Breeja Larson is an American competition swimmer who specializes in the breaststroke, and is also an Olympic gold medalist. She earned a gold medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She is born and raised in Mesa, Arizona where she went on to attend Texas A&M University acquiring a bachelor’s in psychology and a Master in Sports Management. A few of her accomplishments other than being the 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist include the 2013 World Champion, 3X NCAA Champion and 9X American Record Holder. She is currently offering her “Creating Your Own Olympian Mindset” seminar and can be reached at Breejalarson@gmail.com and has recently joined and is starting her new career with Launch Real Estate.
EPISODE #42 The Making of an Olympic Gold Medalist
Aired March 23, 2021 with Breeja Larson
[00:00:09] Larry Olsen: Welcome. I'm Larry Olsen. What's on your mind? Once set, it delivers your life. To change the outcomes we want, we must change the plays we're running. Join us at MindSet Playbook with real people, real talk for real insight. Today's episode is sponsored by a Aperneo and achievement acceleration company whose approach to professional development enables clients to gain insights and perspectives to live, work and engage with more success. Welcome to MindSet Playbook, and I'm looking forward to finding out as much as I can from our next guest today because she models a great work ethic and what I'm all about, and that's the important of vision and what having one can do for you or your organization.
My guest today is Breeja Larson. She is an American competition swimmer who specializes in the breaststroke. Oh, by the way, she's also an Olympic gold medalist. She earned a gold medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She's born and raised in Mesa, Arizona, where she went on to attend Texas A&M University acquiring a bachelor's in psychology, so I better make sure I'm accurate on my psych, and a master's in sports management. Just to name a few of her accomplishments other than being the 2012 Olympic gold medalist include the 2013 world champion, three-time NCAA champion and nine time American record holder.
She just stated that her fastest time-- because you qualified for the Olympics at 106.78. If you read up on her and listened to that, her big quest was to break 107, and now she's done 105.9. We're going to find out more about that as well. Welcome Breeja to MindSet Playbook Podcast. With your illustrious career in swimming and all the experiences you've had as well as victories you've accomplished, what would you say is the single most shaping moment for you in defining who Breeja Larson really is and why?
[00:02:33] Breeja Larson: It's such a great question, Larry, and I think there is a two-part answer. That at the beginning of my career, there was a lot of ignorant confidence, which I think is a very big benefit for a lot of young up and comings.
[00:02:44] Larry: Ignorant confidence?
[00:02:45] Breeja: Ignorant confidence.
[00:02:46] Larry: What do you mean by that?
[00:02:48] Breeja: I feel like younger athletes or just younger children in general have so much confidence going into a goal and because they don't know failure. I started swimming at such a late age competitively. I didn't really know a lot of the failure, and I just kept improving at a high rate. There was no reason to not keep improving.
[00:03:08] Larry: Got you. What was considered a late age?
[00:03:12] Breeja: I started swimming club around 17.
[00:03:14] Larry: 17, and others had started when?
[00:03:17] Breeja: Probably six.
[00:03:18] Larry: Six. Holy smokes.
[00:03:21] Breeja: Going into Texas A&M, it was pretty rough. I had been swimming year round for about a year. I had a couple of moments that really drove me down. The first two months into school, there was a moment of eating my oatmeal where I just completely crumbled. I call it the oatmeal stories while back on the bed. [chuckles] I was so excited going into Texas A&M. When I got there, I was much slower than the rest during practice because my aerobic capacity wasn't quite as high, having 10 years less experience. When I got to the point realizing that I wasn't going to be as fast in practice, there were multiple times where my coach would have me stop the set that I was in and finish it after practice by myself in the diving well. It was very embarrassing [chuckles] every single time.
[00:04:14] Larry: Oh, boy.
[00:04:14] Breeja: There was one morning where I remember riding my bike to the cafeteria and sitting down and trying to eat a big bowl of oatmeal, and I tried to take my first bite, and I started choking on my food. I was so tired that I couldn't actually eat.
[00:04:28] Larry: You couldn't even swallow?
[00:04:29] Breeja: I couldn't even swallow.
[00:04:30] Larry: Oh, for heaven's sakes.
[00:04:31] Breeja: I went back to my dorm room and tried to take a nap, but my muscles were twitching so hard from recovery that I couldn't sleep. I remember texting my mom this overly dramatic text message that just said, "Mother, today, you might have seven daughters, but tomorrow you're going to have six because I'm going to drown. I'm going to die or sink down to the bottom of the diving well. No, one's going to notice, and I'll never come out again." I just explained how I wanted to quit. I wanted to be done. It was too hard.
[00:05:04] Larry: What were you feeling? What was the emotion you were experiencing during that dark period?
[00:05:12] Breeja: Just complete defeat. I had this imposter syndrome. I didn't realize at the point how much work it actually took to get to the collegiate level, and I didn't have that experience. There were rumors going around the team that I was going to quit, that I was going to transfer, and it didn't really help my morale. After sending my mom this overdramatic message, she sent back the most simple phrase and she just said, "Breeja this is what it feels like to be a champion. How tired you feel, how hard you're working, that's what champions do."
I just took that to heart and wanted to earn that pain. If I knew was working so hard that I could hardly eat my food or even fall asleep, then I knew I was getting better, and that was a big shift in my dedication towards my goal of, one, just trying to survive, but still having that inner dream of maybe making the Olympic team someday.
[00:06:13] Larry: Got you. What would a day workout be like?
[00:06:19] Breeja: We woke up around 5:00 AM, and we had practice from 6:00 to 8:00 AM in the water, and then we did about an hour and a half of weight training. Then we had a couple hours of school. We came back for another two-hour practice in the water. Then typically we do 30 minutes of cardio on our own afterwards. It'd be between four and a half to six hours a day of exercise. [chuckles]
[00:06:43] Larry: Are you just swimming all out during that practice? What are you doing?
[00:06:47] Breeja: It depends. We had multiple different types. We would have an aerobic session where we were swimming on end constantly, maybe 10 seconds break a couple of times throughout, and then we would have sprint practices where it was more high intensity and more rest.
[00:07:02] Larry: Wow. How'd you do in your first event?
[00:07:08] Breeja: Which one?
[00:07:10] Larry: When you got out of that experience where your mom tells you that that's what champions feel like.
[00:07:16] Breeja: That's actually a really good story too. Before our first inters quad meet with another team, we had to fill out a goal sheet. In high school, since I had started so late, I dropped to second about every single competition, my senior year of high school.
[00:07:33] Larry: Full second. [chuckles]
[00:07:34] Breeja: I started out pretty slow.
[00:07:37] Larry: For those that don't understand what a full second means, your career can be over in a hundredth of a second. That's a lifetime a full second.
[00:07:48] Breeja: A full second can almost be an entire body length. Think about it in the visual view. It was interesting because we wrote down our best time and then what we would want to swim. Just like in high school, I said, I wanted to go a second faster in each event. My college coach, I found this out later that he called my club coach and said, "You've got to talk to her. She's going to hurt herself mentally if she thinks that she's going to go these times. My high school coach just responded, "If she says she's going to do it, she's probably going to do it. I went back to that same goal sheet a couple of years later looking at it. I went exactly those times that I had written down I wanted to go, exactly those times to the 10th. It was pretty amazing seeing that.
[00:08:34] Larry: What can you tell us about the importance of specificity in goals?
[00:08:43] Breeja: I think there's a combination between affirmation and manifestation when you're looking at it. One of the reasons why that ignorant confidence was really working is because there were no doubts. I was always told that if I put my mind to it, I could do it. In that moment of time, I was still very green in the sport and had a lot of room to improve, and so it was really easy to try and get there. I think that the biggest challenge a lot of us have is giving ourselves permission to be the best. It's a very scary concept when you look at it.
Because if you enter whatever situation, you're in, whether it be the office that you're in going into a new business, you're going to see the big giants of the field and be quite intimidated. If you look at the path in front of you, and you see how those giants got to where they were and follow that path specifically and give yourself permission every day to do what it takes to get there, you're going to be much more successful.
[00:09:43] Larry: Wow. This whole affirmation versus manifestation, as I would understand that, and then correct me here, please, an affirmation is I believe a statement of a fact or belief that's accepted literally by the subconscious if there's not a sponsoring thought, which would be, "Yes, but what if I don't?" That's the doubt that you were talking about you never experienced. Then the manifestation is the reality that, "Yes, indeed, the clock says that I made that time." Is that how you understand it?
[00:10:26] Breeja: Yes.
[00:10:27] Larry: A lot of people have doubt and they have hesitation. What do you think was special or unique about you? Because I would have to think you would have to believe that. Because what are the chances of people going to the Olympics and winning a gold medal, let alone just going to the Olympics? It's probably easier to win the lottery.
[00:10:53] Breeja: They actually told us that when we first made the team.
[00:10:57] Larry: Did they?
[00:10:57] Breeja: Yes. "You have a better chance of winning a lottery than making the Olympic team as a rookie." That was what the big thing.
[00:11:03] Larry: Yes. [whistles] It's got to be multimillions to one that you're going to make it. Anyway. Then I want to hear so much more but share with us how you deal with doubt or how you deal with any kind of what if.
[00:11:24] Breeja: The first step is recognizing that you're thinking that. I think being very introspective is one of the best things you can do. I feel that if you were to write down in your most vulnerable and emotional moment of exactly what you're thinking, and again, I think that is a lot of bravery because we can be quite mean to ourselves, we can be very self-deprecating. If you were to write down the full honest thought of what you're thinking, then it's a little bit more shocking to understand what you are actually doing to yourself. Let's say going into a competition, I am afraid of not going the best time because I'm going to disappoint many of children's parents who came to see your world-class performance.
That might be an underlying thought. If I were write that down and come back to it maybe an hour later when I'm more level-minded and realize how ridiculous that is, that I'm not swimming for the random people in the crowd who might want their children to be inspired, but I'm swimming for the competition and the love of the sport. It really takes just a lot of self-discovery and trying to really understand what your goals are, what you're trying to go for, and the thought process you have behind it. If you were to be more vulnerable and honest with yourself, it makes it a lot easier to try and refocus and train your brain into the direction you want it to go.
Because we all want to be successful, we all want to be the big giant in the field, it's just really trying to train the mental muscles that you have, and be accountable for it. I think that's the most difficult part is if you were to go to the gym every day and lift the weights in a productive way, everyone else can see the physical results, and you might get complimented for it, and you might even have the accountability buddy who goes with you. When it comes to your mentality, no one can see what you're doing, no one can see the progress and how mentally in shape you are towards increasing your confidence or your motivation or what not.
[00:13:25] Larry: Yes. That being said, which was wonderful to hear articulated, you shared that so well.
[00:13:34] Breeja: Thank you.
[00:13:34] Larry: Very easily understood. You also mentioned something earlier about the fraud mentality. Was that the term you used?
[00:13:46] Breeja: Yes, the imposter syndrome.
[00:13:47] Larry: The imposter syndrome. My understanding that is, if people really knew what I'm thinking or who I am, I wouldn't have any of this going on or accolades, and everything would just tumble down. That is something that I'm sure you're aware of with your psychological background is probably very well understood by 95% of the people that are existing on this planet. Yet, to overcome that requires process, steps, and in hindsight, when you look at how you overcame it, can you share that with us?
[00:14:33] Breeja: I think I can walk to it in such a simple approach really. I think that mostly is contributed to not having many failures in the sport at that time. I didn't have a whole childhood full of disappointments in swimming. I just started swimming and went with it.
[00:14:49] Larry: You must've had some natural talent.
[00:14:51] Breeja: That is a big factor. I do have the genetic side, and that is important especially when it comes to sports. Of course, there's always the hard work beats talent and talent doesn't work hard, but it definitely helps to have the talent.
[00:15:04] Larry: Are there a lot of Olympic breaststroke winners that were 5'5"?
[00:15:09] Breeja: There are actually.
[00:15:09] Larry: Are there?
[00:15:10] Breeja: There are, yes.
[00:15:11] Larry: Oh, for heaven's sake.
[00:15:12] Breeja: I like to tell the younger athletes that there are giants and there are technicians, and it's very scary to go up to a giant, but that you've seen many technicians who are a foot and half shorter that are able to beat the giants.
[00:15:23] Larry: I'll be darned.
[00:15:24] Breeja: It will take goals to become a giant technician. [laughs]
[00:15:25] Larry: There you go. All right. Back to the imposter syndrome. You said it was a very simple approach.
[00:15:32] Breeja: Yes. Going back in time I remember seeing the Olympics when I was about four years old and watching the gymnasts. I was so enthralled with how beautiful and powerful and strong they were, and I just remembered thinking they're a little like me. If they can do it, I can do it. I always had that mentality of, "Why not me. I can do it too," and just going full force at it. I still have that every now and then when you meet that you might be star-struck by. When you make the Olympic team, you get to meet so many incredible people. When you shake their hand, there's always a moment in my mind that's shocked thinking, "Oh my Gosh, they're real. They are made of flesh and bones just like me."
They might have oatmeal in the morning and peanut butter and jelly at lunch when they're running late. You just look at that person who's so successful and try to imagine how he got there. What is their mindset? Really, they're just human. They might have a couple more resources, and they might have worked harder in certain areas of their field, but if they can do it, why can't I do it. Because each individual person who's so successful is just one person. It might be a little bit more difficult for some because we're not all given the same great opportunities, but I think we all are given an opportunity to be great. If you can find-
[00:16:55] Larry: Oh, very nice.
[00:16:55] Breeja: -that opportunity you can make some really incredible stuff happen.
[00:16:59] Larry: Outstanding. How has this tremendous discipline that is absolutely required to be successful in anything, how does that still play in your life? Now, are you going to be participating, working towards the Tokyo Olympics?
[00:17:19] Breeja: I'm actually not.
[00:17:20] Larry: You're not.
[00:17:21] Breeja: I'm not, no.
[00:17:22] Larry: Were you at one time thinking about it?
[00:17:24] Breeja: About a month ago, I was.
[00:17:25] Larry: Oh, for heaven's sakes.
[00:17:26] Breeja: Yes. I'm transitioning out now. Most of that is the lack of resources right now. I still think it's up in the air whether or not it's going to happen-
[00:17:37] Larry: Anyway.
[00:17:37] Breeja: -anyways. I'm 28 right now. Being at this stage, I do need to transition at some point into the business sector. I spoke with a lot of different coaches I really admire. The big question was, "What are you going to gain from going to another Olympics? What are you going to gain?" Of course, the experience and the pride of representing your country. Looking at everything that it takes to get there, I could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on massage and diet and all the resources and go a world record in prelims. Then beat that world record in semi-finals, go faster in finals, but still get third place by a hundredth of a second, and I'm not going.
That's the risk that so many athletes have to face, and that's happened multiple times at Olympic trials where the top three placements beat the current world record, but their place doesn't get to go.
[00:18:35] Larry: Wasn't it Phelps' timing that beat the--
[00:18:40] Breeja: Yes. He's gotten a couple of races off of not clipping his fingernails for sure.
[00:18:46] Larry: Yes, any edge.
[00:18:47] Breeja: I don't think that it's the fear of not going, but of more of the quality of life that I'd have to go through in order to keep training. I've been professional.
[00:18:59] Larry: You've married now, aren't you?
[00:19:02] Breeja: No.
[00:19:02] Larry: No, you're not. You're engaged.
[00:19:04] Breeja: I was in the past, but I've been with Tomas Abrate for about three years now.
[00:19:08] Larry: I apologize.
[00:19:10] Breeja: No worries. [laughs]
[00:19:11] Larry: I misunderstood some information I received. Yet, your life has changed, your responsibilities have changed. Sounds like the key question was, what are you going to gain from this? At what cost?
[00:19:26] Breeja: The Aquatic achievement of course is incredible. Four years later, I really don't think it makes much of a difference if I were to tell a stranger if I'm a one-time Olympian or a two-time Olympian. Because if I'm a one-time Olympian, they would never say, "Why aren't you a two? Why don't you have more gold medals?" They will never say that. Within the swimming world, it's very difficult not to compare yourself. Outside of it, you can still realize what an accomplishment it is. Another really great defining moment was in 2016, I felt this immense pressure to continue to perform the same and went into a very dark psychological hole.
I think that's when I really noticed how incredible that your mentality affects your performance in all aspects. I got fourth place in my main event of 100 breaststroke. I remember just feeling completely distraught that I lost my identity, that I was no longer worth anything. I went up into the stands, and I remember watching one of the events. I just looked at the pool deck and thought it was silly, that it was just a hole in the ground filled with water, and these swimmers hopped on the starting blocks, and moved their arms and legs as fast as they could from point A to point B, and that determined their worth. It was so simple to me.
Of course, it's much more than that, it's the admiration behind how much work they put in. I decided right then and there that is not my identity. I think it's so important, especially when you're so focused on one goal that you have to be able to diversify your personal worth and value. You are not just an accountant, you are not just a car salesman, you are not just a lawyer, you are not just a professional athlete, there is so much more to you. The more steak and personal worth you put into one goal, the more intimidating it is if you were to fail.
I think to create a more balanced mentality, you have to start understanding your worth outside of that one goal. That's when I really started to get more into mental training and started mentoring a lot of younger athletes, and trying to help them relieve that pressure. You have to balance your mindset and your expectations in your brain in order to be relaxed enough to perform well.
[00:21:53] Larry: Got you. How do you do that? How do you not make that goal everything and still not lose your edge?
[00:22:04] Breeja: It's a very good question. I think it takes a lot of practice. I honestly see the brain as just a bunch of different mental muscles. If you were to look at the physical muscles of an athlete in general, if they are overcompensating, one particular muscle group is going to affect the others in a negative way, and you have to be able to balance it out. I think that comes a lot with journaling. When you start to have overwhelming pressures, again, writing it down, when you're at your most vulnerable moment to understand what mental chatter, you're having in your head. Then you have to be able to look at it subjectively. It always helps, of course, to have--
[00:22:41] Larry: Subjectively or objectively?
[00:22:42] Breeja: Objectively.
[00:22:43] Larry: Objectively.
[00:22:44] Breeja: Thank you. [laughs]
[00:22:44] Larry: That's okay. That's all right.
[00:22:45] Breeja: Looking at it objectively- [chuckles]
[00:22:46] Larry: That's what you mean.
[00:22:46] Breeja: -and trying to understand where you need to shift some stuff. It's heartbreaking when you see athletes crumble at the pinnacle of their career. You've seen it time and time again, especially at the Olympic Games. It's always the newbies that do an incredible job because they have nothing to lose, there's no expectation-
[00:23:10] Larry: There you go.
[00:23:10] Breeja: -and pressure. Then maybe then the next Olympics, they come around, the pressure just builds because they have all these expectations, and so it takes a lot of mental work. I think especially as an athlete or anyone trying to perform their own metaphorical gold medal performance, wherever it may be, that you have to understand where you need to relax the expectation and be able to move forward to create that special performance.
[00:23:38] Larry: Got you. Some things in life, are easier said than done. When one journals, and journals in the sense of instead of what was great that happened today and get into that dark thinking because it does take the edge off, it does keep us from performing at our best, and then we end up hedging our bet, which is what I was getting out of that question. It's not a world record, we're going after, "I just need to qualify." We don't swim as fast, or we don't show up earlier to work or whatever the case may be. It's so subjective when you write down that darkness, that fear. How do you bring objectivity into it? Because it's the same brain that's now having to make this shift from-- There's got to be some basic underlying belief that you are worthy for that to work. Is it more than that?
[00:24:55] Breeja: To me, it's rather simple, but also, it's practice.
[00:25:00] Larry: Practice.
[00:25:02] Breeja: It's trying to understand the continuous conscious of thought that you may be having, and then changing up the vocabulary in your head. That is the biggest part of it. Again, I love using the younger athletes as an example because we can all relate to that childhood mindset that we've all been through. If there's a child going out to a competition and saying, "If I don't swim this time, I'm not going to qualify for this." That is the same thing as saying, "If I swim this time, I have the opportunity to go to this competition." It's saying the exact same thing, but one of them is going to hope and one of them is going to hurt.
Maybe going into a big presentation that you may have at work, going into your presentation thinking, "If I don't nail this, I'm going to get fired. If I nail this, I'm going to have incredible opportunities. When I nail this, I'm going to have incredible opportunities." It's saying the same thing, but again, it's just trying to change the vocabulary in your head.
[00:26:15] Larry: It changes your energy too.
[00:26:16] Breeja: It does, absolutely. I think that negative thoughts are very sweet for us to have, it's like a sugar addiction. Now, it's very easy, and it's almost comforting. I think there's something strangely nostalgic.
[00:26:32] Larry: Yes, because we don't have to succeed.
[00:26:33] Breeja: No, it's very easy to fail, it's easier. I think your brain always wants to take the easier choice because it's not as much work.
[00:26:40] Larry: It brings out our routine. It's trying to make things, like you said, I take a simpler approach. It is. We want it to be something that we can understand. We got to scenario now that, "If I don't do well at this presentation, I'm not going to get the promotion. I'm not going to be well thought of by my peers. If I do the presentation well, then this can happen, and that can happen." Now, the presentation sucks, but they're looking at it from the right perspective. Now, where do they go with that information?
[00:27:19] Breeja: With that information.
[00:27:20] Larry: With the fact that they failed?
[00:27:22] Breeja: Just with the fact that they have failed?
[00:27:24] Larry: It was a terrible presentation.
[00:27:25] Breeja: Oh, it was a terrible presentation.
[00:27:27] Larry: They said, "If I do well at this, then this will happen."
[00:27:31] Breeja: With that, again, it takes a lot of bravery to be able to look at the performance and see what you can improve for next time, and it takes a lot of a positive mindset to continue that. Again, I think being positive and being happy takes a lot of energy. You have to exercise that mental muscle within itself. If I ever go into a competition, and I have a terrible, terrible swim, the first thing, I go up to my coach and say, "What do I need to do to fix it?" I say the exact same thing if I go record, "What do I need to do to go faster?"
[00:28:09] Larry: Now, what you've done is you've brought in a coach.
[00:28:13] Breeja: I think having some type-
[00:28:14] Larry: How important is that?
[00:28:14] Breeja: -of mentor is a very positive asset to anyone. Whether that be an employer or just a trusted loved one.
[00:28:24] Larry: "I feel bad when I ask for help," that's a lot of what people think. "Then they won't think I'm as strong or that I'm not as worthy." What would you suggest for those people that are unwilling to get mentored?
[00:28:38] Breeja: I think vulnerability shows strength because it's not easy to be vulnerable.
[00:28:43] Larry: Amen.
[00:28:44] Breeja: If you are intimidated about finding a mentor within your immediate field, why not search outside that field to get a different perspective? I think that having a direct line and pathway to the goal that you want is very important. If you don't have that, look through LinkedIn, it's an open resource for so many people. It doesn't hurt to ask. Finding someone in the field who's done really well, sending them a very flattering message explaining what your goals and aspirations are and your admiration for their work, and seeing if they can give you five minutes of their time to sit down and give you some pointers.
There are so many resources out there looking through YouTube, looking through LinkedIn, looking through all the different social media sources to try and piece together and map out a way to go. Again, still being able to look objectively at your own performance and trying to brainstorm a way into making it better.
[00:29:43] Larry: You probably feel the same way, but I am always flattered when someone reaches out--
[00:29:49] Breeja: Oh, very.
[00:29:49] Larry: -and wants a little advice.
[00:29:50] Breeja: It takes a special way. If I were to reach out to you, saying, "Hi, Larry, can I get an autograph? Thanks. Here's my address." You might not respond, but if I say, "I've listened to all your podcasts, and I'm just so intrigued by the types of questions that you give and the people that you bring in. I'm very, very interested in going to the same fields. Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" How much more willing are you to give your time freely to someone giving back to your profession?
[00:30:19] Larry: Absolutely. Great. Very nice. Very well done. You shared with us that if I do have this positive mindset, and you and I know it's much more than that, and it is a lot of work because there's more bad news out there than there is good news. That's why who you mentor with is so important. Because they can add to the shame.
[00:30:46] Breeja: The [crosstalk]
[00:30:47] Larry: Oh, that I know why you feel so bad. That absolutely sucked. "What do you think I should do? I don't think there's a prayer in hell." Again, that's not helpful. What you said is when you do not get the result you wanted, that's the learning opportunity. You look at it like an opportunity, right?
[00:31:07] Breeja: Absolutely. If you were to always succeed, there's not a lot of room for growth. If everyone is always giving you the compliments of whatnot, you might not be able to see where you can actually improve. Sometimes the big epic failures per se bring a lot of eureka moments. Being able to really analyze and dig in a lot deeper of what you could actually fix.
[00:31:34] Larry: Got you. You have transitioned now. You still got this great deal going on, and I want everybody to be aware of this, and I would imagine it's amazing. Brianna's putting on a program, a workshop called how to create an Olympian mindset. Just based on some of the things she shared here from my over 40 years of experience in the brain and psychology of high performance, she has given you some nuggets, some golden nuggets about how to keep the process simple and yet, the tremendous appreciation respect one must have for their own brain and recognize it's not the brain's fault, it's how the brain has been conditioned.
Being able to journal is to allow you to see the shortcomings in the statements that you're trying to condition yourself to. What has been your transition now? Where do you find yourself getting involved in as far as making a living when you're not doing this or doing keynotes and whatnot? Have you transitioned in anything?
[00:32:51] Breeja: Yes. I have gotten my real estate license. I hung my license out at an incredible firm called Launch Real Estate. I was actually in Budapest at one of my last international [unintelligible 00:33:03] competitions, and we were in this bubble for about six weeks and bored out of our minds. I've always been interested in real estate, so I decided to get my license while I was there. It's just gone off. I absolutely love it. It's a very fun learning curve. From the different agents I've spoken to, I'm able to tie in everything I've been doing into that. That the real estate agent is the almost emotional consultant trying to help you through the process and being able to listen to the worries. I think that the psychology training that I've learned from will also go into that field very well.
[00:33:44] Larry: Yes, I can imagine. I can imagine. How long have you been into it now?
[00:33:50] Breeja: Just about a month or so. I'm with a fantastic group that has over 15 years of experience within the market. They've been some phenomenal mentors going into this new journey.
[00:34:00] Larry: Just David Newcomb, for instance, is just a wonderful human being to begin with.
[00:34:08] Breeja: Yes. He's phenomenal.
[00:34:10] Larry: Isn't he? He's just amazing. That's exciting. That's exciting. Because it is a traumatic experience, typically the most expensive investment anybody's made.
[00:34:24] Breeja: It is. It's very intimidating.
[00:34:25] Larry: With the market's so hot right now, generally, your offer on what they're asking is not going to do it.
[00:34:32] Breeja: Yes. They're usually going about almost 20% over asking price right now, which is pretty hefty.
[00:34:38] Larry: Yes, absolutely. With low interest rates, it's definitely a sellers market. I think one of the things that I find so important is discipline. Not discipline over your children or over your spouse or over another but discipline of yourself. You are now-- you're not competing. You've decided not to go on to the Olympics. What disciplines do you still bring to your life that have been your anchor?
[00:35:20] Breeja: There are three different sections I think that you need to section off to continue to be very productive. One is nutrition, the other is recovery, and the next is work. I still treat my daily routine as an Olympic athlete. Your nutrition helps you stay productive. What kind of foods are you eating? How much water are you drinking to feel revitalized every day? The recovery of being able to get enough high-quality hygienic sleep. By hygienic, I mean making sure the room is dark enough. Do you have any animals in the room? Are you comfortable? Are your sheets clean?
Just having high quality sleep at night. Then when it comes to the work that goes both physical and mental. Constantly making sure and having check-ins with your brain to make sure you're staying positive, that you are continued to have that motivation and drive and confidence of what you're doing and why you're making your decisions, and then blocking out times throughout your day to stay on task and completely engaged in one task at a time. Multitasking isn't always as effective as we think.
[00:36:26] Larry: It's the recipe for overwhelm-ness.
[00:36:29] Breeja: It is. Absolutely.
[00:36:31] Larry: Then people get paralyzed.
[00:36:33] Breeja: Absolutely. I think just sectioning out your day like an Olympic athlete would, helps you stay very productive.
[00:36:42] Larry: Wow. That's very good advice. You're not getting up at 5:30 anymore or are you?
[00:36:47] Breeja: I'm getting up around 6:00 [crosstalk]
[00:36:49] Larry: 6:00. Then what do you do?
[00:36:51] Breeja: I've got to take care of the puppies.
[00:36:52] Larry: You've got some puppies?
[00:36:53] Breeja: We've got some puppies. [chuckles]
[00:36:54] Larry: What kind of dogs do you have?
[00:36:55] Breeja: I have an Australian Shepherd and a German Shorthaired Pointer. They're very hyperactive. We take care of them in the morning, make sure they're fed, watered and gone to the bathroom. Make sure I have a very healthy breakfast. I think breakfast just sets my day off right. Making sure that I have everything I need, and then sitting down having some journal time, maybe a 1-to-10-minute meditation, and then getting into the emails.
[00:37:22] Larry: If you don't mind, tell us a little bit about how you meditate.
[00:37:26] Breeja: I've done it a couple of different ways. I really like using the app Headspace. I think it's fantastic. If I want someone else to guide through it, that's really great. Other times-
[00:37:38] Larry: I'm sorry. I moved my mic and missed what you said. You do what?
[00:37:41] Breeja: Headspace.
[00:37:42] Larry: Headspace?
[00:37:42] Breeja: Yes. Just an app on the phone. It's got a lot of different kinds of leading different meditations. If you're stressed or worried or have trouble falling asleep or whatnot, but other than that--
[00:37:54] Larry: You pick a topic for what you want to be meditated on?
[00:37:57] Breeja: Yes.
[00:37:57] Larry: Are there statements in it or is it just music?
[00:38:01] Breeja: Both. They have so many options. Other times, I do find it a rather fun mental game to see how long I can go without allowing anything to creep into my mind.
[00:38:13] Larry: When something enters, what do you do?
[00:38:16] Breeja: I think you have to be gentle with yourself and just flick it away. I know a lot of people are hard on themselves. They can't empty their mind. Stop being hard on yourself. [chuckles]
[00:38:28] Larry: You brought that up earlier. I'm sorry I didn't spend more time on that, but I will now. Why do you think it's important for us, if we think about it, when we get down on ourself, nobody can be as tough on ourselves as we can. There's an old statement. If a friend treated you, talked to you the way that you talked to you sometime, would they still be a friend? What do you mean by being gentle with yourself?
[00:39:01] Breeja: Again, with the phrase that you said, if you were to plan out a day for a loved one, what would it look like? If a loved one were to plan out your day, what would it look like? If you had someone looking in and reading your thoughts, how would they help correct it? I almost want to go back to the sugar example. I feel like going into a self-deprecating mode is slightly nostalgic in a way because it's very easy to be sad. It's very easy to crawl up and not want to do anything. From there, I think it's important to give yourself some tough love to stand up for yourself and say, "We're not going to do that today. We're not going to think that today. We're going to go into more positive [crosstalk]"
[00:39:42] Larry: To stand up for yourself. I like that.
[00:39:44] Breeja: You have to be your own best friend. It's so much better to have a best friend constantly cheering you on in your head than a self-deprecating enemy trying to drag you down.
[00:39:53] Larry: Because not everybody has the resource that you talked about, the mentor to say, "What are you talking about? What are you frowning for?" Tell me what's going on." Then we get to throw up on him if you will and get it out of our system, and we always feel better when we do that. You're saying without a mentor, then journaling is a good way to evolve that? How many people get up in the morning, rush through, if they have breakfast at all, race to work, don't have time to pay attention to anything beautiful along the way because they're just thinking about when they get to work, and then when they get to work, they're thinking about what they're going to do on that project coming up, so nobody is ever spending any time in the moment? What do you say about that?
[00:40:41] Breeja: That might be the snooze button, to be honest. [laughs]
[00:40:45] Larry: The moment?
[00:40:45] Breeja: Yes. I think that if you want to add more beauty to your life, you need to be conscious in scheduling it in. If that means going to bed if you can, I know everyone's schedule is pretty hectic, but if you can go to bed 30 minutes earlier, so you can wake up 30 minutes earlier as well to be able to add these things to just increase the quality of your life,-
[00:41:09] Larry: Have that prep time.
[00:41:10] Breeja: -do that for yourself. How incredible would that be if work started 30 minutes later, and you were able to have just a moment to yourself to reflect and appreciate everything that you've done. I think being proud of yourself is a big thing. I think I mentioned it earlier is not caring--
[00:41:27] Larry: How do you deal with the seven deadly sins? Pride being one of them. How do you equate that? What is your definition of being proud to yourself?
[00:41:38] Breeja: I think understanding and recognizing all the hard work that you've done, and knowing that it's enough, and you can move forward and do better. I think pining on the past and being frustrated for past performances should help inspire you to do better than rather than drag you down because there's nothing you can do about it.
[00:42:00] Larry: Very good. Great advice. Cool. It's not her first rodeo. [chuckles] Everyone out there, think about how many times during the day you take a time out. As Brianna called, she calls it the snooze button. Pardon?
[00:42:19] Breeja: Breeja.
[00:42:20] Larry: Breeja, yes. I'm sorry, Breeja. Excuse me. That's B-R-E-E-J-A, by the way, Breeja. Thank you for correcting me on that. Most people just let it go on and on and a week later, "My name is--" Your time outs, these moments-- Because I find if I don't take them, I never get back on track. I'm always catching up. That's exhausting.
[00:42:50] Breeja: I like to think of a quick deep breathing session to refill and empty out again. How many times a day do you take a 10-second breather, where you literally count to 10 breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth? What kind of relief you can actually feel in just bringing a new oxygen into your body? That's another really cool subject that I love getting into especially for athletes. A lot of the time, we only use the half part of our lungs to breathe in and out. We have very shallow breathing throughout the day.
You need that oxygen to send more blood vessels through your muscles [chuckles] and bring more oxygen to your muscles. Imagine how much more awake your brain will be if you're getting a full load of oxygen. Every once in a while, maybe set an alarm on your phone at lunchtime at 3:30 in the afternoon, just to take a quick 10-second breath. Just try and get a lot of oxygen in.
[00:43:50] Larry: Let's do that. Let's do that right now. I want who's everybody listening to this, I want you to-- Take us through it. Guide us through this breathing.
[00:43:58] Breeja: Breathing in through your nose for 10 seconds.
[00:44:00] Larry: Okay, let's do it.
[00:44:01] Breeja: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, hold it for a second, and out through your mouth 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
[00:44:17] Larry: Cool. Just like waking up from a nap. [makes sound]
[00:44:24] Breeja: The cool thing too, if you do this often, you realize how much more exercise your lungs need. It's probably difficult to breathe in for 10 seconds all the way. You try as hard as you can to expand your lungs as much as you can. Imagine if you were to breathe in more big deep breaths throughout the day, how much stronger your lungs could eventually be and trying to pump more oxygen throughout your body.
[00:44:45] Larry: That's beautiful. At night, I do that. One of the things I do is while I'm inhaling, I inhale all the positivism, the abundance and the respect. Then when I exhale, I exhale any fear or trepidation. It also helps re-center my thinking again, which we know is so critical.
[00:45:07] Breeja: It is.
[00:45:09] Larry: It's everything. Yet, the physicality has got to come into play. You can't wish yourself into higher performance.
[00:45:19] Breeja: No, not at all. You have to think of your body as like a Ferrari. Think of it as a really nice car, and the driver is between the ears. If the brain is the engine, you want your engine to run for a very long time, and you want it to be healthy. You need to bring it into the shop to make sure you have all the tune-ups. If you're never changing the oil, if you're never making sure everything's running smoothly, this incredibly nice car, the only car you're going to get for the rest of your life is not going to run very well. Take care of it.
Not just through your nutrition, your recovery, but the mental aspect of going through life in general is so crucial if you want to be successful. Again, this is in any profession no matter what you're doing. Even if you're a stay at home parent, having a healthy mindset is so crucial to be able to be successful in what you're trying to do.
[00:46:10] Larry: Absolutely. Powerful. So many of us, and this is really unfortunate, that they still believe that 90% of people are motivated by fear.
[00:46:27] Breeja: Yes. There is the fear of success and the fear of failure.
[00:46:32] Larry: Yes. What I mean by fear is loss. "I go to works or I won't be respected. If I'm not on time--" Just the slightest little I have to mentality as you know retards performance. Then when we don't perform, "What did I expect anyway?" It becomes this vicious cycle. The discipline that we're talking about is so critical because-- Here's what I was going to share. Most people when you think about taking care of this Ferrari, think about, "I lose it if I don't. It'll fall apart if I don't. If I don't stay healthy, I could die." A lot of people don't get in shape until they go into the doctor's office and says, "If you don't stop this, it's going to kill you," and now, all of a sudden, they don't eat that anymore.
What you're talking about is another route to good health, and it's not driven by fear. You're also talking about another route to success. To totally rethink this concept failure and look at it as an opportunity rather than a setback, and if you were to think about the people out there that are so close and to them, it's a hundredth of a second, that makes a difference between whether they get promoted or not, whether they study for the real estate license and don't pass. Everybody wants to know, "How do I stay off the cliff?" Anybody who tells you they don't, see, they're in that 10% or a liar. You wouldn't be called up if there wasn't a need. You follow me?
[00:48:34] Breeja: Yes.
[00:48:34] Larry: Neither one of us would have anything to do for a living. If they didn't need a home or if they didn't need to change their mindset somewhat. If all the experience you've had-- I just can't congratulate you enough-
[00:48:49] Breeja: Thank you.
[00:48:50] Larry: -because you are an endorsement for all of us who are human that with the right mindset and the right discipline, the only thing that can hold us back is ourself, because that's what I hear you saying.
[00:49:04] Breeja: Absolutely. When you're struggling, I think procrastination is the root of a lot of our problems. That doesn't mean that not starting your paperwork, but procrastination is also not working on your mental health and not starting a higher nutritional guideline of how you want to eat. The word diet seems restrictive. I always just say nutritional guidelines, what are your nutritional guidelines, because you don't want to feel restricted. The fear of success, I think often freezes people up more than the fear of failure because fear of failure is what drives you to go. You have to go to work if you want a paycheck, if you want to eat. The fear of success is almost crippling.
That if you don't try, you don't have to fail. I think going through and being brave enough to find the right intrinsic motivation really helps. One of the ways I like to do that is just by asking why five times, but you have to go in a positive direction. I hate jumping in the cold water. It is the worst thing in the world. [chuckles] I'll go to practice 10 minutes earlier just to stare down that ominous enemy.
Breeja: I'll think "Why should I jump in the water? I want to get faster. Why you want to get faster? I want to make more money or more prize money competitions. Why do you want to do that? I want to be able to buy a home someday for my future kids. Why is that important? Because I want them to be able to have a more financially stable life." You keep going down the road and realize why you are doing something that's difficult. If I were to go the other way, "Why should I jump in the cold water? Because my coach is going to yell at me. Why should I jump the cold water? Because if I don't go faster at competitions, then I'm not going to have enough money to pay my rent."
You can do the same thing, but going down that negative pathway, it forces you in because you're scared of the failure. You're scared of what will happen if you don't. Instead of going towards that positive, it's more intimidating to go towards that positive, but it helps create that intrinsic motivation of why are you doing this? Are you trying to leave some legacy? Are you trying to be a good example for your surrounding fellows or children? You have to continue to strive towards that positive direction when asking yourself why you're doing something. It took me a while to come up with this on my own. You don't just spit it out. You really have to sit down and give each answer some really big consideration.
[00:51:55] Larry: Yes, absolutely. In a coaching process I use, I call it peeling the onion. What you've shared is the exact result. You ask why enough; you're not diving in that pool anymore for yourself. It's always something greater than self. It's your children, it's, "What kind of parent are they going to be? What kind of children are they going to have?" You have shared something that is just so profound. It's that in the old days, it used to be difficult to take something back. Because you felt like it was criminal, or you've already had it for three hours. Now, it's insane. Now, it's all about customer service, but you always felt good about taking something back for somebody else.
It was always easier to take something back for you than for myself, which is the same thing you're sharing. It's easier to do it for a greater good than it is just to, "Oh, why would I want to get cold? I don't have to go in the pool. You're not going to win. There's more to life than winning." Pretty soon we're staying the same. This has gone by way too fast. I've got 12 other questions I haven't even gotten to. Sum it all up for us as to your biggest takeaway from being an Olympic gold medalist that you think is applicable to all areas of life.
[00:53:30] Breeja: I think the number one thing, and just to simplify it all, is you have to learn how to be your own best friend. I don't think any Olympian goes on to be successful if they have a self-deprecating enemy in their head. You have to learn how to be your own best friend. You have to learn how to recover and listen to your body. Whether if you're overstressed, and when you get into a burnout stage, it's so much harder to keep going. You have to be able to understand where you're at to revitalize yourself every day to stay out of that burnout stage, and then continue to work on your mental health.
I'm so happy that it's becoming a little bit more aware to the public, how important it is, which is just fantastic. Becoming your own best friend, making sure that you're recovering every day, and then working on your mental health are the three main keys in being successful, in my opinion.
[00:54:22] Larry: All right. Some of the how to’s in that for you are meditation.
[00:54:26] Breeja: Yes. Meditation, a lot of journaling.
[00:54:28] Larry: Journaling.
[00:54:29] Breeja: One quick exercise I usually do that I love, and I think is very helpful, is if you answer three bullet points every day, what did you learn? What did you succeed at, and what do you want to work on tomorrow?
[00:54:40] Larry: Oh, beautiful.
[00:54:40] Breeja: If you're having a bad day, what did you fail at? What are you struggling to learn, and what are you going to work on tomorrow? If you do that every day, you can start to see patterns and what you need to change throughout routine to get better.
[00:54:53] Larry: Got you. Fantastic. Everyone out there recognized that we are all about change. Our body is a perfect example of something that's in constant change, transition, creating new cells, getting rid of old ones and continuing to attempt to replenish if we could provide it with the right fuel and mindset to keep that cortisol out of the system. I am disappointed that we are done, that our time is up. You are so fascinating.
[00:55:28] Breeja: Thank you.
[00:55:28] Larry: Thank you. Thank you again for what you've done for all of us. She mentioned something over the phone about, and I didn't bring it up today, but this concept of leadership. I want to ask this before we're done. That is that you have become a leader. Tell everybody what your coach told you when you went to the Olympics about what you were representing.
[00:55:59] Breeja: From the moment we made the Olympic team, we not only represent our family, but we represent our country, and we represent almost the Olympic Games as a whole. It's a very big responsibility to hold because typically when you meet someone for the first time, you generalize them in a certain group, and that is the impression that you have of that group. It did quite take a bit of my young childhood from college away from me, but it is such an honor and a huge responsibility to constantly represent what it means to be an Olympian and for everyone everywhere, how they can be their own hero and their own Olympian to themselves of how to continue to strive for excellence every day.
[00:56:44] Larry: Beautiful, beautiful. That's something that we have to recognize that how powerful it is to be a father, to be a mother, to be a teacher, to be a leader in an organization, to be attempting to find a job, to find a home, that we've got to recognize that everything we're doing is making a statement to others about not only who we are but who we're aspiring to. You've given us some great insights on how to do that in not overly complicated. The most important thing is getting started.
[00:57:21] Breeja: Absolutely.
[00:57:22] Larry: We all did with that 10-second breathing because I felt better after that. I felt revitalized. Is there anything you want to want to share that I didn't bring up or we didn't talk about today?
[00:57:35] Breeja: Just that if anyone with their team at work would be interested in creating their own Olympian mindset seminar, I absolutely love performing them. It's very easy to find me on any of my social media. I've got a different spelled name. Just Breeja Larson at LinkedIn, Instagram. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm pretty easy to get a hold of that. If you needed some boost or any inspiration to help right now, especially through these pandemic hard times, please feel free to reach out. I'd love to work with them.
[00:58:07] Larry: Absolutely. That's fantastic. Thank you again. Very much, appreciate it. To all of you out there, thank you for taking your time and investing it in yourself by having the opportunity to listen to the two of us. I know you took away all kinds of valuable seeds of insight from Breeja, and she has just enlightened me. Because sometimes we just forget how simple it can be because we can make it so complicated.
[00:58:39] Breeja: [chuckles] We have a habit of doing that.
[00:58:40] Larry: We do, yes. It's easy as you would say. You'll probably hear some music in the background now, and Walker will come on and share who our next guest would be or will be. Just continue to take care of yourself. Recognize so many of you were out there with us 1965 VW driving around, and you're actually a Lamborghini. You could be a rocket ship. If you're not taking care of it, you're never going to appreciate how amazing you really are. Thank you for your wonderful advice, and all the best to all of you. Take care.
[00:59:17] Walker: Thank you for listening. If you've enjoyed this episode, we ask that you please subscribe and share with your friends and associates, join Larry and his next guest, David Purine. David is a highly acclaimed and well-respected chiropractor with advanced degrees in acupuncture and sports medicine. He is also the consulting chiropractor for the Kansas City Royals during their spring training. Join them and learn that the principles of success that you and I embrace are timeless, universal, and available to all of us.
[00:59:58] [END OF AUDIO]
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