RAN: [00:00:00] I always say cycling saved me. I was the most non-sportive kid you could imagine. I was a chubby boy. I was lost in my view. And I picked up cycling I think just because it was the one thing I didn’t have to excel at to be picked for team sports like basketball, soccer, you name it. And I think this is also one of the main reasons that I am so passionate about trying to invest in grassroots, trying to welcome new youth into the sport because my personal experience was that it was much more impactful than just being a sport.
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JESSE: [00:01:25] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is a former pro cyclist and is doing a lot in the cycling realm. He’s a co-founder of the Israel Cycling Academy Team, founder and director of the Gino Bartali Youth Leadership School, and also has an NGO, Bartali Youth Movement. Welcome to the show, Ran Margaliot.
RAN: [00:01:48] Hi, there.
JESSE: [00:1:50] Thanks for joining me. I have to check again how many time zones across we are. It’s early morning for me. I think it’s early evening for you right now.
RAN: [00:01:59] Yes, sort of. It’s the opening of the weekend for us in Israel, it starts early.
JESSE: [00:02:05] Okay. So, it’s the one thing I seem to find when I talk to guests, which for you, the listener, you don’t usually get to hear about this is because I record these on Fridays, often guests are like, great, we’re done. Now I can start my weekend and I’m off into an enjoyable weekend. So, hopefully it’s the same for you, Ran.
RAN: [00:02:28] Yeah, it’s already weekend feeling over here.
JESSE: [00:02:34] So, obviously, I want to ask you all about cycling. Before we got going I was telling you, I’ve got a background in running and then triathlon. And, unfortunately, I have to say the part — I come back to just running. The part I don’t miss is all the hours in the saddle. [crosstalk]
RAN: [00:02:55] Yeah. It’s pretty time-consuming, isn’t it?
JESSE: [00:02:58] Yeah. I mean, just by the nature of it, you can’t shortcut it. You’ve got to put in the time or you’re not going to be good. You’re not going to have the legs to get it done. Even for the distance I like to compete in, it’s like a 40K time trial. I mean, you’re on the bike an hour hard, but you still got to go out for long rides, and just get the mileage under your legs. And it just takes up so much time. So, I guess I’ll ask you since you were a former pro, do you miss the time in the saddle? Are you still spending time in the saddle?
RAN: [00:03:40] So, I think as to your comparison between running and swimming and all the other endurance disciplines, I think cycling is the one part which doesn’t have to be a workout. In my view, I mean, it can be just sort of get out. You can just find your peace and sort of like a meditation. Of course, when you’re racing, you’re racing and you have that racer mentality. But cycling for me nowadays is nothing — I mean, it’s a different ballgame than what it used to be than when I raced. So, it’s the best time of my day when I get a chance to ride.
JESSE: [00:04:18] And I guess maybe here is a potential difference, or is it pretty scenic where you are where you get to ride?
RAN: [00:04:28] Depends on which time of the year. Currently, it’s a little bit annoying. It’s pretty warm over here in Israel these days, so we either ride early in the morning or in the evening. But yeah, we get to see a lot. I don’t know if you’ve ever visited but our country’s very diverse. So, within a couple of hours of driving you can see you go between the desert and the mountains. So, yeah, obviously definitely.
JESSE: [00:04:53] Okay. And that, I think — So, for where I am in the US there is just not much besides annoying traffic. And then like — [crosstalk]
RAN: [00:05:04] Where is that?
JESSE: [00:05:05] So, I’m in Kansas City. It’s in Missouri and on the border of Kansas and Missouri. So, if I get out of the city, and I’m on roads where there’s not much traffic, there’s also not much to see. It’s just fields of nothing. So, I definitely get that kind of meditative sense when I’m out for a run. And maybe that’s just what connects with me. But yeah, with the riding, I can kind of get that way. But it’s just, I don’t know, something about having to check with the traffic because our infrastructure’s not set up well, or comfortably to have cars and bikes on the road. Like, I definitely had times where cars would try to hit me instead of going around or just — and that adds to the distress of it.
RAN: [00:06:08] Of course. Well, honestly, I stopped riding on the road two years ago after spending 18 years only busy with the road cycling, road racing, and I highly recommend going off road, much more enjoyable.
JESSE: [00:06:22] That makes more sense. So, maybe I’ll have to go out and invest in a mountain bike. We definitely have some trails around here for that. So, maybe that’d be a little bit more my scene tried out.
RAN: [00:06:35] Yeah. Try it out.
JESSE: [00:06:38] Got to make a note to myself to check out the trails. Sorry, for everybody listening, I’m writing at the same time. So, I mean, you’re saying you spent 18 years on the roads. Is it just you start riding when you’re a young kid or what’s the pathway? Because I know — So with — This kind of all comes around in a larger sense to what you’re doing now. But I assume you grew up in Israel. It doesn’t seem like there’s prior to you guys making this team and the development team and all that, like not a very strong pathway for people in Israel to get into pro cycling. So, how did you start and find your way into that scene?
RAN: [00:07:29] So, by mistake really. I always say cycling saved me. I was the most non-sportive kid you could imagine. I was a chubby boy. I was lost in my view. And I picked up cycling I think just because it was the one thing I didn’t have to excel at to be picked for team sports like basketball, soccer, you name it. And I think this is also one of the main reasons that I am so passionate about trying to invest in grassroots, trying to welcome new youth into the sport because my personal experience was that it was much more impactful than just being a sport.
In my view, the sense of capability, the different angles it opened for me and impacted my life as an adult regardless of how fast I went on a bike. So, yes, I did pick up mountain bike to begin with, was more approachable, more accessible. I only started riding on the road later. At the age of 16 I won national by incident just because the favorites were looking at each other. And when you’re a road racer and you know how to use — have a bit of a race intelligence you can do that.
That led me to believe probably, not for a good reason, but that I can somehow break through a path that no other Israeli have achieved before. And for the following nine years, I tried to become the first Israeli to race Tour de France. I did okay, but I was never talented enough. I think I was mostly a hard worker and very determined to achieve that. And at the age of 23, I quitted the sport of racing for two years in the world tour, and realizing I just don’t have what it takes to make it. I was very, very frustrated. And I think because of this frustration that was the main drive for me to start the next chapter, to start Israel Cycling Academy trying to in a way to achieve as a manager what I could not achieve as a cyclist.
JESSE: [00:09:53] And I don’t want to try to make you look back on your career and go what if, but — So, I guess a point of clarification. So, I know if we’re talking about say 5K runners or even 10K runners, often they’re going to be early to mid 20s is the fastest guys because of the short distance. And then especially as you get into the longer stuff in triathlon, half Ironman, Ironman those athletes are often late 20s, early 30s, sometimes mid to late 30s as like the best in the world. It’s been a while. During kind of the lance era when everybody in the US was watching cycling, I was into cycling, I kind of tailed off. So, I haven’t been huge.
I think maybe the [inaudible 00:10:51] Froome here a minute but maybe the first time that Froome won was the last year, I was really, really watching intently. But is it not similar with cycling where you’ve got mid to late 20s kind of guys that are the best guys? Or is it really the earlier ones? ‘Cause I mean you’ve got, obviously, you have the [inaudible 00:11:15], but then there’s a white jersey too for the young riders. So, it’s like there’s a clear distinction of the — there’s a special case for them. So, what age are we usually looking at for the best guys in the field?
RAN: [00:11:34] So, it has changed a lot over the past three years, really. I mean, we’ve seen a sharp trend. That’s another discussion of why it’s happening, but the average age for Tour de France winners has really dropped in something like 10 years, you know? So, when you see a guy like Bernal winning Tour at 22, Tadej Pogacar winning it at 21, guys like [inaudible 00:11:56] winning everywhere at 19 years old, this is something that didn’t happen until 2017 or 18.
But yeah, I think when it comes down to, I think the discussion, really the topic of the discussion is the fulfillment of one’s potential. And it really is a good question. How do you know that — are you going to make it or not? Are you good enough or not? Have you reached your peak? And I think it comes down to mainly persistence and your ability to persevere through all these years and making all those sacrifices and deciding you’re still going for it, this is going to be the main center of your life.
And nowadays, I have this discussion almost every week with a single parent or with a kid who is ambitious, and always feel like he’s in a rush to make results and to achieve something. And I always try to keep them hungry. And there’s this sense that until you reach that level, you do not know how demanding that is. And one of the things you do want to happen that by the time you reach that level, that you’ll be prepared emotionally, mentally for this long, long, long years of work. And I think for myself, I was training and racing like a pro when I was 16 already. And that was not a good thing for the longevity of the sport. But that was the only thing I knew. I knew that if I want to make it in a place that other kids, more talented kids in my country, from other countries, if I want to be the one making it, I need to work harder than them.
What I didn’t know is that the definition of hard work is not in a single day, nor a single month, nor a single year. The definition of hard work is a lifetime. And if you want to succeed in anything, you need to be very, very patient. And being patient means that you’re creating the right setting, the right surrounding that will enable you to persevere through all these years. So, I think what I’m trying to say is, if the question was if I quitted too early, there is no right or no yes or no answer for that. There is only was I willing to do all this, to continue doing all these sacrifices for the chance that — for a small chance that I could make it.
And the answer at that time was no. I arrived to a place where I knew I couldn’t continue in the highest league and I was just too spoiled to start again, start working again up the ranks. And I think that’s cool too. I think in life we have different dreams and some, at certain points in our life, we are willing to make decisions that we were not willing to make earlier or later on. And I think it’s also important to know that you need to let go on some things as well. It’s not healthy to just always being goal driven.
JESSE: [00:15:08] Yeah. Well, and like we were talking about, before we got recording, I mean, I obviously can empathize with that. I quit, so to speak, at 28 trying to become a professional. And I don’t know about you, but it is difficult having spent all of the time and the hours and your brain just being so singularly focused. It’s like, at least for me, even after the decision, it’s still like, there’s still little fragments, little bits and pieces inside that just kind of bubble up from time to time.
And at least like I said, for me, I decided to focus more on this company, and then subsequently the podcast and that kind of thing, and seeing how else I can serve people instead of just serving my own dream. But I don’t know that — I’ve mostly come to terms with it, or at peace with it. But there’s still definitely part of me that has a need to succeed or accomplish something, or like do the next thing.
RAN: [00:16:26] I think it’s very natural, I think it’s very human, the need for recognition. Also when we are pursuing some goal, there is always this adrenaline, this sense of purpose, which is important. Eventually, we need this in life, we need this drive, it’s very helpful. You know, the sharp edge is when it becomes everything and when there’s no other thing in life. And at certain points in my life, there was definitely no other no other view. Nothing else had mattered in life other than winning bike races. And it can be very, as we’ve just seen in the Olympic Games, with several athletes, it can be very cruel too.
JESSE: [00:17:13] Yeah. I know and I’ve spoken with several Olympians over the tenure of the show. And often, I mean, with this particular show, they always have something else going on, because you don’t get on the show if you’re not doing something else. You can’t just be an athlete. But they’ll talk about how important that other thing is or was for them, especially when it was time to stop. Whether they won a medal or not, everybody comes to a place of this is the end of my career. Earlier, later, it doesn’t matter.
There’s no 90-year-old Olympians competing with the 20 year olds. Everybody comes to a point that they have to stop, and they often say like — Kim Vandenberg comes to mind. She was an Olympic swimmer in 2008, and she plays the piano. She played a little piano for me on the show. She coaches kids in swimming, and tries to tell them hey, it’s awesome you want to be an Olympian, it’s awesome you want to be the best swimmer, you can be, you also need to nurture other interests.
RAN: [00:18:36] Well, I hope you’re not hoping for me to play the piano.
JESSE: [00:18:40] Do you have one? Do you want to give it a go?
RAN: [00:18:43] No, no, definitely not.
JESSE: [00:18:46] So, you had said that you were already training basically as a pro at 16 or at that level of training. So, I mean, you spent a number of years even if you’re done at 23, it’s what, seven years of that, which is quite a long time for most people that think, oh, seven years, that’s not bad. But the amount of time I’m sure you spent on the saddle in that seven years is unfathomable for most people. It obviously takes a lot of mental fortitude. So, how do you approach that with your youth development? I’ll call them kids or young athletes. How do you approach that with them and try to build up that ability to have that consistency over years, like you mentioned?
RAN: [00:19:42] So, currently, we have different programs that we are running, but the only thing that I really know should happen. I mean, I think in any place in life where you try to build something meaningful is creating a format in which every single athlete, every single participant has the right to choose whether they want or doesn’t want to be part of it every single day. And I think that this is very important because whatever we do in life, when we are forced to do something, we wouldn’t be able to reach that level that when the times get really, really hard, we are finding this inner drive. And this is crucial that you create the surrounding, the atmosphere for one to choose, who wants to be part of it in every single day and every single moment of the ride.
If I have a kid who is tired and depressed, they want to throw the bike during a climb, then he will throw the bike. I’m not going to be the one encouraging him to jump on his bike because it’s his decision, and he needs to decide whether or not he wants to climb back on his bike. And we all have those days. None of us is perfect. And the more you progress as an adult, you realize that this is what makes a difference, how many days a year do I have that I wanted to throw the bike, I didn’t want to go out there and work hard that I skipped. And eventually, this is where the marginal gains are, right. But for me, as we’re seeing cycling as a more holistic approach, not just for them to become good athletes or good students afterwards. I really hope that they can learn some life lessons through it and decide where do they want to take it.
What we try to do is to help them think and plan. So, we always have this approach of asking the kids, so if you’ve had no limitations, no one forcing you to do anything you can imagine reality at its best, what would you want to do, what would you want to achieve in three years, five years time, next year, this year. And the more they can dream about it, the more we can help them create a more specific vision.
And when they have a specific vision, a specific measurable vision of what do they want to achieve, and it’s not an easy task. It takes a lot of time to build that kind of a vision because first you need to be able to dream. And often, we’re working with youth who are coming from different backgrounds. Some of them are coming from a very challenging background. And arriving to the point where they can start to to shape a desirable vision for themself is something that takes time. But when you do that, then it’s easy. Then we can do the reverse engineering process and start helping them build the milestones. As they wish they will be.
It might not be the desirable vision that I would imagine, I cannot live in their shoes either. The only thing I can serve is as a good role model trying to inspire them to do something, to create a reality, which is balanced, which I believe would help them. And one of the things that I think is important in this process is not to push it. It’s very easy to encourage, especially kids nowadays, to go towards a direction that we believe will empower them immediately. How do you do that? You try to direct them towards places where they will get immediate response from their surroundings. So, [inaudible 00:23:24] through social media, through their colleagues in class. If they win bike races at the age of 15, they will feel as champions of the neighborhoods, and that can be the reward for them.
One could say this should be a dream. But I always think that our goal is to try to help them break the ice ceiling and try to think a bit longer term. And if you are successful in helping themselves shape a vision for, say, three years from now, you already start helping them in gaining life skills, in working for a goal, which is not immediately reachable. And whether or not they will achieve this goal almost doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is really their ability to start asking themselves what do they actually want to achieve and not being in the other seat, the victim seat of the one who is always following, which I believe is not useful.
JESSE: [00:24:26] Yeah. Just the way you talk about it reminds me of, so each season of the show, I have a question I ask every single guest, and I’ll ask you this season’s question here at the end of the show. But last year, I was asking everybody, what’s the purpose of sport? And it seems like you’re kind of touching on at least what it seems like your vision of the purpose of sport is
RAN: [00:24:55] Oh, it’s very true. — what’s the purpose of life?
JESSE: [00:24:59] Right. Well, I mean, we’re breaking the scope down a little bit just focusing on sport, but I mean, it is still pretty broad.
RAN: [00:25:07] Yeah. I mean, what the purpose of sport, for me, is a place to discover myself at my best. I have to be fully committed in order to succeed in it, and my opportunity to discover my surrounding as well. Whether it’s just, you asked me about the scenic sights or the environment, but also my companions, people I get to spend time with. In cycling, we are fortunate to be able to communicate while doing sports, which it is very rare. You don’t get to do that in swimming, probably not so much in high intensity running. In cycling, we can still talk because there is not so much impact. So, it’s a great way to bond. Yeah. I always say that the best friends I’ve met were on a bike. I met my wife on a bike. So, that’s a great opportunity to make friends.
JESSE: [00:26:03] Yeah. I have to back up a little bit, but talking about developing kids, and you’re talking about not pushing them. And it’s a question of asking them, do you want to be here or not? I think about kind of a sharp contrast to, and not all coaches are this way. But I would say if I was going to generalize American culture of coaching, it’s very loud, aggressive. I’ll motivate you for you kind of — It’s like the complete opposite. Like, you don’t have to be motivated. The coach will pound the motivation into you and get results. And so I think about your approach, and first, thanks for doing it because I think motivation is such an internal thing. You, as a mentor or a coach, I don’t believe can create motivation. Either, like it exists or not, you can nurture it.
But also the patient’s the you’ve got to have to think about a multi-year trajectory for young athletes. Because at least in the American pipeline, thinking about high school, so 12-13 year olds through 18 year olds high school environment, it’s always focused on this season. And the same thing goes into college, where it’s like this season or this week, instead of why don’t we look at you over there the entire four years that you’re with us, or whatever it is.
And I always feel like that’s such a mistake to focus on all these small, little snippets of time and pushing so hard all the time, instead of taking that longer term view. So, I guess, as a fellow athlete, I appreciate that you’re taking that approach with your athletes. Because I guess I agree with you that maybe the goal is not necessarily to make every one of them a professional, but that they’re going to learn life skills and a lot of other things just being on a bike.
RAN: [00:28:36] Yeah. I think most of our decisions are based on our personal experiences, the good and the bad. And I believe that if you really want to go philosophical, they say there are two main forces that drive every single one of us; the ego and the fear. And both of them exist in every situation we’re facing. And they’re going to be influenced by that whether or not I’m going to push them hard or be very, very laid back and let them take the lead.
My own experience was that every single time that I’ve chosen to do something, whether I succeeded or failed, I was able to view it as something I could learn from just because it was my decision. And every single time I was forced to do something, I always felt like a victim. I felt like I’m not in control of the situation. I cannot learn anything because I’m only trying to satisfy someone else’s will.
And therefore, I feel that my role here is only to be the one enabling the experience and whether they will choose to take it to the extreme, or they will push back and say this is not my direction. This is their bar. This is their part of the process. And I hope I can be, one day, that guy that can walk in the street and maybe occasionally see one of them and see what a wonderful grown up they became, hopefully, happy and feeling well with whatever they decide to do and know that I played a small part in that. That’s what I hope I can do. Most of the time, you’re just hoping you’re not making too many mistakes, you know?
JESSE: [00:30:24] I asked different athletes about this from time to time, and I think, it seems like at least your personal response is yes. But in general, do athletes have a responsibility to their community? It is definitely something that happens that, especially high profile athletes, whether they’re deciding this on their own, or they’re being coached to do it just for good publicity. I don’t know. But they’ll start a nonprofit or do something to give back to the community. But at the same time, it’s like, well, this is their athletic career, and maybe they should just be focused on their own thing. So, I’d like your opinion on whether athletes, in general, clearly, you yourself are giving back. But do athletes in general have a responsibility to give back to their community?
RAN: [00:31:22] Well, I think we all do. I mean, I used to think that the most powerful thing you can do in order to drive change is to inspire people. And most of my, I call it other life. But most of my decision-making in the part of my life when I was focused on high performance sports, which is essentially sort of a show business, was based on that, that we need to serve as good example, we need to inspire people. But I think the reality is, the world’s problems are varied, there are many.
And our ability to improve our society, the people around us, starts with the small things. So, I think, to your question, yes, they do have responsibility, but you and I have responsibility too. So, it’s not just because they have one million followers on Instagram or something like that that we should expect them to be the only ones who are driving change.
Eventually, I think that, yeah, I hope that we can associate sport with being a good human being. But really, sometimes in sports, the deciding values are different. When you’re in a bike race, your number one goal is beating your opponent. You’re not going to stop to pick up trash from the roads. You’re just not going to do it. You’re usually not going to help a friend who crashed because this is the number one value that drives you when you’re winning bike races.
And I’m not going to judge anyone for trying to focus on that value because this is the surrounding. But I think if we were looking on a big picture, I do hope that sportsmen, as well, can understand that people are watching them. And outside the sports arena, whatever that arena maybe, that they will take more responsibility. I do not expect them to — I hope I can expect everyone around me, but honestly, the only factor I can focus on is myself.
JESSE: [00:33:32] Yeah, yeah. It’s something that I don’t know, it definitely comes to light right now. Which is the US political climate which I certainly don’t expect you to be paying attention to because it doesn’t, hopefully, it doesn’t affect your day to day. But there’s definitely a lot of like mentality where it’s like, I’m taking care of me, and that’s all that matters. And I feel like we’re forgetting about how interconnected we are.
RAN: [00:34:07] I like the current trends. I mean, I like what’s happening, seeing athletes expressing their opinions. I think the fact we are trying to keeping sports neutral is a little bit of trying to close our eyes. But I think saying that I expect them to do that, it’s not modest. How can I expect them to do that? I don’t have any responsibility for them. They are adult man, they can decide their own life. I like to see that people are taking responsibility. I think it’s good.
Whether or not they like their opinion, I think if someone is caring of his environment, his society, it’s already a start. We are selfish animals, usually. We take care of our immediate needs. That’s what we do every single day. Whenever someone else takes care of his society, for me, it’s inspiring.
JESSE: [00:35:04] Yeah, yeah. I do want to ask you about starting the Pro Cycling Team. Because, at least in part, starting a professional team, though it seems like out of thin air, seems like a pretty big undertaking. So, I’m guessing somehow your pro career plays into knowing the right people to hopefully get something going instead of like, you sitting at your desk going, how do I do this, and then figuring it out from there. So, how does the germination of that come about?
RAN: [00:35:45] Well, honestly, I had no clue what I still have no clue when I’m working day to day. But when you try to create something that has never been done, you just go out there with a little bit of — with some guts, and you try because you don’t want to be that guy who say what would have happened if. And I think it comes down to the same approach. I don’t want to be the victim. I don’t think anyone should be the victim. I think people should be proactive.
Life is not easy. I come from Israel, life is not always easy over here. But that’s not a good enough excuse to be a victim. And even if — When I was a pro athlete or wanted to be a pro athlete, there was no easy path over there. It never served as a source of agony for me, or anger. I always use it as a drive. I said someone needs to be the first and it might be ego-driven. Everyone has an ego. Usually, pro athletes, they have bigger egos, but it drove me further.
And when I wanted to create the pro team, yes, I knew some people. But it came down to be willing to try to fail, you know that chances are against you. Usually, the odds are against us but we need a way to have that inner drive to try because I think trying is more important than sitting at home feeling that — being fear driven. What would have happened if? And I don’t think it’s for everyone. I think, also, not everyone has to be an entrepreneur, not everyone has to create their own reality, it’s fine as well. Many people prefer, what we usually say, the comfortable way. But I always feel that if you really, really want something, and you feel this is something that you have a drive for, you should try to be proactive about it. I don’t like to be surrounded by people who feel like victims.
JESSE: [00:37:58] Yeah. I also don’t think that, yeah, everybody needs to be an entrepreneur. Though I’m happy to encourage anybody that wants to be because it’s obviously not the easiest path to life. As you said, the kind of comfortable way of just like, I’ll call it a normal career. And I don’t mean to be patronizing, but there are unique challenges that come with running your own show, wearing all kinds of different hats, finding different people to do the things that you need done, all those kinds of things. I think if you have the, I’ll say the personality for it, but the ambition for it, that you’ll find an avenue that you go, okay, let’s give this a shot. And yeah, I definitely agree that there’s some ego to that, because you have to have a big enough ego to go, I can do this. As you said, it’s — [crosstalk]
RAN: [00:39:06] You know better. Yeah.
JESSE: [00:39:07] Yeah. Like, I could do this better. Instead of, as you mentioned, being driven by fear and being fearful about what if it doesn’t work, or I’m not the right person or any of those other — We all have those fears. But I think somehow that ego wins out where you take that step and you’re like, okay. I’ll figure it out.
RAN: [00:39:31] Yeah. I had this conversation two days ago with one of our kids. He’s just finished high school and he’s going to do a gap year over here in Israel. He’s going to be serving as a cycling instructor in one of our Youth Villages programs. So, he’s going to spend most of his time instructing other kids and maybe he’ll have a couple of hours very early in the morning to train. And he was presenting to me as almost feeling like he’s a victim. Like he was not going to have enough time to train for himself, and what will he do next, and it’s going to ruin his life. And asked him, what would you like to do? If you can choose right now, what would you like to happen? And he started coming up with all these bunch of ideas. He might serve as a bus driver for eight hours a day, and that will give him enough time.
And I said, well, you should go for it then. YAnd that was probably one of the things he was not expecting or what wanting to hear. He wanted me to solve his problems. But I don’t think that even if I could have, and I cannot solve his problem, this would have been the right thing to do. Because I think that every single time in life, we have to face life to really find a solution. This is where the opportunity lies. Because only when we find a solution, it’s usually not the ideal solution.
Usually, it’s a series of compromises. Only then that we are growing. And most of our lives are not ideal. And I don’t think being an entrepreneur also has to be a full-time job. Usually, very few people even get paid. But I think being an entrepreneur in that philosophical way as you presented it, or what is the purpose of it, is taking responsibility. And taking responsibility in life is very important, even if your area of creation is within your role as an employee per se.
But once you’re taking responsibility, once you’re deciding you’re going to be taking action, you’re not going to be sitting in the passenger seat and following and just being a victim; this is where we are growing. This is where I believe people should go. And it doesn’t mean that tomorrow you have to create that $1 billion startup that’s going to change the world. Honestly, I don’t wish for anyone to wait to earn $1 billion, I think it’s horrible.
But yeah, I think it’s something you learn at sports. You as an endurance athlete, you learn it every single day. You’re the only one who knows how hard you push yourself, whether or not was it enough, whether you could have done a little bit more. And you’re continuously questioning it yourself every single day because that’s what sports is about. It’s about how much you are willing to give from yourself in a single moment. And usually, it’s never enough. Just how it is.
JESSE: [00:42:44] You always feel like there — Yeah, I think there are probably very few times in my racing career where I — I think there are plenty of times where I’m like, I think I gave it enough. But in the back of my mind going, maybe there was something, you question it. So, there’s very few times when I really feel like that was absolutely, there was no more — there was nothing left in the tank.
And I think some of that is just — it’s hard to put yourself there physically, where you are at a point that you simply physically cannot go any hard — Because there’s this mental break that it’s like you’re going too hard, you’re going to blow up. Stop, stop doing that. And getting over that is a big deal. But I don’t want to get too sidetracked by myself, because I want to come back to your thoughts on taking responsibility, and owning kind of what you do. I don’t know what your thoughts are or I like your thoughts, I guess.
To me, it seems like when I or we as people, we create something, or own responsibility for the creation of something or the work that we do. Be it working out or at our jobs or building a business, whatever it is. It’s like the act of creation and the ability to create something and own it through your own responsibility, that, to me, brings a sense of pride and gratitude. Whereas like people play the lottery and they want to win a million dollars.
Well, my theory is and some people will probably say you’re a jerk and stupid, but that’s fine. My theory is that you will appreciate a million dollars that you’ve earned way, way more than you would if I just handed you a million dollars. It’s the same amount of money, it has the same amount of spending power. It can’t buy you any more. But even if you take the money part out of it and you just — [crosstalk]
RAN: [00:45:13] Well, I think there are a couple of researches that have been done that many people who won the lottery it ruined their life.
JESSE: [00:45:18] Right. Well, ‘cause they don’t — I think there’s a lot of factors to that. Part of it is just like, they don’t know how to be responsible with that amount of money. Like they haven’t had to go through the steps to organic growth and the time and adjustments to earning a little bit more. And what do I do with this? And how — There’s a lot that goes along with that.
RAN: [00:45:43] Here in Israel it’s a very common topic. We are considered as the startup nation, even the bike team in Israel now is called Israeli Startup Nation.
JESSE: [00:45:51] Yeah, I saw that you had a brand change.
RAN: [00:45:53] And I think it’s one of the worst things in our society currently. People really want to succeed very fast, they want to scale, they want to make a short effort, three-four years, and then we earn our chunk of money, and we go party. And what people want is not that. People want to feel well, and feeling well goes along with, as you said, organic growth, growing step by step with creating something which you can own. One of the worst things that can happen for a startup founder is the moment he is selling when he does his exit, it’s no longer his creation, it’s someone else. And usually it breaks their heart, but no one speaks about it. Because the most important thing for people in life is not money, although we think it is, but it’s not money.
People want to feel appreciated, people want to feel a sense of purpose, people want to be surrounded with like-minded people. People want to feel loved. So, if we’re only focusing on what we think is considered as being successful, usually those things does not go along with that. Usually, when you are very, very successful, you’re very lonely, you are not feeling so appreciated. You only feel people want things from you because of what you gain, but you don’t feel like people really, truly appreciate you for what you are. You don’t feel like you own these things, you only feel driven, you’re afraid to lose everything you have. You feel you can be replaced every day. And usually, the way to, in my view, to avoid that is create a pathway which is more balanced, and which sees life as more holistic, not just measuring one’s success as the entire game plan.
That’s where I think, going back to sport, I think sport can be very, very empowering. It can also be depressing when the only thing that matters is the podium. It’s you against the others. It can be very depressing. What we really want is to compare ourselves to ourselves. We want to be able to show ourselves, to prove to ourselves that we can improve from one year to another, and really no one can stop that from doing so. It’s only our decision.
But I also think it’s a matter of facing life and understanding that not everything is going to be great. And maybe it’s good that it’s not great because we’ll always need that part, that missing part in the puzzle in order to have our drive and also understand that is a part of balance. When you’re going to excel at one thing, you’re going to suck at something else. That’s just how it is. So, yeah, it’s not going to be an easy journey.
JESSE: [00:48:52] Ran, that actually leads me perfectly to the question I’m asking everybody this season at the end of the episode. And that question is, how do you stay motivated after failing to reach a goal?
RAN: [00:49:06] It’s a good one. I actually don’t know. Yeah, I think it’s surrounding with the right people. I think the sources of motivation changes when you start as a kid. Your sense of capability is very, very low of what you can achieve. And the more you grow, you believe in yourself more, in your capabilities, you show, you prove to yourself you can do more. You already know that you, for example, someone like you can probably run for hours. You don’t know that until you do it. But then you want to run faster. Why do you want to run faster? Because you want to prove yourself and [inaudible 00:49:47] you can do better. So, the most important thing for you is no longer just your sense of capabilities, it’s your sense of belonging. You want to belong to those group of people.
And then at a certain point, you reach that goal, usually you create that surrounding, that environment that you feel part of. And then it’s no longer satisfying just trying to, I mean, you already have friends, you don’t need to prove every single day that they are your friends. What makes a difference later on is the third phase that most of the people are usually, in my view, are not experiencing is the joy of giving back. You’re already not in a survival mode, you already have a sense of capability, you have an environment of people that you trust, that you feel a part of. Now, it’s your time to give back. When you give back, you feel, in my view, the highest way of joy, when you do it authentically, when you’re not doing it just out of interest.
And I think that’s one of the things that motivates me. I mean, it’s a very selfish motivation. I feel way more fulfilled when I’m able to give back to the people around me. There are a lot of people with needs. And when I feel that I’m able to be that person for them, that can help them, this is something that drives me a lot. And it took time for me to realize that, but I’m usually not very successful, honestly. So, yeah, I think that it’s also a bit of a lesson of being modest and understanding that you’re going to try really, really hard and usually it’s not going to be enough. But yeah, I’m going to try to improve in being a good mentor, if you can call it this way.
JESSE: [00:51:42] That’s a great answer. And that could get us down to a whole other discussion of what is success, but we’ll save that for another time, I guess. Ran, if people want to see what you’re up to, see what the cycling team is up to, the youth development group, all that, where can people get in touch, check out, all that stuff?
RAN: [00:52:05] So, our main website currently is Bartali.org.il. Bartali, B-A-R-T-A-L-I.org.il, that’s Bartali Youth in Movement. This is the NGO we founded and that most of my ventures currently are at. I’m also Ran Margaliot at Instagram, but I don’t spend so much time on social media. I should probably make more of an effort over there and sometimes on LinkedIn too. So, yeah, feel free to reach out. Also, we
JESSE: [00:52:34] Awesome. And no worries on the social media. I’m not huge on it either and I have somebody to help with the company, the company’s social media, because it’s just not my strong suit aside from getting to talk to people like you. So, that’s kind of like my contribution. But absolutely thank you for talking with me today.
RAN: [00:52:52] Cheers. Thank you for having me. Good luck.