Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 117 - Sonya Looney - EXPLORE YOUR CURIOSITY

Again, I’m just a human so it’s really important for me to show that vulnerable side of me and I think it takes confidence to do that, because a lot of us are afraid to really show ourselves to others because what if we get rejected? 

SONYA: [00:00:00] Again, I’m just a human so it’s really important for me to show that vulnerable side of me and I think it takes confidence to do that, because a lot of us are afraid to really show ourselves to others because what if we get rejected? But I’ve been rejected enough in a lot of the things that I’ve done that I’ve realized, hey, if I get rejected, and sometimes people do, like they don’t like something I said and I’m not for everybody. But I think it’s so important to be able to put yourself out there and to be good with who you are.

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JESSE: [00:01:14] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today does a lot of things. She’s a woman I could only dream to hope to keep up with because she’s doing so many things. And this is going to be a pretty probably action packed 45-50 minutes here. So, stick with us for the whole time. She is a pro mountain biker, also world champion. That’s very important to note, founder of the brand Moxy & Grit, host of the Sonya Looney Show, a health coach, and a mom. Welcome to the show, Sonya Looney

SONYA: [00:01:47] Thanks so much. And I’m so excited to be hanging out with everyone today.

JESSE: [00:01:50] Yeah, absolutely. I’ve had a couple weeks off, coming back. Saw I had you on my schedule for today and I was like, perfect guest to come back to. Because there’s, in an affectionate way I say this, there’s a lot of meat and potatoes going on with you. There’s a lot to bite into as far as like all of the things you do. So, let’s start with the mountain biking. I’ve had a couple, trail mountain bike guests on but not a ton. So, I always have to ask, how do you get into it? Because I wouldn’t consider it as big a sport as running or road cycling. So, I’m always curious how people find themselves kind of in, I’ll say lesser known sports, not that it’s small.

SONYA: [00:02:41] Yeah, it’s kind of one of those sports where most people don’t just randomly start mountain biking. I would say probably kayaking, or surfing might be another one of those sports. They’re not small sports, but they’re just kind of ones where you’re not going to just all of a sudden just decide to go out on your own and do it. And maybe some of the listeners have done that. But for me, I actually played other sports growing up. I played soccer until ninth grade.

And then I actually, you’ll find this interesting, I had to pick between continuing as music– I played music most of my life. And I had to pick between band and soccer. And I ended up choosing a band. And I went all in on that and spent a lot of time in high school really focused on that. But I also played tennis in high school. And then I started running because I just — This was a huge pivotal part of my life. It was the first time I had really done something that nobody else in my family or no one that I knew had done.

And when I was 18, I decided I was going to run a marathon. So, basically decided to start running, ran a marathon, started going to the gym as well. And spin class at the gym is what got me into cycling. And some guys from my work invited me to go mountain biking. And two weeks later, they challenged me to do my first race and I’m kind of an all in type of person. So, I was like sure, I’m going to do this mountain bike race. I have confidence from running marathon, so I’m going to do it. So, yeah, when I was 20, I did my first mountain bike race and the rest is pretty much history.

JESSE: [00:04:03] So, it’s almost like a series of random events or a chance that kind of brings us to the things we do. I wonder sometimes when you think about, I think it was Ashton Kutcher and the butterfly effect, think about stuff like that where it’s just something a little bit that’s different. And then you get sent down this completely different path. What if you didn’t go to cycling class you wouldn’t have gone to, I don’t even know, a boxing class or something; would you have ended up in a completely different sport or just — Sometimes I marvel at the little oddities of our lives and how they lead us to where we end up going.

SONYA: [00:04:45] Yeah, that’s why it’s so important to explore your curiosity no matter what it is, or whatever it’s in, even if it’s not sports. Because, man, there’s all the pivot points in my life where because I had the courage to explore curiosity, and it’s completely changed my life. So, if someone listening is like I really want to try this other thing, just go for it. And don’t worry about what it’s going to look like, don’t worry about what other people are going to think. Just give it a try because it might change your life.

JESSE: [00:05:09] Well, I don’t know how you feel about this, but I have this kind of saying, for people that are like, I don’t have any hobbies, or I don’t have any interest. I’m like, Just say yes to stuff for a while. It’s totally fine if you don’t stick with it, but just try it. If you don’t like it, stop doing it. I don’t know if there’s trepidation in starting something new or it’s like, oh, I got to be good at it. It’s like, no, you’re probably going to suck and that’s okay. And just embrace the suck and enjoy yourself, and just say yes to things for a while. I know you talk a lot about mindset on your show, so I don’t know how you kind of view that situation if you come across somebody who’s like, what do I do? I don’t do anything.

SONYA: [00:05:57] Yeah. I mean, first, this reminds me of the quote, be brave enough to suck at something new. You’re going to suck when you first start and be excited about that, because that means that you’re going to get to improve and see these rapid improvements. Once you’ve been doing something for a while, it’s a lot harder to improve. And also, guess what? Once you’re doing something for a while, there’s going to be days where you still suck. I have days where, sure, I have all these accolades. But there’s days where I’m not doing awesome out there. I’m just out there showing up. So, I tell people just to show up. And if you’re not sure of what you like to do, like you said, just be curious. If you like doing things with friends, go do things with friends. Try to have a sense of humor and not take yourself too seriously. I love trying new things.

I was a runner before, but I haven’t ran in a really long time and I started trail running recently. And I live in Squamish, British Columbia, which has the most amazing trails in the world. And if someone listening is like no, my trails are amazing. I’m sure they are too, but my trails are — Squamish is pretty awesome. But the trails are notably technical, it’s very steep. It’s really Rocky and Rudy, and there’s never any smooth sailing, so I fall down a lot trail running. And it’s funny because you think, well, she’s this crazy endurance athlete, she’s probably amazing at it. And it’s like, no, I suck at it. And I fall down and I get back up again and I come home with skin knees, and I’m excited about that.

JESSE: [00:07:18] I mean, there’s obviously the very technical aspect to being on the bike in that kind of terrain as well. I would assume at some point, you probably still fall down here and there in that environment, too, right?

SONYA: [00:07:34] Oh, absolutely. I still fall on my bike. And usually it’s something done. It’s like, actually a lot of people who’ve been riding bikes for a long time, their worst injuries are just from riding a really easy trail just because you’re not paying attention.

JESSE: [00:07:47] Just like starting to coast and like, eh, it’s fine. No big deal.

SONYA: [00:07:52] Yeah.

JESSE: [00:07:55] That’s always like, I think that kind of stuff is good for new people to whatever sport it is to realize it’s like, even the best in the sport, still are not perfect. You know what I mean? Because I think sometimes we look up to, and I don’t know how you feel being on kind of the other side of this equation, but we look up to big sports stars, like, oh, they’re so amazing. And they could do all these amazing things. And we almost make like an icon out of them instead of a person. Instead of realizing they’re still going to screw up. And just being able to hear that from you, or any professional athlete, I think it’s great, just so it’s like, oh, they do have a real brain going on. They’re not just this perfect person moving through space, doing all the things I could never do, because I’m human and fallible.

SONYA: [00:09:00] Yeah, I mean, something that’s really important for me, and everybody’s different, but for me, I don’t want people to just put me on a pedestal and say, wow, she’s awesome. I want people to see that I’m a human being too. And just like them, I have my struggles and my insecurities and days when I want to give up, and that you can do it. And if I can do it, then you can do it too. And it might look different the way you’re doing it.

But again, I’m just a human so it’s really important for me to show that vulnerable side of me and I think it takes confidence to do that, because a lot of us are afraid to really show ourselves to others because what if we get rejected? But I’ve been rejected enough in a lot of the things that I’ve done that I’ve realized, hey, if I get rejected, and sometimes people do, like they don’t like something I said and I’m not for everybody.

But I think it’s so important to be able to put yourself out there and to be good with who you are, without needing other people to be like, oh you’re only good because I’m validating you. So, learning to have that internal confidence. And that actually comes from trying new things. Confidence comes from seeing small improvements and believing in yourself because you were able to do that other little thing, well, maybe I can do this next thing. And then you realize, like, hey, I’m going to be okay, no matter what. And also, the people that are really close in your life, I think it is okay to really want to care what they think and really want their support, because you do, nobody does it alone. And you do need to have support, but you can choose who you want that support from.

JESSE: [00:10:27] That reminds me of, I don’t know if it’s a saying, but just advice from one of my business mentors and friends. When I met him in my, it would have been early 20s, I was just out of college. He told me there’s — any given person, we have these connections, we’ve got Facebook, and Instagram, and all these “friends” and these social connections that we can see visibly online.

But despite all that, he continued to assert any given person, there’s basically four or five people that care about you and the rest don’t. Obviously, there’s some nuance to that. But it just reminds me of that and knowing that if, I don’t know, a random person runs down the sidewalk goes, hey, I don’t like your shirt. Okay. Number one, they don’t have that much influence in your life, but also, they didn’t care about you to begin with. So, why give them any weight?

SONYA: [00:11:35] Yeah, exactly. I love that. Be careful who you spend time with. But love those people, and yeah, don’t worry about the opinion of everybody else online or in person on the street.

JESSE: [00:11:48] Yeah. Well, that’s the balance, though, right? It’s like, I’ve said it, I’m almost positive, you’ve probably heard it and possibly said it because you almost just said it about you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So, it’s like, you have to choose those people wisely because they do influence you as much as we like to think I’m my own autonomous person, and nothing influences me and I choose all of my thing. It’s like, well, no. I mean, we’re kind of this interconnected thing. But then, once you’re careful about who you choose, then living within that paradigm, I think is okay to a greater or lesser degree.

SONYA: [00:12:32] I like it.

JESSE: [00:12:33] Yeah. I do want to back up before we get too far. Before we got going I said I wouldn’t do too many hard stops, but this is one that really is, because I got to back up to music. And I’ll probably make an ass of myself, but that’s okay. Just like we’re talking about. It’s fine. So, you were in band. I want to guess you’re a woodwind player. My initial thought was flute or oboe, but I’d love for you to tell me I’m really wrong.

SONYA: [00:13:02] No, you actually are pretty much spot on. I played the flute and I also played Piccolo. I started in sixth grade and honestly, I chose the instrument because I really looked up to my cousin, and that was the instrument that she played. So, I thought I want to do that too. And I liked it. And I was good at it. And I loved and I still love it.

I have lots of musical instruments in my house. In fact, when people come over, because my husband and I both love tinkering with music now we don’t have the same dedicated practice time that — because he also played music growing up. But people think that we’re really good at all the instruments that they see and we’re like, well, no. But yeah, so I just loved it. And I love, with music, how you can work at it and work at it, and then you can suddenly get it and you can hear it.

And it’s just like a sport, it’s the same thing. You’re training skills, you’re training a new pathway in your brain. And what I really miss is playing in a group and that’s probably the reason why I stopped playing. And I thought about this because this also happens with some team sports in college for people. They do something their whole life and then they’re out and they have nowhere to go if they want to do something in a group. And I remember looking for just like a community music band that I could just go play music with, because I really love that part. But sadly, that isn’t in my life like it used to be.

JESSE: [00:14:20] Yeah. It is definitely not easy to find a group especially if you played for a long time. I’m fortunate to still be a part of the group I played with in college whose in a transition period right now. They’re more of a community orchestra or symphony, I guess. But for the longest time, it was like a mix of students, community volunteers and paid professionals. And it’s still going to be that way but just like many, many orchestras and symphonies around the world, funding has just continued to dwindle.

So, now it’s like flexing into almost entirely students and community volunteers and then the principles for the sections will still be paid. So, some familiar faces will still be around. But I also know, like you said, not everybody has access to that. And it’s kind of a shame because it’s like, especially if you spend so much time growing up, practicing playing, becoming proficient, you do lose some of that, if you’re not active at it.

You know, first rehearsal is here in a month. I’m going to have to get my chops back on because I got off playing for a while that I’m like, all right. So, I am a little disappointed that I was accurate in my guessing. And for those listening or watching, she did not actually tell me beforehand, but are you with me, though that like there’s a certain look to each kind of section. For some reason, people have, like, typically you can tell, you probably play this kind of instrument. Do you have that same kind of feeling?

SONYA: [00:16:09] Possibly, but I almost played the trumpet. It was between flute and trumpet.

JESSE: [00:16:13] See, I was hoping you’d be like, no, I actually play…

SONYA: [00:16:18] I can only play two songs on the trumpet so I can’t claim to be a trumpet player. And it sounds awful.

JESSE: [00:16:25] Well, I mean, the — I just forgot the word. The movements you do with your mouth are different. [crosstalk]

SONYA: [00:16:33] Embouchure?

JESSE: [00:16:34] Yes, I was like E-M-B, I was like, how do you say it? You can tell I’m a string player. I mean, what you have to do to actually make the instrument pronounce the sounds are distinctly different between the two, right?

SONYA: [00:16:51] For sure. Yeah.

JESSE: [00:16:52] So, I mean, like anything else, it’s another skill you got to acquire? And if you’re not playing with anybody, then why are you going to acquire the skills to play the trumpet? I don’t know.

SONYA: [00:17:02] That’s why I’m working on piano and guitar. Because those, you basically have the whole orchestra with you on some level.

JESSE: [00:17:09] Yeah, yeah. So, we’ll come back to biking a little bit. What does the season look like for you? I assume you’re traveling a lot. Are you just staying countryside, or are you traveling internationally? How does your season evolve?

SONYA: [00:17:30] Yeah, it really depends on the person and the type of discipline you’re focused on. So, if people are familiar with running, in running, there’s all the different distances. There’s anything from like running on the track to like 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, ultra marathon; there’s all the different distances. And in cycling, there’s also different types of circuits. So, there’s only one Olympic distance for mountain biking in the Olympics. And that’s a shorter — that’s more like a 10K, maybe up to like a half marathon distance, if you’re comparing it to running. So, it’s called cross country racing. That’s what the World Cup circuit is like. So, that’s the same races every single year where there’s like points that you get, and you’re trying to go to the Olympics.

I tried that style of racing for about eight years, and it wasn’t really my thing. I wasn’t bad at it, but I was never going to be Olympic quality. And honestly, I didn’t stop doing that style of racing because I wasn’t good at it. But I stopped it because I really wanted more adventure. So, I started doing these longer races, like 50 miles, 100 miles, seven day races, and that ended up working out really well for me, because I love the adventure of it. And I was also really good at the really long races.

So, with that, there isn’t really like a circuit. There’s tons of different ultra endurance races around the world. Some of them are ones that are highly notable in the media and others are more off the beaten path. And I’ve set my career up so that I get to choose what races I go to. So, pre-pandemic and pre-having a son I would raise about nine months out of the year, and my season would start in the southern hemisphere in January, February.

I go to places like New Zealand or Chile. Sometimes in February, I would go to Spain to race. So, my goal with racing was to just find the adventure. So, some of the races would be domestic in Canada or the United States. But oftentimes, I’d be looking for races all over the world. I haven’t raced in Antarctica, but I’ve either ridden a race on my bike on every continent. I’ve raced my bike in more than 25 countries at this point.

Yeah, but it’s going to look a little bit different now. And this was intentional. I’ve had the luxury of doing all of these events. So, now, post-pandemic, hopefully, I’ll be racing probably two international events per year and then doing the rest domestically, that way I can have my son with me at the races.

JESSE: [00:19:51] It’s always nice when you can pick your own schedule. Like, I remember you competing in college and you just go to everything. The coaches say we’re going to this and you go run that. And in some way, there’s a nice part of the simplicity of it, where it’s just like, coach says jump, you say how high and you just do it. But at the same time, then it’s like when you have complete control over your schedule, you get to pick, I don’t know about you, but I don’t always pick big races.

I like big races, but sometimes I’ll pick just an off the beaten path, odd-ball kind of race because it’s like, oh, that looks fun. I just want to go out, I’m going to go as hard as I can, but there’s probably not going to be a really deep field or anything. It’s just like, I’m going to go enjoy myself, kind of get the legs going for a little while. Do you do that or you just say, I’m only doing competitive type stuff? It’s going to be different, I assume, being a pro versus me just kind of going out for fun.

SONYA: [00:20:56] I sort of sprinkle that in. So, I’ll do the odd event where there’s not many people, like the smallest event I’ve ever done, I think had 40 people and it was in Nepal. And the reason there were only 40 people is because that was the cap for the race. And it’s the highest mountain bike race in the world. And it’s actually dangerous to have more than that. But yeah, I kind of mix it up. I’ve done the biggest races in the world, because I love having that really deep field of competition, because I believe that competition is an opportunity to make you better. Because without that competition, you might not push yourself quite as hard.

And for me, like sure, I love winning races and I’ve won a lot of races. But it’s about an effort that I’m proud of and it’s about going out there and maybe seeing a side of myself I haven’t seen before. And sometimes that involves going to a race with only 40 people or it’s in the middle of nowhere, where I’m pushing my limits in a different way. And sometimes that involves pushing my limits physically so hard, where I think my tank is empty, and I just can keep going and somehow pull out a result. So, it really just depends, is the answer, and I try to have a balance of both because I like growing in different ways. And those different types of events provide different opportunities.

JESSE: [00:22:02] I’d like to get your opinion on — So, this question kind of involves a little bit of setup in that I have only won a handful of races over my 20 years of racing, but continue to enjoy it. So, you might call me a professional loser. But I’d like your opinion on what your preference is. Would you rather not win a race and feel like you absolutely gave everything you could or win a race, go really hard and then go, did I give everything that I could?

SONYA: [00:22:46] That’s an easy one for me. It was the first option. I would much rather go and get the most out of myself and not win than go win and not get as much out of myself. And I’ve been in both of those situations multiple times. And sure, it will depend on what you’re focused on. Initially, I would say when I started racing, I really was focused on the outcome. I really wanted to win because I wanted people to like me. I thought people would like me more if I won. I wanted to be considered relevant, all of those things. Which is kind of embarrassing to say, but I think everybody can relate with that. But eventually it shifted.

And it was like, well, I really want something that’s going to push me, and that’s why I’ve been racing bikes since 2003, is because I love to see what’s in me and no matter what the result is going to be. And again, I want to be proud of that effort. So, yeah, I’ve won races and just been like, eh, I don’t feel very fulfilled from that. And having that experience helps me answer this question. And some people are like, are you crazy?

JESSE: [00:23:43] Well, yeah. I mean, there’s so much emphasis on winning, but it’s like, I think, to me, the ideal scenario is one of two things. Like, a sprint finish where you just barely win, and you had to dig as deep as you can. Or, like a come from behind kind of finish. Where it’s like you didn’t sprint but it’s like you still had to dig to overcome. You were behind at some point and you’ve had to really work to get there.

Like, to me, those are the two scenarios where it feels satisfying winning. Versus like, I’ve been at races, like I said, I’ve only won a handful of times in my 20 years of racing but there have been races where I know the guy that wins, I mean just blew us all out of the water. It was no contest. From the very beginning, and I wonder, I mean clearly they had a spectacular day at least comparatively, but were they satisfied?

And having not won that many, that’s just something I think about. And part of the reason I don’t win a ton is because I’m often trying to get beat, I don’t want to be in the front, because I don’t want to be in that position where it’s like, you just blew everybody else out of the water, because you showed up to a couch to 5K event or something, and people aren’t in the same kind of shape you are.

SONYA: [00:25:19] I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive though. I think you can win a race and have completely crushed yourself. And I think that was that first scenario that you were describing.

JESSE: [00:25:28] Yeah. I set it up a little bit where I kind of made a false dichotomy. But

SONYA: [00:25:34] I think ultimately, it’s number one, like I said, being proud of your effort. And number two, like with goal setting, a lot of times we’re so focused on the outcome, and it’s really about setting behavioral goals. So, instead of saying, like, I want to run a marathon in three hours and 25 minutes, it’s like, my goal is to be a runner, and to be a marathon runner. And that happens by showing up however many days a week that you’re training, making these choices at your training, and being that person, not having this outcome because you can’t control the outcome.

And you aren’t even entitled to the outcome, you’re only entitled to the work. Which is why I came up with this mantra that I think of all the time, and it’s the work is the reward. And it’s a reminder that the outcome is not the reward. It’s the work part, because that’s the part that you’re doing every single day, and the race is just the cherry on top.

JESSE: [00:26:26] Can you elaborate a little bit more on you’re not entitled to the outcome? Because I think that concept is probably alien to a lot of people because it’s like, what is she on about? Of course, I’m entitled to the outcome I put in the work. So, can you talk about that a little bit? [crosstalk]

SONYA: [00:26:45] But you can’t control the outcome. Like in an event, something could happen, that, or maybe people are just better than you. Like, just because you work super hard, that doesn’t mean that you are entitled to win the race. There might be somebody else who works just as hard as you or harder than you. Or maybe they had the most amazing day. Or maybe you just had bad luck.

There’s a number of things that could happen. So, if you’re so focused, like I’ve been there, I’ve been so focused on winnings, and you start playing not to lose, and you get tight, and you get negative, and it’s just a really bad headspace. And the reason why most of us do this is because it’s fun. And when you start focusing on that, it’s not really fun anymore. So, yeah, you’re entitled to the work, you can control the amount of work that you put in, and the attitude and mindset that you bring, but there is no way you could say on race day, when you line up to a start line, yeah, I am entitled to this outcome because you can’t control that.

JESSE: [00:27:38] This thing I find so interesting, or amusing, or something along those lines is like you’re not the first person that I’ve spoken to that’s kind of expressed that idea where it’s like, and I’m sure I’ve had coaches talk about it over the years. You know, like think about my coaches, I think about them just saying focus on you and yourself and the time will take care of itself, along with placement. You’ll finish wherever you finish and if you put in the work, you get the best out of yourself, let the chips fall where they may. But then I think about that, in contrast to — and I don’t say this disparagingly, but just what I would consider the kind of like, layman’s view of sport, where it’s like, they’re so focused on — I watch our local soccer team.

And so if I’m watching a match, I’m focused on want the team to win. I’m not focused on, oh, did X, Y, & Z player have the best game or did they execute the plays well? But the internals of it is like, when they interview the coach, it’s exactly what he says. He’s like, oh, they’re playing well, they’re not playing well. Whether they’re winning or losing, he always talks about like, oh, they can fix this, or they’re doing really well, and is not focused on that outcome. Even though the interviewer is always like, how are you going to win? How are you — That’s the projection.

SONYA: [00:29:09] It wouldn’t be good sports if the spectators didn’t care about the outcome because that’s why people are really passionate about watching sports. But the players themselves, I mean, of course, they want to win. And I’m sure that they are emotional and upset if they put in the work and they don’t win. But the moment you can’t be thinking about that, you got to be thinking about what can I do right now, what is the task at hand so that I can do my best. And you can control your attitude, your effort, your actions in your mind.

You can’t control what other people are doing, you can’t control the weather, you can’t control random bad luck that might happen to you, and you can’t control if someone’s just better than you. And that’s hard to swallow when someone’s just better than you. And even with podcasting, this is another example. We show up every single week and we work our butt off to put out a podcast and we love the process of it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t do it because it is hard to be consistent with a podcast, props to you. [crosstalk]

JESSE: [00:30:03] I mean, props to you as well. Sonya has a show. And as I mentioned to her before we were recording, she’s like 140 episodes on top of where I am. So, she’s been at it even longer than I am. So, don’t let her fool you into thinking that she not’s — [crosstalk]

SONYA: [00:30:19] With podcast, you can’t control where you’re going to fall on the chart relative to somebody else. You can’t even really control the amount of listeners. You can try and promote the show and you just — For me, it’s like, I just put out the very best work that I can and I hope that it makes a difference in someone’s life. But if I start comparing myself to other people, or saying why am I not this number on the chart, then I’m so focused on the outcome. And that’s something I have no control over. I can just put in my best effort. And that has to be enough.

JESSE: [00:30:48] Yeah. Well, I think that’s the probably healthy way to approach it. And knowing that, you said this earlier too, sometimes people just aren’t going to like you. And that’s okay. And I think that’s the same thing with the show. It’s like, well, I think you and I both have a lot of things to say and excellent guests to share with people. But it’s like, each guest is not going to be for everybody and the collective group of guests is definitely not going to be for everybody for various reasons.

One of them may be just somebody is just not in the right headspace to receive that message at that time, even if it may resonate with them eventually. Because I think we both, on our respective shows, talk about mindset a lot and that kind of genre of conversations. It’s a big passion of mine to work on what’s going on up here. But I know some people may just be like, I just want to work out. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to dig too hard into my brain. It’s like, well, maybe this show is not for you. And that’s okay.

SONYA: [00:32:02] Yeah, yeah. And you don’t have to do that. And it’s not easy. Like I’m saying all these things like, oh, don’t be focused on the outcome X, Y, Z. Everybody is in the back of their mind thinking about it. And it’s not just like this thing, you suddenly turn off. It’s something that you have to work at every single day for the rest of your life. Because in our society, we’re conditioned to be focused on outcome and have our self-worth tied to that outcome.

And it’s just a continuous work of reminding yourself like, this is what I’m here for. And when it’s hard, even like, another thing I love saying is, this is what you came for. If I’m doing a hard interval workout or work is crazy and I’m stressed out about all these different projects I have going on, it’s like, this is what I signed up for. So, I better appreciate that even if it’s hard. You don’t have to like it in the moment, but you just keep pushing just like in a race, you’re going to have peaks and valleys and moments you want to give up. What do you do in that moment when you want to give up? Do you give in or do you push through knowing that it’s going to get better and having that optimistic outlook on the bigger picture?

JESSE: [00:33:02] Thinking about all the things you do, I have kind of several questions, but I don’t know which tributary to go down here. First, I guess, I’ll have to ask, why did you start your show? You know, as you mentioned, it is a lot of work to put into it week after week, do the research, show up, have the conversation, get it, put it out, do the promotion, all that kind of stuff. I mean, you’re already racing professionally, you have your own company, you’re taking care of a young son, you’ve got enough on your plate, so why — I mean, obviously the podcast came before the son, I guess. But still, you’re continuing with it, you’ve committed to it, I mean, why start it in the first place?

SONYA: [00:33:51] Well, honestly, racing professionally isn’t enough for me. I’m deeply tied to why I get out of bed in the morning. And sure, initially, it was like I got to be the best racer that I can be. But it’s evolved so much more. It’s so much bigger than myself. It’s, I want to help people be better every day so that people can feel fulfilled and happy and empowered in their lives to go for the thing that they want to do. Because I feel, for whatever reason, I’ve been able to do that and I want other people to believe that they can do that too. And initially, that manifestation of that started in writing. I wrote for tons of magazines.

I still write quite a bit. I just wanted to share my story, initially, to help people see themselves in the story and go do rad things and they actually did that. So, I was like, oh wow, this is actually working. And then social media came about after that because I had like a blog and all those things and then social media came about and then that was the vehicle to help people make these personal changes and explore their potential.

And then podcasting came about and I started mine about four and a half years ago. And I just thought you know what, number one, I want to help people be better but I want to put other people out there, give a platform to other people so they can tell their story because, like we talked about earlier, maybe my story really resonates with somebody, but maybe it doesn’t resonate with somebody else. But if I can have a conversation with somebody different, that might get through to that person so that they can wake up the next morning and be like, I’m excited to get out of bed today. And I feel like I’m going to go after that thing that I want. Like, that is the most important thing to me. And that is the reason why I do everything that I do. And those are all just different ways that I do it.

JESSE: [00:35:28] Well, I don’t know what your experience is, but I know I find sometimes a guest and I can be saying the same things and we’ll say it differently. And then in a turn, some people may grab on to how I say it, and other people may grab on to how they say it. And generally, the message is still the same, but it’s like allowing somebody to — helping somebody give a voice to the people that you know, kind of nurture in your community.

Like, this podcast is associated with my company. And I send it to my email subscribers, and put it out on social media and all that kind of stuff. But it’s like, I’m not the ultimate authority on everything so it’s fun to be able to let people like you share your experience and thoughts and just the way you view the world. Because having those unique viewpoints can possibly help people in ways I simply don’t have the ability to or can’t, because I just don’t connect with them in a certain way.

SONYA: [00:36:41] And podcasts are a great crash course for learning something new. I’ve had my interest sparked by listening to other shows and getting just a taste of a different field of research or somebody else’s story. And then I’ve been able to open up that can and go straight down, I guess, a can of worms or down the rabbit hole and learn so much from that person just because I heard them on a one hour podcast.

JESSE: [00:37:04] The other thing I really wanted to ask you about was your brand, Moxy & Grit because I don’t think I have enough creative potential in that particular direction to make cool apparel like you do. But I’ve thought about it. I’m like, I wish I could have this cool apparel. So, whenever I see people doing it, I’m always like, that’s awesome, it’s just just not how my brain works. I can find artists but I can’t quite do it myself.

So, where did the brain come from? Obviously, it’s kind of tied into your lifestyle a little bit. But it’s another one of those things, like you’re already doing a lot of things. Why start like a brand that is one, something new but two, physical products, which if you aren’t aware, is a logistical nightmare if you’re not familiar with supply chains, and whatever particular product you’re trying to bring to market.

SONYA: [00:38:01] Especially in two countries, or we sell apparel internationally, but especially, I’m based in Canada and the business is based in the US. So, that’s been a learning curve. Honestly, I was already doing it. I just wasn’t doing it under my own brand. Like I just — I loved the idea of putting — So, Moxy & Grit, it’s mostly really high performance cycling and running socks. So, the quality of the sock is very, very high to withstand your feet sweating, so your feet don’t stink, and your socks don’t get all wet, like that type of performance. But I wanted to make people laugh. And I also wanted people to remind themselves not to take themselves too seriously. So, our socks have cuss words on them, they have funny mantras, they have just things to make you laugh.

And certainly, not everybody wants to work cuss words on their socks and we also have socks for people that don’t like cuss words. But that was the initial intent behind it is I just want to make people laugh and have fun more and that’s why I started wearing crazy socks. And I was designing socks for a sponsor of mine and it was cool that they gave me the opportunity to just play around with some ideas and then they would start selling them.

And then my first sock idea became the best selling sock in the world for their brand. So, I thought, wow, I just kind of gave them this idea. I didn’t really do any — I just kind of gave it to them. And then another brand wanted to work with me to collaborate and then I thought, well, maybe I should just make my own brand because then I have full freedom, I have full autonomy, again, this is a theme coming up.

And I had worked in marketing before and I just thought I’d just figure it out as I went. So, yeah, that’s what I’ve done. It’s been, gosh, I don’t know how long it’s been. Probably again, around that four-year mark since I started Moxy & Grit and we’ve expanded to some cycling apparel, arm warmers, jerseys, we have funny hats and T-shirts. And I just love seeing people rocking these things. And they pick it on their hard days.

They pick it on the day that they’re going to go do something crazy, and it makes them just feel even more excited and motivated about that. And it’s so cool to be able to be along for somebody’s journey in that way. And I chose the name Moxy & Grit very intentionally because I thought, what are the two most important things that you need to have an awesome adventure in your life, and you need to have moxe, force of character, pep, and you need to have grit, not giving up and just being able to get in there whenever things are hard, so that’s why I chose that

JESSE: [00:40:26] So, for those listening, if you want to check it out, I want to ask, is everything direct to consumer? Everything I do with Solpri at this time is direct to consumer at this point. I’m not in retail stores. But that’s not how everybody runs their brand. So, is it all direct to consumer, are you in stores? What’s the distribution? Like?

SONYA: [00:40:45] Currently, it’s direct — Well, it’s primarily direct to consumer. And that was the model that I wanted to do because it’s a lot easier. Well, I guess it depends on what your model is. But for me, that was a lot easier to do it that way. There are some stores that carry it. If a store comes to me, and they say, hey, we want to carry your product, then I’m not going to turn them away. But we don’t actively seek out, we don’t have a sales rep for us.

And from a forecasting perspective, if we want to go into that side of the business, that’s something that’s out of my league, to be able to say, okay, at the beginning of the year, like already having a guess how many of something to make, because a lot of the things I have to pay up front for. You have to guess what size and what colors and how many. And then if you start having stores ordering, and you don’t know exactly how much to make, that would require me to either increase my education level or hire somebody else to take care of that part. So, yeah, we’re not there with the B2B, but we do a little bit of B2B.

JESSE: [00:41:41] Yeah. I’m kind of the same way, the that you are, which is if somebody wants it, I’ll discuss it. But it’s just like, I think that the part that people have a hard time understanding, and I have Canadian customers that want to order and shipping is ridiculous for very small items from the US to Canada.

SONYA: [00:42:03] Yeah, we offer shipping to Canada and it’s nuts. And I used to keep a stock of socks and apparel in my house in Canada so that if Canadian customers wanted it, I could ship it, but it was just getting ridiculous, because then I’d run out of something in the US and then I have it in Canada, and it’s just this huge nightmare. So, I was like, sorry, Canadians, even though I’m one of you right now. I’m originally American, but I’m also now a Canadian dual citizen. So, yeah, it’s logistical. It’s just really tough, especially when you want an international market.

JESSE: [00:42:33] Yeah. It’s one of the things I always find it’s tough, because it’s like, I want to serve you, I want to help get this product to you, but I also can’t just take a loss on every order. So, it’s tough, because it’s like you want to and then you know, I have not infrequently Canadian customers go, oh, I thought maybe you’d be in some retail stores here or something. And it’s like, we’re not that big a brand yet. I mean, reasonably big for how long we’ve been around, but a similar time from you, like five years.

But there’s so many challenges. I was talking to my wife about this earlier, of just like when you’re not — so for you listening, I know I’m way off the charts now. But when you’re running a brand, there’s such a big journey from like, I’m going to start this, bootstrap it on my own, to from there all the way into national or international retail distribution, like there’s years or decades often of getting to that point. And I think with the shift to direct to consumer brands, that’s been something that’s hard for a lot of people to recognize that no, this is just something that you order online, it doesn’t exist in stores because the business model just doesn’t support that method of distribution at this time.

SONYA: [00:44:02] Yeah, for sure. It’s definitely complicated. And also, currency differences can be very complicated. People are like, oh, it’s too expensive. It’s in US dollars. Well, manufacturing costs are in US dollars.

JESSE: [00:44:16] Yeah. Yeah. That’s always a tough one because it’s a constant moving target, and you have to build it for that. Like, there’s nothing you can do about it. Both of us, our costs are in US dollars. It’s like well, then my costs are fixed. If the exchange rate is variable, then the price is unfortunately, variable with the other currencies. It can become a nightmare. I know we’ve gotten way too far down the rabbit hole, but I’ll bring us back here for the end of our chat today. So, I ask everybody a question for each season of the show, so I have a singular theme to ask every single person. This year, the question I’m asking which I’ll ask you is, how do you stay motivated after failing to reach a goal?

SONYA: [00:45:09] Actually, I let myself feel the failure and be mad about it or upset about it, or however I feel about it. I don’t ignore that feeling. And then I let it motivate me. I say I’m going to learn from this. And again, I don’t have to like this feeling, but I’m going to learn from this and I’m going to work harder or smarter, and I’m going to come back and I’m going to give it a go again. And then I also remind myself that failure is not proof that I’m not good enough at something. And a lot of times people think, oh, I failed, so I guess I’m just not cut out for this. But I think that the more you fail, the more you learn that this is part of the journey.

A failure is not a sidestep from the path, failure is the path, and you have to fail your way to the top. And that might sound really crazy for somebody, but anybody who’s at the top of anything or not even at the top of anything, those people failed their way there, and that’s the only way to learn. If it comes easy to you, it’s only a matter of time before the bottom is going to fall out. So, yeah, you have to think about how you want to view failure in your life, how you want to pick yourself back up again. And every time you pick yourself back up again and keep going it gets easier to do.

JESSE: [00:46:16] I like the fail your way to the top. I think it really kind of edifies the mentality, right, where it’s like you just accept I’m going to fail instead of being afraid of it, embracing it and just being like that’s the thing I’ve got to do. Not that you want to mess everything up just, but knowing things just aren’t going to go well sometimes, and that’s okay.

SONYA: [00:46:41] Something else that I’ve had to learn is that you don’t just stay at the top. You might be at the top for like a day or a year or however long, but that is fleeting because there’s a bunch of other people who are awesome out there, who are working really hard as well. So, it’s going to be like if you’re on a mountain range, sometimes you’re on the peak and sometimes you’re walking up the next hill wondering where the heck you are. So, yeah, you just have to stay the course, have moxie and grit.

JESSE: [00:47:07] Yeah. Sonya, where can people find you, get to the show, get the socks, all that kind of stuff?

SONYA: [00:47:15] My website is the best place to do that We’re about to launch a new website that we’ve been working on for quite some time, so I’m very excited about that. But yeah, you can find my podcast, you can find my brand, you can find my writing, you can sign up to be a client of mine for health coaching, which is all about behavior change. I’d love to hear from you guys. I love connecting with people. I read every single message that you send me. I answer all the comments and messages on Instagram, which is @SonyaLooney. And yeah, thanks so much for the opportunity to have me, Jesse.

JESSE: [00:47:43] Absolutely. Thanks for hanging out with me today.

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