed to doing theirs.
Jen: That’s it, that’s it. Drop that mic.
Last question, and everybody gets this one in every series. And honestly, answer it however you want. It can be big or small, it can be really serious or not at all. So the question is, what is saving your life right now?
Abby: It’s interesting, I think that I’m turning into a vegetarian.
Abby: Our son, he’s sixteen years old.
Abby: And he has shown me the way, in terms of it being not that big of a deal. I have been a carnivore my whole life.
Abby: I’m telling you, I go to the butcher shop, like, that’s the kind of meat that I eat.
Jen: Got it.
Abby: I go to the nicest steakhouses in the country.
Abby: That’s the kind of meat eater I am, and I have been really toying with this idea. I saw this Netflix documentary, The Game Changers, the other day, and there’s really something about this longevity bit. I’m turning forty, I’m going to try to run a marathon next year. I’m doing a half marathon in a few weeks, trying to do the body thing without the soccer thing.
Abby: Totally a new chapter in my life. But I really think the thing that is saving my life right now truly is the idea of becoming a vegetarian. It is becoming more true.
Abby: It’s not completely there. I don’t know if I can do dairy, mayo.
Jen: Oh, yeah.
Abby: Or butter, mayo, and cheese.
Jen: Oh, it’s vegan. Oh, he’s vegan, not just vegetarian.
Abby: I think he’s trending that way.
Abby: And I just don’t think I can ever give up those three items.
Abby: So I think that [I can do] vegetarian, maybe pescatarian. Sushi is just a thing that I don’t know, maybe it’s something that’s saving my life.
Jen: That’s coming into focus for you in some ways.
Abby: And also my wife. My wife saves my life, and she’s saved my life since the day I met her.
Jen: I love her, too. Oh, I love you both, and I’m so happy that you’re my friend, and I’m so happy that I know you.
Jen: Thank you for being a really good friend to me in a lot of ways, both seen and unseen. That means so much to me, and I don’t forget that, and that matters. Thanks for all you’re doing in the world. I appreciate your leadership, I appreciate your friendship, I appreciate your honesty and your integrity. It’s good for all of us, and I’m following and I’m listening, and I’m right with you and next to you.
And thanks for being on the show today.
Abby: Thank you so much, Jen, and guess what? You just taught me something new in terms of thanking somebody for being your friend. That really just struck me so deeply. Thank you for being my friend. I am going to say that to all of my friends right now.
Jen: Oh, what a nice thing to say. Okay, yay. Everybody, thank your friends for being your friends.
Jen: That’s just a good way to sign off.
Abby: It was so sweet and true.
Abby: I just love it, so happy holidays. We love you so much and can’t wait to see you.
Jen: Thanks. Love you, sis.
Abby: All right, bye bye.
Jen: She is literally the greatest in every sense of the word. She’s so dear, really.
I hope you loved that conversation. She’s so great. Guys, thank you for listening. Thanks for subscribing. If you haven’t already, it’ll take you five seconds, go subscribe to the podcast and you’ll get it every single week. Just in case you’ve ever missed them, which I’m sure you have, you can go over to JenHatmaker.com underneath the podcast tab. Every single podcast we’ve ever recorded is over there, including the transcript page, which is the full transcript plus links and pictures and bonus resources. It is such an amazing resource that Amanda does week in and week out for you, so you might want to go back and re-listen to a favorite, I do that, because sometimes I’m so into the interview at the time, I’ve got to go back and listen to it as a listener to really absorb everything that I heard, because we have had just a wealth of intelligence and wisdom and goodness on this podcast. It is one of the great joys of my life, and so are you, listeners. Thanks for listening every single week.
Come back next week, see you then.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!