Ep121: Breaking Down Impossible Obstacles to Make (Almost) Anything Achievable | with Jessie Graff, ANW

Did you miss Part 1? Click here for my episode with Jessie Graff’s mom Ginny MacColl

If you’ve been listening to this show for any amount of time, you know that I love breaking seemingly impossible goals down to small, manageable steps. I’m all about creating tiny habits and incrementally building upon them to progress gradually – hence playing chess with your life instead of checkers. This is one of the key elements in my coaching and mentorship program and it’s also the foundation that today’s guest has used to build herself up to one of the top competitors in American Ninja Warrior (which is frankly being modest – she’s a LEGEND).

Jessie Graff, also known as the modern-day Wonder Woman, is the first woman to finish stages 1 & 2 in the Las Vegas finals of American Ninja Warrior, she is an accomplished stunt woman in Hollywood working on such films as G.I. Joe, Transformers, Wonder Woman, and Alita: Battle Angel (to name a few), and she is also the daughter of fellow American Ninja Warrior and recent podcast guest Ginny MacColl.

In today’s conversation, Jessie and I go deeeeeeeeeep into the inner psychology that drives her to compete and perform with such consistency and at such a high level. We talk about the practices and habits that have led to her success as well as the struggles, injuries, and the challenges she has overcome both as a child and an adult. And most importantly we discuss how she developed the mental toughness and fortitude that has led to her becoming the badass she is today (spoiler alert: Her mom had a lot to do with it).

But don’t let all of that scare you away…Jessie is also one of the nicest, sweetest, and down-to-earth “celebrities” I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • The story of how a chicken dress opened a new career door for her in stunt work.
  • What she learned from her mom that she carries with her into Ninja training.
  • How she keeps herself inspired even through injury.
  • The secret to tackling any obstacle you encounter.
  • The embarrassing story of what happened in Season 7 of ANW and the drastic change she made in her training after that injury.
  • How she accidentally learned about the career of stuntwomen and became inspired to be one.
  • The mindset shift she uses to avoid disappointment when she doesn’t achieve a goal.
  • What obstacle she conquered that made her scream, “Anything is possible! I did it!”
  • The exact method and approach she uses to mentally and physically prepare herself for each obstacle.
  • Why Jessie thinks confidence is the number one Ninja killer.
  • The different levels of commitment required for training to build up strength and experience while staying safe.
  • What magic phrases Jessie has printed on a sign that hangs in her workout room to keep her accountable and inspired to do her dreaded squats.
  • Jessie’s best advice for achieving impossible dreams.

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Ep120: It’s Never Too Late to Get Stronger (and Become a Ninja) | with Ginny MacColl, ANW

Family Guy: The First Chicken Fight (The Original Chicken Fight Video)

Epic Chick Fight (Live Action Chicken Fight)

Jessie Graff: First Woman to Finish Stage 1 – American Ninja Warrior

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Guest Bio:

Jessie Graff

Jessie Graff

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One of the top competitors on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” Jessie Graff is quickly becoming known as a modern-day Wonder Woman, breaking stereotypes as she continues to break records. Graff was a national sensation and breaking news phenomenon in 2016, when she became the first woman to complete stage 1 in the “American Ninja Warrior” Las Vegas national finals. She’s the first woman to clear Stage 2 in both American Ninja Warrior and Sasuke (the original Japanese Ninja Warrior). Known for her superhero outfits and continued history of record breaking, she has ranked among the top 6 overall competitors in all of the past 5 regional competitions, making her the only woman to qualify among the men for national finals 5 years in a row.

Graff attributes much of her success on the seemingly impossible obstacles of American Ninja Warrior to her decade long career in stunts. Awarded the Action Icon Award for “Stuntwoman of the Year,” her credits include: Wonder Woman, Bright, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Die Hard, The Dark Knight as well as being a recurring double on Supergirl, Futureman, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Leverage, and many more. Graff has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu, with extensive training in countless other styles of martial arts, high falls, wipeouts, sky diving, motorcycles, stunt driving, fire, wirework and, flying trapeze. Graff also broke the pole-vault record at Georgia Tech (where she majored in Aerospace Engineering) and the University of Nebraska (where she earned her degree in Theatre) and was 1.5 inches away from qualifying for the 2004 Olympic trials in the sport.

The journey for Graff was ignited at the age of 3, when she attended the Big Apple Circus and begged the ringmaster to let her try the flying trapeze. Although her attempt to join the circus was unsuccessful that day, the experience immediately sparked a passion to fly and push herself beyond what others said was possible. Her parents enrolled her in circus gymnastics classes, which began her training and led her to other specialties in various acrobatic and fitness disciplines, helping her develop her range of strength, agility, and adaptability. Jessie currently lives in Los Angeles. She hopes that she can be a positive influence and show people all over the world that strong is beautiful.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared by Debby Germino and published by Glen McNiel.

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

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Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”