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Podcast Transcript

Episode 88, Season 1

GBA on tour at the FPA Congress 2019 with Jess Gallagher


Fraser Jack: 00:00 Welcome to the Goals Based Advice Podcast where I have conversations with incredible human beings, and I am here at the FPA Congress in Melbourne, on tour actually in a fantastic little Kombi Van, talking to some of the speakers who have been presenting. And one of those speakers who’s just off the stage is Paralympian Jessica Gallagher.

Jess Gallagher: 00:31 Hi.

Fraser Jack: 00:32 Welcome to the show.

Jess Gallagher: 00:32 Thank you for having me.

Fraser Jack: 00:33 Do you want to give us a quick overview of you and what you do and some of your achievements?

Jess Gallagher: 00:38 Sure, so I’m a Paralympic athlete, I’ve represented Australia in three different sports. Track cycling, Alpine skiing, and athletics, and I’m Australia’s first Summer and Winter Paralympic medalist. Outside of sport, I work as a motivational speaker, I’m an osteopath by trade, and also work as a non-executive director in the eye health space, as the reason I’m a Paralympian is because I’m actually vision impaired. So I lost over 90% of my eyesight as a 17 year old to a rare incurable and degenerative condition.

Fraser Jack: 01:14 Wow. And the sports you’ve chosen are not exactly Tiddlywinks, are they?

Jess Gallagher: 01:19 No, no. Especially not ski racing as a vision impaired athlete. Most people kind of give you a second glance when you mention those couple of words in succession.

Fraser Jack: 01:27 So vision impaired speed skier, downhill?

Jess Gallagher: 01:31 Downhill skier, yeah. Around the red and blue gates.

Fraser Jack: 01:35 How does this work?

Jess Gallagher: 01:35 Yeah, so I have the support of a ski guide, so my ski guide, Eric, he will ski 7-10 meters in front of me. He will wear a fluorescent vest so that I can use the vision I do have to pick up his outline, and then inside of our helmets we have Bluetooth ear pieces and a little microphone in front of our mouth, so that we can communicate to each other. So essentially Eric acts as my eyesight and provides me the audio communication, of the things that I’m not able to see as I’m skiing down a mountain.

Fraser Jack: 02:05 So you can see his outline, you can’t see the posts?

Jess Gallagher: 02:09 Not really, no.

Fraser Jack: 02:11 And what speeds are you doing?

Jess Gallagher: 02:13 And in the speed events we’ll hit over a 100 kilometers an hour.

Fraser Jack: 02:15 A 100 kilometers an hour down hill. Not really knowing where you’re going?

Jess Gallagher: 02:20 Yeah, pretty much.

Fraser Jack: 02:21 Wow. How’s the adrenaline on that?

Jess Gallagher: 02:23 It’s pretty fun. It’s a bit of that addictive fear, fun mentality where you’re quite scared of doing it, but then you get to the bottom and go, “Oh, I want to do that again.” So it’s definitely an adrenaline junkie kind of thing. And I never grew up thinking I was a bit of an adrenaline junkie. It just kind of, I mean or these sort of unique opportunities and pathways I’ve created for myself, for the use of showing me that there’s sort of far more out there than perhaps I initially thought.

Fraser Jack: 02:51 Fantastic. And also Track racing? Track cycling?

Jess Gallagher: 02:54 Yeah. Track cycling on a tandem bike, so bike for two people. I have a pilot that sits on the front as I don’t have enough vision to steer around a track by myself. And the partnership in that relationship is slightly different because we’re actually physically connected. Our chains are connected through the, we have a long chain that connects the two pedals and there’s a lot more sort of, I suppose intimacy in that dynamic because you can feel each other peddling. And so in that event it does need to be a female because they contribute to the power output. So the performance, and we’ll only hit speeds of 69 kilometers an hour in that one. So a 200 meter sprint, my best time with one of my pilots [meds 00:03:35] Is a 10.94 seconds for 200 meters.

Fraser Jack: 02:54 Wow.

Jess Gallagher: 03:39 So that’s just as fun but a bit more of a stable environment. So a seemingly familiar, slightly easier because I’ve come from such an extreme dynamic.

Fraser Jack: 03:50 And the athletics?

Jess Gallagher: 03:51 Track and field was long jump and javelin. The two events that I’ve done.

Fraser Jack: 03:55 So I didn’t even realize they had blind javelin, but that sounds-

Jess Gallagher: 03:55 That sounds, not a good idea.

Fraser Jack: 03:55 That sounds like it’s a bit of a worry.

Jess Gallagher: 04:01 I mean only if you’re standing in front of me right? So generally the out crowd is behind, into the sides so-

Fraser Jack: 04:07 Not a great spectator sport.

Jess Gallagher: 04:08 Clear of the field. Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 04:13 Fantastic. And these days you’re doing motivational speaking?

Jess Gallagher: 04:15 Yes. I’m still a full time athlete. I actually, because I haven’t competed in enough sports over the past few months, I’ve transitioned to a new sport because, unfortunately the cycling system was unable to find me a tandem pilot in the lead up to the Tokyo Paralympics, which is next year. And so I was left without the opportunity to compete in the sport, and I still had that desire and dream to be at Tokyo and win another Summer Paralympic medal. And I had full intentions of that, being in the sport of cycling, and that is a circumstance outside of my control. And so decided to create a new path for myself and I’m now rowing. But yes, so I train full time and also mix up because I don’t have enough going on with the motivational speaking work, and also part-time keeping my osteopathic hands in the game.

Fraser Jack: 05:14 Wow. You certainly managed to spend your time pretty well.

Jess Gallagher: 05:14 Oh yeah. It’s busy but it’s important for me as an athlete to sort of create a life outside of sport. I think having that balance is really important, and I’ve had stages of my career where I haven’t had that and I’ve really struggled mentally and physically with burnout. And so for me, yes, I’m quite time poor like most people, but I’m very happy and I’m creating a lot of different purpose in different areas, and I love all the different things I do. So it’s a moment in my life that I’m okay with being this busy.

Fraser Jack: 05:46 So tell me about the rowing. It’s going to be your singles? Singles scull?

Jess Gallagher: 05:49 It’s actually a four.

Fraser Jack: 05:49 Four?

Jess Gallagher: 05:50 It’s a mixed four, there’s some varying disabilities. So upper and lower limb impairment and vision impairment classes in the one boat. And so two men two women, cox coach, and yeah.

Fraser Jack: 06:02 Fantastic. And how do you rate your chances?

Jess Gallagher: 06:05 Well, I’m putting everything into it and I’m not someone that likes to lose. So I’m backing myself but also aware of what I’m trying to achieve in a very short period of time. So for me, it’s just a matter of controlling what I can control. And I know that if I follow that process then I’ll give myself every opportunity to be on that team. And that’s what I’m hoping to achieve.

Fraser Jack: 06:28 And maybe come up with another one of these medals.

Jess Gallagher: 06:30 That’d be pretty cool. Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 06:31 So you’ve got a couple of medals with you at the moment, tell us about those.

Jess Gallagher: 06:34 So I’ve got one of my winter Paralympic medals from Sochi 2014 in Russia, and my Rio 2016 Summer medal from track cycling, and I also have a medal from Vancouver in 2010. So they’re the three Paralympic medals I have, and they’re all unique. Each host country gets to design the medals so they have different elements to them and different stories behind their creation. But the one thing that most people comment on when I’m speaking at conferences, like the congress here, is just how heavy they are. So the metal from Russia in 2014 in particular is the heaviest. It’s just on the 700 grams, so pretty weighty and they’re really nice. I love being able to bring them to these geeks and to show people and see their happiness.

Fraser Jack: 07:19 Everyone just likes holding them don’t they?

Jess Gallagher: 07:21 Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 07:23 People just hold them, they have big grins on their face and they just love it.

Jess Gallagher: 07:25 Yeah, they try to steal them, which isn’t ideal for me but no, it’s great, people love being able to put it on their neck and just really feel the weight behind it. It really feels, the weight gives it significance, so it’s a little fun.

Fraser Jack: 07:40 It does. And tell us about your presentation today because you got off stage, everybody was very keen to get a chat to you afterwards. It was very popular. Tell us about what you spoke about today on stage.

Jess Gallagher: 07:49 Well today one of the big themes coming out of the FPA conference is trust. And for me that’s an incredibly important part of my day to day life, let alone sport. And so I was sharing in particular this evening my experiences as a vision impaired ski racer. So the relationship that I have with Eric, my ski guide, and an experience I had in Vancouver in 2010 when we had some technology fail and a pretty catastrophic situation, where I lost the ability to see and hear the communication he was giving me. And so for me the importance of being a speaker is really being able to connect my unique experiences to what an audience may be experiencing in their industry. And so sharing how I’m able to develop trust with the different ski guides and tandem pilots. And then also on the flip side to that is sharing my experiences in what breaks down trust, and for me that’s fear and risk and it doesn’t need to be anyone standing literally on a mountain like I do.

It could be fear of the unknown, fear of change in the industry, regulations, lots of those things we’re in the finance industry at the moment, off the back of the Australian economy with Royal Commissions and the global economy because of stuff that presidents are doing and all those sorts of things, which really test our ability to trust the world around us. And so for me it was really sharing that message of, if you can harness trust in others, others in you, and then trust in yourself, that it really changes the game in a positive way. Whereas if you lose that trust, it can have some really dramatic side effects.

Fraser Jack: 09:25 Yeah, this is really interesting, I’ve never really heard of it being distilled down to fear and risk before. So let’s talk about some practical tips or takeaways for the planners in the audience, around fear and risk. And I guess acknowledging the fear I think is probably the first, is that what you were saying?

Jess Gallagher: 09:41 Yeah, absolutely. So for me, this evening really drove back to some of my experiences and for me the understanding that being a vision impaired ski racer, it’s a pretty normal process to fear for you, it’d be kind of weird if I didn’t. And so the first part is really being able to acknowledge that fear is present, and understand the purpose of why fear is there. And so for me it is pretty clear, I’m vision impaired, I’m chucking myself down a mountain, it’s kind of a bit crazy and that’s okay. And so for me it’s that acknowledgement, understand why it’s there, and that allows it to become a process driven action.

So you feel the fear, you know it’s there, you get it, but you still want to go and do whatever your goal is anyway. And so that for me is getting to the finish line as fast as possible. And so the acceptance and understanding of the fear removes that emotional component of it. And so that then allows you to just let it sit there, but you’re okay with it being there and you don’t get caught up in feeling anxious or any of those emotions that you feel when fear and risk is prevalent. And it means you can then just focus on what it is you’re trying to achieve.

Fraser Jack: 10:53 Yeah. I was resonating when you were saying that, I was thinking that your fear is based in our primitive brain maybe-

Jess Gallagher: 11:00 Yeah it is.

Fraser Jack: 11:01 ... And that emotional, really emotional, so moving it to sort of our node brain and actually then analyzing it as a thing that, some separate from our emotion, it’s a really interesting process to go through.

Jess Gallagher: 11:12 Yeah. And it’s not even so much as a separation, it’s just almost a continuation where emotion is such a powerful beast in all forms, happiness, sad, whatever it might be. And so it’s about going, “Okay, well I know I’m going to feel this fear, but I still want to move forward and create opportunity, and so how do I embrace and sort of master my relationship with fear?” And so for me, on a mountain, I would experience this every day where I was a talent transfer athlete, I didn’t grow up skiing. And so I just kind of thought I was the guinea pig that had been thrown into this new world, and let’s see if we can get her to a Paralympics, let alone on a podium. And so each day, whilst I was being physically challenged, my mind was just so fatigued, fatiguing so dramatically because I was just, the only way for me to get better is to go faster.

And that means each and every run I need to push past that limit where you, as I mentioned in the keynote, you’re standing on that edge of a cliff and you’re looking at over those goals. And for me it was a literal cliff, but it is relevant in any part of our life whether it’s fear of the unknown, fear of how do I pay my mortgage at the end of the week? Whatever it might be, what’s that one moment that allows you to tip over that edge and not have that fear and risk really holding you back from taking that leap off? And so for me the ability to let that fear exist and move on with it anyway is, what is that real kicker? So trust really allows that kicker to happen when you take that leap off.

Fraser Jack: 11:12 Yeah. I resonate what you say, that the fact that it’s mentally draining as well to be in that state.

Jess Gallagher: 12:50 Yeah. Oh, it’s incredibly mentally draining because you’re just on alert the whole time, because all your body is perceiving is that something is going wrong and that brings up all that adrenaline system and it heightens everything, and so for me it was about trying to embrace that. And so when I felt that fear rather than it kicking in all the adrenaline resources and you start sweating, you get clammy hands, all those things that are associated with fear, I no longer feel. And so when I am in that moment of pressure or on the edge of that cliff, whatever it might be, and I feel that fear, now I’m good with it. I’m just like, “Oh cool, this is a normal part of the process I don’t need to worry about it, it can just be there and it’s fine on the side by itself.” And that allows me to just move forwards and so it’s this positive relationship that I have with fear now, rather than this emotional one where it takes over and controls what your mind is thinking when you’re trying to achieve something.

Fraser Jack: 13:45 Yeah. And a lot of people fear public speaking and that’s something that you do all the time as a keynote speaker. So is it worse standing on a mountain or on a stage in front of 1,400 people?

Jess Gallagher: 13:56 Well, the good thing being vision impaired is I can’t see anyone so.

Fraser Jack: 13:59 Good point.

Jess Gallagher: 14:01 I don’t really see the audience so it could be anyone out there, they could be asleep and I’m completely oblivious to what’s going on so.

Fraser Jack: 14:08 Yeah. There was only 12 people in your session today by the way, I have to tell you.

Jess Gallagher: 14:11 Not the 4,800 yeah. Oh no look, I love the speaking, I find so much purpose and drive from, and just think it’s incredible that I can share my stories and that it’s not even about me at all. Even though I’m talking about myself, it’s completely about the audience. And I love that each day that audience changes and you get to adapt to those, the new industries and talk to people like you, and talk to people after keynotes and hear their stories, and that helps create my mindset and the intelligence that I have in the messaging that I’m talking about. So yeah, I really love the speaking.

Fraser Jack: 14:50 Fantastic. Is there anything you’re working on, over the next 12 months, within your mindset that you want to try and improve on?

Jess Gallagher: 14:55 Well, I have recently transitioned to the sport of rowing and so it will be eight months since the day that I’ve started rowing to the day of the selections for the Australian team, which is an incredibly short period of time considering how long most athletes trying to make a Paralympic or Olympic team. So for me it’s becoming, I suppose over the career that I’ve had over the past 11 years with the varying sports, one of the things that I’m quite proud of is being able to be comfortable in an uncomfortable space.

And so I’ve gone back to being a beginner and being able to go through those processes, and understand that there are going to be steps forward but steps back, and days where the trajectory of my improvement is going to plateau. And so being able to each day, stay in the moment each day, and understand that those are normal parts of the process and they’re all part of the small picture. And then when you add them all up together, they get you that big picture. So for me, it’s about living in the moment and not being able to provide myself those opportunities.

Fraser Jack: 16:03 Yeah. Fantastic. That’s a good learning for everyone. I think we’ll live in the moment, expect good days and bad days, and understand and appreciate both when they turn up.

Jess Gallagher: 16:13 Yeah. That’s right. And I’ve had some pretty crazy good but also bad experiences over the years and those hard, tough experiences I’ve learned far more from than the ones where I’ve been standing on the podium. And so because of that experience, I’ve developed this inner confidence that allows me to understand that when I’m going through that moment in time, that it’s okay that the moment in time will pass and that the next day is a new opportunity. And so I think that’s a really powerful part of optimism, and being able to have a mindset of looking forwards towards the opportunities, because it means when you’re in those deep and dark places or you’re just struggling for whatever reason, that you can see the way out and see your path forward.

Fraser Jack: 16:56 Fantastic. Really appreciate it. What’s the one thing financial advisors here need to focus on or change in 2020?

Jess Gallagher: 17:04 I think the game changing is really in trust. The environment in Australia for the finance industry is tough at the moment with everything going on, and the advisors that are able to really harness trust within their teams and also with their clients, will be the ones that will bring in more customers because we know that referral and word of mouth is so important, and so if you can gain that trust of someone. You know money is so hard to be earned and so when they’re handing that over to you, in support of their financial wellbeing, when you can create that honest relationship and that trusting relationship, they will spread like wildfire. So really developing those trusting relationships is incredibly important.

Fraser Jack: 17:49 Yeah it’s amazing. I’ve put some great stories around planners that ask really great questions around, where did the money come from? What sacrifices were made to get this money? Or that sort of thing and that really built it up. Just want to thank you so much for coming and joining me in the back of a Kombi van, here on the Goals Based Advice Podcast, on tour at the FPA Congress. It’s been an absolute pleasure catching up with you, and I know that the listeners will get a lot out of this chat.

Jess Gallagher: 18:12 Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Fraser Jack: 18:12 Thank you.

Jess Gallagher: 18:14 Can you drive me home now?

Fraser Jack: 18:15 Yeah. Hang on a sec, where’s the keys? If you haven’t already, I’d love you to subscribe to the podcast, on your podcast platform of choice. And to continue the conversation head over to our social media channels, we’ll catch you next time.



Disclaimer: This document is a transcription obtained through a third party. There is no claim to accuracy on the content provided in this document, and divergence from the audio file are to be expected. As a transcription, this is not a legal document in itself, and should not be considered binding to advice intelligence, but merely a convenience for reference.