By Amber Turnau (a.k.a. Slamber Gently)

I skate out onto the track in terror. My heart in my throat, my knees quivering and my mind racing. What the hell was I doing out here?  I could barely hear fans in the arena cheering as I gulped in breaths. The whistle blew. And the chaos begun. My first roller derby game.

The most growth I’ve ever experienced has been from moments of great discomfort – and this sport has given me plenty of those. I’ve learned that the human body is resilient – and so, too is the human spirit. And digging deep is the ultimate way to develop your grit.

I go to practice every week with a little bit of that fear from my first game. Fear that I won’t perform well. Fear that I’ll fall down and injure myself – yet again. But, I still go. I lace up my skates. I practice, I play. I fail, I learn, I fall down, I rise again.

This practice of resiliency, of digging deep through moments of discomfort, of developing grit. It’s a muscle. It’s not something that comes naturally to many of us. Not for me – know that. 

In my career of marketing – where I’ve spent the last decade – grit and resiliency are currency. It’s a highly competitive and volatile industry and we are all under great pressure to deliver; to be strategic, yet lean agile; to deliver creative excellence and solid business results. 

Throughout my career, I have had many challenges and ups and downs. However,  I always had an inner voice saying: “Get this project out the door. You can do this. It will happen. It’s worth the fight.”

I remember when I first started working in the industry. We had to introduce 3 character traits. Mine were something like Collaborative. Creative. Great Communicator. One my colleagues defined herself as “gritty”. At the time I was taken aback, thinking about how mean and scary she must be. For me, gritty has always been a negative term.

But flash forward and here I am now, describing myself as resilient and gritty. You don’t have to leave those other traits behind to be so.

As I look toward my future career path, I’ve realized that I can take this grit and determination to new heights and start my own consulting business with my partner. Thanks to my learnings on the derby track, I’ve let this inner voice begin to evaporate. Instead, my inner mantra saying:

“I can do this. I can do this. I can get on that track. And I can start my own business too.”

There’s a position in roller derby called  a Jammer – she’s the one with the star on her helmet. Her job is to pass the pack and score points for her team. The opposite team does everything they can to knock her off her feet, push her out of the game. But that jammer, she doesn’t give up. When she falls, she rises again. She pushes through exhaustion and when one strategy isn’t working, she tries a different way.

She’s a fighter. She is strong. She is resilient. And most importantly, she is me. And she’s you.

I believe that there is a jammer inside all of us. We can draw from her when we need to dig deep – to push through in our most challenging or uncomfortable moments. And whether on a track or in the boardroom, we are all resilient.