Let me take you to New York.
It’s 2016, a few weeks after I’ve competed in the Ironman World Championships.
My Ironman journey had been included in an NBC documentary and I’d flown over to NYC for the premiere.
And the night of the event, all gussied up for the party, I walked out of my hotel and across to the subway.
But as I walked down the dark and dank subway steps, I opened my purse and realised I’d left my eftpos card in the hotel room. I just had $20 in cash.
Now for you, maybe that wouldn’t be a problem.
But I immediately started to feel nervous.
See, my damaged hands make it difficult to hold coins, and so I always feel exceptionally awkward fumbling with change when it’s handed to me.
I avoid it at all costs. Literally.
But I was running late, and there was no other option except to pay cash for my ticket.
So I lined up.
And as I wait in the queue I can hear the ticket seller. He’s yelling.
To be frank, he sounds like a real a**hole.
He’s yelling at people for being in the wrong place, for being in the wrong queue and for having the wrong money.
I’m getting more and more nervous, and so I come up with a plan.
After I get my subway ticket, I’ll just leave. I won’t worry about getting my change.
And so when my turn comes, I politely ask the ticket seller for a pass to Midtown, and of course he yells at me for not having the right money, but I just smile cos I know I’ve got my plan.
I give him the 20 dollar note and he gives me the subway pass and starts to count out the change …. and it’s at this point that I turn and leave. I don’t want to extend this transaction any more than I need to.
But then he starts screaming at me.
“COME AND GET YOUR DAMN CHANGE! COME BACK HERE NOW! YOUR CHANGE IS CLOGGING UP MY DESK! COME AND GET IT!”
I can see people staring, and so I walk back and I say “Sorry mate but I actually can’t pick up the change. I’m really sorry, but can you keep it?”
That just sends him off.
“YOU THINK I CARE? GET IT OFF MY DAMN DESK! I DON’T WANT YOUR GODDAMN CHANGE!”
And I feel so flustered and stressed and ridiculed by this one interaction that I burst into tears.
The middle of a subway in New York, surrounded by hundreds of strangers, I stop where I am and start to cry.
There I was, travelling to the NBC premiere of the Ironman event that I had competed in, and in that moment it felt as if all of the work I had done up to that point was futile … because I couldn’t do this simple, ordinary task of taking my change for my subway ticket.
It’s easy for us to own the big moments in our story.
The glorious moments. The moments which are immortalised in beautiful photos, or in the news or by getting a shiny new award.
It’s harder to own the small, invisible moments.
The days when you feel like a failure.
When you forget to take your kids to swimming lessons or you miss a deadline at work or the days when you look in the mirror and you just don’t like what you see.
But owning yourself, owning your story, means you have to own all of it. The good and the bad.
I shared this story as part of my address at the National Press Club yesterday.
I hope it resonates with you.
And wherever you’re at today – whether you’re in one of the big shiny times, or one of the small, harder times, know that this is just one part of your story.
PS – If you want to watch my Press Club address, you can watch it back on iView here.
PPS – If you want more stories like this, join my letter gang here. I send a weekly letter – a story, an anecdote or a small snippet of my life. There are more than 50,000 legends in the gang, and we’d love you to join us! Pop your name on the list here.