Three-Time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce On Why Action Is the Antidote to Doubt
Joyce says taking action is the key to succeeding in sports, business, and life.
In 2012, Kara Lynn Joyce was sitting in a tiny dark room with seven of her competitors minutes before the race that would determine who would win a spot to compete in the London Olympics.
She needed to get first or second place in order to qualify for her third Olympic Games. By this point in her swimming career, Joyce had become an expert at finding her focus before high-pressure races.
But in this particular moment, she was falling into an uncontrollable spiral of negative thoughts. For the first time in a long time, Joyce felt like she wasn't in control of her own mind.
"Things just hadn't been going my way," she says in an interview with The Profile. "I had been thinking about all the things that had gone wrong. As humans, it's easy for us to go down the path of negativity."
And there was plenty of adversity Joyce could've focused on in that moment. In the previous year, she had dealt with debilitating back pain, she switched swim programs twice, and she hadn't been performing as well as she'd liked.
"I had all of these negative thoughts going through my mind, and then I was like, 'Wait a minute, wait a minute.' I'm about to walk out on national TV and swim in the Olympic Trials for the chance of making my third Olympic team. What am I doing? If I learned anything in 21 years of swimming, it's that if I don't think I can succeed, then it's not going to happen."
Thanks to that realization, she was able to mentally re-calibrate by asking herself this very important question: "What can I do now to get into the right mental state?"
The way she did it wasn't by "thinking positively." Instead, she played a mental movie of her entire career — from watching the Olympics on TV as a little girl to breaking records to falling short to getting back up to sitting in this room right now. She had survived and persevered through it all, and she deserved to be here.
As a result of this mental exercise, you can see Joyce's quiet confidence on full display as she stood at the starting blocks before the final event at the Olympic Trials. "It's my favorite race," Joyce says, "because I was able to change the outcome of the race before it started."
Joyce went to her first Olympic Games at age 18, and then she retired at age 26. After years of training every single day, she suddenly found herself accountable to no one but herself.
"It doesn't matter if you're 26, 60, or 75," she says. "If you retire from something, it can feel like the rug is pulled out from under you. You go from being accountable to something or someone every day to, all of a sudden, nothing. The biggest thing I feared is not finding something I was as passionate about in retirement."
That fear never came to fruition because Joyce was willing to take the first step into the unknown. Her swimming career had taught her an invaluable lesson: "The antidote to doubt is action." So she refused to sit still.
Joyce was able to pair her Olympic experience with the adrenaline-filled journey of starting a business. In 2017, she founded the Lead Sports Co, which hosts the LEAD Summit, an annual, all-inclusive event that connects young female athletes with Olympic champions and experts in sport and mental health.
In the last four years, Joyce has discovered that running her own company can be equally as grueling, frustrating, and rewarding as training for the Olympics.
"The skills I developed as an athlete in keeping my confidence up when it was really important have definitely helped me on those crazy days as an entrepreneur," she says.
In this conversation, Joyce explains that self-confidence and mental resilience are the keys to succeeding in sports, business, and life.
Check out the full interview below:
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