Julia Ford explains how she combines ski racing with education "to create the ultimate tensegri


Everything in skiing should flow together in graceful transitions, one turn

to the next. The same concept can be applied in business. GroundSwell integrates five content areas to develop a company’s tensegrity: Strategy, Organizational Development, Time Driven Financials, Inner Game, and Managing People. I love that word - tensegrity. One would think I’d picture the perfect ski turn or a business effortlessly running. Unfortunately, I see the scene in The Girl Next Door when Eli tells his buds, ‘we’re a %^&*& tripod. You kick out one of our legs, we all fall!” Tensegrity, baby.

Back to the point. In October, I boarded an airplane to Austria with a conceptual understanding of the content areas and my new Basics to Accounting book weighing down my carry-on bag. Financials was the first content area we’d attack. I gulp at the memory. I knew nothing about finances except that money was something I always needed more of and skiing took a lot.

At that time, I had two lively elements at play. First, I was going skiing. In Austria, coming off a year out of gates, I had expectations of progress. My goal was to get my fundamental skiing back. Second, it was my first trip while attending GroundSwell. This means I’d be logging into class, watching the recordings, and learning the basics of accounting. Accounting…my accountant hates me. I do my taxes late, come in with a box of receipts, and ask the same questions every year. Let’s just say, when I boarded that plane to Austria, in my skiing and my work with GroundSwell, I’d be starting with the basics. My days took on a similar pattern. I’d wake up glacier early for a veteran’s warmup, breakfast and hit the road. The Stubier Glacier isn’t challenging to get up. It’s one gondola but it possesses European qualities, aka fighting vicious lines against little minions. Waiting in line, I would go through my GroundSwell flashcards. Learning terms like EBITDA and deferred tax liabilities as twelve year olds tried to cut me and I relentlessly warded off their attacks. Off the hill at noon-one-ish, hungry, thirsty, and mentally worn from the acute concentration the delicacies of training takes, my calves throbbed with the remnants of T-bar riding. Stuffing my face to replenish my energy, I’d tune, wax, and meet Tom Barbeau for dryland/rehab, never longer than an hour. The trip’s main focus was high volume on snow. Off snow was for recovery and maintenance.

At this point, I’d take a nap or at least a breather. One can only go so hard for so long. When I felt ready, I’d grab my accounting book, my computer and head to the bar. No, GroundSwell has not caused me to drink. The bar was the only place for internet and quiet. I’d watch a recording of the class that had happened while I was skiing, or dive into the pages of accounting. Accounting is the language of business. Before I could get into a business, I first needed to learn to speak the same language. Just as on the glacier, where I was relearning the language of technical skiing. I think it is important here to describe what happens when you miss a GroundSwell class. Everything is recorded. GroundSwell is designed for active lifestyles. Classes are meant to be attended from the road and that is exactly how I could do it. In Austria, it was quite easy. The time change made class at 4pm, so most times, internet quality permitting, I could attend. When I did miss class, I’d go to the GroundSwell google drive and watch the recording. There, I get to see everyone’s bright, shining faces and computer screens. I just can’t talk and be heard.

Back to Austria. The days at that Stubier camp cruised by. Now, I view it as the beginning. It’s where I started to understand how financials connect to strategy which effects organizational development, and the inner game being the most important of all. In skiing, I found flow, developed a platform I could work with, and, most importantly, gained the gumption to really drive again. Each component began to work together to form a picture of my year. When I got on that plane to Austria I couldn’t see the vision. When I left, pieces became clearer. It was going to take effort and working together to create the ultimate tensegrity to succeed.

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