Ep165: How to Overcome Doubting Yourself When You Know You’re Meant For More | with Sandy Zimmerman, ANW

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 “I’ve literally failed in front of a million people, and something magical happens when you’re willing to do that.”
– Sandy Zimmerman

Have you ever had a nagging feeling that you were meant to be doing something different with your life? Maybe you feel as though you’re capable of doing more and you’re not living up to your full potential, or maybe even if you’re successful, the thought of being “comfortable“ is beginning to feel like you’re locked in a prison of your own creation? But as much as you want to break out, do you find yourself trapped by the limiting beliefs and voices in your head telling you that you’re just not good enough, you don’t deserve it, or simply that you just can’t?

In today’s conversation I have the pleasure and privilege of introducing you to an amazing and unique individual – Sandy Zimmerman – who is a Physical Education teacher, speaker, mother of three, a five-time American Ninja Warrior competitor, and the 1st mom in 11 seasons to hit an ANW buzzer. Given her chaotic upbringing going from one foster home to the next (often on welfare), on paper Sandy is one of the least likely to succeed at the level she has, but when you hear about the struggles she’s endured and the limiting beliefs she’s overcome, you’ll realize every challenge she’s faced has perfectly led her to where she is today.

As Ryan Holiday would say…the obstacles for Sandy are the way.

Sandy is no stranger to trauma, adversity, and loss, and in our very deep and honest conversation you will hear that even today Sandy still battles the voices (which she gave a name, btw), and I even put her on the ‘Hot Seat’ to help her not only identify what’s holding her back right now but also what comes next for her (and potentially even how to accomplish it).

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • The trauma and difficulties Sandy endured in her childhood was immense.
  • The saving grace that benefited Sandy throughout her life.
  • American Ninja Warrior became therapy for Sandy to work through her traumatic past.
  • Why she continued to do something that she kept failing at and getting hurt doing.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY: There is always a purpose to the voices in our head…even the negative ones.
  • How she came to have the courage to share her story and listen to her inner voice.
  • How gratitude has helped her stay positive through incredible adversity.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY:  Failing is a necessary step in any story of success and growth.
  • Why so many athletes cry when they finally hit the buzzer in American Ninja Warrior.
  • What Sandy did after her first failure on the ANW course to get herself back on track.
  • Why Sandy doesn’t set timelines for accomplishing her goals.
  • The story of my friend who became the first quadriplegic scuba diver.
  • What motivated Sandy to keep trying when life seemed to be against her.
  • What Sandy was like as a child and how she struggled in school.
  • The impact of the teacher Sandy had who didn’t feel sorry for her.
  • Why Sandy believes the bar should be kept high regardless of how hard you have it in life.
  • How Sandy knows that she is being called to leave the comfort of the teaching job she loves and share her story.
  • What Sandy does to calm her nerves before speeches.
  • Sandy gains clarity about what she is meant to do beyond teaching.
  • Sandy’s advice to her younger self and where she sees herself 10 years from now.

Useful Resources Mentioned:

American Ninja Warrior Obstacles | Sandy Zimmerman | United States

Film – The Happy Movie | The Happy Movie

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Episode Transcript

Sandy Zimmerman 0:00

Man, if I could inspire people to live free, they would then be able to even tap into their potential and possibly reach their full potential, which I think none of us are even close to doing that. So if that's something someone can somehow take a little nugget away from this, that would be I think, at the top of my list, when you ask that.

Zack Arnold 0:22

My name is Zack Arnold, I'm a Hollywood film and television editor, a documentary director, father of two, an American Ninja Warrior in training and the creator of Optimize Yourself. For over 10 years now I have obsessively searched for every possible way to optimize my own creative and athletic performance. And now I'm here to shorten your learning curve. Whether you're a creative professional who edits, writes or directs, you're an entrepreneur, or even if you're a weekend warrior, I strongly believe you can be successful without sacrificing your health, or your sanity in the process. You ready? Let's design the optimized version of you.

Hello, and welcome to the Optimize Yourself podcast. If you're a brand new optimizer, I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you enjoy today's conversation. If you're inspired to take action after listening today, why not tell a friend about the show and help spread the love? And if you're a longtime listener and optimizer O.G. welcome back. Whether you're brand new, or you're seasoned vets, if you have just 10 seconds today, it would mean the world to me if you clicked the subscribe button in your podcast app of choice, because the more people that subscribe, the more that iTunes and the other platforms can recognize this show. And thus the more people that you and I can inspire, to step outside their comfort zones to reach their greatest potential. And now on to today's show.

Have you ever had the nagging feeling that you were meant to be doing something different with your life? Maybe you feel as though you're capable of doing more and you're not living up to your full potential? Or maybe if you're already successful, the thought of being comfortable is beginning to feel like you're locked in prison of your own creation. But as much as you want to break out, do you find yourself trapped by the limiting beliefs and the voices that are in your head telling you that you're just not good enough, you don't deserve it, or simply that you just can't? Well, in today's conversation, I have the pleasure and the privilege of introducing you to an amazing and a unique individual, Sandy Zimmerman, who is a physical education teacher, a speaker, a mother of three, a five time American Ninja Warrior competitor. And she also happens to be the first mom in 11 seasons to hit an ANW buzzer given her chaotic upbringing, going from one foster home to the next often on welfare. On paper, Sandy is probably one of the least likely people to succeed at the level that she has. But when you hear about the struggles that she has endured, and the limiting beliefs that she has overcome, you will realize that every challenge she has faced so far has perfectly led her to where she is today as Ryan Holiday would probably say the obstacles for Sandy are the way now Sandy is no stranger to trauma, adversity and loss. And in this very deep and very honest conversation. You're going to hear that even today. Sandy still battles the same voice is what she gave a name by the way and we're going to talk more about and I even have the opportunity to put her on hotseat, so I can help her not only identify what's holding her back right now, but also what comes next, and even potentially how she can accomplish it. Before jumping right into today's interview. However, I am excited to share with you a new addition to the podcasts. Well actually, I'm kind of resurrecting it from years of slumber which is the q&a episode. It has been a long time since I did an informal question and answer show and I plan to do them on a monthly basis going forwards. But here's the thing, I can't do answers without the questions. And that is where I need your help. If you enjoy this podcast and you have specific questions that you would like me to address on the show, it is super simple. All you have to do is visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast and then select the apple podcasts app subscribe, then write a quick and by the way, an honest review in the apple podcast app. At the end of your review. Leave your question and I will do my best to not only answer your question in depth, but I'm also going to give you credit on the show. How cool is that? And the more reviews that we can amass the better placement we get from Apple and for more creative professionals that you and I can inspire to do what they love for a living without having to sacrifice their health, their relationships or their sanity in the process. Alright, so without further ado, my conversation with teacher mom and American Ninja Warrior Sandy Zimmerman made possible today by our amazing sponsor Ergodriven who is going to be featured just a bit later in today's interview to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes as well as to subscribe so you don't miss the next inspirational interview. Please visit us optimizeyourself.me/podcast.

Sandy Zimmerman 5:04

I think something that I have become very passionate about that I had no idea would come from American Ninja Warrior. I feel like my my purpose has kind of changed as I've grown, I think encouraging people to live free, free fear of failure, fear of so many things that we can fear of what people think, fear of what we have been through. I think, man, if I could inspire people to live free, they would then be able to even tap into their potential and possibly reach their full potential, which I think none of us are even close to doing that. So if that's something someone can somehow take a little nugget away from this. That would be I think, at the top of my list, would you ask that

Zack Arnold 5:55

man have I got good taste that is you are in the right place. Oh my goodness. So on that note, I am super excited to get started in introduced today, my guest, Sandy Zimmerman. So Sandy is a physical education teacher. She's a speaker, she's a mother of three, you are a five time American Ninja Warrior competitor. And as I'm sure we will talk more about the first mom to hit a buzzer. And you're also a former national Judo champion. And you also played basketball at Gonzaga University. So Sandy, it has been a long road I know for you, you got an email from me, like, oh, somebody wants to do podcasts. I'll click on it. From my perspective. It's been a long road to get you on the podcast. And man, am I happy to finally have you here today?

Sandy Zimmerman 6:38

Yeah, I am thrilled to be here and get to share a little bit about my story, always a chance to help somebody else reach their own big dreams in life. So this is an opportunity to do that. So I appreciate it.

Zack Arnold 6:49

Well, I actually just got off a conversation earlier today with Alex Weber. I don't know if you know Alex Weber or not. Mr. crashing the course is now running the the courses himself. And the big topic of conversation was failure. So it's just basically two guys talking about all the failure that they've had in their life, when super, super deep and super psychological. So as I warned you beforehand, if this is gonna, if you were thinking this is going to be a fluff piece, about the first mom that ever hit the buzzer, you're on the wrong show, because I want to dive deep into the dark depths of your past and psychology, and really help people overcome some of the horrible voices and things that we say to ourselves about who we think we are and what we can't accomplish. And where I would really love to start is understanding a little bit more about your background, which I know for a long time was something that was really difficult for you to talk about and share. But at the end of the day, actually has a really big part in you becoming the successful person that you are,

Sandy Zimmerman 7:43

yes, I was not the, you know, two kids white picket fence and a dog type of childhood. It was hard, and it was rough. And you know, if anybody's familiar with the aces, there are 10 adverse childhood experiences that people can have. And I literally have all 10 of them, the physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, the neglect the having parents with mental health issues and incarcerated, and I could go on and on and on. And really, the odds of someone like me making it are pretty slim to none. But I think in thinking about that, and wondering, gosh, how did I make it through? And why am I here today, you know, it was all these teachers and these coaches and these people that I connected with, that changed my conversation in my head. And I think that is the biggest part of why I've been able to do so many of the things that I've been able to do, because I'm sure most kids that grew up like I do, go down and very, very different paths, very dark path. And it's so starts, I think, with those conversations. And it for me started with different trusting, caring, adults that loved me and saw potential in me, and helped me really change the way that I was thinking and the conversations that I was having in my head.

Zack Arnold 9:05

So then let's start with before we get to how the conversations changed how that happened, and the direction that you went forwards. Let's talk about when you were having really nasty conversations with yourself. We don't have to go deep into anything personal as far as the experiences that you've been through, because I'm sure a lot of it is traumatic, and we don't have to dig that up. But what I'm curious about is you can pick a point in your life, whether it's when you were seven, or 14, whatever, it kind of clicks the most. But you're thinking, when did I have the worst negative self talk about telling myself who I was and what I thought it would become? What kind of comes to the top of your mind?

Sandy Zimmerman 9:39

Oh, I think if I'm being completely honest, I think those conversations come and go and they came and gone as a child but also as an adult. I mean, I could even look back over the last week and think man, there are still times when I have deaf Really not mastered that. And there are times where that doubt comes in, or the fears come in. And I think I've done a better job recognizing it. But I think it will honestly always be something that I deal with that I struggle with. And I try to keep myself into thinking those more positive thoughts. You know, I think when as a child, you don't have that trust in that love, I think you become very cynical. And I think that's one of the voices that I fight is that scared, timid little girl, you know, that grew up Born on welfare, they spent time in the foster care system and just didn't have someone to protect her and didn't have someone there to watch over her, like kids should be all kids should be loved, have deeply. And I didn't have that. But I did have some other people that came in and just changed kind of the narrative, I think it will be baggage and scars that I will carry with me forever. And it comes and goes, and I will say just this week, there have been times where I have those thoughts in those conversations and little Sandy pops into my head. And, and I have to, you know, remind that the now Sandy, the confident Sandy is going to ride and going to drive this car. And it's no longer going to be little Sandy, who is scared and timid and shy. And it's a constant thing, though. And I will always be a work in progress. But I do think I'm at least getting better at it,

Zack Arnold 11:30

I would say you're definitely getting better at it. I don't know if it's something you ever master. But given what you've accomplished, there's a lot that you need to overcome, not just physically but mentally. And I think that that's one of the biggest lessons that I've had in my own journey for American Ninja Warrior, which we can get into a little bit later because I think it hopefully somewhat mirrors yours. I'm in a much earlier stage of my journey. But my hope is that, you know, three, four years from now I can be one of the first moms to hit the buzzer to one of my goals. But what I love is that you've identified the voice. This is actually something I talked about without AWeber as well. Because the journey that I'm on personally, and basically the podcast has just been my own version of free therapy. I just get a bunch of people on the show, and I talk about all my problems, and I get the experts to tell me how to fix them. And my journey since running my rookie season, this is my rookie season on the show. understanding what's the mental game that I haven't learned how to play, because I spent several years now going from being very overweight and out of shape. And deciding I wanted to do this and learning how to do pull ups and you know, doing a chaise all these things I'd never done before. But it wasn't until I was on the course that I realized, whoa, this is all a mental game, there's very little of this is is physical that I that I have not mastered or even really begun to understand how to even approach it. And one of the things that Alex taught me right during the show was that you need a name for both the negative self talk and that voice and for the positive one. And I love that you're already saying little Sandy, she's saying these things to maybe you're identifying it as if it's an external voice. You're not owning it as your own. I'm curious. At what point did you start identifying You know what? That's another voice? And that's not me, and I'm going to name it like, is that something that's happened since Ninja Warrior? Is that something that you've been doing for 30 years? Like At what point did you separate yourself from the voices and realize, yeah, I hear it, but I don't need to listen

Sandy Zimmerman 13:24

it's hard to pinpoint that I will say, for some crazy reason. When I started American Ninja Warrior. I didn't know it. But I had a whole lot of like therapy I should have gotten and somehow American Ninja Warrior became that therapy. And I think it was as I got a little deeper into it. And just started to build confidence and courage. And just being brave. I got to a point, I think where I started to recognize it, because I knew some of it was like that can't be right. That just can't be right. And I think when you do things that are kind of scary and you know, I could literally fail and I have in front of millions of people. And something magical happens though when you're willing to do that. And I was growing like crazy. I mean, I never got therapy as a child and I really think I should have and it would have really helped. But it may have taken years and years and years and something about doing something so out of your comfort zone something that is so risky like American Ninja Warrior, because even the best of the best they fall they fall on the first obstacle. I've seen it. I was growing by leaps and bounds. And I think as I started to go into it more and more and this was before I hit a buzzer it was that I think it was probably it must have been my third season. And I had not only failed twice, terribly second obstacle and was I was just really humiliated and just questioned like why Why would I feel so compelled to do something and just continually fail. And I was I was mad. I was really mad. And I just thought, God universe, why would you put it on my heart to do this if all I'm going to do is fail, but I just couldn't shake it. I just couldn't shake it. And then I could see the growth that I was having. And I just thought, if this is how it goes, this is how it goes. And it was some dark times, but then it got even darker. And the third season that I was going to be on, I got hurt really bad. I mean, my knee absolutely exploded. And the doctor said he'd never seen anything like that, except for in a car wreck. And I wasn't even doing a big move, it was just a little drop from like two feet onto a big pad nothing. And he said it was just the perfect storm it it just really blew up your knee. And it required two separate surgeries. One of the darkest days that I've been through, and what was so awful is having surgery. And normally you just think okay, now I'm going to get better. I've had this surgery, I've hit rock bottom, each day, we'll get a little better. Well, this one was hit rock bottom. And then after about, I think it was three months, we're gonna go back in and make you hit rock bottom even further again, and do it all over. So I was not in a good place at that point. And again, wondering, why am I doing this, I failed, I failed, and now I've gotten hurt.

And it was one of those moments when you're like, Lord, I can only take so much a person can only take so much. And then I tore ligament my thumb when I finally got back and I just thought What am I doing, like paying up but I couldn't shake this feeling. And I'm telling you, I think we have such these gut feelings, these instincts, this intuition, follow it, even if it seems crazy and nuts, and I couldn't shake and I thought, well, I'm putting the ninja shoes back on. And I can't believe this, but I'm going to keep at it. Because I just have this overwhelming feeling. This is where I'm supposed to be what I'm supposed to be doing, despite all this awful stuff that has happened along the way I have grown. And I think it was at that darkest time that as I got through that. And I thought man, I really am a badass. I've been through a lot in life. Now I've been through all this and I'm still gonna pursue this dream. And I think it was as I started to grow from that it was recognizing that many of my thoughts were me as a slyke, six year old. And I was terrified. And I was scared at that point. And nothing felt safe. And nothing, you know, was there was no, no nothing in my life was could be counted on. And no one could be counted on to be safe. And I was it was just such an awful time and a traumatic time. And I think I started to recognize at that point, like, wait, let's let's think about these conversations that I'm having. Are they coming from that place? And at that time, I needed that six year old Sandy, she kept me safe, and it's why I'm here today. She was cynical. She didn't trust people. And she always I mean, you talk sleeping with one eye open. That's what it felt like. And she was on edge trying to read people. Are they safe? Is this situation safe. I'm just trying to sometimes blend in and not be noticed. And then all of a sudden here i'm i'm doing American Ninja Warrior. And I have not done anything on the show yet. But I knew that I had a story to tell. And I knew that I had to listen to that confident Sandi that was willing to tell the story. And I remember years ago, this conversation with myself when I felt this nudge like Sandy share your story. And I remember thinking, Hell no, I don't want to share my story. It's sad. And then I hear that everyone saw that voice. So Sandy share your story. I think I don't want to share my story. It's painful. It hurts is so terrible. But I just I listened to that voice for probably 30 years. And it wasn't till I started American Ninja Warrior, that I actually paused long enough to hear that voice say Sandy share your story. But then the second part is the cool part is where I waited long enough to actually consider sharing my story. And the other part was, but it has a happier and I thought that's the healthy behavior. That's the me that's willing to share this story and not carry it around like a dirty secret. This is my story. These are things that happen to me. But if they can make a difference in another person's life, if they can possibly dream, their own big dream and tap into their full potential. I got to do it like that is such a driving force in my life now. You know, people talk about their why and their purpose, man if I can help somebody else, learn from everything that I've learned. I mean, I just I could go on and on.

Zack Arnold 19:51

Well, one of the reasons that I think your story really resonates with me and there's a lot of things I want to dig into even deeper, but you pretty much even before we started The show encapsulated the entire reason that my heart beats and I'm on this earth, I had this conversation with the previous guests of mine were similar to me. We both like if you were to look at our resume, or somebody asked us what we did, it's like a list of 15 things. podcaster coach, American Ninja Warrior, film editor, film producer, like documentary director, like a whole list of things. But if it didn't completely confuse and confound people, if I were having a like, if I were going to greet somebody, like, Oh, Hi, nice to meet you. What do you do? My response would be, what I do, is I inspire people to step outside their comfort zones, so they can feel empowered to reach their potential. Oh, no, no, I met I met I met What do you do for a living? Like what? But that's how I would answer and you said almost word for word, the same thing. Wow. So I totally understand where you're coming from. And I think that it's already gonna answer this next question. But in case it does, and I want to go into this a little bit deeper, I want to go to this moment where you're at your second surgery, you had to not so good years on American Ninja Warrior, which, by the way, they don't tell you all that stuff on the show. It's just, oh, Hey, everybody, here's Sandy Zimmerman. Oh, she's the first of all, we know like, That's amazing. And then I started doing research. I'm like, wait, you've been on the show three times, and you failed. Oh, I like you even more now. But the difference here and I think that even if somebody listening has no interest in American Ninja Warrior, or sports or anything else, the key here is that you're in a really dark place. And I would guess that a lot of people were saying, you're done, right? Like, this is it like, I'm assuming this means it's the end of American Ninja Warrior. But there is a deeper why they kept nagging at you and saying, nope, my guts saying there's some reason I need to keep doing this. And there's two ways it can go. You can call yourself a failure because you gave up and you stopped. Or what happened you and this is what I love so much about this is it's in your own words. You said, Yeah, but this is just one of the early chapters in the story. But how do you keep going when you don't know for sure that it's one of the early chapters in the story. And everybody's saying, okay, we're done. That was fun, right. But we're going back to normal.

Sandy Zimmerman 22:11

You know, even before I started American Ninja Warrior, there were people that honestly thought it was crazy. And so I really didn't share that big dream and goal with very many people, because I wanted it, when you want a dream to happen, you don't bring it to the negative nancies of the world. You know, you be bring it to the people who are also being Dreamers. And that will help and support you in this and so. But even from the beginning, there were people that I really, at your age, or really, as a woman, you really as a mom, and you know all of those thoughts. But it's true when you have something so deeply ingrained in you that you just feel like, you know, this is what I'm meant to do. This is what I'm supposed to do. And I just have to do it. And yes, there are many times when I wondered, there's many times when I was mad. But I couldn't shake it. And I think, you know, I look back on my childhood and everything that I've been through in life, not just my childhood. I mean, for some reason, I've just had ups and downs. But what's amazing about ups and downs, though, is looking back at them. I am so damn proud of some of the stuff that I've gotten through. I look back and it's like, look at some of the crap that's happened to your life. If you want to have gratitude, go look at some of the crap that's happened to your life. Because you can look back and go, Wow, I got through that. And this sense of pride, and it's funny you had mentioned you know, they talked about hitting the buzzer and how incredible that is. And I agree I couldn't agree with you more. That is not the best part of the story. But that's what gets on TV. Right? It's it's a show, they can only give you so much airtime. But I remember being asked that when you actually have time to talk. I think it was on Kelly Clarkson. She'd asked me but I also think it might have got edited on that to like, Oh, you know, what did it feel like hitting the buzzer like that? I don't know if you really want to hear my answer because the buzzer was incredible. And it was amazing. And I love it. And it's fun. I want to hit lots of buzzers. But really the incredible part of the story that doesn't get shared is that five year journey to the buzzer, and how proud I am and I didn't give up multiple times it would have been so easy to go. Hello, this is not working out. I need to give up on this. But as I got deeper into it, because initially I think I was just like, Oh, this is fun. I think I could do this. But as I got deeper into it, I thought Holy cow, this is a platform. And if I had hit the buzzer my first season I wasn't in a place healthy enough where I would have shared my story. I just I would have hit a buzzer it would have been cool, but it never would have had the impact that it's had now, five years down the road and five years of growth. The timing is just unbelievable. Because at that point when I hit the buzzer That was when I first got to the point when I was like, I am going to share my story now, it needs to be heard. And it's going to make a huge difference and a huge impact. So that I hit the buzzer seasons one, two or three, nothing would have happened, it would have just, I would have hit a buzzer. And it would have been a cool story, but it wouldn't have had the impact that I've had. So I look back on that I'm like, now, thank God, I didn't hit a buzzer Season One, two, or three. And that the timing was at a point where I was finally healthy enough to share my story. And then it was like I got this huge gift and this platform to share my story you know, and on the show, they share what they can share. And it's a show and it's there's airtime. But getting to do podcasts like this where you can really dive in and take the time to hear someone's story or different interviews that I've been able to do. So timing is huge. And when I feel such a compelled passion for helping other people live full life, because I feel like I was living a good life, but not a great life. I didn't know it though. I had no idea at the time, Zach that I wasn't living a great life. But now I look back on that and I am not the same Sandy I was 767 years ago, when I started this I am I look at pictures and I just am blown away. I'm like that is not the same person that I look at the mirror. And I see today completely transformed. Who would have thought doing some obstacles could ever do something like that.

Zack Arnold 26:29

And it really has nothing to do with the six pack abs versus the no six pack abs that being toned. And let's just let's be very clear, you got a pretty cut set of abs. When you say I'm looking at the transformation, it's a different person. My guess is it's the look you see in your eyes, it's the person that you know is behind that look is completely different. And that's really the part that I have loved love talking about is the psychology of who we believe we are versus who we can be what our potential is, what are the things that we're talking about to ourselves and all these negative voices. And I've shared this story before and I'll just kind of briefly go through it again. But for me realizing that this is something I wanted to do that was one of my life changed. Now because I've been training for four years now and I get to work out with Tony Horton and I now been one of his workout programs. And while all that's great, but it was the moment I decided to go after the goal. That was when my life shifted because my perspective shifted. And when I first started watching American Ninja Warrior going back to you talking about the buzzer. I had a whole bunch of people just because I've always done like obstacle course races and I've always kind of been known to be the person that tries crazy stuff. I kept getting email after email from either friends or people that were listening to the podcast. Hey, dude, you should totally do American Ninja Warrior. I'm like, I don't know what that is. Is that like a show? We're competition? Like what is it didn't even know. So I didn't wasn't introduced to it until like season seven. And I started watching it. I'm like, why is everybody crying when they hit the buzzer? Like it's cool. I mean, yeah, but it was a couple of minutes. And you know, they're a gymnast, or they're a parkour person. It's cool. But like, what's with all the emotion, I don't get it. And as I started to train, I was like, Oh, now I get it. Because what what we see on TV is maybe two minutes, three minutes, two minutes, minute and a half, depending on the time. But what we never see and has, I'm not saying this just for Ninja Warrior. But for anybody that's on the outside looking in on somebody you admire, where you want to look at the goals, all you see is the result. Somebody won the Oscar, somebody hit the buzzer, that's awesome. But they're not seeing how much time and effort and dedication and sacrifice went into it. So now when somebody hits a buzzer, and like, Oh, I totally know where the tears are coming from. Because it's so hard just to have the skill level to be able to compete at all. And then to have both the physical and the mental side figured out enough that you can consistently focus from the starting line to the buzzer. I mean, it's nearly impossible. Like statistically it's nearly impossible to get to that buzzer and knowing what it takes to get there. Now that I'm making the attempt of myself. I cry when people hit the buzzer because like, yep, I get it. I feel the struggle.

Sandy Zimmerman 29:03

Yeah, it's a it's a funny sport in it is such a fine line between success and failure and going out early and hitting a buzzer. I mean, it is such a fine line. And so I think once you've done this for it, you just get it. You just understand. And we've all been there that Yep, I've gone out on the first obstacle and in a course whether it's on the show or in a competition, and I've been able to finish and so I think part of the reason there is such highs and lows in sport is part of the reason people grow a lot though. And also part of the reason why we are all so close. It's almost like we're going into battle together and it really bonds people and we really get it

Zack Arnold 29:46

and that was one of the things that drew me to it more than anything, because it's not like I was gonna watch wipe out and be like, Oh yeah, I'm gonna do that too. Like, it's almost the same thing when people explained it to me when I said what's American Ninja Warrior, like, Oh, it's kind of like that wipe out show and then I saw them Like nothing like it, but no the surface, they're not that much different. But as far as community as far as the level of skill, there's so many things about Ninja Warrior that drew me to it. But I think my favorite was that despite the fact that it's technically a competition, everybody's helping everybody else, and it becomes an internal competition with yourself. That to me is what was so fascinating. And I said, no matter what it takes, I got to figure out a way to become a part of that community. Because when you surround yourself with the right people, just through osmosis, you become more like them. And that can either be a bad thing, or it can be a good thing. So just thrusting myself into this world when I was completely not ready and spoiler alert, still don't feel like I'm ready. But just being around these people has totally changed my life, despite the fact that the outcome so far like I'm in the early chapters, where I'm hoping in a few years, I can be like, yep, I was a massive failure when I started, but that's the chapter I'm living that I'm working to get through right now similar to where you were in season one.

Sandy Zimmerman 30:56

Well, can I just go on record of calling it right now that this is going to happen for you and you're going to hit a buzzer? You're too I get the I get the sense and I don't know you really well, Zack, but I get the sense that you're not wanting to let something go once you set a goal. So feeling that crazy, obsess that I felt, but I set that goal, I have a feeling that you can relate to crazy obsessed, and oh, it will happen.

Zack Arnold 31:19

Yes, I have a tattoo on the inside of my forehead that reads crazy obsessed, just just just asked my wife or my family about that. They'd be like, you pretty much figured them out in about 30 minutes. I am relentless, relentless, when I decide I want to do something. So the one of the first questions that I got from my wife and family and anybody else that knew what happened there, like, so we're done, right? Like, what? Like with it? So the American Ninja Warrior thing where I'm not done? Are you kidding? hack Now, like I have to change my approach. And there are things to learn. And I had a period where for a month or two I was like, I just I just don't feel like training, I just kind of want to get it out of my system. And what happens a lot with me and I've taught my students this as well is that if something happens, it doesn't go your way, whether it's with relationships, or a job or whatever, we try to just deflect it now. So I'm okay. It's not that big of a deal, right? I'm the opposite. I just get it out of my system. And I was just grumpy and mad. And like, this happened. I'm pissed. I put in so much work, but I knew I just need to get it out. And then I woke up one morning, like, Alright, training for next year. And then that's it. Right? Yeah. And I'm sure you've been through that, too, where it's like, you say that I had dark times. And I don't want to go through this. But again, it's that nagging feeling. There's something else there and I can't quit.

Sandy Zimmerman 32:33

Yeah, you know, it's, I think that we must be cut for the same trees my first season. But I literally, I thought I'm really strong. And I was really strong, but I had no technique. And I was so naive, and I thought I'm gonna go hit a buzzer my first season. And so I went out on the second obstacle, and it was embarrassing, and I was mad. I was just so bad. I thought, Oh, this is humiliating. And we went back to the hotel that we were staying in. And I literally, I was like, Charlie, as my husband, I said, Take, you take the kids and just go somewhere. And so I think they ended up going to a zoo or something. And I just had to cry. I literally just cried. And it was a sad cry. And it was a pissed off cry. And it was just like I had to cry. And then the next morning, I got up, I googled where the closest parks were. And we went to the parks and I did like I was like, I'm training for next season. This is the beginning of my comeback. And I'm like, you know, doing stuff on the on the bars and the benches that are like a ninja like, and I'm like, I just I needed to feel sorry for myself for a night. And I did. And I got it all out. And I was like even more determined. And I thought, okay, that's not how my story is going to end. And I remember thinking that a lot during some of the failure. And then during the times when I got hurt, I was like that is not how my American injuries going to end. And I just was so crazy determined that it was going to end how I wanted it to end. And, you know, the buzzer was the beginning, I also said that I have some other really big dreams and goals that I'm still pursuing on the show. But I will determine how that ends. And I think I want that power in my hands. And but I don't have a timeline. And I think that's the biggest thing. When people have these big dreams and goals. It's like, I don't have a timeline. As far as I don't know how long it's gonna take me. But I am crazy enough to stick with it long enough to have that happen. And most people are like, I want it to happen next. You know a lot of people actually it's like, I want it to happen tomorrow or next week or next month, or next year if you're really lucky. And I'm like I don't know, well, you know, I'm going to give it everything I got. And this is my goal and I'm not sure how long it's gonna take to get there. But I can't shake the feeling that this is what I'm supposed to do and I'm gonna keep chasing.

Zack Arnold 34:51

Well, the end of the day and sciences even proven this that the most successful people are simply the ones that stuck around longer and were willing to fail more than everybody That's really the only difference. There are going to be a few anomalies that are crazy, physically talented that have never even been on the course and they hit a buzzer and you're like, Oh, that's great, I hate you. Right. But other than that, for the most part, anybody successful in any field or industry, it's because they just failed longer and more consistently than everybody else. Right. And as far as hitting a buzzer, or whatever the goal might be, in my mind, there's two ways that it doesn't happen. Number one, I die. And number two, I choose to quit, I have control over one, I don't have control over the other. So I'm going to focus on the one I can control which is I can choose to quit and I choose not to. That's It's really that simple. So unless there's some physical reason that I can't do it, I will keep going. And I'm sure you're the same way, which is one of the reasons I love this sport so much. And the reason it gravitated to me is that if I had watched an NBA game, I couldn't have said, I think I want to play for the Lakers. I'm gonna, I'm gonna try, I'm gonna go for the Lakers, right? It's just not gonna happen. But you watch American Ninja Warrior, and you see somebody that's like 70 years old, gets your two or three obstacles, and you're like, that's my excuse. I don't really have one, right? So you see people that are going through with one leg? Well, it's my excuse again? Oh, yeah, nevermind. So that, to me, that's a big part about why the sport is so interesting to me. And it's really not even about the physical part of it. It's all the manifestations and the fears you have to confront because of how insurmountable it feels and how much it teaches you about yourself. And that's kind of where I want to go next. There's something that fascinates me about people that deal with a lot of adversity. And the first time this came up for me, it actually relates to a Documentary Feature Film that I directed and produced several years ago, it was about the first quadriplegic to become a licensed scuba diver. And what fascinated me about him he was actually a good friend of mine, and I knew him personally, but had no use of his arms or his legs. And he was came from a very well to do family born into a family that had decent means never really wanted for anything. And what fascinated me Was he had every excuse to do absolutely nothing with his life. Right like he's, he's been been given this, this hand of cards that nobody would want to be dealt to them. But because of it, nobody would look down upon him. If he chose to do nothing with his life, all that really sucks that you can't use your arms and your legs, but good thing your family has money and you can do whatever you want with it. Right? But what fascinated me was that he decided despite that, I'm going to just go after the scariest things like becoming the first quadriplegic to be a licensed scuba diver. Like just imagine, I can't use any my limbs, you know what, throw a bunch of weight on my back and throw me in the ocean? No, thanks. Not gonna do it. Right? He was he also got a degree in law. And just imagine the thought of going to law school, but somebody has to take notes for you highlight things and turn the pages and all the books, right. And I thought to myself, that was a choice. He had every reason for people to never blame him for not amounting to anything, and he chose otherwise. And I feel like in your situation in similar situations, for people to go through intense trauma, nobody would blame you. If you decided, Well, I was a foster kid, and I had no opportunities. And I grew up really, really poor. And well, you know, I'm just unliving on Well, for now, because that's the way that things worked out. But you made a choice to not become that. And when people go through adversity, I always wonder, where does that choice come from? When you decide I don't want to be what I could be, and nobody would blame me for because what's happening to me? Why did you choose to take responsibility for it and become something else?

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Kit Perkins 39:13

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Zack Arnold 39:33

When people think of protein powders they think, well, I don't want to get big and bulky. And that's not what this is about. To me this is about repair.

Kit Perkins 39:40

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Zack Arnold 40:13

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Kit Perkins 40:31

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Zack Arnold 40:45

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Sandy Zimmerman 41:13

As you're asking that, it makes me think of a story that happened to me in fifth grade. My teachers name was Mr. Smith, I really should find him and thank them. Because he made a huge impact in my life. Even though if you can imagine he was I think probably I would guess it if you imagine a teacher a year or two away from retirement, all and grumpy. And that was Mr. Smith at the time. And I never would have guessed that someone like that would have a huge impact. And at the time, I honestly had no idea what this little encounter that we had that fifth grade year would have. But now in reflecting and looking back, I'm like that changed my whole way of looking at my life and my circumstances. As you can imagine. I got into trouble a lot in elementary school, I just couldn't sit still the focus wasn't their schools hard for me. Neither of my parents could read and write very well. So I had zero health at home. No memories of having books read to me, which is every kids, you know, should have that memory. But I just struggled in school. And and and so I think I got into trouble a lot. And I remember many times I would have to sit in at recess. And Mr. Smith would have me sit at my desk, I was the only kid in the classroom and they made me stare at the clock. And I would just stare at the clock as a painfully every second would take by and I would stare at the clock I could hear the kids out at recess playing and laughing and having fun. And I'd be staring at that clock. And here I am just another time in trouble staring at the clock and and he came over. And I think what was so different about Mr. Spence than everybody else in my life is that I think a lot of people knew that I had a pretty crappy life. You know, they knew about the foster care, they knew about being poor. And honestly, I think most people felt really sorry for me, except for Mr. Spence. He did it. And I remember him coming up to me that recess. And he says to me, you know, I know you've had a tough life, but at some point, you got to make a decision on what you want to do with it. And you know, I'm thinking, whoa, what a jerk at the time. But as you kind of think about that, I thought I remember like long later thinking, well, maybe he's right, maybe I can make the life that I want. What do I want to do with my life, I have some things I am really good at athletic things came natural. I mean, my PE class was the only part of the day that wasn't a struggle, recess and lunch, my three favorite things. I think I just started, it started a thought process of maybe things could be different. Maybe I didn't have to make the same choices that my parents were making. Maybe I didn't have to make the same choices that some of my siblings were making, you know, maybe I could change my family tree, maybe I could make something of my life. And I think I held on to that hope. And I think getting into sports, you're around that positivity. You're around those other role models and those influences. And most of the time, those sporting influences of coaches and players, they all have big dreams. So what do you do? Well, you want to dream big, too. But I think having that moment with Mr. sprints, and having someone that didn't feel sorry for me that did lower the bar, that they said you know what, doesn't matter keep the bar high. Make your life something, do something with it. Don't lower the bar because you feel sorry for somebody. And so I think that was really impactful. And I think the older I get the more I realized that was such a big moment. And the more I think about it and even trying to do it in my own I don't want to lower the bar for anybody because they've been through some crap. Put it high, put it high and go for those big dreams and goals, the impossible ones. Everybody wants this really super comfortable goal, right? Oh, that's so doable. Like we used to teach SMART goals. You know that they are realistic goals.

Zack Arnold 45:18

Oh my god, don't get me started on smart goals. Oh dear Lord, I've actually created a new your your this is where you and I are white to discover that we were separated at birth. I have an entire online course where I teach the opposite of smart goals and they're called stupid goals. Create crazy goals because SMART goals are boring. Yes. And they're easy and stop setting SMART goals. You want to reach some goal on a quarterly report, as a middle manager set a SMART goal. You want to do something with your life that actually has meaning set a stupid goal. So my god, you and I are on the same page. I love it. Yeah. Well, what I'm curious about now, and I'm really curious, because I already know the answer. But given this experience with this teacher in fifth grade, and given that your favorite classes were recess, and lunch in PE, tell me a little bit more about what you do for a living?

Sandy Zimmerman 46:10

Well, you know, I even even though I didn't really understand it in college, I knew that I wanted to do something that where I can have an influence in lives and impact lives, like my coaches and my teachers did to me. And I kind of fought it a little bit because I remember in college, just thinking I don't want to be the typical college athlete, you know, oh, we go into teach PE. And so I actually really thought that my first couple years and I thought I'm doing my undergrad, I'll figure out what I want to do. And again, that nagging feeling of the system to you are going to be so good at and you're going to be able to impact lives, you're going to be able to make a difference. And so I've been a teacher for over 20 years. But Zack, I will tell you something crazy. I don't I don't know maybe we'll have another conversation in five years. But part of me feels like I as crazy as a sound because I've been doing it for 22 years. And finally at this point, you start to make a decent living wage as a teacher.

Zack Arnold 47:11

Most of my family is teachers. I come from a long line of teaching. My wife is a third grade teacher. My sister's a teacher. My dad is a teacher, so I know it all to continue. Oh, yes,

Sandy Zimmerman 47:22

yeah, so you get it. And I know it sounds so crazy when I think about this. But again, those feelings as much as I love teaching, and I still do love it today. I feel like there's something else I'm supposed to do. And I don't know what it is. And I think my wheels are turning because it just part of me. It doesn't make sense. I'm doing a job I love. I'm making a difference in these kids lives. I'm investing in their lives. But I just there's something in me going there's something else you're supposed to be doing. I think really, I'm living this comfortable, great life. I'm teaching I love it. I love what I do, I'm finally making decent money. Because I've been at it for a while and and now it's this feeling of but there's something else. And I have no clues as to what it is. But that's kind of my state of mind right now is trying to figure out what that feeling is in my gut that there's something else. I don't want to say bigger.

Zack Arnold 48:22

I bet it's bigger. I have no doubt that is bigger. But what doesn't surprise me at all. Again, even though we've only known each other for 57 minutes now. I feel like we probably know each other a little bit better because there's a lot of similarities. I think there's a connection between I know there's something more and you saying but I'm comfortable. Yeah, right. There's something really scary and uncomfortable.

Sandy Zimmerman 48:45

Yeah, and I am comfortable in what I do and I'm good at you know, I'm really good at it. Which seems crazy. I mean, I think most people would think why would you go now and do something different and look at your age look at how long you've been at this career. You love it you're getting paid finally now well to do it. And it all seems crazy, but I think you're right when that word comfort came out of my life. My mouse I almost thought you know, if I wanted comfort, I would watch American Ninja Warrior for my couch. I don't want comfort because you don't grow there. So oh my gosh, that just gave me goosebumps oh

Zack Arnold 49:24

so here's here's what we're gonna do now totally unplanned like I told you I have no agenda. I have something in my program that's called the hot seat where I put my students in the hot seat to work through whatever the challenge might be. And we're gonna see if we can not necessarily find an answer but get you one tiny step closer to figuring out what's the next thing for you. So what I'm curious about it, you said yeah, I don't really know what it is. But let's talk about some of the voices. What is the nagging voice whether it's the feeling in your gut or just random thoughts that you have, when you know that wearing them now is not orange supposed to be just random off the top of your head, throwing spaghetti against the wall, what are some of those things that are popping out?

Sandy Zimmerman 50:05

I think in teaching, especially PE, you know, I'm seeing the kids two to three times per week for 30 minutes. And there is some connection there. But not the same as when you really connect with people. And it's not an appropriate place to share any of my story, nor does it ever come up. And I just feel like I'm sitting homeless on this goldmine of experience, and that I need to share how I came out the other side. And I'm pretty good at talking. And I think I could definitely probably do some training or get some guidance, because I think naturally I just talked, I've gone to schools and done speaking things. And I think, gosh, I just kind of do these things. And I don't have any training or background. And I just honestly go and just, you know, I really am as I prepare just thinking, I just want to go and make a difference. What is it that these people need to hear? What is someone sitting in that audience? How could I possibly say something that might change their life that might be that one little moment when they're like, Oh, I could do this or that or whatever it is, or Oh, now this makes sense. So I think those aha moments, I want to provide those for people and I have this, I can take all this crap that I've been through, and like use it for good. I think how can good come from everything that I've been through. And I think sometimes people just need to see, wow, you went through this and you came out the other side, because I'm struggling with this. And I can see now that you can come out the other side, and actually be better and stronger mentally and physically, all of those things. So I just feel like I'm sitting on this goldmine of stories and experiences, and how do I share that? And how do I reach the most people possible? And that's what I want to do. That's what I just lights my fire.

Zack Arnold 51:59

So I think you might be a little bit closer to the answer than you think. Cuz you painted a pretty clear picture for me, I heard the words speaking. I heard the words telling a deeper story. And I heard the word audience. Give me an example of an arena where all three of those things might come together.

Sandy Zimmerman 52:15

I think like an American Ninja Warrior where you get a little bit, but it's usually not in depth.

Zack Arnold 52:20

But we've already talked about how you're not you don't get the personal connection number one because people don't realize how lonely it actually is running American Ninja Warrior. It's like you're just standing on the platform and you're waiting for a stage manager like Okay, go. Right, like yeah, I mean, you've had the benefit of doing in front of a live audience. I've only done it during COVID times. And it's just like, you can hear a pin drop. You're like, this is weird. And then you're done. And that's it. Right? But there's, there's no you don't have the ability to tell the much deeper story. And at least live you're not getting the connection or the experience that you want. So ninja gave you a platform for people to notice you. But you don't want to keep doing two minute featurettes on American Ninja Warrior the rest of your career? Absolutely. So how do we get you in front of an audience where you can tell your story?

Sandy Zimmerman 53:07

Well, I the the stuff that has excited me like I have gone to elementary schools, and I've talked and like one in particular, I was just like, wow, I got done with that. And I sat. I don't know how they all felt. But I felt like I hit that out of the park. Like there was connection. People were engaged. People were laughing people were on the verge of tears. It was just like, it was it was just an incredible experience. And it was one of those funny ones though, as I went in, I could feel like I was way too nervous. And I thought oh my gosh, I'm getting this can be awful. It's going to be awful. And so I actually went before by saying because what calms me is exercise. It's been my, my go to therapy. So I get on the treadmill and I'm running before I do this talk. And it just has to be breathing and thinking. And as I'm jogging, I just hear this voice asked me like Sandy. What? What's the point of this? Why? What do you want to get out of this going to speak to these kids at this school? Because originally it started out, oh, we're gonna have a few classrooms. And then a few classrooms turned into whole grade levels. And then it turned into, well, the whole school wants to go now. So it turned into what I thought was going to be like this little thing to this huge school. I think I was nervous. And I just remember like that voice going, Sandy, what's the point? What do you want to do here? And I just as I'm running, I'm thinking, well, I just want to make a difference. I want to impact lives. My goal is to impact lives through this talk. That's something I say we'll make a difference. And then and then as I'm running, I'm like, that's my goal, okay, that's what I want to do. And then I hear this other voice go. It doesn't have to be perfect to be impactful. And I just hit me like a ton of bricks. And all of a sudden I didn't feel that nervous. Just that little bit of nervous. You need to be your best. It was like, gosh, that's so true. I don't have to be perfect to be impactful. Now get in there. Go. Oh, that stage walking. Like you own a chest out, head up, and go share your story. And lives will be changed. And it won't be perfect. Like that, you know, that was the whole conversation and I went in there and it wasn't perfect. It wasn't. But I think it was really impactful. And I've never had more people like, reach out and go, that really changed my life. And it was a teacher or my students, we've been using your story all school year, to share stories of grit and perseverance. And but it was interesting how it also impacted the teachers and the kids. And that one really comes to mind if that felt great. But how do I, I mean, I still got to pay the bills, and my kids need to have food on the table and a roof over their head. So I, I think that's the struggle that I'm having now is that I have responsibilities and these bills to pay and things to do and I loved. So it's safe, and it's comfortable that I can do that. But also this feeling of there's something more I need you to do. This is there's so a bigger purpose that I have for you. How do I make that that come? How do I make that happen? And I think that's kind of the limbo Limbo I'm in right now, is I don't want to be comfortable. And you're right. That's such a gross word. To me. It's almost like a customer. When it comes in my mouth. I'm like, oh, sage, yeah, comfortable?

Zack Arnold 56:16

Well, I don't know if you realize it. But the conversation changed over the last five minutes. You're asking a different question now than you did when we started. The question that I asked you that was a reflection of what you were asking yourself is, I don't know what I want to do. The conversation ended with, I don't know how to do it. It seems you're way clear on what it is that you want to do. But you're getting stuck. And I don't know how to make it happen. But you're confusing it with. I don't know what it is, you painted a very vivid, clear picture of what I think this looks like. So is there more what in there? Are you clear on what it is that you really want to do that make the impact? Because it wasn't like, maybe I'll do this or that or the other thing? Like, you basically described exactly what you want to do all day, every day. It sounds to me like if you could repeat that experience speaking to those kids, and you could do that two or three days a week, something similar to it and make a living off of it. Would you do it?

Sandy Zimmerman 57:16

Yes, absolutely. Right.

Zack Arnold 57:18

So what Yeah, actually checked off the list done

Sandy Zimmerman 57:21

That excites me about how could I, I mean, that is, I think that would be using the gifts I've been given the stuff that I have been through and really taking it and being able to impact lives because ultimately that's, that's what I want to do. That's I want to do that for people so they can have their moments. It's, you know, it's like just seeing other people chase their dreams, seeing other people even tap into their potential. I don't say full potential because I feel like none of us are even close. Not even close. But we can keep pursuing. So yeah, that would be that would be quite a life and that'd be quite a change. And I'm 45 so that seems even nuttier.

Zack Arnold 58:02

It sounds like a limiting belief to me. Was that a limiting belief?

Sandy Zimmerman 58:06

Well, I mean, I'm trying to see I think what I'm, yeah, you're you're gonna call me out, aren't you?

Zack Arnold 58:14

I don't call I don't call it the lukewarm. There's a reason it's called the hot seat. Oh, is your story, any worse? Or less impactful? Because you're 45 versus 25?

Sandy Zimmerman 58:26

Absolutely not. It comes with a lot of wisdom and life experience, actually. So I'm much more impactful actually now than I ever would have been in my 20s or 30s.

Zack Arnold 58:35

And how about if you waited another five years? Is your story going to suck when you're 50?

Sandy Zimmerman 58:42

No, those are very good points,

Zack Arnold 58:45

I know seem like you have a you have enough energy. And it seems like you can get out of bed in the morning and you know, swing from one bar to the next if you need to. So it doesn't seem like energy is going to be a problem at your age.

Sandy Zimmerman 58:57


Zack Arnold 58:58

So I think you know, what you want to do. I think where you're getting stuck is how do I make it happen? Because there's there's all kinds of things that are scary, like not being able to pay the bills, or what if there's traveling involved, but I don't know, you seem a lot clear on what it is that comes next and what really drives you and what would energize you.

Sandy Zimmerman 59:17

Yeah, that has really hit me because I think you are right, I know what, which is crazy. And I think that's why I didn't really I was kind of like I don't know what it is. But I do know what lights my fire and I knew what my gut is like, you got to share your story. You got to share your story. But I think you're right, I'm hung up on the hell it seems really complicated. Because

Zack Arnold 59:41

you're not wrong. It's not easy, but since when have you been afraid of doing something that's hard?

Sandy Zimmerman 59:47

True? Well, now I have a whole lot of homework to do to fit.

Zack Arnold 59:51

Yeah. My podcast guests every once in a while, come away with come away with some homework, they don't realize that they're gonna actually go through so like this whole Deep expire, I warned you. I told you it's not going to be a fluff piece. So, so Sandy, what was it like hitting the buzzer on American Ninja Warrior? That seems like it was really exciting. Were you happy? Tell us all about it. Oh, geez. Right. You've, we've all heard that. And I'm sure it was exciting and exhilarating. But there's, there's a whole lot more that we can dig out of somebody's story. And that's why I knew that when I saw I saw yours and I started to dig into a deeper, I'm like, oh, there's a goldmine of good stuff here. Because you know the same thing. You know, there's a goldmine of experiences, both good and bad, that can impact others. And you're already having a hugely positive impact on people both with telling your story going on shows, but also being a teacher. But you just know there's something more? Yeah, it's annoying, isn't it?

Sandy Zimmerman 1:00:47

It is annoying, I can't tell you because I mean, I could easily just go on as I've gone on, and it would be much easier. But, but I wouldn't feel as fulfilled. And isn't that what we really want in life is to feel like, we are fulfilling what we came here to do. And I feel like I that is what the next chapter is, is using the growth that I've had through American Ninja Warrior, and the courage and confidence that I have now to share my story. And my gift of gab, I can't read very well. And all of that is a struggle. But I have this ability to talk and to share. And I can develop it to I think there's a lot of room for growth. But I just, I just can't sit on these stories and not share. And everything that I've learned from them. It just is it seemed like such a waste.

Zack Arnold 1:01:45

Well, I have one additional piece of homework for you. If you if you haven't done it already, sir, I didn't shouldn't warn you how exhausting this was going to be. If you haven't watched it already, there's a documentary film you you have to see. It's called happy. And the reason I want you to watch it is because there's a guy in there that his entire life for years, was being a public speaker in middle and high schools, inspiring kids and just basically doing a lot of the things you're talking about doing. He was he was a former educator that decided he basically he's he's what I call a stand up motivator, like a stand up comedian, but for motivation. But the stuff that he talks about in the way that he inspires kids, like as soon as you told your story, I'm like these two people have to meet. So I would say watch happy. And looking at this, you're thinking, I think this might be it, let me know, send me an email I'll connect you with Okay, so I know him. I love you that connect to people where they can help each other. I had reached out to him years ago, because he was helping me with my documentary film. And I haven't talked to him for a while. But the first person came to mind as you got to meet this guy. So watch happy. And if if I'm somewhat on the right track, reach out and I'll make sure to make the connection. I want to be very, very conscious of your time you've given me more than I ever would have hoped for. I have one last question. I've been asking the same last question of my guests for a while I haven't done it for all my episodes. But I think I'm onto something because it really begets some really interesting conversations. What we're going to do is we're going to jump into a time machine. And we're going to travel back in time to fifth grade, where you are sitting at your desk during recess and you are staring at the clock and you just hate life and just everything is going wrong and all these bad things have happened. Why is this teacher making me do this? knowing everything you know now about your story and where you are now and where you're going? What do you tell that girl sitting at the desk during recess staring at the clock

Sandy Zimmerman 1:03:43

that stirred up a lot of emotion. And I would want to I would want that little girl to know that she's going to get through this. I would want that little girl to know that she is stronger than she will ever be able to imagine at this age. And that not only is she going to survive all that she has gone through and going through because she's going to take it and use it for good that she's going to take all of it and use it to make an impact on other people's lives when she's older. Wow, you got me dang it.

Zack Arnold 1:04:36

I didn't intend to. But I I appreciate the the honesty and the vulnerability and there there are some people that metaphorically are the girl sitting at the desk staring at the clock thinking this is it like this is all I've gotten. It's never going to get any better than they need to know that as long as they keep going. There's a version of themselves in the future that wants to time travel. back and give them whatever advice they need, which is why thing is such a powerful exercise. So now, I'm actually going to, I'm actually going to add one on to this. We're gonna

Sandy Zimmerman 1:05:12

This is this lighter or am I going to cry again?

Zack Arnold 1:05:15

I don't know what we'll find out. I'm not sure. And I think it might be the first Ninja, I've made cry. I'm not sure. But I have to think back to my other interviews, but you might be the first. But now we're going to play the time travel machine again. But now a time traveler has visited you. And it's you 10 years from now. Oh, man, what is she doing? And what has she accomplished?

Sandy Zimmerman 1:05:40

10 years from now, I think the thought process would be one of as scary as it was to leave the comfort and safety of a 22 year old job that you love. Look at how much meaning your life has now. And how much impact it's making in other people's lives. That is a rippling effect for the people that they have in their lives and that the other people have in their lives. Look at what you did, because you weren't settling for comfort. Because you weren't settling for what was safe, that you took that chance. And now look at the difference you're making.

Zack Arnold 1:06:23

I believe that's what in the industry they call a mic drop. Yeah, that was pretty, pretty, pretty good. I was pretty awesome. And I love the fact that you were bold enough to not even question it. Well, I don't know. Like, she might tell me that I'm not teaching or I don't know, I don't know what she say like, there's none of that. Like you just went right for it. So I think you know, you're at the precipice of this change. You feel it. Now you just got to start working on logistics.

Sandy Zimmerman 1:06:50

And it I feel so excited right now. So excited and terrified.

Zack Arnold 1:06:58

That's the that's that's the sweet spot. Right? Yeah.

Sandy Zimmerman 1:07:02

Yeah, gosh, I'm sure that so many people, I'm just laughing because there are going to be so many people that think I'm nuts. Like, why would you after a 22 year career as a teacher? make the change now?

Zack Arnold 1:07:19

It's funny because I see it exactly the opposite way. If you've already done 22 years, why in the world, would you do another 10 of the same thing? Right? That's that's what I'm thinking of I am because I know that you and I are we seem to be of similar minds. It's not why would you leave it? It's why would you stay when you've already done it?

Sandy Zimmerman 1:07:37

Yeah. Yeah, I think it's, it was very fulfilling. And I felt like I was making a difference. But there's this nudge that I've got to, to change gears. And I think I've been fighting it. Because again, it's it's a huge life changing decision. And yeah, it's, it seems crazy, but not crazy. For me. I think you're right. I mean, it would seem crazy if I didn't pursue it and figure out how I can make that work. Because it has been eating at me like, you're not able to share the deep stories, you're not able to impact the lives that you could. And I can't, I won't be able to sleep at night, knowing that I'm sitting on that, and not doing everything I can. So who?

Zack Arnold 1:08:27

Well, I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that just what you shared today is going to have an impact on the people that listen to it. And the people that see it, there's no question. So we can just double down on that we can do it a lot more in front of a lot more people, then you're done. Simple. Maybe not easy, but simple. So on that note, speaking of impacting others, for those that are listening, or watching today that are saying, I have got to connect with Sandy and find her and learn more about her. How do they find you on the interwebs and other?

Sandy Zimmerman 1:08:57

Yeah, I have a website, just sandyzimmermanninja.com, and it has all my information on there. So links to my Instagram, I have a public Facebook page has my email there so people can find me there and, and connect. That'd be great. Maybe someone out there can give me some ideas on how do you What's the How is this? What's the first step there's got to be someone I'll watch happy. And I begin a little homework and a little direction. And I think I'm just gonna put one foot in front of the other right now and have the courage to make this happen. I've done other things that have been scary at first, and it just always becomes an incredible, incredible thing. So I guess I'm at the beginning of this new big dream. So you get to kind of watch the first step Zack, I believe

Zack Arnold 1:09:52

and that is my specialty is helping people figure out what is the direction and what is the first step. That's what I love to do

Sandy Zimmerman 1:10:01

you like Happy is the first step

Zack Arnold 1:10:03

so watch Happy which you'll enjoy I mean it's in the title so it's like how can not you right? but yeah if you decide that you want to connect you let me know and I'll do my best to make it happen and I have a feeling that you and I might stay connected in the future because I would love to I would love to be any part of this journey wherever you need the the assistance or support

Sandy Zimmerman 1:10:21

well that thank you so much Wow.

Zack Arnold 1:10:24

Well On that note, I can't thank you enough for being so open and vulnerable and honest and sharing your your story and your time and everything else so it means the world to me it means the world to my audience. So thank you so much.

Sandy Zimmerman 1:10:35

Thank you for having me.

Zack Arnold 1:10:40

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Optimize Yourself podcast. to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes as well as to subscribe so you don't miss future interviews just like this one, please visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast. And as a quick reminder, if you'd like me to answer your burning questions on an upcoming q&a episode, all you have to do is visit optimize yourself.me slash podcast subscribe via apple and then leave us an honest review. At the end of your review, leave your question and we will answer an in depth on an upcoming q&a episode and we're even going to give you credit for it. And once again a special thank you to our sponsor Ergodriven for making today's interview possible. To learn more about Ergodriven and my favorite product for standing workstations the Topomat, visit optimizeyourself.me/topo, that's t o p o and to learn more about Ergodriven and their brand new product that I'm super excited about New Standard Whole Protein, visit optimizeyourself.me/newstandard. Thank you for listening, stay safe, healthy and sane and be well.

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Guest Bio:


Sandy Zimmerman

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Sandy Zimmerman is a Physical Education teacher, speaker, mother of 3, five-time American Ninja Warrior competitor and 1st mom in 11 seasons to complete the ANW course. She is a former national judo champion and played basketball at Gonzaga University. When she’s not teaching, she runs ninja classes in her own backyard where they have over 40 obstacles. She was also involved in several different speaking events, local fundraisers, charities and events offering private ninja lessons.

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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Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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).”