We welcomed soccer legend and New York Times best-selling author, Abby Wambach, to Uber HQ to discuss her new book Wolfpack – all about how to come together, unleash our power, and change the game. Abby is a FIFA World Cup Champion, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, six-time US Soccer Athlete of the Year and holds the record for most international goals scored in both men and women’s soccer. She sat down with Janelle Sallenave, Regional General Manager of Uber Eats for the US & Canada, to have an honest conversation around developing our strengths, checking ourselves for bias and, of course, where she keeps her gold medals.
On July 11th I had the privilege of speaking with Abby Wambach about her new rules for changing the game for ourselves and others. All the accolades out there about Abby don’t do justice to her passion and winning spirit when it comes to changing the world. I’ve thought a lot about our conversation since and want to share a few ‘aha’ moments that have really stuck with me. Please also enjoy the full conversation linked below.
Create your wolfpack
“I miss my teammates. And the reason why I miss my teammates so much is when you are in a group of people that are mission-driven and there is this other kind of purpose, this bigger idea of what we are fighting for and collectively doing day in and day out and there’s this idea for this better future for something greater than yourself – there is something really important about that. The whole premise of this book and the reason why I wrote it, is that everybody has access to creating their own specific personal Wolfpack whether it’s here at Uber or at home.” – Abby
I started the conversation with a definition of what having a Wolfpack or being a part of one really means. For me, as Abby describes, it’s being a part of a group that is united by a purpose that is bigger than any one individual. It’s having people in your corner that will champion you when you need it and vice versa.
One of the stories from her book that stood out was a note that a woman sent Abby. She wrote,“my entire life I’ve been the only one. The only woman in the room, the only woman at the table and I’ve raised my daughters without a village. Being a woman is a special kind of lonely. We are siloed into our little spaces, isolated from each other. Men have the ‘old boys’ club. We need one. I want a wolf pack for me too.”
For me, this was powerful, and I will say that I’ve had the privilege of finding a couple of wolfpacks in my life that push me and make me stronger. But for those who haven’t found their own Wolfpack yet, don’t worry, your pack is out there. Abby shared some valuable advice from her wife about finding your pack. By figuring out what breaks your heart and starting to put your mind and body into action to solve those things, you can look at those around you in those moments and that’s when you find your people. It allows you to find purpose and through that purpose, the people who share a similar belief system will be there to push you forward and support you when you need it.
“Why do we let failure take us out of the game?”
There has always been this idea that there is no room for failure but if it happens, fail fast and keep moving. Abby spoke to us very candidly about how her greatest failure is one she now points to as her turning point. Failures are oftentimes the most powerful experiences personally and professionally and moments we attribute success to later in life.
One memorable excerpt from Wolfpack that really resonated with me is how our views on the subject need to change, she wrote, “women haven’t yet accessed the power of failure when it comes, or when failure comes we panic, we deny it, or reject it outright. Worst case scenario we view failure as proof that we were always unworthy imposters. Men have been allowed to fail and keep playing forever. Why do we let failure take us out of the game?”
This idea that the margin for error in your life and career needs to be small is perpetuated by this mentality that if there are only two women at the table then they need to be perfect. By looking at failure as just information, and changing our mindset as a collective to support each other to take big risks and learn from the ones that don’t work out, we will be building a stronger team, organization, and company.
The biggest benefits of failing arise from how you respond to them. I mentioned to Abby a study about a large sample of C-suite executives who were interviewed extensively about their careers. There were six to seven similar experiences they all had and one of those was failing so badly that they were afraid of being fired. This notion struck me because it made me evaluate my own career and reflect on if I am thinking big enough. It has become a sort of challenge for myself – think bigger, take the risks.
Demanding what you deserve
“I was just feeling grateful. I was so grateful for a paycheck. I was so grateful to represent my country. I was so grateful to be the token woman at the table, so grateful to receive any respect at all, that I was afraid to use my voice to demand more from myself and equality for all.” – Abby
Building your Wolfpack and changing your mindset around failure are all valuable actions that everyone can grab onto, but truly understanding what you deserve and knowing how to stand up for those things is the foundation we all need to build if we want to influence change for others.
Abby spoke about feeling angry by the fact that just being grateful for being there blinded her to the powerful ways she could have used her platform to influence equality for herself and others. She had this moment of fear after retirement and that’s when it hit her – she hadn’t done enough.
“Our silence is so importantly deafening. When we say nothing. When you have no space to actually use your voice when you have no platform or no experience in using your voice. “ – Abby
For many of us, this idea of standing up and using our voice may not be comfortable or a natural instinct but I would like to challenge you, as I challenge myself, to practice. At the beginning it’s hard, and you may say the wrong thing but keep putting yourself in a position to speak up. It will get easier with practice. If you are a leader, I challenge you to give your team the opportunity and support to do the same.
Bring a folding chair
I could have spoken to Abby for another hour (or four!), but my last question to her was, “what advice do you have for women in positions of power and influence so they don’t inadvertently continue steering other women toward operating under the old rules?”
“It’s like Shirley Chisholm said if there aren’t enough seats at the table bring folding chairs. If you are in rooms or at tables where decisions are made you have to use your voice. It may feel like you’re going against yourself if you speak up for someone else but if we don’t do it now, it will never happen.” – Abby
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy watching our conversation linked below.