What does it take to complete the toughest race on earth? Sonja Wieck knows! Join Sonja (18 times Ironman triathlon finisher, and a member of Team Iron Cowboy on Netflix show ‘The World’s Toughest Race’) and Eric Partaker as they share insight into what it takes to be an ultra endurance athlete and how mental toughness can help you achieve your dreams!
Develop Your Mental Toughness – “You can’t dig your well deeper unless you’re standing on the bottom with a shovel.” Be willing to go your limit. Be willing to reach a very uncomfortable place and look around.
Grab Your Dreams With Both Hands – Put it on your heart and soul. Let it envelop you like a blanket and live, breathe, eat and sleep your dreams.
Follow Your Heart – Your purpose comes from within. Your heart dictates your direction and your brain is for problem solving. Don’t think too much about what direction to go in, feel your way.
Let Go Of The Reins – Your purpose in life is to filter all of the beautiful things that come your way, and use those as stepping stones to let your life unfold in front of you.
Conquer Your Fears – There is someone on this planet that is living the exact life that you desire for yourself right now, this moment they are living it because they were able to get over the fears that you’re not.
Sonja Wieck: When you’re in a state of high performance, right? That your body, your mind, your soul, they come together with this elaborate motivation. And suddenly you find these superhuman, super capable powers that you don’t even need to find on the daily.
Eric Partaker: Hi, everyone, welcome to another episode of The 2%, where as always we’re interviewing super cool people who have achieved amazing things to try to decode excellence and give you tools, tips, strategies, things that you can use to close that gap between your current and best self in all walks of life. And I’m super excited to welcome to the show today, Sonja Wieck. Welcome, Sonja.
Sonja Wieck: Hi, Eric. Thanks for having me on the show today. I love the premise. I’m really stoked to be here. I think it’s awesome, and yeah, thanks for having me on.
Eric Partaker: Yeah, I love that you’re here, and love the fact that I was just saying before we hit record you have six medals behind you. That’s probably a really good segue to talk about you because you’re an ultra-endurance athlete. You’ve done a lot of Ironman triathlons. We’re going to have to define what that is because I don’t think we should assume everyone knows. Everyone knows what an Ironman Triathlon is. You’re recently part of, was it Team Iron Cowboy. Is that right?
Sonja Wieck: That’s right.
Eric Partaker: In the World’s Toughest Race with Bear Grylls?
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, yeah. Eco-Challenge Fiji. Yeah.
Eric Partaker: That’s pretty cool. I’ve actually done some speaking together with Bear. So, he’s a great guy.
Sonja Wieck: Oh, he is.
Eric Partaker: Yeah. And you were, that race, I was reading about that particular race. And that’s why I’m sure I connect to the metals at some point as well. So, I read that it was nonstop for 11 days, 24 hours a day, across 417 miles. I mean, you do sleep, right? Or how does that work?
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, I mean, you have to sleep at some point. So, the faster teams sleep less, and the slower teams sleep more, but it’s all part of the race. Sleeping is part of the race and your strategy for how you do that, and how much you forego is also part of how you do the race. So, the top teams, they don’t sleep very much at all. It being our first big expedition style adventure race we slept I think more than we probably should have.
Eric Partaker: Wow, so this is like a big counterintuitive point, right? Because everyone, well, at least the rage right now is to relate high performance with optimizing your sleep, sleeping well.
Sonja Wieck: Totally. Yes.
Eric Partaker: You just said the best teams deprioritize sleep.
Sonja Wieck: They deprioritize sleep while they’re racing, but they definitely prioritize sleep in the rest of their lives. You can’t train for sleep deprivation. Getting maximum amounts of sleep is the best way to train for sleep deprivation, being well rested.
Eric Partaker: Right, right. Okay, what do you do sleep wise to prepare you for 11 days where you’re not going to be sleeping much at all? How do you prepare for that?
Sonja Wieck: I think we mostly just crossed our fingers and hoped we wouldn’t do anything too crazy while sleep deprived. And really, it wasn’t as bad as you would think. I did a race a little bit later in May, a five-day race where we slept three hours and 15 minutes over the entire five days. Not a night, but total.
Eric Partaker: Wow, that’s crazy.
Sonja Wieck: That was a whole different element than Eco-Challenge where I would say we slept on average, we probably got on average three hours of sleep per night over 10 days. But that was a 10-day race. and you can get away with something in a five-day race that you can’t get away with in a 10-day race. So, we had a couple sections that we got stuck. They would have these dark zones from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. And if you got stuck, we got stuck whitewater rafting in the middle of the river and you can’t be on the river between those hours. So then we’d have to pull over and stop for 12 hours and the good teams make sure that doesn’t happen to them. But our team is like we’re just trying to figure it out along the way. So a couple of those dark zones ended up being really helpful for us because we were able to power down for a longer period of time and then get back at it at 6:00 AM when we were allowed to resume.
Eric Partaker: So, your body must have an incredible amount of adrenaline being pumped through it, right?
Sonja Wieck: Yes. After World’s Toughest Race, I had nightmares for seven days straight, and they were all race nightmares. I still thought I was in the race. Because I think your sleep deprived brain and your sleeping brain are cross wires. And so, every time I would go to sleep my body would think I was back in the race. It was really weird. So then I had these just like massive, weird, crazy race dreams for seven days, and then they just went away as I got rested, re-rested.
Eric Partaker: That’s just… It’s so amazing to hear what the human body is capable of because if I think about a night of three hours of sleep, that next day is going to be crap, like really, really bad, I’m not going to be able to think I’m going to be irritable. I’m going to conk out after maybe five, six hours, that’s one day. Now, if you tell me that I have to do a second day like that, a third day, a fourth day, I’m just going to just rapidly decline, let alone get that same amount of sleep over five days. So, it’s just fascinating, what the body’s capable of, huh?
Sonja Wieck: It is and also the mind. And with that, as well, the soul. When those three are in connection, in conjunction, doing their beautiful thing together, and you’re so unbelievably motivated to find that finish line or to achieve the thing that you’re doing. When you’re in a state of high performance, right? That your body, your mind, your soul, they come together with this elaborate motivation. And suddenly you find these superhuman, super capable powers that you don’t even need to find on the daily but put in these extreme conditions. When you strip away everything we’re used to, and your brain can pop out of its normal pathways of responses, and you just have to cope and deal and process and get over. Then suddenly, you start to find out like, “Wow, I’m capable of so much more than I previously thought.”
Eric Partaker: And you must so often find yourself in that sporting zone where you’re in that land of no thought where just purely execute the next left foot, right foot, keep going.
Sonja Wieck: I mean, when it’s working well, it’s that way. But so many times it’s not, it’s your head is just running some crazy loop because you’re hot, tired, hungry, exhausted, angry, frustrated, confused, lost. So, there’s this mental monkey dialogue that sometimes is there with you the whole time, too, that you’re having to process and manage through this experience. And I think that’s what keeps a lot of us coming back for more is just the relationship we end up having with that side of our mind, and being able to get over some of those loops throughout the race, gracefully, ungracefully, with teammates around, teammates getting over their loops while you’re getting over yours. So, I think that’s what kind of keeps us all coming back for more of these crazy extreme events.
Eric Partaker: Well, let’s properly paint the picture so people understand how crazy and extreme these events are, first of all, can you just define an Ironman triathlon. What does that involve?
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, so an Ironman Triathlon is a swim, bike, run, all back to back to back, no stopping. The swim is 2.4 miles. It’s always in the open water with a ton of your best friends right there with you. The bike is 112 miles, and depending on the course very hilly, very windy, you name it and then the run is a marathon 26.2 miles off the bike and it takes athletes anywhere from eight to 17 hours. 17 hours is the cut off in an Ironman. And I was like a nine and a half to 10-hour athlete in my day. The medals you see behind me Those are my six Kona Ironman World Championship medals.
Eric Partaker: Congratulations.
Sonja Wieck: Thank you. Every year to get to Kona, you have to qualify. So, I pretty much have to win my age group at another Ironman, that qualifies me into Kona, and then I race Kona. And for five years, I was trying very hard to win my age category in Kona. And so, I went five years in a row and then I had a sixth swan song.
Eric Partaker: Wow, wow, that is absolutely incredible. I mean, I want people watching, listening to really just take in what you just said because a lot of people will think about fantasy, “Someday I’ll run a marathon.” So Sonja, participates in races where she swims 2.4 miles then bikes 112 miles and then runs a marathon. Like just fully take that in. That’s insane. And is it always in that order?
Sonja Wieck: It’s always in that order. Yep.
Eric Partaker: Right. Okay. That is incredible. So how many of these have you done?
Sonja Wieck: 18.
Eric Partaker: 18?
Sonja Wieck: I did 18 of those full Ironmans in my Ironman career.
Eric Partaker: What does Ironman mean to you? Obviously, it means deeply important to you. That’s the first question and my second question is, what does it mean to such that you can’t acquire whatever meaning you get from it once, and you have to do it 18 times?
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, it was interesting. The meaning for me, it morphed. It started out. I was just so excited that I was good at something, and was getting gaining traction. And it made me feel good and accomplished. And people gave me a lot of attention when I got good. It started out as just like, I just started rumbling with it. I mean, I got into it, I got into triathlons at all because I was a mom who just had a baby and I had a ton of baby weight. I was trying to just find my way to health and this sense of adventure that I saw inside myself, but wasn’t there. And so, in the beginning, it was adventure, and accomplishment, and health, and enjoyment, excitement. But then the first time I went to Kona, which I so badly wanted to qualify for, when I got done with that race, my coach at the time said, “I think you’re going to win your age category at this race.” And to me, that was like, “What? This overweight mom actually has a chance to be the best in the world? Someone sees that in me?” And so then really, things changed for me. I mean, I grabbed-
Eric Partaker: What did he see in you? What do you think it was?
Sonja Wieck: I think he saw that I was tough as nails. I performed really well. I was motivated to do anything, and everything I needed to do to get it done, highly motivated, highly coachable. And then I don’t think that you can discount, I think I had some talent. Not crazy amounts, but I definitely was in the realm of, I also had a bit of talent.
Eric Partaker: That’s interesting because it’s very easy for us to go from, okay, somebody spots a talent. And then let’s talk about the journey there. But you just listed out a bunch of very important things that you had that the coach saw.
Sonja Wieck: Yeah.
Eric Partaker: Where did those things come from? How did you become tough as nails? How did you have so much determination?
Sonja Wieck: How did I become tough as nails? I think there’s been something in me for a long, long time that always just wanted to keep up and always wanted to be seen as stronger and tougher than I was seen as. I grew up, I’m an only child daughter, probably preferred to be a boy, but was a girl. And I think the generation that I grew up with, there was always this I was this rough and tumble little girl that was trying to keep up. Keep up with cousins, keep up with my dad. I never was… I had that girly girl bit to myself, but I always just never wanted to be left behind. I always wanted to go on the adventures and to do that you somehow had to be tough. You had show you weren’t going to cry, and you were going to keep up, and you were going to do as you were told.
I think it just always came from this deep thing inside of me that wanted to experience adventure and nuance and new experiences and new places. And to do that I always had to show that I’d be good. I think that was how I developed as a little kid. But once I realized that having tenacity and toughness was going to be the difference between me being in the middle of the pack. And me being at the front of the pack. I was super motivated to continue to develop that inside of myself.
Eric Partaker: The toughness piece, because you talk about you talk about two words a lot tough and tender.
Sonja Wieck: Yes.
Eric Partaker: And you relate? How do you do it? You relate to tender, to spirituality? Is that right?
Sonja Wieck: Vulnerability.
Eric Partaker: Vulnerability, right. Okay. And then,
Sonja Wieck: Emotional sensitivity.
Eric Partaker: Right. So, how do you develop toughness?
Sonja Wieck: I think it’s through experience and grace. I would say you can’t dig your well deeper unless you’re standing on the bottom with a shovel. So, you have to be willing to go to your limit. And then be in that place for a little bit of time, and see if you can maybe get a few more inches in your well. And then come back out and rest, recover, go on with your life for a little while, then maybe put another thing on the schedule that you know it’s going to take you down to the bottom. I think it comes from just being willing to get in that very uncomfortable place and look around. Some people’s wells are super shallow, but the way you get them deeper is just by getting to the bottom of them for a little bit of time.
Eric Partaker: What do you think gets in the way of most people?
Sonja Wieck: Fear.
Eric Partaker: What are they afraid of?
Sonja Wieck: They’ll fail, they’ll quit, they’ll mess up. They’ll get to the bottom and see who they really are and they won’t like what they see, and that’s scary.
Eric Partaker: Did that happen to you? Did you fail, quit, give up at any point?
Sonja Wieck: I mean, I’ve done all. Yeah, I’ve failed. I didn’t quit for a long time, honestly. For a long time, I really kept trying to find the thing that would make me quit, and I realized after I did that the hardest single day Ironman in Norway called Norsemen, a very challenging race, a very hard race, and I had pneumonia. I ended up with pneumonia. And that really tanked me and I got a stern talking from my doctor about what a bad idea that was for my long term health. And so, now I have more quit in me. Again, from fear of compromising my long term health. And that’s something a lot of people go to, to when they get into really scary places is they think they’re going to injure themselves for a long time, or… We all have that. But I notice most of the time, our brain is not really true. It’s just trying to get us to back off because it’s afraid of its own safety. So you have to get comfortable with, I don’t know, your feelings around safety and what is safety to you. Because a lot of the times these places at the very end, they can be seen to many people as super unsafe or super unhealthy, but not all of us have the same relationship to safety.
Eric Partaker: Okay, so you’ve… It’s funny when you said, “Yeah, I had a baby, and I was looking… I wanted to get rid of…” Because I could think of a lot of easier ways to lose weight than swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, and then run a marathon.
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, I did not do that to lose the weight. Honestly, what happened, I had a moment in the mirror one day where I’d always consider myself outdoorsy, adventurous. And it was about a year after Annie was born, and I was looking in the mirror and I had gained quite a bit of weight. And I was looking at the girl in the mirror. And I remember thinking, who I think of myself as is not looking back at me. Where did she go? Where did that girl go? And I didn’t know what to do about it. And I went downstairs to my basement and I drag out my husband at the Diane’s mountain bike. He’s six foot four, I’m five foot six. And I put the seat down and I bought a trailer for my kid with our REI dividend, and I started riding my bike, his bike with the kid.
I didn’t even dream that I could do an Ironman, and I ran in high school. So I knew if I got some of the weight off, I could probably run again. So, I rode that bike around to the park, to the bank, you name it. I’d pop the little like trailer off and go do my grocery shopping in the store. It all came from just wanting to get back to what I did know about myself, which was that I was adventurous, and that I was outdoorsy. And so, it was really from there. Then I started running a little bit when some of the weight came off. And then I was like… Well, I didn’t know how to swim. I never learned. So, if I could learn to swim, then I could do a triathlon. And so, it didn’t come in that way. It’s just like I stepped my way there and kept looking at the next possibility for myself that was in alignment with adventure and outdoorsiness.
Eric Partaker: This is awesome because this makes you far more relatable to hear that you didn’t know how to swim. That initially there was a spark of just I just want to lose some weight.
Sonja Wieck: Yes. Yeah.
Eric Partaker: And then you had a childhood, which probably a lot of people can relate to where it’s like, “I want to be great at something, but I’m not really.”
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, I was so unbelievably average. I mean, I never really… I was a good student that ran in high school, but I was never… I was on the back of varsity. Yeah, I mean, I always had this sense of that there was I love the outdoors and I loved adventure.
Eric Partaker: So, your coach then, and I can relate even on what you said about the sports. I remember I tried so hard to get on the basketball team in high school. Practiced my ass off, every morning to go from not knowing how to play basketball to knowing how to play. I remember I made… The first time I ever tried out for the team was my junior year. I literally did not know how to play basketball. So, I’d try out junior year high school for the varsity team. And I made the team. But then all I did was sit on the bench and never played a single game for two years. I could relate to that. But okay, so the coach recognizes some talent in you.
Sonja Wieck: Yeah.
Eric Partaker: That’s a seed in your head. You could be a champion, maybe. You can enter this championship. You could win your age group. Take us away from that, what happens next?
Sonja Wieck: It was just that little bit of someone else seeing something in me I never dreamed for myself. I sponged it. I mean, just grabbed it. Basically put it like on my heart and soul. Let it just envelop it like a blanket and I lived, breathed, ate, slept Ironman for the better part of five years trying to win my age group at that stupid race.
Eric Partaker: Wow. But then you eventually did win, right?
Sonja Wieck: I got second in 2014.
Eric Partaker: Wow.
Sonja Wieck: I learned… Really, looking back, what I learned along the way, I had no idea how hard of a goal I was setting when I said it. I just really wanted it because I thought it would make me feel really accomplished. I thought a lot of people would be proud of me and think I was great. And I thought maybe I would think I was great. So, I had a lot of like emotional investment when I initially set that goal. And then as I went through the process in the journey, I really had to go through so much personal development and growth every single year as I dealt with thinking I was good enough to get on the podium, not being the crazy things that happened during those years. So yeah, it ended up becoming this emotional, spiritual, physical journey that culminated in second place. But the journey was really the biggest gift of it.
Eric Partaker: And the journey, the journey, you said it was 2014 that you won second place-
Sonja Wieck: I got second. Yeah.
Eric Partaker: Yeah. So, amazing, and then-
Sonja Wieck: Which felt like winning by the way. By the time I got second I was like, “I basically won.” I mean, I was three inches lower on the podium than the girl that got first. [crosstalk 00:21:48]. My Umeke bowl, they give you this big wooden bowl. My Umeke bowl was one inch in diameter smaller than hers that you just felt so unbelievably close to a win.
Eric Partaker: That’s awesome. So, you looked out only three inches up, and you said, you realize your balls only like an inch. So, the following year 2015. So then you start a coaching company.
Sonja Wieck: Yeah.
Eric Partaker: But the company closes in 2017.
Sonja Wieck: Yeah.
Eric Partaker: What happened?
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, so the interesting thing about getting everything you ever wanted, right? For five years, all I wanted was to win Kona. And really it morphed into all I wanted was to get on the stinking podium. I get this Umeke Bowl. I wake up the next morning, I’m in my Airbnb. It’s in a treehouse in Kona, oddly, great little space, I look over at my nightstand, my bowl is sitting there. And I remember looking at that bowl and going, “Oh my gosh, I literally feel just like that stupid bowl.” I am empty, I feel empty. I can’t believe I spent five years chasing this empty wooden bowl.
I remember thinking that my life would change, that I would change the way I felt about myself, who’s like the same girl the day after that I was the day before when I hadn’t achieved that result. And it was such a big eye opener for me that, I could keep going to Kona. I could keep trying to get that win, but I was just going to get a bigger, empty bowl. If I didn’t learn how to fill my bowl, the bowl I already had, then I wasn’t… I was just going to chase bigger and bigger bowls, and I was always going to feel like there was something empty inside of me. So that sent me off on like, “Well, crap, for five years I’ve been focusing on the vessel, and I haven’t really been focusing on how you fill the vessel. I’ve just been focusing on the vessel.”
So, what do you do? And my first thought was like, “I think that when people feel really empty they serve.” They go help other people. And so, that was why I thought, “Okay, this is the time to go serve. Let’s go teach a whole bunch of other people to go on this journey that I just went on.” And so, of course, I get into entrepreneur land. I build a company as Devon Assistant Coaches, 150 athletes.
I literally started, A, a new bowl. I’m not filling my bowl. I’m just starting a business with revenue and results and accomplishment. So, that was weird when I look back on it. The other thing I was doing was I was just teaching a whole bunch more people to go find empty bowls. And really what happened was I didn’t have the level of personal leadership capabilities to withstand the demands of entrepreneurship when it comes to assistant coaches, clients, feedback, having to find my way through entrepreneurship while also dealing with the feedback from so many other people. Because I hadn’t done the work and I hadn’t figured out that the reason I keep chasing bowls is because I’m trying to please people.
And so then I get into this other situation where I have now all these people that can get angry at me, angry with each other. And in 2017, I had a super bad day in my business. I wasn’t even training anymore because I was just working 80-hour weeks building, growing, we were super successful, but I was just sacrificing myself to do it, and I started having panic attacks. And I just had this bad day and I kept having to do all this triage in my business and I was having all these panic attacks. And I ended up having one in an auto body parking lot when I was picking up my car from the shop that I couldn’t get control of. I passed out. They called 911 and took me straight to the ER only to… I thought I was dying. I thought I was having a heart attack. Like healthy 37-year-old endurance athlete having a heart attack in an auto body parking lot.
I was just having a really bad panic attack. And when I came out of that and got a little bit sedation through the weekend, came out of that I just felt like, essentially, I was a teapot that had just shattered. When I came out of that I just remember thinking I’m looking at the ground and all I see is a whole bunch of broken pieces. And I have no idea how to make them back into a teapot. And I don’t think they’re ever going to be a teapot again. And that was really my bottom. That was when I realized all of this is connected. The emptiness, the vessel, the lack of… Where am I headed? What is my direction? Where do things really need to come from inside of me to feel fulfilled so that my accomplishments don’t feel empty? What do I have to unpack to figure all this out?
So that became I was in therapy three times a week trying to get from crisis mode because I was having… Things got worse after that as I just was shattered. I was having a fair amount of suicidal ideation, which was really scary. So, I was in extreme mental health crisis mode. And we had to really walk me back to stability before we could look back at the past, we had to get me stable. And once we got me stable I did… A lot of people stopped there, but I didn’t want to stop there. So then we really worked our way for a couple of four months back through how I had arrived at that place in my life in the first place, and what did I need to do to not ever get there again? What are the foundations of mental health for me? Where does my direction and purpose need to come from? What is my relationship with internal and external motivation and pressure? So that’s what led me into the world’s toughest race and where I am today. So that a breakdown ended up being a massive gift for me.
Eric Partaker: Yeah, you talked about how important it is to be at the bottom so that you can understand what that feels like and give yourself the chance to even dig a little bit deeper to be able to stand more. So, it certainly sounds like you did that
Sonja Wieck: There were lots of shovel months in there for sure. I was shoveling all day.
Eric Partaker: Yeah. If somebody stopped you at one point like, hey, Sonja, you’re about to come out the other side of the [crosstalk 00:28:19]. But I know there’s a couple of you talk about a couple of questions that you’re seeking to answer. And one is why the heck was I put here and what am I meant to learn? And it sounds like based on what you just said that you’re essentially pursuing the answer to that question, as part of your therapy. So, where did you arrive? Why the heck are you put here, and what are you meant to learn?
Sonja Wieck: It’s super fun. It just goes back to that little girl that just loved adventure. She just loved being outdoors. And when I’m back in that play, and there was a light that happens when I’m motivated from that place. Just this almost like outdoor curiosity, a desire to see new things, new places, and discover nuance, and to follow my own inter compass and inter direction. That’s what I landed back on. And so, how did I put that into practice on the daily is something that… It’s in development, it’s always in development. It’s always morphing as new experiences come into my life. But yeah, it’s coming back to that central core heart of who I am as a human being, which is just a fun, outdoorsy, adventurous girl who wants to go do all the things.
Eric Partaker: So, I like that. And so, how does that version of you differ? And so, how does the previous version of you and that version of you treat achievement differently?
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, ah, it’s lovely. So, before I was super externally motivated, like what other people thought or wanted for me outside of myself was really important to me. And so, achievement was really about what I was going to get as a relationship exchange from them when I performed. And so, there was a hustle there. There was a hustle to really want that acceptance, that attention. That was my relationship to achievement then. Now, it’s more of this inner light that when something lights up, then I go do it. And sometimes I achieved some pretty awesome things. But then it’s really between me and myself, those achievements. So, those achievements tend to land back more on my heart. And I will say, I don’t give myself tons of positive kudos for those achievements. I might be like, “Oh, yeah, we finished Great. Awesome. Oh, we did so well. Oh, this feels really good.” I’m hungry. I’m ready for a nap.
So, achievement lays a lot softer on me now. Achievement and not achieving things, either way. Once I done another, it just plays a lot softer, and I find myself just being so much more tickled by the journey and the experiences and what happened throughout whatever event I’m doing than how it all ended up. But before it was like, “I’ve got to perform because it’s got to go this way. I got to be able to look and get that validation externally.” And I just find the internal validation is much more happy with how much fun I had or how strong I felt or how relentless I was, things that matter to me.
Eric Partaker: Awesome, awesome. I’m curious, what’s the most adventurous way you’ve tested… You talk about adventure a lot. So what’s the most adventurous way that you’ve tested yourself today?
Sonja Wieck: Oh, definitely, World’s Toughest Race. I mean-
Eric Partaker: What were the… Can you take us through some of the highs and lows of that race?
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, yeah. So, World’s Toughest Race as you said was a 417 mile 10-day race teams of four across Fiji from one side to the other of Fiji 10 different sports. So, we whitewater rafted, we mountain biked, we climbed, we trekked, we sailed, we built a bilibili raft and rafted it down a river, a very slow moving river for 13 hours. I mean, any sort of crazy way they could get us across the land. And we had to know all these different sports. But the kicker about that race is that the whole race is navigated by map and compass. And my team was I put together a team of Ironman athletes and I was the only one who even owned a compass.
So, I was team captain. I was doing all these sports I hadn’t done before. And then I was our navigator. I was responsible for getting us from checkpoint to checkpoint using my compass and the maps that they provided us in the course. And that for me was like, if you want to talk about adventure and outdoorsiness, that was the biggest test for me, that navigation piece and having three teammates in tow, and being… So, very few teams had just one navigator because it’s such an emotionally taxing task. Most teams trade off. They have two and they trade off because one person needs to rest their navigation mind. But it was like I was on the maps 24 hours a day for 10 days straight.
So, I was really testing and how it tested me was the emotional, I got lost. I got us lost once pretty bad on a lake in the middle of the night. I fell in. I got all my clothes wet. I couldn’t find where we were. The lake was a lot lower than the map showed. So, there are all these islands that have poked out of the bottom. And it’s pitch dark, and so when the terrain doesn’t match your map, how are you supposed to know where you are, and where you’re going when you’re looking around and what you’re seeing doesn’t match what you see on your map at all. And processing that fear and anxiety and everything that came up around that was so testing for me, so testing.
But then on the flip, at the very last leg of the race was a 26-mile outrigger canoe paddle across the open ocean. I mean, Fijian outrigger athletes are like, “You did what?” And this was the last six hours of the 10-day race. And I navigated that with wind and swell and you name it to islands that you couldn’t even see on the horizon. I navigated that absolutely perfectly. So, it was just a straight test of all of the spectrums of success and failure, and how do you process all of that and keep going and hold so lightly on to both of those.
Eric Partaker: Wow, that’s amazing. Love it. So, based on all these rich experiences that you’ve had what would you say is one thing most people should be doing but aren’t?
Sonja Wieck: Yeah, I think one thing based on these experiences, and so this sounds very spiritual versus some very tactile experiences, but I think one thing most people are doing is they’re really leaving their direction, because I can’t say like, “Go be athletic, or go be an artist, or go get into music.” But I can say that there’s something in your life that wants to be done that’s coming from your heart and from your soul that you’re using your brain to decide whether you should or shouldn’t do it.
I think what I have learned through this process is that your heart is for your direction, and your brain is for your problem solving. And that the two can’t be flipped. That purpose has to come from inside, and that you can’t really think much about it, you just have to feel your way to it. But then once you’ve felt your way, and you know the path you’re headed on, whether it’s music, whether it’s entrepreneurship, whether it’s having 17 kids, I don’t what’s in your heart, I can’t tell you. But I can tell you listen to that. And once you’ve made that decision, then your brain will be fantastic in alignment with it to help you solve the problems you need to solve along the way. I think that’s where I see a lot of people getting confused.
Eric Partaker: So, what would you say is your purpose now?
Sonja Wieck: My purpose is to use all the experiences and opportunities that come at me, I get them every day. I’m on with you, lucky me. And to bring them in, and then pause for a second, feel, does that light me up? Oh, yeah, no, it does. Say yes. And then move in that direction. My only purpose in life is to filter all of the beautiful things that come my way, and use those as stepping stones to let my life unfold in front of me, and to let go of the reins.
Eric Partaker: Awesome. Love it, beautiful. Do you feel like you’ve reached your full potential?
Sonja Wieck: No.
Eric Partaker: What’s left?
Sonja Wieck: No, definitely not. I think the… I don’t know what’s left. I don’t really know. I just know that I’m so infinitely capable, and I know there are things headed to me, I feel them coming, that are going to continue to push and refine me in new ways that I can’t even predict right now. So, I know there are areas of myself that still have plenty to develop. I’m totally okay just as I am right now, by the way, I’m totally okay. But there’s more coming for me as an opportunity to continue to develop. I know there is though, no, I don’t think I will ever reach my full potential. But I’m going to keep exploring all the little caverns and recesses where I can continue to grow and learn.
Eric Partaker: I think it’s really interesting what you said about I’m totally fine how I am right now, but there’s still things that you want to experience and achieve and do, and I think that’s a struggle. It’s certainly been a struggle for me in the past. I think it’s a struggle for a lot of people to hold those two thoughts together that I am completely fine as I am. But I could be a little bit better. Because they go against each other, seemingly, but the way I think about it is, and it probably relates here. External motivation versus internal is that to not be completely fine with who you are and need to achieve is pursuing achievement from a sense of lack, right? Like you need that to be complete. Versus where it sounds like you’re saying you are right now, I’m fine where I am, meaning that if I achieve it adds to me, it doesn’t complete me. That’s right. And that’s a nice way to think about. I picture little Lego bricks being added.
Sonja Wieck: Yes, that’s right. I think that that is the human experience. Like that is the universal experience that we’re all under here. You don’t think anybody escapes. Nobody finishes, nobody completes. We’re constantly evolving. But we’re also totally awesome if this is the last day. We’ve all lived greatness if this is our last day, and I think just being comfortable with that. Even though we want to experience more, and we’re striving for more, I think that has to come from, you can’t hold so tightly onto those things that you will become XYZ when you achieve those. We are all okay just as we are right today. Even if we’re in a really sticky place, it’s okay. We’re in development, it’s alright. That is the human experience to continue to look in those caverns for the next illuminating side of ourselves.
Eric Partaker: Wonderful, awesome. So, if you could share only one success secret with the world, something that would help a listener unlock their potential and become part of the 2%. The show is called The 2%. So, something that can help people break free from the 98% and join the estimated 2% of people who are operating to their fullest capabilities. What’s the highest leverage or most powerful success secret you would share?
Sonja Wieck: I’ll tell you the first thing that popped in my head. I feel like what I would share with someone is there’s a life you dream of inside of yourself. That you right now, if you’re not in the 2% club are not living. There is someone on this planet that is living the exact life that you desire for yourself right now, this moment, and they’re living it because they were able to get over the fears that you’re not able to move past. And I think that’s always hit me. Someone’s got the life I already want. So if I want it, it’s already out there. It’s already a possibility. Someone’s already doing it. Why not you?
Eric Partaker: Love it. Love it. And when you talk about fear, it reminds me of a lot of times I think about flipping the script on things. So, for example, people that I’ve worked with, sometimes they say, “Well, I haven’t done X, Y, Z yet.” “Why not?” “Well, because I’m not confident yet.” And then I say, “Well, no. What if you had to start doing the thing that you’re afraid of in order to develop the confidence to do more of it?” So, it’s like stepping into the fear itself becomes the path to becoming unafraid.
Sonja Wieck: Yep, that’s right. And confidence is so overrated.
Eric Partaker: Yeah, it is. It’s not something you’re-
Sonja Wieck: [crosstalk 00:42:38] seeking this thing. This confident thing, I don’t know, is kind of a made up word.
Eric Partaker: Yeah, you don’t acquire it. You create it, at least. [crosstalk 00:42:52].
Sonja Wieck: Yeah. And when you create it, it’s not really relevant anymore, honestly. Once you’re confident in something, it’s like all the energy and steam just… out of it. You don’t really want to even do it anymore.
Eric Partaker: Yeah, which is why I don’t even bother doing Ironman triathlons anymore. [crosstalk 00:43:13]. I’ve never done one in my life. That’s amazing. Sonja, it’s such a pleasure to speak to you. You’re a real inspiration.
Sonja Wieck: Thank you, Eric. That’s very kind.
Eric Partaker: Yeah. Thanks for taking the time today. If somebody wanted to learn more about you and your story and get inspired a bit further, where do they go to?
Sonja Wieck: They just go to gosonja.com or they find me on Instagram at @gosonja. If they hear this and they’ve got something to share or something they think might light me up, I really urge you to shoot me a message on Instagram. I am totally a human being who loves to have great dynamic conversations or point people in directions that they need. So, I’m kind of available.
Eric Partaker: Awesome. So, Go Sonja, and Sonja is spelled S-O-N-J-A, right?
Sonja Wieck: J-A, yep, that’s right.
Eric Partaker: Gosonja.com or @gosonja on Instagram. Definitely help people reach out and connect to you. I’ve learned a lot from you. You’re very inspiring. And yeah, thanks again for spending some time with us.
Sonja Wieck: Well, thanks for having me on and providing a platform for me to be vulnerable, and talk about some of my experiences and share my stories. That makes me feel good. It lights me up.
Eric Partaker: Awesome. All right, thanks lots, Sonja. See you.