Olympic Champion Tianna Bartoletta shares her mindset facing adversity

Olympic Champion Tianna Bartoletta: Losing is Inevitable But Defeat is Optional


Tianna Bartoletta is an American track and field athlete who participated in two Olympic Games and won three gold medals. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, she won her first gold by leading off the world record-setting 4×100m relay team. At the 2016 Summer Olympics she won two more golds, one individual with a personal best to win the long jump, and then again leading off the victorious 4×100m relay team. She also won the long jump World Championship in 2005 and 2015. In our conversation, we discuss the wins, the uncertainties, the consistency, and the mindset it takes to stay strong and true to yourself. Tianna is the perfect example that champions are really made when no one is watching.

[mepr-show rules=”7108″ unauth=”message”]One word to summarize 2019?

Tianna Bartoletta: Tumultuous! a lot of ups and downs on and off the track and emotionally. I have been trying to get divorced for 2 years, made it to the final hearing and the judge couldn’t decide and postponed the final result. My year was a lot of that in so many different areas!

What is your mantra?

One of them is “The physics doesn’t give a F word!” I don’t usually say the word in public but I want you to know what I mean, I have it on a wristband that I wear and it keeps me very calm and steady in competition. When maybe it’s the Olympics and millions of people are watching on TV, or in the diamond league and I have pressure to perform because I need points. At the end of the day, physics doesn’t care about the number of people watching or my nerves, it cares if I can stand there and execute my event, so I really lean on that mantra! I won 7 of my 9 medals in the middle of sh**!

If you could spend a day with anyone in the world, who would that be and what would you do?

I choose Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus for 36 pieces of silver. Because I would like to know where is the line between free will and fate. Every day we do things that we think is a choice but is it really?

Interesting! Our previous guest David Nurse answered he would spend the day with Jesus!

Well, we would have an interesting dinner party the four of us! (laughs)

As a pro athlete who won pretty much everything in your disciplines, what is your definition of success?

I now believe success is me being more comfortable being me after I go through something. Success for me is not so much winning because there is not much left for me to win that I haven’t won already. If I am learning something new about me, that is awesome! I am living authentically, I still learn about myself and pay attention. This is a success if you aren’t the same as you were at the beginning.

For example, I am the defending Olympic champion on the long jump but it is also likely that I do not make the team to the Olympics this year. So, it is very interesting for me going into this year as a defending champion, to feel that every single day. And even if I don’t make it, I would have learned so much about what it takes to look myself in the mirror knowing that it is my battle to lose and not being sure and still giving 100%, that is a successful run for me because a lot of people can’t sit with that uncertainty and would not even try. I would be disappointed at the moment to have a goal you don’t realize but after that, I will be able to look back on the road to that moment with pride.

If I did the best I could with what I had and the time I had. I won’t feel good about it but I will be able to get to the point where I can be proud of it.

Tianna Bartoletta
Tianna Bartoletta

Any bad habits you would like to get rid of?

Yes, I like potato chips, so I would like to stop snacking! Even if I am not very disciplined when it comes to eating, what I am disciplined with is grocery shopping, meaning I don’t buy things I am not supposed to eat.

What is your morning routine?

Typically when I am in the flow, I wake up around 5.30 or 6 am, and I will either write or meditate first, I try to write and do creative stuff from 5.30 to 10 am. Then I will eat and start preparing to go to the track. Besides, I am a certified yoga teacher, so I will usually throw a 15 minutes yoga/body scanning, and practice my own sequences.

When and how did you start yoga and meditation? How does it help you in your career but also in your personal life?

My father was a martial artist who relied heavily on meditation. Growing up, meditation was something I knew was beneficial. But there was not a practice that we did at all, my dad talked about where he had to go in his head for fight and training but didn’t teach us how to do it. So, I wasn’t a stranger to it but I didn’t start practicing until I was an adult in my mid-twenties because I was struggling with a lot of anger!

Yoga came after and I began to see and appreciate yoga as a spiritual practice, and tie meditation into that. It also helped me on track and field as well, it makes me embrace my own lane instead of looking elsewhere.

One of the major things based on Bhagavad Gita is that you are obligated to do the labor but you are not entitled to the fruit of it, and I think it is every track athlete needs to hear.

You are not responsible for whether or not getting on the podium, you are responsible for showing up to training every day.

Do you have a specific diet on and off the competition?

During a competition, it depends on the meet schedule when my event is, and I count back in 3-hour blocks. That way, I make sure the last meat I eat was three hours before the event, I can eat enough and I don’t feel heavy, and I will eat right after the event. Then back to the hotel, I will take a shower and have a bigger dinner.

During the competitive season, I am low to no sugar, which is very difficult for me because I have a sweet tooth. Sugar detox is a painful process but it is necessary because it allows me to get to my optimal weight.

In the offseason, my body likes to be around 148-150 lbs, I feel good and I am sleeping well. However, I don’t jump well unless I am between 132-135 lbs, so every season it’s like that.

I typically stick to a lot of vegetables and lean proteins. I am majoritarian plant-based now, I wasn’t before, it is off and on. Also, I started to do carrot juices twice a day which was a lifesaver for my low blood level due to my anemia. I have more energy when I eat less meat, that is the only reason I eat less meat in my diet, for me personally, it works.

What is your self-care routine?

I don’t really have a self-care routine because everything I do is all self-care. Actually, I wake up in the morning and I intend to focus on myself. Whether if I pick up a book, I start to write, do a kid’s clinic, our interview, everything is about me paying attention to what I like to do, and not to do.

One thing you cannot live without?

Wifi! I don’t have a lot of friends who are close in proximity, and the Internet is the reason I can post a blog for example. I love to spend a lot of time at home, so Netflix, Disney+, all those things that bring me joy, I need that!

What makes you happy?

It is a good question and it is hard to measure it. There is a difference between joy and happiness because I feel your happiness can be affected by external things. But my definition is to feel good at the end of the day, or at least ok because there are plenty of people on this planet that cannot go to bed or wake up with confidence that they are gonna be ok. The pursuit of my own happiness is to know what I need to do in order to look myself in the mirror and tell myself that I am gonna be ok.

What is your definition of self-belief?

For me, it’s knowing that I will figure it out, that’s it! I don’t always have the confidence or believe it will work or will make the right choice. But I will always believe that I can learn and figure things out, no matter what just having that belief, I can go anywhere.

Tianna Bartoletta

You won very early in your career, helping to build your confidence, how do you maintain this level of confidence?

My early victory did not build my confidence, it developed arrogance, and that is why I failed hard after. Those early victories validated all the b.s that I knew I was up to and that made me cocky. My coach tried to tell me but I didn’t hear it.

How do you manage stress, fear, and anxiety?

I just ride the wave, if I am scared, I let myself to be scared. Simply, I just don’t allow myself to drown into it and I do not deny it. For instance, I had emergency surgery a few weeks ago. And I was wondering If I needed to retire because I was running out of time on the calendar.

Feelings unacknowledged become thoughts, and thoughts become actions.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

“You have to win and lose the same way graciously.” From one of the executives at Nike that told me that in 2007. I was embarrassed, was the defending world champion, and barely made it to the Finals. This advice started to frame how winning and losing are different outcomes for doing the same work.

Your favorite destination?

DisneyWorld! Second, to that, is Arnhem in the Netherlands, I don’t know why but I just feel at home there.

What advice would you give to people who work on their dreams and goals but do not see results?

Embracing the value of doing the work. But also take quitting off the table, even if you feel it. Once quitting isn’t an option, life is different, you figure it out and you find a way!

As an athlete, you won Olympic and world titles, what are your dreams and goals now?

I don’t have an individual sprint medal, so that’s one thing I would say. My motivation right now is me. Also, I want to prove the concept that you can do this differently, you don’t have to be obsessive about the medals, which I know it is easier to say because I have 9 (laughs). That is what I am trying to do, working on my techniques, loving my training, and what happens happens.

What is your favorite thing about competing?

The mental challenge of it because it is scary! I have been weak to the point where I got up there and didn’t execute anything because of those fears. There are other times when I completely mentally mastered and executed like a robot. So, I really like the opportunity to practice that and be like, so what?

Besides your titles, what do you want to be remembered for?

Telling the truth! Tell what it really looks like on a daily basis. Nowadays, our kids are growing up with social media, highlighting their “best times”. So, I want to be known, as If a kid doesn’t know how to handle something, somebody will tell “go ask Tianna because she will tell you straight up and you can trust her.”

What motivates you?

The pursuit of mastering! I know how volatile I can be and I want to be a “Jedi” like I am calm, and improve my technique. Progress!

Is there a question you would like to ask?

I wanna know where the name Good Manners comes from, the story!

Who should we interview next?

Nia Ali and Christian Taylor! They are two interesting people and colleagues of mine who are very high performing individuals in different ways.

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Romain Wawrzyniak is our Editor-in-Chief. His enthusiasm and kindness make his guests feel comfortable creating intimate conversations and priceless insights.

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