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How To SUCCEED like a WORLD CHAMPION | Katie Hoff | The 2%

Eric Partaker

Do you have what it takes to achieve elite level success? Join Katie Hoff (World Champion Swimmer) and Eric Partaker as they disclose useful tips to change your life forever and lead you on the path to achieving your goals.


Set Small Goals – Chunk big goals into small steps, ensure it’s nearly impossible not to achieve them. Little wins will give you the taste of success sooner and keep you motivated.

Choose Your Pain – Nothing comes for free. Everything requires some form of payment. You can either pay through the form of discipline now or the pain of regret later. Discipline is cheaper than the pain of regret. 

Action Ends Suffering – Professionals know that action creates feeling. Amateurs believe feeling creates action. Be the professional of your life and take action today, don’t wait around for the next day you feel like it, or it will never get done.

Love What You Do – Become obsessed with your goals. If part of your energy is used convincing yourself to try the idea, you’re wasting energy. If you love something, use all your energy to work harder on your goals and achieve them sooner.

Hold Yourself Accountable – Set daily goals. Keep track and hold yourself accountable for your mistakes. It is an important tool for building habits and progressing. 

Nobody Achieves Greatness On Their Own – Surround yourself with the people who encourage you to be your best self. Find yourself a mentor, someone who can give you an outside view on your goals and your progress, and can give you the advice you need.  


Katie Hoff: Because I have this such intense obsessiveness about this goal, It really didn’t matter what needed to happen in order to accomplish it. People always ask me that question, right? Like, “Oh my gosh, Olympian. How much did you have to sacrifice?” And the lesson now looking back to me is not anything, because it’s not a sacrifice to put in the work to do something that you are unbelievably consumed with and passionate about. That was what becoming an Olympian and trying to break world records and win Olympic medals was for me. I was just fortunate enough to have that fall into my lap at the age of 10, 11, 12 years old.

Eric Partaker: Welcome to another episode of the 2%, whereas always we are interviewing peak performers in all walks of life. Why? To give you the tips, tools, and strategies that you need to close that gap between your current self and your best self. I’m super excited to have on the show today Katie Hoff. Welcome, Katie.

Katie Hoff: Thank you so much.

Eric Partaker: I was just telling you before we hit record… and we were laughing. I was just telling you that I’m so excited to talk to you because your background, your career is just amazing. To me, you’re the epitome of a peak performer, and you’ve done it against incredible odds and you’ve endured a lot of hardship along the way. I think you have so many incredible gems to share in this conversation, so I’m just super excited about it. Just to give people watching, listening right now a bit of context, Katie is a three-time Olympic medalist, eight-time world champion swimmer. I mean, this is like insane. You’re also a world record holder, right, in the 400-meter individual medley, right?

Katie Hoff: Yes. It was broken, so a former world record holder. But I can probably say I’m still the current [inaudible 00:02:05] record holder in the 400 [inaudible 00:02:06].

Eric Partaker: Okay. Who broke it, and what’s their address, and where do they live?

Katie Hoff: I appreciate the support.

Eric Partaker: No, but that’s phenomenal, to reach that level of achievement. When you were a kid, did you ever fathom that you would reach that level of achievement?

Katie Hoff: I definitely wanted it really early on. I would say 10 years old, I came out saying, “I want to be an Olympian.” And then 12 years old, I was saying, “I want to be a world record holder.”

Eric Partaker: Wow, okay.

Katie Hoff: But at that point, I said it but I didn’t know fully what goes into that, the work, the stress, the pressure, all those things. But I definitely very, very early on had my sights set on this is what I want to do and I’m going to do everything possible to accomplish it.

Eric Partaker: And you put in all that effort. You accomplished amazing things. You also had to deal with a bit of a setback and a shock later on. We’ll get into that later though. But tell us about what does it take. What does it take to create a world champion? What does that route, what does that journey look like? 12 years old, you say, “I’m going to win it all.” What happens next?

Katie Hoff: Yeah. We don’t have long enough. But to sum it up, I think a lot of is consistency. A lot of is being able to lean on the people around you, having mentors. I definitely didn’t say, “Oh, I’m going to break a world record,” and then didn’t look to the people who had already been doing those things or had coached people who had done those things. And so for me, it was just that goal trickled down to everything else, meaning that because I had such an intense, intense obsessiveness about this goal, it really didn’t matter what needed to happen in order to accomplish it, meaning I didn’t care how painful it was, I didn’t care how many extra laps I had to do. I didn’t care. To me it didn’t… I didn’t view it as sacrifice or anything that was annoying. 

People always ask me that question, right? Like, “Oh my gosh, Olympian. How much did you have to sacrifice?” And the lesson now looking back to me is not anything, because it’s not a sacrifice to put in the work to do something that you are unbelievably consumed with and passionate about. That was what becoming an Olympian and trying to break world records and win Olympic medals was for me. I was just fortunate enough to have that fall into my lap at the age of 10, 11, 12 years old.

Eric Partaker: What do you mean it fell into your lap? What do you mean?

Katie Hoff: I guess that’s the wrong thing to say. Not fell into my lap. I just discovered this passionate that kind of lit me up really early on in my life. We can talk about it later on, but I actually have experienced both. I experienced what is it like to, at a very early age, find this passion, define this goal that just ignites my fire. And then when I retired, I had to do it all over again. I had to say, “Okay…” Which I think a lot of people are, right? You go through life, you graduate college, and then it’s like, “Okay, well, what’s my ultimate… What do I want to do with my career? What do I want to do with my life?” And that actually happened to me at the age of 26 again of, “Okay, now what do I do when I’m retired from swimming?” But to go back to your first question of how do you get there, it’s just unrelenting focus, determination, consistency, and just grit.

Eric Partaker: And all the result of you being in a Chinese restaurant with a fortune cookie falling into your lap. You open up the fortune and it says, “You will become a world champion swimmer.”

Katie Hoff: It just came down from above.

Eric Partaker: It literally fell in your lap. No, okay. There’s a few cool threads that you’ve mentioned there that I think are beneficial to pull one. One is you talk about that incredible obsession. You knew what you wanted, why you wanted it. You talked about how that then fueled consistency. And then you talked about how you had mentors as well. So we had this obsession, consistency, mentors… I mean, three great discussion points. Let’s start with the obsession. What did you do to maintain that obsession? How did you keep it front and center? And how did you stay obsessed even when all the signs were saying that maybe you should lighten up and do something else?

Katie Hoff: Yeah, great question. All of that obsession, or I would say the ability to maintain the obsession, because it’s exhausting sometimes. I look at my life now and I look at things I did in swimming and I’m like… When people think obsessed, I think a lot of times it’s a negative connotation. And I hate that. I want to change that, because I think if you’re obsessed with something that’s super positive and you’re passionate about, it’s actually the best feeling in the world.

Eric Partaker: I’m completely obsessed with my wife, and she doesn’t complain about that.

Katie Hoff: Exactly. But I think for me, the way I kept that fuel going no matter what, in the highs and the lows, was little wins. And not just swimming with setting specific times. It was multiple buckets in my life, because say one day I’m having a rough day in the pool. I’m not able to hit my goal times for a specific pace that we practiced. Which by the way, there wasn’t one single day where I went into a set or workout where I was just like, “I’m just going to go swim.” I always had targets down to the tenth. And I think that’s the biggest thing I took away from swimming was like, when I ask people, “What are doing with your day?” or, “What are you doing with this set in swimming? What are you doing in terms of closing this deal and this sale?” there has to be broken down so many little things building up to that.

And so I was obsessed with those little, little goals, so that each and every day I could come away feeling accomplished. And if it wasn’t with those times… maybe I was having an off day… it was on land where I was doing strength training. If it wasn’t with strength training, it was with my nutrition. If it wasn’t with my nutrition, it was with some mental visualization. I probably had five to seven buckets at all times with goals, bigger goals, but also these little goals. And I think that’s the key, because you’ve got to leave each day… Even if it’s a small win. Even if it’s like, “I drank eight cups of water today,” you have to feel that little ignition of, “Okay, I’m doing something. I’m making forward movement towards my ultimate goal.”

Eric Partaker: Oh, I love it, because when somebody hears obsessed, I totally agree with you that obsession is a good thing. Obsession’s only a bad thing if it leads you to do bad things, right?

Katie Hoff: Exactly.

Eric Partaker: It’s pretty easy to define is it a good or a bad thing. But I love that it’s not this, “Okay, stay obsessed at all costs. Stay obsessed. Stay focused on the goal.” No, it’s you’re fueling it intelligently. You’re fueling it, how? You’re fueling it with these small wins that you said. You’re making it easy for yourself. Setting targets, allowing yourself to achieve those targets, tasting that success and using that to further fuel the obsession. And then you mentioned how you’d come up with substitute activities, that if you couldn’t do one thing you might do another. And then it sounds like you also had this visualization thing going on where if you couldn’t do anything, you could still fuel the obsession by just thinking about what you wanted to do. Beautiful. Love it, love it. 

So you had this obsession, and then you also talked about consistency. I love this, because I equate it to… So people want to lose weight quite regularly. It’s a thing everybody wants to do, right? Or just get into shape. And there’s probably like 10 different diet and workout plans that you could follow. They would all work. People want to be more productive. There’s 10 different tips and tools that you could follow, and they probably all work. They want to improve their relationship. 10 different ways of doing that. For me, that’s not really the issue. For me, the single biggest problem is simply adherence. Another word for consistency. If you just stick with one of the workout plans, it will yield results. One of the productivity tools will yield results. One of the ways to improve your relationship will yield results. Why do people fail at this so much?

Katie Hoff: That’s a great question. I mean, one of them I would say is the accountability piece, and this is something I talk about all the time throughout my life. I’m a talker. I need to get it out. I need to tell people. And I’m so sorry to my husband, because I just need to get it out sometimes. But being able to… I always had a whiteboard. When I was swimming, I had every single one of my paces, my times written up on that board so that my coach knew, my family knew, maybe my teammates even knew what I wanted to accomplish. 

So if I was having a day where I was… It happens to everyone where I was feeling like, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I’m so exhausted. I just don’t want to do it today.” It was like, “Yeah, but…” staring me in the face as I walked by to morning practice, staring me in the face as I come back, staring me in the face as I get out of the water because my coach had them all to. That is there to remind you, specifically in those moments of weakness that we all have. There isn’t one human being out there that isn’t just like, “Yep, I just want to just eat perfectly and put myself through extreme pain.” That’s just not realistic. The people that are able to stick with it, be consistent, be successful are the ones that kind of find… I don’t want to call them a life hack, but find a way to keep themselves in it when they just have those normal human impulses. 

Even now, my husband and I put a six-foot tall whiteboard in our living room. Not aesthetically pleasing, but it has goals. It has benchmarks. It has when we need to do things on there, because for the exact same reason. My goals have shifted, but my overall lens of wanting high performance and elite success is still a thing and a goal in my life.

Eric Partaker: And there’s so much power in… It’s like the power of a scoreboard. When you have those targets up… If I walk by a basketball court, I see two kids playing ball. They’re just shooting around. Now, if I walk up to them and say, “Okay, first to 11 wins. I’m keeping score,” it’s going to totally change the dynamic of the game. That scoreboard mentality, where did that come from? I mean, it’s something I do as well. I constantly put things up so I can see them, see how I’m performing. But where did that come from for you?

Katie Hoff: Well, I think it was early on in my swimming career. I definitely wasn’t as focused. I didn’t have the competitive craziness right out of the gate. And I had this epiphany moment when I was nine or 10 where suddenly I realized, “Okay, yeah, go up and down and down the pool. But look at the scoreboard. That’s your time, and this is what you did before, and this is how it measures up.” And I kind of had this… I mean, obviously nine is still really young to have that epiphany. But it dawned on me, “Wait, I don’t want to go slower than my time before, and I don’t want the person next to me to have a faster time on that scoreboard.” It lit that up inside of me, and probably even more than I think most where I just became obsessed to the hundredth with these numbers. And I would… this is so bad… at nine and 10 be walking up behind the blocks to kids being like, “What’s your time? This is my time.”

Eric Partaker: Wow.

Katie Hoff: Yeah. Just became annoyingly obsessed with the numbers because it was something that… I’ve always been a very black and white person. I don’t love living in the gray. I’ve had to get used to living in the gray, because a lot of life is gray. But I love this, “Okay, you accomplished this time. You hit this number on the scoreboard. This means you do well. This equals success. You don’t, yeah it sucks, but at least you know where you stand.” And that’s I think why I was so attracted to sales, because it’s very, “Here’s your target. Here’s your quota. Here’s your number. You achieve it or overachieve it, or you fail.” Obviously, it puts you in a very vulnerable state, because it’s very clear to you and sometimes millions if you succeeded and if you failed, but I love that. I love the rush of when you do… There’s that super big high, and I’m kind of willing to accept the consequence of the risk is you also may fail in a large way. But I’m kind of addicted to that at this point.

Eric Partaker: So the consistency is so important. Ways that you’ve maintained it were knowing what your targets were, making them ultra visible. Also it sounds like you were quite competitive. So, “How am I doing versus other people?” Announcing what you were trying to do and what your current performance is. And then you also talked a little bit about not always feeling like you wanted to do something but still doing it. That’s pretty important from a consistency point of view, isn’t it?

Katie Hoff: Very important. Yeah, I mean, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, as we all know. I mean, there’s so many times I think sport is very easily characterized by it, because you’re having to put yourself through so much physical pain in order to push past that extra gear. I always call it my deep down gear, because that’s how you make progress. That’s how you get stronger. And so again, it goes back to the goal. For me, it was like, “Okay…” The question was always, “But is it worth it for this goal? Is this pain or this lack of… not feeling motivated today, are you going to give into that? Or are you going to give into the goal?” It was always kind of like one on each shoulder.

I think if you don’t have that, if you’re thinking, “Well, it’s really not that worth it…” You talked about the getting healthier, losing weight. If you imagine yourself down the road and you’ve lost some weight, you feel healthier, you feel more energetic, you feel more confident because of how you see yourself, and that doesn’t trump the early mornings and maybe not eating ice cream at night, maybe not having that extra glass of wine… If that doesn’t trump it, then why would you? Why would you put yourself in that position? And so that was always my question. And there have been times in my career where it was like, “It doesn’t trump it, so I need to redefine my goal or I need to move on.” 

I think asking yourself that question of, “Does the goal trump the discomfort?” constantly is really important, because otherwise you won’t be able to push past it. You won’t. It’s not realistic. It doesn’t mean you’re not tough or don’t have that ability or will inside of you. I believe that every single human being has that ability. They just haven’t… The ones that haven’t pushed past it haven’t defined a goal that means enough to them.

Eric Partaker: Yeah, yeah. I totally agree. And as you’re talking, it makes me think of… I always say choose your pain wisely. Nothing comes for free. Everything requires some form of payment. So you can either pay through the form of discipline now or the pain of regret later. And the pain of discipline is always cheaper than the pain or regret.

Katie Hoff: I love that.

Eric Partaker: And then another thing that it makes me think of, of this definition of a professional versus an amateur. The way I think of those two is that an amateur… They each think of a single equation, but in reverse. An amateur thinks that feeling generates action, whereas a professional… as you are… knows that action generates feeling, so they take action whether they feel like it or not, knowing that the feeling… because I’m sure, for example, there were multiple times where you didn’t feel like doing the workout, didn’t feel like doing the routine, but once you got started it was okay, right? You kind of greased the skids, in a way.

Katie Hoff: For sure. And I think again, that goes back to what I was saying about the little goals. If you enter a set or a day without any direction or anything to hold you accountable, going into a set especially when you don’t feel like doing it and then being like, “What’s the point?” and not being able to come away with, “Okay, I didn’t want to do that, but I still went for it and I hit these paces. Perfect. Check on the day. I made it through.” I’m astounded at how many people ask, “Okay, so what was the point of this set? What was the goal?” Or, “How many connections or emails did you want to send today?” It’s very vague. And I think I was so… It needs to be, in swimming terms, down to the hundredth. That’s how specific it needs to be. And I think sometimes people think, “Well, that’s crazy.” No, it’s not crazy. What’s crazy is not accomplishing a goal that you want so, so badly. And so get specific, get obsessed, and everything else will fall into place.

Eric Partaker: Love it. So we’ve got obsession. We’ve got consistency. You also talked about mentors. Who were your mentors? Why were they important?

Katie Hoff: I think something about mentors is they have to shift and continue to evolve throughout your life. Early on in my life, it was my coaches. I had certain coaches… The first couple coaches I had actually were amazing for me. They recognized that I was a kid that was already putting so much insane pressure on my shoulders to perform and to get better, that they were just there to guide me to have fun, go race, make it an enjoyable experience to start. And then as I moved into my career… Hold on, my dog is barking. Can we pause?

Eric Partaker: Don’t worry.

Katie Hoff: C’mon. Okay. All right. This is a working from home problem.

Eric Partaker: Show us your dog. Let us see the dog at least. Hello. What’s the dog’s name?

Katie Hoff: Allie.

Eric Partaker: Hi, Allie. Can you contribute on the topic of mentors please?

Katie Hoff: Please say I’m your mentor.

Eric Partaker: All right. So yes, mentors.

Katie Hoff: Yeah, mentors I think are one of the most important parts of success, because to me, a mentor has done a lot of things that you want to do. At least that’s how I’ve always viewed it. Or they’re able to have a really great understanding of you as a person so they know how to coach you. I think if you find someone who’s just giving you blanketed advice or it’s not very specific to your personality… which I have a very large personality… it usually won’t go well. And so for me, I think my first understanding of the impact of a mentor was through some really tough times in my life. You obviously have your family, and your significant other, and maybe a coach. But I actually think that the mentor needs to be kind of a third party, because I think the people that are really entrenched in what’s going on are awesome. They’re your support system, your trust tree. But that outside view, that person who’s not in tunnel vision who knows you really well can give you the best advice. You can obviously build up this extreme web of trust with that person.

I’ve had mentors in my swimming career. I’ve had mentors in my business career. And part of those people has just been me seeking them out, me saying, “Wow, that person is doing what I want to do. I want to emulate them, and I’m going to reach out and see if they can be a coach to me.” And so I did that with Jesse Itzler. I’ve done that with a variety of different people. As my goals evolve, as my goals change, there’s been mentors that maybe have fallen by the wayside just because our goals aren’t similar or I’m not in that space anymore. And then I’ve gone after and evolved and reached out to new mentors or acquired new mentors. 

Now, I try to do the same for younger swimmers and generations coming up of being that person for them. But you can’t do it on your own. Anyone who says you can do it on your own is going south and is not going to accomplish what they want. Pride comes before the fall. I very much believe that statement. It’s kind of like my test. I’ll always ask people, “Okay, you’re doing this and this. Who are your mentors?” And if someone’s like, “I don’t really have one,” I’m like, “You probably should change that.”

Eric Partaker: Exactly. Nobody achieves greatness on their own, right?

Katie Hoff: No.

Eric Partaker: And if someone like you, who has a mentality that you do and worked so hard at your level… If you, as a world champion, also needed a coach and a mentor to both get there and kind of stay at that level… If you even needed that, what does that say about the rest of us?

Katie Hoff: Yeah. And I think that was the dawning moment for me. I went through that transition right when I retired of I had… Honestly, some people who have mentored me in swimming are still my mentors to do this day, but I had to kind of think, “Wait, now I need to shift my focus on business and entrepreneurship. Okay, this is a new set of mentors that I need to glean information from and have that trust with.” And so yeah, I think I kind of went through, “Yeah, I’m a world champion, but now I’m retired. And how do I become a world champion in something else?”

Eric Partaker: Okay, so let’s talk about that transition then. So 2015, you end up with some news that was unexpected health-wise. Can you take us through that?

Katie Hoff: Yeah. I’ve never to this day, besides this occurrence, had any major injuries. I was super lucky with shoulders. Minor things. But I decided to make a comeback for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and everything was going really well. And right before the qualifier for the world championships, which is a big setup for the Olympics, I was flying to a meet, landed, and had this weird pain. Fast forward seven weeks and a lot of spasms and passing out and not knowing what the heck was wrong with me, they diagnosed me with a pulmonary embolism, which I had no idea what that meant. 

Since probably people are out there who don’t know what that means, which for me was two blood clots in the bottom of my right lung. And I talk about curve balls. I talk about being able to get back up when you’re punched in the stomach, and that’s what it felt for me. I just was so taken aback. I know now that it’s more common that I realized, but I just couldn’t believe that this was happening to me when I had picked myself back up from some tough stuff earlier in my career, and now here this physical thing was happening to me that was 100% out of my control. And I really had to wrestle with the reality of I was trying to make it work post pulmonary embolism, which is safe and I worked with doctors-

Eric Partaker: What is it… So biologically speaking, what was it doing such that it was compromising your athletic performance?

Katie Hoff: Yeah. Because they were in my lungs, I went on blood thinners and the blood clots dissolved. If they’re not massive… which I would have probably died had they been massive. But they dissolved, and then from there left scar tissue like any injury. And so for me, the build-up of the scar tissue, because they were in there for seven weeks undiagnosed, it made it so that every single time I was doing sets, going to meets, I just kept dying and having full lung capacity. And the doctors simply said that to me. “Hey, you’re fine to walk around. You’re fine to get some cardio workouts in. But if you’re trying to compete for the Olympic games, your lung capacity is greatly reduced.” Even 3%… we’re trying to tenths of a second here to make an Olympic game… is going to be greatly compromised. 

And I kind of fought for like 10 to 12 months and wouldn’t accept it. Kind of in denial. Like, “Maybe I can reduce this and train this way and make it work.” And my whole point of this comeback in 2016 was to enjoy the process and enjoy the training and feel passion, and I was miserable every single day just because I was fighting breath and I was getting depressed. It wasn’t what needed to be happening in my life at that point, and so made the decision to ultimately retire really not on my own terms and then went through that transition in a very, very rocky way.

Eric Partaker: Yeah, that must have been hard. How did you cope mentally with all of that?

Katie Hoff: Denial for a while. I think I went into… I think swimmers or any athlete who retires… Anyone who retires from anything goes through multiple different ways of, “Okay, I’m going to embrace what just happened. I’m going to use some of the skills I gained from it, some of the connections and work from there.” And for me, because it was just such a painful ending, I was like, “Nope, I’m not going to even acknowledge the last 20 years of my life. I’m just going to redefine myself as just this corporate amazing salesperson, and that’s it. No one needs to know I was an Olympian.” Which sounds crazy saying that now, but it was just too painful for me to face. 

I definitely had some people in my life that understood that and didn’t try to force me through that, kind of understood that this was going to need to happen on her own time. I think one time I even said… I went to school for half a semester to be a dietician. I was just all over the place, which I’m terrible at chemistry and O Chem, all that stuff. Really credit to people around me that were like, “You go after that.” But yeah, it just took time where I just had never defined myself outside of swimming. I was always Katie the Swimmer, and then always Katie the Olympic Swimmer, and so my sense of identity was zero away from swimming. It was kind of ironic. I needed that identity to feel whole at that moment, but at the same time, I was saying, “Oh, rip this away. I don’t want to be associated with this because it’s too painful.” 

So it was this constant struggle back and forth of breaking down because I didn’t know who I was and then trying to kind of say, “No, no, no. I’m going to embrace that,” but then being upset about that. It was honestly a five-year-long up-and-down battle of just trying to sort out who in the world am I away from swimming and can I be everything. Can I be good at other things beyond swimming? Can I also do things and enjoy being a two-time Olympian? 

And really, that kind of epiphany moment was I was asked to do a TEDx Talk. And I didn’t really think about. I was just like, “You know what? I need to start saying yes to more things,” and so I just said yes and then realized, “Oh my god, this is a really big deal. People invite speech coaches to help them.” I just did it on my own, and it was the first time that I had admitted my truth about my career and things that I felt, and just was able to be very authentically vulnerable in front of a crowd of 500 people live. And I didn’t know what the reaction would be of thinking… My whole thing was, “Well, I don’t want to speak about my career and speak about the down times, because that’s just going to come off negative. I don’t want to be negative,” whereas it’s actually the opposite. So many people go through trials and tribulations and failures.

I was at that point. I feel like at that point, I was a testament to, “I fought through it.” I felt like I was still going through it. Which now I know, “Yeah, great. We can all go through it together and we can all learn things, and I can relate my story in that way.” And the reaction after I did that was humbling. The feedback I got… I got a standing ovation, and I thought, “Oh my gosh. I can embrace this, and I can be honest, and I can help people.” And from that point forward, I ended up quitting my corporate job and decided to write a book, and kind of had a reunion with my former self and kind of meshed the two people.

Eric Partaker: I’m sure there’s at least one person right now listening who feels, in their heart or in their soul, that they’ve also lost their sense of identity, that they’ve lost their way. They’re not sure, “What do I do next? I thought I was this, but now what am I?” So speak to them. What’s your advice? What did you learn? How can you help them?

Katie Hoff: Yeah. I learned to keep fighting. The consistency is there again. I just had to keep going. I tried one thing. I didn’t feel that sense of fulfillment. And it’s not quitting to keep going. I think sometimes people… You get in this rut, and people make you think like, “Just be patient. It will get better.” And there is a level of patience. You need to see things through. But if your gut instinct is this job or this relationship or what I’m currently doing is not filling me up with that spark or that passion, you have to be just as obsessed with the goal of finding that ignition as you are once you’ve found the ignition. And so what I mean by that is I was a dietician six months. I was like, “No, I know for a fact is this not who I am. I’m moving on.” I didn’t decide to get the degree first and then realize that. I went and did operations. I did sales. I did all these different things and I kept being like, “No, I don’t…” 

Finally, I just kept pushing forward. And of course, there were days where you’re going to be like, “Am I crazy? Am I the crazy one?” Lean on your mentors. I had to have those people to bolster me up. I’m not sitting there saying to whoever’s listening, “It’s easy. Just keep pinging around from job to job.” No, you have to just kind of lay in the ground, lay in the dirt for a little bit and kind of embrace the suck of, “All right, okay, if this isn’t going to lead me to my ultimate goal, at least I’m finding out that this isn’t working. That’s a win. I’m finding that out by myself.” Or, “I’m gaining a skillset that’s going to help me down the road with my ultimate goal.” You kind of have to reframe it to not feel like, “Oh, I’m just wasting my time. I’m just wasting my life,” because that is not the case at all. 

That’s really what I’ve found. At this point in my life, all the things that happened along the way now make sense. And it’s really hard when you’re in it. You’re like, “None of this makes sense.” But once you get to the other side, it all makes sense.

Eric Partaker: That’s wonderful, because it makes sense, because my feeling is that the first half of your life, you had a very focused goal, to become a world champion. Most certainly, that was inspirational for others as well. But you were very… I’m going to venture to say… very focused on you becoming a world champion.

Katie Hoff: Oh, for sure. Very set mind.

Eric Partaker: Yeah, exactly. It’s like, “Katie is going to be a world champion.” Now, you’re serving a much bigger mission now, so can you tell us about that? What’s the problem you’re trying to solve now?

Katie Hoff: Yeah. So the TEDx talk kind of ignited my feeling like, “Wow, my story can actually resonate with people.” There are moments where… People who don’t know my story, great. I had all these great accolades and I broke world records, but I didn’t get to my ultimate… I didn’t win a gold medal. I won a silver medal. And so if I were to get out there and say, “Guys, I’m an eight-time world champion, records and gold medals, and it all was a fairytale,” I don’t know how… It’s inspiring, but I don’t know how relatable that is.

There are so many moments in my life and in other people’s lives where you put your blood, sweat, and tears, you go after things, and it doesn’t go as planned whether it’s in your control or not, this past year being a key example. Right, in no one’s control? And so I don’t know if I would have the perspective to be able to speak to, “Hey, here’s what happens when you put everything on the line and it doesn’t happen and it doesn’t go as planned, and then here’s how you pick yourself back up and you keep fighting and keep going.” I’ve experienced a lot of that. My highlight reel is great, but so much behind the scenes is not great. And I really felt like that was the resonating I guess understanding after I gave that first speech, that this can help people understand that they can keep chasing their extraordinary. They can keep going as long as they have these mentors, and consistency, and daily wins.

I love the thought of being able to help just one person in a room full of people that I speak to to be able to get to that point, and maybe not have to go through the five years that I went through of pain to get back to finding my identity or understanding how to shift and pivot. And so that feeling, one of speaking, is very much like you’re in a ready-room, you’re performing, there’s adrenaline, you want to get better at it. I love that aspect of there’s never going to be a perfect speech, just like there’s never a perfect swim. You can always improve. You can always get feedback. And I just love the idea of being able to now… Again, have it make sense that my story and experiences can potentially inspire or help someone who needs the same.

Eric Partaker: And so you’re doing that as a speaker now?

Katie Hoff: Yes.

Eric Partaker: Motivating audiences and getting people to that. And I can see you behind you is your book, Blueprint.

Katie Hoff: My book, Blueprint. Yeah, I was able to… Kind of the silver lining of COVID was that I was able to get my book out faster. It was kind of part being able to share my story and part just cathartic for me of being able to relive and understand my story and come to terms with certain things in my career, so I’m very grateful that I was able to get that out and have that same… The same moment of what I had before the TEDx talk was the same moment I had before I published the book of, “Oh my gosh. What are people going to think? What’s the reaction going to be?” And it was just so positive.

Eric Partaker: And the reaction was great. You mentioned Jesse Itzler earlier, owner of the Atlanta Hawks. He said that it was the only book that you’ll ever have to read about going after a goal. That’s a pretty good…

Katie Hoff: Oh, I know. He wrote that and I was like… Oh, I could have cried. So nice, yeah. He has definitely become a mentor. For someone of his success and his mentality… I mean, that’s what I most look up to him for, is just his mentality on life, and the way he carries himself, and the way he’s a great partner and dad and all those things. And so to have someone like him say that was extremely touching.

Eric Partaker: That’s awesome. And you’re also in business with your husband now, right?

Katie Hoff: Yes. That again is very… I always swore off entrepreneurship, which now I look and I’m like, “That’s crazy.” But I always looked at, okay, in swimming I was very, very good at being coached. I was very good at being told, “X, Y, Z, you accomplish it. Here’s the structure, and go.” And so that’s how I thought, “Okay, well, that’s how I need to be successful, and that’s what makes sense. And so there’s no way I could govern myself and be an entrepreneur, right? There’s just no way.”

And when COVID hit, I started doing these online workouts. And I had always been very into the strength and outside-of-the-pool piece, because as a swimmer you need to have a strong core and upper body is key. There are so many explosive movements for lower body off the wall. There are so many aspects to swimming that need to be complemented on land. And so I’ve always been passionate about that and wanted to keep myself fit, so I started doing these online workouts in COVID when swimmers had no access to a pool. 

And I remember talking with my agent at the time. He wanted me to come on and do some motivational speaking. And my thought was, “If I’m a swimmer training right now for a big meet or the Olympic trials, I don’t want someone to just tell me it’s going to be okay. I want to take action. I want to get stronger. I just want to take control of the situation as much as feasibly possible.” And so I thought, “Well, why don’t we do group workouts virtually, and I’ll sweat it up with everybody else and I’ll make these hard… Let’s just embrace this and get stronger together.” And like 2,000 kids were coming on and sweating it out with me, and I was blown away. And that kind of slowly morphed into really designing more customized programs for individuals, customized programs for swim teams. And then kids got back into the water and felt the effects of what we had been working on, and it was astounding just how much stronger they felt. They were going best times. And I started working with triathletes. It kind of spiraled. 

And I always hear that story about entrepreneurs where they’re like, “It just made sense and it just happened. We didn’t sit down and say, ‘Day one, business plan.’ It just didn’t…” Obviously, you have to build around that. But for us, it was so cool to kind of combine working with my husband, who has a really amazing background in sports physiology, and he worked with me at the end of my career, to my lens in elite swimming, and then being able to help all these athletes stay injury free and get stronger outside the pool. And so again, I kind of made my way back to swimming at the same time this was happening. It was kind of just like a match made in heaven.

Eric Partaker: Amazing. Love it, love it, love it. What’s one thing you believe that others don’t?

Katie Hoff: Wow. I think… and I’ve had this debate with a lot of people… that everybody wants to be extraordinary. And what I mean by that is I don’t think that… Some people say, “I think some people are just fine being good or this being solid.” I don’t believe that. I think that those people just haven’t felt what extraordinary feels like. What I mean by that is setting this… Again, everyone’s extraordinary is different. It doesn’t matter what it is. It just has to give you that feeling. And I think something because people aren’t aware of it or haven’t experienced it early in life, they think that just going through the motions and doing enough is all there is out there. 

And that can be really sad, because that feeling that you get when you set a high goal and you put it out there and you accomplish it… maybe you failed a couple times along the way to get there undoubtedly, right? But that feeling is unparalleled to anything else in this universe. The high you get, the feeling… It gives me chills talking about it. And I’ll get into these debates with people about it. I’m like, “No, I think that everyone deserves to feel that, and everyone would want it if they knew they had it in them.”

Eric Partaker: Totally, totally, totally agree. I always say if I had a magic and I went around the world and I said to every man, woman, and child, “If you press this button, you will instantly become the best version of yourself,” there’s not a person on the planet who wouldn’t press the button.

Katie Hoff: 100%.

Eric Partaker: Right? So what’s the issue then? And I see the issue as… Well, I mean, you talked about a whole nother set, which is people don’t know that you can even press the button. They don’t even know what’s possible. But then I think there’s a lot of people who do know what’s possible, but they just don’t know how. They don’t know how to close the gap, how to navigate the terrain. Which Blueprint, your book, provides a window into how to actually traverse the path, which your speaking also helps motivate and inspire and direct people to do, and what your company with your husband helps with as well.

Obviously, if people are interested in the book, they can go to Amazon and pick it up. That’s where I got my copy. But for the other stuff, if people want to get in touch with you, how do they do that?

Katie Hoff: Yeah. For my speaking, everything is done on my website. It’s Then we have our… Synergy Dryland is what it’s called, so it’s Then I do a lot of my Instagram, so I’m always posting things, videos, sometimes my TikToks, which is kthoff7. That’s my Instagram handle. And funny enough, seven is lane seven in ’04, was I made my first event Olympic team in lane seven. That’s why seven is in all my things.

Eric Partaker: Awesome, awesome. Katie, you are awesome. You are such an inspiration. As we said right before we pressed record, I was so looking forward to this conversation. So many gems, so many great nuggets there. Thank you so much for coming onto the show, and I’m really rooting for you and hoping for some amazing things to come.

Katie Hoff: Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate the conversation.

Eric Partaker: All right, thanks, Katie.

Eric has been named "CEO of the Year" at the 2019 Business Excellence Awards, one of the "Top 30 Entrepreneurs in the UK" by Startups Magazine, and among "Britain's 27 Most Disruptive Entrepreneurs" by The Telegraph.

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