The Opportunity Almost Missed

The interim principal grabbed my arm just as I was about to walk out the front door of my high school.

“If you break your leg, we’re both going to be in a lot of trouble.”

With that, I started my holiday break early and headed to Colorado for a two week “college visit.” More precisely, a one-day visit to the University of Colorado in Boulder and the rest of the time skiing with friends.

Two weeks later and no broken bones, college decision made — Boulder it would be.

With the new quest of packing up my life, I returned home to the Washington, DC area where there was an empty space in the yard where my racing canoe once sat. No, it wasn’t stolen. I had sold it just before I went to Colorado. Since Boulder was not conducive to high level canoe training, I didn’t see much future in competitive canoeing.


It was upon my return that a DC friend reached out to me with an offer. “Before you give up canoeing, why don’t you use my second boat and come to the workouts?”

I had a decision to make. Extended lunch breaks, sleep in a bit later, and the promise of a normal college life far from home sounded pretty sweet.

Or, dismiss the second-semester high school senior experience to wake up early every morning in the dark of winter to paddle the freezing cold rapids of the Potomac River.

The decision was easy, especially since the offer to borrow a boat was extended to me by the two-time World Canoe Champion Jon Lugbill.

Jon was at the top of the sport and in the prime of his career. He was on his way to becoming one of the greatest canoeists of all time. To put this in perspective, when Jon Lugbill showed up to a practice session or race, anywhere in the world, people stopped what THEY were doing to watch what HE was doing. He was the most analyzed athlete in International Canoe Sport.

Jon was the person I had admired since I figured out this was going to be my sport.

His offer. His boat. The door he opened. How could I say no?

I paddled Jon’s boat and began to attend workouts.


Now that I was in his boat every day, I could feel what he was doing. I figured out elements to his technique that I never picked up while watching from the shore.

Such as the seat positioning and contact points between the boat and lower parts of my body.

I processed how a World Champion engineered his technique. I began to understand how much engineering of my own technique lay ahead of me.

Cold morning after cold morning, I showed up.

Slowly, I settled into this new awareness and training routine.
Slowly, I traded the easier path for a harder one.
Slowly, I allowed the security of a collegiate career in Boulder to slip away into…


Within a month of paddling Jon’s canoe, my coach suggested I try the doubles canoe with another athlete who recently had moved to town. We tried the doubles canoe and enjoyed it. Jon was one of our earliest supporters. “You guys look pretty good.” Not a bad comment to hear from a World Champion.

Within a few months, my canoe partner, Scott Strausbaugh, and I were on the start line of the World Championships in France. And then, together at the start line of six more seasons of racing which culminated with a Gold Medal win at the 1992 Olympic Games.

On the surface, it might appear that there were a number of fortuitous opportunities that led to this incredible sequence of events. But, I suspect for some of you, there is a fortuitous opportunity before you right now. Perhaps you are hesitant because it commits you to the path of more resistance.

Yes, it’s the harder path. And the one that haunts you for not trying.

With gratitude,


Hi, I’m Joe. I teach my clients the advanced techniques necessary to reveal talents which have been set to idle due to external and internal distractions.

I, then, transfer my Olympic Gold Medal performance strategies that streamline decision making and actions when engaged in complicated life currents with an aim towards the freedom of playing your own game.

*New Program* My new “Gold Medal Mastermind” starts soon. Every week for the next 5 months, join Ever Gonzalez, Founder of OutlierHQ, and me for a live interactive hour-long meeting that moves your ideas into action. Click HERE to learn more!



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Joe Jacobi

Olympic Gold Medalist, Performance Coach, & Author helping leaders & teams perform their best without compromising their lives.