Ep. 46 Hero S2 Ep46 Jennifer Heil

Decoding Women’s Healthcare: Jennifer Heil on Olympic Gold & Entrepreneurship

World-Class Athlete to Women's Healthtech Innovator

33 min

Ep. 46 Hero S2 Ep46 Jennifer Heil

33 min

Olympic Gold Medalist. Guinness World Record Holder. Entrepreneur. Advocate. Jennifer Heil is all of these things and more. After securing the first Olympic gold medal for Canada and the Guinness World Record for number of gold medals at the Freestyle Skiing World Championships, she turned her attention to other ventures. Jennifer founded the company RYA Health, became an advocate for girls education globally, and a policy developer of Safe Sport to address abuse and harassment. In today’s episode, Jennifer talks about how her Olympic career led her to a holistic approach to training that has translated to her work as an entrepreneur, especially the meditation practices that she started at a young age. She also dives into how technology is changing the future of women’s healthcare.

Read transcript

“We often think that you have to be doing your joy or what you're meant to do in life, or this perfect thing to have joy. We can actually have joy even in the more mundane tasks by really embracing the process in the moment…We don't have to have the perfect circumstance for the perfect emotions, we can create those.”

Quick takes on...

The exciting future of tech in women’s healthcare

“I'm really excited to use technology to be able to scale this idea of everyone having an Olympic care team around them. And I think because of the connectivity, because of big data, we're now in a position to start to build those solutions.”

How hard and rewarding breaking the mold can be

“I was hugely criticized by the national media for taking such, what were considered bold moves to create this process…That's just a lesson I learned early on of being a skier in the prairies. You have to create your own constructs because the environment isn't optimal, it isn't ideal. So that was an important lesson: that I could take control of those things.”

Meet your guest, Jennifer Heil

CEO, RYA Health / Olympic Champion

Spotlight S2 Ep46 Jennifer Heil

Today, Jennifer Heil has turned her skills as a world-class athlete to founding RYA Health, an AI powered startup that uses machine learning to match people to care, directing them to what they need, when they need it.

Jennifer is also a Canadian Order of Sport Recipient and Stanford Graduate School of Business Leadership Award Winner. In her spare time, she is a CBC sports commentator for World Cup and Olympic freestyle skiing competitions. She is also raising two boys to be the next generation of forward-thinking leaders with her partner, and still takes to the slopes whenever she can.

Listen to the next episode

Ep. 47 Home S2 Ep47 Huijin Kong

Decoding Positive Influence: Huijin Kong on How to be a Successful Influencer

Empowering leadership through influence

27 min

With nicknames like Compass and Energizer Bunny, Huijin Kong has really made an impact in the business world. She’s been a go-getter since the beginning — graduating not only summa cum laude from the Wharton School of Business, but also holding an M.B.A. with Highest Distinction from Harvard Business School. Her strong sense of direction, courage to call out the elephants in the room and relentless energy has enabled her to counsel CEOs, Owners, and founders of all ages and backgrounds. Most importantly, she deeply believes that everyone has a leader inside of them. Today, Huijin is a Principal Counselor at LinHart Group and co-author of the book Positive Influence: The First and Last Mile of Leadership. In today’s episode, Huijin tells us how she was called to this career, why higher ups can start to lose their “why” as they move up the ladder, and how leaders can positively influence their team through successful transformations within the company.

Episode transcript

[00:00:00] Jennifer Heil: I am really excited…

[00:00:00] Jennifer Heil: I am really excited to use technology to be able to scale this idea of everyone having an Olympic care team around them. And I think, you know, because of the connectivity, because of big data, we're now in a position to start to build those solutions.

[00:00:25] Dan Saks: That was Jennifer Heil. Jennifer is a Canadian Olympian who won the first medals for Canada in 2006 and 2010. She also achieved the Guinness World Record for the number of gold medals at the Freestyle Skiing World Championships. After her very successful career in athletics, Jennifer turned her focus to new pursuits.

[00:00:47] She became the founder of B2ten, a company that supports athletes in all areas of their lives. Jennifer also became an advocate for the Because I Am a Girl initiative and is a policy developer at Safe Sport focused on addressing abuse and harassment. Today, Jennifer is the founder and CEO of RYA Health, a women's healthcare startup.

[00:01:10] In today's episode, Jennifer talks about how her Olympic career led her to a holistic approach to training that has translated her work as an entrepreneur. She dives into how technology is changing the future of women's healthcare. This is Daniel Saks, President and Co-Founder of AppDirect and it's time to decode women's healthcare and how an athlete's mentality can build great business leaders.

[00:01:39] Welcome to Decoding Digital. A podcast for innovators looking to thrive in the digital economy. I'm your host, Daniel Saks, and I'll sit down with other founders, CEOs and changemakers to decode the trends that are transforming the way we work. Let's decode.

[00:02:04] Hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of Decoding Digital. I'm your host, Daniel Saks, President and Fo-Founder of AppDirect, and I'm thrilled to be joined by my friend Jennifer Heil. Jennifer is a woman of many accomplishments, uh, Guinness World Record Holder, Canadian Order of Sport recipient, Stanford Graduate School Business Leadership Award winner and most recently, Founder.

[00:02:27] And we really want to discuss the journey. From infancy and growth to the decision to start a company and really decode the similarities around competition and momentum along the way. So Jennifer, welcome.

[00:02:42] Jennifer Heil: Thanks, Dan. Happy to be here.

[00:02:44] Dan Saks: Really happy to have you. As a Canadian, I remember seeing you on the podium in 2006 in Turin.

[00:02:48] And then obviously in Vancouver, which was just so special. Cause you know, there's Canadians in their home turf doing great things. But would love to kinda decode a little bit how you grew up, how you got into skiing and professional sport, and then later we'll dig into your new ventures.

[00:03:06] Jennifer Heil: Yeah, so I mean, for me, I am a freestyle mogul skier, so that means I go down a course filled with bumps. I hit those bumps at up to three moguls per second. We have two jumps where we do aerial maneuvers, travel 30 meters down the slopes. So it's a pretty wild ride to say the least. Doing freestyle, mogul skiing.

[00:03:27] And you know, for me, I love the adrenaline. I loved being out there, but I'm actually from the prairies. I'm from the flatland, so it's like the most unlikely story that I would go on to be a world-class skier.

[00:03:39] Dan Saks: And how did you discover the mountains?

[00:03:43] Jennifer Heil: Yeah, well, my dad is a super passionate skier. And he just loved the creativity of sport and movement, and I think creativity was one of the biggest values in our household.

[00:03:54] So, my dad's a lawyer, but he is an oil painter. He's a builder. He's designed houses. And so creativity was kind of something we did on the weekends. We, you know, would try and go and build stuff. Sport was always about expression and so I just loved being out there on the slopes with my dad. From a young age, we would travel eight hours every weekend to go ski in the mountains.

[00:04:18] So it was kind of like this pilgrimage we took as a family just filled with these amazing memories. But when I started freestyle skiing, I started in Edmonton and our slopes aren't even long enough for a toboggan or a sled to pick up speed. So very humble beginnings.

[00:04:37] Dan Saks: Incredible. And how freestyle of everything? Like freestyle mogul versus downhill or another component of skiing?

[00:04:43] Jennifer Heil: Yeah, everybody asks this question. I mean, I'm an adrenaline junkie. It's the truth. Now I get it from surfing. Moguls will definitely give you that rush. And I mean, I loved it. And you have to play with your mindset every run. Like there's nothing natural about skiing moguls and trying to go as fast as you can through this course on a steep run.

[00:05:05] And so I just love the challenge of the mental game really, in addition to the physical aspect of the sport. And the silver lining was I got to be on top of some of the most beautiful mountains around the world for almost two decades.

[00:05:21] Dan Saks: Incredible. Tell us about the experience of what it was like to compete at international levels and be on the Olympic stage, and what did it feel like?

[00:05:28] Jennifer Heil: Yeah, so when I was nine years old, I decided that I wanted to be both an Olympian and an entrepreneur, and so I got a hold of this magazine. It was a Sports Illustrated magazine, and it was an Olympic preview of the upcoming games, and I looked at all those faces and those athletes in motion and I was like, that's what I wanna do.

[00:05:50] For me, that was peak performance. That was something to strive for. And so my journey began. I had to go out and find a sport, and so it was just this amazing pursuit of looking for excellence, looking for that expression of being all in. And so I think that's also what's attracted me to entrepreneurship.

[00:06:11] But you know, it was almost two decades of a ski career, a decade on the national team. Obviously, huge, huge highs, real lows as well. And so the strength and the resiliency that you build to go through both those ups and those downs are really, you know, what I take away into life today. But it was pretty top.

[00:06:34] Dan, I'm not gonna lie.

[00:06:36] Dan Saks: So you talked about mindset, and this is something that we incorporate into our culture a lot, is the notion of peak performance and learning from sport and competitive sport in particular, how you can get the right mindset to be able to execute professionally in a state of flow.

[00:06:51] But at what level in professional sport, were you aware of those terms and that rationale, or is that something that evolved as more research came out recently around flow and the correlation between professional sport and work environments?

[00:07:04] Jennifer Heil: No, I'm so glad you speak about flow, because that's kind of been the central theme of my life.

[00:07:08] And really what we're doing as professional athletes is we're trying to understand where our zone of flow is. It's different for all of us. And then how do we continuously get into that zone? My dad was pretty progressive, like he taught me how to visualize. I was meditating and doing yoga before it was a thing.

[00:07:26] We were actually considered quite weird from my friends for doing these sorts of things. So I had a lot of those like mental foundational aspects early on. But it was around 16 when I started working full-time with a sports psychologist and really mapping those zones for myself. I mean, mogul skiing is, of course, you have to have a massive physical component to it, but it's basically all mental.

[00:07:49] Like how can you put yourself in a position to perform? How can you not feel fear? How do you remove fear from the equation? I mean, I think fear is often there, but how do you use that to actually propel your journey? So those were a lot of the things I started to do. When I was 18, I went to my first Olympic games and I would say I was really not ready.

[00:08:12] I was pretty new on the World Cup circuit, but I didn't have a lot of that foundational training under pressure of how to perform. And so I finished fourth by one 100th of a point in my first Olympics, which is the smallest margin to miss an Olympic medal. And it was pretty heartbreaking. But I would say that was the moment I realized that mindset's not enough alone and that I really didn't have a process for high performance and excellence.

[00:08:37] And so I actually took a step back from competing as a result, because I had chronic shin splints, I just wasn't doing the things I needed to do. So I enrolled in university at McGill full-time. I moved across the country. I raised hundreds of thousands of dollars at 18 to hire the best professional team around me that only the male professional athletes had at that time.

[00:08:59] And then that's when I started to create this process of performance and this process of flow. But I would say I had to take quite a few steps back before going forward, and I was hugely criticized by the national media for taking such, what were considered bold moves to create this process. I had to fight with my federation to maintain my minimal amount of funding, so I really had to you know, break the mold.

[00:09:27] And I think again, that's just a lesson I learned early on of being a skier in the prairies. Like you have to create your own constructs because the environment isn't optimal. It isn't ideal. And so that was an important lesson that I could take control of those things.

[00:09:45] Dan Saks: One of the important things I find in business is in developing culture, if you're methodical about it, you can create a process or a methodology and expectation for your team, and that helps everyone build momentum in the same direction.

[00:09:56] But if you don't have that, then it can create friction that eventually, you know, slows everyone down. So how similar do you think some of the processes that you adopted would apply in a business environment? Where were some similarities and where were some differences?

[00:10:10] Jennifer Heil: Yeah, I mean, after winning my gold medal, we actually built an organization called B2ten.

[00:10:16] Where we've now raised 35 million and the whole idea was creating a new process for Olympic athletes to excel. And so much of what holds many athletes back is the cultural aspect. There's huge power imbalances in sport. So you know, athletes are not often at the center of decision making. The decisions being made are not to optimize their performance.

[00:10:39] It's often to optimize for the coach. There's a lot of egos involved and so we really try to scratch at that cultural piece, how can we shift the cultural from the inside out? And so I think it's completely the same thing we're talking about. How do you build organizations that clearly know what outcomes they want and do it, I think in a sustainable way?

[00:11:01] And so, you know, sport is often. Says, you know, we'll get outcomes at any cost. We'll burn people out, we'll abuse them. All these pieces. And our approach was, No, how can we do this in a sustainable fashion and get even more performance out of people as a result? And I think as I move forward into this next chapter of being an entrepreneur, I mean, those are the lessons I bring around creating this sustainable performance and a sustainable organization because anyone can work harder for a short period of time.

[00:11:33] You know, you can push all those negative emotions and buttons that actually do work for people to perform, but only for a short period of time. And I think it comes at a really big cost.

[00:11:44] Dan Saks: It's super impactful because we've seen that a lot with talent, which is people can be very motivated and people can be all in 110% and eventually they can hit a wall.

[00:11:53] And oftentimes it's something that I've found that's outside of the professional environment, so it could be something that impacts them with their family. A relationship issue, a health issue, and then everything tends to cascade from there. And if we look even in the last, you know, few years at Talent and Team, there's so many things that are out of individuals’ control.

[00:12:11] And you wanna make sure that they have the tools and the resources to be able to take the time to recover from something or be self-aware. But oftentimes the corporate environment doesn't reward that. And people feel afraid to reach out or afraid to share what's going on in their personal lives that might be affecting their work lives.

[00:12:30] I know that you're a proud advocate of many different social issues and women's health issues and other impactful issues. So what do you see in terms of advice you'd give employers on how to cultivate the right work environment to maintain and sustain a good mindset?

[00:12:46] Jennifer Heil: I think one of the things you said there was workplaces don't even account for the rest of people's lives.

[00:12:49] For example, just out of my ski career, I had the best process between 2002 and 2006. I went on and I won a gold medal at the Olympic Games. I had a really good process from 2006 and 2010, but I was the reigning Olympic champion, expected to win another gold medal on day one in my country where we had never won a gold medal carrying basically the most pressure of any athlete at the games.

[00:13:17] My friend was paralyzed doing the sport that we love in competition, and my parents got divorced that year, all coming into the Olympic Games. And so, yes, I had an amazing process, but there were so many more things going on that I had to manage. And so my team had to adapt. You know, performance was still expected from me, and optimal performance was still expected from me.

[00:13:39] But what that looked like, the rest ratio that I needed to take in between, how we adapted, how we got me more resources on the mental side was critical as well. And so I think there's just this lack of adaptability. I grew up in a team, but an individual sport, and I think we have to think of that in the workplace is that people are individuals on a team and we have to make room for all of them and know that that ebbs and flows and shift the support we give in the different times of their lives.

[00:14:12] And it doesn't mean backing off performance. I mean, we never backed off performance.

[00:14:17] Dan Saks: So going back to your nine year old self, you mentioned you wanna be a professional athlete and an entrepreneur. Clearly you aced your professional athlete career for more than two decades, but I was really excited to see you go to Stanford and take the program and be starting a business.

[00:14:31] So tell me about the timing of that. What made you decide on coming to Silicon Valley and go from there?

[00:14:38] Jennifer Heil: Yeah. So, I mean, I had my Olympic career and also had the experience of building this organization B2ten, where we bring resources and a new process to training elite athletes. And then just before coming to Stanford, I had an incredible experience of large scale transformation, building a system to address abuse and harassment in sport.

[00:14:59] And so we are working with multiple levels of government, 800,000 stakeholders, and really bringing a culture change in that not everyone wanted, but something that we desperately needed. And so for me, through those experiences, I love those experiences. I love going big as evidenced by, you know, flying off these jumps and skiing.

[00:15:20] But for me, I wanted more control. And so I wanted to be able to come in and build an organization from the ground up to control the culture and really to make an impact in a space that I care deeply about, which is women's health. You know, for me, I went from having one of the most elite teams around me.

[00:15:42] I had probably seven professionals that were helping to manage my mental, physical, emotional health, to retirement and becoming a new mom. And so I had, again, still one of the most privileged medical networks in Canada, and I deeply struggled in postpartum. My abdominal wall split five centimeters. It took me almost two years to find a professional that even measured, you know, whether or not I had any connectivity left, if I could recruit them, which I couldn't.

[00:16:10] I struggled to hold my eight pound baby. And so I just lived this dichotomy of incredible support to almost nothing and just being really stubborn to want my life back, to keep pursuing, looking for these solutions.

[00:16:25] And I slipped into postpartum depression and it was a real struggle. And so for me, I'm really excited to use technology to be able to scale this idea of everyone having an Olympic care team around them. And I think, you know, because of the connectivity, because of big data, we're now in a position to start to build those solutions.

[00:16:45] So that's why I came to Stanford. I was lucky to meet an amazing co-founder Vala Dormiani. He is a total data wiz. He started Stanford at 14 and so just really excited about building this company and serving a real need, integrating it into the healthcare system and having a big impact.

[00:17:06] Dan Saks: It's very inspirational and I'm really impressed by the progress that you've made and the vision.

[00:17:11] Tell me about like how you're adapting to a lot of the new technologies that are evolving. You mentioned that you wanna create an environment where everyone has an Olympic care team, but then you also mentioned, you know, some of the elements of big data and other technologies are making that more real.

[00:17:25] What are some of the technology challenges that you think exist and how are you using the technology for good?

[00:17:31] Jennifer Heil: So I'll explain first of all what we're doing and then I can speak to some of the challenges. But yeah, we're building an AI powered platform for women's health where we aggregate IOT data and let others build on top of our data layer.

[00:17:44] And so let me break that down. So basically women are diagnosed on average four years later than men across hundreds of diseases. One of the key reasons that is, is because there's such little data on women's specific health, women have been largely excluded from clinical trials because of hormones. It's much harder, more expensive to manage with the different hormonal cycles.

[00:18:09] And so we're missing this data, so we wanna help bring that data forward. We wanna help create this unique novel data registry, and we can do it in a way now with technology where we can have a continuous view into people's health. So we're talking about phone data, we're talking about wearables, we're talking about voice.

[00:18:27] Voice is actually incredibly accurate for mental health. Whether you slur your tonality, all these pieces give a very accurate level into mental health. We can also see physical health changes through heart rate, heart rate availability, and sleep. And so we're going to use machine learning to be able to have a great view into when someone deviates from their baseline and what support they need.

[00:18:55] And so the challenge that we're faced, we wanna create an opportunity from that. So we want these data sources to be passive. We don't want women to have to interact with the app. They can if they want more visibility into their health. But we just want this to sit in the background and really be a tool in their life to know they have a care team on call who will reach out to them if they need it.

[00:19:16] Dan Saks: So tell me about like the journey of what it was like when you said, I wanna start something and I have an idea, to founding the company and co-founder. What was the lead up and what was your mindset going into it?

[00:19:29] Jennifer Heil: I'm pretty laser focused and stubborn. And so when I get an idea in my head, It's, you know, all hands on deck. So I moved my family down from Vancouver to go to Stanford.

[00:19:40] For sure, my ideal outcome of being in Stanford was to start a company, but there are a lot of things that have to go into that, including finding the right co-founder. And so I'd say I was, this was actually a key word in skiing for me, is light touch. I knew where I wanted to go. I was really focused. I was optimizing for it, but I had this very gentle, light touch to know that it's not all in my control.

[00:20:02] And so that just created the sense of ease and ability to explore while at Stanford and you know, to go very broad and wide in terms of people, experiences. But I started in Startup Garage really with my co-founder, and we just did it because we wanted to learn the process together. And then eventually we realized that we're really great working together.

[00:20:22] And so our idea in our company was actually born in Startup Garage at Stanford. But we had no pressure for that to happen, and we just realized that we had something really special and that was the thing. And so full steam ahead.

[00:20:36] Dan Saks: Super, super impressive. So in terms of the mindset of founding a company and really kind of facing challenges, I think when you shared how you felt as a professional athlete, striving for the best.

[00:20:49] All the kind of elements that you shared really resonated with me as an entrepreneur in that there's, you know, super highs and lows. You have to make a lot of sacrifices. You have to prioritize things, and you get a lot of nos. How have you applied your lessons learned from professional sport in founding a company?

[00:21:05] Jennifer Heil: Yeah, so I, what I've realized, this is gonna be really geeky from a performance standpoint, but what I've realized in order to ski moguls, you have to be at an optimal alert level and like you basically have to be like exploding from the inside to get down that course. But to run a company that's obviously not sustainable and that's not where I think leadership shines.

[00:21:27] And so I've just been really taking note of where I need to be, what zone I need to be to be a leader, to get multiple things done in a day. And so building in these little practices in the week and building that consistency really allows me to show up with full energy, full focus. To drive this forward, and it's not perfect, and some days are better than others.

[00:21:51] Some weeks are more stressful than others. But in the whole, if I'm creating spaces to recover, if I'm creating spaces where I'm starting to understand where my best leadership happens, then I just wanna get to those zones more often and more quickly. So I'm really approaching it very much like an elite athlete.

[00:22:10] Dan Saks: Yeah, it sounds very pragmatic and I think it's fun in those early days to be able to be methodical about how you're managing your mindset, but then it also allows you to define how you wanna set the culture for the company that's gonna impact others. Have you thought about what kind of cultural elements you wanna infuse in your own culture?

[00:22:28] Jennifer Heil: Yeah, I mean, one of my big values is empowerment. And really working with individuals to understand what are their goals, what is their intrinsic motivation? What do they want out of these experiences? Because it is a big sacrifice for people to come on board early in a startup. Yeah, there's a huge upside, but there's a lot of work that has to go to get there, and so really understanding how can I make this the best experience and the best value add experience in their lives?

[00:22:55] That's a really big part about it. And then I just, I want voices to be heard. I want people to be able to express their opinion. And then because I'm an athlete, I love feedback. You know, we were getting feedback all day long, and that's what allows us to make those adjustments. So creating a culture where we can give feedback and receive feedback, I think is absolutely critical as well.

[00:23:19] Dan Saks: Yeah, that's amazing. So what are the differences on a day-today basis when you show up at work, founding a business versus when you show up as a professional athlete?

[00:23:28] Jennifer Heil: Oh, the differences. So I mean, I'm in more control as the leader of the company and we're early stage too. So I think this will change.

[00:23:37] You know, the more you build out, the more you delegate, the more you rely on your team. Because we're so early stage, I have a lot of control to shape it. I love the creative process. I've always loved that about sport, but, Yeah, I think my joy comes from creating, from building, and I actually see those two pieces very similar, how you get there and the tools you use and you know, I'm obviously using my mind more than my body, but we take breaks in the day and play a little rugby golf to get our bodies involved too.

[00:24:09] But yeah, I mean that's a big part. The creative process happens from a bit of a different zone.

[00:24:15] Dan Saks: And are there any resources that you've used that you recommend for entrepreneurs that are trying to get started?

[00:24:21] Jennifer Heil: Yeah, I think the first stage is Startup Garage was hugely valuable to me because it demystified the process of starting a company.

[00:24:28] I think that was one of the most valuable things to know that a lot of people have to pivot. There's a lot of changes that have to go in and really like, are you committed to this and building this or not? And so yeah, that was great. So I would recommend people to not be intimidated by whether or not they have the perfect idea, but to start doing the work from the ground up.

[00:24:48] And then in terms of mindset, you know, there's just really great tools around sports psychology, on managing your emotions, your mind. There's so many tools around breathing, which is kind of more commonplace today. But as an athlete, I was actually manipulating my thoughts, my emotions. I was creating emotions that I wanted in that moment.

[00:25:12] And then my mindset and so we can do these things in the business world as well. And then I do every day. So yeah, I would recommend digging into some sports psychology books. Peter Jensen is one of my favorites. But yeah, there's just a lot of practical tools and wisdom there.

[00:25:29] Dan Saks: Yeah, it's really powerful.

[00:25:30] There's Mike Gervais, a sports psychologist who work with the Seattle Seahawks and he started a podcast and that's inspiring one to kinda connect the worlds of business and professional sport, but I definitely find that it seems like there's more awareness around the alignment between sports psychology and peak performance at work.

[00:25:46] Yeah. Which is kinda good to see new resources coming out. But you did mention something that I think is more advanced than what I hear often. So, you know, I hear in the workplace people building in a meditation practice or at AppDirect, we have meditation offered to the team. We have an app called Will, which allows people to track some of their wearable data or to create challenges around steps or other activities.

[00:26:08] And we have Virgin Health, which is another way to incorporate health data in the workplace. But I want to take a moment to just double click on when you mentioned manipulating emotion or thinking about how you manage anxiety. What are some of the strategies you have there and how do you put them into play?

[00:26:23] Yeah.

[00:26:24] Jennifer Heil: I have this great graph and I could share it after, but it actually shows different kinds of emotions and whether you get higher performance or lower performance. I don't have it open in front of me. But basically anger, competition, those are viewed in this graph as more negative emotions, but you can get peak performance there.

[00:26:44] And then the other side is like joy, excitement, again, a similar level of performance. And that's what I was referring to around sustainable performance. And so I think we often think that emotions happen to us. Yes, that's true in many cases, but meditation is a practice of kind of letting those pass. And knowing you can actually create the emotions you want, like I can right now create a feeling of joy and excitement.

[00:27:10] And that's actually what I root to in the days of building my business, because that's where I start to get momentum. That's where my efforts are more sustainable. And we often think that, you know, you have to be doing your joy or what you're meant to do in life, or like this perfect thing to have joy, but we can actually have joy even, you know, in the more mundane tasks by, you know, really embracing the process in the moment.

[00:27:34] So yeah, I think it's the understanding that we can manipulate emotion and playing with it and having fun with it, and knowing we don't have to have the perfect circumstance for the perfect emotions. We can create those.

[00:27:48] Dan Saks: And in your meditation practice, you know, even if it's 10 minutes a day, are you approaching it with a mantra or a basic breath work technique, or are you evolving it based on what your body needs at the time?

[00:28:00] Jennifer Heil: Yeah, I mean, I like to change it up. I've been meditating since I was probably nine years old, so I've done all of those things. Right now I'm actually doing more hypnosis and so it's like deep relaxation, like to an affirmative track above that and trying to really. Let the subconscious know that it's making the changes and something more passive.

[00:28:22] So that's what I'm into right now, but changes and I think it's important to keep pursuing new pieces and keep it interesting.

[00:28:30] Dan Saks: That's great. One of the things I've played with is managing gratitude practice or manifestation through affirmation and trying to really reinforce things that I want to see, you know, in the future.

[00:28:40] Mm-hmm. And it's just something that I've been experimenting with, you know, incorporating mantras. But it's interesting because once you get into the world of meditation, like it was probably 10 years ago, I was at a Goldman Sachs conference and Ariana Huffington spoke about the importance of thriving and thinking about meditation.

[00:28:57] At the time, I was fully incapable of meditating. Like I couldn't even sit in a room for a few minutes. I actually went to a sound meditation with hundreds of people and after 10 minutes I had to leave. I just couldn't manage it, but I kind of broke it down into any objective like I would and said, you know, how do I be more comfortable sitting for a little bit and how do I incorporate different things into my practice?

[00:29:19] Jennifer Heil: No, totally, and I think that's a good point. It's like showing yourself some grace too, of where you're starting from. Any improvement or just even understanding of where you're at. I mean, that's where it all starts. And so yeah, there's days where, you know, my brain is pretty busy and I'm not getting to the states that I can in other days, but I actually did some bio neurofeedback training ahead of the Olympics, so I basically had three different electrodes on my brain.

[00:29:46] We were measuring my breathing rate, sweat reflex, heart rate, and then I had to play video games and manage all of these pieces and it blew my mind because I had been doing this all my life and I had worked to understand where my zones were, but the sensitivity and how hard it really is to stay in that zone of like openness, creativity, focus, and not let the busy brain come in.

[00:30:12] And so that allowed me to give myself a lot more grace, just understanding the challenge and to be excited, like. This is a lifelong pursuit. You know, this is not a one and done. You know, you're getting a medal for this. There's always more capacity in your brain and the way you manage it. So we get excited about pursuing that.

[00:30:31] There is so much we can bring to have some data and people to have a base understanding. And what often happens for women is that they're dismissed and that their symptoms are dismissed because they haven't been studied and recognized. I mean, the classic example is women show when they're having a heart attack, very different symptoms than men, and they're 50% more likely to go home without a diagnosis.

[00:30:53] And so we're really just trying to get to level that playing field to say, okay, we're arming you with data. There is an issue here. There is credibility to go and talk to your doctor, and hopefully we can catch this earlier. So I mean, our goal, as I said off the start, it's four women are diagnosed on average four years later than men across hundreds of diseases.

[00:31:14] So if we can create a 50% reduction, you know, that can be a huge change in somebody's quality of life, just getting them to care faster.

[00:31:23] Dan Saks: And how much of that is, let's say, new testing techniques or advancements in clinical trials or awareness around that versus the individual wearable data that would kinda alert you to have a conversation with a medical professional?

[00:31:35] Jennifer Heil: Our total focus is individual data right now to alert individuals to speak to a nurse practitioner and then ultimately the right care provider. Ultimately, what I get really excited about, and I love system level solutions, is just having a data set where we can go and learn more and understand more, and actually start to make those advancements of women's health.

[00:31:57] And you know, there's been this attitude that, you know, women are little men. And I saw it as simple as there was never a helmet made for me. Women have longer necks. My neck was always sore from wearing a helmet. My first Olympics. I was in men's clothing because there was no such thing as women's sports clothing.

[00:32:15] And so we have different dimensions, we have different physiologies. Things manifest differently, and so I just get really excited on where we can go with overall understanding and innovation as we build this out. But it starts with the individual and supporting them to take action.

[00:32:33] Dan Saks: Yeah. I'm so excited to see the next 10 years or even two decades of your career and the impact that you can make.

[00:32:39] Because clearly, you picked a problem that is big and challenging and with the technologies that are aligning, there's just so much opportunity. So I'm always motivated by our conversations and you know, really how you take in excellence in professional sport and applied it to entrepreneurship. And I'm sure our listeners and viewers are gonna be so excited about learning more about your techniques and following all the good things you're building.

[00:33:04] Jennifer Heil: Awesome. And as we said, it's all about momentum, whether on the scale or building a startup. But yeah, I get really excited to get outta bed to tackle these big problems. So thank you so much for having me on and giving the space to talk about it.

[00:33:18] Dan Saks: Excellent. Well take care. And so good to catch up and we'll be in touch soon.

[00:33:23] Great. Bye now. Thanks everyone.

[00:33:29] Thanks for listening to Decoding Digital. Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player. To learn more, visit decoding digital.com. Until next time.