The swim of a lifetime
Gabi Jennings had been afraid of entering the sea for as long as she could remember – until she set herself a challenge. Embracing her fear set Gabi on the path to finally fulfilling one of her most cherished dreams. Here’s how.
Gabi Jennings has had an interesting relationship with the ocean. Despite being a strong swimmer, she avoided going into the sea, afraid of the powerful waves and surging currents, unsure of what she might find lurking beneath the surface. Like so many of us, the idea of being out of her depth terrified her.
One day, while her husband and family were eating lunch overlooking the sea and enjoying themselves, she took a moment to herself. Slowly, she entered the sea and set herself a challenge: to swim out to a buoy she could see floating in the distance.
‘I got into the water,’ she recalls, ‘and I said to myself: “Yes, I can do this. I can do this.” And suddenly, the panic set in.’
Rather than turn back, however, Gabi kept going, pushing through the fear and controlling her mind. She made it to the buoy and was greeted by cheers from her husband who, having realised what she was attempting, had been silently encouraging her from the shore.
‘Pushing through,’ as Gabi puts it, changed her life. That single moment was the trigger that gave her the courage to launch Love Ocean. If she could now swim in the sea – something she never felt was possible – maybe other things she’d previously considered impossible could be achieved too.
‘The sea has given me a sense of renewed resilience,’ Gabi says. She credits it – and that moment – with empowering her to enter the competitive world of entrepreneurship, where just a fraction of start-up businesses are led by women.
For many women, the fear of failure and imposter syndrome can hold them back. That was certainly the case for Gabi. ‘There was a famous experiment carried out, where the same business idea was pitched to a group of investors, first by a man, and then by a woman,’ she says. ‘The man was able to get 80% more funding than the woman because men automatically walk into these situations with much more confidence.’
And then she overcame her biggest fear. ‘Now, I feel the fear, but move into it, rather than back away from it,’ she says. ‘I did that with the ocean. Now, rather than being scared, I now have a deep appreciation of the sea. And swimming in the open water – regardless of how cold and windy it is – gives me a huge boost. If you can challenge your fears, persevere and push through, that pain can lead to such amazing rewards.’
Being able to embrace fear has helped Gabi realise her dream to launch Love Ocean, a business led by a single purpose: to tackle ocean plastic waste, one of the world’s biggest environmental challenges.
It’s something she had been thinking about for a long time, but the fear of failure had always seen her push it to one side. ‘We have hundreds of these moments when you have a great idea but then you shut it down immediately, telling yourself, “Don’t be ridiculous. There’s no way you could do that”, she says. Until that day.
Reaching that buoy, facing her fear, gave her ‘this moment when I realised that I’d overcome so much already, I had to just go for it.'
Since then, she hasn’t looked back.