Have you ever…

Resisted the shortcut? Decided to go all in? Pushed yourself beyond limits you never even knew you could reach? As we kick-off the 2021 Olympics, I’d like to talk about a quest for excellence and what it might take for you to develop Olympic- level resilience… but first, I want you to meet someone. 

Michael Andrew is an athletic phenom, first gaining notoriety for breaking numerous records in the 50m free, back, and fly,  at the 2017 World Junior Championships as well as taking World Championships gold in the 100 IM at the young age of 17. Most recently, Michael set a new US Record in his first swim of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials in the men’s 100 breaststroke, and on night 2 in the 100 breast final, Michael Andrew touched first, making his first-ever Olympic team.

In a world of “right now” and an expectation of everything being easy and instant, I wonder what it takes to achieve this level of excellence, over and over again. Funny enough, Michael and I met at the pool, and while I would love to say that I was training for some Olympic trial or amazing feat, I was just being me, and indulging my love of the water. So I’m in the water, in my lane, and I start to notice a lot of movement, almost like someone has put a propeller in the water or something. I pop my head up and I see this man rocketing across the surface of the water – and boy was he fast – unusually fast. 

Adam Markel, Resilience Keynote Speaker & Olympian Michael Andrew

Adam Markel, Resilience Keynote Speaker & Olympian Michael Andrew

Speed Happens with Recovery

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the detail that really caught my attention. It was the difference in how he was training and when I asked about his approach, he told me what I preach about resilience all the time. The formula for growth is stress plus rest equals growth. Not stress plus stress, because there has to be recovery to be great. Read that again… there has to be recovery to be great. This Olympic athlete, rather than swim thousands of yards, exhaust himself and create damage, was building muscle memory and leaning into recovery. Something I’ve learned from being an athlete myself is that most athletes skip the recovery – which is required to get better. Growth (resilience) requires recovery. 

Muscle Memory But For Habits

Back to that instant gratification I was talking about earlier, the reason we aren’t all athletes (natural ability aside) has something to do with whether or not we stick out the adaptation period required to build muscle memory – or a habit. How many times have you started a diet? A gym membership? A new hobby? And 8, 10, 15 days later, it’s a thing of the past? Just like training yourself to swim really, really fast, there is a process involved and there is a period of time where you are pushing and then recovering, over and over again, to become better and better. 

“Repetition creates a compounding effect that produces results.” – Michael Andrew

The Cost of Exhaustion

In my resilience keynotes, I often talk about a sled dog musher and Iditarod competitor named Blair Braverman. One thing she says that I absolutely love is that it is far easier to prevent fatigue than to recover from it. Even when I was swimming in college, I recognized this truth, that there is a cost when it comes to exhaustion. I started late as a swimmer, in high school, which was unthinkable. My competitors had been 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 and mentally, they were experiencing a deep exhaustion. My point is this: when we burn out, we get depressed, we lose motivation, physically we suffer… and this creates a wall between us and our growth. So we give up. 

Developing An Olympic Mindset

I’m here for the habits! I love rituals because when you create a routine, you get used to doing it, so you don’t have to think about it as much. You just take action. And that action builds upon itself. This is how we develop resilience and an olympic level mindset to go the distance and to love life, no matter what. Whether we’re talking about swimming or eating healthy, building our business, or recording podcast episodes. The things we commit to without taking the shortcut are the things that become our greatness. 

If you’d like to learn more about the mindset of an Olympian, listen to my conversation with Michael here.