Book Reviews · fitness

“Staying in the Game”: book review

Back in 2016, I did a two part interview with Pamela Meyer about returning to ski racing at mid life. Over the past eight years, she has gone from dipping her toe back into racing after more than two decades away from it to passionately competing in amateur races at an advanced level. She is a four-time NASTAR national gold medalist in her division, and also competes with the Wilmot Mountain Masters and Rocky Mountain Masters, where she won her first race in her age group last season.

As Meyer has trained, raced, triumphed, panicked, focused, been injured, recovered, lost and won, she has pondered what fully immersing into this kind of passion can teach us about other parts of our lives. Now, she’s drawn on her expertise as a leadership and agility thought leader to write “Staying in the Game — a guide for anyone who yearns to live with joy and purpose, in sports, in life and in work.

I met Pamela 21 years ago, when we were working on our PhDs together. I’ve always been awed and inspired by the way she dives into everything she does with playful intensity. She’s written before about the need for play at work (and in life), and established herself as a global speaker and innovator on agility at work. This new book integrates many of her earlier ideas into a deceptively simple guide to finding, seeking and fully engaging in the things that give you the most joy, meaning and impact in your life.

Staying in the Game is nominally pitched at the business and leadership audience that Meyer engages with most in her work, and some of the language might not immediately feel like it applies to an everyday desire to feel like we are living as fully as we want to. But for me — as a person approaching a milestone birthday, and who coaches people every day who are striving to feel like they are living in the way they are truly supposed to — this book offers a lot of practical guidance to explore what matters most to you most as individuals, how to develop the focus you need to get there, and how to keep learning and adapting.

The core concept of the book is about “Embodied, Agile Leadership” (EAL), which she defines as: Embodied — Attuned and engaged with your whole self; Agile — Able to quickly assess, learn and adapt to changing conditions; and Leadership — Able to effectively respond to both challenges and opportunities. The concepts do apply to leadership of all kinds — in business or in trying to change the world — but they equally make sense for anyone who is trying to set and achieve goals of any kind. Meyer tells her own ski racing story — and those of competitors in their 70s and 80s – throughout the book to illustrate the possibilities of true embodied awareness, self-reflection, and adjustment to what is true now and in the moment.

The book does not focus on aging, but draws light lines between the need for adaptation in any context and the inevitable adaptation we need to embrace as we age and our bodies change. And despite Meyer’s own incredible achievements in ski racing (and work), the book is not aimed just at high performance or elite level sport — it’s an accessible guide to exploring what gives you meaning (or happiness) and how to embrace it.

“Staying in the Game” is shaped into three sections — essentially, finding your own purpose or goal (your “game”), the dynamics of being in that space, and then “staying and playing for live and livelihood.” The book is part theory, part inspiration, part cheerleader and part self-help. Each chapter introduces a key concept, intertwined with storytelling from the worlds of business, ski racing and Meyer’s own embodied experience, and then concludes with some self-guided journaling and self-coaching prompts and exercises.

Meyer never implies that ‘anyone can do anything,” but overlays the book with a fundamental optimism about the potential of letting go of your own self-limiting beliefs and finding community and connections that enable and support you to try the things that scare you. One of her core messages — which applies to so many of the topics we engage with on this blog — is that we’re successful in sport, fitness, life challenges and work when we prepare fully, plan lightly, and adapt to what life offers us.

I will be recommending Staying in the Game to my coaching clients who are looking for an easy-to-follow framework that gets underneath motivation, fear and letting go. If you’re curious too, you can buy the book on the usual big retailers or better yet, order it from a small local bookstore, like Queen Books in my neighbourhood.

(And thanks to Pamela for putting her big heart and brain into the world).

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede-Desmarais, who lives in Toronto, never skis and always looks for the deeper meaning.

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