They said it: Siri Lindley's journey to championship racing and coaching

Triathlonworld.com has a frank conversation with one of the world's premier coaches, Siri Lindley, whose inspirational book, "Surfacing," is filled with many surprises that describe her incredible journey to success as an athlete and coach.

| January 23, 2017 | PERSONALITY

One of the world’s premier coaches, Siri Lindley’s book Surfacing: From the Depths of Self-Doubt to Winning Big and Living Fearlessly offers an incredibly honest and frank look at her life and how she managed to become a world champion and coach many to the same level of success. The book reads very much like the woman is in person – incredibly frank and honest, all while exuding a relentlessly positive attitude and philosophy. I caught up with Lindley in a phone interview last week for a chat about the book.

TriathlonWorld.com: There were a lot of revelations in this book that surprised many of us, even those who have known you for a long time. Why did you want to write this book and why was it so important for you to be so honest in it?

Siri Lindley: It’s been a motivation for a long time. But, most importantly I feel so grateful for the life I’ve led up to this point and I feel that a lot of the great challenges that I went through, as we all do, really led me to my greatest strength and discovering who I am as a person. It helped me discover who I want to be and, most importantly, the whole part about living authentically. When you truly accept who you are and everything about yourself it increases your chances of achieving what you hope to achieve in your life. I felt like that message could transcend all different people and types of people in life. Not just triathletes, but all types of people. If you think that there’s no way you can achieve something special – whether it’s that you don’t have the confidence, or you feel insecure, or you haven’t had the opportunity, or people don’t believe in you – I’m living proof that the impossible dream can come true and that if you believe that enough anything can happen in life.

I really wanted to share my story because I think that it’s a powerful one. I started writing it about 10 years ago and I got to a point that I wasn’t ready to talk about a lot of the stuff that I talk about in the book. At that point I said “This book is going to suck because if I’m not being completely honest and 100 percent authentic in telling the whole story, its not going to have the same effect.” Then 10 years passed and Velopress approached me about writing book. I think they had something like a training book in mind, but I told them that I really wasn’t interested in writing a book on training, but I did have this book in mind. I let it all out and they took a chance on me and I’m really glad they did. It’s been an incredible experience to put everything out there. I left nothing out and it feels really good. At the same time it’s a bit scary, but when you have a message that you really want to share, it’s really important that people realize its coming from a very honest space. I’m willing to be laughed at, I’m willing to be potentially judged, but it doesn’t matter because I’m hoping that the right people will get the message out of it and I’m hoping that can make a positive change in their lives or influence them in a positive way.

How has the response been, especially from those who are really close to you? Were you worried how people would react to the book?

It’s been amazing. My biggest concern was about my mother reading it … but her response was amazing. She said: “You have to tell this story. I’m not proud of the mom I was (earlier on when she was married to my former step father).” But she’s so incredibly grateful for where we’re at now … we would never be there now had all this not happened. One of my biggest beliefs is that life happens for you, not to you, and when we look at life as victims and say “I can’t believe this is happening to me,” later on we look back and say that we came out so well and learned from those situations.

Thankfully I’ve had some incredible reviews from the book and people have said that its helped them, or inspired them, and that’s exactly what I hoped for. I wanted to help people by telling my story. One of my driving forces in my life is that I want to help people and bring something positive into their lives.

It’s not a stretch to say that you’ve become one of the top triathlon coaches in the world. Would you have got to where you are as a coach had you not gone through the experiences you describe in the book?

Thank you – it’s nice of you to say that. If I hadn’t had the ups and downs as an athlete and everything had worked out perfectly and I was amazing from right when I started, that wouldn’t make me a very good coach. Because I wouldn’t know how to be successful without having to struggle. My path to being a triathlete was a long one. I made a lot of mistakes. There’s a quote out there – “you either win or you learn.” I failed a lot, I made a fool out of myself a lot, but I learned all the lessons that have helped me handle any situation with my athletes. With any athlete I coach I can minimize the time that it takes to get from A to B because I’ve made all the mistakes.

My guess is that this book wouldn’t have been written without Rebekah Keat (Lindley’s wife) being in your life.

You’re absolutely right. Finding that love … that was something that was a really painful part of my life until meeting Bek. I so desperately wanted to find a love like that. All I’d had was horrible relationship after horrible relationship. When I reconnected with Bek in a different way … it gives you a confidence that no medal or championship ring can give you because it reflects who you are. It gives you confidence and validation that you’re OK … All of that gave me confidence that my story would be helpful and make a difference. One of the things that I struggled with was why anyone would care about a book about me. As you know, I’m not someone who thinks I am amazing. But with Bek’s help, she kept saying, “Yeah, this is important.”

One of the things that is very clear from your book is that you have a different mindset than many have about being a champion. That you don’t necessarily have to believe that you can be the best in the world to win those big titles. How much did Brett Sutton help you to become a champion?

A lot of people say you can’t win a world championship unless you believe you can, and I proved that wrong. I did believe that I’d done everything in my power to put myself in a position to win a world championship, but I don’t believe that in my heart I thought I could. I did know that I was going to leave everything out there trying. So, I think that’s a big lesson, too. You have to believe that you’re doing everything in your power to be the best that you can be, but from there you have to give it your heart and soul.

It’s about us being the best that we can be and that’s a very powerful way to go about it.  When we’re focussed internally and on ourselves and ourselves alone is where we’re our most powerful. So, when we’re in that space, that’s what is going to lead to those big wins and those great moments.

Brett Sutton was the one who told me to stop worrying about everyone else and just focus on myself. When I started to think that way … and it wasn’t only that, it was the training, too … but that’s when I started winning races. To me that’s the only way to get the best out of yourself.

It’s hard to think that way and to not worry about your competitors. But I always say to my athletes “Leave that to me. I’m going to be studying what everyone is doing and what we need to do to beat them. I’m not going to talk about that with you …” The pressure’s on me – that’s my job, to think about everyone else. Not the athlete’s.

Is that approach what allows you to work with so many top athletes, who might end up having to compete with each other, say in Kona?

That’s exactly right. And explaining to them all that, at the deepest level, they’re all bringing out the best in each other. So they’re all getting stronger and they’re all getting better. When we have our training camps I know that they’re not learning just from me, they’re learning from each other. They all know what my philosophy is – I’m not about racing people against each other every day … it’s all so different. They all train so differently. That’s what keeps me so passionate about coaching, because its constantly changing. It’s always a challenge – no one is training the same. I want to see all of them get to Kona and be the best they can be. If I have done my job well, I am sending them all to the start line in Kona in the form of their lives and in a position where they can have an amazing day. After 14 years I’ve finally come to the realization that, after that, I have to let go because I can’t do anything at that point.