“Working Hard, Having Fun & Achieving Success”: An Insightful Interview with Jeff Symonds

2 weeks ago, I heard something that blew me away. Jeff Symonds, a guy I trained running with in my university days at UBC, was going to represent Canada at the upcoming Half-Ironman World Championships in Vegas.

I found this incredibly cool, not only because Ironman is a bad-ass sport, but also because Jeff has only been training for triathlons for 4 years.

To transform from a pure runner into a well-rounded athlete competing on the highest stage in a Half-Ironman consisting of 1.9km of swimming, 90km (!) of cycling, and half-marathon (21km) of running is simply a phenomenal feat, especially in such a short amount of time.

But it gets better. A few days later, I went online to check the results of the race, and was stunned by what I saw. Jeff had made an epic comeback in the running leg of the race, passing 8 other guys en route to a 3rd place finish and a bronze medal!!!

3rd in the whole world. In one of the most challenging sports ever. Holy shit! Legendary!!!

I knew what I had to do next:  send him a congratulation message, and invite him to be my guest on the second edition of The Feel Good Chat (after having promising author & blogger Jacob Sokol on the first episode), so he could share some insights on how he achieved such *insert Borat voice* great success in this ridiculously challenging event.

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Jeff & I did the interview on Skype, seamlessly overcoming the 25,000km & 15 hour time difference between British Columbia & Perth. Everything went well except, for one thing. The video didn’t get recorded! Aahh, technology… so wonderful yet so flawed at times.

Luckily, I was able to capture the audio recording of the full chat.

In this 10 minute interview, Jeff reveals the biggest life lessons he draw from his incredible experience in Vegas, and shares powerful strategies to help us achieve greater success in our own endeavours. Even if you’re at work, check it out. Guaranteed to motivate and inspire you (and your coworkers if you play it loud haha).

Alternatively, you can read the written transcription of the questions, which I’ve typed out below.

Enjoy!

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1. Can you tell us a bit about the journey which lead you from the University of British Columbia’s Cross-Country team, to the podium at the Half-Ironman World Championships?

In University, I was a runner, but I grew up in a town called Penticton where there’s an Ironman every year. Ironman is something I always wanted to get involved with. After University I moved back to Penticton, and decided to start training for triathlons.

The big thing is I had to learn how to swim!  It took me a while, but I’ve basically been working on this for the last 4 years and committing myself to the dream that I have.

2.  We all know learning a skill from scratch can be a bit frustrating. What approach did you take to not only learn swimming, but actually get good at it fairly rapidly?

I had to go back to the basics, and train with a high school team. The big thing wasn’t just the technique, but also learning how to train for swimming, learning how to set yourself up for success.

In running, you have this mentality to just grind, grind, grind, so I had to rework how I approached everything. In swimming, it’s very much technique-based, and you really got to focus on that, you can’t let yourself slip. So really reworking my brain in the way I approach thing was just as important as being in the pool swimming.

*Phil’s Note: In his great book Talent is Overrated, Fortune Magazine Chief Editor Geoff Colvin denotes that success “isn’t based on simplistic “practice makes perfect”. Rather, it is based on a highly specific concept of “deliberate practice.”

As we learn a new skill, whether it’s a speaking a new language, computer programming, or a challenging martial art, we need to fully involve our mind in the practice,  and constantly seek to improve.

Half-ass practice gets us nowhere while with deliberate practice gets us the results we dream of.

3. Was swimming the biggest adaption you’ve had to make over the last few years? 

Yes absolutely, besides getting used to wearing a Speedo! And also when you’re running, you have that gear where if you work harder,  you will go faster, but in swimming it’s better to work hard then work TOO hard and get out of control.

4. What was the biggest life lesson you learned from this particular race?

That the key is really to believe in yourself. For me being someone who still works, knowing that if you commit to something, and you really go for it, you can overcome something like that and still compete with the guys who are training full-time and have been around a lot longer.

You also hear a lot about getting in the zone, and it’s easier said than done, but you have to find the techniques that help get you there, and practice them in training to put them into the race. That’s whats’ going to get you in the best position at the end of the day.

*Phil’s Note: If you regularly use time constraint as an excuse for not working out, Jeff is the perfect example that if there’s a will, there’s a way. We simply have to allocate our time properly. Cut out 30 minutes of TV time and 30 minutes of computer time a day and suddenly you’ve got yourself an hour to workout and get in the kind of shape you really want.

5. What would be your best recommendation for someone who wants to stay fit but who can only fit one hour a day of exercise into their busy schedule?

Find something you love. What I personally love about triathlon is the mix of swimming, cycling, and running. It keeps things interesting. If you find what you like, the hour of training goes by quickly, you feel motivated, and you just have a great time going for it.

It shouldn’t feel like it’s something you have to do, it should feel like something you GET to do.

*Phil’s Note: I couldn’t agree more. If you currently think you don’t like working out, it’s simply because you haven’t found what you really like! So explore what’s out there. Dancing, rollerblading, kickboxing, cross fit, there’s so many options…

I’m sure there’s one activity you’ve been wanting to try forever. Give it a try!!! I waited 6 months before having the courage to sign up for brazilian jiu jitsu classes, and now my 3 weekly sessions are one of the great joys in my life (even though I still get my ass kick regularly ;) )

6. How can you apply the things you’ve learned from sports & training to the other aspects of your life? What can you draw from your experience as an athlete?

It’s the confidence, and the realisation that once you commit fully to your goals, you really do feel like you can do anything. It also teaches you that in whatever you do, if you work hard and you go for it, you’re going to get a rewarding experience out of it.

The other thing I take out of it, is also the relationships you build along the way. Because for me, I love to be around positive people. In this sport, I get to surround

myself with people who are motivated, who are trying to get somewhere, and who are helping me get somewhere. I think that’s something I’m going to take with me for the rest of my life: that you want to surround yourself with people who have that energy.

*Phil’s Note: Amen brother!

7. What is harder, the race or the training? 

Oh the training, definitely. When you’re doing interval work, you get to the point of exhaustion up to 10 times. Whereas in a race, you only get there once. Hopefully.

8. What’s the next step for you? Where do you see yourself short-term and long-term in triathlon and Ironman?

Ironman is always the goal! Looking long-term, I want to win the Ironman in my hometown, and make a run at trying to get on top of the podium at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. Short-term, I’m going to Austin TX for a big race in a month, and probably looking to move up the ladder in Vegas for the Half-Ironman.

But in this sport, it’s all about the commitment to training. You want to have that in the back of your mind, the races, but at the same time it’s all about taking care of the day to day.

*Phil’s Note: This reminds me of this great quote by Brian Tracy in his book No Excuses: “Successful people make sure that everything they do in the short term is consistent with where they want to end up in the long term.

It’s simple my friends, our tomorrow is the product of all the small decisions we make today.

How can you start making YOUR tomorrow better? What little things are you neglecting that YOU KNOW would help you get to where you want to go?

Take a minute right now to list 3 things.  If you’re serious about reaching your goals and achieving your dream, this will really help you, trust me.

Go Go Go! 3 things. Write them down (or write them in the comments section to hold yourself publicly accountable.) It’s much more powerful than just thinking about them.

Got it? Cool! Well done. Now time to get to work and start doing them :)

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As you can see, Jeff Symonds is a tremendously driven guy who knows exactly where he wants to go, and who chases his dreams with passion. And that’s what the Feel Good Lifestyle is all about. Look for him at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii over the coming years!

Thanks Jeff for joining on this edition of the Feel Good Chat, it was a pleasure talking to you!

Cheers!

Phil

PS Check back for another Feel Good Chat soon to learn from another inspiring young person who’s making great things happen by really going for it!

 

Please share this post, because that’s how people get inspired to chase their dreams! 

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"PS. Ever feel overwhelmed trying to reach your goals? Watch my TEDx talk to accomplish more with less stress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M9i3-QhWzg&t=565s"
Posted on : 28, Sep 2011

8 Comments

  • Merci Philippe pour ce portrait inspirant d'un jeune athlète déterminé. C'est bien de se servir d'un événement spécial comme objet de motivation pour commencer à s'entrainer. Le marathon de Montréal qui a eu lieu récemment a rassemblé 24,000 coureurs. Plusieurs personnes qui n'avaient jamais couru se sont entrainés pour faire le 5 km ou le demi-marathon. Ils ont pris goût à l'exercice et un jour, ils feront possiblement le 42km du marathon entier! Le plus important, c'est qu'ils continueront probablement à bouger pour le plaisir!

    Maman xx

    • Salut Maman! Merci pour ton commentaire. Oui je suis daccord, des l'instant ou on s'inscrit a un événement, ça nous donne un gros boost de motivation. Dans mon cas, des que j'ai decide de m'inscrire pour l'Anaconda j'ai redouble d'ardeur a l'entrainement, sans que ça soit plus diffile.

      Sur les 24,000 je me demande combien on fait la course avec un Baby Jogger? :)

  • Great interview, really amazing tips and reeeeaaaally great succes!! Congrats Jeff!

    Love the part about surrounding yourself with people who are motivated, positive, have similar goals. In that way our thoughts remain on track and inspiration and hard work comes to it's best! Everybody can see that their life gets so much better when they start studying, talking and meeting with people who know they want some kind of success and are not in constant fear or negativity. Since I've started talking with that kind of people and reading so many different books I have so much more energy, motivation, hope, and a picture of a great life :) This website is also one of the best motivators for great and healthy life, so thanks once more Phil!

    Also love the part where it is said that small decisions today can bring us to great things tomorrow!

    Great things are said here!

    • Yeah it's actually crazy how much our entourage/surroudings impact us.. It can be hard too because it means we have to reorganise the relationships we put more importance on and stuff.. I'm still coming to terms with that in my own life but it's definitely the right path to travel.

      I love that idea of doing all the right things today for a better tomorrow. Gives me so much motivation to keep pushing ahead everyday! Cheers!

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