PR Cameron Black | Olympic Dreams


Life is a grueling pursuit, filled with disappointments and setbacks, but it is through our resilience and ability to forgive ourselves for our mistakes that we find the strength to keep moving forward and ultimately achieve our greatest aspirations. In this episode, our special guest is Cameron Black, a Wellness Director at Ollis/Akers/Arney Insurance & Business Advisors. Cameron is also a Scotsman living in America who is still finding his path. He is a recovering swimmer who has a fascinating story to tell about his journey from aspiring to make it to the Olympics to almost making it but ultimately falling short. He talks about the disappointment that still lingers with him more than 20 years later and how he deals with his regrets and mistakes. They also discuss the stress that comes with being an athlete and the pressure to perform. Cameron shares how his regret as a swimmer chasing the Olympic dream taught him self-forgiveness and led him to a new purpose in life. Join us in this conversation about resilience in the face of disappointment and learn how to forgive yourself for your mistakes.

Show Notes:

  • 05:53 Swimming and beyond
  • 18:07 The time to move on
  • 36:21 The blend of personal and professional lives
  • 43:30 Outlets of forgiveness

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From Olympic Dreams To Life’s Realities: The Grit And Resilience Of A Recovering Swimmer With Cameron Black

I’m so excited for my guest. He’s a new friend and his name is Cameron Black. He is going to blow your mind. The level of his honesty, transparency and story is amazing. He’s a Scotsman living in America, who is still in, his own words, finding his path. He’s a recovering swimmer who has an epic tale about the Olympics that you’ll read, great memories and unfulfilled dreams. He is working as a Wellness Director and Strategic Advisor for a brokerage firm in Springfield, Missouri. That’s where I got to meet him at a keynote that I was asked to deliver there. He’s a heck of a guy that some of you guys will love. It’s going to be great feedback. Sit back and read this episode of my conversation with Cameron Black.

Cameron, I’ve been looking forward to this conversation since the very last time that you and I were together and we said we were going to do this. Now, we’re doing it. I’m super excited for what’s to come but I want to start by asking you a question I ask all of my guests which is, what is one singular thing that’s not part of your bio, intro or professional credentials that you want people to know about you?

The biggest thing for me is I am a massive soccer fan and it’s evolved. Manchester United is the greatest club in the world as far as I’m concerned. It’s funny that I watch every game I never miss and I talk to my dad about it. I always say, “We did this and that.” He’s like, “Cameron, you don’t play for them. You realize that, right?” The reality is I love that team and it’s a real passion of mine.

I’m not even surprised you say that. There are two things I know about you. You are very passionate and I wouldn’t call you as quiet. It’s not so much the still waters run deep but you’re not also super gregarious or whatever it is. I detected the passion part in our first meeting but you also were very passionate about sports early on in your life. You’ve been an athlete at a very high level. In the sport that you were in, you were a semi-pro or if not a professional but there is no professional swimming.

I was a swimmer in high school and college as well. I didn’t swim at the level that you swam at but I was very passionate about it. Most young men and women in swimming and related things like water polo, diving or what have you, since there isn’t any money that you’re after and there’s no professional status that you can look at being a part of a team and getting paid, the dream is to make the Olympics. You started with that dream to be an Olympic swimmer, didn’t you?

I did. From the very earliest stage that I can remember, that’s what I wanted to do. I watched it on TV. I’d seen the Olympics and some British swimmers mounting the podium which wasn’t that common. If you were British and got a gold medal, that was impressive. From the earliest time, I remember walking with my headphones on, dreaming of the day or visualizing that I would be in that final racing and winning that gold medal. It was something that burned deep inside.

 About what age was that?

Right from the get-go. I came from an athletic family so I learned to swim very early but I started at the club when I was eight and immediately loved it. I never loved the training from the time I was eight to the time I retired but I loved to compete. I loved to be under the lights. I loved that walkout music. I loved everything about competing. It was amazing.

It’s so funny I’m thinking to myself, “What were the things that I loved most about swimming?” It’s the rush at the end of an event and hopefully that one that you finished first but regardless. It’s not even adrenaline. I would describe it for me as a piece. There’s a piece that I would feel when that race was done. There’s modulation within the event but when the event is finished, if you’ve swam the way you’re supposed to, you don’t have very much left in the tank. You left it all in the water. Was that what it was like for you too?

You’re describing it very well and I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. There’s nothing better in life than the second your fingertips that time pad and your eye looks up to the scoreboard and you see the time. That was when I was at my happiest. When you’ve swam a race and have your personal best, that’s amazing.

There’s a downside to that too. I look back on my career and I didn’t celebrate those enough. It was immediately like, “What’s the next event? What can I get into? Is that going to qualify me for this?” I try to encourage my kids to celebrate any victory. You don’t have to be crazy about it but you work hard for those moments and the team works hard too, your coach and parents. Looking back, I wish I celebrated that little bit more.

That’s fascinating. I want to be able to expand the lens and the aperture of that a little bit later into where that plays out in our lives outside of the pool or whatever fill-in-the-blank is on the sport or the passion that we have for things when we’re quite young and apply it to being a parent, being a member of a team, being in business or an entrepreneur on your own or being in sales and all that thing. I want to come back to that. You start early in life with this great passion. You got further than I did. I swam in high school and college but you went beyond that. You’re a humble guy but I want you to give us a few of the highlight real moments for you as a swimmer.

Pretty quickly, I was winning state or our equivalent in Scotland and that was great. I made my first Scottish school team when I was fifteen and I ran home from school to tell my parents. You couldn’t have been a happier kid in the world than me when I got my first cap there. From there, it progressed each year. I was a slow burner. I worked hard and wanted it more than most but wasn’t quite good enough, to be honest.

Eventually, I wore everyone down and started winning. I made my first Senior Scottish Cap in ’96. From there, I was close to qualifying for a lot of major things and never quite getting over the line. I competed at the European Short Course Championships, Commonwealth Games and World Cups in Australia, Berlin and various places but the big one was the Olympics. That was the holy grail in my mind.

I had two pretty poor experiences and one of which I’ve shared with folks and one that I haven’t. I wasn’t going to make the Olympic team in ’96. I was still relatively young back then but I was looking for a final and my block broke. I used to do the track start where you put a lot of force on the block and it broke. I pancaked into the water and finished. I got out and punched the block when I went to the other end. I wasn’t going to be close to the Olympic team but would’ve made the final, which would’ve been cool at that age.

II was looking to make the team go to Australia. I was on the pre-Olympic games camp with the British team. We spent six weeks out there in January training and getting ready. Not too long after I came back and swimming well, I was lifting weights and I tore my pectoral muscle that time. That was early in the year and I knew that this was going to be tough to make the Olympic team but I rehabbed it as best I could, even though they said, “There’s no chance you can get this back in shape and swim again before trials.” I was like, “No, this is going to happen. It’s my life’s dream here.” I rehabbed as quickly and as best I could.

Long story short, I was one of the favorites. You never know at Olympic trials, people can come out with the word work but in my particular event, I ranked 3rd in Europe at one point and in the top 10 in the world so I had a chance. I got down there to Sheffield for the Olympic trials. The day before my event, I was warming up, dove off the block and retore my pec. Talk about the highs and the lows. I didn’t know who to talk to and what to say. My dad had driven down. I went back to the hotel room after telling everyone, “It’s a good warm-up. I’m good.” I went to bed that night and couldn’t sleep.

 I went down in the middle of the night to my coach’s room and he opened his door with a blurry eye and I said, “Coach, I’m done. It’s over.” We both cried and hugged. It’s the end of it. I swam after that. I took a year and went back to college and finished my degree. I swam pretty well after that but never hit the heights again that I wanted to. By that time, I was 25, getting married and life gets in the way. It’s a regret. I’m not saying anything. My wife or my family doesn’t know that. I feel like there was more in the tank. I feel I should have done better. I don’t know that I was ever built to do better but in my mind, I felt like I deserve and wanted to do better

Sometimes life gets in the way. Click To Tweet

[00:10:45] I want to unpack that a little bit more. For people who are reading this, Cameron and I met at an event where I was invited to come speak. Cameron was the person who found me. Is that correct?

Yes, I was excited to have you come speak at our event.

He’s surfing the internet and finds some videos of me giving my talk on resilience to some audiences. I was asked to come to speak for the company that Cameron works for. They’re in the insurance and the business advisory space, Ollis/Akers/Arney. They’re based in Springfield, Missouri, a very well-regarded firm that’s been around since 1885. It’s a pretty amazing organization. They have incredible history and legacy. It was an honor to come and speak.

It’s the morning and we’re getting ready for me to get on stage and all that. We are doing early morning tech checks and getting set up. In my tech check or what we call mic check, I’m going through some of my presentation a little bit here and there. At that moment, Cameron has a moment. I don’t want to describe that moment for you but what happened when you heard me doing my warmups that morning?

I don’t do a lot of public speaking like you. When I’m going to be on the stage in front of 300 folks, I got to get myself mentally prepared. I watched some of the slides as you say go by and one of the slides certainly hit on a topic and a story that I wanted to tell that morning that I’d rehearse and I was ready to roll. The lesson I learned is if you’re going to invite a keynote and you’re also going to go on stage, be the first guy on stage. That’s the thing.

The lesson is to steal the thunder of the guy that you brought in.

I had to figure out very quickly that the audience was near to hearing a similar story twice and I had to do something different. I ran an idea by Adam and he was gracious enough to give me a couple of pointers and steer me in the right direction. This is where the swimming story poured out.

 It did. You were going to speak after I was done and you had some time with the audience before the end of this wellness day, which was wonderful that your firm brought together and has for consecutive years. They brought together a group of clients and people from the community to talk about wellness before it was fashionable to talk about it. Now, that it is more fashionable to talk about it, you guys keep diving into that subject matter at a greater depth.

I felt incredibly blessed that I was tapped for that assignment. When it was done, you would say some things to wrap it up. What you had said to me was, “I was going to mention this thing about Rocky and the whole concept around Rocky but now that I know that you’re going to say something about Rocky, I probably shouldn’t do that.” I’m like, “Maybe that’s not necessarily what makes sense. What would you do if you weren’t going to do that? What would you share or talk about?”

Cameron and I geeked out on the swimming stuff because I was a swimmer and got started late in the game but swimming is one of those things that what you find is that people are madly in love with it until they become madly in hate of it or something. I met a lot of swimmers along the way that had been swimming since their parents tossed them in the water when they were 3 or 4 years old. They were in AAU or some other organized swim thing since they were so young. By the time they got to high school or college, they were burnt out on it unless they were bitten by the bug. If they had the Olympic bug, then there was a whole other thing that was happening.

PR Cameron Black | Olympic Dreams

Olympic Dreams: Swimming is one of those things where you find people are just madly in love with it until they become madly in hate of it.


I had met a few people that had been bitten by that bug and not just bitten but had the skills physically, mentally and emotionally, all of it. They had their heart set on it. To meet somebody like that in you, you and I were geeking out on that stuff. I said, “Why not tell something of your story around that disappointment? Not because it’s necessary to share a story that you’re still dealing with or share something that you’re still bleeding from but it’s about resilience,” which was the topic of the day.

What does resilience look like? In our premise about resilience among other things, it’s not about bouncing back but bouncing forward. It’s about how you leverage these kinds of adversities in your life to build strength that would otherwise not be there in that particular way. I said, “Maybe you say something about that.” Cameron proceeded to get up on stage after I was done. He captivated the entire audience with a story that was incredibly personal and still evolving and not entirely resolved, which was breathtaking to see.

That’s what I said to you afterward. When I did my book signing afterward, people were coming up to me and were so happy with how the day had gone. They’re very complimentary and all that. A number of people had said to me, “I needed to hear what Cameron shared. I’ve had these things in my life that have happened and I don’t talk about them much.”

“People are closest to me know about that disappointment, that broken block, that torn pec or that opportunity that I didn’t pan out but what people don’t know is that I still think about it. Sometimes, on a daily basis,” are some of the comments I got. What you shared was so powerful for them. You’ve had a few weeks to process since then. Has anything come up for you in publicly sharing the story of that great disappointment for the first time?

I’ve had 25 years at this point to process. It was cathartic in a way, quite frankly to offload that in a public setting like that. I’m a big believer that not enough of us are vulnerable in public. Although it was not what was intended that day, I don’t mind standing up and being that person because other people have far worse problems in their life than I’ll ever be in touch with.

This last couple of weeks I’ve had some great compliments similar to what you gave me and I appreciate that very much but it’s given me a chance to almost, I’m not going to say put closure on. I don’t know that I’ll ever get there. Maybe I will someday but put some perspective around it and say that was a wonderful time in my life, even with all the stuff that didn’t go right. There was a lot of stuff that did go right over the years and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if I could.

It is the time to move on and bring some of the skills and the tools that I had from that time and put those into my work and more importantly, put those into my family. Both my kids are athletes. They’re good athletes and I want them to have wonderful experiences but maybe not share some of the pain that I have. If they do, because as an athlete you do get injured, those things happen, maybe helping them bounce forward quicker than their dad was able to do.

I would love to talk about some of the skills that you use going forward. This is more of an opinion. I don’t have a research basis to back this up but I don’t know that this is about closure necessary. That’s one of these phrases that we hear that maybe we think that’s what we’re supposed to have as closure. “I don’t think about that anymore. When I do think about it, it’s all perfect,” and all that. I don’t know why I buy that because there are a lot of things in life. We could start with probably the most important, which is when we lose people. I don’t know that there’s anything more heartbreaking than when someone you love dies.

You could have the death of a dream like the dream to be in the Olympics but still not the same as the death of some person or something that you love. I don’t know that there’s ever closure there, as an example. You could be 95 years old and still going to look back. If someone that you cared about in your life passed away, you probably still think about them daily, weekly or monthly. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

From a resiliency standpoint, that dream of winning medals or being at the Olympics and competing was like a baby. You gave birth to that baby when you were very young and nurtured it as far as you could. To me, that loss is profound and it’ll probably be with you. It’s a question of perspective and that’s the word you used. That’s the thing that we can pinpoint that is a resiliency trait among others. It’s that capacity to look at things with a certain perspective, which would be down further on the list from me but at a certain point, I stopped swimming in my junior year of college. I loved it.

The reasons for that don’t matter but I am disappointed that I didn’t get to break a few of the number time records that I had set for myself as well but I’m sanguine about it because when I think about swimming, I think about the smell of the chlorine that would stay with you for hours. I’ve never had a better appetite in the best possible way. After morning practice where you’d swim for 1.5 hours or 2 hours, we would go to the commissary or the food area in college. The amount of food that I could consume has no trouble at all. It was breathtaking. I never gained weight or an ounce. I was struggling to keep my weight on.

The last thing was the shower. It’s the hot water in the shower after practice. I got this from high school because I went to an old New York City high school that didn’t have heat in the pool. The pool was cold every morning. It was cold during the winter, especially on Mondays when they didn’t even heat the school on the weekend.

People don’t realize you can sweat in the pool. If you’re swimming hard enough, you get a sweat. I was getting out of that cold pool and standing in that shower before I had to go to class. I was even willing to be late to class so I could let the hot water beat on me for twenty minutes until my back was red. These beautiful memories of a time that is over or passed. The perspective thing is key. I would love to know what are some of the skills that helped you to be successful in that sports arena. How do you apply them or how are you applying them even going forward in your business and personal life?

I was not built like a typical sprinter. I’m 6 feet tall. I’m pretty slight quite frankly. Particularly, sprinters man mountain. The biggest attribute I had was my brain. I’m not that smart of a guy but I lied to myself constantly in my mind that I was going to be the Olympic champion. “I’m going to beat this guy and that guy. This is what I was going to do.” I constantly reinforced that story in my head to where I probably outperformed my capability if you look at what I was blessed with bodily-wise. That was my biggest thing. I was a terrible trainer. I don’t care what coach you asked.

This is no head-on in 12-year-old girls but I was worse than 12-year-old girls when I was training and I was bringing up the rear. It wasn’t through lack of effort. I wasn’t very good at training. I could flip that switch for whatever reason when it came to competing. That’s what drove me. I didn’t miss practices ever. I was always there unless I was sick and I did get sick a lot. Looking back, it was that level of stress. I wanted something so bad and I was always on the edge. When you’re an athlete, you’re working so hard. You’re close to peak fitness or close to being in the hospital it seems as far as your health. That mental fortitude was probably my biggest gift and my biggest issue since I stopped swimming.

I was going to say, what does that look like but you’re already answering that question.

There’s a regret. When you visualize stuff so much and become good at perpetuating the positive, you’re also good at perpetuating the negative. That’s my case. I’ve had to work hard to make stuff matter. That mattered so much and was the be-all and the end-all. My identity was that I was a swimmer and that’s terrible. I’ve tried hard to make sure my kids don’t have that same issue because when that leaves you or you don’t meet the goals, then who are you?

PR Cameron Black | Olympic Dreams

Olympic Dreams: When you visualize stuff so much and become good at perpetuating the positive, you’re also really going to perpetuate the negative.


I was left on an island and have been for a long time. I’ve got a wonderful family and a great job. I’m relatively good at it but it doesn’t equate. I’m not trying to say my family or the job is not that important. In the big scheme of things, the family is number 1 and the job is number 2. My amateur swimming days are distant but when you create something in your mind that’s so strong, it’s hard to ever get that same intensity again, at least for me. I don’t know if that answers the question or not but that’s the way I feel about it.

It does. It starts with what you said which is, “I lied to myself.” That was a bit of a superpower for you. You reinforced the story that you could beat these guys, whoever those guys were and even make it as far as you can make it in that sport. Not because you were 6’5 with a 7-foot wing span or whatever Michael Phelps was but you could wear everyone else down. You were physically sick and not healthy because of the stress that you were putting on your body.

What’s important from my standpoint, that’s relative and universally applicable to me and everybody is this idea that, first of all, we tell ourselves stories. Those stories are not inherently true. They might not be false either. Just because it’s a story doesn’t mean that it’s false. The same thing could be said of how true it is.

The story is the area where our control enters the picture. We have a choice about the stories that we create and what we make them mean. That’s important. The concept of grinding your way to success is not new. It’s probably in the playbook of success. It’s the first chapter for most people. You’re living in working in Springfield, Missouri. I find that this concept about grinding was probably born out of the farming culture and what it meant to be a farmer or what it means to be a family farmer. It’s a particularly Midwest mindset. You’re setting yourself up for whatever is required of you and grinding your way through it.

We have a choice about the stories that we create and what we make them mean. Click To Tweet

I am a tenacious person. When I get my sights on something or sink my teeth into something, I pretty well locked into it like the snapping turtle. What I’ve found is that when I don’t have the right perspective, what will help me to go the longer distance, whenever I’ve lost that perspective or lost sight of that, I’ve gotten sick or injured, tried too hard, blown relationships or opportunities and too singularly focused. That can be the case for a lot of people. The resilience research that we’ve done provides some level of answer to this. Resilience is more about recovery and less about the endurance end.

I had this conversation with a swimmer that did go to the Olympics. That was Michael Andrew who was on our show a while ago. I happened to swim in a facility nearby a local YMCA where he was also training and I met his dad first. The reason I met his dad was I was watching him in the pool in awe of what felt like a dolphin. I looked at him in the water and the first thing I thought was, “Is he wearing fins?” You and I know that when you wear fins in the water, you’re like on the top of the water and have an engine on. He didn’t have fins on. He had these massively long feet.

I’m watching him train and I said to his dad, “This is not any training I’ve ever seen.” I saw him in there week after week before I even said anything to his dad. I’m standing on the pool deck talking to his father and I said, “I got to understand what is it that you are doing.” He says, “My son is training for the Olympics and I coach him.” I go, “Amazing.” He goes, “He’s my son.” I’m like, “First of all, this is something you don’t see very often anyway. Those guys that are training for the Olympics are a part of the Olympic team and they have Olympic coaches who are college coaches.

He says to me, “I’ve been coaching him his whole life but the reason is that other people in the sport think we’re out of our minds and they won’t sanction this type of training that we are doing.” I said, “Tell me a little bit more about it.” When I wrote the book Change Proof and I started to share more of the research and even philosophically what resilience is about, he was describing that to a tee.

I was like you. I wasn’t the greatest workout guy but I could perform on meet day and get up on the blocks. I wasn’t one of those guys that would grind in the pool. It’s like something inside of me knew that if I was grinding myself down in the pool, somehow or another, I was not going to be able to perform on the day of the meet.

The way swimmers work is that’s what they do. They grind for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours after school. During the key parts of the season, they’re swimming 3 to 4 hours a day, 5,000 to 10,000 yards or meters. When you get to this end of the season and you’re swimming meets throughout that whole process, it’s the end of the season for a couple of weeks and they do what’s called tapering. They taper you down. You swim much less yardage and you’re not in the pool as long and spend more time stretching and working on your flips, turns, starts and all that thing for 2 weeks or 3 weeks at the end. That’s what they do.

When they’re ready to swim their best times, it’s like they’re going to be shot out of a cannon kind of thing. I thought, “This guy Michael Andrew is doing it differently,” because his whole thing was that he’s going to maintain his recovery rituals. He’s going to constantly be keeping his body from getting to that side where injury can occur, where you break yourself down so much through the physical, mental and emotional stress of it. You break down and then give yourself this short period to recover so that you can have this one great race or this series of great swims. That’s the philosophy that you were also wrapped up in. Isn’t that true?

It is. It’s funny that you mention all that. I know a little bit about Michael Andrew because my brother loves to swim still in his days and he’s shared some of this stuff. Back in the day that you were describing, there wasn’t a swimmer in the world that would’ve done that because the tradition was you go as hard and as far as you can go with every coach that I ever had. In the very last year of my career, I did something very similar to what Michael Andrew is in. I was a 50 guy primarily but even 50 was quite frankly too far from me. I was good for 40 and then died the last 10 because I’m not a sprinter.

What Michael Andrew has done is what the track guys were doing several years ago. I’m a huge advocate for that style of training. That’s the way to do it. I was in the same mixing balls as every other swimmer the coaches did what they thought was right at the time and things move on and we learn. That wasn’t good for my body at all. I was a huge taper because I dropped time like no other, between in-season and the end of season partly because my body needed the rest. We couldn’t handle it. I told myself such great stories. I’ve got taper for summers like this holy grail. Great things are going to happen because we’re tapering. It did quite a few times for me but it doesn’t work for everybody either. Michael Andrew has set this new pattern many swimmers will start to follow.

If you injure yourself before you get the opportunity to get the benefits of a taper, then the whole thing is shot anyway. This is not a show necessarily for swimming. Hang on for a second here, even if you’re fascinated by this whole thing because it’s about life. We are going to come back to this moment when we’re looking at ourselves in our personal lives and professional lives, which are not separate things. It is a blend of both.

Some of us are parents and some are not. Some of us are in relationships at the moment and some of us don’t have partners at the moment. Some of us are working for ourselves and others are working in someone’s business or organization in various roles or capacities but we’re trying to achieve whatever the Olympic gold medal status is in all of those things. That’s the way I see it. That’s what we’re all after. Everybody is doing that.

The question is are we working with that old methodology? The methodology would be grind and grind. Swim until your arms are going to fall off so that at some point, you’re going to be able to reap some reward from all of that grinding. That’s philosophically where I find a lot of people are or are you going to apply what is a new way of thinking or mindset? It’s research-based as well. I wrote about it in Change Proof, which is what Michael Andrew and I spoke about in that episode.

What we’re talking about now is that you focus on recovery the whole way through. Recovery is baked into the effort always so that you’re not grinding. You’re simply moving from one optimal mindset or way of handling to the next because you have baked recovery in between those stressful moments. That’s the part that people don’t get. You are not wasting your time or doing something lazy or selfish because, throughout the day, you have moments when you sit quietly to catch your breath, reset yourself, take time to close your eyes, put your legs up a wall, take a few moments of what is non-sleep deep rest as how it’s referred to or make time to drink water or eat something healthy.

These things people think are going to take away somehow from optimal performance. It’s quite the opposite seems to be true. Back to the position of where a mishap, a time in life when things didn’t go as you’d like or a disappointment that still is in your memory bank and something that you chew on. What do you do in this conversation around resilience?

My answer to that is simply that you take a moment to pause. You and I didn’t talk about this but we talked about pausing, asking and choosing. At this moment, it’s pausing, processing and releasing. If there’s that moment when you think, “What if this had happened differently? Where would my life be if somehow or another that block didn’t break or whatever it might be?” In those moments, I have mine and everybody has theirs, you have to pause for the moment to recognize that’s where you are. It’s come up again so that you can process it in some way at the moment.

Processing is asking yourself a few questions about it. One of the questions I asked myself was, “Is this useful?” At this moment, “Is it useful for me to be sitting in the energy or reliving some of the feelings at the moment of disappointment or whatever they might be?” It’s to pause and process that at the moment, not to pause and then repress it or to subconsciously be repressing it because it’s something that you can’t allow yourself to even think about. You pause to process so that you can then release. The release is also a lot easier than many people would imagine.

I’m going to put it to you that when you feel that come up as it does from time to time, sit with it for a second. “This has come up. I’m about to get ready to go do something.” I’m not saying if you’ve got a meeting or an appointment, you’re going to put somebody off for five minutes. These are five minutes from me. I’m going to sit with this. I’m going to process what I’m feeling about this and ask myself some questions like, “Is this useful? What have I learned? What is the creative opportunity? Is there something that’s going to motivate me or enable me to help other people?”

It’s the way you did when you got on that stage and shared that story. The creative opportunity that day was that you shared a story that helped other people and that was a gift. You can release it at the moment to say, “I’m okay to let this go for now. This will come up again. It’ll come up again in the future at some point and that’s okay but in this moment, I’m all right to release this and move on with my day or the next thing I care to do.” Does that feel like something it could be useful as a tool?

It does. I’ve got the pause part down. I’m pretty good at that but I then replay the event over and over again. I can’t get out and I need a distraction. That’s when I have to listen to something on the radio or have to go get myself busy doing something else. I have thought about it a lot. “It’s in the past. It happened. I can’t change the fact that it happened.” It will come up again. I’ve got no doubt about that.

To your point, I love being up on stage and sharing that story because I did feel it had an impact on people. You can take pride in that. Maybe you’re helping somebody that needed it at that point and that’s what I need to continue to find out. I don’t have the answer for you now but I need to continue to find these outlets where I can forgive myself, relieve myself or however you want to phrase that but also use that for the good of our community, my friends and whoever else could benefit from that. That’s forgiveness.

Find outlets that allow you to forgive yourself and relieve yourself. Use them also for the good of the community, your friends, and whoever else that could benefit from that forgiveness. Click To Tweet

It’s a tool people don’t use nearly enough. It’s because we feel like forgiveness is something that has to be earned. There’s this quid pro quo that’s assigned to it. I’m not saying that there aren’t situations where that might not be the case but when it comes to ourselves, I feel like that is a self-perpetuating hardship. It’s suffering that is optional that we create for ourselves.

Empathy is not easy. I’d like to think most people in the world are good. I know people who have their opinions on that but most good human beings can find empathy for somebody else. I certainly can. If somebody told me the story that I told, I would congratulate them on what an amazing success. I would look at the career, the family and all this good stuff but that’s the logical brain speaking. I sometimes think the heart dictates the head, at least in my case.

Some of my very close friends, my wife and my brother, in particular, we’ve talked this through but everybody’s problems are their own. My problem is so minuscule. It’s nothing in the big world but it’s my problem. It affects me and my life. It’s sometimes difficult to forgive and process on your own. For someone else, “I can help you. You got a problem. Let me talk you through it. That’ll help you,” but for me, it’s a little difficult to allow myself that release.

I don’t think I’ve ever said this publicly but a part of the reason why I speak and why moving out of practicing law, which was my prior profession or why I moved out of that was the gift of my forgiveness as well as the fulfillment. Standing on the medal stand, whether it was for the Olympic gold medal, an AAU meet, high school, college thing or whatever it might be is a thrill. That thrill lasts a few seconds.

I’ve spoken with a number of very high-performing former professional and amateur athletes. I was also an athlete so I remember what that’s like. Those moments are fleeting but the opportunity and fulfillment that comes in sharing your life experiences with other people and seeing how it provides something of value to them for me have been far more lasting. It has no shelf life. It’s not based on whether I could still swim a certain time or do something physical as well as I did in the past. It’s something that has this wonderful almost no expiry date. I say that to you because of the work that you do or the work that anybody who’s reading this does. There is that opportunity for all of us.

PR Cameron Black | Olympic Dreams

Olympic Dreams: The opportunity and fulfillment that comes in sharing your life experiences with other people and seeing how it provides something of value to them has no shelf life.


I’m not saying you have to become a public speaker. Maybe you do want to speak. Maybe you want to speak locally like in community things or do something that’s more outwardly in that vein at work. It’s more along the lines of how is it that you are able to share your life lessons and experiences and even those things that you don’t have “closure” on with other people. It provides this everlasting opportunity that I would call fulfillment.

To me, it’s as sweet as the feeling of being in front of that shower after a long workout or that piece that came when I looked up at the clock and saw that I had broken my best time, as you described. There is so much of that from the way that we can reach out and connect with other people. I appreciate you not only standing on that stage that day, having a lot of courage to do that for the very first time and share that publicly but also, getting on this episode and also share what people don’t often share on a show.

A lot of times, everything is clean and has been worked out. By the time you’re speaking about it publicly, it’s all resolved and you can tell everybody, “Here are the three steps.” It’s all being nice, neat and tidy and what have you. Your situation is still evolving and you have perspective but you don’t have all the perspective that you’re going to have and looking for. That’s amazing. It’s not just brave. It’s inspiring. Cameron, I thank you for that.

I truly appreciate you. I’ll be very honest with you, getting to know you, having an opportunity to be in the same vicinity and having these types of conversations have been helpful. Not that I needed more time to think about this type of stuff but it’s certainly helped me think about it differently. It starts to put stuff in perspective and I’ll get there and figure this out. I love this opportunity and hopefully, your readers got a benefit out of this too.

You got Change Proof because that was the whole point of my coming to speak at Ollis but I’m not sure, did I leave you with a copy of Pivot?

I did. We got those too.

The reason I point that out is because there’s a wonderful place in Pivot, which is Chapter Four, Entering the Pivot Phone Booth. You spoke about identity and how your identity was the thing that was changed when that part of your life ended. That’s the case for a lot of folks. For me, the pivot phone booth was my going in as Clark Kent and coming out like Superman. When I wrote that in 2015, I went into that pivot phone booth as a lawyer. I went in with an identity of, “That’s who I am. I’m this guy who’s an attorney and a professional,” and all this stuff that goes along with that.

I came out of that phone booth realizing that I was mostly an educator. The common thread in my life through having been a middle school English teacher for a couple of years right out of college and in everything I was doing, including eighteen years as a lawyer was that I was a counselor first. I was educating, counseling, advising, mentoring and things of that sort. That’s what I do to this day. I do it from the stage and in a different context but that’s the thread.

To me, if it’s advice but in that book, that concept of how you take a good look at what your identity is and how it is that you see yourself and through your eyes, lens or sometimes we see ourselves through the lenses of other people. “How is my wife or husband look at me? How do my kids and parents look at me? How does my brother or sister look at me? How does my boss look at me?”

Our identity often isn’t even always our own but it’s a weird reflection of how we see other people looking at us. It’s psychobabble but it does make sense. Cameron, I can’t thank you enough. I want to end our conversation by asking you, is there one thing that you do daily, a ritual or routine that helps you to be a bit more resilient? Is there something that you’ve been doing or working on?

This is going to sound very simplistic but the first thing I do in the morning is workout and that’s every single morning. Sometimes it’s intense. Sometimes it’s just jumping on a bike for fifteen minutes or doing something. For me, it does a couple of things. It gets me into a routine. It’s something that I do every single day and it gets my brain going and ready for the day. If I do that, then I’m on track for a good day. I try to have a good day every day I can.

If there’s somebody that you know that would benefit, maybe even need to hear some of what was discussed here and I’m sure most of us know somebody like that, please share this episode with that person or individual. It’s super helpful as well. This is a request I’m making and it’s self-serving on some level too, to say, please rate the show, whether it’s on Spotify or whatever medium it is that you’re using to consume this. If you give us a five-star rating, algorithmically speaking, it means that this show is going to show up in more people’s feeds and people will see it. That’s what we want. I have an interest in that agenda but I appreciate your support and I’m asking for that. Thank you for doing it.

Lastly, if you’ve got a comment that you want to leave or a question for Cameron or me, you can simply go to Leave a question or comment there and both of us will respond to that personally. I so appreciate that you take the time to do that. I will say for now, ciao. I hope everybody has a beautiful rest of your day that you feel a little bit more resilient having heard what Cameron has shared with us and that you take that moment to forgive yourself.

That to me is what comes through in some respects as a through line here. You pause and process in that moment to release may be as simple as saying, “I forgive myself this moment.” You might need to forgive yourself again tomorrow and the day after that and that’s okay. I firmly believe that if the only thing we can do is get this moment right, then we are doing more than all right.

That certainly didn’t disappoint me. I hope you feel the same way. I hope you feel that was one of the more interesting conversations that you’ve read on the show. We’re talking about business but we’re talking about life. When I met Cameron, I was asked to deliver a resilience keynote presentation for the company, Ollis/Akers/Arney that’s based in Springfield, Missouri.

They are one of the most highly respected and well-regarded firms in the business advisory and insurance space in the state of Missouri. They’ve been around since 1885. They’re a purpose-driven organization. Cameron is a great person to head up their wellness strategy for the organization internally and how it relates and intersects with their business and clientele.

The conversation took some wonderful turns into highly personal dream disappointments. Cameron shared with us his journey from passion to someday make the Olympics to almost making the Olympics and getting very close but coming up a little bit short. The lingering disappointment around that several years later, as well as a number of other areas of his life that he is still highly motivated by working on. He is still finding his path.

I loved where our conversation led because we talked about things that are very relevant in pretty much every person’s life, which is how we deal with our disappointments and our lack of forgiveness of ourselves for the mistakes that we’ve made along our path and the stress that those things can cause us. We spoke about resiliency in the context of swimming at a very high level.

I was a pretty high-level swimmer in high school and college but not at the level that Cameron was. We swam the same events which were these short sprint events, the 50 and the 100. 50 yards, 50 meters, 100 yards and 100 meters are slightly different lengths. Mostly, they are in different contexts. Yards are typically how we swim in high school and college in the United States and we don’t get into meters until we’re in the Olympic training arena.

If you swim in Europe, which I did get to swim when I was in Great Britain studying my first semester there, they swim in meters. It’s a grueling sport. For many people that have done it or have seen it, it is practice and grind. You grind your body and mind in the pursuit of a few good swims at the end of the season. You’re working for more than six months for perhaps one swim or event going the way you plan. It’s a lot of pressure.

Most people exhausted themselves, worn them out even to the point of injury before they ever get that moment. Cameron has no exception to that. He blew out his pectoral muscle. He tore it and won’t say more about that. He says a bit about that. It’ll best leave it to his description of what that was like but he had other mishaps occur as well like a broken block. He’s standing on the block and ready to dive in to start a race. As he makes the dive, the block breaks. That is something that does not happen frequently. There was something quite eerie about that.

It’s about how we lead ourselves often down this path of exhausting ourselves in pursuit of our goals. Grinding is something that we think gives us a badge of courage and honor or it will ensure our success. What our research on resiliency shows us is that grinding burns us out. Grinding without the proper amount of the commensurate recovery to go along with that grinding and stress that is created in these situations will only inevitably lead to our exhaustion, depletion and ultimately if unchecked our burnout, which doesn’t get us what we’re after. It doesn’t help us to succeed in the short-term or the long-term.

 We’re more speaking in these terms about what means to succeed over time. To have longevity and be able to do something at higher levels of capacity over time is a rare thing. The secret sauce is to adopt this new paradigm of resiliency that I am known for having written about and spoken about. This episode was very enjoyable for me to get to know Cameron better and to have somebody willing to be so transparent about where his life has been and where it is now. The work that he’s still doing in that arena allowed me to be even in some respects, wearing my mentoring hat as well as a host.

I hope you appreciated it as well. If you have, share it with a friend or someone that might need to read this conversation. Also, if you have not yet determined your resiliency like what’s a snapshot of how resilient you feel and how resilient you are in those four zones of resilience, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual, you can simply go to and get your resiliency score which is not something that’s set in stone. It’s a snapshot at this moment.

You can get your resiliency score every week if you like by doing that. It’s entirely free and it takes three minutes. You’ll get tools, strategies, as well as the actual numbers almost like a credit score but it’s a score of your resiliency credit and resiliency bank account. That’s something that I talk about in the book as well. How resilient are you? Find out. It’s just three minutes, which is the beauty of it.

I want to thank you as well for being a part of this community and for sharing the episode with other people. When you’re able and feel called to it, that five-star rating which only helps us to have the episode be delivered and seen by more and more people. Thank you for your support and comments. As always, I wish you the absolute most resilient day of your life and every day. I want to say thank you again. Ciao for now.


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About Cameron Black

PR Cameron Black | Olympic DreamsI’m a Scotsman living in America who is still finding his path. I am a recovering swimmer, with great memories but unfulfilled dreams. I currently work as a Wellness Director/Strategic Advisor for a Brokerage Firm.