The Dark Side of Being World-Class
In speed skating, a hard pivot is an aggressive turn that requires balance, focus, and courage. Blasting down the ice, shoulder to shoulder with another world-class competitor, blades on his feet, Apolo Ohno began his Olympic career in 2002, eventually winning eight gold medals and becoming the most decorated athlete in US Winter Olympics history.
Stories about the commitment, sacrifice, and work ethic required to reach the pinnacle of human performance are a dime a dozen. Just qualifying for the Olympics is an incredible achievement. But what happens when it’s over? Apolo writes in his new book, Hard Pivot, “I faced challenges like anyone else. The inner voice that once motivated me became toxic, amplifying my fears and insecurities. In life, we all face moments when we must make a hard pivot- times when we must adapt, reinvent, and find renewed purpose in the face of profound changes.”
As an Olympian, Apolo was and is still a role model worldwide. However, behind the cameras and limelight, he, just like everyone else, deals with the challenges of being human. He notes that before retiring in 2012, he was motivated to achieve the best in his field.
But what if that motivation stems from an intense fear of failure? While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can take a toll on just about anyone, not just athletes. Whether you are in business, trying to start an organization, or studying to pass an exam, fear of failure can become toxic.
Apolo also confesses that even after winning gold, he passed up on celebrating with teammates because he may have lost focus on what is essential. Instead, he prioritized the things that could make him a better athlete and pushed every other thing to the backseat. His obsession with being the best blinded him to the fact that he was living through precious moments he could share with friends and family.
Olympic Lessons Learned
Firstly, if an individual focuses on one area for a prolonged period, that thing becomes part of an identity.
For example, when you start thinking of yourself as a lawyer, teacher, or bus driver, and that is all you think about. You forget that your identity is not pegged on what you do but on what you value internally.
Second, mindset is everything. Your mind can be a prison or a powerful asset depending on what you feed it.
If you are always listening to the negatives, you may end up living in the prison of your mind. However, if you embrace opportunities outside your field of expertise, you will likely achieve greater success and happiness.
Next, humility is vital to success. Many people tend to lose grip on reality when they are successful. They believe everyone should be available at their beck and call. But the truth is that humility is what opens new doors. Being willing to embrace the newbie status is just one of the ways to show humility and learn something new.
Accelerating Out of a Hard Pivot
Another point that Apolo makes is that most people put a lot of emphasis on the prize rather than the process. Detaching from the outcome and focusing on the process is a recipe for victory.
Stop focusing on the outside competition and deal with the inner struggles. Once you overcome fears and doubts, you are better positioned to triumph. Remember, this may mean going against the grain and doing things that people may sometimes frown on or consider insane.
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Chase Jarvis: Hey, everybody. What's up? Welcome to another episode of The Chase Jarvis Live Show here on CreativeLive. Today's incredible guest is the one and only Apolo Ohno. Apolo is the most decorated US Winter Olympian of all time, having eight medals in speed skating. He's also a legend being able to transition from that world, where all of your focus and intensity, for 15 years he talks about, being able to transition to being a successful, happy person, a TV personality, a successful sports broadcaster, an entrepreneur, and someone who's balanced. But it was not without its challenges, getting from where he was to where he is now. He's got a new book out, which is very, very helpful and smart, called Hard Pivot: Embracing Change. We talk about all these things, the challenges of the dark side, if you will, of being world class at something, how to be motivated by intense fear and failure and not have that dominate your life, how to go through this valley of darkness where you're changing identities, because we will all have to change careers, relationships, identities at some points in our life, super useful. I can't wait for you to enjoy this episode, yours truly with the one and only Apolo Ohno. Take it away.
All right, my guest today is Apolo Ohno. Apolo, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here, bud.
Apolo Ohno: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Chase.
Chase Jarvis: Congrats on a number of things, first of all, being, whatever, the most medaled Winter Olympic athlete of all time. But you've also got a new book. It seems like you have transitioned out of being a speed skater into being a lot of other things. That's what the audience is interested in hearing from you today. So before we go into that direction though, just give us a little background for probably the 11 or 9 people who are of the hundreds of thousands who are listening who might not be familiar with you, your past or your current work. Give us a little background.
Apolo Ohno: Yeah, absolutely. My name's Apolo Ohno. I spent the previous 15 to 17 years of my life in the Olympic space, particularly the Winter Olympics. I went to four Olympic trials, three Olympic games, won eight medals, had an incredible career, and then since have begun on this passionate pursuit of both reinvention and transition beyond the original identity of being an Olympic champion into, where and how can I find both passion, but also purpose in the next phase of my life?
So I've worn many different types of hats throughout my life and career, and the one thing is I'm just naturally relentlessly curious. So my newest ... I would say not my newest, but my real purpose and passion in life is really kind of two things. One, how do I help people find their own inner compass and true north, combined with finding things and ways in which they can just show up fully on a daily basis, knowing full heartedly that the mind is the most powerful asset on the planet or the world's strongest prison? So how we engage and perceive our own realities is sometimes hard, because we've been conditioned to react, respond, and be in a certain way and a certain light. I think that we're entering into an era where people are saying maybe that's not always what is really the most important to me. So having been someone who lived a very conditioned life for a very long time, hopefully I can bring some of those insights and just that openness to the world.
Chase Jarvis: Well, congrats on the book. I'll just mention. The title here is called Hard Pivot: Embrace Change. Find Purpose. Show Up Fully. It's an excellent book, and in many ways it recaps a lot of what you just shared. I think there's a bunch of brilliant personal insights. Specifically, you mentioned the concept of mindset, how the mind can be this powerful asset or a prison. I want to put a pin in that and dig a little bit deeper on something that you mentioned, which is reinvention and identity. Now it seems, having done hundreds of shows here ... We're 12 years in. A very consistent theme of the world's top performers that we have on this show is identity. I learned from your book, and I can only imagine that you've been conditioned to perceive yourself, to have the world perceive you as a certain way for a huge chunk of your early life, only to decide that that chapter was over the verge here of this reinvention.
Now I want to talk about it through your lens, but I want to remind the people who are listening and watching at home that all of this goes for you also. You are attached to what your parents thought you were, what your career counselor, your last job, your previous marriage. All those things can be true. If you're trying to break out, listen to the words that Apolo shares here. So talk about ... It had to be extraordinarily difficult for you. You've got gold hanging around your neck, and then at some point you realize that this doesn't last forever, and I want to do something different. How difficult was it for you to give up your identity? What were some of the challenges that you faced?
Apolo Ohno: In the book, we have a chapter. We call it The Great Divorce. That great divorce was really this massive breakup of where I'd spent, at that time, half my life married to this idea and this reciprocal relationship where, the more that I put in, the more that I got out. So that marriage to that identity, which was the Olympic path, was that it gave me the head nod. It gave me the approval. It gave me the motivation and the discipline and all these amazing attributes that told me this is why you're here. This is what you're really good at. This is the one thing that you can do better than anybody else in the world. That's why you're here on this planet.
So the decision to say, "I'm going to go in a completely different direction, against the grain," was at first kind of an easy one, A, because I felt like I had understood the blueprint for success, although I had reinvented that blueprint many times internally in that career path. But going in the other side of the world, I physically actually did that. I spent most of my time in Asia from 2010 to 2017, pursuing businesses that I had no experience, background or insight into, didn't go to school to study these things, but had the willingness and also, I think, the naiveté to say, "I think I can help in this business. I don't see why it would be so hard," almost like a little kid who's so immersed in their environment, who thinks, I can do that too, because they've never been scarred or have those types of things.
But the voice inside, deeper in my head, I think was also motivating me where I was really driven in sport by this immense fear of failure. Now looking back and being able to articulate that today was and is something very different. So if you're someone perhaps that has operated in the same realm where your psychological challenge and barrier to dealing with failure actually is a leverage and a tool that allows you to go be so obsessed and work incredibly hard, that's a positive aspect of leaning on that lever. The other side is when you become entirely obsessed to the point of where it's really toxic internally between your own two ears. I have used both of those and experienced both of those different emotional states.
But when I moved beyond sport and made the decision internally to say, "I am done," taking a breath and saying, "Okay, what's next?" Basically, what now? What am I good at? What am I passionate about? That was really tough, because everything in the life previously had told me this is what you need to do, and this is what you're here for. Now I was going out in the world having no experience or understanding of what I needed to do and personal development. I was really stunted in many ways. So I was the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, but then I was moving into an arena where I was literally a baby. I had no experience, and I had no idea what was actually happening.
So that visceral reality became a truth very quickly, and then, look, I was surrounded by many athletes who have had tremendous amounts of success, both financially and in their career. I'd seen both sides of the equation, some having immense upside and others falling away and almost disappearing into a life of obscurity. Also, they themselves felt very lost. So I was deeply afraid of the latter. I did not want to be forgotten. I wanted to be recognized for my skills and my intelligence outside of the world of sport. I forgot that it's a process. Apolo, you don't go and win an Olympic gold medal in training for a month. I'm sorry to break it to you. It's going to take a decade for you to really master some of these skill sets. Even then, you may not get what you really believe you deserve to have.
So, look, that experience is an ongoing process. I'm still going through life laughing at myself, still finding myself operating in realms sometimes of my previous conditioning, of what I believe the world wants me to be versus saying, hey, what's really the most important thing for you? How do you live these 86,400 seconds in a day knowing you'll probably lose most of them? But there's a couple there that you can win in those moments where you can feel great and fulfilled and with purpose. So that has been a big help.
But my natural sense of curiosity was the superpower. This naivete that existed which allowed me to play like a kid again in these newfound business ideas or the dynamics of traveling all around the world and conducting that business was really fascinating to me. Then coming home, so to speak, over the last three and a half years specifically, to say, hey, how do I help other people open up about their own vulnerabilities, their insecurities and self-doubts and their less than feelings, and instead of letting those paralyze you and crush you, use them as levers to propel them into a new era?
So in the book we talk a lot around this introspection, reflection process, that self-acceptance is really tough, especially in today's society. I really struggle with that, living in an environment where that critical nature that we have ... Mine came from my father, this passionate pursuit of perfectionism, knowing wholeheartedly it was impossible to reach and attain, but getting up every single day still trying to reach for that, was something that I lived by for so long. Then having this all I ever wanted was the head nod of approval from my father in that same respect. So, basically, I get it. I've been through a lot of processes. I've gone through the micro traumas of my own personal life, and the book is designed to open them up in a way that says, hey, here's where I've gone through. This is what I've been through. This is not the playbook for you, but hopefully there are some insights and some learnings here that perhaps will be applicable towards your own life.
We will all face change. We will all face loss. We will all face critical reinvention throughout our life, whether it's through technology, whether it's through career path, whether it's through relationship, whether it's through personal development. The greater level of understanding of that change, that we understand that it is volatile and hard and tough, I think the greater experience that we can yearn from our own lives. It's hard. It's easier to say than to actually go through it, but at times I think we have to face the flame, so to speak.
Chase Jarvis: This idea of identity is something I'm obsessed with. It can both be empowering ... Like you talked about, the muscle between our ears can both be empowering, and it can be a prison. The same is true with the concept of identity. If we see ourselves as someone who's flexible and malleable and opportunistic and resilient, versus if we see ourselves as I am gold medalist Apolo Ohno, that is sort of fixed in time. While you will always have the luxury of having earned that or the success of having earned that achievement, as you move forward, your identity or one's identity has to shift to accommodate ... I don't even necessarily want to say ... Maybe just for convenience, say a wider aperture. So if that was your identity in your previous [inaudible] identify as the winningest medalist in winter games history, what is new identity? So I'm looking for an example of someone who could reorient, for example, the person who's transitioning out of a new job or out of an old job or an old relationship or an old pattern that doesn't serve them anymore. What's your own new identity?
Apolo Ohno: So I think the new identity is less about what is on these business cards, and much more around the attributes associated with those business cards. So I'll give you an example. I went to this executive leadership program at the Wharton University in the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and I want to say this was the end of 2019. One of the exercises that we had at this hyper immersive program was we took each of the 32 executives that were taking this program, and we played this game, a very simple game of where you and I will be paired with each other. I would say, "Who are you?" I can only ask one question, and that question is, "Who are you?" I would say this repeatedly for about two minutes, and up to five minutes long. You as my partner in this exercise would have to respond to that question every time.
Again, you're like, I don't understand the purpose of this exercise. So we did this exercise three times, by the way, with three different partners. I was always the person who said, "Who are you?" Then we would reverse after you do the three exercises and do it again. The first time with your partner, they're like, oh, I am so-and-so, basically what's on your business card. This is what you do. This is what you've done in your career. The second time you do that ... It's kind of basic, very surface level stuff. That's what we originally are conditioned to believe our identity is tied to. The second time you do it, people talk a little more about their history, where they grew up, a little bit about their family, things that they've done, being here, why they've joined this program and those things.
Then the third time that you do this is ... And, by the way, this is week five of eight at this program when we did this. So I spent five weeks, seven days a week with all of these different executives from 26 different countries around the world. I felt like I'd known them. We have every meal together. We hang out, and we're doing programs and challenges and building businesses together kind of internally in this little microcosm of executive leadership. On the third and final run of this exercise, people start talking way less about what's on the business card. I don't know if this is subconscious, but they actually start revealing this about themselves, about what they love to do, about what makes them happy, what really inspires them and motivates them about their kids and their family and the world itself.
A couple of the exercises ... Or, sorry, a couple of the people I was paired with, as we did this that day, had tears. What was so fascinating, Chase, about this exercise is, in less than 10 minutes, in less than 15 minutes, versus the entire 5 weeks I had spent with people, I knew more about them in that exercise than I did previously, because we wear this shield and this mask in our life that the world has told us, society has shown to us, this is what you should have. This is what you should be. This is how you should operate, and this is the comparative analysis through which you should run your life. It's all BS, right? It's all part of this made up game that we all choose to play.
That was the moment for me around identity, where the identity that we have on our business card is just a couple of sentences. Is it important? Yes, absolutely, because it's what we spend most of our time doing, but the attributes that are underneath that layer is actually who we are as a person. The things that we are inspired by or motivated by or we feel responsibility to adhere to is really a part of our identity. So I give the analogy of we are this beautiful ... We're this diamond that's been pulled out of the earth. In one facet of the diamond, the largest facet, is where we spend most of our life looking from the top down as we hone and polish that diamond. It looks amazing. We forget that this diamond, in its essence, has so many other facets that require us to become uncomfortable, to become thrown out of the nest time and time again to feel fully alive. Pema Chödrön, that's where that quote comes from, right?
To be fully alive is to be constantly thrown out of the nest time and time again. I think that that's where we find the other curiosities and personalities that perhaps we have tucked away or squirreled away or just forgotten about and compartmentalized because of the scarring that we have gone through in life, because of the emotional damage that has occurred through relationships, through experiences in business, through emotional constraints and through conditioning of how our parents and the society at large has raised us. The reason why this book is so important to me is-
Chase Jarvis: [crosstalk]
Apolo Ohno: Yeah, sorry.
Chase Jarvis: No, no. There was a little delay there. I stepped on you, sorry. Go ahead and finish your thought.
Apolo Ohno: I just wanted to say this book is really geared to helping people realign with their inner strength and power and to not feel like they have to be a passenger through this speeding life and train, and instead they can move over to the driver's seat, grab ahold of that steering wheel, and at least have better visibility at the way that we perceive those things that are hurdling at us. You can't change what's going to happen to the windshield. It is what it is. What's on that road, we can only see a certain view out. We can't go beyond that. A lot of times those things change. But how we react to those things and respond is within our control, and that's what I want people to really embrace.
Chase Jarvis: Incredibly insightful, and there are a number ... I've highlighted a handful of sections of the book that I want to ask you about. But before we get into some of those specifics, I want to keep at this altitude that we're at right now because I think so many folks, when they think of a world's top performer ... I have achieved in a couple of areas in my life, one in particular photography. Watching anyone at the top of their game in any discipline is ... I think it provides unique insights, and those insights are not always pleasant. To frame it as a question to you, in order to get to be the best in the world, literally, at anything, it requires a set of assumptions, a mindset, a commitment that is pretty unreal relative to 99% of the population. So I'm trying to be fair to the audience here. A lot of people will say, on the surface, I want to be world class. I always invite people to be the best version of yourself at some things, because when you've mastered something, you can then lift it and stamp it. You understand what mastery looks like and all the ups and downs and the benefits and the drawbacks.
But I would love to hear ... And I've asked this question to a handful of the world's best who have been on the show. I want to know from you though. What were the negatives around the obsession that you had, in your case, with speed skating, and the obsessions that you saw of other people who were the best in the world? What are the drawbacks from that level of commitment? Because we only talk about the good shit, normally, right? We only talk about standing on the podium and doing the CNBC interviews and the ESPN interviews and displaying the gold medal. But can you help us understand the darker side of being the world's best?
Apolo Ohno: Absolutely. So when we peer behind the curtain, so to speak, sometimes we're not really sure what we're actually seeing. I think that it's not unlike the January 1st New Years resolutions that happen every year. The dream boards that are created, the visions that are there, the goals that are set are fantastical in nature. They are beautiful and exciting and fun and pretty easy to write down. It's pretty easy to say I want to be a world champion, I want to be the best at something, I want what that person has. I think it's much harder to go behind the curtain when there are no cameras, when no one is watching, and seeing how and what that process is like and the type of both emotional and psychological processes that occur in that realm.
So from my personal experience, and I can only share from my own personal experience, there's a lot of darkness. There's a lot of rage and anger and insecurity and fears of failure that kept me up very late at night and made me wake up very early, against all sports science recommendations, because I was so handcuffed to the psychological process that it never was good enough, that I was never good enough, even after world championships, not going out and celebrating with my team, but instead reverting back to my hotel room and packing my bags and watching my skating tapes, and being so self-critical that it was toxic. It was actually toxic, because I was never being present. I never was opening up to the moment that I had just accomplished something that was phenomenal.
So that self-acceptance is something that ... Look, on one side, people ask me, Chase, they're like, "Do you think that you could have ever reached the level of success had you had a more balanced life?" I think success is ... It's somewhat of a misnomer, right? I think, in essence, I would have had a more balanced life. I probably would have enjoyed speed skating even more. I would have been much more in the moment and had developed greater relationships with all of my competitors as friends, all across the world. Would I have gotten the same type of results on paper? I don't think there's a chance in hell. There was no way. I woke up every single day with this idea that I didn't even have the luxury of giving myself a vote of whether I wanted to go to practice or not. It was not even a part of the conversation. That was something that I ... for 15 years, by the way, that this process went on. This is not something that's for a year or for a quad. This is for 15 years. I didn't care about a single thing in the world, selfishly. I thought the world, by the way, watched short track speed skating. I was so naïve as a kid, this small, obscure sport that people don't even know about in our country.
But, look, it takes such a tremendous amount of dedication and time and sacrifice, and the reason why I say that is, from a results based perspective, our sport was filled with so much volatility and uncertainty that, after you train a decade and you get to an Olympic games, the race only lasts 40-plus seconds long. In that 40-plus seconds long, the difference between first and fourth is two finger snaps. Those two finger snaps, four people just crossed the finish line, and the difference between getting all the glory and all the commercial rights and all the cool stuff and sponsorships and being on the cover of magazines and Wheaties and whatever the stuff that they're wanting you to hock, the difference between that and life-changing fame and being fourth, literally, just off the podium, not even receiving a medal, is in that finger snap where you are living almost as if you are a complete failure to society, having made the Olympic team, the top 1% of all the athletes on the planet. Being in the final is a tremendous feat, but society has shown you in that way.
So this is embedded deeply into the psychology of athletes and Olympic athletes, especially those that are within reach of reaching the podium, where the Ricky Bobby Talladega Nights, "If you ain't first, you're last," that's a pretty American thing to say, if you really think about it. In its essence, we love winners and champions in this country, and we celebrate them as such. If you don't win, you happen to be the loser. Look, whether I agree with that or not is somewhat irrelevant, but the reason why I say that is because of our obsession around crowning champions at any and all costs. By the way, this has slightly changed over the past quad, as we've seen with athletes coming out. Talk about mental health. We've even seen athletes drop out of the actual Olympics with Simone Biles. Look, that was a nonstarter question in conversation with me.
I mean, if you asked me, Apolo, how are you doing, 15 years in a row, every day, I would say, "Oh, I'm doing okay. I'm doing good." That was my conditioned, robotic response. I didn't know how to say or do anything else different. I didn't know how to actually let you peer into my mind of what I was thinking when I'm like, it's 7:30 at night. I'm on my fourth training session in the basement of my house, secretly, or I'm in the sauna and I'm meditating, thinking about this obsessiveness that it's never good enough. I'm always behind. I'm less than. I have to keep going. There's so much more to do.
On one side, it's beautiful to see someone so obsessed and so focused on something and so disciplined. Not an almond more, not an almond less was my motto when I was creating this nutritional profile to cut all this weight when I was training. But I was handcuffed to the sport in a way, and I was also jumping out of the airplane, man, with no parachute. I didn't have a plan B, straight up, and I'm very lucky and blessed that it worked out for me, from a results based perspective. But it very well and could have easily gone a different direction where I could have broken a leg or broken my back or gotten cut or something. Then all of that 12-year dedication and sacrifice, from an external perspective, would have been wasted. Now, internally, obviously, there's incredible lessons in grit and perseverance and things that I could take in my life later. But, externally, people are like, oh, my God, you train a lifetime for something, and you didn't get what you wanted. What a gamble.
Man, the obsessiveness is required, and I think it's actually healthy as long as you understand why you are doing what you are doing, why you are being so obsessed. But if you are mindlessly handcuffed to this thing that has almost enslaved you in a way, that's where it gets dangerous. I've been on both sides of that equation, so the darkness is very real. Learning how to embrace that darkness is a superpower also.
Chase Jarvis: This idea of know thyself, sort of the why behind the rationale. As you said, it's both beautiful to see that obsession and the perseverance and the drive, and yet it has somehow more value if there's an awareness of that tender balance between the life that you're choosing and one that is chosen for you when you are on ... You talks about autopilot. In the book, I loved the line, "You were like a 17 year old in a 27 year old's body." What did you mean by that? I'm tying those two things together. Perhaps I'm doing that work there, but it seems like when you are obsessed with something, you've got a framework for how life is. I don't want to put words in your mouth. You tell me. What did you mean by that line? I'm a 17 year old trapped in a 27 year old's body.
Apolo Ohno: Well, my life was confined to the training environment that I lived in. My personal growth was confined to that of which my locker room was. That was my personal growth, because you are the sum of the five people you spend the most amount of your time with, which I can tell you the conversations in locker rooms are probably not the most eloquently spoken or stimulating. They're pretty brutish in nature. So our view of the world was very narrow and very, very, very specific. I mean, because we spend so much time training and every day feels so important, every hour of that training session, every repetition feels like it's the last one that you'll be governed by for the rest of your life. Everything seems to matter in those moments, when it probably really doesn't matter if you missed a training session or not.
Now, psychologically, it's pretty important. So I was 17 going on 27 because I was stunted. I made my first team when I was 14 years old, and I was technically captain of that team at the age of 14, when guys were 37 years old around me. I still had braces, Chase. I was literally a baby kid, but my performance was that of a grown man. My growth had been stunted. I had to lead through my sport, but my view of the world, how the world worked, my relationship with fears and pain and all these things was really confined to the world of sport, and it took me a long time to fully, I think, develop the understanding that, in some aspects of my life, I had been catapulted towards the life lessons that were being learnt inside the sport. Then other areas of my life, literally ... I say 17 going on 27. I might have been 15 going on 27. It took me a long time.
So when I retired ... Don't forget, everything was pushed off as secondary in my life. If it didn't fit into the realm of this is going to help me perform better in the world of the Olympic path, it was secondary. It wasn't even on the top five list. So when I retired in 2010, 12 years ago, you kind of are sprung into the world thinking you have all of this experience. But if I was going to go and try to get a job, I don't know, in finance, my peers are 10 years younger than me or 8 years younger than me, by the way, with four summers of internships that I don't have and a fresh brain straight out of academic knowledge that allows them to perform. Here you are as an Olympic athlete saying, "But I have these medals." How does that come to play in your team and boss environment? You feel like you have to pour the cup out and start anew because you really are, and a part of that reinvention process is pretty challenging because you've been used to being so good for so long. Now you're being thrust into an environment where you actually don't know what's happening at all. So you have to be willing to embrace, basically, feeling stupid for a long time.
Chase Jarvis: I think it's just incredibly valuable to hear ... We only get what my dear friend, Brené Brown, calls gold-plated grit. We only get the heroic stories of, it was hard for a while, and then we overcame it, and, boy, isn't life grand now? So thank you for sharing this hard part. I think there's another key part of the book that I took away with this, FOPO, right? We've heard of FOMO, fear of missing out, but this idea of fear of other people's expectations. So I'm wondering, tying back to your father or your coach, what advice would you give for the listeners out there to be aware of this fear of other people's expectations, or FOPO as you call it?
Apolo Ohno: FOPO was ... I love this ... We spend so much time on FOMO, fear of missing out, and you just had an explanation of what FOPO is. My friend, Dr. Michael Gervais, he's a sport psychologist for the US Olympic team-
Chase Jarvis: Oh, Michael's been on the show. I get to go down and hang with him on the sidelines at the-
Apolo Ohno: Yes, yes, he has.
Chase Jarvis: ... Seahawks games occasionally.
Apolo Ohno: Yeah, Mike is a great dude. So when Mike and I were chatting and he was giving me this idea of FOPO and explaining how psychology we've been conditioned to often operate in fear of what other people think about us, both in terms of our coaches, our peers, our businesses, our parents. That in itself is something that has, I think, also become handcuffed and restrictive in the way that we can really operate. So as we seek true freedom and the right to our own internal freedom to make better decisions and processes, to fully become and encompass who we can be, a lot of that process, it requires us to cut the tie or at least cut the cord to what was. What was is this environment that says, well, I don't want to do that because I'm afraid of what my parents will think or my relationship or my other coworkers. In sport, it was, hey, this is how you warm up. This is the type of training that you do. This is what you eat. This is how you respond.
Again, everyone calls the genius insane when he or she is going through that process in real time. It's not until later that we can say, wow, that person was so genius because they had the foresight to go against the grain. In reality, that requires the most of us. We have to go against the grain. That is where the essence of magic actually occurs for all of our own individual experiences. I did that during sport, where I did a lot of things that everyone told me that was stupid and crazy and not going to ever work, and the same thing when I retired from sport. I said, instead of me going and harnessing the power of media to leverage my brand and living a life that only was in this isolated realm of living as Apolo Ohno, the Olympic speed skater, I went against the grain entirely. I did things that I had zero experience or perhaps even a right doing. The imposter syndrome was obviously very front and center for me many, many, many times, where I'm looking around the room. I'm like, oh, shit, I do not believe that I actually am supposed to be here. As a matter of fact, I should probably excuse myself before I say something really dumb.
But I stuck with it, man. I'm here. That's become a really cool part of my own personality is this obsessiveness around my own internal warrior mentality, to say, hey, I'm going to do something even if the other people around me say that it can't be done. A part of that is because I am not going to operate in terms of what they believe I should and how I should react and what I should do. Instead, what's important to me? Have I created a foundational repository of the attributes that make up my true north? If so, it's time to have blinders on, and there's times to basically back off and listen to what the world is saying.
I think, a lot of times, it's hard to do. We operate a lot of times, both in terms of the social media world of what you should have, how you should operate, what you should look like and the comparative analysis that exists ever so often, both in terms of age ... It's like, oh, shit, man, I'm turning 40 soon. I should have this. I should be here. I'm 10 years behind still. My friends are 25, and they've sold their tech companies, and all this stuff, right? Hey, competition's good. We love what it can do for you, but, again, if that is your motivating factor only, I think you're playing the wrong game. You're playing a game that is manmade and constructed and designed to keep you hooked into the matrix, so to speak. So you've got to unplug, man. You've got to unplug from this false reality.
I think FOPO, to me, also is ingrained ... We all have that uncle or that cousin or that friend who is just radically, authentically themselves, for good or for worse, but they can't help themselves. There's something really endearing about that person, because they are just themselves. They're living ... And we kind of chuckle and laugh. It's like, oh, that person, he just can't help himself, or they can't help themself. There's something really attractive around that, that we see, because we wish that for ourselves. We wish that we could actually do and be and say what we really want to say all the time. That's why we get attracted to certain podcasters who say things that we've always wanted to say or have viewpoints that we have but are too scared to actually have them. That's a psychological process.
Again, Dr. Michael Gervais is a really good friend and confidant and also mentor in a lot of ways. He was the one who ... It was four years, maybe five years ago. We started talking about the FOPO. I remember when he told me this, FOPO, and I was like, oh, that is so genius. I can't believe how many things that I do. Anyway, so big ups to Michael Gervais.
Chase Jarvis: He's awesome. I enjoyed being on his show too, and what a great show. We're talking about finding mastery for those of you out there who are podcast aficionados. Really, I think it's definitely worth a listen, and Mike's a great human. I'm curious. We've talked a lot about the upside of success and the dark side of success a lot of people don't talk about. I'm wondering. What tools have you taken from that elite level that you've been able to harness and manage in a productive way in civilian life, in your day-to-day in your new role as Personal Capital financial hero, your participation in venture capital? Are there some exercises? Maybe it's mental visualization, what you feed your body your physical health or wellness. What translated really well into life as a civilian that you could vouch for here for our listeners?
Apolo Ohno: So I have the five golden principles that exist inside of the book. I'll kind of briefly run through them. The first one is gratitude. Second one is giving. Third one is grit. Fourth one is setting your personal expectations. The fifth one is going, getting into action. But then the Olympic path is a masterclass in stoicism. You spend a lifetime in preparation for a moment that the world believes is your moment to shine, and you subscribe to that belief. Then as you rip the curtain open and you have your 40 seconds of either fame or failure, as the world would put it, you have to surrender to that outcome regardless of whether you got what you wanted and thought that you deserved.
So that has been a metaphor for life afterwards, where I have spent ... And I continue to spend much more time focused on the process versus the prize. That's been a really, really big and most powerful tool that we have is that life is fleeting. We only have the 86,400 seconds in a day. Everyone has the same amount of time per day. We understand that you probably will lose most of those in terms of the challenges per day, but if you can win some of them, and the more that you can gain in terms of momentum, and also surrendering to the outcomes at the end of every single day, I think you'll show up a little bit better, a little bit more hungry, a little bit more motivated, a little bit more inspired.
Chase Jarvis: I love that chapter eight, the golden principles, the grit and go. There was a lot for, I think, every human being in there. These are tools that we can apply to anything, and taken from your universe as a top performer. The last question that I have for you is, really, around this new life for you. I think the book is incredible, again, Hard Pivot. There's some vernacular and some concepts that you've taken from speed skating and you've put into a book, but it's really a book about life and reinvention, how to make use of the creativity, the purpose, how to show up. I wanted people to know what you're up to now. So let us down easy here from all these highfalutin concepts. Now that you've reinvented yourself, it sounds like ... And I read from the book that this was a long process. You talked about retiring 10 years ago, and here we are writing a book. It's basically all of these lessons. People want to know what you're up to right now. Tell us.
Apolo Ohno: So my day job, so to speak, I'm a partner in a venture firm based out of San Francisco called Tribe Capital, where we focus on technology companies all over the world and trying to support and help guide founders who are looking at changing the world in a positive way. So that's primarily been my day job, but I still love to do what I do best, and that is through the work of the book and trying to inspire and helping people win. I love it, to see people win. It's been one of the most single most gratifying things, probably that supersedes any of my past accomplishments, is seeing other find their own true north and become aligned in a way that the inner warrior shows up. That makes me really, really happy. So whether that's in business, whether that's when I'm speaking, whether that's through the work that you do and capture and release to the world, these are things that make me really inspired and motivated to continue on.
Chase Jarvis: Well, it is very inspiring. Congratulations from a local Seattle 206 area code guy, from one to another. Congratulations. It's been fun to ... The book is incredible. It's really insightful. Congrats on a level of reinvention. I know the Tribe Capital folks, having dabbled in venture capital over the last 10 years. You guys have got a good thing going, and I know you're also the ... What was the title? You had a great title. I'm looking for it here, financial hero there for Personal Capital, the ability to have a day job and still inspire us through these lessons and books. You've got a podcast, Olympic greatness podcast. What is that thing called? Where is that? I saw a note here. I hadn't listened to it yet. Favorite Olympian podcast.
Apolo Ohno: Oh, yeah, My New Favorite Olympian, yeah.
Chase Jarvis: You've got a bunch of fun stuff going on. Congratulations. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us here on the show. Maybe you, me and Mike Gervais can get together one time on the sidelines of a Seahawks game if they can get their act together. Until next time.
Apolo Ohno: [crosstalk]
Chase Jarvis: Anywhere else you'd like to steer us? Our community here is really good at picking up the book. Again, Hard Pivot: Embrace Change. Find Purpose. Show Up Fully. Anywhere else you'd steer us, social channels? Where would you like us to go?
Apolo Ohno: I'm across all the social channels, @ApoloOhno on Instagram and on Twitter, and then ApoloOhno.com is the website, so deeply grateful for the time spent, Chase. Love what you guys are doing and your community at large. Hopefully we can all keep inspiring.
Chase Jarvis: Right on. Thanks so much for being on the show. Everyone else, I hope you have an excellent day. Check out this book. It's lovely to see someone who is as great as you are at the sport that you choose to pursue, but also an incredible human. That's a rare combination. So thank you so much for being on the show, being a great person. Everybody else out there in the world, we bid you adieu.
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