Persistence in the face of failure

DH: Hi guys. Welcome to Keep On Pushing Radio. I am your host, Devon Harris. And yeah, you know what we do here man, we like to share ideas and insights that are going to challenge you and inspire you to live your absolute best life so look, man, is that something you’re interested in? If you are, then you’re in the right place so welcome to Keep On Pushing Radio. Our guest today has, I tell you, one of the best smiles you’ll ever see on anyone else, but don’t let that pretty smile fool you, man. If she catches you on the track, she will eat your lunch! She’s that competitive. Competed in four Olympic Games, has won three Olympic medals, in fact, she is the sixth person to have ever won medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games…..the first American woman to have done so. She had a really stellar athletic career, track career at the University of Miami, where she won the NCAA Championship in 2004.

Right. 2004 and that year she ran 10.97 in the 100 meters, the second fastest in the world, the fastest for an American that year. She ended up competing in the first of her four Olympic Games in Athens where she won silver in the hundred meters. The following year, she became the world champion in the hundred meters after a short……. curtailed 2006 season due to injury, she stormed back to win the silver medal at the World Championship. And again, back in 2012 as part of Team USA, she won gold, she struck gold in the 4×100 meter relays. After that, the following year, 2013, she retired from track and field but the competitive juices were still flowing. So she decided that she would try a different kind of speed on a different kind of track and that led her to bobsledding. A few weeks after she took up that sport, she finished third at the US National Push Championships and the following year she made history man winning silver in the two-person bobsled event at the Sochi Olympic Games. Now since her time on the track, our guest has been an entrepreneur, a motivational speaker, and an author. So I’m really excited I’m looking forward to unpacking all of this and more with the amazing, the amazing Lauryn Williams. Lauryn, thank you so much for coming. Welcome to Keep on Pushing.

LW: Thank you so much for choosing to have me, Devon. It’s so good to be on the show.

DH:  Yeah, man, it’s great to see you. The last time I saw you was, I think 2006, we were halfway around the world……. on the other side of the world actually in Sierra Leone as Athletes Ambassador for the Right To Play. And for those who don’t know what Right To Play is, it’s an athlete-driven humanitarian organization that uses sports and play to teach life skills, health skills, conflict resolution in some of the more dire areas of the world working with kids. And so we were there as athletes ambassadors, you were there given back and it seems that is such an important part of your mission….giving back. You’re still doing that today, giving back to your peers in a way that is positive and meaningful. Why is that so important to you? Giving back.

LW: I mean, sport has given so much to me that there’s nothing that’s more natural than giving back to something that helped you grow and become who you are and I think it’s really cool when you can root anything that you’re trying to do in life to giving back. So often you hear people talk about finding work that they’re passionate about and I think it’s something that is really possible and able to be done. So for example, my work is financial planning and I do that with a lot of athletes and the other young professionals. And yes, it’s my work, but it’s also a way of giving back because the reason I started the business in the first place was I saw a gap in the industry, I saw Olympic athletes not getting the help that they needed as it pertains to organizing their finances.

LW: So fill this gap, you get to give back, you feel passionate about their work, you’re helping and you get to make a living doing something that is going to be really rewarding.

DH: Indeed.

LW: Yeah. The same thing happened with the book where there’s no guide to going pro in track and field. The NFL and the NBA people know exactly what that process is like. It’s on TV and there’s none of that for track and field. So what does it mean to be a professional track and field athlete? Most people think we compete once every four years and that’s not true at all so I broke it down. The athletes are interested in this, needed a guide, I filled the gap once again and it was really, really easy to be able to give back in that capacity because it was something I was passionate about.

DH: That’s awesome. Yeah, we’re going to get into all of that a little later, Lauryn. But people will look at you though and they see a picture of success. You have had some success, some significant accomplishments under your belt, so to speak but I like to go back to the genesis. I like to understand the journey. I think the way you really learn about a person is by understanding where they’re from and then that’s how you really benefit from learning about those people. So, I know you grew up in suburban Pittsburgh, spent some time in Detroit as well so take us back a little bit, what was life like in the Williams’ household?

LW: Definitely. I come from a family of five sisters and two brothers so my mom says we put the fun in dysfunctional. So yeah, most of those are my dad’s children and originally, like I said, born in Pittsburgh, raised right outside of Pittsburgh in Rochester, Pennsylvania. My parents split up when I was three so, that’s what took me to Detroit, but they always did, and the thing that stands out to me is that they’re very amicable and the way that they kind of split me up. There was no court order, no child support, things like that, they would just do the right thing for our child and it made for a really fun upbringing. So kindergarten to sixth grade, I was in Detroit with my mom and I did the holidays and the summers and things like that with my dad and my other siblings. And then seventh to 12th grade I went and I lived with my dad and three little sisters were in the household at the time and finished up my high school career there. So, we didn’t have a lot of money, we didn’t have a lot of fancy things, but we had a lot of great experiences. My Dad made sure that we were well rounded in the area of being able to cook, knowing how to like you said, be able to kind of hustle for ourselves. I was working at 16, I was doing little side jobs here and there while I was in school so, I had a really cool upbringing, I would say.

DH: Yeah. So one of the things I didn’t realize until I was reading up a little bit more about you was that you’re of Trinidadian background as well. You’ve got some Trini thing going on.

LW: That is true. My Dad is Tobagonian born in Charlottesville. Anybody knows Trinidad and Tobago knows that Charlottesville is kind of out there in the boondocks. So Trinidad’s the big city Tobago’s the smaller city and then even in that smaller city Charlottesville is like the smallest.

DH: You’re right. That is pretty cool. I know you did a number of sports growing up. What sports did you do? I know obviously you settled on track and field, but what other sports did you do?

LW: I did just about everything. You name it, karate, ballroom dancing, kickboxing, gymnastics. My favorite was basketball. I thought that I was going to be a basketball player until I was sitting the bench on senior night when my best friend got hurt and then they put me in the game trying to give me a clue that I probably wasn’t going to be a basketball player.

DH:  You weren’t going to be the next Mugsy Bouges were you?

LW: No, no, not at all. Yeah, but I stayed pretty active.

DH: But track became your thing. When did you realize you’re fast and when did people start talking about you as fast?

LW: I think I knew I was fast as a child. I tell the story all the time of like running around the neighborhood, beating girls my age and starting to beat boys my age then starting to beat boys a little bit older than me. And one of my friends had an older brother and started taking me around the neighborhoods like, I bet you can’t beat this girl man, guys are like, yeah, of course, I can like beat this little girl and of course, I would go and I’d beat them and they’re racing or exchanging money and I’m like, wait a minute, hold on I got to get in on this. Like why are they betting on me and I am not making any money. I had an inkling to my talent at that point, but not until really like, way when I got to 2004 that I realized that I could like go somewhere and be one of the world’s best in track and field.

DH: Absolutely. So did I read correctly? Do you still own the records at your high school?

LW: Yes. Yes.

DH: So you were really scorching back then weren’t you? Yeah. So high school you got a scholarship to go to the University of Miami, The U, was that something that came on your radar early or it was just an opportunity that you took advantage of?

LW: Well for me, I was really focused on getting academic scholarships, so I didn’t realize that there was something called athletic scholarships for quite a while until these letters started to come in the mail. So education was very important to me and to my family. They knew that that was like the thing that was going to take you places and allow you to get new opportunities. So these letters started to come and I was like, wow, people want to like pay for my school like for me to just keep running in a circle like this sounds like a great idea. I would’ve done that anyway. So if you’re going to pay for my school, why not? And I kind of narrowed it down, like I said, amongst all the different schools, because I had to choose somewhere that was warm. I figured if it was going to be my job to show up every day and be at practice to meet my obligation as a student-athlete, then I better be doing it in an environment that was going to allow me to actually show up because I was not big on competing when it was cold, when it was snowing, it was rainy, like you name it I was like, no thanks. No thanks.

DH: How life changed, right? You’re a bobsledder, aren’t you?

LW: Correct. Warming up in snow pants was a thing as well as a bobsledder.

DH: Exactly. But you mentioned an important phrase here, student-athlete. Talk to me about life as a student-athlete. Was there a huge transition between going from high school where you were a student-athlete then to college?

LW: Definitely a big transition because college puts a lot more expectations on you as it pertains to what they’re trying to teach you and the amount of time it takes, there’s a lot more responsibility on your part. No one’s hand holding you, no one’s yelling at you if you didn’t do your homework, like either you do or you don’t so you got to want it. You’re spending the money on this education or someone’s spending the money on this education and at this point, there needs to be some buy-in so I think that was the biggest difference. For me, as I said, I was definitely very education focused, so that didn’t become a problem, but it was also like you said, this idea of balancing, okay, well my obligation is to this track team because they’re paying for this education but the education is the thing that’s most important to me. So I need to figure out how to prioritize both of them equally so that I can make the most of the opportunity.

DH: Yeah. I guess my pet peeve is to see athletes, talented athletes, especially who do really poorly in school. And my view is that if you have the ability……if you have the discipline to go through the workouts, and I mean to work out at a high and to compete at a high level requires some serious effort. If you can do all of that, then you can do well in school. What’s your take on that? I know you’re definitely education focused anyway.

LW: Yeah, I think that it’s really important too, well, I mean the first thing is finding value in education because it is that thing that’s not just valuable, but it’s also priceless. And when thinking about value and price, like there is this thing that no one can take away from you once you have.

DH: Yeah.

LW: I think that’s the thing that we really need to drive home with athletes is yes, you may have this exceptional talent yes, this talent has the opportunity to take you places that something else in the short term won’t take you but in the long term, your education is going to be far more valuable because even if you get a wonderful career……10 years as an athlete, you’re going to need to be articulate, which means you need to be educated. English class is important. If you’re going to be making lots of money doing speaking engagements or traveling around with endorsement sponsored, you need to understand math and finance, otherwise, someone’s going to steal your money. And so all these things we tend to think that all I need to do is show up and compete when you’re an exceptional athlete but education is a really, really important aspect of being a great athlete.

DH: I so feel you on that Lauryn. I tell people all the time, young kids in high school who dream of going pro or competing in the Olympics that hey, while you’re developing these muscles in your body, the biceps and triceps, et Cetera, know that at some stage of the game they’re going to fail you because it does for all of us but the ones in your head, your brain, you don’t have to develop those muscles as well. So kudos and I realize that you graduated in three and a half years from The U.

LW: Yes, I was definitely on the fast track to try to get things done. Moving forward I was even going to try and get a little bit of Grad school and before the opportunity to become a professional athlete came about. So I was going to definitely stay in school and use that last semester to get at least one semester of Grad school taken care of that way it’d be less student loans or less that I had to figure out from a financial standpoint but, luckily I got a really cool opportunity to become a professional athlete and life took a different direction.

DH:  At what age did you turn pro?

LW:  I was 20. I was a junior in college. Yeah.

DH: Got you. So while you’re at The U, you won your first world title, you won the junior world championship in Jamaica as well. You went to the sprint factory and scorched it.

LW: I did. I did. The pressure was on. As the US versus Jamaica rivalry is very, very serious and I showed up and I put my best foot forward and I came out victorious. It was really, really wonderful. I think that was the beginning of something great.

DH: Yeah. I’m guessing that we’re probably still a little bit upset about that, but since you have the Trini blood, we’re going to let it slide. So, 2004, two years after your first world title was a really special year for you was a defining year. As I said, the NCAA title, you have the second fastest time in the world, fastest for an American, you were honored, you’re the Big East performer of the year, you’re athlete of the year, how did all of those accomplishments or successes, impact your confidence going into the US Olympic trials and Olympic Games in particular and two, were there any specific strategies and anything you were doing special in 2004 that led to that? Or do you think it was just a culmination of all the work and effort leading up to that point?

LW: Yeah, I think the biggest thing that changed for me in 2004 was my mindset. It wasn’t so much that, I was preparing or something totally different happened. It was mindset. I was tired of getting to the race and not actually winning the race. In freshman year I made it to nationals, my sophomore year I made it to nationals my junior year it was like, okay, I’m going to win that, so I’m not just going to make it to nationals. So changing my mindset was a really big deal. And telling myself that whatever it takes for me to be able to be great at this, I want to put that best foot forward. I don’t want to have any regrets when I finish this season. And not only did I win, but I also, as you said, ran the second fastest time in the world and had to turn my focus to now like the Olympics, which was not the focus at all. It was just this like one goal of winning the national championship.

DH: Gotcha. So, I’m hearing that, I’m hearing you talk about mindset, but obviously, you went through the process, you put the work in and it’s really important that’s nothing for all of us, whether we’re talking about sports or business or just being a student. One, you have to put the effort in, but then you also have to believe, you have to have a shift in that mindset. And I find that to be true with anybody who has succeeded in any area of life. There comes a time when they go, you know what? I can actually do this, so kudos. So you put the work in, now it’s 2004 you’re an Olympic silver medalist, the following year you’re aWorld Champion…..some injuries. Then you come back in 2007 and you finished second to Veronica Campbell-Brown from Jamaica in what many regards as one of the closest race ever in track and field. But then anybody who knows you Lauryn knows you’re tiny you’re like barely five foot three and so someone of your stature shouldn’t be able to do that. Talk to us about limitations or the perceived limitations and how we can push past them.

LW: That’s very well said because that’s exactly what they are, perceived limitations. I have no idea where they made up because you’re short you can’t run fast. I think it’s because they saw taller people on the front end. the Flo-Jo’s, the Marion Jones’ of the world, the people that were taller and then this automatically became a rule that if you’re short you can’t be fast but we proved them wrong. Veronica is not very tall, Shelly-Ann Fraser is not very tall. We have a great girl named Dez Bryant in the United States right now. There’s no requirement on what it is that it takes for you to reach your full potential. Each and every one of us is made unique and we need to maximize whatever it is that’s unique about us to reach our full potential. So to be trying to fit into any box that society gives us about what is perceived to be right or wrong is the biggest mistake that you can make in any aspect of life. There are no boxes, there are no limitations and one of my mottos is hard work knows no limits. And the idea is that if you’re working hard towards something, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. Period. Point blank.

DH: Yeah, absolutely. Well said. Well said. So one of the challenges I think with being a pro athlete, being an international athlete, competing at the Olympics and so on, is that you are on full display in front of the world. And so your triumphs are seen and celebrated but then there are these moments when you experience some significant setbacks, failures. I have watched you a few times in relays……. on the relay team just looking dejected the stick didn’t get around the track and I know you and I’m feeling bad for you. I have to tell you this its really bittersweet because my team is winning, but I know you and I want to see you win too, and so how do you deal with that, Lauryn? How do you deal with the setbacks? How do you handle failures?

LW: It’s tough. And I think that’s one of the things that I really like to talk about is this idea that people would just say, just bounce back and pretend it didn’t happen and blah……. and that’s not true like failure hurts. Some days you get kicked in the face and you’re just like, golly, this was an awful day. And I think one of the biggest things is to acknowledge it, to sit and sit in it for a moment, but to set a time limitation. So for me personally, what I do is what I call the 24 hour pity party and what that is, is you have time to be mad, to be angry, to sit in the counter and pout, to cry, whatever it is that your thing is that whatever it is you’re feeling embraced those billings, but you don’t let that sit and you don’t let it fester because something goes wrong and you spend two or three weeks being sad about it and now you’ve changed the whole trajectory of everything in your life because your whole mindset has become obsessed with this thing.

You’re not moving forward past it, it’s starting to affect other areas of your life because of negative energy, it just spreads like cancer. So you got to really like you said, acknowledge those feelings and then you start to reflect on those feelings almost immediately and start to move forward. Okay, how did I screw this up? Why am I so mad at so and so? Why am I so sad that XYZ broke up with me? Or whatever the case may be. Get into those feelings, dive into it, dive into the details, but then figure out how to move forward. So I’m all about focusing on the opportunities, not the obstacles and the obstacle is whatever that thing is that’s right in front of you but the opportunity is that the thing that’s going to be in your future and you start right now in the present thinking about like how am I going to change and create an opportunity around the situation.

DH: Yeah. Speaking of opportunities, part of the keep on pushing philosophy is that you take your existing skill set and knowledge and experience and apply them to this dynamic environment in which we live in order to create or take advantage of the opportunities. So you go to London, you win a gold medal……..2013, you retire. and as I said, you turn to Boston and you decided that you’re going to take all your talents from track and field and apply to bobsledding. What inspired that move for you?

LW: It was a chance meeting. So I also believe that when opportunity knocks, like, yeah, you got to be ready to open the door. I was in the airport, I read an article about Lolo Jones having tried bobsled, and she, and I were headed to a race in Rome. I just asked her like, how did you get into it? How did you even find bobsled? That kind of a random thing. And she’s like, yeah, you’re right. You have to like find out about it through someone else basically. there’s no like, NCAA bobsled or age group bobsled.

DH: We’re pretty unique that way.

LW: We are, it’s pretty much everyone’s second sport. So she was like Lauryn, you have what it takes…… you could be going to the Olympics. And I’m like, I’m not talking about going to the Olympics, I was just thinking about like what life after track was because I knew this was my last year competing in track and field maybe this is something that’s fun, that could be recreational. Olympics was not top of mind for me and it was the Olympic year. I didn’t even realize that it was the Olympic year at first. Yeah. So I get on the Internet, I signed up and I actually showed up at what was the USA championships and that would’ve been my last opportunity to try to begin the process for competing for team USA and it went awesome the next six months was pretty crazy, but also pretty awesome.

DH: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. So you turn up there and never seen a bobsled in your life. You pushed one and finished third at the championships.

LW: That’s exactly what happened. I got one day on the ice before the actual trials and there’s a sled in the Canadian ice house where you kind of just hit it on the side like it’s not on the ice. It’s just made for you to practice hitting. So a guy showed me, Stuart Magnolia showed me how to get into position, how to hit the sled and then he had another bobsledder that was there. He’s showed me a couple of times, he had me do it a couple of times and then he said, okay, now go on the ice and do that and I was like, wait, what? And like in the ice house, there’s just like the frame of a sled. It’s like a thing that looks like it could fall apart at any moment. And you want me to sprint behind it and then jump into it and ride and just hope that I’m going to be okay. It was terrifying, but I did it.

DH: It’s great because you kept an open mindset and they say that opportunity turns up in work clothes. A lot of times when we hear the word opportunity we expect, I described it as a gift nicely wrapped in a bow, but what it is, is you stepping out of your comfort zone and being willing to try something that you’ve never done before. It might scare the living bejesus out of you but here you are. So you kind of retired from track and field and ended up right and found a new love in bobsledding. So talk us through a little bit the experience of being in Sochi and winning that silver medal.

LW: Yeah, I mean for me it was the best six months of my life to date so far because I did not know what was in store for me. Like you said, it was a lot about trusting, being open-minded and really putting my best foot forward for the team. Doing whatever was in the best interest of the team. And I think I came from a very unique perspective because I had no expectations it wasn’t a goal of mine to make the Olympic team in bobsled. I hadn’t been training for it for six years or eight years or some people even longer than that. And so with that preparation comes a certain amount of expectation for me because there was not that amount of preparation, there was no expectation. It was whatever I can do during the time period that I’m here to be helpful to you all, I’m happy and willing to do.

And that made it a lot better working relationship amongst me and my teammates despite the fact that we were, teammates but we were also competitors because with bobsled there were nine of us that we were going to whittle down to six and three of those positions were already locked down because those were the drivers. Those were not optional. They’re not optional. So you got six brakemen competing for three slots and then you’re jumping in and out of three different sleds. So you don’t get to really get any real allegiance to one driver or the other. Because they’re testing you out to see what’s the best fit because it’s not just about who’s the two fastest people it’s also about a lot of chemistry and who are going to work together well. And so really embracing the idea that whatever’s in the best interest of this team and whatever I need to do to be helping out, it’s not always going to be my turn to race. It’s not always going to be me having to do this. I’m going to wear all the hats that they tell me to wear and I’m going to do the best that I can and I’m going to have to depend heavily on them because they have been training for eight or however long, and I’ve only been doing this six months. I need to know the information that they have so that we can all be safe and that we can all reach the goal of getting team USA on the podium.

DH: Indeed. So yeah. So it sounds to me as if you approach to this, with what I call the higher purpose this was something that was bigger than yourself and you wanted to be able to contribute to that. And so we are speaking with the amazing Lauryn Williams, four-time Olympian, three-time Olympic medalist only the first American woman to win a medal in both the Summer and the Winter Olympics.  And her motto is hard work, knows no limits. And if you’ve been following us of the last 30 minutes, you would have heard how she really went from a young girl who was really a speedster, growing up to becoming this world champion. So Lauryn, let’s kind of jump ship a little bit and talk about your transition from being a professional athlete to becoming an entrepreneur and all the other things that you’re doing.  First of all, I know that education has always been important to you. Talk to me about personal development and the role that has played in your life on and off the track?

LW: Definitely. I’ve always tried to learn and grow in various aspects that as much as I could. So when I became a professional athlete, I knew that I couldn’t just set education aside. So I had already earned my finance degree but it was like, well, what happens if I fall down and break my leg? I was always thinking about what’s next for me and education being a thing that could take me anywhere whether my legs were working well or not. So, I started looking at different options to keep myself busy while I was competing because I wanted to be prepared for life after sport. and so the first thing I found was a real estate course. I enrolled in that because I figured like you said, push comes to shove, I fall down, break my leg, I don’t have to go interviewing around quite a bit, you can activate your real estate license and get selling right away. And then the next thing I did was take some sign language classes. I had always been interested in learning another language so I spent a lot of time volunteering and practicing sign language. I never became completely fluent, but it was a good hobby and it was something to keep me really busy and as you said, keep your mind working. And then I decided to enroll in a master’s degree. So I got my master’s degree in business administration, did it all online so that I can continue to travel and meet my obligations as a professional athlete but I knew that there was enough time for me to be able to do both because I had a balanced education and sport previously in college and also in high school. So I’ve always been one to try to, like you said, stay busy, keep educating myself, keep working that muscle that is my mind and trying to always hone, how to be the most well-rounded individual as possible.

DH: Yeah. It’s a great example that you have set, cause I think you’re demonstrating that we are not one dimensional there are all those different aspects, to our lives, to our personalities that we can actually invest time in and develop so that we can be, far more rounded and developing more of our potential for greatness as well. So would you say there weere lessons or what lessons did you take from the world of sports and apply them to your life as an entrepreneur?

LW: I would say the biggest one is the idea of persistence. It’s a really cliche term, but it’s, really, really important in both sport and in life. And for me, it was, in a track and field or an athletic environment showing up even after you get kicked in the face. So as an athlete, some days you have a terrible practice, that doesn’t mean you just quit. You show up to practice again the next day. Sometimes you don’t win the race like, it doesn’t mean you just go okay, I’m retired now because I didn’t win. No, a series of races and a series of losses and seconds, thirds, whatever you want to call them, different positions is what you’re going to build on in order to make it to the championship. And so it’s this idea that even when things don’t go quite as planned, you still wake up and you show up the next day and it’s so, so, so important in entrepreneurship because you’re going to be rejected by clients. You’re going to go a month without hearing from any clients at all, and you’re going to be like, gosh, like maybe I should not have started this business. you’re going to have to deal with, oh, I didn’t realize, I wanted to help people with their finances, but I also have to do compliance, I have to do marketing, I have to do admin because I’m a one-woman show and it’s just like, well this stinks you’re going to deal with the realization of like, oh, I bit off like so much more than I realized, but  is this all worth it? Yes. And then that’s where persistence kicks in you get up the next day and you figure it out.

DH: So yes, you have to keep on pushing as it were, as I like to say. So obviously what I’m hearing you say is that life as an athlete, life as an entrepreneur it’s like a roller coaster ride, almost a roller coaster moment but it’s a roller coaster ride, isn’t it?

LW: Yes, as is bobsled. And I think that’s one of the things, I think I told you it was the best six months of my life. I feel like it really summed up all the different life experiences that sports teaches you and it literally and figuratively is a rollercoaster. I kind of compare it to being like kicked off a cliff in a washing machine and that is how it is initially when you get started, but the more you learn, the more comfortable you feel and the more it becomes a fun roller coaster ride as you go.

DH: What was your first bobsled ride like and where was that?

LW: first ride down was in Lake Placid. I had Bree Schaff who is known to be like the best driver in the sport. So everyone’s like, oh, you’re riding with Bree, everything will be fine. Oh don’t worry, you got Bree she’s great. But you don’t realize like what it is to ride in a bobsled until you’ve ridden in a bobsled great driver or not a great driver. Initially, it feels like hell on wheels and you’re trusting someone else because you’re in a black hole looking down so you have no idea what’s happening. And I’m like, did we wreck, did we wreck, did we wreck? I’m not sure if we wrecked because the rider, is just like this, the whole time. Everyone’s telling you that you can wreck and Lake Placid is a really hard track and there were two wrecks before I got to go on the first day. So now I’m really terrified that I’m going to wreck and then you find out like, okay, I survived. It wasn’t quite that bad. And the more you learn is that ice conditions, things like that, take a role in how you feel and how everything plays out and then you start to feel a lot more comfortable in the sled.

DH: Yeah. I talk about teammates all the time. Let’s jump on that for a sec because, in my mind, part of the ultimate test of trust in bobsledding is to climb in a sled behind a person who like for me, the first time I went in a sled, guess what? My driver had never driven one before either, you know? but even as you’re going in a sled behind someone who everyone calls one of the best drivers ever you’re still trusting them with your life.

LW: Your actual life because it is also a dangerous sport. And that’s the thing that like the more that I got educated, the more I started to read, the more I heard about like, other people’s crashed experiences and I’m just like, why would anyone do this? Why is there a room full of people that are excited about going down a sled and possibly dying? Like we’re trying to get in a car accident it sounds like. This does not seem like what smart people do and the thing that’s really cool about bobsled too is that everybody is really smart. These are not dumb jocks. These are doctors that are getting in these sleds like these are engineers,…..

DH: Rocket scientists. Yes, I know.

LW: The people who are attracted to this sport are brilliant.

DH: There’s a missing screw somewhere, Lauryn. I’m convinced of it for sure. So amazing experience you go to the Olympics, you come back, so, talk to me about Worth Winning. What is it? How did it come about? What do you do?

LW: So I named the company Worth Winning because I think it’s really important to focus on this idea that our net worth and our self-worth are not related as one thing. And then also that there are lots of things in life that are worth winning beyond what standing on the podium means. So frequently as athletes we think of like we got to get to the championship, we got to get the gold medal, we got to you know, and even in people’s professional lives. So I work with also just regular young professionals. I work with athletes and then other people kind of in their twenties and thirties that are looking to organize their finances but everybody sets it on like this one goal and it’s like I really like to focus on this picture of like what is really worth winning to you because it’s not just one thing. You’re not going to say, I only want it to be a husband. I only want to be an Olympic gold medalist. Like there’s so many like you said, no person is one dimensional. So there are so many things in life that are worth winning and we need to be able to create a full picture with the scope of the things that are important to you as a unique individual, not just what the world is saying you need to be good at or you need to accomplish. So that’s kind of like the reason behind the name. 

And what I do is I help people organize their finances to go after whatever those things are. So for me, I have all the education all the numbers and the analytics and things like that. So these numbers and all this number crunching doesn’t matter unless we tie this to your values and the things that are important to you. So I started a company that was specific to young professionals because one, there’s no one that’s actually trying to help young professionals. They’re like, oh, you got to have $1 million before you can be a client. Oh, it’s only about investing, Oh, I’m going to charge you this ugly commission and sell you a bunch of life insurance or something. And it’s like, that’s not what our problems are. That’s not the thing that we’re dealing with as young athletes or young professionals. We’ve got student loans to be like, figure it out. We never made a budget before because no one’s ever told us. We’re looking at first time home purchase, we’re looking at how to save for a wedding and not go into a bunch of debt. As an athlete, you’re trying to figure out like, how do I deal with this fluctuating income? One year I make 100,000 the next year I make 30,000, and then I have all these expenses as it relates to being an athlete. So, I’m helping everybody sort through their unique situation as it pertains to their particular finances and it’s really rewarding work.

DH: What inspired you to start the company?

LW: It was my own personal experience. So as, like I said, a 20-year-old, I started to make over $200,000 and it was a lot of money. I didn’t have anyone in my family who had ever made or seen money like that, didn’t have any experience in organizing their finances. So I hired someone and that someone was, like I said, very investment focus and there’s nothing wrong with investing, but it’s one facet of organized finances and I think we put way too much focus on just this one thing. When you don’t have a good foundation intact, then investing is going to fall apart for you. You can’t start investing if you don’t have a budget, you can’t start investing. If you don’t have any savings, you can start investing if you haven’t figured out how all these other different things about like what your goals are and what are you even investing towards? Because now you’ve got to figure out like, what’s your risk tolerance and how risky you should be in these investments. Like there’s so many more things that you need to do before you get to the investing step and this gentleman just started right with the investing step and it led to me making a lot of mistakes along the way and he was not invested in answering my questions about the other things that I needed to know. Like I said, I had never made a budget. I didn’t know what it was like. I had lived off 1000 bucks a month and now I’m making $200,000 a year. Like I need help understanding like, what’s my new budget? Can I move out from living with my college roommate? If I can move out, can I move into a nicer apartment or can I buy a house? Well, if I buy a house, like what’s the process for that? I’m 20, I’ve never done that before. You’re looking for guidance in those things and really understanding the process and making sure that you’re not being taken advantage of. And I thought that’s what a financial advisor was supposed to do, but that’s not what my financial advisor did and so that’s what I am to my clients. It’s like any financial question you have, let’s have a discussion about it. Let’s sort through the details of like how to best take the approach to get to wherever you’re trying to go.

DH: But it also sounds like, as I’m listening to your approach to how you work with your clients, it almost sounds like a track coach, a sports coach working with an athlete, building the different levels building the foundation and then building on that to get to the different levels. Right? You can’t become Olympic champion until you’re kind of like the fastest girl in your neighborhood ,fastest girl in your school, et cetera, et cetera so that’s pretty amazing. I kind of chuckled to myself. I watched a video where you spoke about the fact that you’re not comfortable speaking in front of a room, Right? And I’m thinking, wow, someone was such a natural, effusive personality, articulate, who competes in front of hundreds of thousands of people, is, a little bit nervous about speaking in a room in front of 50 people, but you’re a motivational speaker and I think there’s a huge lesson there as well because as we talk about growing, we talk about, pushing ourselves to be our best selves, living our best lives all of us have this responsibility to push ourselves out of our comfort zone to do these things that are going to help us grow and be able to offer more value to the world. Speak on that a little bit.

LW: Yeah, I think it’s really important like you said, to continue to get outside of your comfort zone. And what’s funny because the call that I had right before this one was with my mastermind group and the topic today was marketing and it came up about like me being able to do these speaking engagements and how it’s been 10 years, over 10 years actually, probably closer to 15 years that I’ve had speaking opportunities, so you would think I’d be an expert at it and I still get a good amount of speaking engagements and I still don’t feel any more comfortable 10 to 15 years later. It is just not an area that… Some people get up there and they just, they shine and tons of personality and every single time I still freak out. And every single time, like you can get me one day and I’m just like, gosh, I totally bombed that and you get me the next day. And it’s like, wow, I blew it out of the park. There’s no real consistency. Like it’s just not something that’s naturally in me despite the fact that I have a lot of passion around sharing with others because I know sharing is a way to connect with others and make them feel like they’re not alone. I’ve been in front of other people speaking and felt so connected to them from them sharing with a big audience I felt like they were talking exactly to me and so I know the value of it. I’ve had people reach out to me and tell me how I’ve changed their life by simply sharing my story. And so it makes me continue to do it despite the fact that it’s not comfortable for me at all because I know it’s important. So you’re right, it is important always to continue to get out of that comfort zone. And even if you’ve been out of the comfort zone for a while and you still feel uncomfortable not to give up on it because here I am, 15 years later, still doing quite a bit of professional speaking.

DH:  That’s awesome. I tell people all the time, if things are too good if you are too comfortable, you’re robbing yourself of being awesome. And so you’re willing to face the fire so that you can be awesome and valuable, so that’s awesome. You have been going to work in the Oval Office for a really long time, haven’t you? So talk to us about the Oval Office, the book. Talk to us about the Oval Office the experience, I know we have gone through some of that and the book and what inspired you to write the Oval Office.

LW: Yeah. I really love the title everyone was like, where did you come up with that? And I’m like, I did it all by myself, thank you, thank you. But that’s our work place as professional athletes. You know, our track is shaped like an oval. It’s the office that we show up to each and every day and, I’m very, very passionate about athletes carrying themselves as professionals. And so that is your office it’s, your work environment and how can you be the best professional, not just the best athlete, because I think we focus a lot on the athlete part of it, but not enough on the professionalism. So in my book, I talk about things like branding, and it’s something that, with social media nowadays, the younger professional athletes are very used to saying whatever they feel on social media and they don’t realize how damaging it can be to them being able to earn an income, by shooting off at the mouth about what their sponsor didn’t do or talking about their sexual escapades the night before. 

And there’s no one telling them and a lot of people are shaking their head and judging and, but you can’t just look at them and say they’re not doing a good job. You need to be offering a solution. And so this book for me was a solution to the problems that I’m seeing as it pertains to professionalism in sports across the board, but I knew that I was better versed to be able to speak specifically about track and field. So I talk about how to get an agent. What questions to ask? Realize that you’re hiring someone despite you being new to the sport, the agent maybe be twice your age…..that’s not your parent, that is someone that you are employing to do a job for you and you need to handle them as if they’re an employee. Coaching, same sort of thing, traveling to Europe, how to be effective, how to look after yourself, how to handle jet lag, all these little things that go into being a professional athlete, I tried to cover in that book so that athletes have a guide because we don’t have anything that tells us what we need to do, as professional athletes to govern ourselves accordingly and make the most of our career.

DH: Yeah, that’s really important information, I think because as athletes, I think all of us have this tendency to think that our job is just between the lines, so to speak. We need to focus on our workout, on our nutrition, on our rest, et cetera, to be the best we can be but it’s all-encompassing. And that’s kind of one of the thread that I think has run through our conversation, today, Lauryn it’s not just the workout, but it’s the workup as well in terms of your mind. The mind piece and the muscle piece and it’s also as you transition, let’s say from high school to pro or college to pro, then figuring out how you’re going to run this as a business because it is a business.

LW:  Exactly. You are in fact, a business, the professional comes before the word athlete and you need to govern yourself as a professional.

DH: It’s kind of interesting as you said that because I think as athletes as we go through life and these different stages, we have, these… It’s all just hyphenated, isn’t it? First it was student-athlete and the athlete is always there and its an important part, but you really need to focus on finding real balance with the student part of it because that sets you up to become a better, a more effective professional athlete because the athlete part is always there but if you don’t have the mind power, the brain power then the professional piece suffers tremendously. So, tell us where can we find you Lauryn? Where can we find the book, Oval Office? Where can we learn about Worth Winning and where can we find you? If we want to watch you stand in front of the room and well, as you pretend to be calm, cool and collected.

LW: If you are looking for Lauryn Williams, the Olympian, all things track and field, bobsled, sports, then you can go to If you’re looking for the book, you can find it at So everything has dashes in it. I don’t know why my domains are so in high demand, but I’ve been able to go ahead and create a cool brand via the dashes. And then if you’re looking for financial help, you want help organizing your finances, you want to work one on one with me, then it’s worth-winning. com. So financial Worth Winning, Lauryn Williams, the company or the Oval Office, the book, whichever you need and I mean, they all kind of work together. So if you find me on one, you’ll find me on the other social media, the same. You can look for me under any of those three things and you’ll find me.

DH: Awesome. Awesome. It’s been awesome. I think life is worth winning and part of why I do this podcast challenge and encourage people to keep on pushing is so that they can win and they can realize that they are, they’re worth winning. So thank you so much, Lauryn, for coming and sharing your experiences, sharing your pearls of wisdom. I love it. The message that you have to put the work in, in order to achieve the end and especially for young athletes I want to kind of focus on that a little bit, you have to put the work in, in the classroom, not only in the gym if you hope to become an effective, professional athlete, you start as a student-athlete, you become a professional athlete down the road but the same message I think applies whether you want to be a salesperson or a doctor or a nurse or whatever it is. It’s the same kind of principle, same kind of effort, the same kind of mindset as you mentioned that is required to take you to the very top. You’ve been awesome. You’ve been an awesome example for all of us to follow Lauryn and you definitely embody the keep on pushing philosophy. Thank you so much for tuning in and appearing on Keep on Pushing.

LW: Thank you for having me. Each and every one of you. Don’t stop. Keep on pushing.

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