“You have no idea how much strength and power and purpose you have until you’re faced with something that could rob you of life and quality of life.” — Scott Hamilton
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Many people will know Scott Hamilton (@ScottHamilton84) as a champion figure skater and as a commentator for international figure skating competition with NBC. He’s also an author of several books, including the most recent book “Finish First: Winning Changes Everything.” He is also the founder of the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy. Hear how Scott has continued to overcome severe health issues to become a champion skater and a uniquely positive individual.
- Scott has developed in every way that he can, especially spiritually, in order to overcome the obstacles in front of him.
- You only learn by losing, so while winning is obviously the goal, losing needs to be valued as well.
- We each have more inside us that we’ve ever given ourselves permission to recognize.
Listen to this episode to get acquainted with the struggles of a superb athlete with an extremely unique and positive outlook on life.
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Hi folks. This is Mark Divine. Welcome back to the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks so much for joining me today. As you know I do not take it for granted. There are a million things vying for your attention and the fact that you’re listening to this you know means a lot to me. So Hooyah. Thank you very much.
I got a great show today with Scott Hamilton. Man, I remember watching Scott on TV what an incredible skater of this guy is. We’ll get into more about his background when I introduce him formally. Before I do that, a couple of things.
The Unbeatable Mind summit is coming up November 29 to December 2nd here in North County, San Diego. That’s California. This is an incredible experience three days of Unbeatable Mind training, lots of great speakers. We’re gonna be doing… go deep on your five mountain training plans so that you can transform yourself in 2019 make it your next best year ever. This will be the last time we hold the summit in this format and it’s a pretty special format.
So anyways if you’re on the fence or if you’re thinking about it…if this is the first time you’re hearing about it then go to unbeatablemind.com or actually summit.unbeatablemind.com is a more direct path and if you really are inspired to join us I’ll give you $300 off. So just enter the code POD300—as in podcast—POD 300 at the unbeatablemind.com site also quick update on Burpees for Vets challenge. You know we’re doing 22 million burpees this year with a tribe of a couple hundred people. I’ve surpassed 73,000 burpees and broke my foot last week but I got to tell you it didn’t slow me down—although I did have to modify my burpees a bit. and in November we’re going for a world record for most number of burpees accomplished by a mixed team—three men, three women—in 24 hours so that should be a lot of fun. and if you want to join us we’re doing this to raise money and awareness for veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress 22 a day are committing suicide it sunset so we’re suffering for those who suffered for us and trying to bring some awareness and raise some money to help directly help as many of these folks as we can so you can find more information at burpeesforvets.com and the foundation that we’re working with is the foundation I started a couple years ago called Courage Foundation and info on that is at feedcourage.org.
All right so as I mentioned, my guest today is Scott Hamilton. If you watch the Olympics you probably remember him winning a few gold medals as a figure skater. An unbelievably graceful human being. A real hardcore athlete and knows how to win knows the mental game. But all-around great guy.
He has authored a book recently—it came out in February which is just finding its footing, called “Finish First: Winning Changes Everything.” We’re going to talk about that in this podcast. He’s definitely, you know, one of the most recognized figures in the male figure skating world. He’s won over 70 titles. That’s incredible. He’s also won an Emmy nomination. He’s been inducted to the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.
But as we know from this podcast there’s a real story behind this story, right? It’s not all, you know, just raw talent. This man has some severe tenacity. So I’m excited to meet him myself and to talk about tenacity and overcoming fear and dealing with failure.
At any rate we’re gonna have a good time. So Scott, thanks very much for joining me. Nice to meet you.
Scott Hamilton: Great to meet you virtually.
Mark: That’s right. These podcasts are really fun for that, you know? I don’t know about you but I resisted them because they just suck up so much time. But over the past couple years I’ve really, really gotten to enjoy them just cause I meet supercool people
Scott: Well everyone I talked to and it just they just find… “Oh have you heard this one yet? Have you heard this one yet? Have you put this on your list yet?
Podcasts are like taking off. It’s just a great format to really be able to communicate in a long form and really enlighten people in a way that’s not just fast food or… I don’t know… kind of factoids. You know? It’s like a real discussion so I’m really excited to be a part of this. And thank you for your service to our country I really appreciate that very much.
Mark: Yeah, thank you I appreciate that. So I always like to start these things with just kind of getting to know you by asking about your early childhood. What were the influences? What were the events and the people that helped shape you as a man?
Scott: I pretty much you know my parents… you know, I was the first adopted child of my family you know and so you kind of go through that. My parents were really very forward-thinking and very… my mother was kind of an expert in… That’s kind of what her teaching was when she was at Bowling Green State University. Was all about marriage and family relations so she kind of knew how to navigate things in our family.
And my dad was a very hardcore professor of biology. Got his PhD at Rutgers and moved immediately, using the service as well, he was in the ROTC and was in the tank corps and trained people and you know he’s a very disciplined guy. And again, you know, went to Bowling Green State University in Ohio to teach there in their earth science department and never left. That that was his only job he ever had so learned a lot about you know just how to navigate things through my mom and how to be really tough you know when it came to expectation and learning and you know? Anybody I meet that at my mom for class I always tell them how lucky they were and anyone that ever had my dad for class, I always apologize and tell them not to hold it against me. so that’s the kind of world I grew up in. it’s kind of both sides of the coin but you know my… great people you know… just really ahead of their time in so many ways.
You know my dad was one of the people in charge of the International Studies and so we hosted people in our home from all over the world. In fact we had one guy Jim Karigoo, who is from Kenya and when I was in preschool he taught me to speak Swahili…
Mark: Really? No kidding?
Scott: How many 3 year-olds you know who can speak Swahili?
Mark: Yeah. Unless you’re Swahili, not many.
Scott: But it was really fun growing up in a University town. It was fun growing up in a small town. Very eclectic.
There was University kids, there were townie kids and there were agricultural kids. And it really was a beautiful mix, and growing up again in Bowling Green, it just makes me crave that small town accountability in the way that people live their lives.
And that’s why I love Nashville so much. We got big city amenities, but they’ve got that small-town accountability.
Mark: Yeah. I grew up in a very small town in upstate New York, and I understand that to some degree.
So how did you get involved in athletics? What were you good at as a kid? And kind of what drew you to skating? Cause you must have gotten into it pretty early. In your teens probably, right?
Scott: Well, I actually from being adopted there’s no real health history. There’s no real understanding of what to expect. So they sort of look at you, and they go, “Oh, okay. We’re going to see what happens.” Basically.
And so when I was about 4, I just sort of stopped growing, and I started showing signs of stress. And so they took me to the doctor. They knew something was wrong. They couldn’t figure it out. They tried taking me off sugar, and wheat, and… or white flour, I should say. And they took me off of dairy. And took me off a lot of things.
And so my diet was really restricted to keep it really clean and easy to digest because they thought I had some sort of celiac disease or some sort of intestinal problem. And so I grew up basically … from four to eight I was pretty much in hospitals.
It started in Bowling Green where I grew up and they couldn’t find anything. They couldn’t diagnose. And then I went to Toledo and then they couldn’t diagnose. So I went to Ann Arbor and they couldn’t diagnose and so we just went to Boston Children’s Hospital there.
And it was there that we met a wonderful guy, Doctor Harry Shwachman, and he’s the one that really found and designated and diagnosed a Shwachman-Diamond syndrome.
And I had every single one of the symptoms for that. But the more tests he put me through the more he realized that I didn’t have that.
And so basically at the end of a very long stay there and he sent us home and he just basically said “you know, here’s my recommendation. Live your days. Just go out and go home. Take him off all the restrictive diets. We don’t know if we’re starving him to death or what he needs so just put him on a good balanced diet. Let him have birthday cake at parties. Let him have things that he’s never really been able to eat in his memory. And just live a normal life. Do things.” so…
And then we got home and our other doctor… our family doctor said, “well you need you need a day off,” to my parents. And so he realized how exhausted they were and how the stress of the four years had really affected them.
And he said that they needed to take a morning off and he recommended… there was a new facility at the University that had just opened, that was an ice-skating rink and that on every Saturday morning they have a junior Club where basically it’s a learn to skate. All the kids can come out in the community and learn how to skate. Use this brand new facility and so my parents, you know, they knew I was going to be looked after. And they knew it was going to be fun and safe and different for me. And so they took that morning off every week. and what I found was the more I skated the more I realized that I could do things as well as the well kids and the more I skated the more I realized I could do things as well the best athletes in my grade.
And self-esteem kicked in for the first time ever. I mean, I never felt good about anything I just felt like this sick kid and now listen I’m able to do something really fun and very specific.
And basically even now with the skating academy I it’s you know when I see kids where their parents have to threaten them to get them off the ice, that was me. I didn’t want to come off the ice ever. That’s all I wanted to do, and the more I skated the better my health got. And the more I skated the better I got as a skater. I wasn’t really super successful but I did well locally and I understood where my weaknesses lie. I only wanted to do the part of the job that I wanted to do I didn’t want to do the tough part or the part that you know didn’t really appeal to me—which was the compulsory figures. So I just sort of I went out and pre-skated and I showed off and I had fun and I did things and I liked being in front of an audience a lot. And all the symptoms of my illness sort of ebbed away and I started living a normal life. Which is kind of miraculous.
Mark: So they never diagnosed it, hunh?
Scott: It got diagnosed in 2004. How’s that for a long-term thing?
Yeah, I skated for all those years and then right after I stopped skating I started to feel kind of… just sort of weaker… I didn’t know if it was the fact that I’d lost fitness from all those years of activity and I’d stopped and what does this mean? You know, I had a child now. I was a father. I was gonna raise him. And so I just got off the road.
And so, you know, I almost got into some depression where I just didn’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning and so the doctors of the Cleveland Clinic told me to go see somebody. I was living in LA at the time, and they just said go and see this doctor. He’s gonna pull some blood we’re gonna start there. And basically I had no testosterone in my blood and so they proposed that I take a gel and in a few weeks I’ll be back to normal. I was like, “Naah, that doesn’t sound right.” so you know I had cancer in ’97 so they figured that whatever is going on had something to do with my cancer and the chemo and the surgery and everything else they endured, but it just didn’t none of that really without right to me…
Mark: Stop right there because you missed that little detail. So in 1997 you were diagnosed with cancer.
Scott: Yeah, I had stage 3 testicular cancer. I basically made testicular cancer cool before Lance Armstrong. So I got that going for me.
Mark: (laughing) Congratulations. Good job.
Scott: Yeah, it’s a big deal. So I went through that and then you know they were sort of keeping an eye on me and so I got through my, you know, obviously my five-year period. They call it remission. I call it period of vigilance, because remission sounds like its hiding and bushes. and so I got through my period of vigilance and then, you know, a couple years after that I was really symptomatic and I didn’t really know what’s going on so I just kept asking questions. I made an appointment in Cleveland then and it was there they put me in for a head scan and they found a brain tumor. and so they couldn’t diagnose… he couldn’t figure out what it was… they… every scan you can imagine and the PET scan showed it was aggressive so they decided they had to go in and biopsy it so they put a… it was basically at the pituitary in the optic chasm area of my head so they put a knitting needle basically down through my brain from the top of my skull and they took a piece of it and it was there that they diagnosed it as a craniopharyngioma.
And when they gave all the information—the written information—on cranios, Tracy, my wife, was reading it and she said, “Oh, listen to this.” It said “craniopharyngiomas are tumors that a child is born with and it usually shows itself by a lack of growth and development in the early stages of life.”
Mark: No kidding.
Scott: So after all that.
Mark: The pituitary gland regulates growth, right?
Scott: Everything. It’s the master gland.
Mark: Because the opposite syndrome is what like Tony Robbins has or Andre the Giant. That gargantuan…
Scott: Oh yeah. That was acromegaly, yeah. That’s a whole different deal it’s, yeah, almost the opposite. Yeah where it just inhibits hormone production and it just sort of makes your body kind of whacked out.
And so you know they didn’t have the technology to find that in the… what is it? The early 60s. So now they do. They have MRI they had you know CAT scans. They have all these different ways of looking into the body without opening it up and so basically my problem all those years, we guess it was a brain tumor.
Mark: Was it malignant and growing? I mean you had had it for your entire life was it something that…?
Scott: No for whatever reason for the years that I skated it stopped. Maybe I fell on my head or you know…
Mark: Well, you were probably too busy to let it to grow you know your focus on your skating and you know part of your psyche just said “okay. We can’t pay attention to this right now. Shunt all energy away from this cancer.
Scott: Yeah, it’s crazy. So you know once I started skating again it was fine and then I stopped skating and then it wasn’t fine anymore. It came in 2004, which is a really beautiful and powerful experience. You know, I had Gamma Knife radiation which is really bizarre. But they’ve gotten better at it since then. They used to screw basically a plate to your head and they—not a plate—a frame. Kind of a halo frame. and then they put the helmet over that and they it was very almost barbaric when they shoot 200 points of low-dose radiation into your brain and then it culminates it all kind of meets the radiation in the center which is the tumor so they were able to knock it out to where it wasn’t visible anymore on any scans.
And then went back to life and six years later I started to feel symptomatic again. And I went in and it did returned it grown back and this time it was a surgery. And the surgery didn’t go as well as it could have so they nicked an artery which became an aneurysm and then I had to figure out how to obliterate the aneurysm. And then it was… I had nine angiograms—cerebral angiograms—which is insane and so got through that. I lost my right eye for about 24 hours and it came back about 60% but yeah I keep an eye on that. and then in 2016 I went back and the brain tumor started showing signs of return and so I didn’t really feel like I needed to kind of like knee-jerk… you know treat it right away. I just had this voice in my head that just said, “Get strong.”
So I didn’t know what that meant, you know? Is it physical, spiritual, emotional? Mentally? Whatever. I didn’t know.
So I just dove into being stronger than I’ve ever been with diet, with exercise, with faith… with just everything I possibly could. And understanding my position better than I had before. And so for the next three scans after they found it, it had not grown. And then it shrank. And then it shrank again. And according to my last scan it’s kind of back to where it was in the beginning so I’m really having to keep an eye on it again.
And, you know, I do what I tell anybody else to do I you just go shop it around. Get as much information as you possibly can. And then make a decision based on all the information, not just first opinions. You know I’m not I’m not an even a second opinion guy, I’m more like a seventh opinion guy. I mean there’s lots of people out there and I’ve learned you know in my years that there are really good doctors out there that do great things. This is what Toby Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic told me. He said, “there’s great doctors out there they do really amazing things. And then guys that do six a day. You really want a six a day guy. That’s what you want. A guy that does nothing but what you need.” and for the aneurysm I found a guy at the Cleveland Clinic Peter Rasmussen who that’s all he does all day. That’s his whole job. Obliterating aneurysms. And he’s, you know, as good as anybody in the world at it so I was really lucky that I could navigate to him and that I started just asking questions, you know? What are my options? Where do I need to go? what can I do? And so when the tumor came… started to show signs of coming back in ’16, I didn’t panic. it was kind of the devil I know by then. and so I just been keeping an eye on it and you know hopefully it’ll just kind of not grow and create the mischief it did the last two times.
Mark: Right. It’s fascinating, as you’re talking I’m realizing you probably have spent more time—or as much time—dealing with the different cancers as you did on the ice.
Scott: Yeah. Well you know it’s amazing. There’s so many things about it that are similar you know? It’s like you’ve got to do your homework. You’ve got to put the time in. you’ve got to show up you’ve gotta really put a solid game plan together. You’ve got to understand where you’re weak and get strong. You’ve gotta… there’s so many things that are a part of it where you can help yourself through the episode, you know? Because I don’t look at them as… I joke that I have a unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illness but at the same time it’s like, you know after a while you get used to stuff and you don’t… the more you do something the less you fear it. And so I just try to do the right things make good choices.
Mark: Right. I think, you know, one thing coming through really loud and clear is how important mindset is. You know whether it is winning in a sport like ice skating. Or winning against some traumatic thing like cancer. I mean, how many people would describe cancer treatment as a beautiful and powerful experience?
Scott: You know what? More than you think.
Scott: because it’s an awakening. You know you get this diagnosis and you’re completely enveloped in fear and then all of a sudden it flips. It turns into this thing where you go “Oh, no no. I’m gonna fight. I’m gonna get to work right now.” and so that fear is replaced with a sense of power and purpose and you have no idea how much strength and power and purpose you have until you’re faced with something that you know could rob you of life and quality of life. So you just… you hunker down and you just come out swinging and in that way you’re probably better off than you’ve ever been in your life. You’re more than you’ve ever been in your life and you realize what you’re capable of. And until you’re tested, you don’t really know.
Mark: You know that language is exactly what we use in our training in Unbeatable Mind. And one of the things we say is you know if you don’t go to the challenge, the challenge will find you. Because as a human you need to grow through challenge and find your purpose and sometimes that challenge is a life-threatening illness. It’s unfortunate when it is, but I love your perspective that if it does come in that form, embrace the suck, right? And treat it as a beautiful awakening that it can be to make you more aligned and stronger.
Speaking of alignment… I’m sorry go ahead…
Scott: No it is. It’s that. It’s just nobody gets out of this life alive, right? In our way we’re all very fragile, vulnerable but at the same time—amazingly resilient. And then on the other side of it is you know you were temporary, you know? We’re here for a minute you know and when you look at the time, you know? So where are we going to put our energies and how are we going to utilize our minutes and our days in order to kind of look down at the end of it and say “that was fun. That was a good ride.”
Mark: I’m with you. I have this this philosophy that is as long as we’re breathing this free oxygen that we have then we have an obligation, right? To serve boldly and to, you know, live our purpose with our hair on fire. Otherwise we’re just wasting it, you know?
Scott: Well, there are going to be times of being still. There are gonna be times where there are, you know, kind of calms in the storm. There are going to be those times where you just need to kind of rest for the next race. And so it’s just you know I’m not telling people to get on like a rat wheel and just keep going. Because that’s not healthy either you know. you’ve got to be strategic and you’ve got to make good decisions and you’ve gotta, you know, between those periods of challenge you’ve got to fortify yourself in every way you possibly can. And so you know I experiment with diets and nutrition and I take a lot of supplements and I try to keep my weight at a certain place, and fitness level at a certain place. and I try to read and I try to grow in my faith and, you know, it’s never a time where I’m still. But there are, you know, those periods where it’s game on. Where everything needs to kind of like take a back seat I need to do some work here. And that’s kind of that odd unique collection of life-threatening illness that I’ve turned into kind of my identity.
Mark: Do you have… Could you articulate your “why” in life? Like what is your purpose for being on this planet? Scott. You know, I feel like I’m happier. I feel when I’m in the presence of those who I can help and serve. You know, I like that. I like going to learn to skate and teaching people that have never gotten on the ice before how to navigate it. I like the work I do in cancer with my CARES Foundation. That we can inspire and fund research and interact with the cancer community in a in a unique way. You know being a survivor is different than just watching people go through cancer. You have those real-time experiences where you understand what’s going on better than most. And caregivers are the same way. They look after somebody going through cancer and in that way, they understand it differently than if you read about it in a magazine or if you see, you know, a bald-headed lady in the supermarket you know that you see it but you don’t understand it until you know you get on the front lines. And, you know, I get it in a way and I see where cancer has been under-served especially the patients. And how can we resolve that and let’s roll up our sleeves and do that? Now we know that we can teach our immune system how to fight the cancer. That’s the research that we want to fund. That’s what we want to get behind. And so in that way you know we’re not specific to a specific form or place of cancer we are more interested in elevating treatment options that go after the cancer and spare the patient harm.
And, you know, the status quo has always been, “Oh, chemo is great. I mean yeah you’re gonna get sick and it’s going to be really tough but it’ll get the cancer.” and it’s like we don’t need to be doing that. I mean I’m here 21 years later because of chemo. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. But at the same time, it’s like, I know we can do better. So let’s do better, you know?
Mark: Do you think that we’ll be able to eradicate cancer as some of the technologists are saying we can do in the next 20 years?
Scott: Well I think as long as we breathe, drink, and eat… I think as long as we you know all have imperfections in our DNA or our body or whatever our challenges are there’s always going to be cancer. It’s how we get rid of it. That’s what’s going to change. I think if we could change cancer… like, especially some forms right now that are a death sentence, you know basically how long do I have? To being, you know, “no, no. It’s fine. We’re just going to give you this. We’re gonna, you know, pull some T cells out. Reprogram them and put the back in your body. And you’ll be fine in a few days.” That’s the future of cancer and that’s what we got to get behind.
Scott: But cancer is gonna be here to stay as long as we’re putting things in our bodies. As long as we are putting our body through periods of stress. you know it’s gonna respond in kind right and things are unhealthier now things are fast now and quick now and we have things that we’ve never had before. And the Western diet is kind of… I don’t recommend it you know? Our bodies are under a great deal of stress all the time. And I think stress is where, you know, cancer thrives. When you have a situation of you’re upset or you’re exhausted all the time or you’re not eating properly or whatever you’re doing to put your body through stress. now you’re inviting and, you know, this is just my own personal theories… but you know, and again there’s nothing scientific behind this, but I know that when I was diagnosed with cancer, I knew that I was in an extraordinary period of stress and you know to me it’s like that’s when I had cancer and I can pinpoint it, but if we’re able to live cleaner, live better, live faithful. Try to avoid you know incredibly stressful situations which, you know… many are unavoidable.
Like I have three teenagers so you know I’m not avoiding stress. I’m hitting it head-on, you know. But right there’s always problem… I mean I can’t imagine a world without cancer, but I do imagine a world where the treatment options are much, much different.
Mark: Right you mentioned faith a couple times and also an Unbeatable Mind, you know, we’re… we rely a lot on both Eastern… or Western and Eastern kind of technologies and one of those is visualization. and so both faith and visualization have a lot in common in that they have had, you know… there’s plenty of accounts of people healing themselves from cancer or being spontaneously healed through faith. What is your thought that? And you know does it does it have a role in for either a caregiver or a doctor or a more clinical setting?
Scott: Well when I went back the first time and it shrunk my brain tumor, I was talking with the neurosurgeon that will be doing the surgery if it ever gets to that point where it’s now creating mischief.
And I go “I’ve never heard of a cranio shrinking before and he goes “well me either.” and he just… I go “can you explain it? I mean is there anything that I’ve done or I could be doing that has, you know…? I mean, can you explain it?”
And he just said “God”
And I go, “That’s good enough for me.” You know?
Mark: I’ll take it.
Scott: And again where there’s faith, there’s peace, because if you understand that your life is… we are children of the Most High God and that we have our journey. We have our purpose, our days. And when we look at that as being faithful throughout and joyful throughout… my goodness life takes on a whole different identity. I look at our culture right now and I see the anger and the division and it’s not just political. It’s kind of like people are upset all the time and I do think its media, it’s…
Mark: They’ve been separated from their true self.
Scott: Well yeah. I think so. And it’s an ideology. Who cares about ideology? It’s like, “how am I gonna feed my family? How am I gonna do all kinds of things?” right? So you know we’re sidetracked and distracted by a lot of things. And to me if long as I can find joy in everything that I do no matter how difficult it is. Now, we’re in a situation where I really feel like I’m giving myself the best chance of being healthy.
Mark: Right. Right. In a… physiologically that’s, you know, leading to a balanced nervous system and lower stress and all that’s gonna help healing Scott: Right. Yeah, that’s I mean it’s kind of my story and I’m sticking to it. Mark: You do that. I’m gonna try to distract you.
Mark: What about a specific visualization? Do you have a visualization practice for the healing? And did you have one when you were skating, because the visualization to me…
Scott: Oh, my goodness. I’ve never talked about this before, but yeah. You know, because I know where the brain tumor is and I know that it’s optical… it’s in the optic chasm and it has optical kind of symptoms… I’ll close my eyes and if I see light if I see… not light, but if I see like would it be stars or something that… you know, like if you over exercise and you close your eyes, you can see stars. If I see anything like that on one side or in one place, I basically pretend that I have a machine gun inside of my head and I’m just absolutely destroying it. And I can watch it… I know it’s funny… I can watch it go away. Like, that light is no longer there anymore. And I wonder you know if that’s a part of it. You know I drink high pH water and try to create an alkaline system in my body. And I only eat organic. I really been trying to experiment with different diets and different types of fuel for my body to see where I feel the best. and so I’m you know constantly… you know, once I find that perfect one, then I’ll stop but right now there hasn’t been a perfect one.
But you know I continue to… I read my Bible. I listen. And to me my greatest source of strength and healing has been in my faith. And the more I learn the more I know I need to learn. The more I understand the more I know there’s more than I need to understand. And so it’s this endless pursuit and it’s really been powerful, and beautiful, and amazing. And you know I honestly do believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And I’ll continue to feel that way. I don’t think there’s anything that will pull me off that path.
Mark: Right. That’s beautiful. And I loved your description of the visualization and I personally believe that that is, you know, a critical component of healing. and I’ve used it not for cancer obviously, but for just healing broken bones, or pulled muscles and stuff like that and I found that I can heal generally twice as fast as I did when I didn’t do it and twice as fast as other individuals. And so I think there’s a big there’s a big element to that. Something worth exploring you know for the listeners. The other thing is I just wanted to mention is that have you explored the ketogenesis and the keto diet…? Scott: I’m doing it right now.
Mark: Good for you. Yeah, good.
Scott: Seven weeks.
Mark: Seven weeks okay good.
Scott: That first week’s pretty rough.
Mark: It’s pretty rough, yeah. Once you become what my friend Mark Sisson calls metabolically flexible and you’re basically producing ketones and burning… your body’s looking for fat as its primary source of fuel. And essentially you start to really lose any type of craving…or your system stops its hunt for sugar.
Mark: And then the brain, because the brain relies so much on fat and ketones, then that’s gonna be looking for that for its primary source of fuel. And the theory is that you’ll end up starving the cancer cells.
Scott: Yeah. Well, it was funny because I never really even heard of it and I ran into a guy a friend of mine, and his son and my son are on the same basketball team. So I was talking to him I go, “you look like you’ve dropped some weight.” and he goes “yeah, I’ve been doing the ketogenic diet.” it’s like, “what is that?” And he told me it’s like it’s really interesting. He told me about the magic pills. So I watch it on an airplane one time and I instantly bought the book when I was on the plane. I downloaded it.
Mark: Is that the name of a book? “The Magic Pill?”
Scott: “The Magic Pill is the name of the movie. The book I bought… I’m trying to think of the name of it… it basically just talks about the ketogenic diet and how it works. And then I had somebody else told me they were doing it. I was like, “okay that’s three. That’s three. That’s enough. okay I’m gonna start to do it.” and there was one day because I’d already eliminated a lot of sugar… most processed sugar for sure, but not natural sugar and then you know carbs. I was kind of so-so on carbs but once I gave both of them up you know almost exclusively, that one day, it was like I think the fifth day in I went to bed at 6:30 with the worst headache I’ve had a long time and then I go, “This is for the birds. I’m going straight off this diet.”
And then I realized that the day after that headache I started to feel a bit better and the weight… I mean, I weigh myself every morning when I get out of bed. and my weight’s been the last four days has been within 0.1 pounds and for a guy that has, you know, diabetes insipidus—which is my water issues, you know, due to my brain tumor—that’s really rare because my water fluctuates so much that my weight would fluctuate. But I’ve been really within 0.1 pounds of my weight every single day. And I haven’t weighed those since I was touring as a professional skater.
So kind of liking it and now I found that it’s hard to cook all the time, so I found a website where I can get meals sent to me so I can cook sometimes, and then have these pre-made meals other times.
Mark: Oh that’s terrific. I encourage you to look at… I have a friend named Connor Young who created a meal to go. All organic. All whole food, but just amazing.
And he’s got a ketogenic version. They call it Ample. And it’s basically just add water and 600 calories you have this super healthy meal and so for if you’re on the go like rushing to the skating park or wherever… your Academy. And you don’t have time for the perfect meal then you’re down one of those.
It’s become my insurance policy every morning.
Scott: Is there a website on that one?
Mark: Yeah, amplemeal.com.
Scott: Okay, I’ll look at it.
Mark: And let me know just… I don’t have your email, but I’ll ask Alice and I’ll introduce you to Connor. Because I’m sure he’d hook you up with you know with the supply, and love to have you try it.
I swear by the stuff.
Scott: I love it. I love it. Yeah, you know, it’s again… it’s the Western diet. The more I learn about it, the more I see people… obesity rates are skyrocketing, type 2 diabetes is through the roof. And then you look at all the other health things that come along with that, and it’s like “oh my word.”
Mark: I know. It’s fascinating. And yet there’s so much going on. So much new knowledge. So many new products. And all the information is there now for us, but the trend the trend is still increasing in the wrong direction. So…
Scott: And it’s because it’s hard. You know, there’s so much about our lives right now… when you think about everything we have at our fingertips with our smart phones and our computers and all that. You know the fact that any information is right there in front of you. Kids you know can score 20 goals on Xbox, right, and never really have to put skates on, you know?
and it’s “like yeah I did that.” yeah “maybe, maybe not,” but you know I worry that we’re becoming so fed with information and all these things that we forget how to be active and live our lives and do a lot of the things that aren’t fun. That aren’t just instant gratification.
And I look back on my skating years and I you know there are parts of skating I didn’t like to do. And because I didn’t like to do them I was not very successful. and the more I started going after those things that I didn’t like to do I realized that after a very short amount of time I enjoyed doing them right and it became a part of my everyday regimen and I think because I’ve had that muscle and the fact that I’ve at a minimum fall in 41600 times. I’ve gotten up 41600 times.
So it’s one of those things where you know the more you participate in something kind of the better you get at it. The more it becomes part of your daily thing and then I don’t want what…
I always started my day with like a chocolate croissant and you know something else and now it’s like, “Uh, no. Not going to do that.” the avocado, there you go. That’s better.
But it is, it’s… for many people in our culture… I’m not saying our entire culture, obviously, but for many people they just want to go where it’s comfortable and where it’s easy and I totally get it. Cause I’ve lived it and we can do better.
Mark: Yeah. “Easy makes us weak.” That’s the title of a book a friend of mine just wrote. “Easy makes us weak.” And so I agree with you and my Zen master used to say fall down seven times get up eight. Now I’m going to change that to fall down 41600 times, get up 41601. That’s awesome.
Scott: Yeah. And the funny thing is I look back—you know again and it’s very much looked back—I look back. When I look back on you know every single time I’ve been handed a diagnosis it’s like “okay I fell down. All right now I need to get up” so now I realize there’s a process in everything. That it’s just everything is a process, everything is, you know, what I make it. Everything is a decision. Everything is a choice. Everything… and you know being in a bad mood is a choice. Being in a great mood is a choice. It’s a choice.
You know and right now I will not allow someone else to steal my joy. I just won’t let it do it. If somebody is trying to yell at me in traffic, or honk their horn, or call me a name, or whatever… I don’t even… I let it roll off.
In my speech I do for my book “Finish First,” I show like probably nine mean tweets as part of my dealing with critics thing. And I gave the speech… the first time I gave a speech it was for a bunch of college students. And I was looking into the audience and I see all these college students like covering their faces, covering their eyes. Like, “oh I can’t believe that.”
I go “this is nothing. Think about it. Okay, two things right now first and foremost. They would never say it to my face. Never. None of these people—they’re all probably really nice people that lead really normal lives and they would never say anything that’s vile to my face.”
and then the other side of it, I go “why do I care what they have to say?” there’s two ways of looking at criticism, and two ways of looking at critical people and that is—is it true? Or is it opinion? And if it’s opinion—and that’s where television is right now, especially the news, it’s all opinion—I don’t watch anymore because I don’t care what they think. I don’t care what they say. Who are they to tell me how to feel?
So I just… I don’t do it anymore. So if it’s fact “oh okay. Now we have something to work with.” and when I say that it’s like now we have something to work with. If that is absolute fact now I’ve been given some really important information that will improve my life.
but if it’s not, if it’s just way somebody feels… like, I had a judge when I was starting to figure it out and I was getting better results in international competitions, I had a judge come up to my coach and say “wow, Scott’s doing so much better. I’m really encouraged.”
And my coach Don said “oh thank you very much. We’ve really been working hard”
And she said “but you have to understand and accept that he’s too short to be competitive internationally.” Now how do I train that? How do I fix that?
And then I realized that the last guy before my pursuit, the last American to win an Olympic gold medal was my height. It’s just totally somebody’s preference, and I hope she’s not on my panel. I pray she’s not on my panel.
But when we look at all this stuff in our world and it’s when we look at all the stuff that comes our way. And harshness, and anger and bitterness, and insults, and all these different things. It’s like, take a step back, and consider the source. And what does this mean to your life right now?
You know, I talked… I don’t even want to talk politics to people anymore, because they just they get so angry and they’re so pointed… I go, where you getting that information? On TV
It’s like well…
Mark: Consider your source.
Scott: Consider your source. So I’m really trying to encourage people. It’s like if I meet somebody in a grocery store, and it’s like “how are you today?” and they go “I’m great.” then I go “it’s a choice, isn’t it?” They go “it is. It’s a choice.”
Mark: I totally, 100%, agree. People are so wrapped up in what other people think about them. and one of the sayings that I love and I can’t remember where I heard this but I came from someone wise probably like the Dalai Lama said if someone hands you something like a gift or it could be something evil or mean and you choose not to accept it to whom does it belong? Right?
It’s like a Koan. To whom does it belong? So if you just don’t accept the bullshit… Don’t accept someone’s criticism, then they’re left with it, right? not only that, but they’re left with it two times, because if you give someone something negative it leaves a carbon copy on you right? So that individual has the negativity of the thought and the negativity of what they’re gonna hand to you, but now he’s got to keep both. Or she’s got a keep both.
So just consider that. They’re only hurting themselves.
Scott: And it’s so true. And we all meet angry people every single day and we don’t know the source of their anger. We don’t know… we don’t understand kind of what put him in that place. But, you know, joy is so much better and my wife said this in an interview I guess a couple years ago. She said “joy isn’t the lack of fear and suffering. It’s how you go through it.”
And it’s amazing the power in that and I love that I mean she just gets it. I mean if she’s gonna be married to me, there’s gonna be a little bit of both, you know. Or maybe some heaping helpings of both.
But you know, it’s just that’s the way we do it. it’s like no “I have breath in my lungs.” you know and when you were saying you know it’s like what are our conditions… it’s like well I have a really crazy friend in California and he’s always coming up with these funny things and I use this a lot in my speeches too where he says, “okay, personal ad.”
And I go “yeah?”
And he goes you’ve got to write your own personal ad and be 100% honest.”
And I go “okay.” and so mine would be short, bald, half-neutered, chemoed, radiated, retired male figure skater of unknown ethnic origin seeks a beautiful intelligent women for long walks, laughter and interest in my hobby for collecting life-threatening illness. I go, “that’s a personal ad right there” who wouldn’t jump at that?
Mark: (laughing) That’s awesome. Who wouldn’t jump at that?
Scott: But it’s like that. I can look at all those things and say that’s who I am. Or I can look at all those things and say, “yes that’s who I am. That’s fine.”
I wouldn’t trade any of it. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else. And if we can get to that point where we wouldn’t want to be anyone else, hey, that’s pretty strong.
Mark: That is pretty strong. Wow.
Mark: We haven’t even talked about winning. But I guess we have.
Scott: Well the whole idea of “Finish First” is, you know, when I see people now. And they struggle. They struggle with keeping a job, or keeping focus, or they think that competition is evil and bad and rotten.
I believe the opposite. I think competition is good for us. It gives us feedback. I think that competition for the person that doesn’t win is especially beneficial, because now they see what it takes in order to be more successful.
Mark: Right. They learn how to deal with failure
Scott: Exactly. And we’re going to fail. We’re going to get knocked down. Failure is an amazing thing because if you look at failure not as some disfiguring event in your life but as honestly only….
Mark: Character building.
Scott: Well, no, it’s information. That’s all it is. If we can’t look at failure as information.
Like my son when he first started playing hockey, he played a couple of games and they got killed both games and you know I thought I was gonna have to put a cervical collar on him because he was rubbernecking the whole time. Looking for the puck.
They lost. Bad. And he got in the car and he was almost crying and he goes, “I hate this.” I go “you hate hockey?”
And he goes, “no, I hate losing like this.”
And I go “well, I get that. Let’s talk about it. What did you learn today in the game? What do you need to work on in order to be a winning hockey player?”
And he goes “well I want to skate faster and better.” and I go “good.”
and he goes “and I need to work on my stick handling because they took the puck away from me every time” I go “good and what else?”
And then I saw him get a little twinkle in his eye and he said “and I want to be able to throw the puck up into that corner of the net where the goalie can’t get it.”
And he started to smile a little bit and I go “wow buddy. That’s awesome. Good. that’s strong.” and he looked at me and he was still upset a little bit, but you know and I go, “what would you have learned today if you’d won?” and he looked at me like “is this a trick question? You wouldn’t have learned anything. How are you gonna get better if you win all the time?
You don’t. You only get better if you’re challenged. You only get better if you lose and you get the feedback from losing. And I spent a lot of time on my rear end. I spent a lot of time on looking up at everyone else accepting trophies and medals and awards. I looked at a lot of those things and I didn’t think it would be me.
Until I met the right mentor coach who basically said “here’s how you do it. Here’s the process.” I mean, it’s everywhere you look you know you’ve got books that you know tell you how to be important in business and you tell you know…
But in “Finish First” we purely talk about what it takes to be competitive in life, in school, in business, in sports and how you can process what you need in order to be successful. And it really looks at it in a way that I haven’t seen it in other books and I’m really proud of it. Because when you break it down, it’s a pretty simple process. It’s biblical. It’s business. It’s sports. It’s life. It’s our every condition, you know.
And I really love that young people enjoy it. And I really love that senior citizens write me these thank-you letters saying “you’ve given me permission to get off the couch.”
Scott: And that’s it. As long as we have life in us, we need to be doing stuff. And you know if we spend a little time in the couch that’s great, but that should be our identity.
I met a little girl at the Olympics in Pyeongchang and the venue manager of the figure skating venue and I got to be really good friends. Just a great guy. And he said “I want you to talk to my staff” and I go “why?”
And he goes “because culturally we’re struggling in South Korea with identity.” And I go “all right.”
So I gave my little talk and a girl came up to me at the end. She was probably college-age. And she goes “I don’t understand what you’re talking about today.”
And I go “in what way?”
And she said “purpose. What do you mean by purpose?”
And I go “well we all have a set of skills and a set of things that we like naturally and that we’re naturally good at. That we can leverage into really creating a wonderful passion for life.”
And she just said “I don’t… I’m not good at anything.” and it was said in a way that I could tell that something that’s been told her a thousand times.
And I go “what brings you joy? What do you like to do?”
And she said, “I love to read.
And I go “what were the last two books you read?”
And she said “Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights”
And I go “ha, you love the classics.”
And she put a big smile on her face, and she goes “I do.”
And I looked at her and I go “maybe you’re an author.” and I wish I would have taken a picture of her, because the look at her eye was that a pure recognition. Like, I’d love that. I would love that.
Mark: First person to do that.
Scott: But we tend not to do that.
Mark: Right. Exactly.
Scott: Right. So we don’t know until you know we just sort of break it down and try to figure it out and that’s what “Finish First” does and winning changes everything. That’s kind of a subtitle of the book, and I totally believe that. Because once we get into a winning mindset it actually shows up in every aspect of our lives. And every win creates five more opportunities and those five more wins create 25 more opportunities and so on.
So I really want to get people off the treadmill of pessimism, and anger, and division. And really get people on a path to victory and a path to understanding that there’s more inside of them than they’ve ever given themselves permission to recognize. And that’s kind of what the Finish First kind of movement…
Mark: How do you define winning in the book? Because winning will mean different things to different people. It’s not always standing on the podium with a gold medal, right?
Scott: Well, it’s basically that you set a course and you are victorious or you’re winning in each… like, showing up is a victory. Getting through an entire day of training, or work, or school is a victory. Getting an A where you could have gotten a B is a victory. and when you get A’s in a class where your teacher knows you should have maybe gotten a B… my goodness, the next time you go around you know and you’re maybe right on that cusp of an A you’re going to get it because they believe in you and they know that you’re capable of doing it.
So there’s all these things of its personal it’s yours to figure out, but putting yourself on a positive path toward a goal, toward improving your life and day to day that’s finishing first. That’s the idea today I did this and I did this and I did this. I win. I win.
And I look back on my skating career… I have one quick story to tell you that’s really… when I would meet people you know they’d say “you’re a skater?”
And I go “yeah”
And they go—you know guys—I don’t I don’t watch. I’m a football guy. I’m a macho… I watch MMA fighting and I don’t watch figure skating. And I’d look in the audience when I was just starting my professional career, and I’d see these guys sitting next to their wives and their wives are looking around the ice and getting really excited. and the husband’s looking at his watch and looking around praying that there’s none of his friends in the audience finding out that he’s at an ice skating show on date night.
So I figured if I could find a way to get those guys on their feet, then I could skate for as long as I wanted. Because there was no career path for me when I turned pro. The president of Ice Capades told me that it was a good thing I won the Olympic gold medal, because I’m too short to be in the chorus line. So, I mean, there was that and so I figured “I gotta figure out a way to make skating accessible to everyone and to get make it okay for men and get them on their feet.”
And once I did that, my goodness, I ran out of milk in the cow. That cow was milked dry. I had nothing left when I decided 20 years later to retire.
And so that’s it. It’s like, you know, I tell my kids all the time “what’s the greatest strength” and they look at me and they recite it “a lack of weakness.” find out where you’re weak, and get strong right. It’ll change everything.
Mark: Do you see more and more boys being attracted to skating?
Scott: We’re working on it. I think most of that is role modeling, you know. And it’s that role modeling, you know half of it is for the kid or most of it’s for the kid. And the rest of it’s for the parents. They want to know that their kid’s gonna get into an activity that’s healthy. Where they’re gonna get the right kind of inspiration. Feedback. Result.
So having a skating Academy, we’ve got five young guys that are all into figure skating. And we start out a lot of our hockey players in figure skates. Just because it’s easier to progress faster.
But if we can make—and we are—make figure skating cool in Nashville. we’re gonna have a lot of guys, because our numbers in our skating Academy are so huge that just by numbers we’re gonna have people going into competitive skating. Going into high-level elite hockey. Going into whatever their passions are.
And we really want to have an infrastructure there that feeds that in every way shape and form.
Mark: That’s terrific. Yeah, we need to wrap up pretty soon. But there’s so many cool things to talk about. But I think one of the reasons that you know guys aren’t drawn to skating is because it’s freaking hard. I mean you got to eat a lot of humble pie.
I grew up in Lake Placid… I know you’re familiar with the history…
Scott: Yeah. I’m in the Lake Placid Hall of Fame.
Mark: (laughing) That’s awesome. Yeah and I’ve been on skates on that rink in there. And I’ve been on skates on the ice on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid. And I’m on my ass or on my face most of the time when I do that, you know? I just… I’m horrible, but I love it.
Scott: I can help you with that.
Mark: (laughing) Let’s plan it. I need a lot of help. But it’s so much easier you know to go out and run around a field and catch a ball, because you’re not slip-sliding around then it’s a little tiny thin blade you know I mean?
Anyways, I really honor what you’re doing. I think skating is an incredible sport. I think what you’ve done in your sport is awesome, and it seems like you’re just getting warmed up with your academy. What’s your Academy called by the way?
Scott: The Scott Hamilton Skating Academy. I do it as a volunteer with the Nashville Predators and they’re an amazing organization to work with and for. They’re just awesome and you know they’ve given me kind of carte blanche on anything I want to do, with the Academy. And we’ve been able to hire the best people and create a Learn to Skate like no other in the US.
So it’s exciting. We’re growing. We’re a top ten Learn to Skate in the United States, which is incredible when you think of how many rinks there are. That in four years we went from zero to top ten. We’re number one in the south. And when we open our next facility on the other side of town—we’re on the east side of town now—they’re building another one on the west side of town. When we open those doors, we’re going to continue to grow and I can imagine that that Learn to Skate will be at capacity year one.
Mark: Mm-hmm. We’re doing some work now… we have a year-long contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. So I think there’s a future for us with Unbeatable Mind in the ice hockey arena. Which would be kind of exciting. Build some winners. and will be neat some intersection they’re like maybe some speaking engagement for you with the Flyers or something like that or some of these…
So we need to stay in touch is what I’m saying
Scott: Yeah, definitely. You know how to get in touch with me. And, you know, I look at… as a society and as you know our foundation is so strong. And what we’re capable of doing…
Mark: So true.
Scott: And so much of it is just choice.
Mark: Are you optimistic about the future and do you have a…? What’s your vision for the future? Is it abundant or not so depending upon…? Most people are so—like you said—there’s so much fear, there’s so much angst right now at a societal and a global level that it’s hard for people to find optimism.
Scott: Well for me it’s like once you kind of understand you know what you know and the more I understand honestly Jesus there is no fail. I mean, that’s the good news. Is we’re going to be fine no matter what.
And I look at people are good. Everyone I meet, people are good. They want love. They want validation. They want opportunity. And when they’re denied any of those they suffer and they struggle. And I see it, and I think that’s the greatest crime in our country is that we’ve allowed for people that have those feelings of they’re unloved, they’re not good at anything, and they’re being denied opportunity. and that’s the biggest problem in our culture is once you kind of inject that optimism that hopefulness in people’s upend that you can do this, and you can be successful and it just takes this.
Who knows? Maybe self-healing could take place. And in that people are looking to be inspired at every turn.
So I’m optimistic. I’m very optimistic. I haven’t met anyone yet that doesn’t want to be loved, that doesn’t want to have opportunity. And that really just wants the best of lives. It’s just where we get our information as parents we have a huge responsibility to inject positivity into our children, and to know that you’re on their side unconditionally. And we try to do that.
Mark: Awesome. Well terrific. So your book “Finish First: Winning Changes Everything.” I’m sure it’s available everywhere, but do you have a website that people could go to learn about you?
Scott: Yeah. It’s scotthamilton.com.
Mark: okay. That’s easy enough.
All right folks. Scott, thanks so much. It’s been amazing. I really hope I get to meet you in person soon.
Scott: We’ll make it happen.
Mark: Teach me how to stand up on a pair of skates.
Scott: That’s easy. I worked with a six foot five, 55 year old guy. Never set foot on skates before, and I got him through a half an hour of skating. And he was like “oh man, I could do this every day.” And I was like, “there you go. That’s the stuff.”
Mark: There you go. All right, I’m gonna find a way to skate with Scott. That’s going to be on my list. I’m putting it down right now.
All right. Well thanks again for your time.
Folks, Scott Hamilton. Check out scotthamilton.com. Get the book and this sounds terrific. I’m gonna read it myself. I can’t wait. “Finish First: Winning Changes Everything.” some amazing, amazing lessons here for life, for parenting, for the power of competition to kind of unlock your growth and overcoming failure by changing your relationship to it. As an information source and a way to learn about yourself and face your fears. So much great stuff I can’t wait to relisten to this podcast I didn’t get to listen to it cause I was talking half the time.
But anyway, Scott good luck with everything. And good luck for the book. And good luck with yeah… just do keep doing your doing.
Scott: thank you so much. Well I’ve been blessed and thank you this was a fun conversation. I really enjoyed it.
Mark: it sure was and I’m gonna send you an email and I’ll send you a couple my books. You might enjoy those.
Scott: awesome thank you so much. Thank you.
Mark: and I’ll hook you up with Connor Young from Ample as well.
Scott: Yeah, I wrote it down. Yeah, that’s really cool. I’ve been doing Factor 75.
Mark: All right, yeah.
Scott: They do some keto, some paleo, some other organic… you know they really are pure keto so I’m kind of like struggling with that…
Mark: That’s the main service yeah, yeah. The Ample I look at as an insurance policy. Every morning it’s got probiotics, prebiotics. It’s got all the nutritional needs. 600 calories you know, mostly fat and protein, but then you’re really good carbs also from amazing sources. So that’s my meal until I get hungry later in the day. So you can use it for intermittent fasting or for your daily kind of insurance policy. It’s awesome.
Scott: That’s awesome. Great.
Mark: All right folks. Thanks again for tuning in to Mark Divine’s Unbeatable Mind podcast. Like I said at the beginning the show—super humbled that you are paying attention. We talk about some important things when important people and Scott Hamilton’s one of them. Doing the right thing. Helping change people’s mindset.
And please support him.
And thank you for your support.