One On One With Ryan Lochte
Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Ryan: Not sure there is something that people dont already know about me. I am pretty much an open book. And what is something that would surprise people about the life of an Olympian? My life has changed a lot since I was in the Olympics and it’s surprisingly normal now. There was a big portion of my life where all I could focus on was competing and winning. I went from feeling invincible on one of the biggest stages in the world, to being extremely humble – I’ve matured a lot since then and am a different man. Through these many ups and downs, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that family is everything. I have a beautiful wife and two incredible children that I love and adore. I feel like being a father and husband was my true calling. I would do anything for them. Medals and competitions will come and go, but those you love will always remain.
Adam: How did you get here? What experience, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Ryan: Failure has 100% got me to where I am – both as an athlete and now as a husband and father. I’ve learned that you’re going to get knocked down a lot – and when I say knocked down, like knocked down to the very bottom – but it’s how you get yourself up and how you keep moving forward that is going to define you as a person. In my youth I was challenged mentally with the separation of my parents and then challenged again after Rio. Both mentally and financially. I was in a dark place. But in these moments, I learned how to get back up again. How to keep moving forward and show people who I really am. And I can honestly say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. My family is everything that I’ve ever wanted in life. This trumps every gold medal I’ve ever won. This hands-down is my calling: being a dad, being a husband. Swimming is just the cherry on top. Before I couldn’t say that. Swimming was my world. Swimming was everything. But life has changed and I’m happy it did because, me inside, I’m proud of who I’ve become.
Adam: What are the best lessons you learned from the achievement of becoming an Olympian and then a gold medalist?
Ryan: We are all hard workers. We don’t like to lose. We are determined, we grind, and we outwork the people next to us. It’s about being knocked down and having the strength to get back up – not for others but for yourself. I can use all of these values outside of the sport of swimming and in my life. That’s what people learn when they get to the highest stage, like the Olympic Games.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Ryan: Persistence. Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Never stop moving forward – the most eye-opening lessons come from the process.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to leaders?
Ryan: Failure is part of growth. Don’t be afraid of it, welcome it.
You know that saying – in order to love others you need to love yourself? This holds true for leadership, both in life/family (as a father and husband) and in your career. If you don’t believe in yourself, how are you going to get others to rally behind you? Trust yourself, live in your truth and believe in who you are.
Stay true to your values no matter what. Don’t get distracted by something shiny and new. Remain steadfast in who you are – others will take notice.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Ryan: When you decide to do something, go all in.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Ryan: In and out of the pool, I am very focused on living a healthy lifestyle and it’s something that I want to instill in my children too. I use Tru Niagen to support my muscle health and cellular energy production, so that I am able to run around and play with my kids after training. Spending time with them is my number one goal every day. As much as I wish I could take those afternoon naps, those days are long gone!
I also spend a lot of my free time doing charity work and giving back. The Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (Duchenne) is really near and dear to my heart because I lost a close relative to Duchenne disease. Another organization I am involved with is the Mac Crutchfield Foundation, which raises awareness for drowning as it’s named after a 12-year old boy who drowned during a thunderstorm in 2008.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Ryan: I think we should all be reaching out a hand to help others, no matter where we are at in life. Whether it’s your rival or teammate or family. When you get to the top of the mountain, don’t just turn your back on others struggling to fight their way up so you can keep moving forward. Offer a hand. Give some advice. Show them that they are supported. It’s important to remember that we are all in this thing together. The only way we move forward is if we move together.