Olympic Gold Medalist

Performance Coach

  • 02:42 Working towards being more self-aware is key
  • 06:43 Performance is not just about doing more and going harder...
  • 12:00 We always have a choice on how we respond in life
  • 17:05 Progress is all about the next small step
  • 25:25 The medal doesn't define me... and is not mine...
  • 33:51 Pay attention to what you love(d) at 10 years old...

Stella BIDA, in conversation with Joe JACOBI, Olympic Gold Medalist & Performance Coach

Summarised conversation transcript

This is a summary version of the conversation. More details, stories, and amazing insights are mentioned in the video!

Joe JACOBI is an Olympic Gold Medalist. He has served as CEO of an Olympic and Paralympic organization. Today, he is a Performance Coach.

STELLA BIDA: Hi, everyone and welcome to the Conversations of Excellence. I have a very special guest, Joe Jacobi. Joe is an Olympic Gold Medalist. He has served as CEO of an Olympic & Paralympic Sports organization. Today, he is a Performance Coach. Joe welcome to today's conversation. I'm so excited!

JOE JACOBI: Stella, you are not more excited than I am. This is going to be great!

STELLA BIDA: Is there anything that I forgot to say about Joe as an introduction?

JOE JACOBI: I turned 51 years old a few weeks ago!

STELLA BIDA: Congratulations that's great!

JOE JACOBI:  Thank you! I feel incredibly grateful about where my life is! I'm healthy! One thing that I'm starting to give more reflection and practice to is letting go of some of the labels. Searching my name on Google, you probably cannot not find something that does not relate to being an olympic gold. I get that labels sort of follow you around, but at the same time I think it's part of the growth process, it's part of the development process to figure out how to let go, just for your own health, your own goodness. This opens up a space for whatever needs to come in. I think you said it very nicely.

STELLA BIDA: If there was one label to describe Joe in a few words, what would it be?

Working towards being more self-aware is key

JOE JACOBI: My hope is to be working towards being more self-aware and hopefully, just be better at finding those ways to press "PAUSE". When I hear a question like that Stella, I also think a lot about environment. Where do I really want to exist? What do I want to be around of? What are the impacts of the environment on who the person and the Human is? I was born in the United states, but I live in the Spanish state of Catalonia, in the Pyrenees mountains. I live very close to the French border, very close to the principality of Andorra, about two hours to the north of Barcelona.

With the words "Simple, Slower and Less" you can identify what's the most important. With "Less" you push away what you don't need. And I think that any time that you slow down, instead of focusing on three or four tasks at once, you focus just on one task which really matters.

So when I think even about that question, describing Joe, that's big work in progress... I hope I am more aware.

Performance is not just about doing more and going harder...

STELLA BIDA: Simple, slower and less. I remember the first time I met you, I was fascinated because you were able to align the words ‘slow’ and ‘performance’ in the same sentence. What do you see is the greatest myth around performance, from your experience?

JOE JACOBI:  I know that you are a fan of the Olympic games and elite athlete high level performance. Let's focus on some of the sports for which speed is important, such as swimming, or running. When you learn how to go slower, you can break down the technique, mechanics, body movements, and you can feel it and study it in a more controlled environment.

My challenge is to ask oneself: How can you slow down enough to think, and understand the technique, so that you can really break that down and practice it? So that when you get into a situation that requires you to go fast, you would have already trained your body to do it in a slow way. And then, it's about giving the muscle a chance to repair so that it comes back together stronger than it was be before.

So it's not just about doing more and going harder. It’s also asking the questions: What does my rest look like? What does my recovery look like? Am I taking time for myself to put back the pieces together?

Ultimately it’s not just about spending energy, but also about how you replenish it. I think that we often overlook that part.

We always have a choice - on how we choose to respond in life

STELLA BIDA: What is the most significant lesson that the Covid crisis has shown you so far?

JOE JACOBI: I think that Covid forced people to see that we always have a choice, how we choose to respond. It's not about positivity or optimism, but it's just means that you have a choice of how you respond and it's not right or wrong.

Progress, is all about the next small step

STELLA BIDA: Concerning the choices that you have made in your life over the last years – Can you share with us what has been the most important event that impacted you, and made you be where you are today?

JOE JACOBI: I love this question. Let me give some context about where I am today so that I can come back to that. I'm at a point today where I'm in this quality of life, I live in a culture where I'm learning to speak a different language. My brain is always active. I’m learning all the time, I'm healthy.  I run five or six days a week, I'm  happy! I  have good people in my life. I'm fortunate today, but it wasn’t so long ago that it wasn't that way for me. I  think it would be very easy for people to look at my life and say: "Gosh! How did you put yourself on the airplane, and move to another country? How did you run marathons? How did you launch a coaching Business?". It's so easy to see the exciting part, the exciting jumps and the exciting steps. The reality is that in 2012, I weighed more than 30 pounds heavier, I was in a job in which I was performing at the time poorly. I was stressed, I wasn't managing the pressure.

Today, I'm physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually doing better, and this took years. It has been a step by step process. It was about the next small step to make.

The medal doesn't define me... and it's not mine...

STELLA BIDA: What was the greatest insight you got out of experiencing your gold medal being stolen?

JOE JACOBI: In 2016, just a few months prior to the Olympic games in Rio, I was in Atlanta and a thief broke into my car, grabbed my computer bag which had my 1992 olympic gold medal in it.

The metal doesn't define me. I got asked that all the time: "Why did you have the medal with you? Why don't you keep it in a safety deposit box?". People can't touch it, hold it and wear it if it's in a safety deposit box! The only reason I had the medal in my possession at the time was to be able to interact with people.

In finding it, I realized that it’s not my medal. If I could take a hammer and smash the metal into a million pieces, there wouldn't be enough pieces to give to everyone who has an ownership in that medal! I met Chloe Smith, who was six years old when she found the medal, a few weeks later. Her mom is an amazing woman and she has been like a glue to keep our friendship together, also with her father, a wonderful man.

Pay attention to what you love(d) at 10 years old...

STELLA BIDA: If you had your younger self of 10 years old in front of you, what would you whisper to him?

JOE JACOBI:  I'm so glad that you actually said 10 years old. I use this example a lot when talking to people. Pay attention to what you love at 10 years old! It is a great way when you're older to think about your passion and your purpose. I loved watching sports on TV. I actually loved listening to good baseball commentary on the radio. They were good at telling stories! I thought I wanted to be a baseball announcer on the radio. But in the end, I just wanted to share and tell stories. What you love at 10 years old is a great snapshot of life to come back to much later on.

JOE JACOBI: Let me ask you Stella, what did you like at 10 years old?

STELLA BIDA: What I loved doing is totally related to what we are doing now. Back then, I lived in Maryland with my parents. I remember that I loved to watch the Oprah Winfrey Show. I loved the way she connected to people, listening to their stories.


STELLA BIDA: You talked about the fact that you loved sharing and telling stories, and it translated into what is today the Sunday Morning Joe. If we want to know more about your work, is there any other way that people can reach you?

JOE JACOBI: Yes, people can join the Sunday Morning Joe weekly newsletter. They can also go to

STELLA BIDA:  Awesome! Thank you so much Joe.

JOE JACOBI: I absolutely loved it. I'm always hopeful that these conversations are helpful to other people. When I read that you had started the Conversations of Excellence, I knew that the best part was that you get the opportunity to speak with people that you're excited to speak with. The fact that I'm one of those people makes me feel great! This is such a nice way to extend and grow our friendship which is all that really matters to me. There are a lot of podcasts, there are a lot of videos and a lot of conversations. But I think what we don't hear enough with just two people who genuinely enjoy talking to each other! Would love to join for a second time!

STELLA BIDA:  Thank you for your time Joe. Would love to have you again here!


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