Sammie is an Account Manager & Powerlifter
Sammie Johannes returns to the podcast from episode 93 to talk about her continued passion for powerlifting, recent accomplishments, and how her company, Xero, supports her passion for powerlifting!
• Finding a community in powerlifting when relocating
• Participated in 3 national competitions
• Recent injuries and recovery
• How Xero supports her passion for powerlifting
• How powerlifting helps with her mental wellness
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Welcome to Episode 286 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I’m following up with a guest who had been on my show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes every Wednesday and Follow-up Fridays now. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Sammie Johannes. She’s an account manager with Xero out of Perth, Australia, and now she’s with me here today just a couple of days before your birthday. Sammie, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Sammie: Thanks for having me back, John.
John: Absolutely. I’m so excited, and Happy Birthday, early. Now everyone can tweet at you and send you emails and flood you with all of this happiness. Right?
Sammie: Thank you.
John: Who doesn’t need that? Absolutely. Absolutely. I mixed it up since the last time you were on. Episode 93, golly, that was so long ago. Good for you for being brave enough to talk to me then. Here we go. I do the rapid fire questions upfront now, so we’re going to have a little fun here. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Sammie: Harry Potter.
John: Okay. What’s a typical breakfast? Cereal? Okay. Do you prefer more hot or cold? Hot? All right. How about a favorite Disney character?
Sammie: Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
John: Oh, there you go. Good answer. There you go. How about more oceans or mountains?
John: Yeah, yeah, I figured. Two more. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
John: Ooh, solid. This is an important one, toilet paper roll, over or under?
John: Over, okay. I wasn’t sure if in Australia you guys did the opposite like how your whatever — like the toilet water goes down the drain the opposite direction type of thing. I didn’t know if the toilet paper matched it. I wasn’t sure.
John: People are crazy down there too. Put it against the wall. I got it. That’s awesome. When we talked a couple of years ago, we were talking powerlifting and the competitions that you were starting to be a part of and how you got into that, which was super cool. Is that still something that you’re doing?
Sammie: Yeah, it is. It has been such a huge part of my life. Especially with moving states, 18 months ago, it was really great being able to have that community and people that I already knew. It made life so much easier when I moved because I had no support network.
John: That’s fantastic. It was kind of that powerlifting community was the first group that you gravitated to when you moved to Perth?
Sammie: Yes, so really, really grateful that I actually knew people through Instagram but, luckily, powerlifted.
Sammie: So that made things a lot easier.
John: That’s great. So then the competitions that you’ve been a part of, and I know that there were some personal records going on, in between then when we last talked and now, for sure. You’re still doing those, obviously, out of Perth as well?
Sammie: Yeah. I moved into sanctioned competition, so being able to qualify for nationals and stuff like that, which I’ve been to three nationals since we last spoke.
Sammie: For two different federations. The first one was in August 2018 and then I competed again for nationals after doing some other comps in between to qualify, did nationals in June last year and then another nationals for the other federation in August last year. In one of the federations, I’m ranked first in Australia. In the other one, I’m ranked about seventh or eighth.
John: What? That’s amazing. That’s so great. I would like to take credit since you were a guest on the podcast, like give you a little bong, but I believe it’s all you. It’s all you. That’s awesome. That is so awesome.
Sammie: Thank you. Yeah.
John: I mean number one, of course, is amazing, but seven or eight is still amazing. What the heck. That’s great.
Sammie: Yeah. The women I’m competing against in the federation that I’m ranked about eighth, they’ve been competing for years. They’re incredibly strong women. It’s really great actually getting the chance to compete with them. It just pushes you that little bit further, but also it’s just the experience. I think the experience is the most important thing and just showing, if you put the work in, this is where you can get to.
John: Yeah, and the inspiration because you can see someone that’s done it. It’s like, well, if they can do it, so can I. What’s the difference?
Sammie: Yeah, exactly.
John: Wow. That’s just super impressive because I feel a couple of years ago when we were talking, you were very new in the journey. You were doing more local competitions, and now it’s big national ranked type things. That’s fantastic.
Sammie: Yeah, it’s a completely different world. The difference between — even when you’re doing the junior or the local, getting into it, novice competitions as we call them, you’re still learning the rules because you have to follow the rules in the novice comp because you want to be going to sanctioned knowing how everything works, but the level of competition is completely different.
John: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I can imagine. What was it like, that first one, when you made that jump from local to national sort of a thing?
Sammie: It was a good six months prep with three months of lighter training and just dialing in technique and another three months of just really pushing it and seeing what I could do. Yeah, just completely different world. You approach it so differently. Something I try not to do now is know exactly what I’m going to hit at the comp. I give myself an idea of what I want to hit, but I don’t set my heart on a number because I know, for example, I’ve got a certain number in my head that I want to hit for dead lifts in the next year or so. What’s going through my head is like, okay, cool, I could have hit that a year ago, but I didn’t because I wasn’t strong enough. I’d also injured myself, and I was just trying really to push myself a little bit too hard.
So, my goal in comp day is to not only go out there and just beat my current records that I hold, like my personal records, but to just go out there and have fun because I was putting so much pressure on myself to be at that next level.
John: You could also self-limit. Because if in your brain, it’s — I mean for you, it’s much bigger numbers. For me, it’s, let’s say, 20 pounds. I hit the 20 pounds and I’m like, I’m done. It’s like, who knows, I could have done 40. You never know. You could self-limit at the same time. Also, you’re setting yourself up for potential failure because let’s say you do two pounds less than that, that’s still freaking great. You shouldn’t feel like a failure.
Sammie: Yeah. I’ve walked out of comps beating myself up. I had a couple of bad injuries last year. I actually snapped my rib bone off the cartilage.
John: Oh, my goodness. Youch.
Sammie: I didn’t know I’d done it because apparently my pain threshold is so high that I didn’t realize I’d done back in early January. It was only in middle of February, six weeks later, and I’m going, oh, training is not feeling good. I was having to get my friend to do my belt up for me around my waist because I had to hold my body in a certain position to be able to get the belt on because I was hurting so much. What that resulted in me having to do a really nasty weight cut to actually make weight when I shouldn’t have because I was carrying so much excess fluid from the injury.
John: Right. That’s exactly why I don’t do powerlifting right there. That’s exactly why. No, I’m just kidding. I’m joking. That’s got to be super hard then because when you’re injured — because it’s like, well, the competition is coming up, and you’ve got to get ready.
Sammie: I found out two weeks out before competing.
Sammie: Yeah. So it was like, oh, crap, what am I doing? I’m like, well I’m not giving up the prep. Yeah, it was just not a good thing, but I PR’ed all my lifts on my second attempts. My third attempts were like, okay, we’ll see if I can do them. If I don’t, I don’t care if I fail them because I know that my body is not in a fit situation for me to be able to actually do them.
John: Yeah. You’ve got your personal record anyway, so everything else is gravy. Yeah, that’s impressive. So impressive and so cool to hear not only that you’re still doing it, but where you’re at now in the whole process, it’s just so cool. So cool. Is this something that the Xero team knows about, especially the group in Perth?
Sammie: Yes, they’ve been really supportive. When I was in prep, they were really understanding. It meant that I wasn’t drinking with the team on a Friday afternoon and stuff.
Sammie: Because we’d have team drinks at lunchtime on a Friday and, yeah, they’ve been really supportive. Actually, this time last year, I got up in front of the whole sales team here in Australia and told them about my story with, obviously, mental illness and eating disorder and how powerlifting helped turn my life around, that how everything that I’ve learned through powerlifting actually relates to what I do as an account manager in sales. I found that to be really interesting and just being given the opportunity to share it was incredible. So I’m really grateful that we have such a supportive team. Even Trent, our managing director here in Australia, every time I see him, he’s always like, “How are you going with your training?” which is such a human aspect which is something we obviously live and breathe at Xero as well.
John: That’s so fantastic. How did that come about, for you to be able to present to everyone, basically, your story? Is that something that happens regularly or something you brought up?
Sammie: We have like a sales team catch-up the day before we had our internal, the whole of Xero Australia conference last year. We’re going to try doing something a bit different. We’re going to get some of the sales team to come up and talk about a topic that they’re passionate about. They messaged me. I was only six months into my role at the time, and they’re like, “Hey, we know you’ve got a pretty cool story. Would you mind sharing it?” I’ve gone, okay, I’ll take the opportunity. It was a really empowering opportunity, I think, because it’s probably the first time that I’d actually gotten up and spoken about what I’ve been through since I was 11 and how it shaped my life and how I coped with it.
Because the scary thing about — I’m not sure if you’ve seen the statistics, but in Australia, you don’t actually know how many people in Australia, in the accounting and bookkeeping industry, including us in the tech space and accounting, actually live with mental illness. If we look at the study done in the UK, over 51% of the respondents who were surveyed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales. This study was done back in about 2018, I think. It said that over 51% of them had some form of mental illness, whether it was depression, anxiety.
If you take those statistics and then you look at the population of the UK, look at the population of Australia and number of practitioners in the industry, we’ve got nearly 34,000 accounting and bookkeeping practices here in Australia. That’s quite a high number. If you look at the number of people that are affected, whether it’s themselves personally or someone they know, it’s really scary, but just raising the awareness and especially, it’s so important to be thinking about with every conversation you’re having.
John: Yeah. That’s awesome. It’s so cool to hear that you were able to present but that you wanted to, that you weren’t scared about, if I share this side of me, are they going to judge me or my powerlifting? Or are they going to judge me — you were inspired, quite the opposite. That’s so cool to hear, that real life example, because that’s what all of what I do is about, is — I mean a perfect example, if you didn’t have powerlifting, you would be a completely different person that would not be very effective at your job. You would be not a happy person.
Sammie: I’ve seen what’s happened when I — I injured myself September of last year, literally a week after I got back from Xero Con. We think it was a minor tear through one of the muscles in my hip, groin area called the Psoas, and it’s one of the major muscles. I felt it go pop when I was squatting. It was minimal weight, less than 50% of my max, and I felt a pop and suddenly lost feeling from my hip all the way through to my foot. It was like I had pins and needles. I was walking around and couldn’t really feel my leg. That affected my training for — God, it affected it probably until January, and it was just like not being able to really train properly really affected my mental health. It affected me at work. I was struggling to function a bit. I was not myself.
John: Yeah. It’s understandable.
Sammie: Powerlifting is cheaper than a therapist is what I say.
John: You’re right, and probably more effective.
Sammie: Yeah, because in a bad headspace, you can just go and lift some weights and train. Often I find that I come out a lot more clear-minded when I do that than when I’ve spoken to a psychologist and I come out of there just questioning everything.
Sammie: I find that, in some cases, for me, more detrimental to go and speak to a psychologist than it is for me to just go lift some weights or something or go walk for a walk.
John: Right. Yeah. That’s something I definitely remember we covered in the first episode. It was so powerful to hear. I know that the couple of times we’ve hung out, which has been fun, when you were in the US and stuff, was really fun. Yeah, and it’s just so encouraging to hear that Xero created that space for people to share their passions. I’m sure the other people that got up and spoke, I’m sure you remember them, top of mind, a lot easier than just all the other salespeople that are at Xero.
Sammie: Well I think our sales team in Australia is about 100 people, across the different account managers and partner consultants. Those of us that work directly with the partners to implement Xero and stuff like that, we’ll on board them onto Xero. We have, yeah, not a huge team, but it’s not a small team either. It’s nice because you do know basically everyone by name.
John: Yeah, and then you get to know what their “And” is, if you will, the powerlifting and the other stuff that people like to do. That’s so cool to hear because that just makes work better. I know where you were before when we talked last time, a couple of years ago. It was the same way there, just a little bit smaller, I guess, but still that same culture that was there. You’ve been really lucky. Or maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re the magic person that brings it all, type of thing.
Sammie: Who knows? I guess the concept, bringing your authentic self to work, bringing that real human element, I think if you don’t bring that, you won’t be successful. You’ll be constantly feeling like you’re guarding yourself. You won’t be able to build rapport with your, in my case, my colleagues or the partners I look after. You’ve got to bring it. If you don’t, you won’t have that rapport. You won’t be successful.
John: Right, yeah, because anyone can talk about the accounting side of it or the technical side of it, but to actually create that relationship that goes somewhere, take things to another level, you have to step outside that. Yeah, it’s a little bit scary sometimes, but you’re proof positive that the benefits far outweigh whatever that fear is.
John: That’s awesome. This has been so great, Sammie, catching up. Man, I’m just excited for you. It’s just awesome, awesome to hear. It’s only fair that I allow you to be the host of the show now since I so rudely rapid fire questioned you at the beginning. This is now the Sammie Johannes Show, and you could question me now. Here we go.
Sammie: Cool. Apples or oranges?
John: Oh, yeah. I’m going to go apples. Apples for sure, Honeycrisp or Jonagold. Jonagold apples here in the US are really good too. I’m a little bit of a — yeah, anything but Red Delicious is, it’s false advertising. I’m not even sure they’re red because they’re definitely not delicious, so it might as well not even be red.
Sammie: I agree with you on that. Running or hiking.
John: Oh, gosh. Hiking. Yeah. I look like I should be a runner, but I am not. That’s probably one of the most frustrating things about being 6’3’’ and skinny. It’s like, “Oh, you must be a runner.” No. I’ve got 100 other things to do besides run. Yeah, I’m not a good example for that.
Sammie: Cats or dogs.
John: Dogs. Hands down, dogs. We actually have a terrier mix. His name is Rocket. He’s awesome. He’s like 35 pounds of — yeah, he’s just hilarious and super fun. He’s great. Yeah, dogs all the way, for sure. This has been so much fun, Sammie. Thanks so much for joining me again and taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Sammie: That’s alright. Thanks for having me.
John: Absolutely. Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Sammie in action or connect with her on social media, I’m telling you, her posts are amazing, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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