I Retired from a Hall-of-Fame Olympic Career at 27—Here’s What I’ve Learned About Redefining Purpose

I used to be simply 27 years previous once I walked away from my dream, from the one life I had recognized for the earlier 14 years. Simply 27 once I shed the pores and skin (or skinsuit) that had come to outline my complete identification: Apolo Ohno, Olympian. The quickest man on ice. Sports activities Illustrated cowl mannequin. Phenom. Champion. 

I didn’t make any kind of huge announcement. There was no teary press convention, no parade in my hometown of Seattle, Washington. No main media interviews. In actual fact, I didn’t actually inform anyone what I used to be doing. However I knew I used to be accomplished. I had little doubt in my thoughts that I may nonetheless compete at a excessive stage. If I’m being sincere, I nonetheless really feel that approach. My confidence, which is without doubt one of the issues that fueled my success as an athlete, hadn’t wavered once I walked away from the game. What modified was what was in my coronary heart. 

I knew how near the solar I had flown all these years, and I remembered all of the sacrifices I had made—all of the outrageous issues I’d demanded of myself in pursuit of my Olympic dream. And since I knew the whole lot it took to attain what I did on the ice and the toll these sacrifices exacted from me over 4 Olympic cycles—bodily, mentally and emotionally—I additionally knew what it could take for me to take care of and surpass that stage of efficiency. And once I regarded into the mirror, I knew it was time for a change. I didn’t know what it meant on the time, however I used to be headed for what I’d later name the Nice Divorce.

The Nice Olympic Divorce

Earlier than you may reinvent your self, you first should resolve whom you need to be. I don’t imply whom different individuals need you to be or whom you assume you ought to be or whom you assume you should be. You get to resolve whom you really need to be, and also you get to take action with your individual standards.

Most of us who grew up within the U.S. have been conditioned to outline ourselves by our professions, even when our inclinations, wishes and abilities aren’t essentially consistent with our job title. Instinctually, we all know that our work is just one a part of who we’re and that there are different much less publicly acknowledged identities (as dad and mom, volunteers, gardeners or musicians) which might be nearer to our hearts. 

Early on in my profession as a velocity skater, my father instructed me that life is a collection of chapters, one resulting in the following, and that we lean on the teachings and insights we acquire alongside the best way to maneuver ahead into no matter comes subsequent. That’s exhausting to see whenever you’re so immersed in a single specific chapter of your life. I spent years believing that being an Olympian can be the first identification that outlined me, and it could take a very long time for me to know how limiting that perspective was. After all, successful these medals opened doorways for me that aren’t out there to most individuals, and I’ll be endlessly grateful for these earlier chapters of my life. I won’t determine as an Olympian anymore, however my father was proper—these earlier chapters led to the place I’m immediately. And for that, I’m grateful. They had been springboards that empowered me to pursue new paths, pursuits and alternatives.

It took me a very long time to realize this new perspective. I had pursued my aggressive objectives with such single-minded objective that I didn’t assume an excessive amount of about what the long run held. On one hand, that single-mindedness is without doubt one of the causes I used to be so profitable as a velocity skater; on the opposite, it’s additionally why I used to be so ill-prepared for all times once I retired from the game. I used to be 27 years previous, however inside I felt 17. I had no tutorial training to talk of, no work expertise, and no coaching in finance or enterprise. I’d by no means developed different elements of my persona, gained another ability units, or pursued any supply of objective or which means outdoors of velocity skating. I had ignored or pushed the whole lot else away from me in pursuit of my final objectives.

The Olympics had been my first nice love. Even now, I can shut my eyes and listen to the hush that descends on the sector simply earlier than a race, so quiet I may virtually hear my opponents’ hearts beating as we took our marks. At that second, I had little doubt in anyway about my objective or which means in life. As a consultant of my nation, I used to be a part of one thing greater and extra substantial than myself, and eight completely different instances, I discovered myself standing on prime of the world with hundreds of thousands of eyes on me, as an Olympic medal was positioned round my neck. These moments outlined the whole lot of my existence. I’m telling you all of this simply to convey how profound the Nice Divorce was for me. 

I had chosen to divorce myself from my earlier identification—the one I foolishly thought would carry me by means of the remainder of my life—however I had no thought easy methods to go about forging a brand new one.

A New Pivot

I haphazardly started pursuing varied enterprise pursuits, none of which I knew something about. Though my expertise was restricted, my curiosity and willingness to be taught was nice. I stated sure to principally the whole lot that got here my approach. I used to be ranging from scratch, one thing I hadn’t accomplished since I used to be a child.

As a result of I’d educated as a sprinter for therefore lengthy, I used to be accustomed to going actually quick to determine what I needed to accomplish and the way. I labored at warp velocity to be taught the whole lot I may about these companies. 

It didn’t take lengthy for me to note that the drive and relentlessness that enabled me to win Olympic medals was transferable to those new ventures. I used to be starting to see that I used to be extra ready for my reinvention than I anticipated. Simply since you pivot doesn’t imply it is best to depart all of your hard-earned abilities behind. All of your strengths and experiences are a part of your transformation.

It dawned on me that I had turn out to be a terrific velocity skater not just because I used to be gifted as an athlete, however due to my method to the game and sure attributes I used to my benefit. It was principally my dedication to the psychological and bodily coaching that made me a terrific velocity skater, not as a result of I used to be one way or the other inherently particular. It was as a result of I did the work, and since I refused to let anybody outwork me.

* * *

Likelihood is you’ve skilled a Nice Divorce of your individual. In case you haven’t, maybe you’re searching for reinvention for a special purpose. For many individuals, a brand new identification typically means a brand new job or profession, although it doesn’t essentially should. We’ve been conditioned to consider our identification by way of what’s printed on our enterprise playing cards—what we do as a substitute of who we really are. 

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered numerous Individuals to be laid off, furloughed or unable to seek out enough work of their discipline. Seemingly in a single day, these individuals had been compelled to place to mattress no matter identification had been printed on their enterprise card, title tag or firm badge as a result of the title not utilized. What number of of you (and your mates, members of the family, neighbors) had been left scrambling, considering, That was the one factor I’m good at. That’s what I’ve recognized. I haven’t developed another ability units or strengths. What am I going to do? 

Even earlier than the pandemic, it’s been clear that the times of studying a commerce, securing a job and staying with the identical firm till retirement are a distant reminiscence. Lately, it’s widespread for people to have two, three and even 4 (or extra) acts of their skilled lives. Very few individuals stay at one job for greater than 4 years. Some careers are getting phased out totally, whereas others are being reworked by automation and different emergent applied sciences. Unquestionably, it’s a annoying and horrifying time.

If there’s a silver lining to this instability and uncertainty, perhaps it’s that the reply to that profound What now? query can principally be something. No matter you’re dealing with, it’s a possibility to overview, replicate and renew. It’s a possibility to get curious to know your self higher—each the individual you’ve been and the individual you’re about to turn out to be. 

Excerpt tailored from Arduous Pivot: Embrace Change. Discover Objective. Present Up Absolutely. by Apolo Ohno ©2022 Apolo Anton Ohno, reprinted with permission from the creator and the writer, Sounds True, Inc. This text initially appeared within the March/April 2022 Problem of SUCCESS journal. Pictures by © Kristofer Cheng.


Excerpt tailored from Arduous Pivot: Embrace Change. Discover Objective. Present Up Absolutely. by Apolo Ohno ©2022 Apolo Anton Ohno, reprinted with permission from the creator and the writer, Sounds True, Inc.

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