DAVID LALLY: Welcome to “The Brian Buffini Show,” where we explore the mindsets, motivation, and methodologies of success. My name is David Lally. I’m the producer of the show. I know we may be in challenging times, but that’s just why we’ve been working on shows to keep us upbeat and focused on the good stuff. Let’s listen in.
BRIAN BUFFINI: The top of the morning to you and welcome to “The Brian Buffini Show.” Very excited about today’s guest. Today’s program is called Unleash Your Inner Olympian and be harder to find somebody better than our guest today. He is the most decorated US Winter Olympian of all time and that’s Apolo Ohno.
Now, many of you know my wife Beverly was on the Olympic volleyball team from ’85 through ’89. Went to Seoul, Korea. My perspective as a soccer player looking in, there were athletes, there’s college athletes, there’s professional athletes, and then there’s Olympians. They’re just different cats. Then you have the super Olympians and that’s what we have here today.
Apolo has been to three Olympic Games. He’s medaled eight times. If you’ve ever watched short track racing it’s a combination of phenomenal athleticism, chess, a little bit of dodge ball with a bit of some train wreck in the middle of that thing. It’s just a remarkable deal. After his Olympic career he’s done some remarkable things. Of course, many of you would know him from “Dancing With The Stars.” It’s funny how that works.
The man’s a world-class Olympian but goes on “Dancing With The Stars,” wins it. He’s finished the Kona Ironman in less than 10 hours. Many of you know we have a house over there. We volunteer every year at the Kona marathon and the Ironman and to do it in 10 hours or less is astounding. He’s written a best-selling book “Zero Regrets.” Certainly not short on accomplishments.
Apolo is also going to be one of our featured guests at this year’s mastermind summit. He is a phenomenal speaker. Coming from me, I’ve seen him all done it all over the past 25 years. He is a world-class motivational speaker. Apolo, thank you for taking some time to be with us today. It’s a great honor to have you.
APOLO OHNO: My pleasure Brian. It’s an honor to be with you guys.
BUFFINI: I have a couple of questions here. We’re all in the midst of a strange time. We’re going to talk about unleashing your inner Olympian. The Olympic Games have been canceled. So many people have been working and peaking, getting their bodies into a peak state, their mind into a Peak State. Now, the pause button has been hit and now they’re going to have to recalibrate to get ready to go.
I think that’s a great lesson for all of us right now. All of us are going to have to hit the pause button and recalibrate to go again. What advice would you have for folks? I know you’re involved heavily still with advising and folks regarding these Olympians being ready to go and now having to stop. Now, the goalposts have been moved again. What’s your advice to them and what can most ordinary folks who are not Olympians learn from that?
OHNO: Yes, it’s a great question. As you know, the Olympic games for 2020 had been postponed until 2021. This pandemic has really shaken the world up in terms of what we had plans for. Like you and like many of the Olympians, our 2020, we’re all January 1, and even before we’re planning for a spectacular, powerful year, and everything looks good. Economic data looks good.
If you guys are heavily involved in real estate, everything is just looking fantastic. Then like this, literally overnight everything shifted. On the athlete’s point of view and perspective, they prepare four to eight years of their life for this one particular moment to try and be perfect. Like your wife, they have a teamwork component.
Everyone is training, now they’re not allowed to train the team atmosphere. Now, they’re at home and they may or may not have the equipment necessary to maintain the physiology that is required to peak at those Olympic games. Then psychologically where in my belief is really the game within the game and the most important game. Those types of conversations are very interesting.
These athletes were essentially training for something that they were not sure it was going to happen. Like you and like many of the team around you, preparing for an event that you had planned for a very many, many months, if not years. Everything looks perfect, you’re excited to do it and then all of a sudden you’re unsure. You’re kind of walking across this tight rope.
Luckily for those Olympians, there was a decision to be made. The games has been postponed so they now can at least take a breather, disengaged for a period of time, and then allow themselves to just be at this present moment, which I think was very important. It extends the timeline out for another year. For those athletes that are older and don’t have the same type o —- I’ve heard some athletes actually physically say to me, “Apolo, I don’t know if my legs have another year.”
That’s a real feeling. Psychologically, there’s a time period that has to happen where it’s not like grieving, but it’s almost like, “Hey, I need to just really back off for a second and just allow this to settle. Allow myself to come to terms with what’s happening.” Then once — I call it getting up on the balcony. When you’re in the myths, when you’re in the fight, and this is not just for Olympic athletes, is for everyone.
When you’re in and you’re grinding on a daily basis, it’s very difficult to have the long view. The long view can only be had is if you metaphorically climb up onto the balcony and you disengaged from the field of battle for a second and you look out over the landscape. Then from there, you can say, “Wow. I was spending all of my energy over in this pocket when it actually wasn’t benefiting me.”
Now that I’m able to disengage and make the proper decisions, I can survey this landscape. I can identify the key areas that I need to pursue and I have a long view of where the light at the end of this tunnel really is. When you’re on that balcony and you’re disengaged for a second, it allows you to make these cool calculated decisions about what to do next. Try to remove that emotion out of the equation, because sometimes that’ll force you to make some decisions that you won’t be happy with later.
Allow you to really say, “How can I best serve what I need to do right now, the next 20 to 30 days and for the next six months?” Then you can get back and become and recalibrate towards that attack. For those people who — and I am no different. Even though I’ve had my Olympic experiences, I also have these feelings of uncertainty and chaos and what’s going to happen. Is it safe?
I love speaking, connecting with people live. You know this better than anyone. When we connect with human beings live, it’s so powerful. They can feel and see your energy. They can feel and see the inflections on the emotions that’s happening. Those things are very difficult to do via these digital spheres. There’s been a drastic shift and so even for me I’d have to shift.
I’m trying to turn this area here, I don’t know if you guys can see this, but this is going to be eventually my home digital studio. In the event that if we don’t have these live events, we can still try to deliver and connect with other human beings. There’s a couple of things that was a long answer, Brian, but really just want to break it down.
I think, if you’re feeling these things, and I said the same thing to Olympic athletes, if you’re going through these moments of uncertainty and helplessness, you have to disengage for a second because that downward spiral can potentially be very negative and your mind is like a river of thought. You’ve got these thousands of thoughts that are running through your mind at any given day.
Your natural hard-wiring human reaction is typically fear, uncertainty, I’m going to run. That’s just like we were getting chased by lions and tigers. We’ve heard that metaphor many times. We live in a world that is very modern, but our brains have not adapted the way that we feel we can react in the way that will best suit what we need.
Don’t allow that one or two negative thought to detract a way from the way that you communicate and interact with your family, your loved ones, with your work and with the goals that you set forth on January 1st. If you’ve been derailed, that’s okay. Totally cool, that happens. You have within your control to get back on the wagon, to reassess the situation, and to go out on the attack that’s going to best suit what you’re seeking. Unless you do that and take control you’re just going to be a passenger in this speeding train versus being the conductor.
BUFFINI: You bet. Well, about four weeks ago we launched a little program called Five Circle Fit. Spiritual family business, financial, personal. Get the whole package together. Now, little videos, the whole thing. We’ve had 180,000 people join us get involved and just providing them a little resources every day. We’re using the analogy of the rolling start from NASCAR. When they have the car wreck everything comes to a screeching halt. They clean up the road, they get everything organized, then they put the pace car out in front and bit by bit warm up the tires, warm up the engine, get the engine revving. Go around the track a couple of times, and then when pace car pulls away, you’re going full speed. That’s what we’re doing with a huge community of people.
I would say to you, I’m 35 years in business and this is my fourth major crisis I’ve experienced in business. What I’ve found is it’s never one thing or the other. It’s never, “Oh my gosh, they’ll never be large events again. Or oh my gosh, there’s only going to be broadcasting from home again.” What you’ll find is it’ll end up being a hybrid of both.
You’re right to do your studio and there’s opportunities to leverage yourself that way. Yes, there will be times, again, in front of the large crowd where you give the juice and you get the juice and there’s nothing like the juice. From a sports standpoint, getting out on stage is a lot like the juice that you get, performing in the Olympic arena. I’m going to do this because I wanted to dive into COVID-19.
I wanted to dive into where we are today, but I want to do this because I want to walk through this journey. I love what makes people tick, mindset, motivation, methodology, and why people are successful and I’m a student of success. That’s what I’ve been my whole life. Let’s just switch gears for a second. I want you to go back to the very start and where did it all begin for you and how did you end up becoming who you are? A little bit of where you grew up and how you ended up getting into speed skating in the first place.
OHNO: I grew up in the Seattle region. My father came to the United States as a Japanese immigrant when he was 17 years old. Like many who come to this country, they had dreams and aspirations of just the Americana culture and the life here. My father didn’t speak a word of English, didn’t have any money, tried every single job that he could just to survive in this environment.
He always jokes and tells me that, when I was born, he had no idea what the hell to do with. He just did not know what to do and so it changed his life drastically. The one thing that he saw, I think within me as a son was I just had this tremendous amount of energy and it was very difficult for me to contain. My father sought sport to be that catalyst, to be that channel to direct where that energy was going.
I had tried the traditional American stick and ball sports. We had seen the winter Olympic games in 1992 and then again in 1994 and that’s when I first saw short track speed skating. When I saw this sport, it looked like nothing I’d ever seen before. These athletes wearing these outfits that look like superhero capes. They’re racing around this ice hockey rink going 35 to 40 miles an hour on a one inch piece of metal.
It looked impossible. It didn’t look real. Then my father, because I grew up in Seattle, he drove me to Vancouver, BC to see a competition live. That was when I really fell in love with the sport because when you see short track speed skating, the angles at which these athletes lean over, are so extreme. To think that they’re balancing on a literally 1.1-millimeter piece of metal. It just seemed completely insane. I originally wanted to be a boxer and a running back. He said no to both.
BUFFINI: That was a great career decision pops.
OHNO: I think they know is probably the best decision. The basketball is pretty much out. It’s not impossible, but most likely not in my favor. I had to develop some strength design around which sport I was going to choose and I fell in love with this sport of short track speed skating. Here’s a story that I’ve told in the past, my path and my journey to becoming an athlete in the Olympic realm was definitely not easy.
I was accepted at the age of 14 to be a part of something called the junior Olympic training program in Lake Placid, New York. Now Lake Placid, New York is only a couple of the other opposite side of the country. My father had told me, “This is a tremendous opportunity for you, Apolo. They had seen you skate in some local competitions, but you need real training and they see a lot of raw talent, but you need to hone and craft that with some tools and tactics so that you can really be your absolute best.”
Now at 14, I don’t even know what making an Olympic team actually even means. I don’t know what has to happen. I don’t know anything about dedication, discipline, sacrifice. Those things are, it’s summertime in Seattle and I just want to go out and barbecue with friends like that. That’s that was what I was interested in. My father drives me to the airport, Brian. Drops me off and he says, “Look, if you don’t like it after one month, you can come home, but you can just got to give this one chance.”
I waved goodbye to my father. Instead, I go directly to the payphone. Back then we had payphones and I pick up the payphone. I called my friend and tell him, “Hey, I’m supposed to go to New York today but I’m not going to go.” For the next seven to eight days, I’m spending and bouncing around from house to house while my dad believes that I’m in New York, but I’m so pissed off, I won’t call him.
Until he gets the call from the coach and the coach is like, “Mr. Ohno, we’re just curious if you still plan on sending your son out to us. If you are, great. We just haven’t heard from you.” My dad is very confused, very thick Japanese accent. “Oh, you lost my son. We have a big problem.” That was my first entrance into what was happening.
My father finally figures out which house that I’m at, picks me up. Two weeks goes by of us arguing back and forth. He’s telling me, I know what’s best for you. In my own small brain, I’m thinking, I know what’s best for me. I’m the man of this house. I’m a single child in a single-parent household. Anything my dad was saying, I was saying the complete opposite. My dad, it was coming from a place of love-
BUFFINI: You’re 14.
OHNO: Yes, I’m 14. He drives me to the airport again, parks the car, goes into the airport. He gets on the plane with me, makes sure that he delivers the package to the coach. We drive to Lake Placid after getting off in New York, and he walks right up to the coach, says, “Good luck.” Then turns around and he goes back to Seattle This coach is like, “Oh my gosh, this problem child.” I’m hearing all these rumors that have been happening. To make the story shorter, I find my path and through some great mentorship and coaching, I started to really love the sport and I love the dedication and the hard work. I learned a lot. My career really skyrocketed from that point. It was never always up.
It was always up and down and many, many losses and failures that I learned from. A lot of times we had to reinvent ourselves. That was my entrance into the world of short track speed skating. I won my first medal when I was actually 15 and a half years old, I won my first world cup medal. That was my real taste of, “Wow. I think I can actually do something in this sport.”
BUFFINI: Now you get into that game and you start to play in the deeper waters. Somewhere inside is the drive, somewhere inside is the, “I’m going to compete.” Somewhere inside is this, “I’m going to be the best.” Now, there’s talent. I don’t know if you’ve been watching “The Last Dance” of Michael Jordan. It’s been fun to watch. The guy, everybody talks about how incredibly driven he was. We know him and we coached his wife. We have a relationship there.
I’ve met a lot of guys in the NBA that are just as competitive as Michael Jordan, but he was physically more gifted and driven in a way to become great. That made him different. There’s a lot of competitive people, but they won’t put it in the preparation. One of the things and I’m going to fast forward and then come back like “The Last Dance,” but one of the quotes of you that hit me the most was in your preparing for your last Olympics.
You’re already been a champion. You’re already the Wheaties box guy. You’re already all over the American news. You’ve already got your gold metals and all kinds of metals and you decide I’m going to be in the best shape of anybody walking into that in your third Olympics. You went to three workouts a day, you dropped 20 pounds.
You got to 2.5% body fat, which I think my left leg could represent. You said, “No one is going to be in better shape than me, not even close.” Talk about that because when people meet you, you’re a guy that people can relate to. You’re a neat guy, you’ve got a great countenance about you, but there is a stoking fire in there. How did you discover that about yourself and where does it come to the point where I’m going to be in the best shape of any single person in the world, in my sport? Where does that come from?
OHNO: I think that mentality, it was really trained over time. Originally, I had the raw talent. Like many athletes around the world who have some success, I had the raw talent. Talent alone, unfortunately, is just not enough in the last 5%. It is merely just the starting line, to be honest. It gets you to the starting line, but the race is run after all the preparation, hard work. I recognize that through the times that when I was very prepared and the times that I was not prepared. I saw the major differences between when my mindset was shifted on and I did the work necessary. Typically, the results and the outcome favored what I was seeking. It wasn’t guaranteed by any shape or imagination, but the fulfillment and the satisfaction that I would get from myself came from that preparation. I never thought that I was the most genetically gifted and talented.
I always felt like I was the underdog. Now, the reality spoke a totally different language. However, I felt that, and even in the latter years of my life, I was so driven and so in fear sometimes of not being good enough and not being good enough in terms of the result, but not preparing to the level that I wanted. I never wanted to look myself in the mirror and say, “I would have, could have done these things.”
I much more wanting to have a conversation myself and said, “You know what? You gave every ounce of your being soul and spirit to this.” Whether you won or lost sometimes is not in your cards. We don’t know the total life chapter how this plays out yet. I recognize that very early and I think the first time that I tasted that, that real fire was after spending time in Lake Placid.
I hated to lose and I noticed of now we’re getting deeper into the neuroscience and psychological component. I didn’t like the way it made me feel. You feel inferior, you feel not good enough, you feel less than. You feel how can I be better? We human beings, we always crave progress and we crave having some touches of success.
At the age of 15 and 16, I knew that I loved to win, but more importantly, I really hated losing, especially when I felt that I could do better. That was really the catalyst. As I went on throughout my career, when I would lose and my persona today versus my persona when I’m training, they’re two different personalities. I think all of us have, and we wear those masks in a sense. I think we have to.
There’s a competitor, inner drive, and a fire in all of us. I call it that high performance mindset. When that switched on, you are very sharp. You’re very hungry, and it’s time to get work done. There’s times when maybe perhaps that doesn’t come into play but for me, the longer my career went on, the more and more that started to grow.
My competitiveness and fire actually became more intense and more obsessive. The latter part of the years of my career and a part of that came from, I just felt like I had to work harder. I felt like this younger generation was reinventing the way the sport was being played, the speed at which we were skating, the training necessary, the physiology, the technology, the nutrition, recovery, everything had been elevated every single three to four years. I had seen athletes who were in the veteran ages, they said they could no longer compete because they were not willing to evolve and I didn’t want to be that guy. I wanted to always be the guy with a target on my back and I wanted to do so in a way that would just greatly benefit my results. The fire was there and when I lost, Brian, I took it very, very personally. I think that there’s very healthy at certain times if it’s managed appropriate. It can be very psychologically damaging. It can also be very consuming.
I would say that there was many times throughout my career, this is something that I learned that I didn’t need to be so incredibly obsessive because I couldn’t control every single micro millimeter and performance.
BUFFINI: Especially in your sport because your sport if some Lula has bad technique and decides to bump you from behind, you’re going into the wall. There’s nothing you can do to stop that.
OHNO: That’s absolutely right. You developed that mentality of you really start rewarding yourself on the process and you start focusing less on the prize. The prize, which is at the Olympic games and making the podium, that is your metric. That is what you are shooting for. That is the target. There are so many thousands of steps and processes that are much more important to get there.
I know that when I raised my first final in the Olympic games, this was 2002 in the 1,000 meters, there was about a 15 foot distance between what I was in first place to the finish line. For a fraction of a split second, I thought to myself, I got it. The gold is mine. What happened? I got sideswiped and three of us fell down and I didn’t win.
I won the silver, but I didn’t win gold. Whether that would have happened or not. He was just like a learning lesson to say, “Hey, this thing is never ever over until you cross that finish line.” I just learned at an early age, both the competitiveness and the drive, the fact that I couldn’t control the outcomes required me to really focus on the process. I thought that I wasn’t good enough in that process, I wanted to be the guy that at least I could say no one worked harder. That was within my control.
BUFFINI: Well, and therefore a well-named book, “Zero Regrets.” What a great mindset to have for all of us to be able to say, “I put it all out on the table and I’m good with that.” Like I said, I’ve interviewed, you name it, I’ve interviewed him in the sports world, the business world, finance world, and there’s a balance and there’s a balance.
Sometimes you don’t know how much is too much until you do too much. The bottom line is what makes a champion, what makes an Olympian, what makes it as a very successful person is a level of commitment where you’re all in. Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “To do all that I can with all that I have.” It’s like boom, I’m going to put it all on the table.
The dynamic though that’s very encouraging to hear from you is this isn’t something you were just born with. This is something that was developed over time. You honed it, you polished it. Now, as an immigrant myself with six kids grown in America, I would say for me, passing on a little bit of that immigrant mindset to my kids is always been a big deal to me. I have a daughter who’s trying to make the Olympic teams in equestrian. Even though we’ve grown up in a pretty good environment and so on, so forth, she’s competing against billionaires who are sponsoring horses and whatever else. You’re the son of a single parent, Japanese immigrant. He didn’t speak fluently. I think there’s a good thing.
Even in doing the speed skating, it’s American speed’s skating, it wasn’t exactly the number one sport in America. You’re competing against countries that found their national identity in it. On one hand there’s that drive and then the key is how to manage it so that it doesn’t consume you. It sounds like you’ve done a great job of wrestling back and forth with that so that, the fire burns as hot as it can without burning down your house.
OHNO: That’s perfectly said. I think that we can only control what we can control, the immigrant mentality and there’s something like stay hungry. Stay hungry, stay foolish, always continue to learn and always stay hungry no matter what. We as human beings have the capacity to always grow and we can change our neurochemistry through that system. We’re understanding how that works now.
The mindset to me was always the single greatest tool. I saw that in my father and the way that he worked, I saw that in the way that he approached life in general and he worked so incredibly hard. The consistency on the daily things that we do compounded over time always yield the greatest returns. That’s just been proven amongst anyone who’s had levels of success.
We all want things, we want certain levels of success. We have to get a little more granular to understand that are you willing to put in the time and work? You may not be the most talented. I definitely wasn’t. You may not be the most gifted. I definitely wasn’t. If you are, great, you’ve got turbochargers already, but you got to put these pieces in place and you’re going to have a limitless mindset.
BUFFINI: You used, “I hate this feeling of losing” into a positive energy. I challenge people all the time. Thank God we’ve been teaching people financially for years, but your reserves aside, plan for a rainy day. Now, if somebody didn’t do that and they don’t have their finances right now and the whole economy just shut down, it’s not the end of the world but that feeling, you feel of insecurity financially where you don’t know what if you have enough covered, if you don’t know if you have your– Use that feeling to fuel you in the future.
I love the John Wooden quote. He said, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.” Preparation is now. Our company, we were able to send hundreds of our employees home and have a year’s worth of funding for our company ahead of time. The reason being is that we came to this massive recession in 2008, that went on through 2011 and we learn from it. You learn from losing.
You learn and it’s okay. I hate that feeling of losing the race. Now here’s what I’m going to do. Give me this and this is just a little bit, because obviously, like I said, people who are at an Olympic level, I’ve been around them for 35 years, wired up a little different, driven a little differently. Describe a day when you’re just in training and you’re getting ready for the Olympics. Describe how regimented it is and describe what it looked like. I know it’s a few years ago now, but you’re still a young man. All the synapse are working well. Describe what a day looked like as you were preparing for the Olympics.
OHNO: A day in preparation for the games I think at our peak volume, so at the highest amount of training volume. I would wake anywhere between 6:00 and 6:15 in the morning. I’d be at the ice rink by 7:00 AM. Be at the ice rink warming up for about 45 minutes off ice, do our skating drills and exercises. Jog probably about a mile, maybe two miles.
Get on the ice, have a two-and-a-half to three hour training session. We get off the ice, do some stair jumps and plyometrics. That’s around 11:30 almost noon. Cool-down, stretch. I would bring food with me so I could begin that recovery process right away. I wanted to cut down the driving time to go back home to make my food. I wanted it with me right away so I could start recovering, replenishing my system.
Then I’d be back to the ice rink around 2:30. Begin warming up for the second session of the day. Well, technically, I guess that’s the third session because we’ve done two already. Third session usually as plyometrics, a bike workout, a running workout, a weight workout. Then we get on the ice again for another hour to two hours, which is usually high speed or technical training.
Then at night I said I will cool down, come back home, I would recover. Then around I think around 6:00 PM, I would do another workout with my strength coach who I hired to come live with me in my house to monitor every single thing we were doing. You would do a third workout that was designed to both cut weight and to stimulate basically my anaerobic threshold system. We would do this on the treadmill usually as typically a very high intensity run or sprints on the treadmill at a very high incline or just very high speed.
Then I would calm down. I would sharpen my skates, I would write in my journal, I would go in the sauna, meditate, start to really start to relax and visualize what I want to do. Then at night I’d have dinner and pretty much go to bed. That’s how it was for we do that about six days a week. Sundays are off. I did that for years. For years it was like that lifestyle.
I remember times when I was training twice on Christmas, always twice on my birthday, just like doing things for the sake of doing it so that cognitively I can register to say that I’ve done the work. Now, Brian, we were probably over-trained most of the time. We didn’t know this was 15 years ago. We didn’t know what was really required from a recovery perspective.
We were using data and science and injecting that into our daily routines, but we did not fully understand by how overtrained we were. Looking back we could have made some changes, but it was the mindset that was so powerful. When I showed up I had gone through and all of us we would go through these times, right of pressure and I’m polishing and it was very, very important for me to recognize that I had gone through the gauntlet. I had walked through the fire and I had came through and maybe I had scars and maybe I was burned and I am stronger because of them. That is very empowering and I take that with me today when I go into business.
My life is filled with incredible curve balls and variables and blessings and tragedies. That’s life. I’m grateful for all of it because I just believe that this is a gift and I don’t want to waste a day. I think that and I believe that I am here for a purpose and hopefully I can help people unlock their own inner potential in a way that they become more confident, more resilient, better relationships with their family and they’re getting what they believe they both deserve and what they seek.
BUFFINI: You’re helping a lot of folks today and like I say, I want to just to dive in there. You know what, I’ll have people and I’ll challenge people to do some activities. Now, I’m not asking people to do Olympic level activities. I think it’s great when you see how much the human condition and body and mind can be stretched.
All of a sudden we’re asking them to do a few Rico’s reps and provide a few personal notes and make a few calls and go visit some of their customers or call their customers. All of a sudden that’s pretty freaking doable. I can write four personal notes if this dude’s doing five exercises a day, five workouts a day, I can do this if he’s doing this for years and he’s working on Christmas day and he’s working on his birthday and he’s making sacrifices and there’s personal sacrifices to be made. Our horses don’t care that there’s a Coronavirus, they have to be ready or they get in bad shape and they get in trouble.
Knowing my daughter she’s 26 years of age, but she’s out of here at five o’clock every morning. Then she’s in the gym here at night, eleven o’clock at night. That’s the deal and that’s what it is and that’s the mindset it takes. I’ve interviewed a lot of people that when they got the brass ring, for example, Brett Fire, they handed them the trophy and afterwards he went, “Oh my gosh, is this it? Is this all?” How was it for you when you got that medal around your neck? Was it enough? Was it good? Was that a letdown? Was it euphoria? What was it when they put the metals around your neck?
OHNO: My first medal that I won and that I received I was complete euphoria. Well, I had been on the podium many times and the Olympic games are unique experience. This is unlike any other competition I had raised before. I think the euphoria and the letdown doesn’t happen until you retire.
That transition is a very challenging part for any athlete. Olympic, especially, I call it the great divorce. You’ve been married to this one true love your whole life and at the snap of a finger it tells you because either by choice you’ve retired or you’ve just aged out, it says there’s nothing that you can do, but you’re not for me. I have a younger suitor who’s genetically better. Works harder, better story, better sponsors and you got to find out what to do. That loss of identity is very visceral and real and learning how to pivot and change and reinvent was a really big part of that. The Olympic experiences I have been blessed enough to be able to stand on podium eight times and represent this country. I would not take any of it back for anything. It was so powerful.
I tell you one thing that was remains true is when I stand there, I don’t feel like it’s just me. That was the difference because I felt like I had 300 plus million people behind me and supporting me and cheering and watching. That’s when sport started to feel bigger than sports to me. It represented something that was deeper into our psyche, in our soul. I think that’s also why I just want to train so hard because I felt like I couldn’t let that down.
BUFFINI: Well, it produces a mindset. I have not watched a lot of “Dancing With The Stars,” but the year you were on, I said to my wife, I go, “This dude’s going to win this,” like the first night. It wasn’t just, “Oh, he can dance.” I said, “He’s going to outwork everybody who comes in there. There’s no way. There’s no way. He just, it’s a straight transit.” Jerry Rice was the same way. Jerry Rice got it. Oh my gosh.
It’s a functioning compulsion. It’s a way to make it go. It’s establishing those routines and that’s why I think for right now for people, these routines produce resiliency. The structure produces stability and we’re really pushing people to really be active right now in this before the green flag goes down and this rolling start goes back in the economy’s wide open, it’s time to get the engine rev and it’s time to get the mind going.
It’s time to get the body going.
My goal is to be better coming out of this than I was going into this. That’s what I’m challenging people to do. I think that’s the mindset and that’s the mindset obviously you have. I could talk to you for a long time. I’m going to do this because one of these days, Lord willing we’ll be able to do it this year, but whenever they let us post our Mastermind Summit, Apolo, you’re going to be there.
You’re an inspirational guy and I really appreciate you’re working on your craft in regards to communicating and presenting. I’ve been at it for 35 years. How you feel about skating is how I feel about speaking. Here’s the difference. Every athlete, everybody stops playing one day, but they got to roll the off stage with an oxygen mask.
You can go a long time. You have this next world and I know you’re in another business ventures, but this next world you can go a long time and you can really beat on your craft. The goal is, and my goal is always, I’ve spoken to tens of thousands of people at one time, and my goal is always I want them to folks to leave and say this, “He was just talking to me. He was just talking to me.” That all shows up in preparation. That all shows up for preparation. We’ll have a chance to talk more about this and the time to come. I have five rapid fire questions that I ask everybody. It’s just to give us a little flavor inside of you. You don’t know what they are, so I’m just going to come straight off the top here. Number one, what’s the best single piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
OHNO: Believe in yourself. Believe in your path. Believe that you can rebound from anything and believe that what you seek, you can have if you truly believe. It’s got to start with it inside belief where the core of…
BUFFINI: Who gave you that?
OHNO: My father.
BUFFINI: Nice. What did your dad do by the way? What did he work at?
OHNO: My dad went to school originally to be an accountant and then as he was struggling to make bills and to pay for school, he saw a sign that said hair-cutting competition.
OHNO: Signed up for it. Never having a pair of scissors, won the competition. All of his friends told them, you have a unique talent, you should drop out of accounting school and you should actually, you should pursue this craft. That’s exactly what my dad did. My dad still to this day has his small business in downtown Seattle called Yuki’s Diffusion in Belltown. Well, look, my dad doesn’t make a lot of money, but he loves being the guy who’s been there for a long time and has friends that go back 40 plus years.
BUFFINI: That’s awesome. I was an immigrant. I was an accountant by trade and I ended up in real estate. It’s all the same. You had to always had a great head of hair, Apolo, so that’s good. He passed on more than just that. That’s great. Obviously, that believe what a great legacy he gave you. What a great — He believed in you and he puts you on an airplane to New York. God bless him. What one talent or gift do you wish you possessed that you don’t?
OHNO: I think the one talent that I wish I possessed, but I do not naturally have, I think is the natural fundamental talent around finance. I have to work very, very hard sometimes two times or three times harder to really absorb and that’s okay and I’ve come to terms with that. I think I have some friends who they can look at a problem and deconstruct it like a reverse engineering mind can.
I know this because I went back to business school, I went to Wharton Business School at the end of last fall and I was surrounded by 38 other C suite executives. There was times we were talking about finance and we were given different tasks and challenges for this six weeks that we were all spending together. I just see it saw how fast they could calculate and process information that was like that. I know my strengths. That does not happen to be one of them. I’m learning and I’m growing and that’s one for sure.
BUFFINI: I would say as a coaching company, what we’ve discovered is it, when you get someone who’s naturally talented and they develop skills, they can become a superstar. Well, when you get someone who doesn’t have the natural talent, but they have the work ethic, they can be awfully good. The fact that you have to work at it twice, one of the great things, one of the great traps of finance is people who get it quick because they make quick mistakes. The fact that you have to measure twice and three times when it comes to money, it is not a bad thing, my friend.
OHNO: I’ll keep that in mind.
BUFFINI: It’s a good thing. Here’s the third one. What book has been most instrumental to you?
OHNO: What book is the most instrumental? I think there’s been so many. I love books on leadership and I love books that integrate kind of philosophical, whether it’s a stoic related, philosophy, or Eastern philosophy. I like bigger picture books that allow me to take a step back. I would say I love all the Simon Sineck books. I think he’s kind of hit the bullseye many times. I love a book called the “High Potential Leader.” It’s difficult for me to pinpoint one.
Brian: What about this? How was it reading “Zero Regrets” when it was put together? How did that book impact you when you read that again, it’s difficult when you get your thoughts and it’s down on paper and then it’s brought back to you?
OHNO: It’s very difficult. I wrote that book in a very certain mindset and I still believe that mindset resonates true today but I was very happy to look. I’m very proud and happy that for that book. I’m writing a new book called “Hard Pivot.”
BUFFINI: Yes. I had heard it was supposed to come out this year before the world decided not to cooperate.
OHNO: Yes. That book is about reinvention, resilience, adaptation, high-performance.
BUFFINI: It seems to be perfect for now, but I’d keep the machine rolling.
OHNO: Keep the machine rolling.
BUFFINI: Well, when you get that book, you let us know. We have a giant book buying audience, our folks, our readers and readers who are doers. When you have your first copy of that, you send that to me and we’ll put it in our channel. We have millions and millions of people we’re connected to and we’d love to promote that. I know you’re not a big movie watcher or a TV watcher, but you’re scrolling through the channels and there’s one movie and every time it’s on you stop. What’s the one movie you either watch part of it or all of it over and over and over again? It’s the one that that just stopped you and you always got to check it out.
OHNO: I’m old school. I like Rocky movies. I like the guy who’s an underdog. I like the guy who keeps getting back up. That’s who I am.
BUFFINI: Scott Hamilton and I are great friends. At one stage, I think he recognized he fell 46,000 times in his career. If you’re in the ice skating business, you are going to fall over and it hurts. It hurts. Getting up off the deck and going over and over and over again is definitely the price of the sport he shows. Last but not least, what’s one thing still on the bucket list you’ve yet to do?
OHNO: Look, there’s many things in the bucket list. I think I’m living them right now. The most important mission on the bucket list is I want to inspire, motivate, and help millions of people across the world unlock their potential to live a better life. That’s it. I don’t feel like I will ever accomplish that because that’s going to keep growing. We’ve got billions of people in this world. I think all of us seek a happier, more fulfilled life.
BUFFINI: Well, great stuff. Well, you’re reaching an awful lot of them today. We’ve been pumping out as many messages we can. We’ve met millions of people in the last few weeks between our podcasts and Facebook lives and all that good stuff. It’s great to meet you and it’s an inspiring story. We are going to stand on some stages together. My friend, it is going to happen. We’re going to still hope for mastermind. We’ll see how and when it all shakes out but one of these days I’m going to get Apolo on the stage for us speaking to our phenomenal audience that will eat this stuff up. I really appreciate your time today. What a great career. What a great man and your best days are yet to be in front of you.
You’re still at the peak of your life and you have so many great things in front of you and all of these lessons you’ve learned are so valuable and so helpful. You’re not stuck in the past. Bruce Springsteen used to have a song called “Glory Days.” Where we all get stuck on our glory in the past, but there’s lessons from there that are so helpful for the future and I know you have a great hand on your shoulders for that stuff and I’m very excited for you. Thanks for being with us today. Thanks for blessing our audience and we look forward to being on the stage together real soon.
OHNO: Thank you, Brian. Thanks for having me.
BUFFINI: Well, what a neat interview. What a fantastic young man. What a great a great path he has had and it’s just great for us to get exposed. You see the life of an Olympian. When you look at your tasks, when I look at my tasks, when I look at the Five Circle Fit, when I look at my schedule, it’s pretty doggone doable.
When you hear these folks that are achieving at the very highest level in the world that their sport and you see the level of commitment it takes, we don’t have to do that. Well, but we should be inspired to do a little bit of that. That’s what I’m challenging all of you folks today. If you’re doing the Five Circle Fit programs, if you’re in the Buffini training programs, do the activities, be a champion.
Hate to lose, hate the feeling of financial insecurity. Hate the feeling of not being able to pay for your kids’ college education. It’s okay to use that as a short-term motivator and so great stuff there today. I hope you enjoyed today’s podcast. I certainly did. It was great to meet that champion. Let me leave you with a little Irish blessing, especially for today’s times.
May the roads rise up to meet you and may the wind always be at your back. May the rain fall soft upon your fields and the sunshine warm upon your face. Until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand. We’ll see you next time.