Apolo Ohno (@ApoloOhno) is a retired American short-track speed skater, an eight-time Olympic medalist, the most decorated American Winter Olympian of all time, and the author of Hard Pivot: Embrace Change. Find Purpose. Show Up Fully.
What We Discuss with Apolo Ohno:
- How Apolo’s single dad helped him constructively channel his genetic proclivities toward athleticism and abundance of energy — and overcome his physical shortcomings — from an early age.
- What drove Apolo’s tendency to self-sabotage even as he was becoming the most decorated American Winter Olympian of all time (and what we can do to moderate this mindset in ourselves).
- The perils of overtraining — and what Apolo would do differently today if he were still competing as an athlete that would serve him better.
- Understanding the difference between entertaining superstitions and creating reliable routines and habits upon which you can rely when seeking success.
- The highly transferable lesson Apolo learned when a fluke accident robbed him of a gold medal — and what we can all take away from the disappointment of only landing a silver medal when life doesn’t go according to plan.
- And much more…
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Life is challenging for everyone — even if you happen to be Apolo Ohno, the most decorated American Winter Olympian of all time and the author of Hard Pivot: Embrace Change. Find Purpose. Show Up Fully. But sometimes it’s the near-successes and the “silver medals” we earn in life that really mess with our heads and hold us back.
On this episode, Apolo joins us to discuss how to control our inputs and reactions to life’s changes so we’re not caught off guard when circumstances don’t align with our desired outcomes, and how to have gratitude for the good things in life without stifling our ambition to excel. We delve into building mental stamina, resilience, and toughness to persevere through hard times, as well as taking risks and learning from success and failure. Apolo also shares his thoughts on why real freedom is in allowing ourselves to stop wanting more and just enjoy the moment, and the importance of maintaining perspective, cultivating empathy, and alleviating stress through a daily practice. Listen, learn, and enjoy as we explore Apolo’s journey and gain inspiration and new tools to craft lives filled with greater purpose, wisdom, and fulfillment!
Photos by Ryan Hartford of Ecliptic Media:
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Miss the show we did with the late and sorely missed Kobe Bryant — basketball legend, family man, and multimedia mogul? Catch up here with episode 249: Kobe Bryant | Dissecting the Mamba Mentality!
Thanks, Apolo Ohno!
If you enjoyed this session with Apolo Ohno, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
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Resources from This Episode:
- Hard Pivot: Embrace Change. Find Purpose. Show Up Fully. by Apolo Ohno | Amazon
- Apolo Ohno | Twitter
- Apolo Ohno | Instagram
- Apolo Ohno | Facebook
- Apolo Ohno: Great Moments In Team USA History | Team USA
- Decoding the DNA of 5 Olympic Athletes | Outside Online
- Sport Science Video Archive | ESPN
- The Who Drummer Keith Moon: The Bathroom Bomber | Far Out
- The Weight of Gold | Prime Video
- Every Michael Phelps Gold Medal Final Lap! | Olympics
- The Gold Medal Mind: Becoming A Psychologically Skilled Athlete by Douglas Jowdy, PhD | Amazon
- The Dangers of Overtraining | Performance Lab
- Bonnie Blair: Food for Thought | Sun Sentinel
- Yawning: Apolo Ohno Does It Before Races, and Birds, Fish, and Other Animals Do It Too | Audubon
- Ohno Crashes in Men’s Speedskating | AP News
- Why Olympic Bronze Medalists Are Happier than Silver Medalists | Boing Boing
- Every Time Michael Jordan “Took It Personal” | Uncut Hoops
- Kobe Bryant | Dissecting the Mamba Mentality | Jordan Harbinger
- Jocko Willink | The Winning Example of Extreme Ownership | Jordan Harbinger
- David Goggins Reveals His Entire Morning Routine | Chris Williamson
- The Peter Attia Drive Podcast
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl | Amazon
- Maya Shankar | Adapting to a Slight Change of Plans | Jordan Harbinger
- Lolo Jones | Instagram
- Finding Mastery with Michael Gervais
- Shaquille O’Neal | Circling Back on Flat Earth Theory | Jordan Harbinger
- Jim Rohn: You’re the Average of the Five People You Spend the Most Time With | Business Insider
783: Apolo Ohno | Embracing Change and Finding Purpose
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:04] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:07] Apolo Ohno: If there's one message that I can leave to people is that your choices to respond and react to the situations that you're meeting today are solely within your control, solely. Whether you are hyper successful and you decide what you want to do next, whether you are failing miserable and you're deeply unhappy, or you feel like you're just floating and you're just like kind of like, "Ah." Everyone seems like they all have it around me. It's all noise. The person that actually creates momentum and progress is the one that doesn't listen to that voice unless it's using it for fuel to actually make progression and positive movement that is within you. That's the power of the mind.
[00:00:45] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the story, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychologists, even the occasional Russian chess grandmaster, investigative journalist, drug trafficker, or gold smuggler. And each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:01:12] If you're new to the show, or you want to tell your friends about the show, I suggest our episode starter packs as a place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes organized by topic that'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show — topics like persuasion, influence, crime and cults, abnormal psychology, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:34] By the way, if you haven't heard yet, we've launched a new AI tool built on OpenAI for the show. We're still ironing out little bit of kinks here and there, but it is amazing. You can basically type in any question or query that you want. It'll cover all of our episodes. Soon we'll be adding show notes and articles as well. It'll give you everything we've ever recorded about a topic. So for example, you could type in, how do I identify a financial scam, or how do I draw a boundary with my parents? Or, what's the Better Help promo code? And the bot will return every result for that question in a neat and friendly interface, the promo codes are also clickable, so it's a really great way to support the show there. It's just a really incredible tool. If you want to go deeper into a certain subject or go back and find an episode, you can't quite remember just based on what it was about. Maybe you want to compile a bunch of material to read or you want to share the show with other people. It's very close to your own personalized starter pack there. Just go to the website, jordanharbinger.com, click AI on the top and it'll take you right there. Definitely give it a go. Check it out. Let me know any bugs. There are some weird results that pop out of there. One said that my mom was a racist. She's not a racist, but you know, we're just ironing out those kinks. Thanks for checking it out. Have fun. Man, the AI future really is here.
[00:02:42] All right. Now, today on the show, the most decorated American in Winter Games history. Also, the winner of Dancing with the Stars, Apolo Ohno. Really had fun with this one. Ended up hanging out all day and doing a cold plunge, sauna session, and just chatting a ton. I think it sort of shows up in the relaxed vibe here of this conversation as well. Today, Apolo and I discussed self-sabotage, mental preparedness, the inner game of sports and athletics, the inner game of anything for that matter. We also talk about depression, loss of focus, rebellion and quitting, and some of the darker side of competing at an elite level. There's a ton of practical drills and strategies in the episode. I know you're going to dig the conversation even if you don't care about skating, sports or any of that. You all know I'm allergic to most of that stuff myself. All right. Here we go with Apolo Ohno.
[00:03:27] Soundbite: Oh yeah.
[00:03:30] Jordan Harbinger: I took the DNA fitness test. I know we're talking about DNA in the car.
[00:03:33] Apolo Ohno: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:33] Jordan Harbinger: The doctor went over and goes, "You have a rare combination of DNA that Olympic speed skaters have mostly, like a fast twitch muscle thing that like Olympic sprinters and speed skaters all have this combination of DNA." It was either blood work or spit and I can't remember. And then they sequence your genome and they go, "Hey, here's a lot of your fitness genes or like different kinds of DNA that you have that makes you—" Like one of the things they said, "Don't worry about doing a low carb diet because it's not really your genotype. It won't respond as well to that anyway, so you don't have to kill yourself." They were like, "You have this potential, you know, you could have been an Olympic speed skater with these genes." And I'm like, "I don't think that's the compliment you think it is." Like, "Here's how far you have fallen short of your potential, Jordan. If you tried harder or been athletic at all, you could have been in the Olympics, but you didn't, you just aren't. Now, you're a podcaster." So yeah, I was thinking, oh, he's probably had his genes sequenced at some point. Have done that?
[00:04:29] Apolo Ohno: Not sequenced, but we've done, like, we did a lot of interesting tests. So we did a test where we would measure from when your heart would beat to how fast it would relax. We'd measure that time. We would do eyesight tests to where, how quickly can your eyes' ability to focus on an object. So, you know, we skate, basically, counterclockwise only. And we have these blocks on both sides of the rink, right? So think of like a peanut-shaped pattern as how we skate, right? And on each side of the peanut that's vertical is these seven blocks. They basically look little, almost like mini-plungers on the ice. And so your ability to measure as you're moving 30 to 35 miles an hour or whatever, how fast you're going, your eye's ability to measure each one of those blocks and see each one as you're going around it. Like my eye had a really unique ability of being able to focus and re-concentrate on an object that was far away, three times faster than that of someone who was not a speed skater. This is like at the height of our career, and I don't know why we were taking these tests, but that's cool. At the US Olympic Sports Science Training Center, we did all kinds of things. VO2 max, Wingate test to measure power output. We would do Power Plate testing. You know, we would do all kinds of interesting stuff.
[00:05:41] Jordan Harbinger: It reminds me of that show Sports Science. Remember that show? Did you ever see that?
[00:05:44] Apolo Ohno: With John Brenkus?
[00:05:46] Jordan Harbinger: I think so.
[00:05:46] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:05:47] Jordan Harbinger: And it would be like, "This is the amount of force that you're getting punched in the face with if you get hit by Mike Tyson."
[00:05:51] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:05:51] Jordan Harbinger: And they like test it. Yeah.
[00:05:52] Apolo Ohno: I don't want to be in that type subject.
[00:05:53] Jordan Harbinger: No. That is not, that's unsafe for human testing. I know you were raised by a single dad, who is immigrant hairdresser, explains why your hair is always on fleek, on or off camera. I will say I'm surprised he let you get away with the soul patch during the games.
[00:06:08] Apolo Ohno: I'm surprised that anyone allowed me to get away with any type of those haircuts back from 20 years ago.
[00:06:13] Jordan Harbinger: Back then.
[00:06:13] Apolo Ohno: I looked completely ridiculous, man. It was ridiculous. And the soul patch, which lasted a very long time.
[00:06:19] Jordan Harbinger: It did.
[00:06:20] Apolo Ohno: And partially, I just didn't know what else to do with it. I thought like, ah, I should have some kind of facial hair, right? I'm like, walk around. But anytime I ever grew out facial hair in my face, if I was like standing over here in the distance, you just think, "Oh wow, that guy looks like, he's got some dirt on his face."
[00:06:33] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:33] Apolo Ohno: It didn't look nice. It looked like it was messed up.
[00:06:35] Jordan Harbinger: It's one of those things where, "Well, look, he won a bunch of gold medals. Nobody can say anything to him. Nobody can say it. Nobody can tell him how to do anything." It's like you're surrounded by all these.
[00:06:45] Apolo Ohno: Jordan, I needed to have this one.
[00:06:47] Jordan Harbinger: You needed—
[00:06:47] Apolo Ohno: I needed the intervention.
[00:06:48] Jordan Harbinger: You needed the intervention.
[00:06:49] Apolo Ohno: It's like, "Hey, listen man—"
[00:06:49] Jordan Harbinger: It's time to shave it.
[00:06:50] Apolo Ohno: The medals were amazing but there's something that we got to tell you. This is very, you know, 1995.
[00:06:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:56] Apolo Ohno: Okay.
[00:06:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. They want their soul patch back. Yeah. Your dad wanted to keep you busy because he worked so much. That's what got you started in—
[00:07:02] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:07:02] Jordan Harbinger: —skating, swimming, and singing, right?
[00:07:05] Apolo Ohno: Yeah. So my dad's interesting because as a single parent, I think he had two kind of objectives. Number one, he didn't have time to watch over me at all times.
[00:07:15] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:15] Apolo Ohno: So he had to place me into every single activity he possibly could that would keep me busy. So I just wouldn't get in trouble. I wouldn't get mischievous. I wouldn't kind of run off or do whatever. And he also felt like I was highly athletic because I had so much energy. So he placed me in all these afterschool activities from, like you said, choir—
[00:07:32] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:32] Apolo Ohno: —to like acting to swimming, inline skating, everything. And I excelled at almost all of them, with the exception of track and field and basketball, were not the ones.
[00:07:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:44] Apolo Ohno: But growing up, I thought I was going to go like to some amazing university and become a swimmer. That's my dad's aspirations for me and it just never happened. You know, I wanted to like play different sports, but my dad didn't want me to get injured. And I just remember being in like junior high school and how big the kids were back then. Like, these were grown men. They had goatees and I was like, "You are not 13. It is impossible that you're 13. You're like 6'3", you know? This is crazy."
[00:08:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:11] Apolo Ohno: These kids are monsters.
[00:08:12] Jordan Harbinger: Well, you and I are not big dudes even now.
[00:08:14] Apolo Ohno: No.
[00:08:14] Jordan Harbinger: We have maxed out I think.
[00:08:15] Apolo Ohno: Yeah, we have.
[00:08:16] Jordan Harbinger: But you started getting in with a bad crowd from what I understand.
[00:08:19] Apolo Ohno: When I was growing up. So I think like every kid goes to his experiences where they have kind of choices, right? They seek individuality. We were talking about this kind of on the way over here.
[00:08:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:29] Apolo Ohno: One side is they just want to go against the parent's grain. So the parent says, "You go this way." "I want to go this way," and it doesn't really matter what the parent says. That was kind of like with my dad, where he wanted me to go in this direction of being highly productive, highly effective, being optimizing all my time throughout my day, and always growing and pursuing to be my absolute best. All I wanted to do was just hang out with my friends. And if that crowd of friends was not in line with what his goals were, it made me more happy. The environment is a big part of, I think as I look to have my future kids, I want to, hopefully, have them grow in an environment that is really conducive to them becoming a better version of themselves. Yes, they're going to face challenges and all those things. So when you say, "Apolo, you know, you kind of ran in this kind of interesting crowd." The kids were just mischievous.
[00:09:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:09:17] Apolo Ohno: Like they were always pretty much up to no good in some capacity and they weren't bad kids, right? I didn't live in a really bad area. I didn't think these kids had too much time in their hands.
[00:09:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:27] Apolo Ohno: Which is quite normal in the early teenage formative years where kids are just vying for their own path and individuality. So yeah, man, I think my dad knew that there was probably an issue is when someone had called him to say like some of the kids at the school were trying to blow up the school toilet or something like that. I don't know why we would do that or why we would—
[00:09:47] Jordan Harbinger: No, we did that too. We did that. There's no reason why.
[00:09:49] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:09:49] Jordan Harbinger: The reason is because you can't.
[00:09:51] Apolo Ohno: Yeah. Yeah. It is just like ridiculous.
[00:09:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:09:54] Apolo Ohno: So that's where sport became a really big part of my life, and my dad saw that early. He was like, "Wow, this kid has all this energy."
[00:10:00] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:00] Apolo Ohno: He's still like rambunctious. How do I teach this kid the fundamentals of life, but also pursue something in a highly focused manner?
[00:10:08] Jordan Harbinger: I think that's fortunate because if you have the amount of drive that you obviously have—
[00:10:12] Apolo Ohno: Mmm.
[00:10:13] Jordan Harbinger: —it's kind of dangerous in a young guy to have that or a woman for that matter. It's dangerous to have that when it's unfocused. I mean, you see that now.
[00:10:20] Apolo Ohno: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:21] Jordan Harbinger: But back then it's like, well, who cares? You know? Do whatever you want to do.
[00:10:24] Apolo Ohno: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:24] Jordan Harbinger: But your dad was smart. I think to see that and go this cannon aimed in the wrong direction is going to be bad news.
[00:10:30] Apolo Ohno: And I think having no roadmap or no direction or no goal is bad news.
[00:10:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:37] Apolo Ohno: Because then you're floating across this plane and you're just ending up in this no man's land. You don't know where you are.
[00:10:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:10:43] Apolo Ohno: That's even today, like even today. So I think like regardless of you or whatever it is that you're setting forth for yourself, this particular goal, this habit, this routine, this thing that you're trying to achieve, by having a simple metric of being able to measure that or see it in some way keeps you at least headed in that direction. The possible vicinity can be way off by the time you get there, but at least you're going in this direction versus floating around in this kind of sphere where you wake up in six years or 10 years and you're like, "Sh*t. I am literally like no closer to my goal than I was 10 years ago, and in fact, I am actually further behind than I was, than 10 years ago." That to me, is a big fear, is like having an epiphany about what I think I want my life to be. Having a commitment to myself, a promise to myself, and then saying, "I'm going to try this regardless of outcome, and I'm going to pursue this thing," and then two years in forgetting why you're doing that thing.
[00:11:40] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:11:40] Apolo Ohno: Going off track. Now, you're doing something entirely different and you've forgotten how far you've gone in a complete opposite direction. And you're now older and you get to an age where you say, "You know what? I don't have that same amount of enthusiasm, energy, time, resources, or even focus that I did—"
[00:11:59] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:11:59] Apolo Ohno: "—when I was maybe in my 20s or my 30s or my 40s." And now you're looking yourself in your 50 or whatever, and you're saying like, "Man, I could have done that, but I allowed myself to get distracted." And I say this from experience, right?
[00:12:10] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:11] Apolo Ohno: So like having gone through the past 12 years of my life, the first primary years of my formative career, so to speak, were deeply ingrained in trying to be this like superhuman athlete, pursuing Olympic dreams, which was incredible. Great, like learning lessons and power embedded in that. And then I retired and it was like a snap of finger, I felt like I was starting. I was like, "Oh my god, I don't even know who I am as a person."
[00:12:36] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard you say that once, when you got ahead of the best racer in one of your races, you actually self-sabotaged—
[00:12:41] Apolo Ohno: Mmm.
[00:12:41] Jordan Harbinger: —and you held back. What is happening there in your mind when you're doing something like that?
[00:12:45] Apolo Ohno: In your particular instance where you're asking me — when I think of self-sabotage, by the way, Jordan, is I'm not thinking about if I'm in the lead already.
[00:12:52] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:53] Apolo Ohno: I'm thinking self-sabotage in the realm of, so my skating style was, I would always wait until the last one lap or two laps remaining to go and attack this big move and then try to win the race. Now, the longer you wait to make that move, the higher the risk curve goes up of you making a mistake—
[00:13:09] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:10] Apolo Ohno: —in that happening. If you try four laps to go and he'd try it once, you can try it again and again and again. You got three more times or maybe more, six times you can try to make that pass to win. If you try to make one move and the last lap, you have no room for error.
[00:13:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:13:24] Apolo Ohno: And so it's like playing with fire. How close to the fire can I get and then pull back? How close can I get the fire and pull back? And there's a, this addictive quality also outside of the fire component of saying, "I'm so afraid of actually being my best," and this is in reference to what you were saying. So if I pass someone early, and now I'm in the lead. In short track speed skating if you go all out and you're full pedal to the metal, you're giving a hundred percent of yourself, and then someone passes you on the outside, that's a very defeating feeling that you have.
[00:13:54] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:54] Apolo Ohno: You feel like someone, it's called going over the top. It's just so much emasculating in so many ways. And so I was afraid of feeling that emotional state of basically showing up and my best self was just simply not good enough. And so what I would do is I would self-sabotage to where I would effectively create a scenario that was so impossible to overcome by waiting so late in the race to pass.
[00:14:19] Jordan Harbinger: Hmm.
[00:14:19] Apolo Ohno: That if I didn't make that move, or if something happened and made a mistake, I could subconsciously try to empathize with myself and say, "Well, if you had just moved a lap earlier everything would've been fine." So it was a total cop out. It was a complete failure in my own ability to face this fear that I had of saying like, "Hey, like you were just afraid of actually just going out there and failing." That's what you were doing.
[00:14:43] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:43] Apolo Ohno: And instead, you're setting these roadblocks in front of yourself that were completely unnecessary because you didn't want to deal with this emotional state that you put there yourself. And so it's a trick that we plan ourselves.
[00:14:55] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:55] Apolo Ohno: I think not only, so that, that's so speed skating to me is just life lessons, right? These things present themselves in the way that we approach relationships, the way that we approach our careers, the way that we approach it, improving ourselves. And we typically self-sabotage for so many different reasons, right? So that we can empathize with ourselves, which by the way is important in some respects, but we empathize with ourselves to explain to ourselves why it's okay why we did those. And I think it's fine as long as you are saying, but I no longer choose to be that. If you continue making that mistake over and over and over again, you're going nowhere and you're always going to create this habit. So it's going to be almost so ingrained in your DNA or in your hardwired system. It's going to be harder and harder to break that. So the more and more you try something and you start to practice that as a new normal, that's hard to break through.
[00:15:41] Jordan Harbinger: How long did it take you to realize you were doing that? Or did somebody else point it out?
[00:15:45] Apolo Ohno: My coaches used to tell me all the time. They were like, "You literally, Apolo, should be winning every single race that you step on the ice, you get to stop skating from the back. This is sabotage. You're basically sabotaging yourself."
[00:15:57] Jordan Harbinger: Hmm.
[00:15:57] Apolo Ohno: "What are you afraid of?" And you know, in my head I was like, "Oh, you know, I'm not afraid of anything."
[00:16:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. Nothing.
[00:16:02] Apolo Ohno: But my actions were totally different. And so it took me years actually to really understand the power of relinquishing these predispositions about myself. And I think a lot of this actually came from a lack of self-confidence, right? So like when I trained, I had immense strength and confidence, but it was derived from a place that I was so insecure about never being prepared enough to show up and be really good. And so I leaned on that emotional trait of being so scared of not being enough that it drove me to these insane psychopathic levels of commitment and discipline on a like minute-by-minute level for years. Like well over a decade where every single workout mattered to me for years. And then, it just really didn't. Like, it didn't matter if I had pizza one day and the next day I ate clean in the height of my training. I was just a furnace, right?
[00:16:55] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:55] Apolo Ohno: Sure. I could literally eat whatever I wanted and I would be fine. You psychologically believe that the devil's in the details and you become millimeter focused. And so I just, I try to control every single mechanism. And I realize much later in my life now, that there's power in that if you use it to your advantage as a tool. If it consumes you—
[00:17:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, if you're a slave to it.
[00:17:15] Apolo Ohno: If you're a slave to it. And so I was handcuffed to a lot of times too on my emotions. You know, we did this documentary, The Weight of Gold, where we talk a lot about this kind of psychological prison that many athletes and just people, sometimes they live within, sometimes not by their choice, right? Those who suffer from depression—
[00:17:33] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:17:34] Apolo Ohno: —and these suicidal thoughts and then others who create this self-imprisonment in their own mind. And that's where I was, right? I was in the state where I wasn't fully growing because I was so just consumed by this, "You're not good enough, you'll never be good enough. Everyone else is better than you, and you have to train harder, better, longer, stronger, faster than everyone," which is very powerful—
[00:17:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:17:58] Apolo Ohno: —if you've done that. But I didn't know it, you know?
[00:18:00] Jordan Harbinger: It's got to be a tough way to motivate. I know that you at one point actually ran away and didn't even go to the Olympic training camp and your dad found out because your coach called him—
[00:18:09] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:18:09] Jordan Harbinger: —which must have been a really hard conversation to have with your dad after all that time. It seems like you're just trying so hard to not be successful at that point in your life.
[00:18:18] Apolo Ohno: Well, I was 14.
[00:18:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I'm not saying I don't understand it. I'm just saying you must have thought about quitting all the time.
[00:18:24] Apolo Ohno: Well, so the first time I ever thought about quitting was, I was about 12, about 12 and a half years old. My father had started to, he started to wake me up at about 3:30, 4 o'clock in the morning.
[00:18:37] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah. Wow.
[00:18:38] Apolo Ohno: And he would take me to these empty school and church parking lots. And he would keep his Volkswagen Rabbit lights on, strap a miner's light to my helmet. And he had rollerblades on, and he would just make me skate around in these empty parking lots, like at like 3:30.
[00:18:54] Jordan Harbinger: How was that not—?
[00:18:55] Apolo Ohno: It was horrible. Dude, it was—
[00:18:56] Jordan Harbinger: That was so horrible.
[00:18:56] Apolo Ohno: It was terrible.
[00:18:57] Jordan Harbinger: It was like, that's terrible.
[00:18:57] Apolo Ohno: Who wants to do that? I don't want to do that today.
[00:18:59] Jordan Harbinger: And where did you grow—? This is Seattle.
[00:19:01] Apolo Ohno: Yes, south of Seattle.
[00:19:02] Jordan Harbinger: It was freaking freezing half a year.
[00:19:03] Apolo Ohno: It's freezing. And I realize now why he did it. So like, the days that it wasn't raining, he would just wake me up and make me go do this, because he didn't have time to take me after school.
[00:19:11] Jordan Harbinger: Well, yeah, but oh my god.
[00:19:13] Apolo Ohno: And he felt that I was like trying to, you know, I was like joining like the local roller skating team.
[00:19:17] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:19:17] Apolo Ohno: So my dad being an immigrant from Japan, his only fundamental truth to him is survival and then thrive.
[00:19:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:25] Apolo Ohno: Right. And so, "You, Apolo, are at a disadvantage because everyone else has time to go train—"
[00:19:31] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:31] Apolo Ohno: —with practice. You don't, so you have to go find it on your own. We didn't talk about sleep back then, and like optimizing blue light blocking glasses.
[00:19:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:19:39] Apolo Ohno: My cooling bed and all this stuff. It was just like—
[00:19:41] Jordan Harbinger: Biohacking.
[00:19:42] Apolo Ohno: Like, all right, get up, go. And so that was the first time I ever thought about quitting because after, I don't know how long this went on for, and I'm pretty sure he would get in trouble if he did that today.
[00:19:49] Jordan Harbinger: Now, it's called child abuse, but back then, it was just good old-fashioned motivation.
[00:19:52] Apolo Ohno: Good old-fashioned. Yeah, just grit and gristle. And I remember telling him one time, I was like, "I don't want to do this anymore."
[00:19:58] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:59] Apolo Ohno: I hate this, or something like that.
[00:20:01] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:20:01] Apolo Ohno: And he pulls over on the side of the road and he made it so hard for me to quit. Not because he said, "You're not quitting."
[00:20:06] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:06] Apolo Ohno: But he asked me very potent questions. Explain to me why you want to quit. What does it mean to quit? So there's like provoking questions—
[00:20:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:16] Apolo Ohno: —to make me rethink what my answers were going to be. Because as a child, you only seek the one love that I had was with my father.
[00:20:23] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:24] Apolo Ohno: I wanted his approval more than anything. I could go win a race, but I would be looking for my dad in the stands. And if he was like happy, I was like, oh—
[00:20:32] Jordan Harbinger: Thank God.
[00:20:32] Apolo Ohno: Like okay, now I did it.
[00:20:34] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:20:34] Apolo Ohno: Right. Interesting, right?
[00:20:35] Jordan Harbinger: It's interesting, but it's totally human.
[00:20:37] Apolo Ohno: Yeah. So 12 years old until like end of career, like final Olympic games, eighth medal, I'm still looking for my dad.
[00:20:43] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:20:43] Apolo Ohno: 40 years old, right? Like, oh, you know?
[00:20:46] Jordan Harbinger: That's fair.
[00:20:46] Apolo Ohno: I'm still looking for my dad.
[00:20:47] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:20:48] Apolo Ohno: It's interesting how these things percolate over time and so I realize that now and I like embrace it today. So that's when I first started about, I thought about quitting, and that was a traumatic experience, but one that was very powerful. It taught me, I think, this idea around discipline and doing things above and beyond what other people are willing to do in order to achieve something that others would view as extreme. And for someone like myself who wasn't genetically gifted in many aspects of the sport, like I was gifted in certain aspects of the sport, but certain areas required me to do things that my competitors or even teammates simply were not willing to go through and commit to on the level of consistency that I did. And this was blessed enough to be, and I say I was blessed enough because I realized this quite early, that in order for me to break out of the realm of performance that our team was typically looked at, I needed to go do things that were outside of the realm of normalcy. And that came in the form of these like extreme training environments that started when I was 12. That came from my dad.
[00:21:49] Jordan Harbinger: This is all mental game stuff that you talk about in some of your books as well.
[00:21:54] Apolo Ohno: Mm-hmm.
[00:21:54] Jordan Harbinger: And I think you said the most difficult opponent is always yourself or maybe that's like Sun Tzu or something that you—
[00:21:58] Apolo Ohno: Mm-hmm.
[00:21:59] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like something maybe you didn't come up with completely on your own
[00:22:01] Apolo Ohno: I'm pretty sure I didn't come up with that one.
[00:22:05] Jordan Harbinger: But it makes sense that the mental game is the peak of competition, because I would imagine when everybody you compete against is in super prime physical condition.
[00:22:13] Apolo Ohno: Mm-hmm.
[00:22:14] Jordan Harbinger: Everybody's got good coaching, strength, diet, training, whatever it is that you all have. You all have access to these resources—
[00:22:20] Apolo Ohno: Mm-hmm.
[00:22:20] Jordan Harbinger: —at least at some point during your training. The mental game. It can not only be an edge, but it's got to be, it is the edge. It's got to be the only edge that you can get. If everybody's in super prime physical condition, some people have a genetic predisposition that's a little bit better or whatever. But other than that, it's just about who can, maybe, tougher is not quite the right word, but who can get up at 3:30 in the morning in an ass-cold Seattle winter—?
[00:22:42] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:22:43] Jordan Harbinger: —and roller skate around the parking lot and who's just going to take the easy way out?
[00:22:46] Apolo Ohno: I think every sport's a bit different. I think some sports, like you take a Michael Phelps for example.
[00:22:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:22:51] Apolo Ohno: Right. Someone who, you look at his body, he is literally designed to be a swimmer.
[00:22:57] Jordan Harbinger: He's long, and then he is got a, what is it? His wingspan—
[00:22:59] Apolo Ohno: Unbelievable.
[00:22:59] Jordan Harbinger: —is super wide.
[00:23:00] Apolo Ohno: Like he could touch the glass and this thing at the same time, he's sitting here, it's just like unbelievable. Like Dhalsim from Street Fighter, you know?
[00:23:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:23:06] Apolo Ohno: This is unreal.
[00:23:06] Jordan Harbinger: Stretchy guy, yeah.
[00:23:07] Apolo Ohno: Yeah. Just unbelievable. So I think when I was younger, to me the power of belief is the real lesson. So I just believed, A, that I wasn't as good as everybody else.
[00:23:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:23:19] Apolo Ohno: When I was, I clearly was. Two, what was really powerful was this idea that I could tap into this unknown reservoir of performance potential that had so many layers deep, and so I believed in this placebo or not.
[00:23:36] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:23:36] Apolo Ohno: It didn't matter. I believed that there was this sixth gear that I had access to. Then, everyone else only had. And it was part like me being an American and being like, "Well, I'm just American."
[00:23:47] Jordan Harbinger: Watching Rocky.
[00:23:48] Apolo Ohno: I just have this sixth gear.
[00:23:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:23:50] Apolo Ohno: I just want it better and more than they do. As silly as that may sound, I truly believe that. And so I would skate lap times and do these moves on the ice in these finals that I'd never practiced before. So there's truth behind that. But I do think in some instances like, "Apolo, no matter how much you think it, you're not going to go play in the NFL." It's just not going to happen to me.
[00:24:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Okay.
[00:24:12] Apolo Ohno: Like it's just not going to happen.
[00:24:13] Jordan Harbinger: There's limit to it.
[00:24:14] Apolo Ohno: There's obviously limit to that stuff.
[00:24:15] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:24:15] Apolo Ohno: But I do think if you can match your strengths with this like incredible mindset that is consistently tapped into and you compound that over long durations of time, you create something extraordinary. And I don't care who it is and what you're doing, that's what it takes. We were talking about like podcasting before.
[00:24:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:24:35] Apolo Ohno: Or like pursuing career stuff. Everyone now, today, not just, and it's not our fault, right? This is just the growth of how our society is evolving. I saw this meme the other day, it was really interesting, this cartoon chicken, and it had a picture and it says, "I just want to skip to the part where I'm really good at everything."
[00:24:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:24:52] Apolo Ohno: And I was like, that's like the perfect like experience for what we're going through.
[00:24:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it is.
[00:24:57] Apolo Ohno: But the reason why people get great at doing something is because they have gone through the early stages of the pain, of the resistance, of breaking through that resistance, and the consistency of that effort. And over time is when you kind of rip open the curtain.
[00:25:14] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:14] Apolo Ohno: And you're like, "Now, I'm in flow. Now, I'm in this state where things seamlessly have come together." But you know, like friends that you see, like sell their companies 10 years later for a billion dollars—
[00:25:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:25] Apolo Ohno: —it's not an overnight success. Like 10 years ago they were scrapping together, like just trying to figure it out. To me, that's like always a great reminder that if I look at what I'm trying to do next, whatever career, whatever entrepreneurial idea I have, whatever new trajectory that I'm pursuing, I look at this and say, "Okay, if this is the Olympics, Apolo, and this is a brand new endeavor, are you going to become an Olympic champion in one year of training?" No.
[00:25:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:49] Apolo Ohno: This is going to take a long time. So be willing to commit yourself to something regardless of outcome in the beginning and stick through it and you will learn. And the years will go by like this. But I think to me, it's all about that consistency of habit.
[00:26:02] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me about your dad's speech after you didn't make the Olympic team because I feel like this was such a good anecdote and I feel like this is one of those moments that you'll remember for the rest of your life, and I wonder if you replay it in your head when you backslide into your old bullsh*t.
[00:26:15] Apolo Ohno: The first Olympic trials that I had went to this was the 1998 Olympic trials. I'll give you background—
[00:26:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:26:22] Apolo Ohno: —and context associated. The story goes like this. So 1996 and 1997, I was ranked number one in the US, not just for my age group. So I was 14 years old.
[00:26:31] Jordan Harbinger: Geez.
[00:26:32] Apolo Ohno: I had just won the World Team trials. I went to go compete with our older team who was like 30-plus years old, these guys, and I was 14 years old. I still had braces, dude. I went from that experience to coming back home to Seattle, and then less than a year later was the 1998 Nagano Olympic trials.
[00:26:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:26:50] Apolo Ohno: Now, the whole year I just basically just throw it away for training. Like went against the grain, went through the motions, didn't really commit myself, was going back into this resistant attitude towards authority and also just like my coaches and my teammates, I didn't want to be there. And so I showed up to that Olympic trials and I went from first place, less than a year before, beating all these guys to getting dead last of those trials.
[00:27:11] Jordan Harbinger: Oof.
[00:27:11] Apolo Ohno: So I failed. Here's what the hard part was for my dad. I didn't know this until much later. He had already bought tickets to go to the Olympic Games. He was going back home for one of the first times, ever since he had left Japan to come to the United States. For him, it was this affirmation of like, see to his mom and dad.
[00:27:29] Jordan Harbinger: Like a victory tour.
[00:27:29] Apolo Ohno: It's like, "Hey, you told me not to go to America."
[00:27:32] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:27:32] Apolo Ohno: "And I'm coming back and look what I helped produce."
[00:27:35] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:27:36] Apolo Ohno: "My son, carrying our family name is going to make you proud by competing for the US back in home. So it took us three generations to create him."
[00:27:44] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:27:44] Apolo Ohno: "And now he's here," and I wasn't going anymore. And so he took me from that Olympic trials, saw this habit that was forming. This incredible talent that I had, incredible potential and opportunity, and I literally just threw it away. And so he took me and he drove me to this place about three and a half hours southwest of Seattle and in this area called Moclips or Copalis Beach area. And it sounds very nice, every time I say beach. And it's very beautiful, but in the dead of winter, it is just pouring rain.
[00:28:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:28:14] Apolo Ohno: It gets dark at like 3:00 p.m. and he drops me off at this old cabin that we used to stay at. And I remember staying at this old cabin and he tells me, he is like, "You have to figure out what you're going to do with your life because you are not going to continuously throw opportunities like this away and not commit yourself. I'm not mad that you didn't make the team. I'm upset that you carried there yourself the way that you did. And you just basically went through the motions. You lack the discipline and the effort. And that's unacceptable." And so he is like, "When you're ready, call me."
[00:28:46] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, at that point, you just wish he would yell at you.
[00:28:48] Apolo Ohno: I was like 15. I was like—
[00:28:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:28:49] Apolo Ohno: I was like, "What? What do you mean drop me off?" And so I was there alone. And I had like some clothes. I had like some food, but I mean, no one goes to this place at this time of the year, by the way.
[00:28:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:28:58] Apolo Ohno: It's like freezing cold. It's rains all the time. And I didn't see someone for like three days, you know? And I just started like mindlessly training. And so while I was at this moment was the first epiphany I had in my life was at the age of 15, I just kept asking myself like, "Why are you here? Why is your dad doing this to you?"
[00:29:15] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:29:16] Apolo Ohno: Does he hate you? Like this resentment I had towards him.
[00:29:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:29:19] Apolo Ohno: I had no one to call. There's no video games, there's no Instagram, there's nothing. It's just me and nature, which today, now, like I crave those moments.
[00:29:26] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Sounds great. Yeah.
[00:29:27] Apolo Ohno: Sounds amazing, right?
[00:29:28] Jordan Harbinger: Not when you're 15.
[00:29:28] Apolo Ohno: Solitude, silence, quiet, just pure, just beautiful. But back then, I was really struggling and I effectively came to the decision to say like, all right, I'm going to give this speed skating thing another shot. This obscure sport that like most people had never heard about.
[00:29:43] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:29:43] Apolo Ohno: They kind of know what it is, but like never really watched. And I remember calling my dad. I'd been at that, I think, at the cabin by seven days at that point. And I said, "I've made a decision." He comes and drives and picks me up, he doesn't ask me what it was. I tell him on the way home. And then, that's how my career really started to kickstart.
[00:29:58] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:29:58] Apolo Ohno: And begin again. And so I moved back to Lake Placid, New York, Upstate New York to start training to make the World Team. I got the last position to be selected to be an alternate on that team. And I had made a promise to myself. Again, this is the power of like these real promises. And I had promised myself, I said, when you leave this environment, this world championships, you are going to go back home and you're not going to hang out with your friends that you used to hang out with in the past. You are going to set forth a plan for yourself, and you are going to attack that plan as hard as you possibly can. So I trained twice a day throughout the whole summer in south of Seattle—
[00:30:34] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:30:35] Apolo Ohno: —at the age of 15. And I showed up at the next training camp in like phenomenal shape. I mean, back then I didn't know anything about sports science or all these things. I literally just started skyrocketing my performance, but that was a big learning lesson for me. A, my dad showed me some really tough love. B, the power, I think what's reminded me, at least the way it works for me, is to be near nature as much as possible to come to really hard decisions and away from distraction, and then see your results or not getting what you want—
[00:31:02] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:31:02] Apolo Ohno: —is typically because you had previous expectations that were not met. So just clearly defining that is simple. If you had these expectations and you didn't accomplish them, what is the reasoning? Why did you try hard enough? Were you prepared enough? Is it out of your control? Like, what are some of these variables that you can keep under your control? And some you just simply can't. And for me, a lot of those things were in my control, and I just let them go away.
[00:31:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, right.
[00:31:28] Apolo Ohno: Right. So that was the big change there.
[00:31:33] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Apolo Ohno. We'll be right back.
[00:31:37] This episode is sponsored in part by Peloton. A lot of people ask me how I'm able to stick to my fitness routine, especially since I have such a bananas schedule. For me, it's really creating a routine that is sustainable and can be duplicated on an ongoing basis. Consistency is the key, right? And Peloton helps me have a sustainable fitness routine because there are thousands of classes to choose from. It's also 24/7. I've always got time for it. I might only have 15 minutes in between calls, but I can still fit in a Peloton class. Peloton is really famous for their bikes, but they also make a top-notch rowing machine that stores upright, which you think no big deal. But when you try to have a rower on the floor, you'll be so glad this thing goes upright. If you're a newbie to rowing, the Peloton Row has sensors that can track your movements, that shows you how your form is doing, and it warns you if you're doing something wrong that could injure you or whatever. And right now is the perfect time to get rowing. With Peloton Row, we can promise you've never rowed like this before. Peloton Row offers a variety of classes for all levels in game-changing features that help you get rowing or advance what you can already do. Explore Peloton Row and financing options at onepeloton.com/row.
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[00:33:55] Jordan Harbinger: If you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, thinkers, and creators every single week, it's because of my network and I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. I know that networking is a cringey, gross word these days. I wanted to build a course that would help inspire other people to develop a relationship with you, not a course that does it in a way where it seems salesy, but in a super easy, non-cringe, down-to-earth way, nothing awkward, at least nothing too awkward, and it's built for introverts as well. So it's all online. Don't freak out. I'm not going to ask you to go give talks on stages or go to mixers. It just takes a few minutes a day, and many of the guests on the show already subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. You can find the course at jordanharbinger.com/course.
[00:34:39] And now back to Apolo Ohno.
[00:34:44] Soundbite: Oh, yeah.
[00:34:44] Jordan Harbinger: You had an epic World Cup when most people think that's only for soccer. Apparently, there's a speed skating World Cup too.
[00:34:50] Apolo Ohno: Yeah, much different, I'll tell you that.
[00:34:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:52] Apolo Ohno: Much different.
[00:34:53] Jordan Harbinger: But you studied your opponents to exhaustion. There's some anecdote of you, I don't know, on a treadmill or a bike, I can't remember what it was, but it was like you were watching tape, knowing these guys' skating abilities better than maybe even they know their skating abilities, which is really, that says a lot because you're doing this at in an age where most people are not thinking about anything important. The level of focus is just, it's pretty incredible. Maybe you have to be locked in a freezing cabin in Southern Washington, Southwestern Washington in order to get there.
[00:35:23] Apolo Ohno: That's the other side of ADD-HD is this unique ability is when you get locked in—
[00:35:29] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:35:29] Apolo Ohno: —these blinders goon. That time dilation is very real. Time slows down. You can't see anything else around you. You are in this complete zone state, this flow state where it's you and whatever it is that you're pursuing or doing, and that's what I did. Every day for two hours, an hour and a half to two hours, I would watch skating tapes and I took the, all this, these old skating tapes that we had from the team. I brought them home and I watched the same six athletes who I admired the most. Each athlete had a very specific technical thing they did naturally, extremely well, and a style of skating that was radically different from each other. And I became so wholeheartedly obsessed with the way that they skated, and I learned how to piece together the greatest aspects of their attributes to create my own style. And then, I became so ingrained in watching the human behavior of their quirks, of when they got on the ice, when they finished the race, how they celebrated, how they reacted when they lost on the ice.
[00:36:31] I started watching that and that's when I become really obsessed with actually learning to read my opponents in real time. So I could tell by watching other athletes in the trainings leading up to a race, because if we arrive on a Sunday night, we have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to acclimate, get used to the ice, the time zone difference wherever we're competing in our training. And then Friday, Saturday, Sunday is the competition. So we have almost a full week of basically getting ready. And during that time, I'm not watching at all, I'm watching to see if there's any pattern recognition that I can remember or if I'm seeing it, basically, they're faking it. So there were certain athletes I always knew if they were having an amazing training session or an amazing day or they were faking it. Everyone wears the poker mask. The poker face, right? When you go out there—
[00:37:15] Jordan Harbinger: You had a baseline for everybody from the tape.
[00:37:17] Apolo Ohno: I had a baseline and so I just watched these things and it was beautiful. And so I try to take that level of obsession and hopefully modify that now in a way that's a little bit more less toxic per se.
[00:37:29] Jordan Harbinger: I was going to say less of a psychopath training but whatever, and more of a, yeah—
[00:37:32] Apolo Ohno: And more in a way to say like, well, if this is what you want to do now, this is the amount of work that it's going to require this consistently for this long. Before there was just, you know, you're younger, you don't know anything. You find something that you find deeply intoxicating, which happened for me to be analysis and pursuing sport and trying to be my best self, using my mind. Then, I ran down the rabbit hole of like sports psychology and meditation and visualization, and breath work and all these things. That luckily was introduced by a lot of these other people who studied sports psychology and clinical psychology as a profession. And they jumped on onboard our team as assistant coaches to be the sports psych for our team to help teach about the power of the mind and training the mind in lieu of achieving outsized results than if you did not use that type of training.
[00:38:24] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard that you would skate while hungry. Is that true?
[00:38:27] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:38:27] Jordan Harbinger: Why? Is that like a hanger thing? Trying to harness the hanger or is it like, "I'm 30 ounces lighter because I haven't eaten breakfast.
[00:38:34] Apolo Ohno: I mean, I wasn't like starving, but I definitely was hungry.
[00:38:36] Jordan Harbinger: Huh?
[00:38:37] Apolo Ohno: Like my stomach's growling now.
[00:38:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:39] Apolo Ohno: I'm probably hungry.
[00:38:40] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:38:41] Apolo Ohno: But there's something about like, I think natural, acute and sharpness associated with not having like a full stomach and all the blood rushing to your stomach to process.
[00:38:48] Jordan Harbinger: Huh.
[00:38:48] Apolo Ohno: So I would eat quite light. I think it came from, so my old friend and sports psychologist, Doug Jowdy, who's still practicing today, right? He wrote a book, this amazing book called Gold Medal Mind. If you ever want to read his book, it just came out The Gold Medal Mind. So he's the first one that used to tell me — because I was obsessed with this, like living in the Olympic Training Center. I was surrounded by the speed skating team, but I was surrounded by boxers, by the weightlifting team, by some track and field people, by swimmers, by track cyclists, by wrestlers, and with wrestlers—
[00:39:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:22] Apolo Ohno: —because this is where I learned so much about the power of that warrior mindset. And so a lot of the people on my team — and I say this with every due amount of respect, you know, sometimes when you're in an environment, all you want is something that's different.
[00:39:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm. Sure. Yeah.
[00:39:38] Apolo Ohno: So that's what I was seeking. And so my roommate for a period of time was this wrestler.
[00:39:43] Jordan Harbinger: They didn't put you in the room with—
[00:39:44] Apolo Ohno: They did, but we had an odd number of team members.
[00:39:47] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, interesting.
[00:39:48] Apolo Ohno: I was one of the—
[00:39:49] Jordan Harbinger: It's like being an exchange student.
[00:39:50] Apolo Ohno: Yeah. So the wrestlers, and for some reason in the Olympic Training Center, were always looked at as being a little, a bit crazy, just wired differently. And I think you have to be. If you've ever seen a wrestler go through their training, wrestlers go into the UFC, I mean, like you are wired a certain way to be a fighter. Like they're just wired differently. They're not like other athletes. And the wrestlers, the first time I ever experienced this was these guys were just, they were maniacal with their training. It went against all laws of sports science and what I saw because I was the only non-wrestler in the wrestling sauna because I used to love the sauna way back then, back when I was like 14, 50, 16.
[00:40:25] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, even then, yeah, we did that right before. People are like, what's the sauna reference? We did that right before the podcast, the sauna and a cold plunge.
[00:40:31] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:40:32] Jordan Harbinger: Mandatory.
[00:40:33] Apolo Ohno: I learned when I was in there, there was this coach. I want to say his name is Coach Momir, but he was, you know, kind of stocky, shredded coach. And he used to, and then Coach Fraser, they used, all these guys are like just packed in there, like sardines and they're all cutting weight. And they would do—
[00:40:49] Jordan Harbinger: Jumping rope in there or something?
[00:40:50] Apolo Ohno: No, there's no, they would bring like an Airdyne in there sometimes and they would put like plastics on and train.
[00:40:55] Jordan Harbinger: Oh god.
[00:40:56] Apolo Ohno: I've seen it all. These guys are just, they were insane. Like they were shredded, like they were peeled, it was like Saran wrap over their skin, right?
[00:41:02] Jordan Harbinger: Geez.
[00:41:02] Apolo Ohno: It was just like unbelievable. And these guys were just incredible. So what I saw was he would give these speeches about the mental toughness that was required to be a warrior and win in wrestling. I wish, I really wish we had like microphones in there.
[00:41:17] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:41:18] Apolo Ohno: Or video back then because it was so powerful to see this group of men all just like drenched and like completely exhausted. Go like 45 minutes in the sauna, leave, wrap themselves in hot towels, drink hot tea, and then go back in there again. And the Momir is like literally standing by the door. No one can get in or out. Like, once you're in, you're locked in. I'm the only — I'm like, ah, I'm, hey, by the way, I'm not cutting weight here.
[00:41:41] Jordan Harbinger: Pass out. Yeah.
[00:41:41] Apolo Ohno: I'm just so scared. They don't want to say anything. I'm just stuck away in the corner. But that's where I learned so much is listening to their stories about perseverance, about strength, about confronting your own demons, about what is required when you are completely operating on empty. Like these athletes are so dehydrated. They have no food in their system, they don't have enough water in their system, and they have to go and wrestle another human being for like an hour or two during training. And so I just like, that's the kind of mindset that I want. I want that type of hunger and desire embedded in me because I want to bring that type of intensity into my world.
[00:42:17] Because my world at the time, it didn't seem like it was that cool. Like I loved it, don't get me wrong, but I was fascinated by that warrior fighter mental. And so I brought that in and it taught me so much, and it created so much respect for collegiate, for high school, for Olympic wrestling and then, obviously athletes who go on to fight and, you know, things like the UFC and beyond.
[00:42:41] Jordan Harbinger: I remember in high school one of my good friends with a was a wrestler and I'd say, "Hey man, like come by after school." And he is like, "Okay, I'm going to be a little bit late because I got to do some weight cutting stuff." And I remember once waiting for him because he needed a ride and he's like in the shower with the steam on wearing garbage bags duct taped to him jumping rope. Obviously, it's so bad for you.
[00:43:02] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:43:02] Jordan Harbinger: But you need to make weight so you got to do your thing. And it was just an incredible thing to witness because I thought, I'm never going to put myself through something like that. And he secretly loved it, because he wasn't really actually that good in school. He was kind of one of those like troubled kids. But man, when he got on the wrestling mat, he was a f*cking demon.
[00:43:21] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:43:22] Jordan Harbinger: And you could tell this was like his outlet where he was like not, he wasn't blowing it.
[00:43:26] Apolo Ohno: Mm-hmm.
[00:43:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right. This is like the one thing where he's like, "I'm going to be the best at it." I'm wondering, is this one of the reasons you used to, I know he used to overtrain like crazy.
[00:43:33] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:43:33] Jordan Harbinger: Like you used to do stuff like incline sprints where it's now that your coach would say, "Do not do this. You are just getting rid of muscle you need for the race." And you're just like, "Screw that. I'm going to run up a hill until I can't get out of the hole," or whatever it is. It seems like you've got addicted to getting better and to the pain slash the endorphins from the pain. Is that what's going on here? Like what was that all about?
[00:43:55] Apolo Ohno: Extreme training back then and overtraining just came from an old-school mentality—
[00:43:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:44:00] Apolo Ohno: —of just doing more work than everybody else. And now, we've got all these amazing devices to measure our sleep, our REM, our recovery.
[00:44:07] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:44:07] Apolo Ohno: Our cortisol levels, blood levels, and we were doing blood tests and such back then. The coaches used it to write our training programs to modify how we are responding—
[00:44:15] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:44:15] Apolo Ohno: —to certain levels and amounts of stress they're placing on the system, right? So stress plus rest equals an amazing result. Stress plus no rest, you know, stress plus stress—
[00:44:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:25] Apolo Ohno: —plus stress plus a little bit of rest is not enough. So back then, for me, it was just compounding huge amounts of volume and consistency of intensity. I would say 80 percent of my career, I most likely was overtrained and/or in a state where we were doing the wrong types of training. The mentality just comes from just being so insatiably hungry for improvement, and also feeling like I could just never take a day off.
[00:44:51] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:44:51] Apolo Ohno: And we had days like recovery days, so like when I was training, let's call it the last five years of training, Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday was on your own. Like there was no training that day. It was complete recovery. But I would almost always do an easy recovery jog—
[00:45:06] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:45:06] Apolo Ohno: —for like a half an hour and then go in the sauna. Always, like that was what I did always.
[00:45:10] Jordan Harbinger: Not the worst.
[00:45:11] Apolo Ohno: No, it's great. But I think today if I could redo it, you can go so far with so much less because you're doing the right types of training mixed with the right types of recovery. So the US National Training Speed Skating team today, monitors their sleep and their responses to certain levels of training. And if they're seeing this over the course of seven days and on that eighth day, there's a very hard workout. If you didn't respond appropriately, they actually will back you down at risk of injury.
[00:45:39] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. That makes sense. So looking at your HRV or your Oura Ring—
[00:45:42] Apolo Ohno: It's pretty amazing.
[00:45:43] Jordan Harbinger: —stats. Yeah.
[00:45:44] Apolo Ohno: Even the way they lift weights. A lot of, a lot of injuries in sport actually happen, not even on the field of play. I mean, football is different. Boxing is different, but like a lot of times they're happening because you're just literally like an inch two forward or inch two back on a deadlift or on a back squat and changes everything. So they monitor everything in real time.
[00:46:02] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard you got some pre-race rituals. Left skate goes on first.
[00:46:07] Apolo Ohno: Yep, that's right.
[00:46:07] Jordan Harbinger: I've seen this stuff in baseball or whatever, right? They've got to have their — is it superstition or is this just the less things you think about, the better off you are? Like what's going on?
[00:46:16] Apolo Ohno: It's habit and routine.
[00:46:17] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:46:18] Apolo Ohno: So less superstition for sure. I think like, put the left skate on first, then the right skate on. And for me, if I did it the opposite for some reason, which it never happened, but it did once in a while, I'd have to restart the whole process.
[00:46:31] Jordan Harbinger: So that's a little bit, that's what I'm talking about, right? Like that's a little, you have to — that's almost like, I don't want to say OCD because I don't want to make light of it—
[00:46:36] Apolo Ohno: It's OCD.
[00:46:37] Jordan Harbinger: —but it's a little OCD.
[00:46:38] Apolo Ohno: No, it's a hundred percent OCD and it's a hundred percent attention to detail. I would also warm up a very particular way. I remember I heard it once from Bonnie Blair, who's this famed long-track speed skater.
[00:46:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:46:49] Apolo Ohno: And Bonnie had said that she would warm up and cool down the exact identical way no matter if it was the Olympic final for her race or it was a local state meet that didn't matter.
[00:47:02] Jordan Harbinger: Hmm.
[00:47:03] Apolo Ohno: And she wanted to replicate that because that's the one controllable element that she could have no matter what the other exterior environment was. And she used to always tell me, she's like, "Apolo, I'm going to tell something to you. The 1000-meter or the 500 meters, whatever it is that you're racing, is the exact same distance at the Winter Olympics as it is in the local meet, when there's no one watching, there's no one in the stands. It's the exact same distance, and you are the exact same person. So why would you change anything just because you're in this environment?" So I wanted to create a system that was duplicatable over time, and I leaned on that. A lot of people talk about these things today.
[00:47:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:47:39] Apolo Ohno: Where they say like, don't rely upon your willpower and your desire and your motivation, inspiration. Instead, rely upon or fall back upon the systems that you've created that you can always know are reliable. So the system that we created was, I warm up like this, I get ready like this, and I put on my skates like this, always the same way.
[00:47:58] Jordan Harbinger: You get a special knot as well for the skates. Is that true?
[00:48:01] Apolo Ohno: Yeah. You would tie your skates a certain way in a certain level of tightness, and I would like test it by leaning back and forth to put pressure.
[00:48:08] Jordan Harbinger: You got a bandana ritual though, too, right?
[00:48:10] Apolo Ohno: I had a bandana ritual, you know?
[00:48:12] Jordan Harbinger: It's a lot of stuff. You're stacking it up.
[00:48:14] Apolo Ohno: I mean, yeah, same thing. I mean, I don't know if you do this, but I do this, I still do this today. I fold the clothes that I'm going to wear tomorrow. Everything that I have today from the workouts that I want to do today to the clothes that I wear, like here with you now. This is all planned from yesterday.
[00:48:27] Jordan Harbinger: So this was laid out on the bed or whatever.
[00:48:29] Apolo Ohno: It was folded, laid out — it was jeans, sweatshirt, socks, underwear, belt.
[00:48:36] Jordan Harbinger: All on top, like a little clothing—
[00:48:37] Apolo Ohno: On the dresser. Okay. And then, I have a workout set and then I have another workout set. I still do that today.
[00:48:43] Jordan Harbinger: That's so funny.
[00:48:44] Apolo Ohno: Back then, it was to save time.
[00:48:45] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:48:46] Apolo Ohno: So this is what I don't want to do. I want to be, I don't want to be ever be having a conversation with myself around like, should I wear this? Or should I wear this today? How do I think this? Like, no dude. Like this was all yesterday's discussion. Like, this is what you're wearing. I have like a checklist of things that I want to accomplish as priorities for the day, or intentions per se.
[00:49:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:49:04] Apolo Ohno: So if these are the intentions that I have today, and these are the things that would make today amazing. Remove all the possibility of arguing with myself about anything else that's not online with the priorities. So say no to everything else and just make it from step one to step two, step three. Step one, wake up. Great. First step is done. Step two, clothes, done. Put that on. Step three this. Just create a system, right?
[00:49:25] Jordan Harbinger: So just don't use any cognitive resources trying to decide what you're going to wear. It's already on the bed.
[00:49:31] Apolo Ohno: Yes. We're not going to wear the same thing every day.
[00:49:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Once you have kids, that's what happens, right? People are like, "What's up with the dad jeans?" Nah, forget it. There's only dad jeans now.
[00:49:40] Tell me about the big yawn before the race. People are like, "Oh, this is him oxygenating." I'm like, I don't know, man. Is this a nervous yawn?
[00:49:47] Apolo Ohno: It's probably a little bit of a nervous yawn. And then, it became a habit.
[00:49:50] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:49:51] Apolo Ohno: And then it became this OCD thing. I felt like, and this is what someone was trying to explain to me, they were saying that when you yawn, it's like this preparatory phase for your body about to go do something that's very high aerobically. And so it also was extremely relaxing. So, you know, before a really big race, your heart rate has kind of spiked a little bit, even though it's not in training, it's now in a competition. But the yawning was like a reset mechanism to say like bring that down here, because this level here is where you're highly attentive. And you're highly cognizant of your surroundings, but you're also really relaxed. To me, that flow state is so important to be in. So it's not like being over-caffeinated, but you're in this like, highly alert but deepened, relaxed state.
[00:50:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that makes sense.
[00:50:37] Apolo Ohno: And it's like my fascinations with like big cats and the way that they spend most of their time just kind of basically being lazy. But then, actually when they're up, you see how focused they are.
[00:50:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:50:49] Apolo Ohno: They can't see anything else, just focus on what they're trying to go kill. I wasn't trying to kill anybody, but like as a lion or like a big cat, I was trying to imagine myself as like filling my lungs up with all this oxygen, prepping the system because I'm about to go race really hard to expand and contract, expand and contract.
[00:51:07] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me about this massive crash where you ended up taking a silver medal. Was that the one where you got a big cut?
[00:51:13] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[00:51:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:51:14] Apolo Ohno: It was the men's 1000 meters. It was my first Olympic final in Salt Lake City for the first time ever. I was a favorite in this race. I was in the lead with like a quarter lap remaining. An athlete falls into the side of me. We all go crashing down. The whole other athletes also went crashing down except for one athlete who was about a half a lot behind Steven Bradbury from Australia. He crosses the line, finish first because we all fell down.
[00:51:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:51:40] Apolo Ohno: I scrambled to get to my feet, throw my skates across the finish line. It was a wild race because A, I had expected to win this race.
[00:51:47] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:51:47] Apolo Ohno: B, I had told myself I'm about to win this race right before I fell. I felt like at that time that like something happened where the race was taken from me.
[00:51:56] Jordan Harbinger: You got robbed because some dude fell into you.
[00:51:58] Apolo Ohno: Yeah, it felt unfair. And I remember like being confused and I rushed off the ice, I ripped my racing suit down and there was a big gash in my left leg from the collision of the hitting the pads with my back. My right leg came and basically came just almost like a little knife with the edge of the blade into my left.
[00:52:14] Jordan Harbinger: How sharp were those? Are they really sharp?
[00:52:16] Apolo Ohno: Yeah. I mean they're diamond polished, so—
[00:52:18] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, geez.
[00:52:18] Apolo Ohno: —you could literally shave with them.
[00:52:19] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:52:20] Apolo Ohno: Yes. In walks my sports physio, Brent, he looks at me with this crazy look in design and he's like, "That was the most incredible race I've ever seen. Like, I can't believe you got up."
[00:52:29] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:29] Apolo Ohno: And I was like, whoa, I'm thinking about this the entirely different way. I was thinking, like pointing the finger in my head.
[00:52:35] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:35] Apolo Ohno: I was literally like, I have to go back and watch the tape to see what happened. Who took me down?
[00:52:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:40] Apolo Ohno: And what I realized was at that moment there was a very clear choice to make. I could either play that game of victim. I could play that game of I was done wrong or I could celebrate, which I can't control any of those variables anymore.
[00:52:54] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:52:55] Apolo Ohno: I had to surrender. I had to accept, even though I was not happy with the result, I want a different color of the metal. I didn't want silver. The color of the metal was gold.
[00:53:03] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:53:04] Apolo Ohno: That was the color that was destined for me, and that was taken from me.
[00:53:07] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:53:07] Apolo Ohno: But now I'm with this silver medal and it was the first medal that I ever won. My dad found me as I was getting stitched up and he's like, "You did it. That was amazing." And I was too young and too naive to know to think what he was really saying. So someone had asked me, "Apolo, what does it feel like to have lost the gold?"
[00:53:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The reporters said, "What does it feel like to lose the gold that way?" Is what she said.
[00:53:28] Apolo Ohno: I think I said something like, "I don't think that I lost a gold. I won the silver."
[00:53:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's what you said.
[00:53:33] Apolo Ohno: And that is a really powerful metaphor for my life today—
[00:53:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:53:38] Apolo Ohno: —where you work so hard at something and you feel so deserving to win that something. But for you being in this hyper zoomed-in microenvironment, you can't see or zoom way out to see like, "I don't know why I'm going through this process right now, but later on in my life, this is incredibly powerful." That today, out of eight medals is my absolute favorite medal—
[00:54:01] Jordan Harbinger: Hmm.
[00:54:01] Apolo Ohno: —that I ever won. It's the most impactful, the most meaningful, and the most important in my entire career. And it wasn't gold. It's hard for people to comprehend that, but I think the silver metal is actually probably what you get most of your life outside of kids.
[00:54:17] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:54:17] Apolo Ohno: The kids probably your goal no matter what. But silver or even bronze or maybe no metal is probably most likely what most people are going to experience. And I think how do we learn from that experience? Create an acceptance mechanism to say, look, you can be deeply unhappy and unsatisfied with the result, right?
[00:54:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:54:37] Apolo Ohno: Which I was but I also accepted it. I came to terms with it and I surrendered that outcome. That outcome is what it is. And forever in the history books, it is going to be written that I was silver, not gold. It's not going to have an asterisk and say, oh—
[00:54:51] Jordan Harbinger: But he got knocked out.
[00:54:52] Apolo Ohno: Because he was knocked down or he fell down. No one cares. Doesn't matter. A hundred years from now, no one cares anyway about me. Like a hundred years, I don't even exist anymore. I'm just looking at anybody else. Maybe now, maybe five years, right? Who knows? I didn't say this back then, but like now I can look back and say, that was so powerful, meaningful, A, it represented a lot of what we as a country, I think went through at that time, right? The attack on the World Trade Centers in New York, thinking America was like almighty number one. And all of a sudden this we're like brought to a knee.
[00:55:20] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:55:20] Apolo Ohno: And we live in this kind of fear state and we can either choose to stay in that fear state. I don't want to travel, I don't want to do. I don't want to live this kind of freedom-based life that I have been given. Life has given me a gift to live in this environment, and I don't want to do those things anymore. Or we can make a turn and say, "You know what? I accept what just happened. I will analyze those things and make sure it never happens again. But I also want to be able to move forward in my life with the same amount of gratitude and appreciation." And so my next race, I won gold.
[00:55:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:55:49] Apolo Ohno: But that race was so important to me because it just — I think about that race today, you want something, you don't get it. What are you going to do? Many times in our life, we are not going to get what we think we deserve.
[00:56:01] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:56:01] Apolo Ohno: What we want, we feel like something happened outside of our control, and we can stay in this state of like pain. You suffer because you no longer want to accept that. The only way to move past that is to accept it. Settle into how you can grow from this experience, and then you can do two things, right? This is my fundamental belief, depending on your personality, you can take that emotional state of like emotional pain and resentment or anger, and you can learn to harness that as power for yourself. You lean on that emotion, right? Just like I did in not making that first Olympic team and feeling ridiculed by the other parents and coaches who were saying, "Oh, he's a loss statistic. He's just a has-been. That kid didn't have what it takes. He cracked under pressure," and hearing that or using that in a way to say like, "I never want to feel that ever again." And I'm fundamentally convinced that most great athletes around the world have some semblance of that experience in their life to where you know, Michael Jordan and the way that he approached his opponents and creating his own kind of internal enemies with them. These like conflicts that didn't even exist sometimes.
[00:57:09] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:57:10] Apolo Ohno: The way that Kobe was a bit abrasive towards his teammates, but he created this psychology that was now known as the Mamba Mentality.
[00:57:17] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
[00:57:18] Apolo Ohno: Whatever it might be. These are really powerful moments and experiences and so if you have pain, if you have suffered, if you have these emotional experiences in your life that detract away from your own happiness, you can either live in that state forever or you can use it as a lever to continue giving you this fuel, giving you this fuel. And I say that two types of personalities because some people can do that really well. Other people, they fail when they do that. Our upbringings teach us a different way.
[00:57:47] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:57:48] Apolo Ohno: Some people are Jocko Willink and David Goggins people.
[00:57:50] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:57:51] Apolo Ohno: Some people are not, right? And so if you are not, there's probably components of that psychology that are very powerful, but there's maybe a, perhaps a different avenue in which creates action for you. So determining what actually speaks to you as a person to develop a set of systems that you can rely upon, I think is a fundamental priority for anyone going into the new year, right? Whether it's Christmas, whether it's January 2023. As you set forth these new systems for yourself to lean upon, they need to be done in a way that harnesses both the emotional experiences you've had, mix with — if you want to be intentional about the next phase of your life, you cannot control the outcome. What you can control is the input. And so if the input is going to be these types of things, right? And I'm receiving this information, and if it's not being conducive, you need to stop accepting that as an input. So just like when I was skating back in the day, I was able to use my fear of failure in a way that was so powerful. It became a superpower. But over long enough durations of time, it also became toxic.
[00:58:59] Jordan Harbinger: That I can understand. I mean, being driven by a fear of failure, it seems like most athletes are driven by wanting to win, but if you're driven by a fear of failure, I mean, isn't that feelings of an inadequacy? How do you? That would be toxic over time?
[00:59:13] Apolo Ohno: I think Phelps loved to win, but I think he actually hated to lose. And I think, Peter Attia was talking about this the other day and he was saying something along the realm of Phelps can go to a local meet. He's training through the meat. So he is not peaked. He's tired, he's not shaved. He's like wearing like not the best suit for like optimal drag.
[00:59:35] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:59:36] Apolo Ohno: But he somehow figures out how to win in those races. And he's like, I couldn't figure out why or how he's doing it. And he finally realized, Peter finally realized that he just hates to lose so much. It's psychologically painful for him to deal with the aftermath than actually do that. And I think that's the same for a lot of athletes. Yes, I mean, we all love to win.
[00:59:58] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:59:59] Apolo Ohno: Winning feels amazing. It's the positive head nod that like, you're on the right track. You're worthy, right?
[01:00:05] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:00:05] Apolo Ohno: This is what we do when we see someone—
[01:00:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's the validation. Yeah.
[01:00:07] Apolo Ohno: But I think more so like I used to feel this incredible sense of relief after competitions. It's like—
[01:00:13] Jordan Harbinger: Win or lose?
[01:00:14] Apolo Ohno: Win or lose, especially win, obviously.
[01:00:16] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:00:16] Apolo Ohno: But I just feel relief, like it's over. Emotional stress is like over for a second.
[01:00:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Okay. I can relate to that a little bit.
[01:00:25] Apolo Ohno: Yeah. But I think like the most optimal flow state is when you're no longer worrying about outcome, right? So that's what I experienced in speed skating, was I felt like when I skated my absolute best, the metric and the goal was to win these races. But I was never thinking about like, "I must win. I must win. I must win." Instead, the focal point was on this process, "Are you in the right position? Are you in second? Are you in third? Like, when do you want to make a move? Like, are you relaxed?" Like just being in this, almost like this constant flow state where I'm not forcing anything, it's just actually happening in real time. So there's, in speed skating, we have this unique component of if you lean into the corner, coming out of the corner. So you lean into, basically to your left as you exit the corner, it's going to carry your speed even more. And then as you lean into the entrance of that next corner, that's when you feel the most amount of pressure on your legs. And so during these moments, most athletes lean out a little bit to take that pressure off, which causes them to slow down. And so there's this really fine line between trying too hard and not trying hard enough. It's like the 85 to 95 percent rule. So if you're going a hundred percent all out, you're probably trying too hard in speed skating.
[01:01:37] Jordan Harbinger: Hmm.
[01:01:37] Apolo Ohno: It's really interesting. So if you can go 90 to 95 percent, you'll probably skate a little bit faster.
[01:01:42] Jordan Harbinger: Huh?
[01:01:42] Apolo Ohno: But it feels so much easier. Flow state is like that. You're trying just hard and then you just get in a state where it's almost automatic and then it almost becomes easy, and that was very addictive.
[01:01:54] Jordan Harbinger: What's this about you putting your medals in basically a sock drawer? And this is a quote I think from you, "Train as if you'd never won anything."
[01:02:02] Apolo Ohno: So there's another fear that I had where after I had won the first set of medals, I had never wanted to have them on display as if this was like a proud achievement that I could rest upon, like rest my laurels on. And it said, it was like, "We''ll, train as if you're poor, train as if you have nothing, train as if you are the underdog and create an environment where you always stay hungry." That was taught to me through the wrestlers in the Olympic Training Center who had kind of scoffed and looked down upon these athletes that had made a significant sum of wealth. And by the way, these concepts to me are now wrong. This is 20 years, 20-plus years ago.
[01:02:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah.
[01:02:42] Apolo Ohno: Okay. So back then it was like if you lived this like soft cushion life, you were not a hardened person. There's like some psychology there, right? And so I was like, well, I'm not going to move out of the Olympic Training Center. I'm going to stay here and live in the moment and live around these other athletes that haven't won, that are just as hungry, that are grinding every single day. I could see the fire in their eyes and they hadn't yet "made it," quote. And so that was inspiring.
[01:03:11] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Apolo Ohno. We'll be right back.
[01:03:16] This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help. If you're going through a tough time, you are not alone and you don't have to deal with it on your own. If you're thinking of giving therapy a try, Better Help is a great option. It's convenient, it's flexible, it's affordable, it's entirely online. If you're still skeptical, the Better Help App has over 93,000 reviews on the iPhone app with 4.8 out of five stars. From the beginning, you're able to narrow down what kind of therapist you want by answering questions and building your own profile. This allows the portal to set you up with a therapist that best matches your needs. Therapy is vulnerable work. I'm not going to lie. Better Help understands you're not going to mesh with everyone. I've heard from a lot of you who tried better help that you've switched a couple of times to different therapists. Totally normal. Just let Better Help support know. You don't have to notify the therapist. You don't have to have that awkward conversation. They will just handle it for you. You can also choose from email, chat, phone, or video sessions. For me, I just have an easier time opening up when I'm in the comfort of my own home talking over the phone. I don't really want to do a video session a lot of the time. Take this as a sign to give therapy a try.
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[01:04:27] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Athletic Greens. Jen and I take AG1 by Athletic Greens pretty much every single day. We had a scoop of AG1 to a bottle of water, shake it up, drink it up in the morning. We started taking AG1 because I'll be honest, a lot of times I'm eating whatever crap my kid has left over on the plate. Not necessarily the healthiest stuff. We want to make sure we're getting the nutrients we need in a way that's easy enough for our body to absorb, not chomping on 30 different pills. AG1 is like all-in-one nutritional insurance. It's cheaper and easier than getting all the different supplements yourself as if you would even bother. Each scoop has 75 vitamins, minerals, whole-food sourced, superfood, probiotics, adaptogens. There's no need for a million different pills and supplements to look out for your health. No GMOs, no nasty chemicals, no artificial stuff in there. I have tried many of these types of products. You usually have to cover this taste with putting in a smoothie or some other ingredients. With AG1, the flavor is surprisingly good, has that slight green flavor, but it's not super bitter. It's not overpowering. One scoop with water, all alone by itself. Reclaim your health and arm your immune system with convenient daily nutrition, especially heading into the flu and cold season, which if you have kids, is every single damn day.
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[01:05:53] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored in part by SimpliSafe. Winter is the time where property crimes like burglaries and package theft spike. You'd think the burglars would be working from home in the cold too, but I guess not. Well, they're working from your home. If you're traveling, make sure to keep your home secure with SimpliSafe. We have been long-standing customers of SimpliSafe. The system is very easy to set up, very affordable. You plug it in, you connect to your Wi-Fi. It's got cellular in case your Wi-Fi goes kaput. It's also got a battery backup if your power goes kaput. SimpliSafe has been awarded The Best Home Security System of 2022 by US News and World Report, a third year in a row. We love SimpliSafe's variety of high-tech sensors, HD security cameras. You can live stream them to look at it on your phone if you want to. There are also hazard sensors to detect fires and floods and other threats, which is coming in surprisingly and, unfortunately, handy here in California these days. Plus 24/7 professional monitoring. Knock wood, Jen put that to the test by accidentally opening up the garage door and scaring the crap out of the kids. And we instantly got a call from SimpliSafe's agents to make sure we were okay. And in an emergency, 24/7 professional monitoring agents use Fast Protect technology exclusively from SimpliSafe to capture critical evidence and verify the threat is real. So you get priority police response. I wonder what the critical evidence is. Maybe there's just like, "Here is a blood sample from the wall. This is a real emergency." Anyway, Jen, dropping the code.
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[01:07:52] Now for the rest of my conversation with Apolo Ohno.
[01:07:58] Soundbite: Oh, yeah.
[01:07:58] Jordan Harbinger: You just don't forget how many people are right on your ass. Take your foot off the gas, you just see these guys, you're like, well wait a minute. This guy's coming out here. He's in the proverbial parking lot in Seattle at three o'clock in the morning, skating his ass off. And if you're like, "I got a silver and a couple of golds, that's fine. I'll go down in history."
[01:08:15] Apolo Ohno: You will give up.
[01:08:15] Jordan Harbinger: And I think you, you did this in the way of gold documentary, you said that the difference between a gold medal and nothing in speed skating, it's a snap. What did you — were you clapping?
[01:08:25] Apolo Ohno: Yeah, basically — like that.
[01:08:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And that's gold versus nothing.
[01:08:30] Apolo Ohno: That's gold versus nothing. I think it was the — I don't know which race, but it was like four-thousandths of a second sometimes, you know, two-hundredths of a second, three-hundredths of a second. Like, you just think about that. So people ask me, "Well, why do you train so hard for so long, for so many years? That four-year journey, or that eight-year journey, what does that look like for you?" And I think a lot of that comes down to, well, the race is only, you know, 40 seconds long or a minute and a half long.
[01:08:52] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:08:53] Apolo Ohno: Anything could happen in that middle of that race, but if you had just missed gold or making the final by two-hundredths of a second, you start to question your reality of existence of how much effort did I put in during this previous four years?
[01:09:09] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:09:09] Apolo Ohno: Should I have partied that much? Should I have eaten poorly? Yet, some of these routines and systems become so obsessive because you know, the smallest of minute details can cause you to win or not.
[01:09:21] Jordan Harbinger: It's just a ton of pressure.
[01:09:23] Apolo Ohno: You know what's crazy is like all this entire conversation, it feels like to me, we're talking about a person from a long time ago.
[01:09:30] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:09:30] Apolo Ohno: Because I don't feel like that person today. I have components and times where that person comes back to the front.
[01:09:36] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:09:36] Apolo Ohno: He's like, "Hey, Apolo, like that little inner animal is still here. Don't forget you got to feed me sometimes."
[01:09:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:09:42] Apolo Ohno: And you need to go push yourself in the gym or go into solitude or whatever it might be like there's these moments where it's this reminder that I need to go towards the hard things. Because I've had like success in my life. I've been blessed enough to be able to see and experience all these unique areas of the world—
[01:09:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:09:57] Apolo Ohno: —and people and dynamics. And then there's moments where my dad always say, "Apolo, you got to come back down to earth."
[01:10:03] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:10:04] Apolo Ohno: Bring it back to the basics, right? The most simplistic thing is like your health and the priorities around yourself and your family. That's all that you really need. It's really simple. Yes, you could have huge financial dreams. Huge dreams of what you think is going to give you the great life. And I think the reality is people, they find their purpose in all different types of meaning, and I think having those goals are important. So it keeps you on that purpose-driven life, right? You need some semblance of purpose of why you're doing what you're doing, or perhaps why you're suffering what you're suffering through. This is Viktor Frankl. I'm a huge—
[01:10:37] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:10:38] Apolo Ohno: —proponent of what he has written and talked about so long, because what he is experienced was atrocities back during those Nazi concentration camps. But I think the silver lining from him surviving those things and experiencing and seeing those things is what we should be taking in today. A, life is just an incredible gift and so do not waste it on sh*t that is not worthy of your time and energy.
[01:11:01] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:11:01] Apolo Ohno: It doesn't serve you and who you want to truly become. Because when you're 80 and we have a conversation and I'm like, "What do you regret? Or what are the things in your life that you wish you could have told yourself when you are 40, half your age over you are today. By the way, I've asked a lot of people who are older. My grandma just turned 103. And the answers vary from like, "I wish that I stopped living a life for other people and I started living the life for myself."
[01:11:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, man.
[01:11:27] Apolo Ohno: So like with the way that social is you're given, you're being fed this life and environment of you need to have this, you must do this, you must be here, you must date this, you must look like this in order for you to be happy because that's the recipe. And we all know, I think at the core, that's not really what gives you the most amount of fulfillment, happiness, progress, and purpose.
[01:11:50] That's why I think like taking the step back for a second, metaphorically climbing up onto that balcony to survey the landscape of where you thought that you were going and realize that you've been dissuaded by this fog of war because you're fighting this thing that's so small in components of your entire biggest life, right? And so we all live as if we have this infinite life, right? We take things for granted. We're grinding and very natural human experience. I do this too. And I don't know, this is what helped me, dude, is like, the more I can recognize and realize, A, life is a gift.
[01:12:24] Like I just had this incredible experience, like recently with some friends of mine. I went to this concert. A friend of mine manages these like huge artists, right? These huge artists. And he is like, "You should come. I'll take care of you guys." Like, gave us these like unique passes to like literally go anywhere we wanted in this place.
[01:12:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:12:40] Apolo Ohno: It was unbelievable. And then my friend looks at me and I was like, "What are you doing? Why do you keep look looking around? " She's like, "Oh, I'm just thinking about all the people that bought all those tickets that are way up there in the back, way, way in the back." I was like, "What about it? " And she's like, "They're just happy to be here. They're just as happy as we are to be here. There's no difference." She was saying like, "I'm so thankful to be able to experience this or that or anything that we're here in this moment. "
[01:13:07] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:13:07] Apolo Ohno: And so I was like, "Bro, that's so powerful." If you want real freedom, stop wanting more.
[01:13:11] Jordan Harbinger: That's true.
[01:13:12] Apolo Ohno: And it's super hard to have, right? Because that's how I'm wired, dude.
[01:13:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:13:15] Apolo Ohno: I'm wired that way.
[01:13:16] Jordan Harbinger: I was just talking about that this morning. I was like, "Oh, I wish that this and this, and this was different." And my wife's like, "Okay, get out of that mode." Because I get in that mode where I'm like, "Oh, I should have done this and I should be working on this other stuff. But it's just, I don't know." And it's like—
[01:13:29] Apolo Ohno: But that's also probably why you've been successful.
[01:13:31] Jordan Harbinger: That's why I'm here. Yeah. So I need to be able to get the lift and then switch that off that, and then glide. That's the tricky part though is being like, "Hey, maybe don't beat yourself up about the silver medal.
[01:13:42] Apolo Ohno: So you know what's helped me because I can relate to that.
[01:13:44] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:13:45] Apolo Ohno: I can relate to this dissatisfaction with staying still.
[01:13:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:13:49] Apolo Ohno: Right?
[01:13:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:13:49] Apolo Ohno: Like I feel like I'm not moving, therefore I feel like I'm going backwards.
[01:13:53] Jordan Harbinger: I'm squandering the opportunity—
[01:13:54] Apolo Ohno: Yes.
[01:13:54] Jordan Harbinger: —by not working right now or whatever.
[01:13:56] Apolo Ohno: Oh, you only get one life. You got to maximize every minute of your life.
[01:13:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm
[01:14:00] Apolo Ohno: And what's helped me is actually scheduling in several times per year to take time where I totally decompress and I'm just there being grateful for that moment. I'm not worrying about what I'm doing over here. I'm not working on things I'm not supposed to work on. I'm actually shutting off the system. I'm getting off the treadmill.
[01:14:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:14:17] Apolo Ohno: I'm getting off of the life treadmill and that's when I have the most epiphanies in my life, when I recognize the most important things.
[01:14:27] Jordan Harbinger: You must have when you were younger, you know, viewing winning at all costs, I assume is normal. That must have cost you relationships. I mean, I assume dating, being a boyfriend, a husband, whatever is just actually impossible when you're focused on something like that. It seems like you've changed your tune about this. You're mentioning future kids—
[01:14:45] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[01:14:46] Jordan Harbinger: So at least you're thinking a little bit about the fact that like, you might need a partner at some point in order to do that.
[01:14:51] Apolo Ohno: I have two experiences, right? Number one, I was raised by a single parent, you know, my whole life.
[01:14:56] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:14:56] Apolo Ohno: My dad.
[01:14:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:14:57] Apolo Ohno: So I have no relationship with my mom. I never met my mom. So I have this like Japanese, like samurai warrior mentality that my father raised me of. Then, I surrounded myself in this old-school mentality of trying to be like these wrestlers that I looked up to and admired. I wanted to grab on their toughness, their mental psychology towards how they trained and how they view the sport. So there's like no room for this compassion and empathy—
[01:15:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:15:24] —and softness and understanding and vulnerability that we can talk about today. The identification of what we lean to deem to be a great leader today has all of those qualities. It has strength, it has leadership, it has all these components, but it also has empathy, compassion, understanding, humanizing. You know, during the height of the pandemic, when people were in pure chaos and had no idea what to believe and not to believe, the greatest leader stepped up to their teams and said like, "I'm human like you. I'm struggling like you. I want to help you. Let us help each other." That is a great leader. 10 years ago, 15 years ago, it was just like, "No. You are stoic."
[01:16:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm. Stoic, yeah.
[01:16:05] Apolo Ohno: You show no pain, you show no emotion. You are a leader. There's a separation between you and the rest of the people there. And I think that authoritative component is dissolving. And so same thing with my growing up around these like fractured relationships, which by the way, were completely my fault, almost entirely. My lack of prioritizing a relationship, my lack of creating an environment of like great communication. And I'm still learning today. I'm far from perfect in any of the things that I'm involved with, right? Or these personal relationships that I have.
[01:16:36] Jordan Harbinger: But you don't seem like the emotionally stunted guy that you read about in the book during your competitive days.
[01:16:42] Apolo Ohno: I feel like a different person.
[01:16:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:16:43] Apolo Ohno: I feel like a different person. And I keep in touch with several teammates that need to train with for years. And they even tell me. They’re like, "Apolo, you are so radically different than what we used to remember you as, as an athlete." And I'm like, "Really? Was I really like that?" They were like, "Yeah, you were like, kind of scary."
[01:16:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:17:00] Apolo Ohno: "You were like, kind of scary. Like you literally showed up like a machine. You never had an off day. Like you were always there and you demanded this level of excellence from everybody that was there." And it was almost this like intensity that was a bit aggro, right?
[01:17:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:17:15] Apolo Ohno: And I'm like, "Nah, I'm not that big of a guy. Like I can't — how am I intimidating?"
[01:17:17] Jordan Harbinger: How am I intimidating? Yeah. You know?
[01:17:18] Apolo Ohno: But I think it's that energy that you project. And so as I've done a lot of work on myself, I have a huge gap in my life in terms of my upbringing. I didn't have like a great mom. I had motherly figures around my life, but they weren't there every day. I didn't learn a lot of these things. Like, I didn't learn that in these relationships. So I'm like stunted. You know, I'm 40 years old, but I feel like I'm like 25—
[01:17:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:17:41] Apolo Ohno: —you know, in certain areas of my life.
[01:17:42] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:17:42] Apolo Ohno: I'm still kind of going through these motions, but to me, it's the intention of saying like, "Okay, I accept you for who you were, Apolo. I accept you for these mistakes that you've made. And now, it's up to you. It's the responsibility to yourself to begin setting forth a plan to go and explore how you can become the person that you want to be to your future kids, to your friends, to your loved ones, to the environment that you get yourself into. So whether, I'm at an event and I'm networking with friends, or with people that I don't know, if I'm going to dinner with people and I want to be highly engaged, if I'm meeting someone for the first time. Or if I'm on a plane, I'm alone, I'm traveling, and this person next to me kind of gives you that look and maybe they want to say something and want to ask you a question and you just want to like stay in your own pod. How do I go outside of that comfort zone? Because that's where I know the greatest amount of growth has come. And I'm telling you, every time I have gone out of my comfort zone repeatedly, the result was extraordinary, every time. So I hate doing stuff on my own to like — we were talking about like installing insulation.
[01:18:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:18:45] Apolo Ohno: You know why I said that?
[01:18:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:18:47] Apolo Ohno: Because I installed insulation in my friend's place. Like dude, I don't have to. I just pay somebody to do it.
[01:18:50] Jordan Harbinger: What are you doing? Yeah, yeah.
[01:18:52] Apolo Ohno: But I've never done that before.
[01:18:45] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:18:54] Apolo Ohno: It was like so foreign to me. So like I did this whole thing. I was like, "Okay, I'm going to go to Home Depot. I'm going to buy this stuff. Get the gloves. Get the mask. I'm going to get the thing that cut the insulation. I'm going to measure it. I'm going to climb under the attic. Hands on my knees. I'm going to tuck it in there.
[01:19:06] Jordan Harbinger: That's what my wife does. She loves this, yeah.
[01:19:08] Apolo Ohno: She did?
[01:19:08] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, she does.
[01:19:08] Apolo Ohno: She's badass.
[01:19:09] Jordan Harbinger: And my wife—
[01:19:10] Apolo Ohno: That's awesome.
[01:19:11] Jordan Harbinger: Jen is always doing stuff like that. She's like, "I'm going to make a table." I'm like, "Just buy it." "No, I'm going to make a table for Legos for the kids and put the wiring in.
[01:19:19] Apolo Ohno: That's the secret. They'll be like, "Tell us something that Apolo love to do." "I like to watch home improvement videos." Very sexy.
[01:19:25] Jordan Harbinger: I like to install insulation in friends' homes.
[01:19:28] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[01:19:28] Jordan Harbinger: If you need your home reinsulated call Apolo Ohno of Olympic insulation.
[01:19:35] Apolo Ohno: Oh, Apolo addicts.
[01:19:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Let's talk about retirement, the end of the Olympic career because athletes, the careers, it sounds like they usually end in ways that are not ideal for the athlete. Right? When these careers end, especially if they end suddenly there's a loss of identity, maybe even less than retiring from a job. It's almost like getting fired because it's like, "Well, that wasn't the ending I wanted."
[01:19:56] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[01:19:57] Jordan Harbinger: Maybe you did come in dead last because you tore something and now you're just never going to be in the same place again. Or it's your last Olympics because you're 30 and you can't do it anymore because gymnastics don't allow for that or whatever it is. We've talked about these sort of changes with Maya Shankar, episode 733. We'll link to that in the show notes. But what does it feel like when you're ending your career? It's got to be very disorienting and I know you said it felt like you were going to die, which sounds hyperbolic, but I guess maybe isn't.
[01:20:23] Apolo Ohno: I can only speak from my personal experiences.
[01:20:25] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:20:25] Apolo Ohno: In the conversations that I've had with my peers, specifically Olympic, I've talked to some people who are like in the military about their transition, a lot of similarities there.
[01:20:34] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:20:34] Apolo Ohno: There's a piece of you that feels Has died and you're trying to figure out who else is there remaining. And if you've not trained that other self, these other facets of your personality, your curiosities, it all feels like you're starting over. No one wants to climb to the top of the mountain and then go right back down to the bottom and start from scratch.
[01:20:54] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:20:54] Apolo Ohno: That's what it felt like. And I found the more, especially in the Olympic space, I think in the Olympic space, there's a less cushion. You didn't really go to school, you didn't study, most athletes that I know. And then, you go through this period of like trying to reclaim an identity that needs to be harnessed to your strength, but not completely embodied. So Apolo Ohno as the Olympic champion, there's core attributes that are very, very transferrable to whatever it is that I'm doing next, but there's certain things about that person that I no longer believe or serving me in the best possible light moving forward. I didn't know that I had all these other curiosities in my life or what these strengths were outside of the sport because I didn't care.
[01:21:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:21:39] Apolo Ohno: I burned the ships, I jumped out of the airplane with no parachute. I just was like, that was the power that I had. It was like, this is what I'm going after. And there is no plan B. There's only plan A because plan A has to work. It must work or else I don't exist.
[01:21:53] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:21:53] Apolo Ohno: So when it was time to retire, and I'm one of the lucky ones, I could fall back on all these speak engagements and like sponsorship deals.
[01:22:00] Jordan Harbinger: You had endorsements and stuff.
[01:22:01] Apolo Ohno: I was able to make some money, not professional athlete money, let's be very clear, but I could make some money. And then it opened up my eyes in the world to like all these other business possibilities and opportunities that existed. So I started pursuing this curiosity, but deep inside there was this significant loss of identity. So this is what's interesting. If you had asked me in 2010, eight months after those Olympic games, after my last Olympic games, and you said like, "Apolo, like, what do you want?" I would've said, "All I want is just to feel normal. I just like, don't want to be recognized for a second. I just like want to walk in—
[01:22:33] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[01:22:33] Apolo Ohno: —to like an airport not get stopped. I just want to go to a restaurant and not feel like all eyes are on me. And it's hard to believe because today—
[01:22:41] Jordan Harbinger: That is hard.
[01:22:41] Apolo Ohno: —I have complete anonymity. It was so visceral because I had to lose everything that I was told and given the approvals of who I was. This is why we will celebrate you as a person is because of your accolades in these sports.
[01:22:54] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:22:55] Apolo Ohno: And you aren't anything else. This is who you are.
[01:22:58] Jordan Harbinger: In the West especially, we define ourselves by our occupation. I certainly do.
[01:23:02] Apolo Ohno: Absolutely. And that's understandable. But we know that beneath that is a layer of context and texture that is far more complex than just the title of what you do.
[01:23:11] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:23:11] Apolo Ohno: In this particular moment in time, you are made up of all of the life experiences and things that have made you who you are. And so at that point in time, I didn't know who I was yet. I needed to go explore, fail, you know, understand what my true north was. Dude, it took me like 10 years to really understand what I really want to do in my life.
[01:23:29] Jordan Harbinger: It would be so disorienting. They call it the great divorce. I think I mentioned that earlier in the show.
[01:23:34] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[01:23:34] Jordan Harbinger: And it sounds so jarring and traumatizing. In the book, you mentioned FOPO, fear of other people's opinions. That would also, I don't know, if haunt me is quite the right word, but you said in The Weight of Gold, 80 percent or more athletes go through post-Olympic depression, and that includes winners. This isn't like people who didn't get medal and they're sad because their life culminated and they didn't get what they wanted. This is people who have won. This is you, Michael Phelps, guys who are highly — you're the most highly decorated Winter Olympian in American history. Phelps, I think, is the most highly decorated, at least in swimming or possibly of all time—
[01:24:09] Apolo Ohno: In the world time.
[01:24:09] Jordan Harbinger: In the world. And these guys are like, well, you guys are like, "Oh, I'm depressed." And it's like, what are you talking about? You should be on top of the world. And they're like, "That's the problem everyone's telling us that. That we're supposed to be on top of the world." How do you go from walking into the Olympic opening ceremonies one day? And then, what was the girl's name? Lolo Jones. She's making a smoothie for somebody with probably like Equinox or something.
[01:24:31] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[01:24:31] Jordan Harbinger: And her race comes on and the guy is like, "Is that you on TV?" And she's like, "Do you want cilantro in there? You want avocado?" And she is like, yeah, making a freaking smoothie. You're just dropped into reality. There's no mooring whatsoever.
[01:24:43] Apolo Ohno: Mm-hmm.
[01:24:43] Jordan Harbinger: It's like you got gold. Okay. Bye.
[01:24:46] Apolo Ohno: It's jarring for sure. Career changes, relationship loss that you face, loved one, health, finance rarely happen on your own terms.
[01:24:56] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:24:56] Apolo Ohno: These things happen at a left field and now you have to deal with it. That was a large part of like, the way I decided to write this book, Hard Pivot.
[01:25:03] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:25:03] Apolo Ohno: Because I felt like there was a world of people who also were going through these identity shifts where they were like, "Man, like I don't know who I am anymore. I don't know what I want. I don't even know how to start." That's like the typical, like questions and answers, right?
[01:25:15] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:25:15] Apolo Ohno: I only know how to do one thing for so long. I was good at that thing.
[01:25:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:25:18] Apolo Ohno: I can no longer do that thing anymore.
[01:25:19] Jordan Harbinger: Like, who are you off the ice basically?
[01:25:21] Apolo Ohno: Who are you as like, this, this like chat GPT in like 10 years, like takes over a lot of stuff. Who are you in this new era? A lot of this was like inquisitive. So like, I remember in like my early 30s and middle 30s was I became much more inquisitive about like my life purpose, about what I was doing, who I was spending time with, which direction of life was I going, is this the right direction. It was very common amongst all of the peers, Olympic athletes that I talked to. Everyone felt lost. You went from being the best at something to literally feeling like you're 10 years behind in doing the same job as someone who's 10 years, you're younger—
[01:26:00] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:26:00] Apolo Ohno: —in the same way. And that was really, really challenging. And so we all have to begin with like beginner's mind. A lot of this comes from this self-purported belief of what Michael Gervais, a good friend of mine, first gave me that idea around FOPO, this fear of other people's opinions. So how would you perform if you knew or you didn't care about other people's opinions? This is what you actually believe. Prove me wrong, right?
[01:26:27] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:26:26] Apolo Ohno: So I'm going to say this. Tell me that I'm wrong, or I'm just going to say this and I don't care. This is it is what it is. And I think that there's a lot of strength that comes from behind that. And I lived in an environment where I was like sheltered in this bubble where like, you have to act like this. This is the Olympic creed, and the motto and the symbolism, and it felt artificial. I didn't feel like I could me be human. I didn't feel like I could make a mistake. I didn't feel like I could pursue these things. And so it was highly resistant to me actually stepping out of that comfort zone. And what I realized very quickly was that I was able to adapt to the environments that I was around. So the more challenging, the more new, these new endeavors or ideas or people that I would meet, they were so inspirational to me. They were so transformational. And that's why I became so addicted to hearing about someone's journey.
[01:27:14] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:27:14] Apolo Ohno: Because I was like, tell me about when, like, no one believed in you.
[01:27:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:27:16] Apolo Ohno: What did you do? I want to know the conversation that you remember having with yourself when you started the question, is this the right path?
[01:27:25] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:27:25] Apolo Ohno: Do I really want to do this? What made you keep going? What was the inner voice that was there? Was there an exterior motive? Was there an exterior person? What was that motive? How did you grab onto that? Because I think that we can apply that towards our life as we grow and harness the power that exists within.
[01:27:42] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like it would be really tough to get your bearings. I know you've got the personal board of director, Shaquille O'Neal actually has this too. He calls it the panel, Shaq episode 691. Speak to that a little bit because I think this is really helpful. If you're not an Olympian, it's also very helpful. I think every, especially young people kind of need this in their life.
[01:28:01] Apolo Ohno: Yeah. So I mean, we've heard all different types of, of people and authors and podcasters talk about you are the sum of the five people that you hang out with the most.
[01:28:10] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[01:28:11] Apolo Ohno: There's many people that have said this, Jim Rohn.
[01:28:13] Jordan Harbinger: Jim probably had the original one, right?
[01:28:15] Apolo Ohno: And I think there's some truth there. I think that as you go into your career or business, right? Either if you're an entrepreneur or you work for a corporation, whatever career path that you, if you were going to create a group of like two people or five people around you that have your best interests in mind, they're going to be transparent with you about the direction that you're going. They're going to hold you accountable when you need to be held accountable towards making promises to yourself that you want to do that you didn't do. They are there to lean on from not only advice, but also help uplift you in the times when you get a little bit wavy to hold you back up straight.
[01:28:54] And so the personal board of directors came from this. It was inspired by this leadership program that I took at Wharton University of Pennsylvania where we were placed into these groups of people, five and seven people. And we talked about the importance of setting not only a board of directors for your company because a lot of these CEOs and executives that were attending this program for seven and a half weeks were there. What is the perfect size board? And then, others were saying, well, you should also have a personal board of directors, so it doesn't matter what you do, you should have one person, two people, five people, whatever it might be, I think smaller is better, of people that you can have open communication with, and it's not all take. This is really, really important. You're not just calling them for advice always. There's got to be some kind of transference there, and sometimes people just want to help and that feels like the transference, right? There's this like—
[01:29:50] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:29:50] Apolo Ohno: —going back and forth, like that person who's in a successful state, feels like they have some duty responsibility to help a younger person help grow and sidestep those landmines that they stepped to help you grow as well. The personal board of directors is really just to like, if you were going to govern your life, how do you set up these star players around you that can work together in the best way possible? Not looking for all star players, right? But looking for the best types of players to work together as you assemble your team.
[01:30:17] And I've found that to be really, really important. So I lean on these sports psychologists that I had for many, many years because they just seem, at least for me, they've known me since I was a kid, since I was 15, 14 years old. They've seen me grow. They've seen me go up and down these kind of variables of change. I have people that I know since I was 12 who know me as a person, seen me grow and change. And they know how aspirational I can get and they keep things in line and kind of back down to the earth. I can be so open with them.
[01:30:46] So if you're not communicating with anyone, you need to find someone who you can have these conversations with. To me, it's highly therapeutic. and then two, it's actually very beneficial. They're not perhaps giving you advice that you don't already know, but those simple reminders—
[01:31:00] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:31:00] Apolo Ohno: —of, "Hey Apolo, remember when we did those concentration exercises and training about staying focused and you were able to eliminate the world in its distractions for five minutes at a time? Well, before you go and write next, before you go and do a podcast next, before you go and do whatever next, that's training that is going to serve you." "Oh, yeah. I'm not competing as an athlete anymore, but my brain still needs to be just as active as I pursue this next phase of my life. So how do I incorporate these things?" So these reminders are really powerful.
[01:31:31] Jordan Harbinger: Is it true you haven't laced up your skates since 2010?
[01:31:32] Apolo Ohno: I haven't skated properly on them. I have put the skates on, I think I did it for the Special Olympics a few times, but my skates are just like, you know, they're just out and on display.
[01:31:46] Jordan Harbinger: They're in the drawer with the medals.
[01:31:46] Apolo Ohno: I put them on last year, end of last year, end of 2021, just to see what they felt like again. And I was like, oh, these are very uncomfortable.
[01:31:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I was going to say ice skates are always super uncomfortable.
[01:31:57] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[01:31:57] Jordan Harbinger: It's like ski boots.
[01:31:59] Apolo Ohno: All carbon vibe.
[01:32:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Hey, you could auction them off for charity one day if you feel so inclined I suppose. I was just curious because it seems like, you would miss it. Like, maybe every winter you go around, do a lap around the Christmas tree in New York.
[01:32:10] Apolo Ohno: Oh, I miss it.
[01:32:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I bet.
[01:32:11] Apolo Ohno: I miss it. So like, I still go back to the Olympic games. I do a lot of stuff with broadcasting with NBC. That's a me is like a coming home.
[01:32:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's cool.
[01:32:20] Apolo Ohno: And then I also go to Utah. That's where the national team still trains today. So one of my closest friends who was one of my coaches is still the head coach there now. I'll go to Utah. You know, I'll be on the board side.
[01:32:31] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:32:31] Apolo Ohno: Man, just like the smell of like those Zamboni fumes that are probably really toxic.
[01:32:36] Jordan Harbinger: Super bad. Yeah. Indoor diesel. Mm-hmm.
[01:32:40] Apolo Ohno: There's something like very special about—
[01:32:41] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:32:41] Apolo Ohno: —like that feeling. I miss it, man. I'll tell you like Olympic pursuit is really simple. I think I took it for granted when I was competing, but you have no responsibility other than yourself, your team as well. But it's a very simple life. Like nothing goes in your body that doesn't help you propel yourself faster, to be bigger, stronger, better, faster. You don't do any activities really outside the sport. Everything you do is related to you becoming a best version of yourself on the ice. All you do is like just hang out and when you're not training, you're resting and getting for the next workout, getting ready for the next workout. People say like, "Oh, it sounds so intense." I'm like, I think it's all like—
[01:33:18] Jordan Harbinger: Simplified though, huh?
[01:33:18] Apolo Ohno: It's just simplified.
[01:33:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:33:20] Apolo Ohno: Like you don't do much. That's why when I hear about people having kids and training and doing stuff like, wow, that's—
[01:33:25] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I was going to say when you have kids, it's the opposite of everything you just described with the simplicity and the doing only things for yourself.
[01:33:33] Apolo Ohno: Yeah.
[01:33:33] Jordan Harbinger: I don't even understand how those two worlds could exist. That's like an oil and water kind of situation. Applause to anybody who manages to.
[01:33:41] Thank you for being so open about all this stuff, man. I think it's important because a lot of people look up to guys like you or people or athletes, in general, and we think, "Oh, well, these guys have it all figured out. They got it all figured out." I think it's helpful for people to know that most of us are just driven by, in many ways, maybe our insecurities trying to make sense of our lives. Even outwardly, we look like we're on top of the world. So I really appreciate your candor and for coming all the way here and having a conversation with us. Really, really appreciate it
[01:34:07] Apolo Ohno: Yeah, I appreciate it, man. I mean, for your listeners who hear these stories among all the guests that come on, there's probably like reoccurring common themes about everyone's experiences as people go through the different phases of life, of growth, of loss, of pain, I think all of us pretty much want very similar. And I think learning to understand yourself about why you are the way that you are, that self-acceptance component is really hard to do.
[01:34:35] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:34:37] Apolo Ohno: Looking in the mirror and going through that exercise of accepting exactly who you are and all your insecurities and failures and shortcomings, and then developing a plan about how you are going to live the next year, the next two years, the next three years, and then holding yourself accountable, creating systems that you can lean on when you forget, when you get distracted, when you get pulled in different directions. That you can go back to that set the stage again, remind you of what you're actually doing. There's certain systems that you can do.
[01:35:04] I actually rewrote the book Hard Pivot, which is going to come out again next year, like a 2.0 version.
[01:35:08] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, you rewrote it? Wow.
[01:35:10] Apolo Ohno: Yeah, so we were putting in some interesting new kind of new learnings and simplified some things I think that needed to be kind of restated. That'll be really helpful to people. But again, like if there's one message that I can leave to people is that your choices to respond and react to the situations that you're meeting today are solely within your control, solely. Whether you are hyper successful and you decide what you want to do next, whether you are failing miserable and you're deeply unhappy, or you feel like you're just floating and you're just like kind of like, "Ah, everyone seems like they all have it around me." It's all noise. The person that actually creates momentum and progress is the one that doesn't listen to that voice, unless it's using it for fuel to actually make progression and positive. That is within you. That's the power of the mind.
[01:35:54] So I've done it in my life in sport. I've done it in my life post sport. I'm not perfect by any means, but I deeply love to see people win. And so everything that I dedicate myself towards today, my life mission is about how do we create a more open communication channel to create conversation that actually moves and inspires and reminds people of the superpowers that we actually really all have.
[01:36:21] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, we were humbled to have the opportunity to talk to the late Kobe Bryant for this interview just a few short months before the tragedy. Here's a preview with one of basketball's most iconic legends, Kobe Bryant.
[01:36:35] Kobe Bryant: I love the game. I love it. I didn't want to be away from it. I wanted to play all the time. When I was 18, 21 years old, I wanted to play basketball. I was consumed with this quest of trying to be the best. I knew I wanted to win five, six, seven, eight championships. To me to come out and say that people would think I was a lunatic.
[01:36:57] Negotiate with yourself. You know what happens inside of here? Are you able to negotiate your way out of that little voice telling you it's not that important? Or does that little voice get the best of you? Remove the ego from this process. Just focus on the act. And when you do that, now you can look at actions and then you can truly improve.
[01:37:17] How can you lock in and get into that mental space where nothing else matters? The noise of the crowd doesn't matter. Whether they're cheering or booing doesn't matter. You're just completely locked in. How do you do that?
[01:37:27] Jordan Harbinger: How do you not let demons of uncertainty get inside your head? Like when you tore your Achilles, are you not thinking like, "Uh-oh, how am I going to come back?"
[01:37:34] Kobe Bryant: Oh god, yeah. If you're nervous or scared about situation, instead of being like, "Nah, there's nothing to be scared about. Nothing to be scared about. Oh sh*t, there is."
[01:37:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:37:42] Kobe Bryant: And that's fine. That's okay. You know, like you own it. You give it a hug, embrace it, and now what are you going to do about it?
[01:37:49] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Kobe Bryant, including how Kobe managed pressure in high stakes situations and lessons Kobe learned from the people who are the best at what they do, check out episode 249 on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:38:03] So glad we finally did this one. I've been going back and forth with Apolo for something like two years here. I actually didn't realize how much Apolo and I had in common, although I never had a soul patch in my defense. I dodged that bullet. You've heard my opinion on the Olympics. We even did a Skeptical sunday about the Olympics. That was episode 676. I talked about why the games are kind of terrible, especially for athletes, host countries as well.
[01:38:25] His training story is just crazy. He used to run away from the Olympic training camps, sabotage himself in competition. Really fascinating. I also don't blame him for not lacing up his skates since 2010 or so. It sounds like a lot of pressure, a lot of stress. And I have to say, hanging out with Apolo, it's really inspiring. You can get a feel for his intensity and his competitive mindset. But you're not going to be put off by it. You can feel that he's competitive and he wants an edge and he works super hard, but he's not competing with you. At least it doesn't feel that way while you're around him. And I really think that's a great way to be. We really clicked. I definitely consider him a friend at this point.
[01:39:00] And after the show, we got into a conversation in the car about how easy it is to get lost in winning, even if a win seems hollow in spite of, and maybe even because of just how important some of these Olympic wins especially might seem to the outside world. And at his level, the pressure to win all the time, it's like an external dictation of values, which I think all of us can relate to. People want us to be something that we aren't or that we almost are, and we feel pressure to conform to those expectations, even if it might make us miserable. And the hit here is it's actually easier to fall prey to this. The closer you get to the win because you feel like, "Well, I'm really close. I should do it. It's within my grasp. If I just worked a little harder or a little more." That's truly a recipe for disaster there. I can definitely relate. When it comes to business and online influence and all that jazz, that really hit home for me. I really appreciated Apolo's candor and openness in this one as well.
[01:39:54] By the way, lots of practical mindset exercises in the book. We'll link to both of his books in the show notes. Dude really knows how to get the best out of himself, and I think a lot of what he says and recommends is just legit. One small example is the following. So get out a sheet of paper, make a list of the labels other people identify with you or what they say you are, right? So you might say like people might say you're a lawyer, you're a podcaster, you're a father. Then, later on, make a list of the labels you use for yourself. Now, you'll see a lot of overlap, but a lot of differences as well. And it really does frame things in an interesting way. Both in terms of your goals, how others might see you or expect you to be, what you think you are, what you think you appear, how you think you appear to others, what society might want you to become, the differences there, good or bad. Again, lots like this in the book, if you're into that sort of self-helpy, personal growth, reflective kind of thing. I did a few of those drills myself before the show and in conversation with Apolo, and I thought it was quite.
[01:40:51] Again, big thanks to Apolo. All of his links, all of his stuff will be on the website in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Check out our Chat GPT chatbot. You can get promo codes, sponsors, any info from any episode of the show over at jordanharbinger.com/ai. And we're a few episodes behind, so you might not get today's episode if you're searching for it right now, but you'll get stuff that's a few weeks back and we're constantly updating that, of course. Transcripts also in the show notes, videos on YouTube. Advertisers, deals and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support this show. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.
[01:41:30] And I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software systems and tiny habits that I use every day. That's our Six-Minute Networking course. That course is free. Over at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty and create relationships before you need them. Of course, waiting until you do is too late. Many of the guests on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[01:41:54] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who would love to hear from Apolo Ohno, could benefit from his advice or wisdom here, definitely share this episode with him. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:42:28] Special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
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