Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday

Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday

by Apolo Ohno


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Gold medal-winning Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno shares the inspiring personal story behind his enduring success as an elite athlete and reveals the universal life lessons he has learned through his training and competition.

“Zero regrets. It’s a philosophy not just about sport but about life. School, business, academics, love—anything and everything. It’s complicated and yet not. You have to figure out who it is you want to be. Not what you want to be—who. There has to be a vision, a dream, a plan. Then you chase that with everything you’ve got.”

Over three consecutive Olympic games, Apolo Ohno has come to symbolize the very best of the competitive spirit—remaining equally gracious in victory and defeat, always striving to improve his performance, and appreciating the value of the hard work of training as much as any reward it might bring. In Zero Regrets, Apolo shares the inspiring personal story behind his remarkable success, as well as the hard-won truths and strategies he has discovered in good times and bad.

Raised by his single father, an immigrant from Japan who often worked twelve-hour days, the young Apolo found it difficult to balance his enormous natural gifts as an athlete with an admittedly wild, rebellious streak. After making a name for himself as a promising young speed skater, his career was almost over before it began when his lack of preparation caused him to finish last at the U.S. Olympic trials in 1998. A life-changing week of solitary soul-searching at the age of fifteen led him to recommit himself to his training, and at the 1999 world junior championships he won first place overall—one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports history. From that moment on, the world of speed skating had a new champion and Apolo was on his way to legendary status.

Much more than an account of races won and lost, Zero Regrets is a compelling portrait of a father-and-son relationship that deepened over time and was based on respect, love, and unshakable faith in each other. For the first time, Apolo reveals what he knows about his long-absent mother; he makes us feel what it is like to face the best competitors on the planet with the eyes of millions of fans upon you; and he shares his secrets for achieving total focus and mental toughness, secrets that can be applied in situations well beyond sports. We learn the details of the unbelievably intense workout and diet that he endured while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics, a regime that literally reshaped his body and led to some of his most thrilling victories.

In this deeply personal and entertaining book, Apolo shows how we can all come closer to living with zero regrets. While Apolo’s own journey may be unique, the insights he has gleaned along the way have the power to help us all feel like champions every day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451609073
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 08/16/2011
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 415,740
Product dimensions: 5.66(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

Apolo Ohno is the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Read an Excerpt


I am my father’s son.

Because that is so, I am also very much my own man. My path in life is my own.

But it is because of my dad, Yuki, that I could find my way in the first instance and keep going at those moments when I faltered. And thus it is not the successes I have had—on and off the ice, at the Olympic Games and beyond—that I most appreciate.

It is the journey.

A journey I have undertaken in concert, if not always in perfect harmony, with my father and with the many others who have helped shape and guide me; a journey I have undertaken carrying this in my heart and my soul:

Zero regrets.

The late, great basketball coach John Wooden used to say, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of.”

Zero regrets.

It’s a philosophy not just about sport but also about life. School, business, academics, love—anything and everything.

Zero regrets.

Life is about making the most of it. While we can. Because we can.

It’s complicated and yet not. You have to figure out who it is you want to be. Not what you want to be—who. There has to be a vision, a dream, a plan. Then you chase that with everything you’ve got. That means you have to put in the work, the practice, the training. There aren’t any shortcuts. If you want something, you have to be 100 percent clear in how you plan to get it. You have to be relentless in your pursuit.

I didn’t ever want to be complacent. I didn’t want to think back about my day and think, Yes, Apolo, that was good enough. So this is what I would say to myself when I would lie down in bed at night: Zero regrets. I would think it, and I would even say it out loud to myself. This is what I would say to myself when I was hammering out miles on the treadmill: No regrets. Sometimes inside my head, sometimes out loud. This is what I would say when I was in the weight room: Absolutely zero regrets.

I knew to a certainty that if I pushed myself too hard on the treadmill, I would suffer the next day. Maybe I would be almost too tired on the ice. So I would say to myself, too: Forget about tomorrow. What if today were the last day of training you could be remembered for? What if this particular interval that I was doing on the treadmill right now—right now!—was the last one I would be remembered for? That’s how I trained. That’s how I approached it.

This path in the pursuit of victory within the Olympic Games was one that I took on occasion to the utmost extreme. This path was not mine alone; over the years, many people reached out and lent their expertise and their knowledge, eager to help me be my best. With a nod to such unbelievable support, I nonetheless decided to take a singular path in preparing for the 2010 Vancouver Games, one that was lonely, one that was hard, one that most would shy away from, one that came laden with unreal expectations. Simply put, I needed to keep myself in a bubble. I wanted to create a very simple environment in which only a few key people were around me most of the day and for weeks at a time. From this place, I was able to confront my insecurities. I could smile as I confronted fear, my confidence building in my ability to do what I was trying to accomplish.

In the past, I may have faltered, taken a misstep, taken a step back. For me, this time around, that was not an option. I was attempting to be stronger than I thought possible. Such strength did not come from my physical self; it started within the depths of my mind. That severe shift in your mental approach—the “shift of mechanism”—was so incredibly important in creating victory, regardless of whether I would end up standing on the podium or not. The path or road less traveled is often one that is filled with the most reward and joy. I lived—I live—for the moment.

When I am asked now to speak at businesses, when I speak to the chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies, what’s on the table is inspiration: how to get it, find it, keep it, to take that particular company to the next level. When I’m told, for instance, “We’re looking to take our skill set to the next level,” I like to say, “We all want something. Have you clearly outlined what it is? Do you have a clear understanding of how to direct your focus and get there?” It doesn’t need to be a complete plan in every detail—but the more clear you are about exactly what you want and the better definition you have of what it’s going to take to get to that point and beyond, the more likely those things are to come to fruition.

They say the more you think with particularity about things, the more you acknowledge the wanting of a specific thing, the more you articulate that out loud, then the more likely it is to come true. There is great truth in that. It takes a really clear understanding of how to reach a point and what it’s going to take to get there.

Ultimately, you test yourself. It’s race day. Or whatever the context: it’s a test if you’re at school, a big presentation if you’re in the business world. Whatever that context, you put yourself to the test.

Winning does not always mean coming in first. Second or third, even fourth—they are wins, too, no matter what anyone says. Real victory is in arriving at the finish line with no regrets. You go all out. And then you accept the consequences.

That’s what makes a champion—in sports, in business, in life, in your relationships with family and friends. You go with heart, with excitement and enthusiasm, with soul.

This is just some of what I have learned from my father—what he taught me and then what I have learned by and for myself. My father instilled in me passion, purpose, and pride. And, as well, dedication, discipline, and drive. I made those values mine. Along the way, I won eight Olympic medals. That makes me, they say, the most decorated American in Winter Games history.


It’s especially humbling when you consider how it all started. My dad came to the United States with no money. He spoke no English. He had three cameras around his neck—one Canon and two Nikons—figuring that if times got really, really tough, he could sell them and have maybe enough money to eat. He made his way to Seattle. There he worked as a janitor, as a dishwasher. He thought he wanted to become an accountant and instead became a hairstylist. He raised me by himself. When I was young, he tried most of all just to keep me busy—swimming, singing, skating. Anything just to tire me out.

When I was eleven, we watched the 1994 Winter Olympics together on television. Those were the Olympics from Lillehammer, Norway, the Games most people remember for the Tonya-and-Nancy show. Not in our house. Short-track speed skating—now, that was cool. To me, the skaters looked like action superheroes.

I tried it. I liked it. My dad drove me around Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, to Vancouver. I got better. I got noticed. When I was just fourteen, I was invited to train with a junior national team developmental program all the way across the country in Lake Placid, New York. I didn’t want to go. In fact, I didn’t go. And then I did. Because my dad showed me what trust, what courage, and what love are all about. Here, he understood, was an extraordinary opportunity, and when opportunity like that comes around, you have to go for it.

Otherwise, what are you left looking at? Regret.

In Lake Placid, I got good—really good. It seemed like I was a lock for the 1998 Olympics. Except I bombed out. And then my dad showed me what it’s like to have faith in someone. Genuine, profound, life-changing faith. Through one risky, extraordinary act, he gave me—and then I seized—a second chance.

This is how and where my journey really took off. From there, I have lived so much that has played out on the public stage—in three different Olympic Games, the chaotic silver and the gold that sparked so much controversy in Salt Lake City in 2002, the seemingly “perfect” race in Torino in 2006, the four-for-four medals count in Vancouver in 2010 that became three-for-four when I was disqualified in the 500-meter sprint just moments after it appeared I had won what would have been an eighth medal.

I have eight. That’s short-track. No regrets.

In Salt Lake, for instance, coming around the final turn of the 1000 meters, it looked like the race was mine. I was ahead, sprinting for the finish line; here was my first Olympic medal, and it was going to be gold. But in a flash, that gold was gone, four of the five of us in the race down on the ice in what might be the most freakish short-track accident that has ever occurred or ever will occur. There was only one guy left upright, Steve Bradbury of Australia, who had been at least 30 meters behind the rest of the pack; while the rest of us were trying to pick ourselves up, he sailed through and across the line to win the gold medal.

Not for one second—not then, not now, and not ever—have I ever been anything but satisfied, completely satisfied, with that race and how it all turned out.

How is that possible? Because this race turned out just the way it obviously was supposed to happen. It didn’t matter then and doesn’t matter now that I might have been the fastest guy, the strongest guy, the best guy in that race. It didn’t matter and doesn’t matter that I got tripped up and that I went crashing into the pads on the side of the rink through no fault of my own. It wouldn’t have solved anything to look around and wonder who had caused the crash and start playing the blame game.

The first thing to do was to get myself together and get across the line—to win silver.

I did that, got my blade across the line, won the silver medal.

The way I finished proves that nothing is ever over until it is, in fact, over. It turned out that I had sliced one of my thighs open in the crash. But it never occurred to me to do anything but get stitched up as fast as possible and get out to the podium so I could accept my silver medal with a genuine smile. The world was watching, kids especially were watching, and it is so important to handle yourself—no matter the situation—with class and with grace. It is more important to be a champion off the field than on; that’s what resonates with me.

That night, and continuing over the years since, some people have said to me, “Do you feel bad you didn’t win?” The answer, then and now, is no, I don’t feel bad. I feel great. I went to the Winter Olympics; I represented my country, my team, and my family to the best of my ability. There were three medals, and I won one.

I won silver, and I was thrilled about it.

In thinking about this book, what I wanted it to be and what I wanted to express, I was clear that I did not—repeat, not—want it to be merely an autobiographical recount of those medals with a healthy dash of my winning turn on Dancing with the Stars thrown in for good measure. Nor did I want it to be about my personal life and, in particular, women I’ve dated or perhaps who wanted to date me.

I did not want to write a book out of some sense of self-indulgence, or perfectionism, or self-adoration. No. Instead, I simply wanted to make plain what I have learned along my path in the hope that my journey would encourage others to strive for what is needed, to reach for the unreachable, to recognize that everyone makes mistakes but the point is to bounce back stronger.

What I’ve accomplished, and how I got there—sure, those experiences matter.

But they matter not as evidence of what I have done. Instead, they matter as points of reference along the way, experiences that have helped mold and shape me on my personal journey to become who it is I am destined to be. They are signposts of obstacles encountered, challenges confronted, and lessons learned.

Every single one of us has a path to travel. Everything happens for a reason. This I believe. Not to sound preachy or religious, but I profoundly believe God has a plan for me.

I was blessed with certain gifts. Those gifts have put me in a position where I might inspire others I might touch along the way—and they, in turn, can help illuminate my path.

To those who thus might suggest that athletes, especially Olympic athletes, are not role models, I say: I see it differently. We all need something and someone to believe in. We need to work hard and dream big dreams and chase those dreams with abandon, with zero regrets.

© 2010 Podium AAO, Inc.

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Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Kgmoneycash More than 1 year ago
Zero Regrets by Apolo Ohno is a fantastic book. The book relates great to any athletes who are trying to become something great. The major theme of the book is to pursue something that your passionate about, dedicated your self entirely to it, and then have zero regrets about what you did. Apolo makes it very clear that if you not going to do something 110 percent, why do it at all? That's where the "zero regrets" really comes from. I enjoyed reading this book the entire way through, as an athlete myself, and actually learned multiple things from it. The respect and gratitude Apolo shows for all of the people that helped make him who he is, and his father of course, is very remarkable. I recommend this book to anyone who has played a sport, or is playing one right now and is trying to be someone special. The book is not just about speed skating, its much more than that. Overall a great read!
TiggieCA More than 1 year ago
ZERO REGRETS: BE GREATER THAN YESTERDAY succeeds not merely as a compelling memoir, but as an inspiring motivational guide to mental and physical strength, personal and professional reward, through the pursuit of zero regrets. I loved reading it, particularly the love, respect, admiration, and gratitude Apolo has for his amazing dad, Yuki Ohno. Mr. Ohno himself is an inspiration, and we can all do well to learn from his wisdom, his constant and unconditional love, and unwavering support as Apolo's "hero, best friend, coach, mentor, Dad." Short track speed skating serves as the dramatic medium for Apolo's profound and powerful message; fraught with unforeseen challenges at every turn, seemingly insurmountable obstacles--and in Apolo's case, amazing recoveries and brilliant victories--short track is the perfect metaphor for life, and Apolo the perfect example of living with zero regrets. In the prologue, Apolo states: "I did not want to write a book out of some sense of self-indulgence, or perfectionism, or self-adoration. No. Instead, I simply wanted to make plain what I have learned along my path in the hope that my journey would encourage others to strive for what is needed, to reach for the unreachable, to recognize that everyone makes mistakes but the point is to bounce back stronger." Thank you, Apolo and Mr. Ohno, for sharing so much of yourselves and what you have learned, and encouraging us and inspiring us to be greater than yesterday in this moving, beautifully written book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i loved this boooooooooooook!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. It is written with such honesty, warmth and inspiration. I respect Apolo for all that his is. It is evident that Apolo is a very bright person with perserverance like no other. The relationship he has with his father is inspiring and touching. I have learned many lessons from this book that I can instill in my sons from a young age.
Girly28522 More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. Apolo does a wonderful job of opening up about his personal experiences and finding ways for the reader to relate to them as well. It is true that much of the first half of the book is comprised of stories that were discussed in Apolo's first book. However, I felt that the first book was more autobiographical in nature. In Zero Regrets, Apolo does go over details of his life that are already much publicized but he gets a lot more personal in his descriptions. He relates the stories from a different perspective and talks more openly and in depth about his emotions and how they had an effect on his choices and his career. I appreciated reading from this new perspective because not only does Apolo go into detail about the struggles he has faced but he also discusses how he was able to triumph over them and learn from his mistakes. I found Zero Regrets to be inspirational in reading how Apolo has succeeded despite the many low points he has encountered along the way. The book is also full of motivational quotes and tips that are simple and easy enough for us to apply in our own lives. For me, the book was very enlightening and it truly did motivate me to be the best version of myself that i could be. The personal experiences that Apolo shares with us allow us to learn what makes him such a great competitor, athlete, and person. I received the book in the midst of studying for my GRE exam and I was blessed that I did. Apolo's story and tips on mental clarity really helped me gain confidence and allowed me to put forth my best effort and trust in my abilities. I took my GRE's last week and I'm happy to say that with the inspiration from Apolo's book and using the techniques Apolo shares I was able to get just the score I needed for my applications. In fact I did better than I expected to. I will admit that half-way through the long exam I began to have doubts but using Apolo's advice I was able to stay on track and side-step these mental hurdles. And, I cant believe I'm admitting this but, on my way to the exam I began to feel the butterflies creep into my stomach and I started to get nervous/anxious about the test. I remembered what Apolo said about the yawning he does right before a race and how it relaxes him. I decided that if it worked for him I would give it a shot, I mean what did I have to lose other than a few seconds. To my surprise, it totally worked for me. After a minute or two I was calm, relaxed, focused and confident. Big thanks to Apolo for sharing with us his ups and downs and how we can learn and grow from our own experiences. Apolo's book has already made a difference in my life and I'm sure that it will have a positive affect on many more. I would definitely recommend this AMAZING book to anyone who is looking for ways to better themselves and truly be greater than yesterday. =)
TeamApolo More than 1 year ago
There's a reason I call myself TeamApolo @Twitter. It's not just because I like this guy, it's because I admire him. Apolo's book not only explains the sport of Short Track it explains how he came to this sport and what it has meant to him. He shares his doubts, insecurities, faults, and how he worked to overcome them and go on to become the most decorated American winter Olympian. That being said, you don't need to know anything about the sport because he explains it all so well. This isn't a book just about Short Track. It is so much more. Apolo has opened up on his personal life as well He shares the many problems facing his father while trying to raise a rebellious and talented child. I admire his father as well for not giving up but making his son choose his path and follow it with his whole heart This could have been a book written about all his wins, medals and accomplishments. Instead it is a warm and humble look at a young man who puts his father first and continues to acknowledge all those who have helped him throughout his life. I would recommend this book for all ages. It is most heartwarming and uplifting. I'll definitely read it again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been a fan of Apolo Ohno since the 2002 Olympics. I admit he first caught my eye because of his looks, but I became a fan for life due to the class and grace with which he conducted himself during those Games. Since then he has proven time and again what a great role model he is for all ages, on and off the ice. I had the honor of meeting him at one of his book signings and he is truly one of the nicest, most pleasant and genuine people I've ever met. If possible, I admire this amazing young man even more after reading this book. He writes from the heart about his early life, competitions, and yes, even a bit about "Dancing with the Stars." He talks about his all-too-human struggles with injuries, self-doubt, fear, and frustration, and how he overcame these challenges with the help of his friends, coaches, advisors, and his amazing father. He proves that it doesn't matter where you come from; anyone can chase their dreams and improve their lives. Make no mistake, this is no sleazy kiss-and-tell type memoir. If you're looking for gossip, you won't find it here. Instead you'll find motivation and advice that you can apply to any aspect of life. He has a way of raising your spirits through his words; you just feel good after reading this book. And I definitely recommend listening to the audio version; listening to his story in his own voice is quite the treat. He is a natural storyteller and very articulate. The microphone loves him as much as the camera does. I would give this book and its author more than five stars if possible.
Tanya80 More than 1 year ago
I just bought the book yesterday. I am on Chapter 5, but the book has me awed, amazed, and completely involved in the struggles Apolo had to face as a young teen. He had to choose at such a early time in his life what he wanted to do and give it 110%. I won't say more but to go and buy the book! It is great inspiration for anyone who thinks that where he or she may come from may halt where he or she can go or accomplish in life. If you want it, go get it!
Boudicca_and_me More than 1 year ago
Whether you like Apolo Ohno for his athletic abilities or his dancing abilities you can't help but admire this guy. This is a great read filled with insight and heart and the right amount of humor thrown in. I most enjoyed his journey though childhood, adolescence and manhood and the lessons he learned. Apolo's explanations of each of his Olympic experiences was wonderful and I found myself getting lost in each race. Anyone who saw him dance will remember how easy he made it look and he writes about the dances and weeks leading up to his trophy the same way he writes about his races. This book is written with not just men or women in mind but for all who strive to reach their greatest potential. I also think it's great that he acknowledges all the people who have helped him along the way. I'm definitely going to read it again.
ohheyitskendy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Apolo is such a fantastic person!! I really enjoyed reading his book and learning more about his amazing journey. The guy is very inspirational!! It makes me want to read it again, and again, and again, and again!!! Love you, Apolo!!!!!
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