Feeling Alive with Kim Chambers


In today’s bonus episode, Majo speaks with Kim Chambers, one of the world’s best marathon swimmers and the sixth person to complete the ultimate open water challenge “Oceans Seven.” She also set a world record as the first woman to swim thirty miles to the Farallon Islands through one of the largest concentration of great white sharks. Surprisingly, Kim only discovered swimming a few years ago.

A daughter of farmers and a ballerina for many years, Kim talks about the value of learning discipline and a strong work ethic, and shares about the accident that changed her life – setting her on a new life course. Her journey reveals what’s possible when you choose to jump into the deep end and follow your bliss.

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).

Highlighted Excerpt:

Majo: I’m curious about the last ten years, because a lot has happened and changed.

Kim: Yes, I’m a completely different person.

Majo: Tell me about how you changed.

Kim: Oh wow… you know, looking back on when I got my degree, I didn’t know who I was then. I was doing what I felt I was supposed to do... I was a perfectionist, a straight-A student at school...

Majo: You were a good girl!

Kim: I was I was. Not that my parents expected this of me, it was just this persona I had.

Majo: Do you think… not to come down on dance too hard, but do you think ballet contributed to that in any way? A lot of my clients who are real good girls have been classically trained in something where they were put through this really regimented system.

Kim: Yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that, but I also realized that I thrive on that discipline. Having that foundation of discipline allows me the freedom now to do so many other things. As long as I have that base I can have these grand adventures where I’m literally playing with the unknown. But I need the foundation, so I don’t have any regrets about that.

But looking back on the last ten years, my life has really changed in unimaginable ways.

Majo: So you were at that point of doing what you were ‘supposed to do’. What destabilized that?

Kim: Well, I had some great jobs at software companies, was doing some freelance work. The way I look back at it is, because I am such a goal-oriented person and because I can be so focused when I’m going for something, looking back I feel like the universe had to literally derail me to put me on a completely different path. Otherwise I would still be in an industry that really wasn’t fulfilling for me. It was just a job.

Majo: How do you know it didn’t fulfill you?

Kim: I was looking for fulfillment in the wrong places. I was making very good money, and I would make myself feel good by spending it on expensive shoes and clothes. I was very superficial, I’ll be the first to admit it. I was still going the gym every day – I was the one who was always there at the same time, burning the same amount of calories… I was a robot! My soul was hollow.

I’ve always been very punctual, but this one morning I was late and in a rush for work. I was completely panicked. I remember the shoes I was wearing, I loved wearing these high heels… I was wearing this really expensive pant suit, and I just slipped down the staircase of where I was living.

My next memory is waking up with my leg elevated in this sling, hooked up to all sorts of IVs and machines, I’d had emergency surgery, and was diagnosed with a condition called Acute Compartment Syndrome (blunt force trauma to a limb). I was told I’d been thirty minutes from amputation.

At the time I thought it was the worst thing to have happened to me. Here was this woman who loved wearing short skirts, bikinis – I had this great little body and didn’t mind showing it off – and there I was all scarred and essentially disabled.

I remember when that surgeon came into my room and basically said, “Look, you’ve got a 1% chance of walking unassisted again.” And I remember in that moment thinking, I don’t know how I’m gonna do this, but I’m gonna prove you wrong. This is not going to be my life.

It took me two years to walk again. But when I look back on it now, it was honestly the best thing to happen to me, ever, in all my life. It was such a gift.

Show Notes:

  • On growing up on a farm in New Zealand, dancing ballet, and how Kim learned tenacity at a young age. [1:32]
  • Defining moments from adolescence: Attending an all-girls school, witnessing the death of a friend, and more. [6:20]
  • Kim talks about the impact of travelling a lot with her family, and studying Human Computer Interaction at Berkeley. [12:15]  
  • The perks of classical training and discipline, plus how having a routine sets a strong foundation. [18:32]
  • Becoming a “completely different person in the last ten years”: Kim shares about the accident that nearly required the amputation of her leg (and how it was the best thing that could have happened to her). [22:54]
  • On her newfound desire for freedom, feeling drawn to the water, and getting started as a swimmer. [29:58]
  • Kim’s relationship to water: Making friends with dolphins, talking to sea lions, feeling spiritual connections with islands, and swimming with great white sharks. [34:29]
  • How Kim relates to fear, her most challenging swims, and her advice to other women wanting to take a new leap. [42:15]

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).


Follow Kim's adventures


by Lucia Lilikoi

Don't have Apple Podcasts?