Being a high performer in life

Energy givers and energy takers

Estevan – Dr. Kimberley Amirault-Ryan was the speaker for the fifth annual Independent Well Servicing Safety Stand Down, held at Estevan’s Southeast College campus on Jan. 16.

The event is put on each year with the cooperation of Crescent Point Energy Corp., who shuts down their service rig fleet for the afternoon so that crews from the numerous service rig companies that work for them can take part. There were 194 people in attendance.

Amirault-Ryan has a PhD in psychology. She is a counselling psychologist who specializes in high performance athletics. This has included heading up the sport psychology efforts for Canada for five Olympic games, working with the Canadian Olympic hockey team and the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Knicks and Edmonton Oilers. She lives in Calgary and Vernon.

While she works in high performance athletics, the oilpatch is never far from her mind, as her husband, Rick Ryan, has been heavily involved through the years with various companies – Ryan Energy Technologies, MATRRIX Energy Solutions Inc., (which purchased, then changed its name to Stampede Drilling). His current efforts are in a company called roundLAB Inc.

“I’m very well aware of what’s going on, especially the challenges in the oilpatch,” she said before her presentation.

Amirault-Ryan’s focus was on excellence – what the best in the world do. She spoke about organizations that have long-term success and how they do it, and the things they do personally and professionally to be the best in the world.

She tied it in with safety, so that in being your best, people around you are also at their best.

Her first day on the job with the New York Rangers was quite literally Sept. 11, 2001.

Amirault-Ryan was walking, downtown, to Madison Square Garden for 9 a.m. that fateful morning, just as the attacks occurred.

“I feeling really nervous, because it was the first time a woman had ever been hired to do all the mental performance for a mens pro team. I’m going to be the only woman with 150 men. So I decided I would calm myself down by walking to Madison Square Garden,” she said.

It was a 10 block walk. “Five minutes into my walk, all of a sudden there are millions of people running in this direction. I get knocked over. I lose everything out of my bag. I’m throwing everything back in my bag, I grab my phone and I call my mom, in Nova Scotia.

“I said, ‘Something is wrong. Everybody told me New York is crazy, but something is really wrong.’

“Then, my phone went dead. The reason my phone went dead is the cellphone towers went down because the first plane had hit the World Trade Center. The first day on the job was 9/11.”

“I share that story because not every day is as stressful as 9/11, but we are all living in such a stressful world, where we have so much going on, personally or professionally, and yet you’re still expected to perform, and be at your best, obviously. Safety, being aware, being sharp,” she said.

Amirault-Ryan said that in sport, the tone is set in the locker room.  

She used an example of holding a water bottle up at arms length. It’s not so much the weight, but how long you can hold it there. “This is the same thing as our stress. The absolute weight does not matter, it’s how long you can carry it for,” she said, referring to stress from a week ago, a month ago or even a year ago.

“If you have not worked it through, you cannot carryon as a high performer,” she said.

Energy givers and takers

“I divide the whole world into energy givers, and energy takers,” she said.

He gave an example of how a high performer was trying out for the mens Olympic team, the best players in the country. But one had a tendency to complain. And when they put him on the fourth line, he brought down that line. “He decreased the level of play on that line,” she said.

Then they tried him on the first line, with the superstars. He made a mistake, and through complaining increased the stress on that line. But when they brought on an energy giver, a superstar, onto the fourth line, it improved. The energy-taker didn’t make the team, but that whole fourth line, without him, did.

“Every single one of us has a choice, every day, to have a world-winning attitude, or have negative behaviour. When we’re at our best, we make the world around us better,” she said.

Amirault-Ryan spoke about thinking of goals you’d like to accomplish.

Women’s hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser had broken her foot, meaning she would have to stay off it for seven months if she was to play at the Sochi Olympics. Instead of running hill sprints five times a week, she would crawl those hill sprints, five times a week. Wickenheiser set up an area in her garage where she could keep practicing her shots, while in a chair, all that time. She ended up not only attending the games, but being our flag-bearer. And after winning another gold medal she retired, she got into medical school. She now works with the Maple Leafs in player development.

Taking about performing through stress and adversity, she got back to her story about when the World Trade Centre collapsed. Her phone went dead with no signal. Not knowing what to do, she eventually made it to the Garden, where she found the door locked.

Security let her in, and there she met Glen Sather, president of the New York Rangers for the first time. He gave her his and his wife’s phone number. Sather then asked her what she wanted to do, and she said she wanted to reprogram her voicemail via a landline so that anyone calling would know she was safe. To keep people occupied during this stressful time, Sather told her to help all the others there do the same.

“He gave us a small task to calm us and make us feel part of the solution,” she said.

Sather had a profound impact on her. “He’s really good at catching people doing right,” she said.

Amirault-Ryan also spoke about creating a high performance environment. That can include taking criticism in front of your peers.

She concluded, “Think about one person in your team, your life, who can be a high performer.”


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