“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” –Isaac Newton
Today’s guest, like Isaac Newton, has certainly stood on the shoulders of giants: his phenomenal parents, his longtime coach Alan Arata, the ‘96 Olympic decathlon gold medalist Dan O’Brien, and too many others to name.
With the teachings of these mentors as his rock-solid foundation, Eli Bremer became an Olympian, an Air Force Academy graduate, and a serial entrepreneur specializing in high-impact business activities.
These mentors “helped me understand who I was, who I am, and what my potential would be.” They were more than just leaders – they were partners who invested their time and shined a light on his potential, even when Eli couldn’t see it himself, “and that makes a big difference.”
Becoming an Olympic Modern Pentathlete
If you’re not familiar, the pentathlon is a unique Olympic sport tracing back to the original games.
The Greeks valued a well-rounded person, so they created the traditional pentathlon as the culminating event of early Olympic games. Comprised of a number of fighting skills, the traditional pentathlon included a short foot race, the javelin throw, the discus throw, the long jump, and wrestling. It was the ultimate test of the all-around athlete.
When the Olympics were revived in 1912, they kept the idea but chose different events for the modern pentathlon: fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, and a combined event of pistol shooting and cross country running.
Through the early 2000s, Eli was an up-and-coming modern pentathlete, winning in the 2007 Pan Am Games and earning a slot for the 2008 Olympics. Before the 2008 games, Eli was ranked in the top 10 in the world.
Lessons Learned Through Training
Through training for this taxing event, Eli learned a few lessons we can all benefit from.
“The harder I trained, I didn’t necessarily get better – but the more I learned how to recover and to balance everything out, the more I advanced.”
As a result, Eli got better at balancing more things in every area of his life and, ultimately, get more things done – a skill that certainly benefits him today in the entrepreneurial world.
Eli also learned to care more about the process than the results. “You just have to learn to focus on the process. Because if you let yourself focus on the outcome, it’s going to kill you.” And as soon as Eli made this psychological transition to committing to the process over anything else, his scores got better, he was more consistent, and he made fewer errors.
This last lesson took a longer time to learn, but it’s a goodie: “Quit trying to win and start trying to be good – because good athletes win more often.” Focusing on the outliers too much can put you in a dangerous state of mind, and this is as true in competition as it is in business or personal life.
“Winning can happen by accident, but being the best you can be or the best in the world is much more difficult than simply winning.”
Unfortunately, Eli experienced a disappointing Olympics after a catastrophic horseback riding accident hospitalized him just over a week before the competition.
The weeks after the accident were devastating, but those lessons Eli learned through training helped carry him through to one of the best performances in his athletic career. Just two months after his accident, he won a Bronze Medal at the World Cup Final, the top individual medal won by a U.S. athlete since 1979.
“The more I was able to rely on the fact that I had integrity with myself and had done everything I could to get ready for that competition, as much as it hurt to have a freak accident take me out, at least I could say that’s what took me out, as opposed to I didn’t do as much as I could to win the medal.
“That I can live with... it still hurts, but I can live with it.”
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The Impact Entrepreneur Show is produced by Podcast Masters