This week’s conversation is with Cassidy Lichtman, a former member of the United States women’s national volleyball team.

At the age of nine, Cassidy developed a chronic pain disorder in one of her legs and was told that she might never walk again.

Imagine waking up one day with pain. Pain you didn’t understand. Pain that had no cure, no matter how many doctors you visited.

On one side of the spectrum there is the physical pain.

Over a short period of time, that is usually more manageable.

Observe it, notice it, choose not to respond to it and focus on something else.

But what about when you have to wake up with it again the next day and the next day and the day after that.

Therein lies the mental pain.

How would you respond when it feels like you’ve lost control over everything that once seemed to be such a certainty?

Cassidy is a fighter and has persevered her whole life.

Despite unsuccessful efforts to treat the pain she re-learned how to walk and then began playing volleyball. She went on to be a two-time All-American for Stanford and spent five years competing with the United States National Team.

In this conversation, Cassidy shares her experiences overcoming this pain, making the best of the opportunities given to her, and choosing to live her life doing what she loves, not letting her life be dictated by her suffering.

There is so much to learn from Cassidy. She has an incredible spirit, she has perspective on what matters most, and she’s competed at the highest level of her sport.

“Whether or not I can see light at the end of the tunnel, it’s there, and I’m going to make it through.”

In This Episode:

  • Growing up quiet and shy, but also fearless, observant, and a listener
  • The way her mom inspired her to persevere from an early age
  • How her family environment taught her to be her best when it came to school
  • The moment she started experiencing pain in her leg at age 9
  • Going to countless doctors and not being able to give her a proper diagnosis
  • Finally being diagnosed with chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) but couldn’t find a cure and they thought she may never walk again
  • The moment she decided she was going to walk no matter what
  • The fear she experiences when she decided to “put it all out there”
  • Eventually learning to walk again and playing volleyball competitively
  • Why she continued to play volleyball despite the never ending pain
  • Takeaways on how to get through difficult things
  • Overcoming a pivotal point in her collegiate career playing at Stanford where she decided she had to go all-in
  • The mindset that allowed her to keep pushing: optimism, perspective, and gratitude
  • Her philosophy: love outweighs pain
  • Why focus is the most important mindset skill
  • What she would ask another master of craft

 

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Quotables:

“Sometimes I have to think about how to walk properly if I’m tired and it hurts a lot which is crazy because I’m an elite athlete supposedly.”

“Pain doesn’t require a response. I can just take it and notice it and say well that’s awful but I’m busy right now and need to go do this other thing. It’s not like the pain’s not there, I’m just holding it in a different place.”

“The hardest part isn’t the pain. It’s the helplessness and the lack of control.”

“I respond much more than I react to things.”

“I want to open and consciously love life.”

“In life there’s always going to be pain and there’s always going to be love. It’s about consciously choosing love.”

“Anything that I touch, I want to be better than it was before I interacted with them.

“What disrupts calm, confidence, and everything else? It’s not being present. It’s worrying about the past and the future. So focus in the moment gets rid all of those questions.”

“When I walk into a room, I never think I’m the smartest or most talented person there, but I always believe I can hang.”

“Pressure comes from a lack of conviction.”

“Mastery is an infinite process that’s at the insertion of a deep commitment to learning and the pure expression of your self.”

 

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References:

 

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Cassidy Lichtman was a two-time volleyball All-American for Stanford and spent five years competing with the United States National Team. After returning to Stanford as a coach and winning the 2016 National Championship, Cassidy decided to embark upon a new career path. She now works with former US CTO Megan Smith at her new company, shift7.