‘It’s ok to have failures, but it’s not ok to not try.’ Nikki Stone – Olympic athletes interviewed 46
Nikki Stone, Olympic champion 1998, is a true high-performer. Olympic champion, World Champion, finished her study with a summa cum laude, and sports psychologist for the US Olympic team are just a few of her achievements.
However, Nikki’s life was full of adversities, that she needed to overcome. One of these was a severe injury 18 months prior to the Olympic Games in 1998, when she was told, that she would never be able to perform her sport again.
Furthermore, we discuss
- What the sport of aerials is
- Her darkest moment
- Her best moment
- Her advice to a younger Nikki Stone
- Her success habits
- How her sporting career has helped her study and business life
- Her morning routine
- How to prepare for important moments
- Why she prayed for bad weather conditions on the day of the Olympic final
- How to overcome setbacks
- Her role model
- The best advice she has received
- A typical training day in the life of a freestyle skier
- Her interview nomination
- Her motivation to write the book ‘When Turtles Fly’
- Where can people find Nikki Stone
Christian: This interview features Nikki Stone, Olympic Champion in 1998 in aerials, which is a discipline of freestyle skiing. Further achievements include World Champion in 1995 and overall World Cup winner in 1998.
Over the span of her career, Nikki won 11 World Cup wins and made it to the World Cup podium 35 times.
After her career, Nikki went on to study psychology and became an author and motivational speaker. Welcome, Nikki.
Nikki Stone: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
What is Aerials
Christian: Nikki, if you would have to describe in a few words what your sport is, what would it be?
Nikki: Only a few words, huh? I would say it’s the combination of skiing and gymnastics. If I had a few more words to explain it, I’d say we ski into a jump, at about 45 to 55 km/h and we go into a ski wall that launches us 50 feet in the air.
The jump is about 10 to 12 feet tall and it launches us 50 feet in the air. We flip and twist through the air and we land on a 45-degree steep hill, and we hopefully ski away.
Christian: We’ll link up that video of your Olympic jump. That is really awesome! When my son saw it, he said he wants to try it.
- Check out Nikki’s gold medal jump
Nikki: We’ll take him on.
Christian: I guess he’ll need some preparation for that.
Nikki Stone: Yes, most definitely.
Her darkest moment
Christian: Nikki, in your life as an athlete, what was your darkest moment?
Nikki: Oh, my darkest moment, as an athlete? As an athlete, I actually had a spinal injury, and at the time I thought it was a muscle spasm. I thought I could push through it in the contest because I was ranked second in the world and of course, I wanted to be first.
So, I competed at this contest thinking that I was going to be able to pull ahead of the Canadian girl, Veronica Brenna, who was in first. My back was getting progressively worse throughout the season. I found that it felt like I had stabbing pains in my back.
I landed my first practice jump and got to the bottom of the hill. My physical therapist came over to me because I was lying on the bottom of the hill. He wanted to find out what was going on and if something was wrong.
I told him that the muscle spasm was back. After about 30 minutes went by and he told me that I had five minutes of training left. He asked what I wanted to do. I told him that I wanted to jump.
So, he had to lift me onto my feet since I couldn’t stand up on my own. My back was in such pain. I went back to the top of the hill, and this time with tears streaming down my face, I went and took another jump.
I was lying on the bottom of the hill with tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t stand up on my own. He asked what I wanted to do. I told him that I wanted to jump.
This time I felt like I had ten knives stabbing me in my lower back. It’s a type of pain that would normally drop someone to their knees. I was fifty feet in the air, upside down and I don’t know how. I think your body goes into autopilot when your life’s in jeopardy. I managed to get around to my feet, but I collapsed right on impact and slid to the bottom of the hill. I found that I couldn’t move more than two inches in any direction.
What I found was, the injury was not a muscle spasm. It was something called internal disk disruption. They said to imagine taking an egg and shaking up that egg and the inside of it is scrambled. The outside of it stays intact and actually has cracks in it and leaks.
It was the leaking fluids that were impinging on the rest of my back. I went and saw doctor upon doctor upon doctor. Every doctor told me that I was going to have to face, that I’d never be going back to aerial skiing again.
It was devastating. I tried every exercise and procedure possible and really started to fall into a deep depression. I really wondered if I’d ever come back to the sport, that I dreamt of winning a gold medal in for so long.
Every doctor told me that I was going to have to face, that I’d never be going back to aerial skiing again. It was devastating. I really wondered if I’d ever come back to the sport, that I dreamt of winning a gold medal in for so long.
Christian: From my research, that was 18 months before the Olympics? Is that correct?
Nikki: That is correct. It was right before the Olympics. It was a lot of work in order to come back to win that medal. I finally did find a doctor who did believe in me, and he said it was going to take a lot of work.
It was going to take a big risk. It was going to be incredibly painful because what he had me do, was lift heavy weights to build up the muscles in my back to support those injured discs.
I finally did find a doctor who did believe in me, and he said it was going to take a lot of work. It was going to take a big risk. It was going to be incredibly painful.
But in the process, I could blow out those discs completely. So, I really had to make sure that I was strong in order to come back from this injury, build up my back and build up the muscles to support my back.
I couldn’t have surgery, because they said I would have to fuse two different discs, because it was two disks in my back that had these difficulties with these injuries. So, I couldn’t have surgery. I really just had to be able to build myself up in order to come back.
Probably about one year before the games, I started jumping again. I realized how important it was for me to have that self-confidence. I had to be able to learn how to overcome some of these adversities, because no matter what sport you’re in, no matter what field you’re in, you’re going to have adversities and obstacles you’re going to be challenged by.
No matter what sport you’re in, no matter what field you’re in, you’re going to have adversities and obstacles you’re going to be challenged by.
Christian: Yes, and I can imagine, if so many people tell you it’s not possible, doubts are creeping in your head in the rehab process. How did you stay on track mentally?
Nikki: Yes, it was really a challenging time. As I said, I went through a depression. It was something that I went and saw a sports psychologist for, because it was so challenging for me, because I dreamt of winning a gold medal since I was five years old.
At five years old, I made my own podium out of tables and chairs and stood on top and told my parents that I was going to win the Olympics someday and that was my podium. So, to have that dashed away from me at 25 years old, it was really excruciating.
I dreamt of winning a gold medal since I was five years old. So, to have that dashed away from me at 25 years old, it was really excruciating.
For me, it was learning and understanding that there’s always a way around, but we have to make sure that we’re focused on that end goal. It’s so easy to start in that downward spiral when you start thinking negatively. So, I had to make sure that I was thinking about the positive outcomes and thinking of the steps that I was making.
It’s so easy to think you’re not getting anywhere. But for me, I started walking again. Then I started being able to ski again and then I started jumping again. Each of those steps I took, gave me great confidence to build myself up.
I also realized how important it was to have that positive thinking. It really helps put your whole body and your mind in the right frame of mind. For me, I actually didn’t just get a degree in Psychology; I got one in Sports Psychology.
A lot of it was due to that Sports Psychologist that I worked with. It was powerful for me to know that you can control your mind to be able to come back to build yourself up, even if it was physical injury.
Christian: Yes. I think it’s a really amazing story.
Nikki: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Her best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Nikki: My best moment was winning the gold medal at the Olympics in 1998, it was terrifying. There were 40,000 people at the bottom of the hill. Anything can go wrong on the day of the Olympics. Believe it or not, I was praying for bad weather.
A lot of people want a sunny day, but I knew there are other competitors that fall apart when the weather is bad or the conditions are bad or anything’s going wrong. For me, I learned how to take those challenges and work with them. The way I did that is, I tried to imagine every day was the Olympics.
I was praying for bad weather, I knew there are other competitors that fall apart when the weather is bad or the conditions are bad or anything’s going wrong. For me, I learned how to take those challenges and work with them.
So, if leading into the contest, the weather was bad, I’d still do the jumps that I was going to do. Or if my ski boots didn’t arrive, because the bags didn’t get there from the airport, I took another pair and I still went with the jumps that I was going to do at the Olympics.
Every day I’d imagine that the Olympics was here. I wondered what I would do in that condition. If I was sick, I said I would still jump because that could be what happens at the Olympics.
So, I was prepared for any eventuality where a lot of the other competitors maybe would hold off on their jumps. Or they would hold off the bigger things until they get to the games. At that point, they haven’t practiced them.
They haven’t practiced for the things that could go wrong. They haven’t practiced for all the environmental elements. It really helped me prepare when I got to the games.
When I started jumping at the games I was nervous, but I also knew that I had prepared for everything. I always said that you have the hay in the barn. If you’ve actually stocked up like a farmer does and put the hay in ahead of time, you’re ready for any eventuality.
When I started jumping at the games I was nervous. But I also knew that I had prepared for everything, I’d done the hard work, so all I could do is go out and try my best at that point.
For me, I’d done the hard work. I had prepared for everything and so all I could do is go out and try my best at that point. The weather was terrible.
We had winds that were gusting up to 50 miles an hour and as an aerial skier, when you’re fifty feet in the air, that’s the last thing you want to be thinking about. Before my jump, I had to wait a full three minutes for the wind to calm down. I had to be ready to go on that second’s notice when they said the judges are ready.
I had to go because I knew, that that lull of wind may pick up again. So, to be able to overcome all these adversities and hurdles and to be able to stand there and do the best jumps I had ever done at the Olympic Games. To be able to stand there and listen to my country’s anthem play.
To be able to watch my flag go up, and to know that I had represented my team, my family, my home country, all meant so much in that moment. It really brought everything full circle for me.
To be able to stand there and listen to my country’s anthem play. To be able to watch my flag go up, and to know that I had represented my team, my family, my home country, all meant so much in that moment. It really brought everything full circle for me.
Christian: Nice. What did you learn from that moment?
Nikki: I think the biggest lesson I learned was about teamwork. It’s kind of funny coming from someone in an individual sport. I was someone who did aerials where you get your own score and your own results. I was the one who stood on the podium.
But I think it was when the flag is raising and I started thinking about all the support I had around me. Listening to the anthem play, it didn’t just represent me. It represented to my country.
I realized how many doctors and coaches I needed. I needed my family, my teachers and mentors, physical therapists and chiropractors. All these people helped get me to this point.
The biggest lesson I learned was about teamwork, it’s kind of funny coming from someone in an individual sport. But when the flag was raising and I started thinking about all the support I had around me. I realized how many doctors and coaches I needed. I needed my family, my teachers and mentors, physical therapists and chiropractors. All these people helped get me to this point.
It was really valuable for me to have that understanding so that I was able to give back after the Olympics. Now, working as a motivational speaker, it’s great to have your own victories but to be able to turn around and share and change something in someone else’s life, is that much more powerful.
Christian: Pretty cool.
Her advice to a younger Nikki Stone
Christian: If you could go back in time, 10, 15, 20 years, what advice would you give your younger you?
Nikki: Don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s always going to be ways of turning things around. I remember when I was a kid and I would have bad contests.
As I was leading into the Olympics, I wouldn’t make the national team. I wouldn’t have my best results at Nationals. I wouldn’t have a good contest and I remember my parents saying that I could either have a good result or have a learning experience.
I said that I was sick of having those learning experiences. I would just tell myself that the learning experiences really do happen and they really do benefit you. I have children myself now, and it’s a hard thing to understand, but really you learn more on the bad days than you learn on the good days.
You learn more on the bad days than you learn on the good days.
So, it’s important to make sure, that when you’re doing the video review from your bad contest day, you really have to focus on the things that went wrong and know that they’re not failures. They’re just another step in learning what the right process is to make sure that you have those victories.
- Also check out the interview with double Olympic champion Mariana Pajón, who outlines, that failures are the best learning opportunity.
Christian: Interesting. Cool. I’ve taken a note here, and you mentioned this before. You told your parents when you were five years old that you want to become Olympic champion. Was that kind of a childish thing, so to say or did you really believe in that?
Nikki: When you’re five years old, you have these great aspirations and these great goals and we lose that as we get older. You really think that anything’s possible at that age. The greatest gift I could have been given is, that my parents never laughed at me. They never told me it wasn’t possible.
The greatest gift I could have been given is, that my parents never laughed at me. They never told me it wasn’t possible.
They let me believe that this was something that I could do, but I had to have the right tools in order to make it happen. For me, at that moment they sat me down and they told me about a philosophy called the ‘turtle effect’, and it’s something that carried through with me till this day.
They said in order to be successful, you have to be like a turtle. You have to be soft on the inside. You have to have a hard shell and you have to be willing to stick your neck out. It’s something that I used throughout my career in order to come back from injuries by having that hard shell.
I just stick my neck out to try harder jumps. I have that soft inside for the passion and for the things that I was doing. Really, that set the stage for everything that I would go on to accomplish in the sport.
If I didn’t have that moment where they let me believe that that was something I could achieve, I think I may have given up fairly quickly. But it was something that I always felt was within my grasp, because my parents let me know we’re always having to push ourselves. We’re always having to find that way to be able to know that you could achieve anything you want, if you set your mind to it.
Her success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful person or athlete?
Nikki: A lot of things that I’ve learned through Sports Psychology and through my experiences was that we’ve each have to focus on what we were doing. I’d say at my first games, I had no focus.
I was thinking about being on the late-night talk shows. I was thinking of the parades for me when I got home. I was thinking about the medal that I would win when I wasn’t even in finals.
At my first games, I had no focus. I was thinking about being on the late-night talk shows. I was thinking of the parades for me, when I got home. I was thinking about the medal that I would win, when I wasn’t even in finals.
It was so important for me to understand, that I couldn’t be thinking about the applause and praise. I had to think about the certain steps and elements that would help me win that Olympic medal. So, having that focus and that understanding and learning to block out some of the other external factors really helped me become a better athlete.
I also learned to overcome adversities. Not only with what I did with my back injury, but also having to overcome different challenges that we would have at contests and different challenges that we would have with teammates and friends and doing more difficult jumps.
There’s always challenges that you’re going to encounter. I really had to make sure, that I had the understanding that you could always put yourself back on course and back on path.
I have a friend who is a pilot and he shared with me that a pilot is off course 90% of the time when they’re travelling overseas. The reason they get there is they’re constantly making corrections. I understood this in my life as well and we constantly have to make the corrections.
Life is evolving. It’s changing all the time. Our bodies are changing. Our minds are changing. The environment is changing, and you can either choose to be pulled down by that or you can choose to find another path to get you there and make those corrections to put yourself back on course.
Life is evolving, it’s changing all the time. The environment is changing, and you can either choose to be pulled down by that, or you can choose to find another path to get you there and make those corrections to put yourself back on course.
It was really helpful for me in overcoming my injury and also encountering and dealing with all these other adversities that I was challenged with. I also learned how to take big risks. Believe it or not, I am afraid of heights. Going 50 feet in the air, you would think it would be something that someone who’s afraid of heights, there’s no way they would do it.
For me, I really had to focus on the things that I did know how to do. I had to focus on my strengths, that I was a good jumper, that I could go off and I had a very strong take off on my jump, that I was good at my landings.
It gave me the confidence that I needed in order to try these more difficult jumps. It gave me the confidence to know that I could go out there and accomplish anything just by telling myself that you focus on the elements that you do have control over.
I really had to focus on my strengths, that gave me the confidence to know, that I could go out there and accomplish anything.
By doing that, it allowed me to try some more difficult jumps to push myself. I realized how exhilarating it was when I actually took those risks.
Christian: You mentioned about staying on course or course-correcting. How did you determine whether you were on course or whether you were a little bit off course and you needed to course-correct?
Nikki: It’s often easy to see by the results you get, if you’re off course. We’re also pulled into the fact that this is someone else’s opinion oftentimes. What you can accomplish really comes from an internal will of yourself. It was something that I realized that I could never be satisfied with my results.
If I was always satisfied with yesterday’s victories, I would never be able to push myself further. Even though I was winning contests a few years before the Olympics, if I stayed with that mindset and I stayed with the results that I had, I would have never pushed myself further to be able to do the jumps, that I actually won the Olympics with.
I realized that I could never be satisfied with yesterday’s victories. If I stayed with that mindset and I stayed with the results that I had, I would have never pushed myself further to be able to do the jumps, that I actually won the Olympics with.
For me it was always pushing myself to someone, that had greater results or someone that had accomplished more, whether it be in another sport or someone who had done something in another field. I would compare myself to the men, that were doing the more difficult jumps.
But no matter what it was, it was always trying to push further, than I thought was possible. It’s so easy to sit there and be satisfied with what you’re doing and feel like you’re okay, because you’ve got the results in the past.
But you constantly have to tell yourself there’s more to do. So, in a sense like the airline pilot, we’re always off-course and we’re always having to push ourselves and we’re always having to find that way to be able to do more.
No matter what it was, it was always trying to push further, than I thought was possible.
How her sporting career has helped her study and business life
Christian: Interesting. You have graduated from the University with the Summa Cum Laude. So, is that strive for excellence, something that you think is innate and made you a successful athlete, or your career and the hardship you wen through, made you to strive for being a perfectionist?
Nikki: That’s actually interesting, because it’s something we study in Sports Psychology. I don’t know, if I have an exact answer yet. I have my theories. My theory is that we do have something that drives us towards wanting to have success, but it’s also the environments that we put ourselves in.
We do have something that drives us towards wanting to have success, but it’s also the environments that we put ourselves in.
Surrounding myself with parents who let me believe anything was possible. It was surrounding myself with other students and athletes that were successful. I’m going to draw a blank right now, but there’s a great speaker who said you are the results of the five people you hang out with the most.
Christian: Yes, it was Jim Rohn.
Nikki: Yes, so, it’s something that I love to be able to surround myself with people that are successful. It always drives me more and allows me to push myself. So, really I do think that there is something in me.
When I was three years old, I had to win the game of putt golf. But it was something, that I always pushed further as well. It was from the surroundings of my family, my friends, my colleagues, my fellow teammates and people that always helped push me to believe, that I could be more.
Her morning routine
Christian: Do you have a morning routine?
Nikki: These days or when I was an athlete?
Christian: Maybe both.
Nikki: As an athlete, I always would get up and I would stretch. I would go through my jumps in my head. I was someone who was a very visual person. I would try to imagine things successfully, before I did them.
A lot of that had to do with my spinal injury. I couldn’t do as many jumps as I had in the past. It was always getting up and visualizing and trying to do as much as I could. I’d go on a light run. I would have a great breakfast.
For me, it was always trying to put myself in the best place possible so that I could tell myself that I have done everything. I would tell myself that all I can do now is try my best and it would give me a calm. It would give me a feeling of wanting to go out there and just try.
I would know that there’s nothing to be nervous about because I’ve done the hard work and now it just means going out there and giving it a shot. I think nowadays I use something similar. It’s still getting up, eating a good breakfast, putting myself in the right frame of mind, preparing myself for success throughout the day and going out there and trying to achieve my best.
Getting up, eating a good breakfast, putting myself in the right frame of mind, and preparing myself for success throughout the day.
Christian: How do you do that?
Nikki: A lot of it, is the frame of mind. We all have adversities. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what your situation is. It’s not an easy situation in any country.
You can choose to be pulled down by the things that are going on around you, or you can choose to either change them or you utilize them in your best possible way. So, if you can tell yourself that this is not going to be something that’s going to get you down, it won’t.
You can choose to be pulled down by the things that are going on around you, or you can choose to either change them or you utilize them in your best possible way. If you can tell yourself that this is not going to be something that’s going to get you down, it won’t.
Christian: Okay. Cool.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare for important moments?
Nikki: I prepare for the most important moments, by visualizing and trying to imagine everything perfectly and also by preparing, by actually doing these steps. As I said, as I went into the Olympic Games, I would prepare for anything that could go wrong.
- Also check out the interviews with 2012 Olympic Champion Aleksey Torokhtiy, and 2016 Olympic finalist Niek Kimmann, who outline, how they use visualization to prepare themselves.
If it was bad weather out, I would go out there and try to put myself in a situation where this could be what you have at the Olympics. So, the important moments even to this day. if I have a big speech and I’m going to be in front of 15,000 people, I try to put myself in a situation where I make myself nervous by going and speaking in front of friends.
It’s actually more nerve-wracking speaking in front of ten friends, than it is 15,000 people you don’t know. They’re going to be critical of you. So, if I can put myself in a situation, where I get myself nervous, and I’m prepared for those situations then it’s going to be a lot easier once I actually encounter them.
If I can put myself in a situation, where I get myself nervous and I’m prepared for those situations, then it’s going to be a lot easier once I actually encounter them.
Christian: Interesting. Yes, I think, I can’t remember which athlete said that it, but he said that we should making practice harder, so competition becomes easier.
Nikki: Yes, it really does help, and it doesn’t just go to jumping like you would at the Olympics. It’s imagining the crowds at the bottom of the hill. It’s asking reporters to come out and watch you, so that you’re used to having the media around.
It’s having the smells, the sounds, everything that you would encounter on that day. The more things, the more elements, that you can take out that are going to be unknown, the more prepared you are going to be for that situation.
Why she prayed for bad weather at the day of the Olympic Final
Christian: On the day of the Olympic final in 1998, there were difficult weather conditions, you mentioned that. And you also mentioned, that you were praying for bad weather, because that will give you the edge over the competition. And on top of that, you did a triple somersault, something no one else has intended to do. Take us through that.
Nikki: Yes. It was. On that day of finals, I did want the bad weather, because I knew a lot of the athletes would back down on the degree of difficulty. They wouldn’t do as difficult jumps, because they hadn’t prepared it in the weeks or months prior.
I also know that when it’s a perfect Bluebird day, there are a lot more people that land their jumps. People don’t want adversities; they want an easier path. If you can prepare yourself for the challenges, then you’re going to give yourself that edge up when you’re encountered by them.
People don’t want adversities; they want an easier path. If you can prepare yourself for the challenges, then you’re going to give yourself that edge, when you’re encountered by them.
It really helped me to have practiced to be in the right frame of mind. It didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous. When there’s winds gusting and you’re an aerial skier, it’s terrifying.
We had to practice our jumps. When we test our speed to go to do my triple backflip on that day of finals my two speed checks showed that I was too slow. We want to be on to the kilometer per hour in order to do our jumps.
To do a triple backflip, I wanted to be at 61 km/h and both the speed checks I took, I was 57 km/h. My coach told me that I just have to be confident. So, there really is still that fear factor as you go up there. I had to take a giant step up and just be confident.
To do a triple backflip, I wanted to be at 61 km/h and both the speed checks I took, I was 57 km/h.
Lo and behold, as I went through the speed guns during my contest, I found out after that I was at 65 km/h, which is 4 km/h faster than I wanted. So, it’s always knowing how to adapt in those situations as well. You’re not always going to have everything perfect. You’re just going to have your ability to go in there and adapt to whatever is given to you.
Christian: And talking about confidence, you mentioned that before as well. You had to wait three minutes for that deciding jump, and I looked at the video a couple of times. Your face, you looked so cold-blooded. It was just amazing! Were there no doubts in your head or something like that?
Nikki: I didn’t give myself a chance to have the doubts. I didn’t think about the results at that point. I was just thinking about my jump. So, I was so focused on doing it perfectly, again and again, and again and again. I look back and it was repetitive. There was so much that I did over and over and over and over again.
So, as I stood there, I blocked out the 40,000 people at the bottom of the hill. I blocked out the fact, that I was too slow on those last two speed checks, I blocked out the flag sitting sideways, because the winds were so strong. I blocked out the camera that was six inches from my face and just thought about my jumps again and again and again.
I didn’t give myself a chance to have the doubts. As I stood there, I blocked out the 40,000 people at the bottom of the hill. I blocked out the fact, that I was too slow on those last two speed checks, I blocked out the flag sitting sideways, because the winds were so strong. I blocked out the camera that was six inches from my face and just thought about my jumps again and again and again.
Then finally, my coach gave me the clear sign. Three minutes may not seem that long, if you’re hitting the snooze alarm or you’re getting a massage. But when you’re waiting to see if your life’s going to change or not, it feels like an eternity.
So, all I did was go over my jumps again and again and thought of them perfectly. So, there was never that chance to wonder if I could land this or what was going to happen, because of those situations or circumstances. It was always just thinking, that I needed to do this or that I was going to accomplish this goal.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Nikki: It’s not easy. I’m human like everyone else. I handle challenges just like everyone else. We all go through a point where we feel defeated. We feel like we want to give up, but it’s in those moments that you have to push further.
We all go through a point where we feel defeated. We feel like we want to give up, but it’s in those moments that you have to push further.
I was a gymnast and when I was growing up, I had a coach in gymnastics and when we were going through conditioning, we would do these really heavy, hard drills for conditioning. We would have to do toe raises and we’d have to do so many sit-ups and push-ups and it was 45 minutes of grueling exercise.
I remember feeling so defeated at one point and he told me, that this was the time that you actually have to dig in, because this was the time you build your muscles. He also said that this was the time that you build that success and the times that you feel the worst. I always remembered that.
So, when we’re at that point where we feel like breaking, those are the points where it really means so much. As I said, the days that are the worst, those are the days that are most successful for you because you’ve learned the most. So, we need those challenges.
The days that are the worst, those are the days that are most successful for you because you’ve learned the most.
Challenges are what help us make us grow. They’re what make us become better people, it’s what helped us become better athletes. So, it was always taking those hurdles and realizing this is something that’s actually going to be valuable for me in the long run, but I have to grit my teeth and get through it.
Christian: Embrace the challenge.
Nikki: Exactly right.
Her role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Nikki: My role model was both my grandmother and both my parents. Both my parents have overcome cancer. They are the ones who taught me about the turtle effect. They always believed that you could accomplish what you want as long as you work hard.
My parents always believed that you could accomplish what you want as long as you work hard.
My grandmother was this amazing lady that got two doctorates. She was a principal in New York City. She accomplished a lot of things that a lot of people didn’t think women could do at the time.
It was this great role model to be able to go out there and achieve whatever I wanted to, because she set the ground for me to be able to go out there and have that success as well. She told me a quote that I always remember, and when I would go through challenging times she told me that ‘The brave do not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.’
My grandmother told me a quote that I always remember, and when I would go through challenging times she told me that ‘The brave do not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.’
I realized in order to accomplish great things, I had to put myself in that chance to achieve them. If you give up ahead of time, you’ve already failed. So, I might as well give myself that shot to be able to shine. So, both my parents and my grandmother really set the stage for me to have this success. It was just up to me to be able to push that last little mile in order to get there.
Christian: You think you could have done it without the role model of your grandmother?
Nikki: No, I don’t. I think if any one person wasn’t there along the way, it would have been a lot more challenging. You don’t win a gold medal. Gold medal comes down to milliseconds and half of a point and the smallest little margin. So, if I didn’t have every one of the people that was supporting me along the way, I really think it would be so much more challenging to have those successes.
It was not only having that support, but recognizing that I needed it. It’s often the case when someone is successful, they don’t realize that it takes a team. It takes a whole support system and you don’t just need that support system. You have to recognize that you need their support along the way as well.
The best advice she has received
Christian: What’s the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Nikki: The best advice I think was from my parents and it was something that I still share with my kids today. It is that it’s okay to have failures, but it’s not okay to not try. So, as long as you’re going out there and giving it your best, you already have success.
It is that it’s okay to have failures, but it’s not okay to not try. So, as long as you’re going out there and giving it your best, you already have success.
So, my kids, I don’t care if they win a contest. I don’t care if they were in a game, as long as they’re putting their best foot forward and trying, it’s all I care about. By doing that, in the end, you will see the results.
Christian: Really nice, I like that.
A typical training day in the life of a freestyle skier
Christian: How did a typical training day look like back in the days?
Nikki: For a typical training day, we would wake up early in the morning. We would go out and do water rafting. We’d jump off plastic ramps into a pool as our summer training. We’d go and lift weights in the afternoon, we would go for runs, we would do video review.
It was a full-time job that you were getting up from 7:00 in the morning until 8:00 or 9:00 at night, as an athlete. That was my job and it was something that I took seriously. I knew that there’s no part of it that I could slack at, if I wanted to be the best.
That was my job and it was something that I took seriously. I knew that there’s no part of it that I could slack at, if I wanted to be the best.
Christian: You were facing back problems during your career. We talked about that. A lot of these came from landings, right?
Christian: Your sport has high impact forces, so out of personal interest, how do you distribute these landings and high impact throughout the week?
Nikki: Well, for me, it was a lot of the way I jumped. A lot of people would go out longer and they would land with the hill. For me, I would go up and down a lot more, which meant that I got a lot of great height, but at the same time it would be great impact coming down.
I don’t know if I would have changed that, because it certainly helped me land jumps. I would have prepared myself more by building my back up and making sure that my back was stronger before I actually took these jumps. I don’t think I did enough with my back to make sure that my back and core were strong enough to be able to withstand all those landings over time.
Her interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Nikki: I would love to nominate Chris Waddell. He is a Paralympian skier and also a wheelchair racing athlete. He was in both the Summer and winter Olympics. He’s won medals in both.
He’s actually the first wheelchair athlete to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in his chair. So, he’s a not only a phenomenal athlete, but a phenomenal person as well. Your listeners would love to hear from him as well.
Her motivation to write the book ‘When Turtles Fly’
Christian: Before we wrap up, you’ve written a book. I think you brought a copy of your book, When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out, right?
Nikki: When Turtles Fly and it’s the secrets of successful people who know how to stick their necks out. It was 40 different contributors from all different fields. People like Tommy Hilfiger, Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, Dr. Stephen Covey, Lester Holtz, all different people, from all different fields, sharing their stories and success and using my family’s turtle effect to talk about why they were successful.
It was interesting to hear their perspective of why they had that success. One thing that I found interesting throughout the process is that I asked all these athletes, businessmen, businesswomen, musicians, baker’s, whatever their field was why they were successful. It was always the athletes who knew right away why they’re successful.
One thing that I found throughout the process of interviewing all these athletes, businessmen, businesswomen, musicians, baker’s, whatever their field was why they were successful. It was always the athletes who knew right away why they’re successful.
I think a lot of it’s because they have coaching their whole life. They’re constantly looking at their successes. They’re constantly looking at the areas they can improve on, and they know why they’re successful. A lot of them told me it was a great lesson.
I had a military hero that told me it was so good for him to look back and to have that understanding of why he was successful. Throughout the book it shares their stories and mine intertwined throughout, giving lessons and tools of how others can go and find success as well.
Christian: Cool. So, the total effect is you need to have a hard shell, you need to be soft in the inside, and you have to stick your neck out?
Nikki: Yes, those are the three elements that always helped me. You don’t think of a turtle as someone finding you success. But it really did help me have that understanding and to put a visual to what I needed to do in order to find my accomplishments.
Christian: And the hard shell is you need to be resistant to–?
Nikki: You need to overcome adversities. There’s going to be a lot of adversities and challenges. It also was finding the focus to make sure that you’re putting yourself in that situation with the hard shell, so that you can overcome the adversities and you can be prepared for any elements that are thrown at you.
Christian: And the soft from the inside, is the character?
Nikki: The soft inside is the character and the passion. You have to make sure you have the love for what you’re doing because really that is something that drives everything else. You’re not going to be willing to take the risk. You’re not going to be willing to overcome the adversities if you don’t have love for what you do.
Then lastly, the sticking your neck out, is taking the risks and having the confidence to be able to follow through. And also make sure you have the teamwork and the people around you to help you stick your neck out to put yourself in the best possible situation where you’re not always living in a bubble, but you’re pushing yourself to something that you maybe didn’t think was possible.
Christian: You have experience as an athlete, as well as you studied Sports Psychology. You have been a member of the US Olympic team and have helped athletes to overcome fear and adversity under pressure and build confidence. Currently, you are a keynote speaker and motivator. What else is going on in your life?
Nikki: Also, my favorite job, which is being a mom. I have two children, who are seven and ten and it’s great taking these lessons and putting them on and sharing them with someone else. I don’t think enough credit was given to my parents, until I actually had children myself and it really is to be that support system as well.
It’s this fine line between being encouraging, but not being pushy. I was so impressed with how my parents walked that line and really were always there to support me, to let me know I could achieve anything. They weren’t pushing me. They knew it had to come from me. To this day, I honestly would not have this Olympic medal if it weren’t for that support that they’d always given me.
Christian: Nice. You’re also offering people your help in terms of Sports Psychology. Is everyone eligible to that?
Nikki: It’s something that I’ve worked with the United States Olympic Committee. They’ve brought me into some of the processing where you actually get to the games and what you prepare for at the games. I have worked with people to do some personal development coaching as well, but the majority of my time is spent doing the motivational speaking and writing.
Where can you find Nikki Stone
Christian: Okay. Where can people find you?
Nikki: They can go to my website, which is www.nikkistone.com, N-I-K-K-I S-T-O-N-E. All my contact information is on there. They can reach out to me and they can even purchase the books there if they would like.
Christian: Oh, nice.
Nikki: Twenty-five percent of the proceeds go to American Cancer Society. That’s something that’s really being important to me as well.
Christian: That’s good. What social media channels are you using? Where can people follow you?
Nikki: I do have Twitter and Instagram. It’s Nikki Stone Gold and if people want to check out what I’m doing on there as well, they are welcome to come and take part.
Christian: I’ll link all that up. Nikki, thanks so much for your time. That was awesome.
Nikki’s social profiles
Nikki: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure to be here.
Christian: Thank you. Have a good night. Oh no, for us it’s night. For you, it’s the middle of the day.
Nikki: We’ll still have night though.
Christian: Thanks so much for your time. I truly enjoyed it.
Nikki: Oh thank you. Well, you’ve been great and thanks for the great questions.
Christian: Thank you.
Nikki: All right, Christian, thank you.