Interview with Trey Hardee
There’s More to Life than Winning with the “World’s Greatest Athlete,” Trey Hardee
Sometimes, the one thing you want to happen the most is often the best thing that never happened. And while it can be difficult to see in the moment, hang in there and have faith because life will surprise you in ways you can’t yet see.
My guest, Trey Hardee, knows this all too well. He’s experienced countless setbacks and moments in life that didn’t seem to be going his way. But without them, he never would have become “the world’s greatest athlete.”
His accomplishments as a track & field athlete are quite remarkable…
Trey is a two-time Olympian, two-time World Champion, two-time U.S. Champion, three-time Texas Relays winner, an NCAA Champion, a four-time All-American, former NCAA Record holder, and 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the decathlon.
Pretty good for a guy who didn’t even take up track and field until his junior year of high school… which, by the way, wouldn’t even have happened if he hadn’t been cut from his basketball team.
In this episode, Trey offers up priceless advice for anyone who has big dreams to succeed in life. We talk about his journey to becoming an Olympic athlete, his comeback after a severe elbow injury, and the smart steps he took to turn his earned income as an athlete into cash-flowing assets. That and a whole lot more!
Featured on This Episode: Trey Hardee
✅ What he does: Trey Hardee is retired American track and field athlete who specialized in the combined events. He is a former NCAA Champion, a two-time World Outdoor Champion, a member of the United States 2008 Olympic team, and the silver medalist in the decathlon at the London 2012 Olympics. He was Inducted into the Texas Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2018.
💬 Words of wisdom: “There is no perfect. Unless you’re Usain Bolt, we can all do better.” – Trey Hardee
Key Takeaways with Trey Hardee
- Becoming better than you were yesterday.
- Getting cut from his high school basketball team and then becoming the best athlete in the world.
- Blowing his elbow out and still taking silver at the Olympics—and why it was the greatest thing that ever happened to him.
- The opportunity to become an Olympic commentator.
- Turning his earned income as an athlete into cash-flowing assets—and the story of passing on buying his dream car to invest in Austin real estate.
- Leveraging his years of experience as an athlete into a one-of-a-kind wellness practice.
Trey Hardee – Buy A House, Not A Tesla
Trey Hardee Tweetables“I wasn't training for performance anymore. I was training for the rest of my life and training to be able to play with my kids and swim and throw them into the pool and run and chase with them. And now, it's this, my goal is to be… Click To Tweet “God has blessed me with these talents, and I want to be a good steward of those talents. I just want to make sure that I do my best to reach whatever this body, mind and soul's potential is. At all times during my career, I was firm… Click To Tweet
- Find Trey Hardee on Instagram | Facebook | Email
- Altum Wellness
- Acton MBA
- Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
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Read the Full Transcript with Trey Hardee
Justin Donald: Alright, Trey, welcome to The Lifestyle Investor podcast. I’m so glad to have you on the show.
Trey Hardee: I am ecstatic. I’m happy to be here. As I’m sitting here thinking about, I was like, “Wait, where did I meet Justin?” And we met, just go into town, jumping up hills and sweating our tails off about a year ago, maybe a little less than a year ago.
Justin Donald: That’s right. It’s funny because we have a lot of people, a lot of mutual friends, a lot of people kind of rotating around in the same ecosystem because you’re really good friends with my friend Tim Nikolaev from Acton MBA. And then you sold your house to my dear friend Jon Vroman. And so, I had heard all these rumblings, and then it was really funny when I connected the dots. It’s like, oh, this person I’ve been hearing about from two of my closest friends is you and I’ve been working out with you.
And by the way, for those of you that don’t know any of Trey’s story, you’re going to learn. It’s incredible, but it’s very intimidating to be working out in the same group. But I’m talking small group, two or three people with an Olympic decathlete. So, I just have to go out there and say that, but I also feel really good that I could hang as well, so.
Trey Hardee: Yeah, I hope I was as underwhelming as it could have possibly been, those days.
Justin Donald: Man, well, I’ll tell you what? It seems like you haven’t lost a step whatsoever from, I mean, you’ll probably say that you have, but from an outsider’s view, I am just impressed with the shape that you’re in today. You’re not competing like you were in a couple of different Olympic Games. And you are just ripped, you push yourself, you do such great physical activity. It’s very inspiring and very impressive.
Trey Hardee: Thank you, first of all, but I wish I could say that it was just this nice carryover, like you retire from athletics and early sporty career and you just maintain that love for physical activity and fitness. And it really wasn’t the case. And I think when you and I worked out together that day, that might have been my second or third time. I really, with intent, went into exercise in three and a half years. Like, it had been a very long time. But since then, yeah, it reignited. I wasn’t training for performance anymore. I was training for the rest of my life and training to be able to play with my kids and swim and throw them into the pool and run and chase with them. And now, it’s this, my goal is to be able to still beat my son at basketball when he’s a sophomore or junior in high school. So, that’s what we’re training for now.
Justin Donald: I love it. And what great memories to empower you and to motivate you and to strive for it. So cool. I’ve got to tell you, I mean, you pretty much destroyed me with that frog jump that I think is just like a natural thing that you guys do in track and field. But man, and by the way, you run your own little workout group that so many people rave about where you do these wind sprints and all these different high-intensity circuits and series, it’s really fun to see.
Trey Hardee: Yeah. With a guy who had been coming really consistently, and it would’ve been this really small group of men who were coming consistently, he’s like, hey, Trey, you should think about rebranding this because really, I was just calling it the sprint workout. We were going and doing sprint drills and learning the skill of running fast and then we would go run fast, and then workouts were really hard. He’s like, maybe you should just call a sprint workshop and then an optional workout afterwards or something. And I was like, why? And he’s like, I think people are a little intimidated. I’m like, oh, okay, so rebranded it. And now, yeah, the group is pretty big now, and it’s just a lot of fun. It’s like just clockwork at 6:30 in the morning, every Tuesday morning at a little public track down there at Austin High School in downtown Austin.
Justin Donald: Well, we’ve got a lot of people in the Austin area that listen, so maybe we’ll have some people that are not intimidated that show up and get some lessons from you because you’re a great teacher. You do a very good job of helping everyone see that they can do it. And even people that aren’t in the most incredible shape are showing up and they’re doing it and they’re getting a great workout because the goal isn’t to be this extreme athlete that’s showing up, it’s just to get better than where you were yesterday, right?
Trey Hardee: 100%. Now, that’s the nail on the head. Everyone has different starting points, but everyone is just out there doing that, just kind of that plus one, just plus one each day, getting a little bit better and learning the skill. And there is no perfect, unless you’re like Usain Bolt, like we can all do better, right? And that’s kind of the mentality I have with most things, I would say.
Justin Donald: Yeah. I mean, your career is incredible, and I’m excited to kind of get into it. I’m curious, though, when you were young, did you want to be an Olympic athlete? Did you have these dreams or visions where you are competing in the Olympics? Or did that come along the way when you started realizing that you’re actually good and you are excelling more than the rest of the world or the rest of your peers?
Trey Hardee: Yeah, it was a late revelation. Honestly, when I was young, I wanted to play in the NFL or Major League Baseball or the NBA. Like, my dream was to be Larry Bird. I was like, that guy can do it, I can do it. Let’s go. And then as life happens, and you see in retrospect, the path you were on and the people in your lives and how things fell, I mean, track and field really just shows me, and my life as a decathlete shows me. It wasn’t this thing where I just saw it and I was like, that’s what I want to do. Like, I grew up during Dan and Dave, you remember in 1992?
Justin Donald: Oh yeah.
Trey Hardee: Reebok threw tens of millions of dollars at those guys to be the best in the world, the best athletes in a marquee event and sell shoes. And it kind of blew up in their faces, which made it one of the most infamous and arguably, a better campaign for them than had they both done really well. But I didn’t have that moment, like I didn’t have that looking at, watching Michael Johnson run in ‘96 or I didn’t have those moments. It wasn’t until I found myself deep into my college career and I’d stepped into the Olympic Trials and I had only done four decathlons, like the Olympic Trials is my fifth ever one.
And I looked around, and to my left was the world champion, to my right was the eventual Olympic champion. And I ran with them. I was just as fast, and I was faster than they were, and I was like, oh, these guys are mortal. I’m a long way from where they are, but I think I could do this, like I really think I could do this, except the light switch went off. I reprioritized everything. I started it more, professionalized what I was doing, and started making the sacrifices that it was going to take and it was on a mission. I’m going to make the next Olympic team. So, that was in 2004. And what feels like an eternity when you’re in the middle of it, but really, four short years later, I made the team and was off to Beijing.
Justin Donald: That’s incredible that in that short of a period of time, you could say, alright, I’m all in, I’m going to become an Olympian. And you did it. And to just not have thought ahead of time, to not have been training because a lot of people, they train their whole life for this, right? They are groomed as a child to compete at the highest level. So, your story, it amazes me because you’re kind of like, oh, I’m pretty good at this, maybe I should see how good I can be. And then, boom, you are one of the best in the world.
Trey Hardee: And I have that perspective too. Like, I was blessed, and that was kind of the thing that not kept me going, but that was a big tenet of my– I would call it work ethic or my ability to get out of bed every day was really that. Man, I’ve been given these gifts. God has blessed me with these talents, and I want to be a good steward of those talents. I just want to make sure that I do my best to reach whatever this body and this body and my mind and soul’s potential is. I want to see where that leads me. And at all times, during my career, I was firm in that belief that I was put on the Earth to be a decathlete and to do what I was doing for this time in my life.
Justin Donald: Now, for those people, and by the way, I love that, I think that’s incredible because you’ve got to draw your passion from somewhere, and what a great place to draw it from for those that don’t know what a decathlon is. Can you explain that? And then additionally, I’d love to hear what you naturally excelled at and what you really had to like double down to get to Olympic levels at.
Trey Hardee: Yeah. Zooming out historically, so in 1912, Jim Thorpe, what many consider the greatest athlete to have ever lived, he won everything at the 1912 Olympics. King Gustav or King Ferdinand– one of the kings of maybe Stockholm or Sweden or somewhere was giving him his medal, and he had won the long jump, the broad jump, the modern pentathlon. And he said, “You, sir, are the world’s greatest athlete.” And he handed him his medal. And from then on, the winner of the Olympic decathlon was given that moniker. And so, this shaped and molded the type of person I think that it attracted, that was attracted to this well-roundedness, this robust application of skill and speed and power and endurance and fortitude. And so, in the event, they kind of represent all of those attributes. So, it’s a two-day event. You do five events on day one, five events on day two, and it’s the 100, the long jump, shot put, high jump, and the 400-meter dash on day one. Then you turn around the next day and you run the 110 hurdles, throw the discus, pole vault, throw the javelin, and then run the 1,500 to close it off.
And so, in high school, I was just a pole vaulter. That’s what I was recruited for. And so, that was kind of my ace in the hole. I always pole vaulted well. Some meets are better than others. But that was always an event, I had my back pocket that I never fretted about, I was never worried about. I scored a lot of points in, I was never outside of the top one or two guys that were jumping. And it just, I think for a lot of decathletes, causes a lot of grief. For me, it wasn’t the case.
And then, as I grew, I signed my scholarship papers. I would book scholarship to Mississippi State. I started messing around with other events, and it turned out I was really fast. So, I ran 10.83 in the 100 in high school as a senior. I was like 6’3”, 155 pounds but could run, looked like a little skinny distance runner and then started to develop, add muscle and speed and power and stuff, and ended up running 10.26 in the 100 and started to develop the other throws and started to develop the ability to jump far just because I was so fast. It’s an old man’s game, like the decathlon is not just get out of bed, oh, you’re a good decathlete. It takes a long time. I think I equate it to this– so you have two customers, and the sales cycle is four years long. And if you want to get both customers, it might take you 12 years. You might miss a couple of sales along the way, and to get them both, to land both in the same time frame might take you 12 years.
And so, that was early on, I had some coaches that saw potential and said, listen, we’re not going to just– I wasn’t a good thrower, so we’re not going to just throw every day to try to get you good at the throws. We’re going to train like you’re going to be doing this for 10 years. And that was a very long-term approach. We slow-cooked every single thing. So, by the time I got to that 2008 Olympic, the Olympic Trials, I was incredibly well-rounded. I eventually had good events all around and didn’t have many weaknesses. But no one likes the 1,500, it’s awful. It’s the last event. I weighed 210 pounds and 6’5”. That’s a lot of weight to carry around the track. I was just, yeah, I didn’t ever, ever fell in love with that event. I started to enjoy the training for it. I really found myself there later in my career. But man, I was never the fastest, I didn’t just have it. And I trained my butt off for one year, made a really concerted effort, like, I’m going to run 4.30. I wanted to run 4 minutes and 30 seconds for 1,500, which is like a 4.46, 4.47 mile.
Justin Donald: Wow.
Trey Hardee: And I was in the best shape of my life and ran 4.41, like the best shape I’ve ever been in, right? And then there was another season of the Olympic, the London Olympics, I already had a medal until I went out really, really slow. I knew I was going to win silver and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the heck out of that run. And I closed normally, it just felt good and easy, and I ran 4.40. And I wasn’t really super fit, like it just didn’t matter. So, it just was this thing for those years after, like, it didn’t matter if I trained for it or didn’t train specifically for it, I was going to run 4.41 plus or minus a second or two. It’s just the same. It’s just the same. It’s just the worst.
Justin Donald: I can’t believe that you were able to compete in so many– I mean, to be back-to-back days, that many events, to run the 1,500 that fast is just incredible to me. And by the way, I’m glad you bulked up because your senior year, 6-foot, 3, 155 pounds, that’s like you’re a cross-country runner, you’re not track and field, you’re not a decathlete. Like, you got to have the muscle to be able to do that. So, hearing kind of you finish out at 6’5” and 210, that makes a whole lot more sense. Now, I am really curious, though, how on earth did you come into pole vaulting? You said you’re really good at it. How does one just decide that they want to be a pole vaulter?
Trey Hardee: Yeah, my freshman year was just walking through the track. I think we were doing basketball off-season and I just saw somebody across the field pole vaulting and I’m like, what is that? And like, oh, that’s the pole vault. I was like, well, who’s that guy? Oh, that’s Brian Tomlinson, I think, was his name, and I’m like, oh, is that good? Is he doing well? Like, I didn’t know what good was, and he’s like, he’s that good. He’s like, yeah, that kid, he just won the state championship. I’m like, oh, I can do that. I’m going to go try that. So, I pole vaulted for two weeks my freshman year, just learned it. And you don’t just like, start at the back of the runway, hold at the top of a pole, bending, and stuff. I mean, I cleared like eight feet, there’s nothing significant, and then came back the next off-season, and I pole about it for two months, got a little bit better. I jumped like 13.6 that year, which again, that’d be really good if I were a female high school vaulter now. Like, it wasn’t that great.
And then came back the next season and in the middle of the fall, where basketball season was about to start, we weren’t having tryouts, we weren’t doing anything like that. We were preparing for our first tournament. The coach approached me and just said, “Hey, Trey, we don’t need you this year.” I was like, ah, okay, I’ll play, if you want me to play JV, that’s fine.” I mean, I was a junior, would have been kind of embarrassing. Sure, I’ll play down. That’s okay. He’s like, “No, no, no, no. We don’t need you at all. Just go be a pole vaulter or something.” And I was a good basketball player. Was I the star? Not at all. I was a starter. I could play. I was four years away from being the best athlete in the world. But like, I’m not– anyway, like heartache, cry myself to sleep, as bad as it could get, like in your mom’s arms, don’t understand why the world is so terrible. It was not great. Like I was being removed from all my friends, it was embarrassing, and I didn’t want to go to school the next day. Parents made me go. My friends’ parents boycotted the first few games of the season because there was no good reason, right?
So, my immature 17-year-old self was going to stick it to this guy and be the best pole vaulter anybody had ever seen. Like, okay, who wants me to be a pole vaulter? I’ll show him. So, I got second in the state meet that year, came around for my senior season, and set the indoor state pole vault record. And that track meet got me noticed by a couple of schools and got full scholarship offers to smaller schools but got noticed by some SCC track programs. And so, that was like, alright, here we go. This is my ticket to college, get a little academic money, a little book scholarship here. We got a full ride. Let’s go.
Justin Donald: That is such a cool story, and it’s also just great to take the long view because the short view is like, how could this happen to me? You’re ruining my life. I don’t get to play basketball, my favorite sport. But not even recognizing that that’s going to concentrate you in the thing that you’re going to become the best in the world at, and it’s so neat to see. It’s the whole idea of Garth Brooks’ song of unanswered prayers. And it’s cool to see how it plays out where there is a bigger picture than just that. And I’m curious, did the coach actually recognize it? Did the coach want you to concentrate there? Or did the coach just feel like, culturally, it wasn’t the right fit? Did you ever find that out?
Trey Hardee: I wish I could tell you. And yeah, we had the opportunity to figure it out. I really don’t want to know. I don’t really care at this point. Like now, it just makes the story that much better. He and I both were inducted into our town’s Sports Hall of Fame, and we were in the inaugural class. I think it was 2011, maybe. I mean, seven and a half, eight years later, after this incident, we’re both inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame. And like he made a joke that I should thank him in my speech for cutting them from the team. And so, I like how to retort during my speech that like, congrats on getting in here, despite cutting the best athlete in the world off of your team. How many games you win that year, coach? So, it’s not contentious, but there’s no love lost either.
Justin Donald: Yeah, yeah. That’s interesting. I actually just like that you said, “Hey, I don’t need to know. This is just the way that the cards were dealt, and I’m going to roll with it.” So, you glossed…
Trey Hardee: And I wasn’t going to make the NBA, I wasn’t going to do. I might have played like NAIA Basketball at my best. But yeah, I’m happy with how it turned out.
Justin Donald: Yeah, I’m sure. And by the way, I really want to know you glossed over this getting a silver medal, and this needs more justice to it. But I think there’s an even cooler story that leads up to it of kind of what happened and what it was like going to the Olympics and even battling some injuries and everything.
Trey Hardee: Yeah, I think, I mean, it would make a nice four-hour podcast, but the short version of it, and for those of you who are tuning in, you can see this nice, beautiful zipper that I have on my elbow. At the 2011 World Championships, I was trying to defend my world champion, like my world title. In the javelin, I was throwing as good as I’ve ever thrown, throwing as hard as I’ve ever thrown, and it was down to my third attempt. And I’m at the back of the runway, and everything feels completely normal. I come down with a bunch of speed, I put my leg down, bam, javelin’s flying out super fast, but my elbow legitimately explodes. And everybody is pretty familiar with Tommy John surgery in pictures. Well, this was twice that. They couldn’t find my UCL, and it exploded off of both the attachments, both off my ulna and humerus. It was like, hey, this is not good.
I came back home. I won the world championship, by the way. Still, I ran with this super-casted-up arm, like a robot, and held on and won the title again. And then I was stuck. I was at home. I was driving back from San Antonio and I got the call from the x-ray tech or from the diagnostic guy that was down at the San Antonio Spurs office where I got it done. And he’s like, “Hey, man, it’s not good, like it’s gone. We can’t even really see it on these images, but then you got to get this taken care of. There is no rehab out of this. Good luck.” Like, out the door, you see it.
So, I called my mom, my mom having to work at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, as the controller for that health care system in that hospital. And she just happened to be six floors above Champion Sports Medicine Clinic, which is where Dr. James Andrews, the father of orthopedic surgery, the guy that put Drew Brees’s arm back together before he was moved on to the Saints. She walked down and talked to his assistant. He called her within an hour and just said, “I know exactly who Trey is. We got to get him taken care of. When can he be in? I have a space on Thursday.” This is on Monday.
So, I fly on Tuesday afternoon. I’m in surgery at six a.m. on Thursday and I’m waking up at a surgery in this whirlwind. And it’s half-anesthesia, half like the gravity of what’s just happened hit me. And I can’t move my fingers. They had to displace my ulnar nerve. Like your funny bone, when you hit your funny bone, that’s what you’re really hitting. So, now, mine’s no longer in my elbow, it’s up near my bicep. So, all that nerve reset, I couldn’t move my fingers. I just started crying again. I just start bawling, and my mom is a strong woman of faith, and she’s the one that kind of got me through the basketball stuff of like, look, there’s a reason this is all happening. We don’t know it yet, but all we can do is our best, and you’re going to be okay, you’re going to be fine. This is okay.
And I only had eight and a half months to the Olympic Trials and ten months to the Olympics. Like a pitcher has never even come back and is not their full self for two years, no one has ever done this. And that’s kind of all I had in my head. And so, I had a moment, rehab is awful, but during that first kind of week of rehabilitation, I said, I can look back on this time and I can be one of two things. I can be regretful and look back and know that I might have missed some steps or tried to rush it and try to get back too soon and do really serious permit damage, or I can look back and just have no regrets. I can use every waking moment in the pursuit of this goal and this dream of being an Olympic champion and being the best version of myself and exploring my physical potential and knowing I’ve done everything within my power to get back to give myself a chance, and that set the tone. So, I was the number one athlete in the world, not really unbeatable, everybody’s beatable, man, I was it. Like London was going to be my game.
So, now, I’m sitting on my couch and I can’t even touch my fingers together. Just this feeling of like, what am I going to do? But resigning in the fact that I don’t know, but I can do my best. And so, from that day forward and several hundred thousand repetitions later of just silly, stupid, unsexy but disciplined and committed movement, I got myself in a position where I threw the javelin one time and I threw it at the Olympic Trials eight and a half months later, and it went 70 feet short or 80 feet short of what I had thrown just months before but pre-surgery, but it was just enough for me to make the team. So, now I’m in London, I’ve got house money. Now, it’s wow, okay, I’ve got six more weeks to let this elbow cook, to do everything in my power, to be ready for the elbow, to be even more ready, here we go.
And then I find myself having just really solid meat and I’m in silver medal position, but the guy in third can throw the piss out of the javelin. And if I throw it, I threw it the Olympic Trials, I finished fourth or fifth. I don’t win a medal. And so, I’m at the back of the runway and I’m talking to my coach and I’m like, “Hey, I’m going to let loose.” He’s like, “You sure?” And I was like, “What more could I have done? What more could I have done to be ready for this moment?” And I still feel right now and I almost feel like crying like I went back there with more confidence than I’ve ever had in anything in my life that everything was going to be okay. And I threw within four and a half feet of my all-time best. I threw nearly as far as I did in the track meet that I busted my elbow in the first place 10 and a half months later.
And you can Google it. It’s on YouTube somewhere, and there’s a video of my entire celebration sequence. You would have thought I had won a hundred million dollars or you would have thought I’d won this mega jackpot lottery. I celebrate for at least four minutes, just running around. I jump in the stands. I’m hugging my coaches, my agent, my friends that were there who support me. My parents, unfortunately, were sitting way too far up in the stadium, but I’d go berserk. And everyone’s kind of– the trainers, there’s one more race left, that he didn’t win this, right? And it just didn’t matter. It was just this I’ve never felt anything like that and that insanely gratifying victory. And then it’s fun getting to tell the story because, on paper, everyone’s like, man, so you won the world championship, then you won another world championship, but then you only got silver, that stinks like the hell it does. It’s like the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. So, that’s the CliffsNotes version, yeah.
Justin Donald: That is just such an incredible story. I can’t believe you continued competing in the world championships with a totally blown elbow. You finished running. You’re literally wrapped up as you’re running with an unintact elbow. You win that. And then most people, and by the way, you’re favored to win it all and then you had this injury, and most people probably counted you out, like you weren’t even going to make the team, right? And the mere fact that you made the team, you competed, you got silver, that’s just incredible. And what a difference that time than the previous Olympics, right?
Trey Hardee: Yeah, previous Olympics was just this. It was too big, it was such a big thing for me. I was in medal position going into the pole vault. Best event for me should have moved myself up. I was throwing jav really well and I was probably the fittest I’d ever been. I was going to run 4.30 if it took that. And it was just too big of a moment. And I crumble literally, physically, emotionally crumbled and did not clear bar on the pole vault. So, I went from third place and was going to be fighting for silver there to dead last place and dropped out, then just woke up under the stadium crying again, was just like, “What is happening? How did this happen?” It was just too big of a moment for me.
Justin Donald: I think that story, though, is so important to the overall picture of what happened because without that moment, without that experience, I don’t think you would have been prepared to weather this storm of adversity and injury the way that you did. And so, as painful as it is, it’s just like getting cut. It helped define who you were and kind of moved you closer to getting that silver medal. And most people, I mean, to have the opportunity to even compete to get into the Olympics is such a great honor, but to actually medal, the percentage of people, I mean, it’s such a small percentage. You think about professional athletes, that’s a very small percentage. It’s a smaller percentage to medal in the Olympics, to go to the Olympics, let alone medal in the Olympics. And so, when you just think of what you’ve accomplished, that to me, is mind-boggling, like the odds for which this can happen and that you were one of them.
Trey Hardee: Yeah, it’s something like when you’re in the moment, you’re surrounded by those people, so it is it’s this, yeah, of course, we’re all Olympians. And then, of course, yeah, you’ve got three medals, I’ve got two. It’s just what we do. But like the older I get, the further away I get from that, the more what you say rings very, very true of how fortunate I was to be in those positions, and honestly, just be proud of my younger self, be proud of those decisions, and that kind of guides me today. Like, okay, when I’m 50, what am I going to be proud of, like the 40-year-old Trey? What am I going to say? Look, man, I’m glad that younger version of myself was smart enough to see X.
Justin Donald: Well, and you always have the story to relate to anyone who has the shortcoming that we’re all going to have at some point, especially when you get to coach your kids through it where it’s like, hey, I was on the biggest stage in the world and look what happened to me and I had two choices I could make. And instead of giving up, I made the other choice, and it was probably one of the toughest choices that I ever made. I just think that that’s so cool. So, you’re this two-time world champion, you’re this two-time Olympic athlete, you won a silver medal. But I think it gets even cooler because you just went back to the Olympics this last year as a commentator, talk about that a little bit, that had to be just amazing.
Trey Hardee: Yeah, and again, born out of unfortunate circumstance as well. So, in 2016, I’m preparing for my third Olympic Games. Again, I’m feeling good. I’m healthy. I’m not quite in like, I’m at the tail end of my prime, but stuff’s going really well, best fall training I’ve ever had, and it’s mid-January. I’m getting ready for a pole vault meet and I dislocate my foot. My take-off foot completely comes out. I’m staring at my heel, like the bottom of my shoes looking right at me, and I’m freaking out for lack of a better term and spend the next five months just trying to walk without pain, trying to figure out, okay, how can I stay somewhat fit? How do I figure this out? How do I just get back to the Olympic Trials? If I get there, maybe I can sneak and make a team or whatever, and really, nothing held up. I couldn’t get through the first day, strained the hamstring that was on that side because it was just underprepared. Who knows if I would have made the team? Odds are probably would have been close, but it just wasn’t in the cards and it was just too little, too late.
So, again, I’ve done everything in my power and accepted that the outcome of the track meet and wasn’t going to make the Olympic team. And so, I land in Austin, Texas, sit next to my wife. I got a voicemail. It pings when I turn the phone on, and it’s a producer for NBC, and he’s like, “Hey, if you want to come down to the track today, we’d love to have you on air and talk a little bit.” I’m like, ah, man, sorry. Write them back. I’m in Austin. Sorry. Maybe next time, I appreciate it, though. He’s like, “No, no, no, we’ll fly back out. We’d really love to see how you are on camera.” And I look at my wife. We’re still in our seats. I’m like, I really don’t, I don’t know if I want to do that. She’s like, you’re doing it. I’m like, okay.
Justin Donald: What a good wife.
Trey Hardee: Yeah. So that’s late afternoon in Austin, Texas. The next day at noon on West Coast time, I’m back in Eugene and I am on the track with a microphone in my hand talking about men’s triple jump and women’s volleyball. And first time ever, I’m live-live. It’s like you’re live on NBC. And it’s first time I’ve ever been on camera. First time, I hold the microphone. And I had a blast, it was invigorating, it was fun being out there, talking about my friends, talking about the sport that I care about. And I do two days of track and field and I’m walking out of the production area back to the airport. Executive producer bumped his head out of the truck, he’s like, “Hey Trey, do you want to go to Rio?” I’m like, “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
And so, I get to join, like an old teammate of mine, Sanya Richards-Ross, and we fly to Rio and we do our very first big track meet is the Olympics and huge learning experience, still don’t know how anyone put any faith in me to do that, but it’s become this part of my year every year. I get to call track and field, I get to display the joy and try to explain these events to people so they can understand them and get to know the athletes that are the best in the world at what they do. And it’s just been amazing. I was one of those luckiest thousand people that got to watch in person the Tokyo Olympics. I got to be in the stadium watching world record after world record, medal after medal, story after story of this human experience and human performance at its highest level all because I got hurt in 2016. So, again, same arch, same thread being woven in my life of that. I should probably rejoice a little bit more when bad things happen because it seems like better things come out of this.
Justin Donald: Well, I love that you do turn it because it could be easier to be like, oh, man, I’m so living in regret for this third Olympics that I should have been in. I know a lot of people that would have lived that way, but you see it differently, you see it as the gift that it gave you, not the curse that it was. And I think that that’s really important. I also think it’s important when you have strong faith to back you and just kind of keep you sane and let you know there are bigger things than just this. Like this isn’t as big as we make it out to be. There are greater obstacles, there are greater needs and uses of our gifts. And so, you’re doing that, you’re displaying that. So, how cool is that? You would watch all these Olympic Games, anyway. Now, you’re getting paid to be there in person, interact with these athletes, hang out with your co-anchors and co-commentator. It’s just awesome.
Trey Hardee: Yeah, it really is. And I want to reiterate, like in those moments, you don’t have your wits about you like this. This is hindsight, I get to say, wow, and what a blessing this was. But man, as an athlete and a competitor, it is infuriating. It’s really bittersweet where I recall moments when I was calling the Olympic decathlon final, the run in the 1,500, and my producer steps and talks in my ear and says, “Hey, Trey, you need to pick it up a little bit. I know you’re sad, but you got to be excited,” because I was visibly, and you can hear it in my voice how sad I was that I wasn’t out there. And so, in those moments, I afforded myself the grace to be upset, but only as time passes, you realize, man, that was a big benefit to me and my family that that happened because, I mean, my daughter was born a couple of months after that, and it really made it easier for myself to step away because I was still going to get to be in touch with the sport, I’d still going to be involved.
Justin Donald: I love it. I love it. I had Chris Pronger, who’s also an Olympic athlete, NHL great legend on the show. And he’s moving here to Austin and is part of one of my investment groups off to make sure that you guys connect. I think you’d enjoy one another’s company as just the best of the best at what you do. So cool. And I love even beyond this, so like we could look at Trey Hardee, this amazing Olympian, but we can also look at you as, hey, you’ve opened up a new chapter in your life. You are an investor. You’re an entrepreneur. I’d love to hear about some of those things. I know that you kind of got your start in this space through reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and I know that you have parents that were both CPAs and corporate controllers. And so, maybe that exact path doesn’t run in your family but recognizing the importance of these numbers and just the importance of details probably does.
Trey Hardee: Yeah, the one thing it definitely taught me is that I don’t want to be an accountant. Like, those dinner conversations, we’re just like, is this really what you all want to talk about right now? Really? Who cares how much the MRI is? Who cares? So, then in health care in and of itself was a real snooze-fest anyways, but it was that, I mean, going back to Rich Dad, Poor Dad, it was that my parents clocked in and clocked out, were salaried employees. They squirreled away all the money they could. They had vested, they had 401(k)’s, they had everything that was there. And it was more about the saving part of it that I learned from them and really, the delayed gratification of what investing should feel like. This isn’t a casino. This is planting seeds. And that’s really what I got out of it.
But I learned as I got older and I learned as I started to make money was the difference between a cash-flowing asset versus just bonds and equities and things that are just for later, like things that you can put in a SEP, and I don’t even want to see it, don’t even tell me about it. I’m just going to give you money, and you put it in a SEP, and I trust my advisor kind of thing versus something like real estate. So, every red cent that I made in track and field, I bought Austin real estate, I bought my home, I bought rental properties, I bought stuff that I knew when I retired or when my abilities were gone, and no one was going to pay me to run track anymore, I didn’t have to run out and get a job. I didn’t have to run out and start trying to figure it out while also needing money to support my family.
And so, that was my big aha moment as I won a medal in 2009 and I use that capital as a down payment, like the cash bonus you get from a sponsor as a down payment for my first house and lived there only like two and a half, three years before I built my next house with my future wife. And we kept the old one, and that was the rental property. That turned me on to– and I was like, oh my, wait, okay, you mean the renter’s paying my note, I can write off the interest, and in 10 years, we’re going to be this far down the schedule of the mortgage, and there’s inflation-induced debt destruction and all of these byproducts. Oh, and when I buy mulch for this house and there’s some leftover, I can use that mulch in my house and still write it off in this house. All of the benefits of this stuff were just, it blew my mind. So, I’m like, okay, I’m not going to buy anything else for myself. I’m going to buy more single-family rentals in Austin, Texas. And I mean, anybody that was buying single-family houses in Austin, Texas the last 30 years looks like a flipping genius. And so, yeah, that afforded me the ability to go to business school. I went back, paid tuition to business school, didn’t have to worry about where money was coming in from. And those lessons from my parents are just selling seeds and just working and stuff so that when the time came I needed it, I had it. And that’s where I’m coming from.
Justin Donald: That’s incredible. And by the way, you would have done well in any market with that strategy, but it’s a good thing you picked Austin, Texas because you have had some exponential return on those homes since you started investing. I mean, this is a boom economy, and I know you just built a gorgeous new home here this past year, which is exciting. And so, it’s cool seeing what you’ve been able to build, and instead of frivolously spending that you’re intentionally buying assets that produce income. That is music to my ears. It’s what I love teaching people. So, well done.
Trey Hardee: Yeah. It’s getting harder and harder, though, now that we’re set up and we’re okay. It’s getting really, really hard to keep that discipline, I’ll say that. There was one, like when the Tesla Model X came out, we had it. We had it for like the three-day long weekend test drive, and it was like, okay, this is the one, we’re going to go back and buy this. And I was at the dealership or at the showroom, and we’re talking, and I’m like, no, we could finance this, or we could, ah. We should put money down. I don’t know. Let me, I’ll be right back. And I went, I got a Starbucks coffee at the domain and I called my wife and I’m like, “Hey, we’re not going to get this car.” She’s like, “What? Why?” It’s literally my dream car. Now, the Cybertruck’s the dream car, but like, it’s literally the dream car that we wanted, and I was like, “No, there’s a duplex on knuckles crossing that I think we could get for this.” And she’s like, “Okay.” And there was no argument. She goes, “Okay,” because she saw what we were doing and what we were building. And that thing could have paid for two Model X’s in the cash flow that it gets. We liquidated it just last year to build this beautiful home. But it was those kind of little tiny decisions that just delayed the gratification now, so that everything’s okay down the line.
Justin Donald: I love it. That’s awesome. I’m so glad that you’ve been able to do that. And yes, you’re right, the more comfortable you get, the less inclined you are to keep doing that. And so, I think all of us need to constantly remind ourselves that when things get a little comfortable, to still keep the discipline going. We can enjoy life and we should enjoy life today, but not completely at the expense of tomorrow. It should be both. We should focus on both. And you model that really well. So, thank you for sharing that. I love seeing athletes that, instead of going from just stratospheric numbers in income to bankrupt or in debt, I love seeing athletes, and I know that Olympic athletes, I mean, you get a nice bump from endorsements and sponsorships, but financially, it’s a lot different than being in professional sports where you’re competing every day or every week over a long season. But for you to be able to take what you’ve earned and turn that around so that you don’t have to work so that you can be what I call a lifestyle ambassador, I think it’s incredible. But then you can focus your time and energy on the things that are most exciting to you, and I’d love for you to talk about your new wellness practice that you just started.
Trey Hardee: Yeah, so that was kind of it. So, going through this process and retiring, I’m going to attach myself at the hip to what seemed like the most successful people that I knew. And every single one of them to the tee said, “I wish I could go back and spend more time with my kids.” And so, my definition of wealth is just that we spend less than I make and my time as my own, and I spend my time with my kids. And so, I don’t step in any endeavors that are going to take me away from that too much.
Now, there are temporary sacrifices in order to set that up down the road, but for right now, that’s it. I’ve started and wound up several businesses. All of them made money, but none of them work for me. And now, I finally feel like I’m aligned with my past and history and the lessons that I learned in the decathlon, and that made me the best and most successful decathlete that I could be, the number one athlete in the world for four years out of my career. How do I offer that? Where’s the intersection between that and the general public and people that want that type of outcome in their life whether it’s increasing life expectancy, increasing healthy life expectancy, having a better relationship with their family or their work or their job, or improving just physical fitness, wellness?
I’m trying to figure out how to craft that. I don’t want to call it product, but I was out raising money for a completely other venture and I had a series of dinners, and everyone has the dinner at the end. Like, what I’m looking for is this, and I really appreciate it, I really respect all you guys. It would be awesome if you could be on board. Everyone was like, yeah, that’s a good idea. We really see that. That’s a good idea. There’s cash flow there. We think that opportunity is for you down the road, but can we just pay you to tell us what to do? And I’m like, “What?” We think you’ve got something here. Whatever you’re saying will do it, like in terms of the conversations always led, how did you train for the decathlon? How did you do that? Like all the things that made me a successful decathlete or things that could be applied in everybody’s life.
And so, right now, we launched on January 3rd. And I’ve got a small beta group of 10 people that, by mid-summer, we’re going to have this nice, marketable product and kind of the playbook for everybody’s desired outcomes. We have surgical oncologists, we have lawyers, we have independent contractors, we’ve got just people that get it and want to spend the money to take care of themselves, and to boil it all down, want to be on this journey with Trey Hardee. And I’ve got an awesome, awesome team of registered dietitians, high-performance coaches. The guy that runs our strength and conditioning programming stuff, he was at the Tampa Bay Bucs, he was at the Washington Huskies, he was at the Texas Longhorns. I’m trying to think of the athletes under his tutelage. I think he’s got eight Olympic medals. He’s got three NBA draft lottery picks. They know what they’re doing and they’re on board for all of this stuff. And we’re evidence-based, science-driven, and just excited to build a really, really tight-knit community of encouragement.
And yeah, I could go on and on about this for a really, really long time, but I’m just finally in that zone of alignment where, what I used to do, I get to fold that in again. Just like being a commentator, I get to fold in that thing that made me just that little to half a percent better, that consistent, unsexy discipline of doing the little tiny reps, just touching my fingers together, just doing all the stuff that no one else is willing to do, and getting to help people enjoy the fruits of that labor, getting to help people and educate people and encourage people to do the exact same thing in their own lives, and that is Altum Wellness.
Justin Donald: Trey, that is just amazing. Your story is incredible. I’m so excited for this wellness practice. Where can my audience learn more about you and this brand?
Trey Hardee: Well, right now, we’re still cooking the brand. We’re going to unveil something in mid-summer, so we’re keeping it kind of close to the vest. But Altum Wellness will be there, and it’ll be on Instagram. And AltumWellness.me is the website. Right now, it’s just a splash page and it’s just our client login so they can pay for the service. But I’m at Trey Hardee on every social media platform. And if you want to just shoot me a note and ask questions and talk to me a little bit about Altum, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’m always available to talk, I’m always available to share advice. I love meeting new people, and yeah, that’s where I’m at today.
Justin Donald: Well, Trey, thanks so much for taking the time to share your story with us and so many words of wisdom. I want to end today the way I end every show, and that’s this. I really want to encourage all of you watching, all of you listening, what’s the one step you can take today to move towards financial freedom, to living a life that you truly desire on your terms, not a life by default, but a life by design? Catch you next week.