Forging Building Blocks from Disappointments with Olympic Medalist Lauryn Williams
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About This Episode
There is some debate about when it was discovered that Lauryn Williams was fast. Her father claims that it was when she spent an entire day at the science center in Pittsburg racing a hologram of the legendary Olympic gold medalist Florence Joyner until she was actually able to beat it. For her mother, it was when she could beat their family dog home after playing outside. Either way, they knew that she could run — fast. But Lauryn didn’t always have aspirations of being a track & field athlete. She participated in karate, gymnastics, softball, basketball, and ballroom dancing throughout her childhood. While focusing on academic college scholarships during her senior year of high school, she stumbled upon athletic scholarships and thought that she had a good shot of snagging one. She ended up attending the University of Miami, confiding, “if I had to run for college funding, I might as well do it where the weather was nice!” Though her decision may have hinged more on climate than programming, she recalls being incredibly well cared for, honored, and championed as an athlete at the school. “The coaching staff and athletic department always did what was in my best interest as a person, in addition to an athlete,” she says.
At 20 years old, she ran the second fastest time in the world for the 100 meters, was the fastest American women, and won the NCAA championships. Although, being a professional athlete wasn’t anywhere on her radar at the time, her success catapulted her into the Olympic Trials and into the pressure to win big for her country. Her hometown did fundraisers to get her parents to Athens and it was as if the entire world watched her step up to the line of the 100 meter race. She ran a great race and was proud to walk away from that event with a silver medal. It wasn’t time to relax yet, however, as the 4x100 meter relay was only days away. The four women on the team were several of the fastest in the world and together, they easily had a shot at not only a gold medal, but a world record. In the end, perhaps it was division in their training or a lack of chemistry or negativity that chipped away at their confidence, but whatever the reason, the baton failed to be passed inside of the allotted zone and the team was disqualified.
“I felt like I not only left my team down, but I let the whole country down,” says Lauryn of the race. Set to receive the baton from Marion Jones, Lauryn was personally a part of the botched handoff and the headlines, reporters, and fans didn’t let her forget it. “It was the first time that I was subjected to the anger and hatred of others. And it went far beyond just the performance,” she recalls. After repeatedly seeing her name alongside words such as “failure” and “let-down”, she had to dig herself out of the pit of self-doubt and insecurity; she had to not internalize what everyone was saying about her. With the support of her family and close community, she says that she arrived at the mindset that “it’s about who I believe I am.”
Putting the Olympics behind her, she returned to training and competing professionally. An opportunity for redemption presented itself at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing where she qualified to run the 100 meter individual event as well as the 4x100 meter relay. She took fourth place in the individual race behind three women from Jamaica and had to bounce back from that disappointment to head into the relay. But the nightmare repeated itself for the American women. The baton was again dropped during the transfer; once more the team headed home empty handed, devastated, and in the merciless hands of the media. “I just wanted to hit the rewind button,” says Lauryn. It seemed that one mistake was forgivable, but definitely not two. Despite her rich faith and strong friends and teammates, Lauryn struggled to maintain her confidence.
Shortly after those 2008 Olympic games, her father passed away. Still reeling from the disappointment of the games, her pain was only worsened by not having one of her biggest encouragers on the sideline. The grief didn’t fully hit her until May of the following year when, out of instinct, she picked up her phone and called her dad. As the phone rang and rang, it finally dawned on her that he was gone and she could never again be comforted by his counsel or encouraged by his voice.
“I was faced with questions about what life was really about and why I was running circles around a track,” says Lauryn. She had equated her identity, success, and influence with her speed, but losing her father brought her face to face with deep doubts about her purpose. She took 2010 off from track to find out who she was without running, to discover the way she contributed to society and community when she isn’t simply an athlete. “During that year I spent a lot of time talking to people about how they got to where they were,” explains Lauryn. She was on a mission to discover how the everyday person navigated they journey, and she ascertained that there was no such thing as a linear path. “You get to write your story. You get to decide who you are,” she says. She learned that the journey towards purpose is one of evolution, not destination or definition. In various seasons elements are added into our lives, just as others fall away. She found peace in the realization that she wouldn’t be an elite sprinter forever, but also that she wasn’t done yet.
She returned to competition in 2012 with an entirely different mindset. “I felt more grateful to those who were around me,” Lauryn recalls. Her eyes had been opened to the specific journeys and purpose of her coach, trainers, nutritionist, and even the volunteers at every event. “So many people invested their time in my success,” says Lauryn. And she started taking time to thank them. Although she didn’t qualify for the individual event in London, they still thought highly enough of her that she was placed on the 4x100 meter relay team despite her perceived failures in 2004 and 2008. Most of the team was brand new and her maturity, experience, and composure grounded the team. Because of her negative experiences and mistakes, she was able to emphasize the importance of honesty, communication, and trust within the relay team; things that she knew mattered just as much as speed. Lauryn got to be a part of the semi-final race that secured the American team a spot in the finals where the women went on to break a 27 year old world record, and finally win the gold medal. It took time, however, for Lauryn to fully accept the medal. Although she was a part of getting the team to the final, she didn’t run in the actual race and initially felt quite fraudulent owning that victory. But with time, she matured enough to see the intangible effects that she had on the team that led to generating the kind of atmosphere from which world class teams are born.
After her final season of running came to a close, she ran into Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones at an airport and they talked a bit about the bobsled career that Lolo pursued after retiring from track. One month later, Lauryn found herself at the Olympic trials for bobsled. It was a steep learning curve over the next six months, but of that time she says, “I realized that I had nothing left to lose, and only things to gain.” She spent several months training with various partners in a round robin style and the final pairings wouldn’t be decided until ten days before the event. Thanks to her experience in 2012, she knew that her contribution wasn’t limited to tangible influence. No matter the outcome, she wanted Team USA to send the best six competitors to Sochi even if that put her in a supporting role. A week and a half before the event she was paired with Elana Meyers Taylor and the two went on to win silver in the bobsled final. “The best part was that I just never saw the opportunity coming,” says Lauryn. Participating and winning in a collaborative event was both gratifying and redeeming. In addition to winning a medal, Lauryn made history as the first American woman–and one of only five athletes ever–to medal in both the summer and winter Olympics.
Satisfied with her athletic career, Lauryn has recently turned her attention to serving athletes in other ways. She started a financial planning business called Worth Winning that aims to help young athletes optimize their finances, set markers beyond competition, and define their values in a concrete way. So many young athletes don’t fit into the typical box for financial planning; they are more tech savvy, on the go, and goal oriented. In addition, she has her own podcast with guests who discuss their own financial journeys in hopes that listeners can shed any embarrassment or shame in feeling inept at managing money. Her knowledge isn’t limited to the financial sector, though. Her book, The Oval Office, will be releasing this year and is full of information for professional athletes about how to navigate the world of elite sports in a really practical way. From working with agents to wading through endorsement offers to signing with teams, she guides readers through the world that she had to uncover on her own. And, true to her own journey, Lauryn encourages others to write their own story, believe in themselves, and learn to view failures as building blocks for their future. Be sure to following Lauryn on Instagram and Twitter, as well as on her website and podcast.
Read Episode Transcript
[00:00:06] Welcome to the Hope Sports podcast. I’m your host. Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. Each week I have the
privilege of chatting with a different elite athlete about how they navigated their rise in sports where they find their purpose
and how they’re contributing in amazing ways to the world today. You’re in for a real treat today as Olympian Lauren Williams
is joining us. I can’t easily tag a sport alongside her Olympian status because Lauren is actually the first American woman to
win a medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. And she’s one of only five individuals to ever do so. She race track and
field and three Olympics and just when she thought she was retiring she turned right around and raced bobsled in the Winter
Olympics. But her journey is about so much more than that she has walked through heartbreaking defeats and emerged so
incredibly grateful optimistic and authentic. She’s a savvy business owner a compassionate leader and an all-around
inspiration. You are gonna be so glad you tuned in today. Let’s dive on it.
[00:01:04] Lauren Williams thank you so much for coming on Hope Sports podcast today.
It is so good to be here. I can’t wait to share my story.
Well for those listening to that may not know a whole lot about you. Can you kind of walk us through how you got your start in
[00:01:18] Sure. So it all started way back in the 1980s. Now I’m born and raised between. I’m born in Pittsburgh raised
between Pittsburgh and Detroit and started running track when I was nine years old. And depending on who you ask between
my mother and father you’ll get two entirely different stories about how I got my start. My dad will tell you that we were at the
Carnegie Science Center in Pennsylvania and there was a blow Joe hologram. And I do know this story to be true. I remember
the hologram and I remember raising the hologram but I stayed there all day didn’t do anything else I didn’t see anything else in
the science center. And I did beat the hologram a few times now. Clearly, she could have been set at a world record pace. But.
[00:02:03] For you are really impressive 9 year old one to the other.
[00:02:06] right or I was a really impressive 9year girl. But that wasn’t quite as fast as I got older. And then my mom tells a
story of me getting home faster than the family German shepherd. And I do also remember going outside and playing with the
dog and you know her kind of calling us when it was this time for us to come in. But whether or not I got home faster than my
dog. You know I’m inclined to believe I did. But.
[00:02:31] That you’re a racer from the beginning huh?
[00:02:33] Exactly. I always love running. I always love being outside. You know competing and you know it was kind of a
tomboy if you will.
[00:02:40] Did you do any other sports or was it always just track and running?
[00:02:44] Everything. In fact, I didn’t think that I was gonna be like a star track athlete. It wasn’t a goal or aspiration of mine
at all. I did karate and ballroom dancing. I did gymnastics. Softball.
[00:02:53] Ballroom dancing.
[00:02:55] I know right.
[00:02:56] Wow! Nice.
[00:02:58] I didn’t make the volleyball team. I still kind of have a chip on my shoulder about that.
[00:03:03] You can’t have it all Lauren. Can’t have it all.
[00:03:04] Can’t have it all. That’s true. Basketball is the thing I love the most though. And that’s what I thought I was going to
do and I wanted to do. But sitting on the bench on senior night in high school my best friend got her. And then finally got to go
in when she got her in the fourth quarter. Let me know that I was probably not going to be a basketball player beyond my high
[00:03:25] Also how did you find herself at the University of Miami?
[00:03:29] Well when I started to get these letters in the mail to ask me you know if I was interested in attending this school or
that school. I got really excited because I didn’t know that that was actually an option initially. I was really working hard
toward getting academic scholarship,
scholarships and I was like oh like this could work. And I’m just sorting through the different options. I decided that if I needed
to go to school and it was gonna be my obligation to run track as a way to kind of pay for my education that I had better do it
in a place that had warm weather so that I’d feel good about going to practice every day and meeting. At 17 that’s all the wiser
that I could be it was a warm place, outdoors and I went on my college visit there it was October. And so got a sunburn in
Miami in October and got back to Pennsylvania for school and it was the first frost.
[00:04:23] Oh wow.
[00:04:24] And I was like oh like sunburn in October or snow in October.
[00:04:30] I think that’s a wise move. Well, you competed for track at Miami. You graduate in 2004 and you were even
inducted into the iron arrow Honor Society of the university’s highest honor. Tell us about your college experience.
[00:04:43] It was amazing. There’s no place I would rather go to school. There was not a day that I regretted choosing the
University of Miami the way that they looked after me in a family sort of way. We got there and the athletic department was a
small tight-knit family. My coach to this day I can say has always done what was in my best interest. And that you know
always thought about what I needed and what was going to be best for me as a person and in addition to me as an athlete. And
the university as well kind of correct was the word was rallied around me when I started to get some fame and stardom. And
you know made sure that they did everything they could to help me as well. And so I’m just really appreciative for the
opportunity to have gone to that school to have been supported the way that I was. All the way up to the president of the
university. Yeah. It was a really really good opportunity.
[00:05:37] Well that’s cool. So after you graduated you made it to the 2004 Athens Olympics that was your first Olympic
[00:05:44] And you got a silver there and one hundred meters you became one of the darlings of the games. But at that same
games and the 4 by 100 your team was disqualified because of the baton pass. Can you kind of walk us through? I’m sure there
were so many ups and downs to that Olympics not only just because it’s your first Olympics too and then all of that like. Walk
us through that.
[00:06:03] Yeah there was a lot. I was it was 2004 I was 20 years old I was now dealing with this idea of becoming a
professional athlete. That was not something I was necessarily on my radar earlier in the year. I was just trying to win the
NCAA title. And you know not only did I win the NCAA’s but I ran the second fastest time in the world. And it was like oh
you’re now the fastest American that we have heading into the Olympic trials. So you better get on your big girl bridges and
hop to it because there’s sponsorship opportunities and there is a lot to sort through. As a junior in college 20 years old and now
it is being the Olympic year. I get on this Olympic team.
[00:06:43] I had to figure out how to get my family over there. I didn’t have any money yet my family didn’t have a lot of
money. So there were fundraisers going on and things like that to sort through. My dad got to Athens and got sick. There was
just a lot going on, to say the least. But then in addition to that look at the actual performance. And I think I did a really good
job of kind of bundling my nerves together and performing well earning that silver medal. But then we had to go and get
ourselves. I had to go and get collaborative with the other sprinters and work on this relay and it did not go very well at all.
You’re right. And the thing that’s really hard about it even in thinking about it and reminiscing about it today is that we were
easily a world record team. If we could have gotten that baton around the track in the way that the potential we had. There’s no
doubt about it that we not only would’ve been gold medalists but Olympic world record holders or world record holders now.
[00:07:45] And yeah just negative chemistry you know the coaches not really paying attention to what we were saying as
athletes. And you know feeling like they knew what was best for us even in the midst of us saying that you know what about
this what about that. All those things and all that negative chemistry came together and we did not get the baton round trip.
[00:08:09] How did you. Did you guys get a lot of flak for that?
[00:08:12] A whole lot of flak for that. You know I was receiving the baton from the infamous Marion Jones I was this new
rookie. Even though I had you know they said I just want a medal and you think that that would create some stability or
credibility. It did not seem to create very much at all. And we were the crappy Americans that didn’t do their job. And you
know there were all kinds of headlines on failure. And you know how could we screw this up sort of deal and whose fault it
was and lots of blame game. Yeah, it was a really tough time.
[00:08:46] Well how did you. How do you handle that? As a 20 year old thinking about going professional now also to your
thrust into the spotlight with a medal and with this failure. Like how did you handle that?
[00:08:59] It was a lot. You’re right. Because I got a really good high of earning a medal and not have expected that at all early
in the year. But then I got this really really big low of you let the whole country down. And you let your teammates down. And
I was the actual person that was part of the botched handoff. You know because I score runners so you know three other people
could have done perfectly and one person got it wrong. And you know I could have been on the done perfectly part of that but I
was on the wrong part of that.
[00:09:26] So that was the first time I was subject to the opinions of others and you know just even the anger and hatred that
others have just for us for sport in general. So you know, you stupid girl, how could you and you’re an idiot. And you know
things that just went far beyond the actual performance that I think we’re very unnecessary. And just negative fans that you
have to deal with. And digging yourself out of the idea that this is not who I am. This does not define me and what those
people are saying about me is not the thing that is most important. It’s about who I believe I am you know how I decide to
bounce back from this catastrophe. And the way that I move forward that’s going to build me and make me a stronger person.
[00:10:16] So those next four years you went pro. I’m guessing at that point you did kind of become professional. You made
another Olympic team in 2008 and again it seems like it was kind of a mixed bag. I mean you got fourth in the individual but
that’s you know short of the medals had three Jamaican runners that were in front of you. And then in the relay again like you
were the anchor and there was a mix up in the semifinals. And your teammate dropped the baton and like you had to pick it up
and you guys finished but you got queued. Because you had to run outside of the lane in order to pick up the baton. Like I
found a quote that you had about this that I just thought was so well said that I would love you to talk on. You said it’s a pretty
big deal when you’re the person that was accountable for the demise of an opportunity. Not only for us to win a gold medal but
to possibly break a world record because we had to really fast teams. Both of those years and I felt very alone at that moment.
Like how. I mean I know you said you’ve got a fine figure out that this doesn’t define you but I mean it happened again. And
like how do you have people speaking into you or you isolated? Like what did it look like walking out those days afterward?
[00:11:21] You know I’m very fortunate to have a really good team around me. And have a really good set of friends to kind of
keep me lifted up in moments like that. But it’s definitely really tough even despite my faith and belief to just walk away and
kind of let that roll off your shoulders. You know you work so hard. You want to do well for not just yourself but for those that
you’re competing with. You do want to represent your country to the best of your ability. And at that moment you feel like you
feel that all of those things and you just want to hit the rewind button. You’re like Why is there not a rewind somewhere.
[00:12:00] But yeah working through it just takes a little bit of time and takes you know sticking to this idea that you know
some negative things are going to happen but these things are something to build on. They’re not something to continue to hold
you down or they’re not something to kind of wallow in and stay there. So I’d say like yeah do I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death. I always tell people in speeches and things that’s like it’s walkthrough. It doesn’t say like stop and set up camp
there. Doesn’t say go hang out in the valley of the shadow.
[00:12:34] That’s so good.
[00:12:36] So just giving yourself those constant reminders that yeah it stinks. But keep going.
[00:12:43] Did you keep going after Beijing? Because I know you finished your masters and then you took a whole year off in
- So did you keep training kind of after and then take a break or what how did that play out?
[00:12:53] Yeah. So my dad passed away in 2008 shortly after those games so to add insult to injury. He passed away in that
year and it was just a little bit tough to digest. It was May of the following year 2009 when it really kind of hit me. And I think
you know people grieve differently so often. And you never really know what it’s going to mean. Or what it’s going to feel like
for you when you lose someone that’s very close to you. And you know I was just kind of be-bopping along and pretending as
if nothing had happened. And I went to call him I was on my way to practice in 2009 and picked up the phone and like you
know doubt it. Was like waiting for it to ring and then I realized like oh I can’t call someone who’s dead.
[00:13:42] And it kind of just like splitting me into like a spiraling few months of you know the actual real grieving process.
And wondering you know like what is life all about anyway. Who am I outside of running up and down this track? And you
know getting these accolades. And you know being judge or feeling as if I’m judged so harshly. Or so it was with so much
weight by the world because of my ability to run up and down the track. And you know you meet people and you know doctors
and lawyers and other people that are contributing to society. And it’s like what does this mean? What am I contributing by
running up and down this track?
[00:14:20] And so I took that year off in 2010 to really just kind of try to find that answer for myself you know who am I
outside of this. Because I’m not finding that I’m anything other than an athlete. And I really. I know there’s more but I don’t
know what else I am and I want to take time to figure that out. And what I did during that all fear was spent a lot of time
talking to other people about you know how they got where they were. So there’s a young lady that owns a hotel. And how do
you come to own a hotel? And her story was just you know all sorts of different things. And she didn’t go to college for hotel
ownership. And then get out of school and work in a hotel and then become a hotel owner you know.
[00:14:58] It was a very very winding wavy story. And then you realize that you know you’re not you know there’s no linear
path to anything that you’re doing. And you get to write your story. You get to decide who you are and what you want to be in.
And there’s nothing that you can’t do if you set your mind to it. And it’s not just in saying that about sport it’s about saying that
in life and deciding. Then what do you want to do? What do you want to set your mind to? And so that’s kind of what was
happening for me in the 2010 year with me figuring all that out.
[00:15:30] I love that. And what did you find out? Who are you? What did you discover during that time? I’ve loaded question
[00:15:39] Right. Exactly. I found out that who I am is ever evolving. That from one day to the next I am growing into who I’m
going to be. And that there doesn’t have to be a set definition on that. I think that’s one of the things we’re always trying to fit
ourselves into a box. Wears the appropriate label that I’m supposed to be wearing right now. And there is no one thing that you
are you know. Like if you went through you could say you know a woman, dog lover, wife you know. And the list goes on of
all these different things you know. Law and order lover, podcaster, a financial planner but you don’t need to fit into a box. And
for one day it makes one of those things my drop off and somebody else might be added to the mix. Each and every day is a
process of like you know being the best me that I can be. It’s not really about you know fitting into anyone else’s box or
creating boxes for myself.
[00:16:36] So good. And so what made you in 2011 return to competition?
[00:16:42] I just knew that I wasn’t done yet. You know I just I decided like you said that though this is not who I am in its
entirety. That it is a part of who I am. Track and field. And that I had more to give. I had more that I wanted to accomplish. I
had plenty of potentials inside. And that I wanted to go after reaching my full potential. And I wanted to really like walk away
by saying I have left it all on the track. And so I went back to the sport with that as the intention. And I did have a completely
different mindset when I think when I return the sport. Knowing that that was not like said the end all be all. And though I
didn’t know what was coming next. That the end was closer than I was closer to the end than I was to the beginning. And that I
had better make the most of these opportunities.
[00:17:34] So I think my attitude changed quite a bit. I was a lot more grateful to those that I was around for their contribution
to you know me being able to compete. So you don’t realize sometimes or you know because we’re athletes and you know I’d
do an individual sport. It’s a lot of me thinking about me. But the number of hours that someone else has to spend for me to be
able to reach my full potential. My coach has to write a workout. She has to watch the film. She has to show that practice with
me you know travel and be away from her family. And the way Coach does the same thing. You know the nutritionist is doing
similar things. And so really just like the kind of tuning into all that was around me and all that I had to be grateful for. And all
those people were pouring into me.
[00:18:16] I was a lot more aware and a lot more focused on showing gratitude and appreciation for my ability to be able to
compete. So I’d get to a track meet and remember to thank the volunteers. Because a lot of track and field is volunteer oriented.
And you know where they said busy Russian or we’re mad at them because they telling us. We can’t go over here and we need
to warm up over there. And you know it’s like these are real people and take a moment to be present at the moment and realize
that. And I think it just created like set new energy for me as I return a sport.
[00:18:51] That’s so cool. And so how did that I guess change things? Because you did make another Olympic team in 2012.
Like, walk us through what this new attitude? This new kind of outlook on life. Like how did that affect your games in
[00:19:06] I think it helped quite a bit because you know part of that story is I didn’t make the Olympic team in my individual
event I made it only part of the relay. And so you know it’s a tough pill to swallow. Initially that you didn’t make it for your
individual event you know you could have been left at home but. And despite my failures you know 0-4 we dropped the baton,
0-8 we dropped the baton. Despite both of those being the situation and me being directly involved in both of those situations
they still thought enough of me to bring me as part of the relay. They thought that I had enough experience. They valued the
experiences that I had and wanted me to share that because most of the other team was brand new. They’d never been on an
Olympic team before. So here they are with this opportunity to be a part of the relay but they don’t have any experience on this
stage. And I have not just experience but experience in the worst kind of way.
[00:20:00] So I can tell you exactly what to do to avoid ending up in the situation that I ended up in. And you know maturing
to a point to understand that has value. It was a really big part of the puzzle for me. Knowing that you know there’s something
and being able to explain to them why we should not go about it this way. Why our chemistry needs to be really great. Why we
need to communicate with one another. Because that negative energy that we took on the track in 0-4 in 0-8 definitely played a
role in our failure. And I think you know that it was really important to contribute to our success in 2012.
[00:20:36] Yeah I would say it’s successful. I mean I think our leadership and your wisdom that you learn along the way
obviously helped you guys walked away with a gold medal. Like what did that getting that gold medal means to you?
[00:20:50] I would say at the moment like you said it’s been a process of me maturing to understanding and really getting
meaning from the metal. But at the moment I wasn’t ready to accept. I felt really embarrassed and ashamed like you said the
way that I just described the medal to you now is where I’ve evolved to understanding. Like what my contribution was and
why it was valuable. But initially I felt kind of fraudulent. I felt like I didn’t earn that medal. So the way that goes is there’s six
of us that get to go as part of the relay. And two of us competed in only the first round while the other two are resting because
they were also running the open hundred meters. So I contributed in the first round which is an important thing because if you
don’t get it around in the first round there is no second round.
[00:21:35] But you know the actual group that won the gold medal ran the final. Broke the world record. You know I wasn’t on
that team. And so I felt a little bit weird initially to say that I was an Olympic gold medalist when I knew I didn’t do the final
part of the race. I felt a little weird to call myself a world record holder when I was not actually on the track and you know
doing my part to contribute there. But as like I said I started to think about like the contributions. And you know having talks
with others. And you know just realizing how different that games was than the others. And you know like one of the girls
coming up to me later and saying you know thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. You know it was really
frustrating when this happened or whatever and you helped me understand it. I realized that that was valuable and that was a
contribution and that helped her be able to compete hard to the best of her ability.
[00:22:30] That’s awesome. I guess sometimes it really is hard in those moments but I love that you can look back and see all
that you really did add to that. Because without leadership and without somebody guiding and directing. I mean who knows
what would have happened right? We need all of those things to come into play at the right time to happen. So what happened
after London? Because I think you retired from the track but something else kind of started to take a play and I want to know
how all of this unfolded?
[00:22:56] So I was thinking about giving up the sport. So London came and went and I had one season left as per my contract.
And I thought it was kind of the perfect timing because you know I could see and feel the end was near. As it pertains to my
ability to focus and really give all I needed to give to be a professional athlete. I knew that you know I can continue to compete
for 5 years at a mediocre rate or I could stop because I wasn’t 100 percent. And my idea was you know make the most of this
last year of competing and then you know to move on with life. And while I was in my last year of competition I ran into Lolo
Jones at the airport and had read an article about her having tried bobsled after the 2012 Games. And just wanted to hear more
about her experience and how that happened and she was like Lauren it’s awesome it’s really really cool you should try it. And
it’s the Olympic year and I was like so? I just got to be something cool to do in my free time. Now that I’m getting ready to
retire I wasn’t thinking anything about the Olympics. And so yeah I reached out to find out what the process was and a month
later I was at the Olympic trials for bobsled and.
[00:24:12] A month later?
[00:24:13] A month later. Yeah.
[00:24:16] No. Yeah. So that was. Yeah. From you know June of 2014 to June of 2013. July of 2013 I was there and I was
trying out and the Olympics were six months later. So immediately I showed up I got third place and I had a really steep
learning curve over the next six months.
[00:24:38] I would imagine that’s insane. That’s insane. And now how did you get partnered with Alona too because you guys
were obviously an amazing team. Like how does that all work out in the bobsled world? Do they pick your teammate for you
or do you guys kind of all work together? What does that look like?
[00:24:54] We do a little bit of round robin in those 6 months that I was telling you about. So we were racing a World Cup
season that takes place before you get to the games and that plays into your rankings and you know where you’ll go in the
process as a driver. But we did a lot of round robin to figure out who was gonna be best suited to who. And we actually did not
know until 10 days before the actual Olympics who was going to race with who.
[00:25:20] Just 10 days? Whoa! that’s crazy. So what. I mean did hearing the news that you’re going to be on the Olympic team
and getting to walk this out was it just surreal? I mean here you were your whole life doing track and three Olympic Games
that way. And then all sudden you know in a month you’re on this Olympic team and you’re. I mean I can’t even imagine. How
did you process that?
[00:25:44] So do I. Like I said it all happened really really quick from you know finding out about it. A month later being at
the trials to having 6 months to figure the whole thing out to be in a month before the Olympic Games. And we’re all still
sitting and wait in you know anticipation. Trying to figure out like who are they going to pick. They finally named the team.
But then you still had to wait 20 more days to find out. You know, now you’re on the team but you still don’t know you’re
racing with. So there’s a lot of hurry up and wait anticipation and this big build of energy that’s always happening in bobsled.
But it’s just really about trying to figure out how to manage that to the best of your ability to kind of enjoy the ride. And I think
that was the thing that helped me a lot was I decided at the very beginning of it that I had nothing to lose.
[00:26:38] I only had things to gain and that the journey was going to be the thing that was going to be more important to me
than anything. What can I contribute? And I think that that 2012 experience of knowing that I wasn’t competing but I could still
contribute. Help me understand that that’s all that this was about. Is there a way I can contribute? Is there a way I can help this
team? And if you know if there’s a way I can help but it doesn’t require me to be on the actual track or on the actual team? Then
so be it. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that Team USA has the best 6 people out there.
[00:27:15] That’s so cool. Now I have to know because I’ve only been a summer athlete. What’s the difference besides the
freezing cold? It’s not like Miami. What’s the difference between the summer and winter games? From your perspective?
[00:27:28] I would say that intimacy is the biggest thing. So I always tell people like I remember one of the years. I think they
said the track and field team was 182 people. So just USA Track and Field 182 people for the Olympics. The Winter Olympic
team all sports 230 people.
[00:27:52] So it really puts in perspective. You know all the various sports that compete in the Olympic Games in the summer.
All the various sports for Team USA. You know there’s thousands and thousands of athletes. But yeah one team in the summer
is pretty much equivalent to the whole Olympic team. All sports in the winter.
[00:28:13] Wow that’s cool. That’s very cool. Well, you guys went on to mean not just compete but you got a silver medal in
the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Just one-tenth of a second behind the Canadians. Like what did that medal mean to
you and how is that different from all your other experiences?
[00:28:31] I mean the thing that was really cool about the medal was like I said I’d never seen it coming. I could have never
guessed that my life was going to take that turn and bring me such a cool opportunity. And to have the opportunity to get to do
it with Alona who is an amazing person made it that much more gratifying. Because we did it together. And you know in track
and field I didn’t really get that opportunity. I had the individual medals and then I got to be a part of a team and do my
contribution there. But then this was like the end of the third time. Making me well-rounded if you will of actually competing
with another person and earning that medal together. And it just felt so great to be able to do something with someone and to
understand what it means to like partner up. And decide to really go hard for it for a specific purpose with another person.
[00:29:30] That’s so cool. And you made history and doing that she became the first American woman to win medals at both
the Summer and Winter Olympics. And one of only five athletes ever to do it at all. I mean that’s incredible. Did you realize
you were making history when you did this?
[00:29:44] I did not. It did not come to my attention until the reporters brought it up afterward. What does it mean to you to
make history and I’m like What kind of history? I don’t know. So.
[00:29:56] That’s so cool. Well OK. So tell me now you have a financial planning business called Worth Winning. Tell us
about your company.
[00:30:04] Yes. So my company was born out of me not having the best financial planners during my career. So I worked with
two different gentlemen during the course of my career and I wanted to be responsible with my finances. But they didn’t really
understand what I needed as an athlete. You know what I needed as a 20 year old who didn’t know a whole lot about money.
And you know my busy travel schedule and you know there’s just a lot that doesn’t fit into the traditional box of what financial
planning is. So I help young professionals and professional athletes organize their finances and you know what does that mean.
That’s like creating a budget you never bought a house before and that’s something you want to do. If you’re saving for a
wedding you know you don’t know anything about how to put money aside for taxes. And you know do you need a business
account or not. And there’s just so many different things that get thrown our direction. And just kind of make money, spend
money, you know hopefully save a little bit money and you know that’s not a real strategy.
[00:31:05] I help people optimize their finances so use them money, give it a job and give it a job that’s gonna be in line with
your values. So I spend a lot of time talking with my athletes and the young professionals that I work with. About what are
your goals? What are your values? The same way that we do in the sport. Let’s work backward from there and create smaller
goals. Smaller things that we want to do. And then go you know piece by piece after that so that we can you know the
championship is this one thing that you’re trying to achieve. But once again it’s never like making it to the podium that makes
you feel awesome. Is this journey all along the way? And so using money as a tool to really enjoy the journey is how I try to
focus my business and help people in all aspects of their finances.
[00:31:50] My goodness I love that on so many levels. I mean I love just what you’re doing. I love who you’re targeting to
help. I mean there’s definitely that need there. I mean a lot of people like you said are young when they become professional
athletes. Because that’s usually when an athletic career is optimal when you’re young and you don’t know anything. So I just
think it’s brilliant. I love how you compare it to athletics in such a way that we can understand. And I think you do a lot of stuff
virtually too right?
[00:32:12] Yeah I’m completely virtual. I’m actually podcasting today from Buenos Aires. So.
[00:32:16] Oh wow. We should’ve done this on location. I should have come down to you. That would be nice.
[00:32:25] You know as young professionals we are tech savvy. We’re on the go. We’re spread out all over the country. And I
didn’t want that to stop me from being able to serve the client that I want to serve. And we jump on a video chat just like zoom
and we talk about what needs to be talked about. And there’s no dumb question. And there’s no you know fancy suit and tie that
needs to be worn. You know people’s kids are running around in the background. These things shouldn’t be barriers. You
getting help and getting the answers that you need about your finances. And it should be talked about in such a way that you
don’t understand it in. It sounds so fancy and complicated.
[00:33:00] You know we’ve got basic questions and I really just want to help with basic questions. When I was competing and I
wasn’t finding that. I was frequently finding you know there like I said fancy talk down to me it sounds more complicated than
you can understand. Because you’re not smart enough and I’m like No that’s not true at all. Like, break it down in a way that
lets me know what I’m doing. Why we’re doing this? And you know helped me set some goals so that I’m gonna be OK in the
[00:33:25] I love it. Sports just. Yes. It can play off in your life in so many ways. And it’s just such a good analogy for life
right? You could just use it in so many ways. I love it. And you also have a podcast now you said it’s a year it’s been a year
now. So happy anniversary to your podcast called Worth Listening. What do you talk about on your podcast?
[00:33:42] Yes. I love love love love my podcast. And the reason that I love it is like a passion project for me. It is encouraging
others to discuss money and I think that’s one of the big barriers that we have in organizing our finances nowadays. Because
we all know that everybody has to make money some sort of way. Everybody has to spend money on some sort of way. And
there’s no requirement that you hire a financial planner or someone to help you. But what people do is hide the information and
they are afraid to say what they don’t know and they’re ashamed of all these different things. And that’s what actually leaves
you making more mistakes is hiding, being embarrassed not feeling like you can be open. And feeling like you have to know
everything and you can’t ask anyone anything. And so my podcast is based all around people telling their money story. So that
the listeners don’t have to feel alone and like oh I have student loan debt too that six figures. And you know this is how I’m
tackling it. And you know I don’t know what a 401(k) is but I know I’m putting some money in it. And you know now this
person help me break it down a little bit.
[00:34:48] So it’s getting rid of all those barriers of things that could stop you from being able to save for your future or being
able to get over the fact that you’ve made some mistakes before and really move forward. You know I had a girl on recently
that I met paid down over 50,000 dollars in credit card debt. And I think a lot of people get in a situation like that and they just
you know maybe file for bankruptcy. Or they would never even say anything to anyone. But this girl decided to make a
mindset change and pay it all back and get rid of it and you know to change the way that she was going to think about money
in the future. And I think that’s a really inspirational story to tell. She didn’t have to be a financial expert to inspire people to do
the right thing and to get on some sort of plan. So the podcast is all about like I said having money. Discussions and
encouraging others to be more open and honest about sharing what they know and educating one another about finances.
[00:35:42] And if that’s not having this new business in your podcast you’re also releasing a book very soon called the Oval
Office. A 4 time Olympians guide to professional track and field. So tell us about your book that’s coming.
[00:35:56] The book. Yes. This is another thing that I’m really excited about we are just days away. Actually spent the whole
morning on the last round of edits and sent it off to the designer to redo and get it to look like a book. Because right now it’s
like a document and yet again another passion project. There are so many people in track and field that are just like how do you
navigate this world and they have questions. And there’s no guide. There’s nothing that tells you to like how do you become a
professional track and field athlete? And what do I need to know and how can I be responsible for managing all these different
aspects? And what questions should I be asking my agent? What should I consider before I buy a house and then decide that
I’m going to go train with this coach instead. And now I’m stuck with a house in this state and got to pay rent in this day.
[00:36:42] And there’s just so many different things that I learned during my time competing that I felt like I needed to share.
And it wasn’t just gonna be a one hour talk and you know try to change someone’s life. But like why not give them the
roadmap to the things that I felt like I was missing in addition to the things that I felt like I did really well. And that’s how the
Oval Office was born. And I’m really really really excited about the way that it’s going to change the lives of those or interested
in the sport. Obviously not going to be like a New York Times bestseller. Track and field is a very small sport but it matters so
much to me that they’ll have a resource available to them to help them understand better how to navigate sport.
[00:37:23] I think it’s amazing. It sounds like you don’t just have to be a track and field athlete. I mean I’m looking at the
highlights that you had on the Web site. I mean it’s like how to choose the members of your team including your agent, your
coach, your training group. How do you negotiate sponsorships and contracts? And handling your finances like a professional
athlete. Building your brand using social media. Managing travel nutrition life outside of sports. I mean to me it sounds like it’s
gonna be helpful to any professional athlete. So I’m gonna have to preorder a copy because I know you can. So tell us where
we can find your book your podcast. Your company. All of your online things where we can follow you to continue to just be
inspired and to learn from you because you obviously have a lot of great wisdom to teach us.
[00:38:03] Definitely. So the book is The-Oval-office.com. So all of my web sites have a little dash in the middle because you
know to buy the actual website was a bazillion dollars. But we’ve kept it all consistent so whatever words I say put a dash in
the middle in between and get to the .com and you’re there. So Lauren-Williams.com is my personal Web site is all about me as
an Olympian and being a speaker and consulting and things like that. And then Worth-Winning.com is a website for financial
planning all things financial planning. And so you can find us on social media looking for the same sort of thing. So
Worth_Winning on Twitter, @worthwinning on Instagram. Lauren C. Williams on all the social media platforms so that’s the
one thing that’s a little bit different. But I’m sure that all the initial notes. So.
[00:38:54] Yeah. We’ll make sure to link to everything you guys don’t get confused. But Lauren thank you so much for coming
- You’re an incredible inspiration. I feel like you’re a great teacher as well and so we just really appreciate all of your wisdom
[00:39:06] It was wonderful being on the show. Like I said I hope that I can inspire and I’m just really excited to be kind of in
the next phase of life where I can give back to the sport because the sport has given so much to me.
[00:39:19] Wow! A huge thanks to Lauren for joining us today. Isn’t she just incredible? I just love how she talked about taking
that time off in 2010 to really dig into her purpose and figure out what life was about outside of running. It’s so neat how that
journey just drastically changed who she was going into the next Olympics. The gratitude leadership and composure that her
solid identity gave her. It really allowed her to ride the waves of the coming years towards all of the amazing things that she’s
doing now. She’s just incredible. Be sure to check out the links the show notes to follow on social media. And if you’re an
athlete definitely snag a copy of her book because that knowledge will be so invaluable for you and for the athletes out there
looking to improve their athletic performance with a purpose. I’m offering a free life masterclass where all talk about five
common mistakes athletes makes that hinder success. If you’re ready for a change and want the skills to take your performance
to the next level then I want you to go and sign up. LauraWilkinson.com/masterclass. That’s LauraWilkinson.com/masterclass
to sign up for my free live masterclass on five common mistakes athletes make that hinder success. I’ll see you there! And be
sure to subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s episode because we have an absolutely insane athlete joining us. David Colturi
was once just a 10-meter platform diver like myself. But apparently that wasn’t quite enough of a thrill. He is now a cliff diver
and travels internationally diving from nearly nine stories high. I’m sure you’re wondering how he does it. I am too. You don’t
want to miss it. On behalf of Hope Sports, I’m Laura Wilkinson. Thanks for tuning in and have a great week. This podcast is
produced by Evo Terra in Simpler Media. For more information on Hope sports and to access the complete archives please