What I learnt from Caroline Buchanan
Can you imagine being an 8 times World Champion and still continuing to chase more. I introduce Caroline Buchanan, one of Australia’s leading athletes who has won 8 titles across BMX and Mountain Biking.
A passion grew from a young age, where she was mentored by one of Australia’s greatest ever athletes in seven times World Surfing Champion Layne Beachley. Layne challenged a young Caroline to beat her accomplishments and in the process Caroline became an 8 times World Champion and at 27 looks to be be destined for more on the way.
For all the success, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing though; her family house in Canberra was burnt down and when she was a child her brother suffered serious injuries with doctors at the time fearing he would be a paraplegic.
There was also the two epic fails as she puts it at the Olympic Games in London 2012 and Rio 2016. However sometimes misfortune and failure can burn desire, with Caroline bouncing back hard and looking forward to the challenges of a third Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020.
1. Importance of a Strong Inner Circle
“They are the ones who constantly keep you on track, when you don’t know what to do or are being your own worst enemy, they’re the ones to give you that slap around and point you in the direction you really want and tell you what you need to hear”
We all need strong influences for both the good and bad times. From personal experience and from speaking to hundreds of high performers from a variety of fields many times it comes to the people we surround ourselves with which influences our growth and accountability.
2. Ask yourself the Hard Questions
“Be real with yourself by asking yourself the hardest questions, have you really put in 100% today, have you been eating right, sleeping right, you have to be truthful with yourself”
We can all be guilty at times of pretending we have put in the hard yards when in reality we really haven’t done the work. The ability to be truthful with yourself instead of blaming others for being where you are or not being where you want to be. If you’re constantly piggy backing off others efforts or making others do your work it will come back to bite you.
As Caroline shows strength arrives by asking yourself the tough questions and this can be applied across any profession. You don’t have to be a sporting world champ, but be the best receptionist, doctor, bus driver, personal trainer or any job you can be. Are you punctual, first through the door, asking your boss for extra tasks, doing that extra training or video session? Only you know the truth but it starts with asking yourself the hard question.
3. Learn from Failures and Setbacks
“My most successful years have been the year after the Olympic Games where you learn from those mistakes, failures and hard times and build upon it. I wouldn’t be an 8 times World Champion now without what happened at those two Olympic Games. Every time it’s lit that fire and that’s very important in a long career I’ve been racing BMX since I was 5”
Failure can be tough but our ability to bounce back is what defines us. So many times we quit when we were right there. Use the set back to analyse what went wrong and how we can use that as a motivation for next time and to create the plan for how we can get back on track towards our goals.
4. Control your Risk Tolerance and Balance
“If I had an event in the past I was like I’m not going to do that, I might get injured, now I’m like I’m going to jump the Nitro circus mega ramp. Yes, there is risk, I’m racing next weekend, I’m mid season but alright where doing it, let’s live the ride. Everything worked out and it was fine, I didn’t have any injuries this year, had my most hectic season, almost won a BMX world title, it was a photo finish. But having more balance and not being consumed by my sports and not being my absolute world is the direction I’m going in. You definitely perform better as an athlete when your natural performer can come out and for me that natural performer comes out when I have that balance and have that opportunity to have that mongrel and fight”
We all can look back and see we at times we take things too seriously. But that ability to find that happy balance and be able to take a risk and have fun with it, while not an easy task can become incredibly powerful. Look at ways to find balance and get out of the comfort zone.
5. Grow Every Day
“I had some really good mentors like Tim Chat. I said to him what’s it going to take to be where I want to be. He said doing small things daily and as the industry evolves, evolve with it. I found some old email and we had a laugh. The tasks were you’re going to add 200 people on LinkedIn, your tasks tomorrow we are going to learn to write a proper email, next day learn to use Photoshop. I thought at the time that was what everyone was doing but they weren’t but that was the foundation that built and made me who I am today. It’s what athletes are doing outside of the sport, the management and agencies they are working with. How creative they are being to be a standout and to be a brand. It’s 50/50 you have to perform on the bike but off it as well. Some have evolved with things like social media, video branding and understanding how they can come under sponsorship and marketing budgets. That’s one thing I’ve embraced and been able to keep evolving, that’s why I race kids bikes for a living”
The old saying Rome wasn’t built in a day couldn’t be more true. What you start today and build everyday think about what that might look like in a year’s time. The key is consistency and continuing to grow, make the sacrifice and dedication to do that little bit every day. If it’s going to be doing something for seven days then not another effort for a month, rethink what you’re doing. Every day growth builds dreams and will instil you with some incredible skills you never knew you would have.
6. Importance of Mentoring
“One of my biggest mentors Layne Beachley was a 7 times World Champion and she basically said you’re going to win more world titles than me. She believed in me and I sat there and said no way in the world you’re an absolute legend, I haven’t won one yet. I set a goal for myself with the 2 different sports of BMX and Mountain Bike. 2 World Championships every year give our take, and then I should be able to win 8 in 8 years. This took me to this year and I managed to win my 8th one in 8 years”
Mentors are a huge part of success not only the passing down of valuable information but that ability to believe in someone and support them on the journey. Caroline was fortunate to be mentored by one of the greatest athletes of our generation but it doesn’t finish there. That trust, support and knowledge she received was then important for her to pass on to someone else.
“I started Buchanan Next Gen; it’s a girl’s team. It started off just wanting to help these girls be competitive at the next level. I sold my helmet from the Olympics and World Title Jerseys and ended up raising $10,000 and got 2 girls to the World Champs. Then I restructured it to a scholarship program and these girls who are 14 or 15 at that crucial point when I meet Layne Beachley who believed in me. I have chosen that same age group to give an opportunity to those girls. I don’t feel it’s an obligation, but it gives me a lot of energy. I’ve been fortunate to have people like Layne believe in me, so if I can even be that 1% that helps these girls & boys believe in themselves it’s nice”
For all her success you can vision Caroline still achieving even more both on and off the track. The chat was a unique opportunity to pick the brain of one of the best in the world. Don't try to be Caroline but see if some of her core values fits with you and can be incorporated into your own detail routines.
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Away from the track she is engaged to America Barry Nobles also a professional BMX rider, competitiveness between them seeing daily sessions on their purposely built track in their back yard in California as they push each other to achieve on the World stage.
With BMX not a sport huge on prize money, Caroline realised early on the importance of creating opportunity away from the track. She has built a significant online following on the back of engaging content across a TV series, training & competition video highlights, giving back through Buchanan Next Gen and partnering with sponsors and agencies that connect with her values.
My conversation with Caroline had some great takeaways that perfectly illustrate why she has been so successful both on and off the track.
Here are the six takeaways that got me thinking: