It was a Monday in early December 2020. I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram when I came across a video. A woman was running down a country road, methodically. You could tell she was a runner, she’d done this before. She then turned her head to the camera and, mid-stride, said matter-of-factly, “I’ve always been a motivated person.”
That statement alone wasn’t revolutionary. Lots of people would consider themselves a motivated person, myself included. If you’re reading this, probably you. But it wasn’t just the words she shared; there was something about the way she said them. Like there was something more to it. Something… ominous?
What started as a mindless scroll became five minutes that changed how I viewed achievement perhaps forever. And for the better.
Who was this woman running down a country road, changing lives as she went? Her name is Alexi Pappas.
Alexi Pappas is an olympian, a filmmaker, an actor and most recently, an author of the book Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas. When she was 4 years old, Alexi lost her mother to suicide. Alexi went on to set and achieve some incredible feats. However, as the video that initially drew me to her revealed, Alexi’s own world began to crumble until she realized that perhaps we need to treat our mental health with as much attention and detail as we do our physical health.
By the end of that five-minute video, I knew I had to hear and share her story. You can hear our full conversation on the SUCCESS Stories podcast. In the meantime, here are just two of the many big lessons I learned from Alexi Pappas.
The Dark Side of a Non-Stop Achievement Mindset
To lose anyone to suicide is a tragedy beyond compare. As a 4-year-old, it’s nearly impossible to process, understand and untangle it all. In the end, Alexi deduced that she simply didn’t matter enough for her mother to stay. Nevermind her mother’s illness, if Alexi had mattered more, maybe her mother would have stuck around. And so began a life-long determination to matter. Alexi pushed herself harder, went farther, achieved more, set goals, broke records… all in an effort to matter. Alexi admits that attitude served her for a long time. She did some incredible things. Many of her dreams came true. However, the non-stop achievement mindset eventually caught up with Alexi. Shortly after the pinnacle of her athletic career, competing at the Olympics, things began to come apart. Sleeplessness, physical pain and eventually thoughts of suicide. What once had been the antidote became the poison.
Achievement is a beautiful thing. Setting big goals and working to reach them is one of life’s great joys. However, Alexi’s experience offers an important lesson for all success-minded people. Achievement at the expense of your physical and mental well-being isn’t success. Take care of your mind and body on your path to making your mark.
I am often asked questions about mentors. How do you get a mentor? What’s the best to ask someone if they want to be your mentor? Certainly, mentors are an extremely important part of success and finding one can have a huge impact on your future successes; however, the process for finding a mentor is a lot less awkward than any of those questions would make it seem. Mentors have been an important part of Alexi’s success. And I think her approach to finding mentors is perhaps even more important.
Having lost her mother at such a young age, Alexi adopted the perspective that the universe kind of owed her a mentor and anyone was fair game. Women she knew personally—nannies, other girls’ mothers—she considered them mentors. Women she never met, but whom she admired, she let their stories and examples serve as mentorship. It was her openness to what “qualified” as a mentor and her willingness to adopt them as her own that made the difference.
If you are seeking a mentor or have ever wondered how to find one, don’t overthink it. Read SUCCESS and let the people on the cover be your mentor. Listen to the SUCCESS Stories podcast and find a new mentor every week. Buy Alexi’s book, Bravey, and let her mentor you through her words. Trust me, she is exactly the mentor you need and she’ll be happy to do it.
Photo by JoAnna Forsythe