Chattin’ with Noelle Pikus-Pace
“Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s skeleton time!” These are the words that may enter Noelle’s mind and heart as she plunges face-first down an ice mountain at speeds exceeding 80–90 miles an hour, her body inches away from certain death. Why would she do such a thing, you ask? Because it’s absolutely amazing and Noelle reaches a level of intense focus that eventually landed her a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Russia! Her story is so incredible, not because of her accomplishments but because of the journey and life lessons she learned along the way leading to those amazing results.
Noelle has also built a course that gives you all of her Olympic knowledge and experience to help you go from good to great in anything that you do. She normally charges thousands to train the top companies in the world, but she’s offering it to everyone through a course she created at an insanely low price. Get it here before the price goes up: Life Stacking Course by Noelle Pikus Pace
Noelle truly has the mindset of an Olympian and uses it in all aspects of her life, giving her the ability to accomplish anything. She and her husband, Janson, make goals every month and strive to achieve them one step at a time. This has helped them feel more alive and in the moment, keeping things feeling fresh. She currently offers an online course, helping others develop the mindset of an Olympian. She truly has been an amazing person to chat with. Enjoy!
Born on December 8th, 1982 (hence the suitably seasonal name), Noelle Pikus-Pace began her skeleton racing career in 2001. During that illustrious career, as well as winning the silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics as mentioned above, she also took part in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, became the women’s skeleton champion in the Skeleton World Cup for 2004–2005, and won an impressive five medals at the FIBT World Championships (an annual competition linked to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation).
Where It All Began
Noelle was born in Provo, Utah, the youngest of eight children. She was a dedicated scholar, a keen athlete even from her earliest days, and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which, she says, has given her strength to handle many different challenges that have come her way over her years of both competing and being a mother.
Speaking of being a mother, this is something that is extremely important to Noelle. She married Janson Pace in 2002, and in 2008 the couple had their first child, a daughter named Lacee. Traycen, a son, was born in 2011. Twins Payton and Makai were born in 2015. Sadly, in 2014 Noelle announced after winning her silver medal that she had suffered a miscarriage with her third child but that it was this loss that convinced her to go back to the skeleton and compete once more, even though she had officially retired.
The Sporting Life
It’s clear that the love of Noelle’s family is incredibly important to her, and it’s what drives her to do what she does. Whether that’s her parents, her siblings, her husband, or her children (or, more than likely, a combination of them all), there will always be someone there to support her and for her to work for. Perhaps it is this — as well as innate skill and plenty of hard work, of course — that has made Noelle such a well-renowned sportswoman.
It’s been a hard journey, though. Everything was going so well until October 19th, 2005. Before this date, Noelle had won the silver medal at the 2005 FIBT World Championships, and it was thought that she would go on to take part in the Turin Winter Olympics and come out with a high score, perhaps even a medal. Sadly, in a freak accident, Noelle was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and her hopes for this next event were shattered.
Noelle had been standing close to the finish line of the bobsleigh run when a four-man bobsleigh careered down the run. It would have been an impressive race, except for the fact that the team failed to brake at the finish line, and the bobsleigh crashed directly into Noelle and Lea Ann Parsley, her teammate. It was only luck (although it must not have felt that way at the time) that no one else was injured.
The accident shattered Noelle’s right leg, and although emergency surgery was performed, it wasn’t enough to completely fix the leg. She had to have a titanium rod inserted where the bone just wasn’t reparable. Amazingly, although she would have to miss Turin, it took just seven weeks for Noelle to get back to competing. She finished 20th at Igls in Austria.
In 2007–2008 Noelle took some time to have her first child and enjoy being a mother. But she was back in the 2008–2009 season, finishing fifth in the Skeleton World Cup in Winterberg, Germany.
Despite a number of comebacks, some more difficult than others, Noelle chose to retire for good in 2014. She had done everything she had wanted to do and a lot more, including winning an Olympic medal.
Noelle Pikus-Pace Podcast Transcription
Charan: Okay, we’re rolling. This podcast is live. It’s live, we are, we’re in it. It is so exciting. Guys, we’re going to have a little bit of a La Croix, if you will, before we get started. Oh yeah. Oh, that’s divine. They really should put more sugar in than that though.
Noelle: They should.
Charan: They really should-
Noelle: They should.
Charan: … because there is nothing in there.
Noelle: It’s just sparkly lemon.
Noelle: It’s says “sparkle lemon,” it doesn’t say “sugar lemon,” so I guess they got it right.
Charan: Yeah. They got it right. But it’s deceiving how right they got it.
Noelle: I need some packets of sugar over here, really.
Charan: Oh my gosh. And yet I took another sip. That’s the thing. That’s why they still get you with that, right? Noelle, I am so excited to get to know you and get to meet you a little bit more because this is so exciting. Now first off, I do have to start off with, welcome, guys, to the Lemonade Stand podcast. This is your host, Charan Prabhakar, with Noelle Pikus-Pace, who is a silver medalist and I’m nervous.
Noelle: Oh, stop. Oh, stop.
Charan: I was like, what do I do? How do I talk to people that have exceeded so well in athleticism? I started thinking about times where I’ve been deemed very athletic. I remember vividly still fifth-grade dodgeball.
Noelle: Ooh, this is going to be good. I want to hear it.
Charan: Oh, it is good. It’s good. Trust me. Because I was born with a body that was much smaller than most other people’s bodies and I’m still kind of growing into mine, as it turns out. But in fifth grade I was especially small. So I was very nimble, I didn’t want to get attacked by these dodgeballs or these, whatever, kickballs or whatever. So it was my fifth-grade class versus the other fifth-grade class and we just got annihilated. We were getting annihilated until there was 10 guys left and just me.
Noelle: Oh, wow.
Charan: I mean, the pressure was so intense.
Noelle: Yeah, some speed. Yeah, that’s awesome.
Charan: They kept throwing it at me and I was running and I was hiding. I remember thinking, this is like PTSD. This is like me running away from dogs in India. That’s what this feels like, instead of these kickballs. But anyway, everyone was like, “Catch the ball, catch the ball, Charan,” and I finally caught one. It was amazing. Then one guy came back in and the other guy went out and then that guy was super strong and he got other people out. By the end, our entire class got back and they all got hit-
Noelle: No way.
Charan: … and we end up winning and they had me on their shoulders and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this feels like I won the silver medal at the Olympics, that’s what this feels like.
Noelle: I bet, oh my goodness, that’s amazing. That’s incredible. That’s your moment.
Charan: That was my moment.
Charan: That was my moment.
Noelle: That’s incredible.
Charan: I’m assuming that what you did was very similar.
Noelle: Not quite to that extent.
Noelle: Yeah, I didn’t quite have…
Charan: I did not mean to one-up you. I’m so sorry. You should have gone first.
Noelle: It’s okay, it was well worth it. That was really good.
Noelle: It’s impressive. Can’t really beat fifth-grade dodgeball.
Charan: You certainly can’t. That’s why I hesitated to tell that story. But you know what, sometimes you have to just follow your heart-
Noelle: You do and you did it.
Charan: … and my heart led you to that point. So I apologize right now. But no, this is amazing. This is so great. I am so impressed with your accomplishments, and I’d love to hear the entire story of how you even got to become an athlete and how you even fell in love with that sport. So is it the skeleton? Is it the luge? What is it properly called?
Noelle: Yes, skeleton. It’s called skeleton.
Charan: It’s called skeleton?
Noelle: Yup, yup.
Charan: Right. That’s just solo, right?
Noelle: So it’s so solo, yes. I got into this sport. I grew up in Orem Utah.
Noelle: Amazing place to grow up in. While I was in high school, I was running track and field. I knew I wanted a track-and-field scholarship. That’s what I was really working hard for. While I was doing track and field, my track coach happened to be helping. Right time, right place. But he happened to be helping out with the Olympics, getting ready for the Olympics in 2002. So he said they were recruiting athletes to go up and try bobsledding, actually.
Charan: Which is amazing.
Noelle: Which is crazy. Have you seen “Cool Runnings”?
Charan: I love “Cool Runnings.” I was about to make a “Cool Runnings” reference, but you beat me to it.
Noelle: “Eins, zwei, drei.”
Charan: Yeah, “Eins, zwei, drei.” “Kiss your lucky egg.” Anyway. Sorry. Don’t worry. Don’t worry, I got you.
Noelle: That was good.
Charan: I got you.
Noelle: Yeah. So that’s all I knew about bobsledding, honestly, was just that movie, “Cool Runnings.” From there I said, “Yeah, sure, I’ll go up and try bobsledding.” I did it in my sophomore junior year of high school. Yeah, I was 15. I was 15.
Charan: Oh my gosh. How was it? Was it amazing?
Noelle: Oh, it was a thrill. Oh my goodness. I couldn’t even drive a car yet and I’m going down like 80 miles an hour down the ice. So that was pretty fun.
Charan: That’s how it feels like driving on the freeway in Utah. Always a thrill, because you could crash at any moment. It’s amazing.
Noelle: That’s right. That’s right. So yeah, I did bobsledding for a year and then my senior year of high school, I went up to the bobsled track and they switched it to skeleton. They had us try out skeleton and I fell in love with it and after about a couple of years, they’re like, “Okay, you can come back to bobsledding now.” But I didn’t want to at that point. I loved skeleton. Skeleton is headfirst on your stomach, on a little cookie sheet and you fly headfirst down this icy mountain going 80 to 90 miles an hour. Every track in the world is different. But you just fly and your chin’s less than an inch off the ice. So who wouldn’t want to do it?
Charan: Yeah, no, no. I mean, of course like that’s-
Noelle: Like the wind that was dodgeballs flying past your face.
Charan: It’s the exact same feeling and you’re like, “Catch that ball, Charan” and you’re like, “Hey, just catch that air.” You didn’t say that at all. In fact, let’s go ahead and pretend that that comment never happened, even though I won’t delete it from this podcast. Moving on. But were you terrified? Was there ever a moment where you’re like, “You know what? I probably should just get an accounting degree or I probably should just…”
Noelle: There were many. Yeah. There were many days when I was just scared to death and just literally shaking at the top of the track. I would go to, honestly, to the emergency room or to get x-rays constantly in the beginning years of me trying skeleton. It was usually on my elbows or my wrists or my hands.
Charan: Would they ever touch the ice?
Noelle: Oh yeah, yeah. It’s just solid ice and right underneath that ice is all concrete. So when someone hits a wall, and then usually everybody else hits the same spot and then it chips away, so all you’re hitting is concrete going 80 to 90 miles an hour.
Charan: Yeah, I find that that’s probably not the most comforting thing.
Noelle: No, it’s not. It’s not.
Charan: Oh my gosh. Have you had any wrecks or anything like that at that type of speed?
Noelle: Well, yeah, a good handful. I’ve had, I don’t know how many concussions I’ve had. I shouldn’t joke about that. But it is, it’s a pretty high concussion sport. It just depends on the helmet you have, and I switched throughout and finally found some that were good. But yeah, so injury-wise, my biggest injury was actually not when I was going down the track. I was a bystander.
Charan: Oh you’re kidding me.
Noelle: That was my biggest injury. Yeah.
Charan: No way.
Noelle: Yeah, yeah. I had just finished a training run. I was ranked first in the world during this time, right before the 2006 Olympic games. As I was sitting there waiting for a truck to come and take me back up to the top of the track so that I could go down the icy mountain again, a bobsled came past the finish line and they never pulled the brakes. The guy didn’t know he was supposed to pull the brakes. It was a four-man bobsled, 1600 pounds, and they came flying out of the end of the track and it hit me. It hit the back of my leg and broke my leg. So it broke both my bones in my leg and my bones came out.
Charan: Okay. So that’s not something that happens on a normal human body, right? When the bones come out of your body?
Noelle: No, it shouldn’t.
Charan: Oh my gosh.
Noelle: It shouldn’t
Charan: That’s just the worst thing.
Noelle: Yeah. It was a bad day. A bad day at the office.
Charan: Yeah. That’s just so sad. How are your bones doing now? How’s that bobsled? How are the people in that bobsled?
Noelle Pikus-Pace Talks About Missing the 2006 Olympic Games
Noelle: They’re great. I ended up having surgery. I still have a titanium rod in my leg and then they put screws in the sides and stuff. But I’m doing great. I came back to win the world championships by the largest margin in the history of sport, a year later. I missed out on those Olympics. Looking back, it was really, really hard to go through that time. I love this thought, Lemonade Stand. I just love it. Making lemonade from lemons.
Charan: Which is funny because I was going to ask you that exact question.
Noelle: Oh my goodness. I read your mind.
Charan: My mind is an open book. It really is. It’s so transparent and it’s always open. But yeah, that’s exactly it. That moment where you had turned lemons to lemonade, would you say that that was the moment?
Noelle: That was definitely one. That was definitely a highlight in my life. Which is funny because that’s a lowlight. It’s like one of those times when you look back and you’re like, “Man, that was really, really hard.” That was super hard to go through. To miss the Olympic games.
Charan: Now, this was 2006?
Noelle: Yeah, I missed out on the Olympic games. The fall of 2005, right before the 2006 games. Being ranked first in the world, expecting to go to the Olympics, and then to have that dream just shattered. I mean, my leg was shattered, my dream was shattered, and it was gone in a split second. But looking back, like making lemonade out of lemons, I just look back and think, so many things would not have taken place in my life had that experience not happened. First of all, I would have never known how strong I was physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I was tested to the limits, really, in every aspect of my life during that moment. Well, during, really, those months. I mean, I call it a moment, but it was a long duration. But I would’ve never gone on to compete in the 2010 games and then the 2014 games, where my husband was able to build my sled. He designed and built my sled and our kids were able to travel the world together with us. So just all these things came from it. It’s crazy.
Charan: Isn’t it amazing, like the thing that you may want most if it gets taken away, it’s because something even greater that you didn’t even know you wanted suddenly comes into your life.
Noelle: That is so true. That is so true. Yeah, well said.
Charan: Oh, thanks. Sometimes I say well things.
Noelle: Quote that. Pinterest it. Tag it.
Charan: I’m going to [inaudible 00:11:33] that one so much. No, that’s amazing. Gosh, I’m so fascinated because some friends of mine got into bobsledding as well. Which is like, you don’t just get into bobsledding. How do you get into bobsledding? And yet while they were doing that, they were telling me that the skeleton is actually one of the most dangerous sports in the world.
Noelle: It’s crazy. You can’t really steer.
Charan: Yeah, I was going to ask. How do you… Is this just like a-
Noelle: We do steer.
Charan: You do steer.
Noelle: We do steer. We do. I shouldn’t say that. We do steer, but you try to get as close to crazy as possible. As close to panic as possible without going over the top. We don’t have sharp blades on the bottom of our sled, so for bobsled, theirs are a little bit sharper than ours are and then luges are a lot sharper. Luge is feet forward, on their back, we call them “Lugers.”
Charan: Such “Lugers,” come on. Oh gosh. Let’s keep going with that one.
Noelle: Oh, my word. Okay.
Charan: No, you know what? Let’s just go to skeleton, but yeah.
Noelle: But yeah, but it’s crazy. We’re just sliding back and forth on the sled, and it’s hard to keep your body straight on your sled. So it just takes a lot of practice. A lot of practice.
Charan: Oh my gosh.
Noelle: But we do steer. Shoulders and knees. Opposite shoulder and opposite knees, pressure.
Charan: So you kind of lean in and back and forth.
Noelle: Yeah. You try not to lean, yeah, similar. But you put pressure. It’s just a lot of pressure torquing that sled the whole way down the track. If it wants to go up, then you try to steer it down and vice versa.
Charan: It’s interesting because, like, subtle movements. Right?
Noelle: Oh yeah.
Charan: Subtle movements make a huge difference.
Charan: Gosh, I love that. Well, it’s funny, I am not an Olympian snowboarder, but I do snowboard. I snowboard. I used to teach snowboarding as well. When I started learning to teach snowboarding, I learned that I’d been doing it wrong the entire time. I was actually supposed to stand on the board and go. I wasn’t doing that before. I was rolling down the hill. No. No, what I learned was, it’s like subtle movements like toe movements. Just torquing it here and there would cause your edge to catch the snow and turn. It was interesting to think how little subtle movements can make such a huge impact. Not just in skeleton or sledding or anything like that, but in life in general.
Noelle Pikus-Pace Talks About the Consequences of Small Choices
Charan: It’s interesting because we have so many decisions that we make day to day and sometimes we’re like, what difference does this decision make that we’re making right now? But I can think of a handful of times in my own life as an actor, little decisions that I made where I’m like, “You know what, I’m just going to go for it. I’m going to give this a shot. I’m going to try it or I’m going to try my best at it.” That made all the difference in the world. Do you have a moment like that? It doesn’t even have to be skeleton, but it could be something where you decide to make a subtle choice. It wasn’t grandiose, but the outcome, the consequences of that choice was massive.
Noelle: Absolutely. I actually can think of these things as daily decisions that I make every single day. Whether you talk about the Olympics or whether you talk about parenting or whatever area of life you’re talking about, it’s those little tiny decisions that we’re making every single day that seem to add up. Then also it becomes this big, huge thing in the end. Whether it’s setting goals. So I’d mentioned before, my husband and I love setting goals for ourselves. We just love setting these 30-day goals. Little tiny, they don’t seem like that big of a deal, but like learning how to juggle or learning how to walk on our hands, 20 steps. I mean, I’m almost 40 now. Oh my goodness. I’m getting so old.
Charan: Oh man, can’t wait until you cross that mark. Then it’s like, it feels great. Actually, I haven’t crossed it either.
Noelle: Oh, we’re still holding on.
Charan: Holding on, man. Hoping for something.
Noelle: I know, right? Something. But it’s just those little things. Even with juggling, it’s not about saying, oh, I don’t know how to juggle, so I’ll never be able to. It’s about saying, well, can I pick up the juggling balls and just throw one in the air today? Okay. Then the next day I’m going to throw two. One, two, one, two, one two, and then the next day you just add a tiny bit more and a tiny bit more and by the end of 30 days. My husband and I never thought we’d be able to juggle, something as silly as that. But just being able to juggle and doing all these tricks and having fun with it. It was just adding on little step by little step. But there are many bigger stories in my life where I could probably go into detail. But that to me is just a testament of just those little things make the biggest differences in our lives.
Charan: Yeah and it’s interesting you bring up juggling, because I can actually also juggle.
Noelle: Can you really?
Charan: But I’m like you guys. I just juggle tennis balls and it’s great. I’m up to one right now.
Noelle: Oh stop.
Charan: I can do three. But the thing is, it’s the same thing where it’s like, I saw it and I thought that looks cool. I would love to learn how to do that. It was just practice every day, every day. How do you do two? Okay, now let’s add a third one into the mix. Right?
Charan: But I love the concept of juggling because it requires a sense of balance for sure. When you’re always trying to throw things in the air. I like to use that metaphor for my own life right now, because I’m juggling a lot of different projects. How do you balance and keep things going when there’s so many different things that you are throwing out in the ether and saying, okay, I got to take attention to that. I got to take attention to this. So in your own lives, it seems like you’re doing a lot of things. Just talking to you before, you were saying your kids are super into all kinds of sports and whatnot. How do you juggle having a good family life and keeping them positive with that mindset? When there’s that chaos?
Noelle: That’s a great question. That’s a great question. Honestly, well, first of all, it’s just being aware of what is in your life. What’s in your bucket. What’s on your list of things to do and just prioritizing them and putting those big things first. Then fitting in those small things where you can. But for me, I like to use something called the wheel of life. This is just a fun tool. But using like, finding those main areas of your life, like health, physical, or family relationships, career finance. Take these major areas of your life and sit there and just think about them. I do this quite often, actually.
Noelle: Probably at least once a month where I start saying, “Okay, so how am I doing within my relationship? On a scale of one to 10, how am I doing?” Then I start thinking about it. “Okay, I’m probably doing like a seven. Okay, what about with my family? Okay, maybe like a six.” Then I go back and I just say, “Where am I when I’m feeling this tightness in my chest or feeling kind of anxious?” I’m like, “Why am I feeling this way? Oh, it’s because I’m giving a lot of my time to my career and not a lot to my family or vice versa.” Then I start saying, “What’s a goal? What’s something that I can do this week? Like actionable step right now? What can I do this week to improve my relationship?
Noelle: Or to increase my physical health, what can I do? What can I set right now and actually take action on it?” So for me, it’s just constantly being aware of every area of my life and just saying, “Okay, where am I giving too much and where do I need to pull back? Where do I need to give a little bit more and be more intentional?” That’s the word. I love the word intentional. Living on purpose in everything that you do, whether it’s with your relationship with your family, with your kids, with your career, just be where you are and love it. Take that opportunity to live intentionally in that life.
Charan: Well, and I love that word intentionally. It’s also like living presently, right?
Charan: And being so focused in the present moment. I think one of the things that we learn as actors is, you have to live in the present moment. When you’re acting with somebody, you have to listen to what they’re saying. Instead of thinking of, oh, my next line is this and I’m going to say it this way, once they… And that doesn’t work. Because then you look like you’re acting and you’re not completely authentic. But when you’re present and you’re intentional in your decisions, then you end up finding that there’s a lot more purpose. There’s a lot more joy in whatever you’re doing. Now, we were talking a little bit about having that Olympic mindset. Are you still doing the skeleton?
Charan: You’re still doing the skeleton?
Noelle: No, no, no. I’m not doing skeleton. I’m still doing mindset.
Charan: But you’re doing the mindset.
Noelle: I’m still talking about mindset.
Charan: You still have a skeletal mindset.
Charan: I love that.
Noelle: No. My final run at the Olympic games in 2014 was it for me. I knew it was going into it. I had already prepared for that. I was done. And I’m happy.
Noelle Pikus-Pace Talks About Winning a Silver Olympic Medal
Charan: No, that’s amazing. Actually, before we go into to the mindset, let’s talk about that game. Those games. How was it, that last run, or how was that whole experience of winning the silver medal and all that?
Noelle: Oh, man, it was incredible. It’s interesting, we all define success differently. All of us have a different definition in every area of our life. But for me as an Olympian, most Olympians see success as that gold medal. That prestige, that podium. For me, I just remember as I was in Sochi, Russia, for that fourth and final run. I had four runs down the track and on that fourth run, every single run, I would always write down three specific, intentional goals. Because you have to be focused. As you were saying, Charan, as you were in acting, you have to be fully present. You have to be in the moment and that’s the same with skeleton.
Noelle: That’s the same with being an Olympian. You have to be fully present, even though there might be a corner coming up that you’re like, oh, I’ve got to be ready for this, but you’ve still gotta be where you are. So being fully present the whole way down the track, absolutely. But as I was going down the track, I knew that the cameras were on me, but it was never just me going down that track. I couldn’t have done it without my husband. I couldn’t have done it without my kids.
Noelle: I couldn’t have done it without my parents, my family, my neighbors, my community, the state of Utah, my country. There were so many people that went into that moment. I just remember going down that track with a heart full of gratitude. Just thinking how grateful I was for every single person that had ever cheered me on or given me a note or supported me in any way. As I crossed that finish line and stretched my neck out, I didn’t know how I did. I didn’t know how it had gone, because it’s based on a hundredth of a second. You don’t know if you won or lost in a split second. So as I crossed that finish line, I remember trying to slow down. We don’t have brakes, which is probably the craziest part.
Charan: Yeah, that’s sounds terrible.
Noelle: Slowing down, it is terrible. So dragging my feet and I saw my coach come out into the track, at the very end of the track where the stands were, and he threw his arms in the air. For me, when I saw him throw his hands in the air, I just knew. I didn’t know if it was gold, silver or bronze, and I didn’t care. Because for me, my definition of success had been met. I was there at the Olympic games. My coach’s arms were up and my family was in the stands, all supporting me. The volunteers, as I jumped off my sled, are just jumping up and down full of emotion, like your dodgeball game in fifth grade. It was serious. Full of emotion.
Noelle: I remember seeing the volunteers and they’re like, “You need to come over here. You need to go to NBC and Getty Images and USA today. You need to come over here, do all these interviews.” I remember as they’re pointing me off to the right, all I did was I just looked up to the left into the stands and I could see my husband and the kids and my family, my parents. I remember just thinking, “That’s where I need to be. That’s my definition of success. They are standing right there.” I didn’t know how to get up there. So I just remember the stands were filled with people. So all I could do is, I took my helmet off, I started screaming and all this emotion was just coming out. My body was shaking and I jumped off the side of the track and ran and jumped up into the stands and just embraced my family. All I could shout was, “We did it. We did it.”
Charan: Oh my gosh, come on-
Noelle: It was amazing.
Charan: I just got the chills and it’s not because you’re talking about the skeletal and ice and stuff. It’s the other kind of chills, the good kind of chills. No, that was amazing. I love that you share that. Yes, the award and the procedure, all that stuff is great. But I don’t know, something about doing it with the ones that you love and having them being able to be there and celebrate your success, is amazing. I’ve-
Noelle: And they had seen me through the sorrows. They’d seen me through the pain and we’ve been through so many trials together. So I just think about that so many times where if we hadn’t gone through those trials, we wouldn’t be able to reap this reward. If we hadn’t been through those hard times, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate. We wouldn’t have celebrated as greatly as we did in that moment for a silver medal. A lot of athletes see a silver medal as losing the gold. But for me, I didn’t. It wasn’t even close because we’d been through so many tough times to get there. I could go into so many more details, but it was so hard to get to that point of competition. Once we reached that silver medal, we won the silver medal. I still say we won. We won the silver medal. It wasn’t just me. It was a team effort.
Charan: Oh my gosh. Well, that’s so unbelievably awesome. Gosh, it’s so great. I’m trying to relate it to those emotional moments I’ve had even as an actor. Because I don’t just act, I produce as well. So I’m responsible for hiring the team and everything. So we like to create a family on set. That is the goal. Create a family and create this awesome project together. I just barely finished a movie.
Noelle: Congratulations. That’s very cool.
Charan: Thank you. Thank you. I mean, it was fun. We’re still editing, but finishing shooting. But it was a family effort and everyone put in so much effort, so much time, 12 hours a day, sometimes more. We were traveling all over the place, shooting all into the night. Sometimes we’d go to-
Noelle: They sacrificed. Yeah.
Charan: It was a sacrifice. But at the end of the day, we looked back and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, what a beautiful experience that we just had.” It was one of those melancholy moments where you’re hugging each other after it was wrapped. You’re excited that it was done because it was such an emotionally exhausting experience. But also you’re sad that it’s done because it’s like, oh my gosh, I love everyone here. It’s amazing. That’s so great that you were able to have that experience and you were able to share it with the people that you love. That’s so great.
Noelle: Very cool.
Noelle Pikus-Pace Talks About Having an Olympian Mindset
Charan: We were talking a little bit about the mindset though. The mindset to becoming an Olympian. I know you said something about creating that same type of mindset, same type of goals. Creating a course that you can help people out with.
Charan: Can we talk a little bit about that?
Noelle: Yeah, sure. A lot of people ask me what I’m doing now that the Olympics are over. Am I coaching athletes? What am I doing with my life now? We’re all trying to figure that out still. Aren’t we?
Charan: Oh gosh, every day, man. Every day.
Noelle: I actually really, really, really enjoy teaching. I really love pulling concepts together and building curriculum. What I have spent my time doing, and COVID has been a great opportunity for this. The pandemic has opened many doors. It’s been really a hard and trial-filled time for many, many of us. But it’s also opened doors, if we can choose to see it that way. But we’ve been able to start online courses on my website. It’s just my name, Noelle Pikus-Pace. What I do is, I built this 12-week course and it starts with mindset. It goes from mindset to purpose to values. What I did is, I took all of these Olympic values.
Noelle: I was trying to think, What does it take to become an Olympian? What does it take to reach the highest level of elite success? As I sat there for many hours just thinking about what it took, I wrote down hundreds of words. Just words like anticipation, clarity, discipline, motivation. I wrote down just all these hundreds of words on this board and did this big mind map in front of me. Then as I stood back from this list, I started saying, “Okay, now, which one of these could fit together in the same pile? Which one of these can I put together?”
Noelle: What I found is that I could narrow it down into 12 principles, and it always starts with mindset. It starts with where your thoughts are taking you. Thoughts to behaviors to actions. So through this course, it’s a 12-week course, and it takes you through these 12 steps and on to discipline and habits and success and reflection. It’s all the main steps that go into becoming an Olympian. They’re research-based, it’s just I put them in the order that I know them as an Olympian and it’s been a lot of fun to see.
Charan: Okay. Two huge thoughts came to me as you were speaking. One, we need to create a theme song for you.
Noelle: How would it go?
Charan: “Walk like an Olympian.” We will take the Egyptian part out. I think we’re okay with that. Okay. So let’s just work on that one.
Noelle: All right, we’ll work on it.
Charan: No, the other thing I was going to tell you is, you said something about where your thoughts take you.
Noelle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charan: It’s so interesting. This year, specifically this year, because of all the stuff that’s going on with COVID, the narratives that have been presented everywhere is unbelievable. It’s crazy to see people getting attached to these different narratives and what has happened as a result of those narratives. So where your thoughts take you is such an important question to ask. I personally, I give this analogy to people saying, “Hey, when you go watch a movie, you go to the theater, you watch a movie. If it’s a good movie, you’re really engrossed in the film.”
Charan: “But then when you leave the movie, you’re like, okay, that was an awesome movie. You talk about some of the principles, some of the things. But then you carry on with your life.” But I feel like a lot of times people are still living in a movie right now, in their own narratives, and they aren’t able to let go. What would you say to someone that is stuck in their thoughts? Because, being an Olympian is very intentional. There’s a lot of things that you have to do, and it starts with your thoughts. How would you go about helping someone that’s stuck?
Noelle: Yeah, so I get stuck all the time. Honestly, there’s a lot of ways that you can help get unstuck. There’s a lot of areas to look at. You can look at the relations around you. Who do you associate yourself with? Where are you turning your thoughts to? What kind of social media influences do you surround yourself with? Are they positive? Are they negative? Are they helping you to become your best or are they pulling you down? Are they making you want to be more and reach your potential or are they happy with you just being kind of okay and not reaching your fullest? That’s a great place to start is those relations around you. But it really starts with being aware.
Noelle: I think the first thing is that if you’re wanting to become unstuck, that’s a great place to be. If you’re choosing to want to become unstuck, then becoming aware of what you’re thinking: OK, how many times do I tell myself I can’t do this? Or how many times do I tell myself… And it’s easier said than done. But it’s really just about becoming aware of your thoughts. I have this thing that I love to use. It’s called a mindset assessment. What it’ll do is, it goes through just a handful of questions like, “I cheer when other people succeed” or “I believe that I can learn from failure” or “I celebrate my mistakes.” It just goes through this list of questions and then you can start seeing, Oh, I don’t do that very well. Or oh, I do that very well. Then you pick and choose where you want to start. Because you’ve got to find a starting place.
Charan: You got to find a starting place, right. It’s interesting, you talked about hey, those thoughts, where is that leading me? Or where’s that taking me to? I remember vividly the day I decided I want to be an actor. This was in 2004. Now, I had got into acting in high school and I thought like, Oh, this is kind of fun. It was exciting. Then I gave it up for a good cause. I went on a two-year LDS mission. I was gone for a couple of years. Then I came back. Then I started dabbling a little bit into acting, but I stopped. I stopped myself.
Charan: Fast-forward a couple of years later, I’m trying to think. I was confused. I felt stuck everywhere I was going. I felt stuck. I was looking back in my life, in my heart. I kept thinking, and I remember this was summer and it was 2004. I remember thinking, Okay, when I get old and I look back at my life, if there’s anything I regret, what would it be and why? And instantly I knew. If I never give acting a shot, I would regret it. So then I thought, Okay, then why have I not given it a shot?
Noelle: Yeah. For sure.
Charan: What is stopping me? And instantly, it’s fear.
Noelle: For sure.
Charan: I’m like, oh my gosh, I’m afraid. Then I started thinking, What am I afraid of? It’s like, Oh, I’m afraid I’m going to fail. I’m afraid that it’s just not going to happen. I’m like, geez. Here I was thinking, Okay, I served a two-year mission and I told people, “Hey, if you have faith and if you believe, miracles can happen in your life.” Then here I am completely stuck and afraid because I don’t think… I believe in God, but I recognized it. It was an interesting moment where I’m like, no way. I remember saying, “No, I’m going to be an actor.” I remember saying those words out loud, just like, “I am doing this or I am this or whatever it is.”
Noelle: That’s powerful to say it out loud. Even just like come from that thought to saying, “I’m doing this.”
Charan: Yeah, like, I’m going for it. It was so crazy because the moment that happened, it was as if the cosmic tumblers in the universe shifted and they’re like, “Amen. Yeah. We’re going to give this one to you.” Because, a day or two later, a family friend of mine, who I haven’t spoken to in a little while, calls me up out of the blue and says, “Charan, I have no idea why, but I have to tell you, you got to go and live your dreams.” I’m like, what’s happening? What’s going on?
Noelle: The stars are aligning.
Charan: I’m like, Facebook’s not even a thing right now. What’s going on? How is this happening? Then I go to church and every talk was all about living your dreams, developing your talent. I’m like, I get it, I get it. This is crazy. The last meeting of church, I can’t even focus because I’m so excited about this thought: I’m going to be an actor. This is gonna be great. I know what I want to do. As I’m leaving, there’s this guy that comes up to me to talk to me. I thought he was going to say, “Hey, I’m your home teacher, I’m supposed to help you out” or whatever. But he’s like, “Hey, this is so random. I have to ask you this.” I’m like, “Yeah, sure.” He’s like, “Have you ever thought about being an actor?” I’m like, what is going on? Why is this happening? I’m like, “Yes, yes. I have.”
Noelle: Can I get an amen?
Charan: “Yes, I have. That’s all I’ve been thinking about like nonstop.” He’s like, “Look, I am a filmmaker. I’m a director at UVU and I’m going to do a short film. I just think you’d be so funny and I’d love to cast you.”
Charan: So I got this part in a movie. I didn’t even audition for it. That was the journey and that started it all off. I’ve had plenty of disappointments along the way, but it goes back to what you’re saying with mindset. Of like, look, yes, you will have the struggles, but those struggles are incredibly important. Like not making it to the Olympics 2006 because of your accident in 2005. So important that you have that. Because then it’s like, what am I made of? What can I do right now?
Noelle: “What can I do right now?” I love your story. I love it. I love it. I love it. It made me think of, we have twin five-year-old boys. They’re our youngest. We have four kids and one of our boys has the best mindset in the world. He can do anything. He very resilient and can just get things done on his own. He never asks us, which can get him into trouble — and us — because he’ll just go do stuff and we’ll be like, “Where’d he go? Oh, he has the pot of boiling water and he’s trying to cook his own food.” He’s five.
Noelle: Then we have another one that has the worst mindset ever. I love him to pieces. I love them both equally. But this other one… So we went hiking. All right. So here’s a little example. But we went hiking recently and the one with this poor mindset, very poor mindset — we started hiking on this trail and as we go, we’re walking and then there’s these little signs that have a little picture of a footprint and it has a little X through it. So that means… What does it mean?
Charan: You don’t hike.
Noelle: You don’t hike there. You don’t go on that path. So we can go on the main path, but it’s telling us to stay on the trail and you can’t go off on these little trails to the right and to the left. So every time we would come to one of these little footprints with this little X through it, he would just throw his head back in the air and he’d let out this big moan and he’d be like, “Oh, I can’t go there. Oh my gosh, I can’t go on that path. Oh, I can’t touch that tree. There’s an X. I can’t touch the tree.” He was moaning the entire way. It was like 15 minutes. 15 minutes into this. It was like a five- or six-mile hike.
Noelle: It was a long hike and 15 minutes into this hike finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m like, “Payton, okay. We got to try something else.” Here I talk about mindset. We got to try something else. This is not working. I’m like, “Okay, Payton, how about instead of focusing on everywhere you can’t go, don’t look at the X’s, but how about we talk about every place we can go. Let’s look at the steps in front of us where we can move and what we can touch and what we can see.” All of a sudden he’s like, “Okay.” He thought about like, “Look at this rock ahead.” First, we had to guide him and be like, “Okay. Oh look, look, we can step four paces in front of us.”
Noelle: “Oh, okay. I can walk here. I can touch this leaf. I can touch this rock.” It started becoming enjoyable. Then the rest of the time, anytime he’d be, “It’s an X.” “No, no, no, no. We’re not looking at those X’s. We’re going to come back to the path where we can go.” It changed the whole experience. Just being able to change his little brain from seeing everything he couldn’t do to seeing everything he could do and the possibilities in front of him. It changed our whole experience as well.
Charan: Well, it’s so beautiful sometimes to have the limitations around you, so you can be like, all right, cool. With the limitations that we have, what can we do?
Noelle: Yes. The appreciation, absolutely.
Charan: One of my favorite stories in filmmaking is Steven Spielberg when he made “Jaws.” Because the shark didn’t work. The mechanical shark.
Noelle: I did not know that.
Charan: Yeah. So he was making this movie and the shark busted, it didn’t work. They’re like, “What are we going to do?” They decided, “Hey, rather than showing the shark, let’s not show the shark. Let’s show the suspense of the shark coming from the shark’s perspective. But let’s not show the shark.” That actually was probably one of the best things that they could have done, because the suspense of it was more terrifying than actually seeing the shark. They did get a couple of good shots of the shark biting and stuff. But the majority of the first one was about not seeing the shark but seeing the suspense. So you took a limitation of the shark’s not working. There’s an X on the shark. You can’t touch the shark. To now, you’re like, okay, we can’t use a shark. So what can we use?
Noelle: And that became incredible because of it.
Charan: It became incredible because of it.
Noelle: Yeah. That’s amazing.
Charan: It became jaw-dropping. You’re welcome. So that was another luge joke. Sorry.
Charan: Yeah, totally “Luger.”
Noelle: Oh, it’s awesome.
Noelle Pikus-Pace Talks About Maintaining Joy
Charan: Okay. So I want to shift topics a little bit. We talked about mindset. We talked about your experience doing skeleton. I want to talk a little bit about right now, we discussed this year has been very chaotic for a lot of people. A lot of people have lost their jobs and mindsets gone downhill for a lot of people. How do you maintain joy?
Noelle: Wow. How do you maintain joy? That’s a big question. To be honest, when I’ve hit rock bottom throughout my life, whether it’s for missing the Olympic games or we’ve had multiple late miscarriages, which were really, really hard as well, or moving from a home that we love to a different place. Every time that I’ve hit rock bottom, honestly, like true rock bottom, when you’re just in the pit of despair and you can’t see the light. You’re just really sad. I know what that feels like. The only thing that has been able to get me out of that mindset, truly, is gratitude. Is just looking for the things to be grateful for. Looking for the places that you can go.
Noelle: Looking for that hope and that light ahead, even when you don’t want to. Because a lot of times when you’re in that pit of despair, when you’re in that darkness and things just don’t seem to be going right in any area of your life, you almost want that more. Sometimes you’re just like, I just want to feel this way for a while. I just want to feel miserable for a little bit. I don’t want to look for the light. But the thing that will get you out of that is looking at the light and just saying, “I’m just going to try it.”
Noelle: I’m going to write down 10 things that I’m grateful for. I’m just going to look around right now. What are 10 things that I’m grateful for my life? What’s going well? Because I can promise you, there’s a lot to be grateful for. There are a lot of great things going on around you even when you can’t see them. That was really how it pulled me up and pulled me out and allowed me to see that joy and to look ahead to the possibilities and a bright and hopeful and happy future, despite the circumstances around us.
Charan: It’s interesting. I was interviewing someone maybe about a month ago now, and she had an incredible story. But she fell off a cliff and basically broke pretty much every bone in her body. She’s paralyzed now. There was a moment she was telling me where she was in the hospital and she had all these pins and needles in her and she could not move. The only thing she could actually do was blink. She was just staring at the ceiling. She was young when this happened, in her early 20s. She realized that her entire life that she thought she was gonna have was now robbed from her. All she could do was stare up at the ceiling.
Charan: This girl, this woman, is genuinely one of the most happy, joyous people I’ve met. So I’m like, “How did you do it? Tell me your secret.” She said, “Gratitude.” But it was very interesting the way she said it. She said, all she could do was blink and look at the ceiling. She’s like, “God, give me love for that ceiling. Let me love that ceiling.” She just kept staring at it and staring at it until she actually found within her heart this love for that ceiling. Then anything else she could look at, she’s like, “God, I can see that. Give me love for that. Give me love for that.” It was such an incredible thing to me to realize, wow, when everything is broken, when everything is shut down, when you have nothing left, you can still have love. That love can heal and that love can be all-consuming. It’s interesting, I see my mom this week because of the church we attend, the president of our church encouraged us all to express gratitude this week. So my mom has been doing that a lot. I can see the immediate transformation in her, even, just every day she’s so excited to find something to be grateful for. I’m like, “Mom, don’t stop after seven days. Oh my gosh, this is amazing.”
Noelle: Keep going.
Charan: Yeah. Because I’m just like, “The more amazing grateful you are, the better the Indian food is that I’m eating. So don’t stop. This is unbelievable.”
Noelle: It’s benefiting us all.
Charan: Benefiting everybody, but mostly me. It’s been great. Well, I appreciate you saying that about gratitude, because it really is the key, I think. It’s great because now we can, I guess you could say, we can really be very specific about what we can be grateful for. Especially when things have shut down for a lot of people. But I think that’s the way to get through any of these challenges is to have gratitude.
Noelle: Absolutely. Yeah and it opens our eyes and our minds to what’s ahead. I think a lot of times if we see a closed door in front of us, then it’s hard to see that gratitude. It’s like, oh, there’s a possibility ahead. There’s this hope, there’s this light. The more that we can see — “help me to love that ceiling, help me to love that door, help me to love the things around us” — that’s something that we love. We actually love doing this. We’ve been doing it for quite some time now as a family around the dinner table. Now our kids, like even our twin five-year-old boys, all of our kids around the dinner table, they’re like, “Oh, are we playing the thankful game?” They’ll just go around like, “No, you can’t say that. You said that one already.” They’re like, “Can we say two things at a time? Can we say three things? I’m thankful for the lights and the stars.” They’ll just go off and just going around the table and we see their joy that comes from it. So it’s been a lot of fun as a family to implement that as well.
Charan: Oh man, I love that we play a game called Highlight, Lowlight. Where you can have through the experience, especially during filmmaking, we talk about, you can only have one lowlight. Trust me, in film there’s plenty of lowlights. You’re like, okay, you have one thing. But then you have to talk about all these highlights. It’s amazing the stuff that we come up with. A lot of the stuff that we come up with has nothing to do with actually filming a scene. It’s the stuff behind the scenes. It’s the stuff of us joking around and laughing and having a good time. This last particular film I did was so fun. We made so many wonderful memories with people, and it was a great way for old friends to reconnect. So huge highlights. But I think that’s amazing that as a family you’re able to do that and keep encouraging that type of mindset, that type of behavior. Because that light will share with everybody else around them.
Noelle: Yeah, absolutely. We were even talking about that this week to have our kids at lunch to say, “I challenge everybody to go around the lunch table and say something we’re thankful for.” They’ve just been having fun with it. It’s fun. Kids of all ages can do it. Doesn’t matter how old or how young they are. We can all be grateful.
Charan: That is so great-ful. I didn’t mean for that to happen, but I was full of greatness is what that was. Awesome. Well, this has been amazing. I really appreciate you coming on and chatting with me. This is so great. I’m learning so much. I’ve learned enough to not do the luge or the skeleton. But maybe the bobsled.
Noelle: Maybe bobsledding.
Noelle Pikus-Pace’s Advice to Her Younger Self
Charan: Maybe bobsledding. But I want to ask one final question and that question is, What would you tell the young Noelle? The one that is barely getting into track, doesn’t know what the future holds. The one that likes athletics but doesn’t really know where to go from there. What would you tell that Noelle?
Noelle: Oh, wow. If I could talk to young Noelle right now, I would just say, “Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about the future. It’s going to be great. It’s going to be a wonderful life. It truly is. Give your best, even if you don’t know what lies ahead, give your absolute best each and every day. Be kind to those around you. Show love, show gratitude and be a light to all. Despite the circumstances, always look for the light and always learn, always grow, always love, be kind, have courage and do your best.”
Charan: Oh my gosh. It’s beautiful. Geez. If I could print that one on a Pinterest. It’s so great. One of the things that you said about that was, “Don’t worry about the future. Don’t worry about the outcomes.”
Noelle: “It’s going to be good.”
Charan: “It’s going to be good. Do your best.” I have a buddy who tragically passed away just a couple of weeks ago.
Noelle: I’m so sorry.
Charan: It’s okay. He was such a light to the world and everyone knows him now because he became really popular. We went to high school together and we were friends since we were 13. His name was Collin Kartchner. He became Instagram-famous and used that fame to spread awareness about saving the kids. It was really great, because we talked about different things that he can do. About doing videos and stuff way back before all this Instagram stuff. But I think about that because he didn’t have any, like, “this is where my life is going to go.” He just saw this opportunity, started doing some good. He just kept going for it and kept shining that light. It’s amazing how much good you can actually do if you start right now and not worry about the future.
Noelle: That’s right. Start right now and don’t worry about the future. Just start.
Charan: Just start right now.
Charan: Oh man. I can’t think of a better way.
Noelle: So good.
Charan: I can’t think of a better way to end by starting.
Charan: We’re really good with this. We are really good with this, man.
Noelle: I need a drum set.
Charan: Yeah. Man, I know. But seriously, thanks so much, Noelle. Thank you so much for joining me on the Lemonade Stand podcast. Any last words or should we [inaudible 00:46:54] it up?
Noelle: You’re amazing.
Charan: You’re amazing.
Noelle: You’re just amazing. Keep being awesome.
Charan: Oh, you’re awesome. Okay. Thanks again.
Noelle: Thanks. See ya.
Charan: Thanks so much for listening to the Lemonade Stand podcast, and we hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback and reviews, and if you or someone you know has an awesome lemonade stand stories, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much and have a great day.