🥇Learning with an Olympic medalist and World Champion - Sarah Daninthe 🤺

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Episode #36. Hi there! I'm Gilles, repeat entrepreneur and author of The Timestamp. It seems you really enjoyed our YCombinator special last Sunday. This week, I am super happy with the interview Aurore Lanchart put together with a fencing champion, Sarah Daninthe. After winning a bronze medal in Athens during the 2004 Olympic Games, she won not only once but twice the world champion title with her teammates in 2005 and 2008 (Leipzig and Beijing)!

Being a fencing champ, Sarah is now a speaker, and a growth and product manager. Sarah tells us why her sports routine helped her build a learning routine. Also, she shares fantastic advice on how to accomplish your dreams.

Who is your major source of inspiration? 💭

  • First of all, my family, including my brother, my mother, and my wife.

  • Athletes such as Tennis players Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, soccer player Kylian Mbappé, and boxer Sarah Ourahmoune

  • In tech, I find Aurélie Jean, a research scientist and an entrepreneur, and Soraya Jaber, the CEO of Minsar, to be really badass.

  • Writers,  I admire the way French journalist Tania de Montaigne thinks, not to mention Amanda Gorman (the poet from Joe Biden’s inauguration). Also, I am impressed by the French Politician Christiane Taubira and Assita Kanko, a member of the European Parliament.

When I was younger, my role models were André Agassi, Michael Jordan, and the only woman was Marie-José Perec (a French Olympic athlete.) Over time, my sources of inspiration leaned much more towards women.  In recent years, women take up more space and are taking center stage because of the various women’s movements, which is a very positive thing. These movements help new women dare to speak; before, they would have remained silent.

How do you keep learning on a daily basis? What are your learning routines? 📆

I turned my sports routines into learning routines.

In the morning, I don't check my email. Immersing myself in something imposed on me by others wastes my time. Instead, I do two hours of deep work and keep my notifications turned off. I may use this time listening to a podcast or taking a class. The idea is to not be interrupted. The most important thing in my deep work sessions is taking notes. I then re-read my notes within the next couple of days to remind my brain of the concepts learned.

What are your favorite books and why? 📚

Two books that stood out to me:

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg (the COO of Facebook who got the company off the ground thanks to ad revenue implementation). In this book, she shares how she suddenly lost her husband while on vacation. Imagine yourself on vacation with your significant other, saying goodbye to them for a brief interlude, and then never seeing them again. It's soul-wrenchingly tragic. When reading this book, it felt like Sheryl was in my head. She had the words to describe how I felt when I lost my father. At the time, the pain was part of me, and it was in my skin. It was quite overwhelming.

The Summons: Blacks Don't Exist by Tania de Montaigne. It's a French book that was recently recommended to me. This book explains that before, the word “black” was only an adjective, but now it has become a nun. The way she recounts her experiences touched me a great deal. It resonated deeply with my psyche.

What is your favorite podcast and why? 🎙

First, there's the French podcast Le Gratin by Pauline Laigneau. I met Pauline a few years ago at a conference at Henessy Park Hotel in Mauritius where we were both speakers. We connected immediately. She asked me to be the next guest on her podcast, and since I'm very talkative, the episode turned into two. Pauline is inspiring. She is a woman who is a fighter, works a lot, and is always looking for new challenges. I appreciate her state of mind. She is curious and surrounds herself with experts to understand new subjects, and her guests come from all walks of life. They could be a navy admiral, CEOs of large or smaller companies, or athletes. 

I also like What girl? another French podcast.

How do you remember what you learn? 📝

I go back to read my notes, which helps me retain essential information. I'm very curious, but if I didn't take notes, I would forget too much. As soon as I listen to a podcast or watch a documentary. I take notes. I then come back to my notes the next day, three, five, and ten days later. I also have the same routine with my product and growth courses. I still practice. 

I also practice what I have understood and learned in yoga or meditation, take notes, and review what I am learning.

What would you tell the 18-year-old version of yourself? 🤫

Ooh, la la! When I was eighteen, I left Guadeloupe for Bordeaux, France, to be part of the French fencing team. It was a defining choice in my life.

I would say to the eighteen-year-old Sarah, “You make the right choices, keep trusting yourself. You know what you have to do, do not let yourself be overcome by others’ fears because it is their fears that they are projecting. They don't take chances in life, but you can do so take advantage of it.” 

I would also tell myself, “The investments in yourself and the sacrifices you make are well worth it.”

What is the most important thing you learned over the last 12 months? 🧑🏾‍🎓

The lockdown was strange. I used to travel for fencing and always liked to move. I learned that it was possible to work differently, that it was possible to start a business without physically meeting your clients. I rediscovered my country.

The discipline of my sports routine helped me considerably when I applied it to my daily life. Changing companies and training myself in a new profession (growth and product manager) was a real challenge.

If you were to stay alone on an island and could only bring one item, what would it be? 🏝

If I have internet and a power outlet, I would bring my phone. If I am without internet on a desert island with beautiful beaches, white sand, and coconut trees? I would take something to fish and make good meals. I would also take photo albums with my family and friends. It is important to remember the faces of the people we miss and from whom we are distant.


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See you next Sunday!