What Matters to MARK ALLEN

March 19, 2012 |  by  |  Dispatches

This is the first in a series of brief conversations looking at What Matters to YOU. While I’ll be highlighting people who are really taking on what matters in their lives professionally, my aim is to uncover what matters to them deeply. To expose their foundational passion. Because one thing that matters to me is getting to know what makes the really big doers tick. Thats exciting. Perhaps it will stir you as well—or maybe even cause you to revisit or define—What Matters to YOU. 

 If this conversation interests you too, let me know and share it with others who matter to you… 

What Matters to MARK ALLEN

Some of my words about Mark and some background info:

Back in the ’80’s and ’90’s if you were a professional triathlete specializing in 70.3 and Ironman races it was common to run into a similar crowd at various events around the world. Days leading into an event in say, Japan, we’d all train together, eat together, chat together and then go out on race day and try and beat each other—the perfect combo to generating intimate and respectful camaraderie. Mark Allen was one of the ‘similar’ folks I’d encounter world-wide—yet he wasn’t.

Mark has a distinct dichotomous personality—one part fueled by his public persona. You may ‘know’ him via the media as the laser-focused, intense, articulate, triathlon champion and coach. Which he is. Yet, if you’ve had the pleasure to get to know him one-on-one, you’ll also see that he’s a deep curious seeker. Calm demeanor, honed listening skills, sharp wit, a thinker, and an old soul with a deep knowing that authentic life no way resembles what is on the surface.

Even though these chronicles on what matters aren’t about the resume—I’ll throw out some stats in case you aren’t familiar with Mark: Six-time Hawaii Ironman World Champion; been featured numerous times on major network television and in national publications; has appeared on more than 100 popular covers worldwide, sports commentator, motivational speaker, author and triathlon coach. Lets face it, the guy is a big player in all he takes on.

But what REALLY matters to Mark Allen…


Terri: Mark, you have accomplished to unique degrees in your athletic and professional lives and don’t seem to be slowing down as you recently co-authored Fit Soul, Fit Body and got inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame. What would you say matters the most to you in your life right now? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that be?

Mark: That word would be Gratitude. There is always so much going on in the modern world that can weigh a person down or that can put immense demands and  pressure on them to put huge amounts of effort into endeavors that are not really feeding their soul but that are important say for basic survival. Maybe it’s a job that you just don’t gel with, or it could even be one that you love but that is going through a period of extreme pull on your energy and attitude. In those moments I find it personally encouraging to just stop and ask myself to find at least one thing that I AM grateful for in my life that brings me solace or a feeling that even in the midst of all my challenges there are still positives around me. With gratitude, we get energized and feel a certain peace that takes the edges off of the rough times in life. It can also become a reminder to pursue the things that do bring you a feeling of being grateful.

The thing that matters most for me is to just keep learning about life and to stay connected to family and friends. How you go about those two pursuits depends on the individual. For some learning about themselves comes through sports, others through spiritual endeavors, and for all of us from our relationships with other people.

It all gets wrapped together for me in the spiritual path I have been studying for over 20 years with Brant Secunda. It the tradition of Huichol Indian Shamanism. Brant is a shaman and healer in that tradition, one that is very simple in its practice, but very deep and complex in its positive effect on both people and all of life. He was the driving force that built my inner character in a way that enabled me to win my six Ironman titles in Hawaii. It’s a way for me to keep life in a broader perspective and to hopefully put my energies into endeavors in the modern world that help bring about positive change not only in my life but in others as well.

Terri: It sounds like your work over the years with Brant has helped you keep your eye on being grateful. What does your practice look like daily or weekly, that helps you keep this in clear focus? Do you have any recommendations for others who are seeking a way to get to ‘Grateful’ each day?

Mark: There are many, many tools that he teaches to help a person find that place of being grateful rather than dwelling in a negative space. One simple one is to just go for a walk. Whether if it’s in your neighborhood or out in the wilderness somewhere the simple act of walking helps cleanse your mind and set up the possibility of being grateful. Another tool that Brant emphasizes is to go to the ocean or a river and breathe in the sound of the water as a way to let go of stress and to just feel good again. And feeling good is a form of being grateful isn’t it! A third thing that Brant emphasizes is the importance of community, of making time to connect with friends and family and to just laugh together. It’s a way to, as he says, change the channel, and to become more grateful for your life and for the life of others. Then something he says in many of his workshops is that if you are alive then you have at least one thing to be grateful for!