Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 126 - Joe Jacobi - LIFE IS A RIVER

You know, I think as we sort of move on the water, and the way we’re trying to kind of align with the river current or move through the river current of life, that, I think the hardest thing — the biggest expenditure of energy is accelerating from a dead stop. And so it’s not unlike when you ride a bicycle, approaching a stop sign.

JOE: [00:00:01] You know, I think as we sort of move on the water, and the way we’re trying to kind of align with the river current or move through the river current of life, that, I think the hardest thing — the biggest expenditure of energy is accelerating from a dead stop. And so it’s not unlike when you ride a bicycle, approaching a stop sign. If you can just keep the wheels moving a little bit, it is so much easier to accelerate a bike that’s moving a little bit than a bike from a dead stop.

[Intro Music]

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JESSE: [00:01:27] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is an Olympic gold medalist in Whitewater Canoe Slalom. In fact, the first American to ever get that gold in that event. He’s also a performance coach. Welcome to the show. Joe Jacobi.

JOE: [00:01:43] Hey, Jesse. It is great to be here today.

JESSE: [00:1:46] And as if you’re a longtime listener, you know I’m always excited to have cross-planet conversations like we’re having this morning. Although you wouldn’t necessarily think of it since Joseph American, but he doesn’t live in the US anymore. He’s trekked across the planet to live in Spain. So, we’ll just jump off right there because before we got recording, Joe and I were going to get into this and I said we’ll save it for the recording. Joe, why did you move across the planet? Are we not good enough for you anymore? Did we do something wrong? Have we offended you?

JOE: [00:02:25] Not at all. Look, I think that, you know, so you mentioned that I was a gold medalist in the sport of Whitewater Canoe Slalom and the sport — I grew up — I learned how to canoe at summer camp in the Washington DC area when I was eight years old. By the time I was 10 I was hooked, really liked it. And as I started to kind of open up aspirations to compete internationally and I grew up at the Potomac River in the Washington DC area was like the perfect place. Great Whitewater river rapids, a great community with which to train. But the Europeans were — the US team was doing really well in international competition, but the sport was really anchored in Europe. And so a lot of our biggest races, World Cups, World Championships, many of the Olympic Games have been in Europe as well.

And so yeah, I started to travel to Europe when I was 16 years old every summer, and I made a lot of friends here. I had a lot of success in canoeing, I really enjoyed the rivers here. But I also just enjoyed the time off the water here. And that was actually a big part of my 1992 Olympic story, Jesse, was that, I mean, we had a goal on the water. But we were spending a lot of time here in La Seu D’Urgell, this town about two hours north of Barcelona that was hosting the Whitewater canoeing events for the 1992 Olympic games when Barcelona was hosting those Olympic Games.

And I was always a little bit envious of my European competitors that just always felt so at home and comfortable. When we were racing. I mean, we were far from home when we were racing. And yeah, I kind of a year before the Olympics, I kind of had this — this was 1991. I was here in La Seu D’Urgell. We were having a race, a test event on the course. And it was a chance for the athletes to see the water and it was a chance for the organizers to make sure that the course functioned properly and the scoreboard was working, all those kind of things. And I had this epiphany a year before the Olympics, and that was I didn’t want to wake up in the Olympic Village feeling like an American visitor in the village. I wanted to feel a sense of belonging.

And so from that moment, I can’t tell you like it was just I literally, something changed. And my interactions with the community here in La Seu changed. Going to the supermarket or a cafe was not just this transactional thing, like, I need food or I need a pizza. It was more — These are like neighbors. I’m really kind of thinking of people along those lines. And so on the day of the Olympic Games in 1992, a year later, that box was checked. I mean, I really felt a sense of connection, a sense of belonging here. And so yeah, I think after winning the Olympics here, that just kind of deepened the whole connection.

So, yeah, I saw an opportunity a little over four years ago, to make this quality of life change a sort of a new life adventure. Now I’m kind of finally answering your question. Here, I wake up every morning, and I kind of shift into a mode of like surviving here it means to learn here. I have to wake up with a sense of learning. I can’t check out. I can’t go walk out of my house and presume that everyone is going to speak English. No one speaks English. I’ve got to speak a different language. So, I’m learning like, my brain just goes into learning mode and I love that. That has been an incredible gift, an incredible wake up.

I’m 52 years old now and yeah, I’m not very good at speaking Catalan, which is the language we speak here in La Seu, but I love learning it and I love practicing it. But I’ve got to be a student in order to pull that off. I can’t check out, which I think in a lot of ways when you’re just — I think when you speak English and you’re in the United States, why would you even think twice about that? But once you live in another country, you think about it all the time.

JESSE: [00:6:50] Yeah, there’s something about going someplace where they don’t speak English and being the outsider looking in. That initial kind of jumping off point, it’s like, it gives you a different perspective about a lot of things. So, I actually recently did a video on the YouTube channel, if you like running, talking about should you do running on vacation. We just came back from a short trip to Montreal, which is a city I fell in love with and learned a modicum of French. And it’s definitely like, you know, there’s attitudes in the US about oh, I speak English if you live here and stuff.

And I feel like, I guess I don’t want to get too political, but it gives you a different perspective about that situation. Because you’re now the outsider coming into a place where they don’t speak the language that you speak. And you’re trying your best to ingratiate yourself, but it’s tough. Like, unless you’re a language savant, it’s going to take a minute to get anywhere near to sounding like you belong, let alone being comfortable with different culture and whatever’s going on.

JOE: [00:08:10] Yeah. You know, you bring up something that I think one of the things that I just love about American English is that English in the United States is just constantly changing and evolving. Listen, it was not so long ago, it was not so long ago that when Al Gore was vice president and his wife Tipper Gore was like, wanted to have movie ratings on rap lyrics. And today, I mean, if you look at the influence of hip hop on the way English is spoken, we don’t think about that very much in the United States.

But in England and Great Britain, United Kingdom, where there’s a lot of people hanging on, hanging on to proper English. In the United States, we’re not. We’re sort of letting English go in a lot of different directions, which is fascinating. And if you actually ask kids in Spain, like the kind of English they want to speak, they want to speak cool English. They want to speak like, hip hop, they want to watch Netflix. They love that influence. And that reminds me that when I am speaking Catalan that I’m not striving for some perfect Catalan, and I’m speaking conversations with people like a lot of Americans who appreciate someone’s effort to speak English. Like, you can imagine someone who speak Spanish as a first language and you’re having a conversation with them.

And maybe they’re not very good at talking in the past tense or the future tense. But they speak in the past tense and you kind of — I mean, in the present tense, but you understand. We can intuitively understand whether they’re talking about the past or the future. And that’s the way I sort of think. I think when you find that kind of that sense of, that ease of communicating and going across the globe, it makes speaking another language a lot easier to even being an American and loving that kind of English. And the kids here like talking English with me, because I am not a stickler for how they speak it. And therefore, my Catalan is sort of received in a similar way. And I love that.

JESSE: [00:10:35] That’s great. Thinking about the rules of English versus the realities of English, I have a Brazilian friend who English is his third language and he speaks it very, very well. It’s very close, his cadence is a little different, which is fun. I was following his cadence whenever I’m talking with him. But like we talk about — he gets most of it. You wouldn’t even really know most of the time aside from his accent.

But sometimes we talk about just the weird ways we finish sentences that are grammatically very wrong, but oh so common. And so it’s like, if you learn English in classroom, and then you hear it, you’re like, what? Like, there should be more to that sentence. Something was wrong, and then trying to explain that situation. Like, yeah, that’s wrong, but we just, we use, like, ‘where you at’ is a good example. People say that’s not right in the slightest.

JOE: [00:11:49] Right. Right. Right.

JESSE: [00:11:54] Which takes me back to third grade. I remember my teacher talking about prepositional phrases and how to use them properly. So, it’s good to hear that, like, the attempt is appreciated, versus it being almost a snub, like, oh, you don’t speak the language properly.

JOE: [00:12:17] This was interesting. I mean, obviously, everyone where I live can speak Spanish, right? I mean, everyone can. But I think speaking Catalan is a way that Catalan people, it’s one of the most important ways that they can preserve their Catalan heritage and spirit. And I think that we don’t — when you come to Spain today, I mean, you’re coming to a country in Western Europe, it’s not easy to remember that just as recently as the mid 1970s, this country was run by a very different kind of leader. You were not allowed to speak Catalan. So, if you’re of a certain age here, not very old, but if you are in your 50s, you went to school and you didn’t learn how to speak your native tongue, which is Catalan and you learned Spanish.

And I think that when I asked people could you imagine going to school and you are prohibited, you kind of speak English at home, although it’s really not permitted by law and you can’t learn it at school? When I’m invited into schools today to speak English to classes here in Catalonia, I always remind the kids, it’s like, you cannot believe how fortunate you are to get to go to school and be able to converse in Catalan today and learn grammar in Catalan. And I think this is such an interesting lens for me to be here now, and kind of seeing all this and sort of seeing these evolutions, because it can be very easy to sort of take things for granted and not really appreciate. But it wasn’t very long ago that Spain looked a lot different than it does today. But yeah, language is a big part of that.

It is generally presumed, like if you walk into a cafe, anywhere in Catalonia, if I present myself as being not from here, which is not too hard to identify, the expectation is that we’re going to speak English. And so what I love, I love walking into a bakery, a patisserie or a [inaudible 00:14:41], and there’s an old woman or two old women working behind the counter and they’ll greet me in Spanish and then I’ll greet them back in Catalan. And they just, they smile and it just delights them. It surprises them. And I don’t think, like, I couldn’t put a price on that.

Speaking Catalan is not the most practical language in the world. I can’t do much with it beyond this very small area that I live in. But it delights people. And it’s very unexpected for an American to sort of change that conversation with a Catalan who’s expecting to speak Spanish, and now you’re speaking Catalan with them. And it’s like, they light up. And I just, I can’t tell you how that makes my day, Jesse, it’s awesome. And it really motivates me to kind of keep going with my Catalan just to be able to say, ask a few questions, ask them how their day is going, and what are they seeing in the world today. It’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing.

JESSE: [00:15:47] Yeah. You know, I think it comes back to maybe just a part of human nature. And that’s respect, right? It’s like a respecting of their heritage, respecting that that’s their language. You’re not saying, I’m a foreigner in your land, speak my language. It’s no, no, I’m going to try my best. Maybe I’m going to botch it, but I’m going to try and respect where you come from and who you are.

JOE: [00:16:16] And when I talk to the kids here in La Seu, I’ve never met one kid who thinks their English is good enough to go to the United States and speak. And I’m like, are you kidding me? I said,, it’s not like 99% are going to understand you, 100% are going to understand what you’re saying. If you speak like we’re speaking now, anywhere in the country, people are going to understand what you’re saying. You may not understand everyone else. Before I moved here, I lived in Appalachia. I live in southeastern Tennessee. And I think it would be not — I know that a lot of my neighbors here in La Seu would have a hard time understanding my neighbors in Ducktown Tennessee, that is totally cool. They would be understood.

Having said that, I also know that someone who speaks Spanish as a first language is not going to go to the United States and starve or get lost. I mean, they speak enough English to prevent that. And likely they speak enough Spanish to, you know, you can likely [crosstalk] Yeah, exactly. You’re not going to starve, you’re not going to get lost, you’re going to be okay. But I think it is interesting, most of the kids here don’t think they have what it takes just to go spend a week there. I’m like, oh, my gosh. It’s like, not only should you go, it’s like I actually make the case, the United States is probably even a better place to go and speak English in that way than, say, going to the United Kingdom where you’ll probably be corrected a lot as opposed to just, you get into a conversation with an American on the street.

Our English has just changed so much. We’re all about just sort of conveying the message at this point. We’re not trying to correct you and tell you how to speak properly. Look, I mean, look at our Congress today, look at the government in the United States today. We have people that have learned to speak English that are elected representatives that have learned to speak English in very different ways. And I think that’s awesome.

JESSE: [00:18:29] It’s definitely an underappreciated skill that is acquiring a second language in the US because we’re such a, not a monolith. But the country is so large, and it’s like, there’s so many people — You don’t really bump into very many situations where you have to speak another language. You know, there’s opportunities, there’s opportunity, like talking about, I’m in Kansas City, there’s many pockets of Spanish speaking community around town. I mean, just down the street from me there’s a French immersion school for kids in this neighborhood.

So, there’s definitely opportunities to speak other languages, but there’s rarely, I wouldn’t say never. I don’t think I’ve ever had a situation where I had to speak Spanish and definitely not French in Kansas City. So, I think that’s part of something that we just forget about because it’s so predominantly English speaking, we don’t — Unlike Europe, where you’ve got all the countries with all their languages butting up against each other and it’s not — it’s very feasible. As we were talking about before we were recording, pop over someplace else and English or something becomes the de facto common language if you don’t — [crosstalk]

JOE: [00:19:48] It is. It actually — I mean, English is the official language of the European Union. And so it is interesting how when I — outside my window right now, we’re hosting a race, a comp canoeing competition on the 92 Olympic course. And we have athletes here from France, from Ireland, and then from all over Spain. And for the Spanish athletes Spain is the common language.

Although most of the Spanish athletes come from places like the Basque Country where Basque is a really, really different language. The Catalans speak Catalan, the Galicians have their own language. I mean, these don’t sound like Spanish, when you speak them — speak, they’re very different. But then they all put that aside when they’re at a race to do that. But I always hear Spanish and French athletes speak in English with each other. Or German and French or Spanish athletes, Italian athletes, English is the go between language.

JESSE: [00:20:59] Yeah. We can probably talk language the whole hour, but I’m going to divert so that we try to get a little bit of other topics for those that are not language aficionados with us. I want to ask you about — So, for you, the listener, if you’ve been around with me for a number of years now or listened to a number of episodes, you’ve heard me make the metaphor, and this is why I think it’s especially important to ask you, Joe. I make the metaphor somewhat often about life as a river. And I saw in one of your blog posts talking about using light, a river as a metaphor for life.

JOE: [00:21:40] It’s my book that I’m working on. I’m working on the book right now.

JESSE: [00:21:45] So, I use it as a metaphor. I think there’s a lot of parallels. But you’ve got, obviously, more firsthand physical experience than I’ll ever have in being literally in the river. So, I wanted to ask you a little bit about your perspective of a river as a metaphor for life. And then in particular, I have a couple quotes from your post, a Full Deck of Questions. I liked the one about what if we sustained minimum speed without stopping as opposed to pursuing top speed with frequent stops. So, I just kind of want to use that as a starting point and then let you freestyle a little bit, I guess, tell us a little bit about your perspective, your thoughts on that kind of metaphor?

JOE: [00:22:35] Yeah. So, I love all — I mean, I had such a great time writing the Full Deck of Questions, and I’m so glad you asked about that one. So, I’d love to tell you a little bit about where that particular question came from about maintaining the minimum speed versus maximums without stopping versus high speed with lots of stops.

You know, I think as we sort of move on the water, and the way we’re trying to kind of align with the river current or move through the river current of life, that, I think the hardest thing — the biggest expenditure of energy is accelerating from a dead stop. And so it’s not unlike when you ride a bicycle, approaching a stop sign. If you can just keep the wheels moving a little bit, it is so much easier to accelerate a bike that’s moving a little bit than a bike from a dead stop.

And if you figure out how to do that over and over again, you know the same thing when you turn a canoe or kayak, you’re losing precious straight ahead speed. So, if you can figure out how to keep a little bit of speed, and when you’re racing a canoe down the river in the Olympic Games, you’re never going more than two or three strokes before it’s time to turn. And you’re never going to be turning for more than a few strokes before it’s time to go straight ahead. So, you’re constantly changing between turning and going straight ahead, turning and going straight ahead. And so, it’s a little bit counterintuitive, but we do practice tight, really tight spinny turns that are fast.

But often it’s better to sort of turn on an arc, where we’re able to sort of keep a little bit more speed going through the turn. And maybe we don’t turn as fast, but over time the value of not stopping really shows up not just in speed but in energy saved. And so then that energy of how you work with the river and how the current of the river pushes off the bottom of your boat is really important. So, now that’s a very specific example.

To sort of draw this out a little bit to the bigger picture again, I think what I love about the river is that it, it sort of reminds me that our life, how we live our life, it exists on a scale, and there’s sort of two ends of the scale. On one side of the scale kind of represents how we pursue contentment, however we pursue contentment. Whether that’s adventure, whether that’s fun, whether that’s taking risk, or whatever that, it’s something that you control.

On the other side of this scale represents this river of uncertainty, the things that we don’t control. And it’s not about trying to find or be in a better position on the scale, it’s about having the awareness to check in and see where I am on the scale and if you’re leaning heavily towards uncertainty and feeling like you don’t have a lot of control at the moment, not a problem. The main thing is you have the awareness to check in and make some choices that support that. Maybe at another moment later in the day or in the next week, you find yourself on a position on the scale more close to the side of contentment, and having a lot more things, being in control of things. It’s just the nature of being on the river. It’s like we love to tell ourselves in a positive way, like, oh, we’re in control.

And well, we’re in control of our response, we’re in control of some things. But whenever there’s a river at play, we are not in control. We are co-creating a life with a very uncertain force. And I think as we do that, I think if you get 100% on the side of uncertain, that’s a pretty dark place. Like, we don’t want to be 100% I have no control. But on the flip side of it, if you believe you’re totally 100% in control, that’s delusional.

I mean, I’ve lost, I mean, I’ve had teammates, Olympic teammates that have put a kayak on a river never to have come off that river alive. And I just know that the river has some uncertainty to it, as does our life. And that’s why I think the river metaphor is just so valuable, again, not to determine the correct position to be on the scale towards what we control or beyond our control, but just checking in to see where we are. And that takes self-awareness to do that on a regular basis.

JESSE: [00:27:41] I think that’s exactly why I use and like the metaphor. Because I mean, even though I’ve only been on a river, less than a half a dozen times in my life, let alone anything moving very fast, only that a couple times. I think there’s something very intuitive about the river is going to do what the river does and you can’t tell it what to do. So, I think when you’re trying to convey to somebody who has a death grip on wanting to control everything, like trying to let them know, like, you simply can’t. And like using that metaphor, I feel like that, it kind of is that wedge to open the door a little bit to the idea that, oh, I really don’t have control over everything and that’s okay.

JOE: [00:28:40] I just think the quicker we get, it’s like there’s a form of acceptance in it. And I think within that acceptance, I think one of the things that I love about this idea of kind of mapping, modeling our lives as a river, not only are we making a plan through the water, through this choppy, uncertain water. But I think it also forces us to kind of name our rocks in the river and address the obstacles that are in the river. And so in doing that, we’re shifting from this idea of like, oh, I wanted to get rid of all the rocks in my river. My life would be so much better if there were no rocks. And I would ask, really, is it? I mean, for me, rocks create the definition of — they define the water that we’re going to navigate, they deflect water to go in a certain direction.

And so it’s not about trying to move our rocks, take them out of the river, it’s learning how to pass them in the right way. And I think there’s a lot of counterintuitive lessons to navigating whitewater rivers that when you apply that to model that to kind of navigating the river of life. For example, instead of avoiding your rocks, avoiding your obstacles by going way over to the side of the river, where it’s shallow, and it’s shoaley and your boat is dragging over the rocks, paddle at the rock. There’s a lot of opportunity, there’s a lot more water in the river flowing towards that rock in the middle of the river.

And you’ll find a lot of opportunity around that rock only if you’re willing to confront it. And that’s the same way we typically feel about obstacles in our life. Like, we don’t feel very good when we’re avoiding obstacles. But when we confront them, and it’s not about getting the result we want, but it’s about how we feel as we navigate and pass the rocks. And over time, as you get better at this, and this counterintuitive idea becomes more of a practice, this is where those rocks shift from becoming obstacles to becoming collaborators in your life.

JESSE: [00:30:54] You kind of touched on this just a second ago. I feel like one of the things that’s underappreciated in learning how to navigate the river is the ability to become stronger over time through practice. I think it’s easy to feel, especially when you’re young and inexperienced, or maybe you’re old and inexperienced, I don’t really know.

But when you don’t have the strength to paddle as hard as you wish you could or have the skill to know which way to steer the boat, then it’s like, I’m just going to keep crashing in rocks my whole life. And I think there’s some under appreciation for understanding that like, okay, so maybe you ram straight into that rock. Okay. But what did you learn from that and how does that make you stronger to navigate the next one? And that, as you mentioned, we get stronger, we get better at it as we go on.

JOE: [00:31:58] I think that’s right. What I sort of hear you saying, Jesse, is that I think we gain some humility in the process. And it’s an acknowledgement, it’s not a doomsday outlook on it. It’s sort of say, we don’t control everything. And, again, I think the sooner we kind of arrive at that, I think life actually becomes very freeing, and you sort of see the choices that we do have. The river has its way to let you know its strength, its power, how unrelenting it can be, and how unforgiving it can be at times.

But there’s also, you mentioned strength, you alluded to strength and power. You know, one of my favorite parts of our Olympic story here in La Seu D’Urgell is that we are the combined weight of our doubles canoe team, Scott Strausbaugh was my doubles canoe partner, we were under 300 pounds. Almost every boat in the race was — Most boats in the race had a combined weight of over 350, many towards 375. Scott, in particular, my partner was really light, he was small.

But I think what’s interesting is that when you’re in the water, you learn it’s not about your own strength and power. It’s first and foremost, connecting with the strength and power of the river. How do I take the energy of the river and sort of use my body, my boat, and my paddle to kind of bring that energy into me? And I think that people can take that idea, that message, they can transfer it to their life in a lot of different ways. But it’s like, it’s sort of letting go of something. It’s like, you earlier in our conversation, maybe before we hit the record button, we were talking about running, and sort of the frequency by which we sort of get running in maybe on holidays and things.

And I had this idea I was sort of thinking and it seems like you’ve kind of seen this as well. It’s not about how the details and you know, of the amount of running we do every day. To me, it’s — I love the idea of running every day, but it’s the idea of holding the idea gently. Where is the idea of running kind of fit into life. And it’s like, I think that’s always the challenge is that, and this comes with life experiences comes with humility is sort of holding it more gently. And that happens on the river. You know, it’s like, if I hold my paddle too tight, it’s like, I’ve created all this tension in my body and all of a sudden I’ve given away a powerful sense of feel, of feeling the water, of kind of feeling what energy exists around me for me to tap into.

The harder I grip the paddle, the more I kind of think, well, damn, the only energy I’ve got is my own, so I’m just going to paddle harder. And it’s just crazy because now it’s like, I had so many competitors that I raced against that race by just paddling harder. And for us, it was about capturing all the energy, we could of the water into our boat, into our paddle, into our body, and then whatever we have, after that, we add on to it. But if we just did that, if we got really, really good at doing that, that would carry us, that would give us everything we need. And that was one of the real, exciting, interesting parts of us being small, lightweight, and ultimately coming out of the Olympics as the top boat on that day.

JESSE: [00:36:01] The idea of being — that’s another thing I think we talked about before we got recording and the idea of just capturing the energy of the things around you in life. I think I was talking about in marketing in particular, and just making the podcast and making the show and trying to make everything work together. But that’s something I think — I can only speak from the American perspective.

But there’s something about the determination and grit of the American spirit, and it’ll push through all things and it’s like, it’s almost antithesis to the idea that current is flowing around us. And maybe we try to harness that, to move a direction instead of saying, well, damn the current, I’m going to paddle upstream. And I’m going to, like you said, harness the American spirit and paddle upstream as hard as I can and I’m going to make it no matter what. I think we miss out on that sometimes. And it’s — I think the people that —

Obviously, this is an incomplete metaphor, but I think sometimes the people that do the best harnessing it, we perceive it simply as luck. There are some circumstances in all of our lives that don’t happen for other people, and you can call that luck, I guess. But I think, to me, it’s almost like, the phrase about luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Like, the opportunity is the current that’s flowing around us. And if you prepared yourself, in this case, by learning how to harness the energy of the river, by paddling enough and avoiding obstacles or as you say, driving towards them, and kind of seeing those, then you get luckier because you’re starting to harness the synergies around you that are happening.

JOE: [00:38:10] You know, as you were talking about sort of our determination, I think about words like resilience, grit, toughness, mental toughness, I think these are great, they’re great qualities. I think what I’ve been asking a lot more and I think this was sort of one of the — this was in that post you reference before a Full Deck of Questions; what happens when you pair grit, determination and resilience with gratitude, with self-kindness, with evaluating the beauty of a situation? It’s like so many things. It’s like, the answer is we need both.

And I just think that even if you want to find more resilience, more toughness, more determination, more grit in what you do, I don’t think it is just as straight like, oh, I just need to be tougher, more resilient and grittier. And I think that when you actually find ways to be more kind with yourself, to be more gentle with yourself, to be more grateful, that opens up the door to being more resilient, to being grittier, to being tougher. And I just think it’s really counterintuitive, but look, you’ll never know unless you try.

And so I’m not advocating for people to sort of jump ship, you know, if you’ve been doing it a different way, but what I do think is like find ways to just test the idea, to run a small experiment and see if it might be true. You know, just think about pairing those two sets of things that we would see is extremely different, and find ways to sort of put them together and try it out in a couple of situations. Try to pick situations that are not make or break life or death situations, but can be actually fairly small and inconsequential. And just be that researcher, be that scientist and just run the experiment and see what happens.

JESSE: [00:40:18] Joe, before we run out of time, there’s a question I ask everybody. So, each season I have a different question. This particular season there’s a question I ask everybody I’m going to ask you. I think, I’m hoping despite you having got the Olympic gold, I think you’ll still have a fairly good answer to this being a well thought out person. So, my question this season is how do you stay motivated after failing to reach a goal?

JOE: [00:40:51] Yeah. It’s a great question. I should probably say I do a lot of my coaching, most of my coaching happens through Valor Performance. So, we’re a performance coaching company based out of Boston, and we work with clients all over the world. And we have an amazing coach community. We have a lot of sports psychologists working as coaches, we have a lot of Olympians and professional athletes that are working as coaches. And I’m kind of known as the guy. It’s like, oh, yeah, Joe doesn’t like goals. And I’m just at a stage of life where it’s like, and I just want to say this thing and I promise I’ll answer the question correctly [crosstalk] on point.

But the thing about the goals is that I just want to be really careful of not putting too much of the energy that I have today onto something that I don’t yet have. I mean, the goal [inaudible 00:41:48] kind of out in the future. And it doesn’t matter — I always say my house looks at the Olympic start line. And I was — My partner and I, we were not sitting on the start line thinking about what color medal we were going to win. That would have been like a waste of energy.

And so we try to keep all of that energy, in what and things we can do with it today. Like, that’s going to move the needle closer, even if what you want to do is to win a gold medal, you have to be present in the moment. And I would say whether you want to buy a second home on a lake, or you want to have — you want to advance to two levels up in the company that you work in, it’s good to know where you’re going. But I find that the top performers in sport are really good at letting go of their goal so that they can be more present in where they are now.

And so I think that when you don’t hit smaller marks, I think if you can summon the awareness to kind of ask two questions with, first of all, first of all, summon some self-kindness, summon some kind of gratitude, and then I think two questions can be really helpful. The first one’s probably a little easier than the second. And the first one is what could be good about this? You can ask that question, kike what could be good about this? The second question is a little bit harder, but I think the answers can be even better. What am I supposed to learn? What’s the lesson I’m supposed to learn here?

That, I mean, depending on what we’ve fallen short of or what didn’t work out for us or what didn’t go our way; that can be hard and even painful. But I think if you can kind of find that way to ask that question when you’re ready to answer it, what could be good about this? And what’s the lesson I’m supposed to learn

JESSE: [00:43:57] That’s a good answer, Joe. Joe, where can people find you? Maybe when’s the book coming out if you’re that far in the process, I don’t know.

JOE: [00:44:07] No, I actually think — I have a few things I need to learn about the publishing part. But the book part is actually really getting there. I don’t know if it’s too ambitious to do it in time for the sort of the start of summer of 2022 which is kind of a nice time when people are starting to go rafting and spend time on the water anyway. I think that would be really nice to do that. But yeah, the book is really framed also as 22 reflections about life modeled through our journey, our own journeys down the river.

And within those reflections, embedded in there is my Olympic story paddling with Scott. So, it’s going to be a fairly short book. It’s a very reflective read. And yeah, so there’s that. Anyway, I’m on LinkedIn a lot. I’m also on Twitter but my website is, And yeah, I’d love to connect with your community, and I look forward to learning about them and meeting more of them along the way. And I hope we do this conversation again sometime, Jesse. This was outstanding.

JESSE: [00:45:28] That’d be great. Thanks for hanging out with me today, Joe.

JOE: [00:45:30] Yeah. Thank you, my friend.

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