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My Untold Story Of Inventing the Sports Bra And How it Changed the World (And Me)

5min read
Business

Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl


There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.

So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.

I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.

For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.

Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.

Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.

"My Lifelong Partner"

Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."

While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.

This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.

In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.

Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.

The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.

Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.

So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.

Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.

Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.

Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.

Being powerful is a big responsibility.

To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.

While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.

© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019

Health

4 Steps To Build Resilience In Turbulent Times

Resilience, it's a word we are hearing a lot right now.


In light of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), the uncertainty we are facing, and the global impact of this pandemic, it is more important than ever to take time to proactively build our resilience muscles.

Resilience is not a fixed trait but rather a set of habits, skills, and behaviors that can be cultivated and practiced proactively. When faced with challenges, big or small, those who practice resilience refuse to let fear hold them back, and they break through the barriers keeping them stuck to not only survive difficult times but to get stronger.

While things may be uncertain, practicing resilience provides quietness in the storm, allowing you to think more clearly, make better decisions, and proactively navigate the stressors ahead.

Here are a few ways to grow resilience in turbulent times.

Step 1: Practice Mind Over Moment

Mind Over Moment is a science-based strategy I developed that allows you to step out of reactivity to live intentionally. We spend an inordinate amount of timing worrying about the past or making assumptions about the future. Mind Over Moment utilizes the idea of mindfulness to help you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, habits, and behaviors in the moment, in order to steer yourself toward better responses and outcomes.

Mind Over Moment means making deliberate choices about your mindset and belief system because your beliefs drive your behavior. It means being intentional about building skills and developing habits that support resilience and emotional wellbeing.

Practice Mind Over Moment by sitting with difficult emotions rather than judging them, taking time to be still, and finding the beauty in ordinary moments. Gratitude, self-care, and acts of kindness are also ways to practice, each building resilience and cultivating positive emotions that can buffer stress.

Step 2: Don't Mind Your Brain

Your brain is an amazing organ. It can also be your worst enemy. As a protection mechanism, your brain has adopted a negativity bias that causes you to overestimate the negative (threats) and underestimate the positive (opportunities). In times of stress and uncertainty, your brain magnifies negative news, information, and perceptions to protect you.

We can offset the negativity bias by proactively seeking the positive. Be intentional about finding the good in people and situations. Take notice of little moments, appreciate small gestures, and communicate your gratitude to others. The more specific, the better. Your brain becomes primed to start finding the good stuff out there, and there is plenty of it — even in difficult times

One method I have for cultivating positive emotions is something I call "delicious moments." You can increase the likelihood of positive emotions by taking time to savor them. Every time you sit in a positive moment, you embed it more deeply into the neural structure of your brain.

Whether it is savoring the first sip of coffee, snuggling with your pups, sending a text of gratitude to a friend, or binging a new Netflix series, delicious moments are all around us if we just take time to experience them.

Step 3: Transform The Way You Think About Stress

Stress can feel like an unseen force, always in the background, keeping you on edge and unable to fully relax. When stress is acute, as it is right now, your body responds by preparing you to run out and buy toilet paper or head for the hills. This stress response increases inflammation, interrupts sleep, interferes with decision making, and impacts mood. Feeling out of control adds another layer of disempowerment and frustration.

You can shift your body's response by reframing the way you view stressful situations. In fact, a growing body of research has shown that our beliefs about stress and the way we cope are often more important than the stress itself.

Think about it this way. When you view stress as bad, you are more likely to cope in unhealthy ways, trying desperately to numb discomfort. This only serves to exacerbate problems. Conversely, if you view stress as your body preparing itself, putting on armor, getting ready for action, you are more likely to eat foods that give you fuel, exercise, and get plenty of rest. You can go into problem-solving mode, taking time to think clearly and strategically.

Pay attention to physiological and psychological responses like increased heart rate, tightening shoulders, and feelings of anxiety. This is simply your body giving you information, helping to prepare you to take action.

Step 4: Turn Fear Into Fuel

We spend an inordinate amount of energy focusing on the "what ifs" and worst-case scenarios. What is the best-case scenario? What will it look like when things go right?

By rethinking stress, you can harness that fear and anxiety and turn it into the fuel. Use this time to invest in projects you haven't had time to complete, try a new hobby, or take an online class. Take time to help others and serve as a resource to those who need it most.

Rather than become paralyzed by fear and anxiety, use that energy to propel yourself forward.

There is no better time to build your resilience muscle than when you are in the midst of uncertainty. Be deliberate about the messages you send yourself, the habits that you cultivate, and the actions that you take during these challenging times. Practicing resilience helps you do more than survive; it allows you to thrive.