Often times at a young age, we have many interests and hobbies, a vast majority of which are grown out of. This wasn’t the case for Nathan Chen. Having skated since the age of 3, as he grew into himself and began to flourish, so did his craft.
With the help and encouragement of supportive guidance, his hobby became his passion, which in turn lead him to his successes that we now recognize and commend.
“While I explored different directions in skating and found new people to work with, the stable foundation of support never changed. Just knowing that I can
trust those closest to me, on my team and in my personal life, has been truly helpful in directing and guiding me towards what I’ve set out to accomplish.”
“I think the most successful skaters are the ones who are able to truly become themselves.”
The importance of bringing our self-expression and personalities into our purpose, as mentioned in our conversation with Kenan Thompson, is paramount. When we are truly ourselves, and we bring that truth into what we do, we achieve more than we may have believed to be possible.
With so much musicality and interpretation, figure skating is easily one of the most expressive sports. Since half of the score is determined by creative components, to maximize that score, skaters need to bring their best, as well as themselves, to the table.
“Creative expression is the foundation of skating. I think that the most successful skaters, as far as technique and individuality go, are the ones who can truly become themselves as they develop as a skater.”
The perfect example of this, stated Nathan, is skater Adam Rippon, who recently came out as a gay athlete. Having trained together for close to five years, Nathan was able to witness Adam’s evolution as he grew into himself and his craft. The embodiment of who he truly was, reflected not only in his personal life but in his performance as well.
Strength in Stumbling;
As we know, success is the finished product of what’s been mastered beneath the surface. Facing struggle, trial, and stumble is nothing new to Nathan. Yet, it is within the struggles that we are able to reflect on who we’ve been, who we are, and who we can become.
In 2016, as Nathan was transitioning into Sr. Level (a more advanced role), had a very bad injury that required surgery. Not to mention, this was the period in which athletes of his division started preparing for the Olympics.
With inconvenient timing and unfortunate injury, Nathan was to be taken off the ice for 6 months.
“The field of skating develops very quickly. New technique is being taught and achieved consistently, so missing a beat was not in my best interest.”
Right as he started to progress into his new role in Senior Level, Nathan came face to face with a rather large roadblock, thinking thoughts that his Olympic dreams may just be crushed.
“My immediate thoughts were, ‘well I guess my Olympic dreams are over.’ Through that time, I realized the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people, especially in times of struggle. At that time, I didn’t have a very good foundation in terms of physical therapy outside of the sport, so I had to look into remedies myself.”
Through his research and the help of his connections in the professional world, Nathan started his recovery process with a solid and steady foundation. Being off of the ice for nearly six months, he came back more determined than before, with the intention to reach new heights.
Oftentimes in sports, we hear stories resembling Nathan’s; athletes who have become injured, choose to use the recovery time wisely, being able to then surpass previous limitations. As mentioned by Kevin Love in our previous interview, using our setbacks to strengthen us is a superpower that everyone has access to.
If we choose to learn from the greats, using our trials as ways to transcend our limitations, reaching new heights and achieving new goals would become normalcy, and we would find ourselves ‘better than before’.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable;
Working to improve ourselves day by day, holds more importance than most would imagine. It’s the one percent more, the one centimeter further, and the one-step forwards that bring us within reach of our goals.
Nathan is no stranger to persistent improvement, learning these lessons of improvement and self-mastery from his parents, throughout the years, he has been able to implement this practice into his career.
A thought that never leaves Nathans head, which influences his personal development and discipline, is the reality that if he’s not moving forward, someone else is and that someone just might end up being his competition.
“If you’re not moving forwards, someone else is.”
Even though steady progression and forward motion are two key attributes to Nathans's philosophy, he says; time that is taken to slow down, reflect and restore, is just as crucial as the time spent grinding.
Setting large scale goals to work towards, is vital in achieving the successes we wish to accomplish. But, if we look a little bit closer within our goals, we will come to find numerous ‘smaller-scale goals’ that can be attained in a shorter time frame.
By focusing on manageable goals that can be accomplished monthly, weekly, and daily, we can rest assured that each small feat, brings us one baby step closer to the bigger picture and our dreams.
“For me, going to the Olympics and winning a gold medal is my dream, it’s what I’ve been working towards my whole life.
By breaking it down into smaller pieces, I can look at the next year in front of me and reflect on what I’ll need to do in that time frame. The same can be done for six months from now, three months from now, this month, this week, and today.”
When we are focused on what is manageable, becoming discouraged, and intimidated no longer holds space in our lives. Each small step brings us that much closer. You wouldn’t look at the top of the mountain as you climb, you’d focus on one foot in front of the other, and by breaking down our goals, we allow ourselves to progress slowly but surely in confidence.
Dazzling, not Dazed;
At such a young age, with the spotlight on him (literally), It would be easy to assume that Nathan’s relationship with overwhelming feelings such as distraction and overthinking are customary. But, with the help of grounding and taking a step back, Nathan has found that in doing so, dealing with these feelings, becomes more manageable.
“Now, having gone through that, with still so much still ahead of me and even more to learn;
I feel confident in saying that I’m doing this for myself.”
Having expressed great and sincere gratitude towards those who have been there for him throughout his journey, Nathan has embraced that this path is ‘his own’, as is the work and dedication that has been put into perfecting it.
“I’m forever thankful and indebted to the people that taught me everything I know, and I’ll always be a mentor to those who need the same advice that I did. With that being said, I love the sport, I love training, I love competing, and this is for me.”
Bridging the Gap;
Being masters of our passions and craft is the sought-after outcome. Yet, oftentimes when we close ourselves off to diverse possibilities and opportunities, we end up limiting our true potential. To this, Nathan says that the idea of ‘being a master of one’, is overrated.
“It’s always important to have a clear view on what you prioritize in your life, while putting in the work to excel in that field.
Although, I also believe that the willingness to seek and learn new traits, doesn’t just come in handy in times of need, but helps one to advance into a more fulfilling life.”
“For most athletes, figure skating is a short-lived profession. Most males go on to skate until around 25-27, some may push it to 30, but the reality is that the career comes to an end quite quickly.”
Being 21, Nathan still has a few secured years left in his career. But with the finish line in his line of sight, investing in education and in ‘what’s next’ for him, is a simultaneous priority.“I’ve enjoyed my experience as a skater, and I’ve cherished each moment I’ve spent on the ice; but it’s also necessary that I realize, there’ll be a moment when I’ll have to embody something else, and that moment, whether I like it or not, is soon.”
Through education and plans of living out a ‘normal’ young adult life, Nathan believes that a lot of opportunities will present themselves, for him, and his future in the making.
Take a Step Back;
“Give yourself rest time now and then to decompress and take a step back.”
It’s easy to become overly intertwined in our own lives, to the point that we end up tangling ourselves into our circumstances. In Nathans's opinion, the remedy to this is taking a step back, and looking at circumstances and challenges with an outsider perspective.
“Taking a step back and looking at the situation with a different point of view, really free’s me from becoming overwhelmed. Realizing that what I’m currently doing is important to my life, but not necessarily important to other people’s lives, really puts my problems and responsibilities into perspective.”
The point that Nathan is making is so important and is a brilliant reminder to not take ourselves too seriously. One should always take their work, passion, and relations seriously, but never one’s self. May we all lighten up a little bit and come to terms that it’s not the end of the world, we’ve got this, and it’s okay to laugh at ourselves.
No Longer Pursue;
The experience and enjoyment that goes into each dedicated moment, is what truly brings fulfillment into our lives, and makes our efforts worthwhile. The importance of finding our tribe, taking on leadership roles, and learning while doing what we love, oftentimes holds greater value than the external awards and acknowledgments.
“I think the experience and the journey hold more importance than anything else.
I would’ve never had access and exposure to the incredible people, wisdom, and success stories had I not been in this field.
With his new and improved mindset, Nathan has been able to look at the bigger picture and acknowledge all of the pro’s that have come along in his career, as opposed to the cons.
We asked Nathan Chen what he knows 100% to be true, his answer;
At TrooMe, like Nathan; we believe that the lessons, gratification, and fulfillment, lie in the ‘doing’, not necessarily in the receiving. When we do what we love, to the best of our abilities, taking one step at a time, focusing on what we CAN achieve each day, we will come to find that we are one step closer to the top of the mountain, and in reach of achieving our goals.
May we follow in Nathans's footsteps, giving one hundred percent of ourselves and our personalities to our passions, leaving time for rest and recovery, and remembering to never take ourselves too seriously.