An athletic phenomenon who recently broke an American record during his first Olympic time trial, Michael Andrew is well on his way to revolutionizing the sport of swimming. Michael is a world-class athlete who is fulfilling his dream of competing at his first-ever Olympics, airing now in Japan. Michael trains under the guidance of his father, Peter Andrew, who shares his quest for excellence and fulfilling his purpose in the world through his in-pool success. In this episode, Adam interviews the father and son duo and discusses their training methods and philosophy. We learn about their views on how mental and spiritual health and resilience impact performance and how they train differently. If you’re interested in developing Olympic-level resilience and performance, this is a great place to start.
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Developing Olympic-Level Resilience with Michael Andrew
I’m very happy for the conversation I get to have and share with all of you as well. Before I get started, I want to acknowledge how grateful I am to be here in this moment to be alive and breathing. I know it’s been a difficult year for so many people and for a lot of people has been a tremendous opportunity as well. Gratitude to me is a grounding thing. No matter how good my life is going or even sometimes how crappy things might be going, gratitude is always right there in a moment, in a breath even. I love my life. It’s a way to remind me of what’s important.
I’m happy that the gentleman that I’m going to introduce you to, some of you may already know him or them but some of you to be the first introduction, we are, to use an old word, simpatico. To have something fundamental in common and that is that we love the aqua, the H2O, the water. It’s life itself. Some of us spend a lot of time in it. This is a wonderful opportunity to speak to somebody who is not just spending time in the water but is using the water as a platform for so many things in life, creating new ways of thinking, being, training and developing resilience, which is something we’re going to talk about. I’ve got a soon-to-be Olympic US National Team member, Michael Andrew and his dad, Peter, with me. Peter, Michael, it’s great to have you with us.
Thank you so much for having us. I’m glad we’re finally able to make this work. We’re excited.
It’s a funny little thing that we met the way we did. We met in the pool. I wish I could say I was training for something like the Olympic trials.
The pool is such a common denominator for so many relationships. It’s been cool. Even looking back, the number of awesome relationships and conversations we’ve had that have all started from the pool, it’s countless.
The long story short is that I’ve been swimming in this one beautiful pool in Encinitas, California. I should know, it’s where I live. I was swimming a couple of lanes over from where you were training. I was noticing a lot of activity. There was a bit of water moving. It’s almost like there was a propeller or somebody had put a mercury engine in the water or something. I pop my head up a couple of times and noticed what was you rocketing across the surface of the water. Initially, I thought, “That’s unusually fast.”
Having been a college swimmer, I hadn’t seen anybody moving at that level at eye level since the days when I was training myself. I saw this other guy standing, walking alongside the pool, I said, “That’s the coach. I get it.” Eventually, I noticed that you were training in a different way. I got out of the pool, it was at the end of my own little, short workout and walked over to introduce myself because I was blown away by what I thought was a different approach to training than I grew up with. The short version was you swim thousands of yards twice a day. That’s how you train to be a great swimmer. Michael, Peter, what were you guys up to that’s different?The growth formula is stress plus rest equals growth, not stress that just leads you into a deep hole. Click To Tweet
I’ll touch on it briefly and I can let dad speak more to the nuts and bolts of it. The way we train is unconventional and untraditional. We follow what the science supports and up to now throughout my short career, the results have followed. The idea behind it is to be as specific to racing as possible. When you say we’re sprinting and we’re going fast all the time, that’s international, what we’re doing. Everything we do is tailored towards racing or training like we want to race and being repetitive with our movements so that when it comes time to race, there’s no thinking involved. It’s just instinct.
The way you train was the science of the day because there was no science. Dr. Rushall is an Australian scientist that in the ‘40s, that’s his training methodology. They came up with that. He’s well connected to the scientists that we work with. He put out a paper saying, “The way Michael Andrew is training.” He’s sorry but he didn’t have the science that we have now but unfortunately, the dogma has been safe. People believe what they’re doing is the way that science is evolving and keeps evolving. We’ve been blessed that I happened to sit in a lecture and listen to this Australian speaking about training specifically, how the brain codes movements and how we need to be activity-specific. It’s done across all sports so many never picked it up.
What’s so incredible too about the way we train is it’s simple but people want to confuse things. Much like making a decision to love your life regardless of circumstances. It’s simple but it’s easy for us to confuse that opportunity that we have to choose to do what makes sense. It’s something that is commonsensical but we want to throw in these weird drills and these long garbage yardages. It takes away from that experience and the purity of swimming fast so that you can race fast.
For those who have not maybe been swimmers or had people in their family who are swimmers, let’s walk people through what it looks like for like a six-year-old, from 6 to 16 back in the day or I shouldn’t even say back in the day. The truth be told, the old paradigm is still what’s running USA swimming and swimming globally.
The traditional program is you’ve got athletes swimming 5,000 to 7,000 yards a session, grueling the body. You create this massive amount of fatigue throughout a season. In theory, they have what we call taper. The goal is to essentially start from this point and break the body down to here. If you have this big taper, you can, in theory, get back above that level. With the way we train, it’s a weekly breakdown but there’s a growth period. You break down, you recover. There’s this continuous stair-step of growth. You can get fast. I remember starting the season in January 2021 and people are like, “How are you breaking national records? We’re all grinding.” It’s like, “You’re all capable. Your body is capable of it if you trained specifically to do it.”
We know that the growth formula is stress plus rest equals growth. Not stress plus stress, that leads you into a deep hole. There’s got to be recovery. In all sports, recovery is probably the most important training part because, without it, you don’t get better.
It’s a simple breakdown of a set of hours. The sets are constantly the same. Regardless of what stroke or event you are training for, the principles are the exact same. You’ll take the event. You break it down into quarters. I’m training for 100 meters freestyle so my best time is 60 seconds. I want to beat 60 seconds. That’s my barrier. Each 25 then would be 15 seconds that add up to a minute. We’ll do 30 25s on 15 seconds with 15 seconds rest, no more, no less. It’s important because that rest period is what creates this condition and the body allows for the heart rate to stay maximally effort. You don’t want it to drop because that’s when lactate acid cools and fatigue. In the 30 25s, this repetitiveness codes these movements in the mind so that when you come to race, it happens instinctually. You do the same for every stroke, every distance, 200s or 50s. It’s an easy plug-and-play formula that it’s almost impossible to screw up.
That’s exactly it. You’re programming yourself. Come race date, don’t think about anything because you’re already trained to do it. Go and do it. It’s muscle memory. You’d always use it like a soldier. They train you, a few steps here, a few steps there. I don’t just say, “Here’s your gun go and do mass carnage.”
Where there’s a parallel with our training is what people don’t understand is it takes time to get to where you’re making the repeats that I’m making. I’m holding fast times for long repetitions but as much with making it a decision to live a certain way or create a new habit is there’s an adaptation period. It takes time to get your body to that level. People often look for this quick, easy, like take a pill, go and swim fast type of thing. Nothing works like that. There’s got to be this day in, day out, build off of each other repetition because it’s that compound effect that grows and produces the results.
We know even from science, check out muscle fibers, fast, medium, slow twitching. There’s an adaptation to become faster twitch and then more oxidative so you don’t need to create as much lactate. You change your body makeup to as much as possible. That’s only over time and it only has a short training and rest. He’s probably maximally adapted. It’s a beautiful space to be.
“It’s far easy to prevent fatigue in the first place than to recover from it later.” The person who’s responsible for this quote is a sled dog musher. She’s an Iditarod competitor by the name of Blair Braverman. This was a New York Times article that came out. We’re talking about that. You’re not necessarily trying to fatigue yourself to the point where you have broken yourself down. The model that I grew up on as a swimmer was to break you down, pretty much 90% of the season was all about breaking you down. Create this taper period, which tapering means you’re easing up on the gas pedal or taking your foot entirely off the gas pedal and then you would somehow perform well. Everything came down to that last meet or those last couple of meets.
It puts a lot of pressure on it. That’s the hardest thing too is dealing with the psychological side of man. If I don’t do this, this whole season is a wash. I couldn’t think of anything worse. It makes so much sense to be able to prevent fatigue. It goes even farther than that. Not just preventing fatigue but preventing deep root fatigue. For us, we do create fatigue. It’s a neural failure. When we train, we’re creating these neural pathways. It’s much more creative fatigue in the brain so that we can learn from that activity. The brain can say, “I want to grab onto this. I want to throw this away. I understand what’s going to help me and make me faster and what’s the velocity of that technique.” All of those small things go into the level of fatigue that you’re producing and then you learn from there.
It’s like a bodybuilder. I remember Mike Mentzer in the ‘60s or’70s, he came with that, “You fail once but you just fail.” It’s overreaching fatigue. You let that muscle grow back and it remembers where it got hurt and it grows back a little bigger. If you carry on failing it, you create such a deep end road. That’s the same thing if we do with swimming. It’s the neural failure where the brain doesn’t fight, the muscle is a small breakdown and we stop it there. In that way, you can recover quickly so then when we come back to the pool, he’s a recovered athlete, not coming back on fatigue. We want to always be stair-stepping up. Fatigue is necessary but not deep fatigue. There’s got to be stressed but we don’t want to overreach so we can grow.
There’s a cost of exhaustion. I saw it when I was in college. I started late for a swimmer. I was starting in high school, which was unthinkable. These kids were swimming in AAU meets and training since they were 6 or 7 years old. By the time they got to college, many of them were burned out. They didn’t want to get in the water. A lot of them had serious physical injuries, shoulder and knee injuries. The burnout and the breakdown took place over a protracted period of time. It wasn’t a singular event. “I’m overwhelmed at this moment.” They were overwhelming the system.At the end of the day, when you're dying, nobody's going to remember. No one's going to care. Click To Tweet
It’s dangerous. If you think of swimming, the movements need to be like adduction especially the shoulder because it’s all shoulder driven. You want the arm to work up and down this way because that’s a natural movement. Once you get tired and they overwork you, you start to roll the shoulder. That’s why they hurt their shoulder because they’re not swimming properly because they’re too tired to do it properly. You could stress the shoulder and that’s the end of your career. It’s silly to beef a fatigued athlete.
Even looking at what’s the cost of being depleted is the major costs, injuries and things like that aside, you lose the love of the sport and that desire to even be involved in it because of that experience. That’s the biggest cost. The problem is there are so many programs that have this ongoing cycle or universities of athletes coming in leaving depressed and hating their sport sets the tone for those that are incoming freshmen or people getting into the sport where it’s like, “I’ve seen what this has done to them. I don’t want any of that.” Overall, it takes a toll on the sport as a whole. It’s unfortunate because you see it as such a beautiful thing.
The water is such a therapeutic place. It should be a place where you go to enjoy this opportunity and race. You can have performance. You have results. It’s like being able to go from the summer league type of mindset to the elite levels. How do you do that without taking away that initial love for the sport? I feel like the biggest way to combat that is asking yourself the why question, the big, “Why do I do this in the first place?” Having a purpose beyond performance and that’s where a lot of that issue lies too. Being depleted, you start to hate what you’re doing.
You’ve lost connection with the deeper why, the love. There’s a great part of the movie, Jerry Maguire. Did you guys ever see that movie? There’s a scene in that movie where Cuba Gooding, who’s the guy who said, “Show me the money, Jerry.” Jerry has to give him this advice where he says to him, “You’ve lost your love. It feels like you’re in it for the money. All you want is the Quan.” He wanted to get his contract, his due. Where was his love for the sport anymore? It’s a great Hollywood ending. It comes back to that love. He performs and then he gets his contract and all that. That’s also interestingly enough for me anyway, where this I love my life message originated because there’s a scene in that movie where Jerry’s mentor, this guy named Dicky Fox. He’s an older guy. He’s in this seersucker suit that probably wasn’t in fashion twenty years earlier or whatever.
He looks right into the camera and he says, “I failed as much as I’ve succeeded but I love my life and my wife. I wish you my success.” That was a time in my life when I was practicing law. I would wake up in the morning, put my feet on the floor and feel anxiousness and even dread. I ended up one day in the hospital thinking I was having a heart attack that turned out to be a panic attack. When I got back to the love, I started my day putting my feet on the floor and saying, “I love my life,” it doesn’t mean my life is perfect or that everything’s going to go my way. It means I’m going to put love into as many things as I can starting at the moment I say it with myself and all of that. Maintaining love is a part of the formula for what you do. After swimming, God knows too many miles to count and you’ve been swimming since you were a kid and now you’re on the precipice of both the Olympic trials and the Olympics that are coming up this summer of 2021 in Japan. How is it that you still love the sport? How do you still love what you do?
This last season of 2020 has been pivotal for me in finding that love for the sport. It’s always been there but what realized more than anything is if I can understand that it’s not going to last, it’s all perishable. What we’re performing for, I may break a world record and I may win a gold medal but there’s going to be so many people to come to break world records. They’ll break my world records. There are going to be many victors. At the end of the day, when I’m dying, nobody’s going to remember. No one’s going to care.
If I can understand that if I can be so present at this moment to enjoy every aspect of this pursuit of excellence and Olympic gold and the stardom that does come with it, I can enjoy it and understand that whether we achieve it or not, I’m still being excellent. There are very few people in the world getting to do what I do. You started the show with the act of gratitude. It’s like understanding that I am in a position that nobody else is in. That’s grace wasted if I throw myself under the bus by being afraid or by losing that love of the sport. A lot of it is a constant daily reminder of where I’m at. The fact that it’s an opportunity to find joy or it is here for us. It’s not like we’re here for sport.
I love about both of you because I know each of you speaks and shares your thoughts with organizations and people that are looking for more than just motivation and inspiration but are looking for genuine insight. Frequently, our athletes tapped initially for their insights. What I love about you is the level of insight that you exude at that tender age. I have a son, your age myself, it’s atypical to say the least. I want to ask you a question. We’re talking about your training methodology. That’s again, not this break things, people and your muscles down only to put so much pressure on at some point, maybe they perform.
Stress and rest. Stress plus rest ultimately leads to greater performance or as the quote says, “The real enemy of high-performance is not stress. It’s the lack of recovery from stress.” I want to use this as your training as a metaphor. I want you to think, Michael, in terms of what’s going on in the world around us and maybe even in terms of the business audience. Imagine you’re speaking to an audience of business leaders here and they’re not swimmers and they’re not going to necessarily get what it means to do 25 yards in 8 seconds.
What they do get is that in business, there’s this constant pressure. Being an entrepreneur or business owner has constant pressure to perform. Often, the culture of the business is about that old paradigm. How do we squeeze the most out of our people? Exhaust them if necessary because if they’re exhausted then they’re working hard and we’re getting what we pay them for. That’s a paradigm. I want to use your training methodology as a metaphor for something different. What would you say to an audience of those folks?
I used to see these posts where this billionaire, how did their five steps to success or whatever. It used to always be that typical model of grind and sleep as little as possible. When you’re awake, all you’re doing is grinding, reading, working, emails, calls, whatever. I start to see this new age. A healthier perspective is you will get billionaires and whatever in the world. I sleep ten hours a day. I start with meditation or prayer in the morning, a healthy meal. I exercise and then I go to work. There’s a shift in perspective. That’s very similar to the parallel that you have in our swimming culture, where we come from, are you got the traditional mindset, the USRPT, the science and the data that supports a healthier approach to success. That’s where my mind is going now. Outside of that, if you look at it as a business like mine.
One of our main sponsors and we were hanging out with him. He doesn’t even have social media and he cuts himself off and only a very few people can reach him. That man is successful. It’s ridiculous. It’s like, “How do you do that?” There’s intentionality there.
With our buddy, Dan, managing, working with billions of dollars, things that I’m looking at, I’m like, “Signing a $60,000 deal sounds epic and you’re here managing billions.” He’s got intentionality. When you look at USRPT for us, everything is intentional. Every stroke has a purpose. For those that are reading with a business, with daily tasks, work and the pressure that comes with that, it’s about a lot in your time to be intentional towards an end goal. Everything we do, we’re training for something that’s coming up in the future. Each day, we’re edging away at that major task being Olympic trials.
We’ve spent several months so focused on this that we didn’t have to cram it in one week. We’ve been intentional over time. We can sit back knowing we’re confident and prepared and the results have already shown themselves. We’re not even at the day yet. We’re ahead of the game because we’ve been deliberate, diligent and disciplined because we had a higher goal and something we were focusing on.Do not work your weaknesses. Always work your strengths. Click To Tweet
You weren’t depleting yourself or wearing yourself out.
That’s the thing. We had a life outside of swimming. I hate when people say, “You eat, sleep and swim.” I could not think of anything worse than living my life like that. In my career, looking back and thinking, “What did I do? I ate food, swam and slept.” That’s crazy. I surf, hang out with friends and go out. I’d swim. I work hard, rest hard and eat but I’m doing so many things outside of it. We’re creating an academy. There’s a lot of things occupying our time. At the same time, they revolve around my love, which is swim. It’s not like I’m purely defined by swim but everything I choose to do has something that compliments my dreams, desires and love. That’s a much healthier approach than grinding it out because you ultimately deplete yourself.
This would seem so simple that everybody could grasp this concept. It’s basic and yet it’s still counterintuitive on some level. It runs against the grain. I had this study Harvard Business Review reported on where they were comparing the highest performing athletes in the world with the highest achieving businesspeople. They found that they all had one thing in common. There was one commonality in the Venn diagram between these two groups. That one thing was that they had rituals. Each group had rituals for their recovery. It’s like a billionaire is somebody who isn’t busy that they can’t find a moment to think. How often do you meet somebody that goes, “I don’t even have time to think?”
They’re so scattered. They spend a moment here, a moment there. There’s this ADHD. This is self-diagnosed. We feel like we probably have ADHD in our thinking. That’s why swimming is good for me because of the repetition and the way we train. You see that in the rituals, we call them routines. When you create a routine, you don’t have to think as much about it because it’s something you’re used to doing. It builds upon each other. As you do a routine for long, you then start to add things, you grow and you get stronger. As much like you create a rhythm in the work you do. I’m much faster in my 100-meter breaststroke. When I hit and find that rhythm, it can build on that rhythm throughout the race versus trying to force one stroke, force another tempo, change it there and here. That’s when it all falls apart.
We do recognize too is, no matter what, stress, like fatigue, evolves upon each other. If he’s fatigued, we know to cut it off, walk away. A lot of people can’t do that. They feel like they’ve got to work through. We realized that if you work through, you’re going to train slower. You’re training yourself to be slower. We pack it up and walk away and restart.
What you said, Peter, is brilliant in a few different ways. One is the fact that people don’t walk away. They muscle through it. They grind and that’s what’s rewarded. They reward the night owl award. Whereas you say people on social media you’re talking about, you only need three hours of sleep and you should start your side hustle at 7:00 PM and keep going until 2:00 AM. The idea of walking away and knowing you can reset and restart the next day.
It’s hard in itself. The other people are working and we’re walking away. The reality is that more of you.
Peter, do you question yourself as a coach? This is one of those funny moments because you are a dad and a coach.
I do, all the time. When I’m up with other coaches, all the big-name coaches, I realized nobody knows anything. I don’t think any of us know anything. I question that all the time. The magic between us two is he trusts me. We’re doing a lot less now. We’ve cut everything back but we asked at least a small amount of stress but he’s not stressing. He’s staying fast. I believe it’s the right way but I don’t know. We’ll see. I do see the speed. When we get to trials, he’ll break the American record in his very first swim in the heats. You’ll be able to watch back and say, “That happened.” I see it so I know. It doesn’t even matter what I noticed. It’s what he believes. He believes in me.
That’s good to have because you have to have some of that nervous like, “Is it going to work?” That’s part of the high of performing. You don’t remember the race but you remember how you fail. I don’t remember how I feel going into some of the biggest races of my life. I’m starting to get those jitters. The more I talk about it, my toes and fingers start to tingle and that’s me getting ready to perform. It’s my body knowing like, “It’s time to turn on and go.”
I thought, “To become a better swimmer, it’s got to be endurance.” We trained endurance. He’s a little slower and then his speed was off. I was reading that book. It’s called The Compound Effect. I listen to all these books. The big thing that came to me over and over was, do not work your weaknesses, always work your strengths. It’s like, “This isn’t even a sport. This is business.” What are his strengths? They are speed. Let’s go back. We train his speed. We did that. It was that. We got to work on strengths.
In that instance, we realized we had added on so much yardage that I needed to recover from it. This was my first time doing this amount of endurance, trying to focus on getting stronger for that backend. I wasn’t going to see the results of that work until I recovered. A few weeks later, we recovered, break the US Open record, the fastest times in the world. That’s what set us up for that.
The faith and trust that you were talking about, both of you, Peter, but I was listening to what you were saying is that you have faith in the process.
I believe in the process of what we’re doing because I believe in science.The highs are only highs because of the lows. Click To Tweet
It depends where the science is coming from.
I’m trying to find the right source.
To trust when Michael says, “You know what,” or to trust what you’re seeing, which some days you got to go, “It’s time to fold the tent.”
A great example is we have the overspeed training and Michael said, “My shoulder feels a little weird.”
You got to trust your instincts, your body and each other. The thing about developing this level of bounce forward ability. We like to think of it as bounce forward ability, not bounce back. That’s an old paradigm. We need to bounce back from the pandemic. We need to bounce forward from the pandemic. We used the word for that. We say it’s resilience. That’s what resilience is. Your body is more resilient all the time based on your training methods. It’s not purely physical. It’s mental, emotional and even spiritual.
What I’ve noticed has been the biggest thing for me is realizing that and we believe that God’s given us a gift. This is our opportunity. This is not an obligation but an opportunity. In this season, there’s so much freedom especially with racing. I know that I can control the outcome. I can do my best to be prepared for it but now I’m ready to stand there and let the training do the talking. There’s a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Everything plays a huge role. I feel like physical probably plays the smallest role out of the four because it’s easy to become physically fit. Everyone can sleep well, drink water, train hard and follow the science but what’s going to separate the great from the legends are those that are mentally, spiritually fit and emotionally healthy. You see athletes that aren’t, they collapse under that pressure or they collapse afterward realizing that all they found value in was their performance or their sport. They couldn’t have a life outside of it.
There are enough studies on how emotion sparks at the ATA. The oxytocin locks you down. You’re fatigued before you even start your race. That is a big key for Michael. He loves the big laugh and all that excitement. That emotion becomes energy. It’s pretty radical. I see at trials, it’s one of the slowest meets because people get out there and there are thousands of people shooting flyers and flames.
That’s what attracted me to want to speak to you guys and get you on the show or have people be able to hear you because I was so taken by how grounded as a person you both are. Peter, you’re about my age and I thought, “That’s to be expected.” Age doesn’t bring everything that you want. One thing it does bring for a lot of people is a bit of wisdom and perspective at a minimum. To be young and as grounded as you are, that’s what’s atypical for me. There’s an emotional component, emotional stability or an EQ element. It’s super important because you can be a leader in a lot of ways, Michael, the leader in the pool, wins lots of medals. Everybody wants to see you do that, roots for you to do that. There’s another leadership as well. There’s this thought leadership that is profound because the sport needs to evolve. The methods that we use to train people in sport need to evolve. Because it’s a metaphor for the way that we want performance in other areas of our lives including in business, there’s a nice grid there.
A massive thing that’s in our favor, too and I see it in our organization and it’s a horrible thing to say but they are very against the family. The family is so powerful if we work together as we have. Like Tiger Woods when he had his dad, how incredible he was. There are many instances like the Williams girls having their dad train them. There’s much power in the family if we do it right.
I get where organizations are fearful of families because some parents are absurd, get your helicopter parents. If you can have a healthy dynamic where the parents understand what it’s like to coach like a father loves type of instance and to support and to build up.
It’s been a journey. We’ve learned, too.
The highs are only as high because of the lows.
That goes back to my talk, the mountain. That grows in the valley when it’s hard, not on the mountain top. Hopefully, you’re on the mountain top, you’ve experienced the growth in the valley.
I was thinking, as you guys were speaking, that Phil Mickelson won the PGA championship. It wasn’t because he was physically superior to his competitors. He could never be physically superior to a guy who was 30 years old. That’s not going to happen. Emotionally, mentally and even spiritually, he was in a different place. When he was interviewed afterward, he’s tremendously a humble guy, his brother who is his caddy, a performance coach that he uses out of Australia and his wife, that’s where he placed the credit was in the family that you were describing.What's going to separate the great from the excellent from the legends is mental and spiritual fitness and emotional health. Click To Tweet
The biggest thing we always get Michael in interviews, he always says, “We,” and they hate it. It’s like, “Who’s we? It’s I.”
It’s interesting that you say that they hate that.
I don’t think people hate it. It’s that they don’t understand it.
I’m very fortunate. I often take it for granted how lucky I am that my family is still together. My parents have been so invested in my career. They pushed me and encouraged me to do this. This wasn’t just me. At the end of the day, Phil understands that as well, it takes a village but the issue is a lot of people have a broken village. There is a lot of amazing blessings that I’ve been given. Even on the hard days, as we’ve been able to communicate with our village and change people. I’ve worked with agencies and companies that weren’t great. I’ve worked with people that weren’t good for our team and for the direction we were having, they didn’t have the same vision. As our village aligns and has that same vision for success and for purpose beyond the medals, nothing can get in our way. Nothing will stop us from succeeding.
I can’t help myself. You guys are inspiring. The picture I’ve got is of a guy who took over as the performance director for British cycling in 1998, at a time when British cycling in 1998 had not won a gold medal in the Olympics since 1908. The technical term for a team like that is they sucked. They had never won the Tour de France ever. The thing about Dave Brailsford that folks who have never heard of him, you can look him up and listen to him speak. He’s got a pretty cool British accent. It’s tough to understand him at times but his whole thing was not looking at all the ways that you could try to create perfection out of something that was clearly imperfect. A lot of people beat themselves up because they are not perfect and they’ve made a lot of mistakes and don’t know where to begin. What Dave Brailsford coming into that very difficult role did that was so counter to what was expected. He looked at all the ways they could make a tiny, little improvement, almost imperceptibly small improvement, even to the point where he painted the inside of the box trucks white that carried the cycles to the races.
I’ve listened to all of that because we followed the whole thing. One of Michael’s sponsors was Dotsie Bausch. She won the silver in the velodrome. It was a radical story.
For all of us, finding the tiniest changes like he painted the trucks white simply because he wanted to be able to see with the naked eye if the trucks were dirty, that the dust would get into the gears of the bikes. He was teaching these guys many years ago how to wash their hands properly so that they would get sick one time, fewer in the year and changed their pillows. How prophetic was that? A myriad of millions of little, tiny things that by themselves wouldn’t have won a medal but in the aggregate, by clumping them together. By 2004, they won two medals. By 2008, they were the most medaled team at the Olympics and won 5, 6, 7 Tour de Frances. It’s important that we don’t beat ourselves up and we’ve even made mistakes but we use them as a catalyst for growth. I appreciate you guys being here and the fact that you’re off on an epic journey, the both of you.
We all have a journey and a story to be told. What’s so cool is everybody’s got gifting. They’ve got something. Some are fortunate to find it early on, some find it later in life but we do all have these crazy stories to be told. We’re excited to know what it is.
It feels like we’ve been here for so long but it’s just the beginning. When you make your first team on your event then you parade around the whole pool and wave at all the people.
It’s a blessing on so many levels to be able to be with you guys at this moment in the place that you’re at and to be on your growth edge. In our business, we train people to speak and deliver high stakes talks like on a TED stage or elsewhere. You’re going to get out and speak in front of a group of 12,000 people, you’re going to have a few nerves. As an old mentor once said to me when I was getting ready to go into court, speak in front of a judge for the first time and I was nervous in that environment, he said, “Check yourself for a pulse because if you’ve got a pulse, you’re alive. That’s what you want. When you know that you’re nervous or that you’ve got that energy about something, it can only mean that you’re alive and that it’s important to you.” I always swam my best when it was the highest stakes and my parents were there. I felt the sickest to my stomach before.
It was like, “I don’t want them there. What if I fail? What if I screw up? What if I miss the wall, flipping or something?” It was that intensity of focus that brought out the best in me. Michael, regardless of what the results are, you have a ridiculously big future as a person with tremendous insight. With 120 national records to your name already, I know there’s a lot more ahead of you as well. Guys, I’m happy to have you join us.
We appreciate it.
For everybody, as you are winding up or down your day, remember some of the things that we talked about. If you know somebody that could use hearing that message about maybe not depleting themselves and creating those routines or what we like to call rituals for recovery mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Even then share this episode with them, leave your comments and let us know. You’re going to want to follow Michael Andrew and his journey. Lots to be looking at there as well.
About Michael Andrew
21-year-old American Michael Andrew may be a National Champion, World Champion and one of the most recognizable swimmers on the planet, but he is a grounded humble individual.
It was evident at a young age that Michael was a natural talent in the pool and, naturally, his father Peter Andrew, wanted to cultivate his son’s gift as effectively as possible. After exploring coaching options and not finding the support and instruction believed to be the best fit for his young prodigy, Peter decided to take on the task of coaching his son personally. Partnering with his South African-born dad and mentor, Michael paved his own way through the sport of swimming, bucking traditional schools of thought to instead adhere to a training methodology that works for him and has steadily made believers out of one-time doubters within the swimming community.
Michael became a world champion at the age of 17 and won 4 individual national titles at the 2018 U.S. National Championships, he also earned 4 relay golds, including racing his way to a World Record as part of the mixed 4x50m medley relay.
As part of ‘the formidable Andrew foursome’, Michael and his family are known around the swimming world as gracious, determined, approachable and dedicated to embracing the future of swimming as it enters this exciting new chapter.