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Agility: Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

On Wednesday, November 2, Crofton House held its annual Career Conference for Grade 11 and 12 students. This year’s theme was ‘Agility: Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable’. Fourth generation alumna Stephanie Grauer ’15, and her mother, third generation alumna, Leila Bell-Irving Grauer ’77 spoke to students about why it is important to face failure, accept change, and trust yourself. 

“We’re here to share ideas that can illustrate our understanding of agility. Not to define this word for you but to share it as an experience because you’re already more agile than you know,” remarked Leila as she opened the start of the fifth CHS Career Conference. 

Both Leila and Stephanie took stories from personal experiences to show students there are many ways to apply agility and approach adversity. For Leila, it’s being ready to adapt to sudden and progressive change. Agility is “a survival skill, the ability to recognize that you have a very adaptive and flexible mind that has a much greater capacity to do new things.”

She continued, “have the courage to go into something you haven't seen or heard of or may not fully understand.” This is exactly what Leila did when she was asked to pivot from her role as VP of Marketing for the NHL Canucks to the VP of Business Development for the NBA Grizzlies, a new role in a new sport. She later made the leap into a completely different industry as President of Regional Health Enterprises with Vancouver Coastal Health. 

Leila always said yes to new opportunities, demonstrating how agility is an attitude as well as a skill. “Have the courage to say yes. I knew there were lots of smart people present, so I asked lots of questions.” Don’t limit yourself, “because people are going to help you along the way. You are not alone.”

In 2020, Stephanie represented Team Canada at the 2020 Summer Olympics in the women's coxless four event, a lifelong dream. During her time with Team Canada she experienced setbacks with injuries and the pandemic. She credits not having a podium finish with her ability to look at agility and failure from a different perspective. “How you respond to failure, and the ability to have confidence in yourself and to back yourself when you fail is really important.” 

“I came to the conclusion that it wasn't best for me to continue rowing. I went back to school, I got my master's degree at Stanford University and discovered I was super interested in Web3. I got an MIT certification in blockchain and now I have a great job living in San Francisco and absolutely have never been happier in my life.” 

Stephanie reflects, “there is a type of courage to keep trying after failure but there is also the courage to know it's time to move on and know that other doors are going to open up for you. If I had kept rowing, I wouldn't have my second degree, this awesome career and be living in a wonderful city and so I want to serve as proof that if things don't go as planned, lots of opportunities are still waiting for you. There's so many different ways to be successful. Don’t overthink it, don't be scared of what's coming next, because it's actually really fun.”

Recalling the stress of being a student and the initial change from her transition as an athlete to having a professional career, Stephanie reminded students that regardless of setbacks, which are inevitable, it won’t take away all that they have already accomplished. “You have so many skills that you may not realize. You’re already picking up skills as a student, or as an athlete, or working at your part-time job. It’s so important to remember to recognize those skills and give yourself credit for what you have already accomplished.”

The virtual conference was an ideal example used to highlight students' already ongoing practice of working their agility ‘muscle’. Leila explained, “you're the most agile generation of my lifetime and I want to help you recognize the incredible things that have happened in your minds as a result of having to deal with COVID, school closures and working online. Because you had to shift so much of your life to deal with the current circumstances that we find ourselves in, you've already been on the treadmill of agility.”