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Tips From The Top: One On One With Olympic Gold Medalist Darian Townsend

I spoke to Olympic Gold Medalist Darian Townsend about his journey and best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

I think most people believe that athletes that highest pinnacle in their sport are super positive and glass half full all the time. Athletes in front a camera are made out to be super human, and never have self-doubts. That is not true. Even Olympic Champions go through self-doubt, have bad mental days and struggle to be positive. Olympians are in the end human, and we doubt our ability all the time.

Adam: Looking back, what is your sharpest or most significant memory from your Olympic experience?

My most significant memory is when a met a track and field sprinter from Namibia that I has been watching on TV for years before my first Olympics. I met him in the Athlete Village in Athens. I had just won my gold medal and he was curious as to how I had prepared myself to be at my best leading up the Games. What struck me, was that he had been to multiple Olympic Games, won numerous medals and yet he was asking me how I had achieved my goal. It showed me that every athlete there at the Games, no matter how famous, or how much success they had, they were still in awe of other sports and the athletes competing in them.

Adam: What is something that would surprise people about the life of an Olympian?

The life of an Olympian is not all fun and games. There are a lot of sacrifices that Olympians make in order to be able to compete at the highest level. The amount of social events with friends and family that I have turned down because I have practice or a competition is crazy. Having your body and mind ready to be at its best each day, is a full time job and requires many days, months, years of training.

Adam: What are the best lessons you learned from the achievement of becoming an Olympian and then a gold medalist?

Achieving Olympic gold is not easy. You have to firstly put the work in. You don’t just show up and decide you want to good at a sport. I spent 12 years training my mind and body to win the Olympics. I spent another 15 years doing the same, but never won another Olympic medal. One of the hardest things for me was knowing when I was over training myself. There were quite a few seasons when I go to the main competition and realized I hadn’t rested my body enough to compete at its best. Swimmers train thousands of miles each week just to race an event that lasts sometimes 21 seconds. Knowing how to rest your body is hard and many don’t ever get it right.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?

Being a leader is about making the tough decisions. It’s about being able to put aside your ego and make decisions for the betterment of your organization and employees. To be a good leader you need have patience. Decisions made out of haste can come back to harm you and your organization.

Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Learning from a great leader is the easiest way to become a great leader. It’s so important to have some to mentor you. When seeking a new job or starting in a new industry, try to find someone you can learn from.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Three good tips are to learn from your mistakes. It’s ok to made mistakes, but don’t make the same mistake twice. Don’t be afraid to follow your gut, but only after doing your research. Lean on others for advice, allow them to give you their opinion, but in the end make your decision and be responsible for it.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Your face is your fortune. Your expressions tell a lot about who you are. So make sure you are showing the world what you want them to think of you.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Karma is real. Expect your actions to happen to you at some point.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

My hobbies are centered around sport. When I wasn’t training for swimming, I was doing another sport trying to get better at it. Understanding and becoming better at a sport that I wasn’t necessarily talented at, took a different way of thinking. This trained my brain to think differently and become comfortable being uncomfortable.

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