Apolo Ohno: Process Versus Prize [The Knowledge Project Ep. #90]
8x Olympic medalist and short-track speed skating legend, Apolo Ohno chats about his origin story, recovering from multiple failures, mental training, confidence and leaving it all of the ice.
Today on The Knowledge Project I’m talking with 8-time Winter Olympic medalist, dominate short-track speed skater and legendary competitor, Apolo Ohno. We discuss growing up with a single parent, the role of self-sabotage, recovering from multiple failures, mindsets and mental training and where confidence comes from.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
I actually learned how to speed skate from my father driving me from Seattle to Vancouver and to Burnaby and to Calgary, by the way, which is a very long drive. That’s really how I learned. I learned by watching and mimicking and copying what I saw, and then applying that in a way that I felt like was natural to my body.
I’ve had my bouts with self-sabotage almost my entire career as an athlete, and even I think post-career as a human. These are probably deeper psychological kind of traits and micro traumas that I think we all deal with on a day-to-day basis as we grow as humans, and the way that they expose themselves in my life as an Olympic athlete was I started to thrive and desire being at rock bottom and then coming back from that.
It was at that moment that I decided to take the decision into my own hands and I watched my father drive away after dropping me off at SeaTac Airport. I take my bags, I walk into the SeaTac Airport, I walk back out, I go to the payphone, I call a friend, inform my friend that I am longer going to go to New York for this training program, and instead I’m going to hang out at friends houses from house to house, week to week until I figured this thing out.
I then started to lose my fun kind of happy, go lucky attitude towards the sport. I had not yet applied or understood the power of the mind and its focal properties in association with streamlining something to generate massive output.
I think your environment is not a guarantee of who you are and your outcome.
I went all in to where I cared about nothing. I really truly cared about nothing except for what I was doing at that moment, which is very powerful. It’s also not very balanced, but that’s the approach that I took.
That was the moment that I said, “I’m going to listen to this human and see what he has to offer.” That began my process into the world of meditation, visualization and self-talk and the world of sports psychology. It was from that moment that not only my career changed, but I would say that my life had really changed.
I derived confidence from my training immensely and my preparation. That’s what gave me a lot of confidence and satisfaction because in the world of short track speed skating, just because you’re the best or the most well-prepared doesn’t mean you’re going to win.
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