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Daily Capital

3 Words World-Champion Speed Skater Apolo Anton Ohno Lives By

On his computer at home, Apolo Anton Ohno posted a sticky note where he jotted down three words: “process over prize.”

In his athletic endeavors, the legendary short-track speed skater always knew this to be true. Now in his financial life, he has learned to apply the same focus and discipline that helped bring him athletic success.

“At the end of the day, I can’t control the outcome, but I can control the things that I do on a day-to-day basis to help me get there,” he said. “Just like any other modality that you’re incorporating into your life, financial wellness requires training.”

Get on Track to Financial Wellness

Now, he’s championing healthy financial practices as Personal Capital’s newest Financial Hero. Ohno believes day-by-day routines can help develop financial wellness for the long term. For Ohno, it’s all in the process.

According to a recent Personal Capital-Empower Retirement survey, others agree: 72% of the 2,000 people surveyed said they believe that “financial health is more of an ongoing journey” rather than achieving a specific milestone.

Here’s how Ohno developed healthy financial practices and — of course — how he’s continuing the process.

‘Tough-Knock Life Lessons’ as Financial Foundation

It was growing up with his single dad, Yuki, that Ohno learned his first lesson about finance: “Money is merely a tool.”

“My dad had a very unique relationship with money,” Ohno said. “He didn’t care about it — he exchanged it for food and a place to live. He never felt like a hamster in a cage.”

Ohno entered the professional world of athletics with minimal knowledge of managing wealth. So when he made the pivot from sports to business and investing, it was with his own capital, his own resources, and his own decision-making.

“That was not the best possible route, but I wouldn’t change it,” Ohno now believes. “I have made a tremendous amount of mistakes, especially when I was younger — with business partners, with ventures, and just with time and resources. But I look back on those as hard-knock life lessons.”

The experience made its mark; he’s now writing a book, “Hard Pivot,” about his transition from athletics to business.

“What I’ve found is that when I venture into something seeking the result over the process, that has always proven to be a failure. Every time. Unequivocally,” he said.

As a speed skater, he saturated his life with process — training, diet, rest. “But for some reason,” Ohno said, “when I approached the outside world, there was some kind of a shift psychologically.”

For a handful of years, he stuck to a short-term outlook: “I would look at business deals as if they were Olympic-year deals — meaning I only have one year to train, one year to prepare. ‘This deal has to happen this year or it’s not going to be successful.’ And that created a false vision and hope.”

How Ohno Pivoted his Approach

Beginning in 2002, he started to approach his financial endeavors with a different perspective. “Business and investing are long-term life pursuits,” he said. “It is something that you never truly master.”

Taking a long-term approach can seem boring. Ohno knows it: The same applies in the world of athletics.

“You’re behind the curtain for a long time — putting in the work, putting in the time, and creating consistent habits,” he said. “And then when the curtain is open, you have this opportunity to show to the world what you’ve been working on and then it’s really interesting.”

Following are Ohno’s insights for climbing to the top of the podium — whatever that looks like for you.

1.Don’t Fall Back on FOMO

For Ohno, change started with a fresh perspective. He decided that he no longer wanted to be chasing opportunities — he wanted to be choosing.

So he gave up on the fear of missing out on investment opportunities that didn’t align with his long-term plan.

“That gave me a sense of freedom and a sense of calm, which also elicits much better responses,” he said. “There’s always a new trade. There’s always another opportunity.”

Now he asks himself broader questions:

  • Does this fit in the overall landscape of what you’re trying to accomplish?
  • Why are you doing this?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What is the end goal? Is it just to make money? Because you believe in this? Or because you’re fascinated by it?

Answers to these questions help him decide where to focus his energy and resources.

2. Develop Routines

Ohno is the most decorated winter athlete in U.S. history. But he wasn’t an overnight success. Throughout the years, he fittingly measured improvement in four-year increments.

“I think none of us like to hear about what it’s going to take in between the four years,” he said. “We like to focus on just that end goal and results.”

Once you identify your overarching, longer-term financial goals, you can start tracking your progress. “If you can’t measure it, it’s very difficult to gauge where you’re going,” Ohno said.

Just like exercise, nutrition, and adequate sleep, checking in on his financial wellness is part of Ohno’s daily routine.

“Sometimes, we don’t want to hear that it’s going to take consistency and mundane routine on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “But that is where you accelerate.”

Ohno recommends the free and secure online financial tools from Personal Capital. Nearly 3 million U.S. households use this technology to get an overview of their financial accounts, all in one place. You can track and categorize your spending, analyze your investments and uncover hidden fees, and plan for long-term goals like homebuying or retirement.

“Once you have a Personal Capital Dashboard that you can view on a daily basis, you’ll realize your goals can be within your reach,” Ohno said.

3. Align Your Money with Your Values

In new business ventures, Ohno aims to work with companies that value social responsibility.

“I want to see companies having the hard conversations — about diversity and inclusion, about creating a more sustainable but open financial network for any and all who are interested,” he said. “I think radical transparency is required.”

More broadly, he sees a societal transition to “conscious capitalism.”

“I believe there’s a paradigm shift,” he said. “We’re facing a lot of challenges in the country, but my belief is consumers and business-builders are starting to really open up around the idea that we can do all of it – do good, be good, make good. The triple bottom line is real.”

4. Get Talking

Simply put, money can be stressful. In the Personal Capital-Empower Retirement survey, 77% of respondents said “my financial health also affects my physical and mental health.”

One way to combat the negative impacts? Ohno thinks it’s important to remove the stigma around money.

“People have a hard time just talking about their salary, right? Let alone talking about financial wellness,” he said.

Ohno said he and his fiancee Bianca Stam work to have open and honest conversations around money. “Her mom is very good with money and very straightforward, and so they talk about money as if they’re talking about going to get lunch,” he said.

He encourages people to sit down and have vulnerable conversations with their loved ones:

  • What does financial wellness look like to you?
  • Which money decisions should you make consistently?
  • What are some of your self-sabotaging money mindsets or practices?

“It really starts with talking about it in a way that is healthy and open,” Ohno said. “When you can remove the emotion and instead focus on the mechanics, that’s where it gets exciting.”


Featured individual is a paid spokesperson and not a client of PCAC and does not make any endorsements or recommendations about securities offerings or investment strategy. The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Alicia Castro is the Managing Editor of Daily Capital.
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