The Story of SPARK
by founder Rachel O'Rourke
In January of 2014 I was living “the American dream”. I had to high of debt, too low a credit score, lots of little mouths to feed (four to be exact), an overpriced rental home, and a soul sucking 9-5 that almost always barely paid the bills each month. I was sitting in my cubicle at work – getting ready to make a cold call to some unsuspecting business owner, about to convince them why advertising on channel 12 would make all their marketing worries go away.
My co-worker Misty popped her head over the divider and says “Hey – do you want to do the Chico Bodybuilding Show with me?” I turned around to see who the heck she was talking to. There’s no way in hell it could be me. “Yes, YOU Rachel” she continued. “I’ve always wanted to do it, but I’ve never had the courage to do it alone. Pleeeease? It would be so fun to do it together.”
Me? On a stage. In front of hundreds of people. In a bikini. Being JUDGED in a bikini. Not to mention we live in a college town and I was 32. I’d be the grandma on the stage.
Hell to the No. I believe those were my exact words.
Later that night while waiting for my bath water to run, my curiosity got the best of me. I went on to Instagram and found myself researching bodybuilding competitions, specifically bikini competitors. What I saw was nothing short of jaw dropping. The physiques of these women were extraordinary. Each line of their muscle was like a symbol for hours of hard work and dedication they must have put into their training. They were beautiful. I looked up from my phone and stared at myself in the mirror. Though I was no stranger to the gym, all I could see were my flaws. The size A bra that was quite frankly a little too big for me. The varicose veins in my legs that got larger with each pregnancy. The scar on my belly from getting my tubes tied. The dimples inside of my inner thighs.
“Nope”, the voice in my head reminded me. “Not you. You are not good enough for that.” Ahhh…that familiar inner voice. We all know that one, yea? The one that keeps us from doing all of the crazy scary things in life. Obediently, I agreed. I was definitely not capable of that.
The next morning I woke up and somewhere in between the alarm and the snooze button I had a dream. The kind that felt so real. I was on a stage. I could feel the heat of the lights on me and the burn of the gaze of hundreds of people. I could see my family down in the front row – their hands in the air, yelling my name. I was in a bikini…but instead of feeling scared I felt this overwhelming feeling of pride. Again I thought…what if? “Who do you think you are, one of those women on Instagram? Pleeeease Rachel” my inner dialogue reminded me. I conceded.
Later that day while at work, doing what all highly productive people do (Facebook), I saw a video someone shared of the great Lisa Nichols. And today, Lisa was speaking directly to me. I don’t remember what her talk was about or where she was when she was giving it. What I do remember were these words “If you put someone up on a pedestal and say that they are extraordinary at something you’ve always wanted to do (but haven’t) – you are letting yourself off the hook for even trying.”
Damn Lisa. That was all I needed.
I leaned back in my chair and told Misty “I’m in!” Now, when I go “in” on something…I go allll in. My husband, he calls it obsessive. I knew if I was going to do this…I was going to need some help. So I did my research and tracked down the most well known bodybuilding coach and booked a consultation. We’ll call him Ben for his protection. Then I started telling people. I told friends and family, everyone on social media, even people in line at the grocery store.
On the day of my consultation, I got into my bathing suit and excitedly stood in front of Ben. He looked me up and down, back and forth, then up and down again. It felt like eternity before he said:
“You know, this is a really expensive sport. In addition to paying me, you’ve got the competition fees, the comp bikini, all the supplements, the posing classes, the spray tan, and all the food…it’s going to be an expensive hobby for you since there’s really no chance that you can win”
“Why do you think I can’t win?” I choked.
“Well…your boobs are too small. You’ve got veins in your legs. You have cellulite.” he replied.
I can’t remember if I ran out of there in tears or if I held myself together until I got to the car until I broke down. I do remember sobbing…like, ugly sobbing…in the parking lot.
“I told you.” The voice in my head was back. It was like he took a spot light and shined it on every insecurity that I had. I was heartbroken. I closed my eyes, breathing deeply, and tried to stop the tears. And there it was again. The stage. The audience. My family standing on their chairs. The pride. It still felt so real…so possible.
It was in this moment that I had to choose between the possibility of that vision or the beliefs of someone who doesn’t even know me and what I am capable of.
A fire was sparked in me. Not only was I going to compete…I was taking home a f***ing trophy.
I began waking up at 3am every morning to get a 2 hour workout in. I meal prepped before I woke the kids from school. I started studying posing via the great teacher that is YouTube. But most of all…every day I held that vision of myself on that stage. The lights. The judges. My family…and I clung on to that feeling of pride to get me through any moments of doubt or when that voice of reason tried to bring me down. Even when Misty backed out a few weeks into my training and I was suddenly walking this new road completely by myself…I held on to that vision – The lights, the stage, my family in the audience, the feeling of pride. The negative voice in my head started to get quieter…in fact sometimes, it even started cheering me on.
And some freaky stuff started to happen.
While I was leaving the gym one day, they owner came up to me. “You come here every morning and then I see you again during lunch. Training for something?” he said.
“I sure am! I’m doing The Chico Bodybuilding Show” I said you proudly.
“Do you think I could sponsor you? If you wear my logo on your competition robe, I’ll pay for your competition bikini”
That’s a thing?! “Why yes…yes you can!” I replied.
A few days later while at Nutrishop – deciding which supplements I could afford, the owner came up to me. “I hear you are doing the bodybuilding show, congrats! Do you have a coach?”
“To be honest, I don’t know if I can afford one.” I replied.
“I would love to coach you…no cost. In addition, I’d love to sponsor you as well and cover your posing and supplements too” he said.
No freaking way. I felt like I was a magnet for good fortune.
Fast forward to 16 weeks later on May 30th 2014 I was waiting behind the stage, ready for them to call my number and I feel a tap on my shoulder. It was Ben.
“I’m so glad you didn’t listen to me – you look unbelievable” were the last words I heard before my number was called, the music came on, and it looked a little something like this:
I looked out from the stage and it nearly took my breath away. The lights, the audience, the judges. My family sitting exactly where I had been visioning them – standing on their chairs, hands raised, screams filling the air. I had never felt more pride in my entire life. My vision had come to life…like down to the very last detail.
I left that day with a 2nd place big ass trophy – beating out over 30 women and coming in close to a 19 year old who left with first.
There are moments in life when you cross a bridge and there is just no way you can go back. This was one of those moments for me. You see, this was not just about winning a competition. I came out of this experience seeing the world in an entirely new way.
This was the first time in my life I felt like I truly surpassed my own limits…despite what my own inner dialogue was telling me. If I could do this, what else could be possible?
Since this day – I have gone deep down the self development rabbit hole and have learned the secrets to truly becoming limitless…and it all starts here.
That voice in our head is the voice of our own subconscious mind.
You see, our brain is divided up into two parts – the conscious and subconscious mind. The conscious mind controls our thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs that we are aware of. The subconscious mind hold the thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs that are so deeply ingrained that they are set on auto pilot. We aren’t even aware that we are thinking, acting on, or believing them. The subconscious mind exists because if we had to consciously process all of the information that is thrown at us in a day…our brain wouldn’t be able to handle it. We’d be a pile of mush on the ground. So our mind turns all of the information that it knows to be true into automatic processes that run in the background so we don’t have to consciously use brain power. The subconscious mind takes up 95% of our thinking. Things like walking, driving, and brushing our teeth in the same pattern every day. But also our thoughts. The thoughts that we think repetitively or the thoughts of others that we hear so much…those become subconscious “truths” as well. Truths that end up as the voice in our head and telling us that risk means failure. Life is hard. That our gifts are good enough.
I can stand here today and say that I have successfully learned how to reprogram my subconscious mind. What I didn’t realize 5 years ago…is that by visualizing myself on that stage, following my intuition, and taking action every day toward my goal DESPITE what the voice in my head was saying…I was unknowingly reprogramming it then too. I have changed neuro-pathways in my brain that signal fear and failure when risk is presented to that of excitement, possibility, and potential.
And nothing has been the same ever since.
When I decided I wanted to be a speaker and event organizers kept turning me down – wanting this crazy thing called experience – I built my own damn stage and created one of the most well-known and successful personal development summits for women in the PNW – SPARK.
I am constantly creating rich experiences such as throwing private parties for the NYC cast of Hamilton, had dinner with country stars like Martina McBride, hung out with people like John Legend, Giada De Lorenta, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. I’ve traveled more than a lot of people get to do in a lifetime in the last two years alone.
I went from being an overworked employee in a life sucking JOB to owning an incredibly successful media company. I grew my income by 600% in less than 6 months.
I have created abundance, rich experiences, and an overflow of incredible opportunities simply by learning how to reprogram my thoughts.
I’m sharing this with you not to brag…but because I want you to know that wherever you are in your life right now…whatever your current reality looks like in this moment…you are where you are based off of your conscious – but mostly subconscious – beliefs of what you believe life to be like.
The good news is…YOU control that voice in your head and have the ability to reprogram it however you choose. If you want to learn how to do this, come to the next SPARK Event. Until then, start by doing the following:
When a fire sparks inside of you and that inner calling is telling you to go after something, create something, change something…it makes you feel energized, connected, and stimulated…but that voice in your head tries to talk you out of it…Quiet that chatter in your head through meditation. Decide what you truly want and visualize it every damn day. Create affirmations of the thoughts you want to be thinking and write them down, say them out loud – hell…scream them from the mountaintops until your brain converts them to truths in your subconscious mind.
You CAN reprogram your thoughts and redesign your life. It can become easy to do…but it’s even easier NOT to do. It’s your choice my friend. What will you choose?
Founder of SPARK Events