Episode 163: Olympic Wrestler Jake Herbert on the Talent Myth and the Pursuit of Failure

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Olympic Wrestler Jake Herbert talks about why he considers himself a failure in wrestling and how he used wrestling as a way to build confidence in himself. We can all learn this from athletics and apply it to the classroom and in how we approach our work.

Guest Bio:

Jake HerbertJake Herbert of Ann Arbor, Michigan is an American amateur wrestler. Jake won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials at 84 kg FS and competed in the 2012 Olympics.

Born in Pittsburgh, Jake was a Pennsylvania state champion and four-time state placer at North Allegheny High School of Wexford, Pennsylvania.

In college, he was a two-time NCAA champion, three-time Big Ten Conference champion, and four-time NCAA All-American. He went 149-4 while at Northwestern University. He won the 2009 Dan Hodge Trophy awarded to the best college wrestler in the nation and the 2009 Big Ten Athlete of the Year award.

Jake won a silver medal at the 2009 World Wrestling Championships at 84kg FS competed at the 2010 World Wrestling Championships at 84kg FS. He defeated Travis Paulson 2 to 1 at the finals of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

He currently works with Andy Hrovat, who represented the United States at 84 kg FS in the 2008 Olympics.

Jake came very close to obtaining a medal in the 2012 Olympics but missed the opportunity due to a controversial referee’s call.

(source: wikipedia.com)

Show Notes:

(02:47) When you hear the word success or successful, who’s the first person that comes to mind and why?

Time is the most valuable asset that we have.

(04:05) Is he a wrestling mentor, a life mentor?

(04:40) This perspective you have on time being the most important asset. Have you always had that thought process, or did you develop it after some of your experiences in wrestling and in life?

(06:10) We’re used to it in our educational system. We’re taught to tie time with dollars, rather than thinking entrepreneurially. We have to unlearn that thought process.

(06:48) Jake’s background

(11:03) Do you come from an athletic family? Or did you just develop this hustle?

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

As long as you have the desire to do it, and you take the time to dedicate to it. Consistency over time is going to equal to success in whatever you want to be successful at.

(14:23) I’d like to go back to the time in your life where you were going down the wrong path. What was it about the sport of wrestling that attracted you? Was there a moment or series of moments that made you say, “You know what, I can be good at this, I want to make this a career. I want to see where this takes me.”

(18:16) You alluded to the adversity that you had in between high school and your career at Northwestern. Tell us what happened and how you were able to respond.

(19:15) So before you dive into it, you mentioned a couple of times being made fun of. Were you bullied at some point or were you just afraid of being bullied?

(20:38) You found out early on who you were and came to grips with the fact that it was okay and it was good to be Jake Herbert. A lot of kids, these young kids are always looking for external validation. Then find out very quickly that all it does is set you up for failure. Failure in trying to figure out who you are.

(21:50) So that was one thing you learned in your transition from high school to college. What was the other thing that almost ended things before you could start?

(33:17) I’d love to transition to your career after Northwestern…. What is the differentiator between you and the bronze medalist? What makes Jake Herbert different from all the other wrestlers?

4 Things Jake asks every day of the kids that he trains:
1. What was the one thing you learned today?
2. End the practice or training session better than you started.
3. Help someone else do the same (learn and end better).
4. Have fun doing so.

(39:27) You said you lost the gold, you didn’t win the silver. You said before you were a failure because you didn’t win the gold medal. Is that a different mindset than the growth mindset that you’re teaching these kids?… Do you do that to motivate yourself? Or do you actually believe that you’re a failure?

(41:37) That’s a consistent difference between the high performers and the average ones… To continue to pursue excellence at a very high level, you got to have those standards for yourself. You got to be hard on yourself. Look at failure as the entry way into success and continue to put forth the effort you need to continue to be successful.

(44:37) I’d love to pick your brain about the 2012 Olympic moment about the controversial referee’s call. You seem to have a great approach to that. What was your feeling, what was your response right after that moment? How did you come to grips with that to the point where you’re at right now?

(50:00) If you can give one takeaway, one small win action step you can give to the audience, someone who’s trying to go from average to above average, above average to excellent. What would you say as a small win for them?


Email: jake@doublelegninja.com / jake.herbert1@gmail.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/jakeherbert84

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