Episode 069 – Part 2 – Dealing with career-changing injuries, rapid acceptance vs giving up, North Pole expedition with Prince Harry, being so good they can’t ignore you, and more with Jaco Van Gaas
In part one, Jaco Van Gaas described in detail his military operation in Afghanistan. The operation led to career-changing injuries. In part two, Jaco shares his journey from being in critical condition in hospital – to double Paralympic champion and world record holder in cycling for Team GB.
In this truly inspiring episode, Jaco shares:
- What was it like going through the realisation he had career-changing injuries?
- How he decided between acceptance vs given up on his life
- The self-talk helped him create a rapid turning point
- How he dealt with rejection (twice) by running marathons
- His North Pole expedition with Prince Harry
- Climbing Mt Everest and experiencing his second close shave with death
- Went on to represent Team GB and achieve champion and world record holder status
- How he uses short-term goal setting to prepare for major events
This episode is woven with lessons and principles for overcoming adversity and leading a successful life filled with joy.
To listen to part one of this inspiring episode click here.
Please subscribe and review. For show notes, to become a supporter and get your perks go to https://seekardo.com/
Harms: Hello it’s Harms here and welcome to another episode of the Seekardo show. Today’s episode is part two with Jaco Van Gaas and if you tuned in for part one, you know that as part of Jaco’s story he had woken up in hospital after being in a firefight in Afghanistan and waking up to realise he had kind of life changing injuries and that’s exactly where we left off.
Dr Ro: Correct me if I’m wrong Jaco but you mentioned you’ve now been nominated for an MBE?
Jaco: Thank you and yes being awarded in the New Year Honours list first of January to receive an MBE at some point this year. Hugely honoured and to be representing Great Britain in cycling.
Dr Ro: You were kind enough to really deep dive last time you got to a place where there were quite a lot of reflections going on a personal level, so you’ve just come out of this unbelievable firefight and you talked about the fact you just woken up in hospital and started to realise the level of the injuries.
Could you just tell us what happened to that unit you with because obviously from what you people were just piling in to cover where they could.
What happened to the team?
Jaco: The guys did an unbelievable job.
So in a very lucky way in the way I see it, we were very lucky that I was the only significant injured or wounded that night. I was classed as tier one, again throughout your medical training we all receive on a very basic level, if someone gets injured you mark them at T1 or T2 or T3 and that will depend on the level of attendance they will get. Can they look after themselves?
That’s more tier 1, tier two is severe and tier three is immediate medical attention and cardiac. I was attached to a sniper that evening and he was the only other person that sustained serious injuries. He received some shrapnel wounds to his calf. So again it was really difficult to walk, tier two so he could do some functions but also needed attention to get out of there.
We were the two most severely wounded.
The rest of the guys were managing to then recover from the blast, the shock from it and then continue their job and to suppress the enemy.
I think only later on, where it will be like a day or two later where they would feel a sharp scratch sitting down or something rubbing on them and it will be a tiny piece of shrapnel in their leg or the back or in their arm, and they didn’t notice was there and then suddenly the body is shifting it out.
I think my partner stayed in and got some stitches and a little bit of rehab and then he was back on the ground doing his job that was what is required. In a lucky sense it was only me that sustained the injury and not many other of the members.
Dr Ro: If I remember rightly you were escorting these high value assets what was the end result?
Jaco: The high value targets that we caught and captured we still had them with us. Once the helicopter came to pick us up we managed to actually get them out as well, and escort them off the ground and then they would then be interviewed and then prosecuted eventually through Afghan law.
Dr Ro: Amazing, so all that went on and you wake up in this clinical environment, who was the first person you saw?
Jaco: I remember seeing my mother’s face with great deal of confusion because my last clear memory was being in Afghanistan.
I remember being in a firefight and there was almost like a level of realisation of what happened to me but thinking I’m in Afghanistan. So my first thought was that my parents and my sister have been flown to Afghanistan and I know that the camps on a regular basis get attacked and I didn’t want that.
It took a great deal of convincing from doctors and my family to say that we’re actually in Birmingham and this is six days after I’ve been injured. They actually had to wheel me to a window to actually look outside and let my brain actually calculate the fact that I’m back in the UK.
As I was cooped up in the intensive care hospital ward I could’ve been anywhere in the world and for me, my brain, my mind, my memory was back in Afghanistan. So until I actually saw the outside I could rationalise I’m back in the UK.
Dr Ro: How critical had it been, was it a near death? You must have lost a lot of blood.
Jaco: The incident happened receiving life-saving treatment on the ground, lifted by a helicopter and I was then flown to a American specialist space because they were closest to us and then one of my best friends and soldiers and Stefan and my boss, my captain that night a guy called Colin they stayed with me and the rest of the unit weren’t even allowed to get off the back of the helicopter.
That’s when I received life changing injuries and on that operating table my heart stopped twice.
I think both Colin and Stefan was allowed quite free access within the building and at the same time they almost peaked over through the glass window into the theatre and they can just see the doctors scooping my insides out of my body placing it next to me and both of them just literally turned around and said he’s not making this.
I’ve spoken with Colin many times and he actually had to take a break from it all, he walked outside of the building lit up a cigarette and just was puffing on a cigarette and thinking he can’t survive.
One of the nurses actually came out and was having a cigarette break and he went to her. What is his survival rate? She said as calm as a cucumber, yeah he’ll be alright, he’ll pull through.
Colin was like I’ve just seen this man’s guts outside of his body. How is he going to make that? They’ve just seen the most and that didn’t even phase them so I can’t imagine what horrifies them. But twice I had to be brought back to life and I think as well what Colin said was I had just less than a pint of blood left in my body. I had quite a lot of blood put back into me, so all very on the edge.
Dr Ro: When you wake up out of that, when do you start to start acknowledging what’s happened?
Jaco: It was quite a systematic process as well, and it took some time. I’d say a few weeks for me to rationalise what happened because I was at a very, very physical peak of performance during my time in Afghanistan. I looked good.
I felt strong and then you get hit by a rocket and you go from one day feeling on top of the world and in the best shape of your life coming out from an induced coma and what felt to me like the next morning I’m sipping a protein shake through a straw to help feed my body and to help recover. I had a colostomy, a catheter. I had people helping me to sit up so totally dependent on people around me. My life shifted from one extreme to the other in a matter of seconds.
So even comprehending that and then in my mind I rationalised, and I remember the loss of the arm. I looked at it and I remember okay, gosh that’s gone the biggest shock of them all was realising the extent of all the other injuries that I received that evening.
I didn’t know the injuries I sustained to my left leg and how severe that was. I had a collapsed left lung and an arm. I remember that, and it was let’s carry on, but the rest of it was very difficult to deal with.
Then you have all the support just pouring in from family and friends and you wake up there’s someone there, your visiting times it’s always full of people.
I put on a brave face in front of them to show them and especially my parents and even more so my mother to show them that I’m okay but I’ve not actually dealt with anything in my mind up to this stage and as normal and anything life goes on.
As these people were heading back to their day jobs and my parents eventually had to fly back to the UK I found myself a lot more time to myself and that’s when the mind started ticking over and that’s when I was like, oh my gosh what has actually happened to me?
I have this colostomy bag that I don’t know is this for life or a couple of months? I had a third of tissue on my leg blown off and at that stage it was quite infected as well, so the unknown of whether I’m going to keep my left leg was huge.
The potential of actually becoming an above knee amputee was still on the card, depending on how this leg will heal up and I found myself stuck in this bed with all the time and all the sports running through my head.
Dr Ro: Talk us through the extremes of your mindset. What were those diametrically opposite conversations happening in your head?
Jaco: Suddenly I realised the restrictions I was under in that stage and I couldn’t see how I’m going to get better and how life is going to carry on the way I am. I couldn’t see the progression that would eventually come on the way and 100% those thoughts turned even more sour and then I started asking questions about why did this happen to me? Why did I survive? Did I do something wrong that night? I was in the wrong place and time but it wasn’t my fault. Is it all my own fault and can I forgive myself for that and then I started wondering actually if life is going to be the way I am now I am not happy.
The suicide thoughts came in, am I to a degree better off dead?
Just not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel whatsoever.
Dr Ro: Were these conversations coming up and down, was it a constant flow or just a period?
Harms: Someone may think that was happening at a moment in time. You mentioned two weeks. It could have been 30 days but for some people we’ve spoken to people 20, 30 years later who still go back to that place and they feel like they’re there.
They have those thoughts.
So what was it like for you?
Jaco: It was just that period.
I eventually got out of that place and actually speaking about now and I’m looking back on where I am now it seems almost impossible that I had those thoughts. That I even considered something like that, but was me in that moment.
Having to learn what’s going on in that moment and it’s later on that I had this realization that you know what I actually do only have two choices here. There’s an element of acceptance or there’s an element of giving up and giving up will be obviously suicidal and not being here.
Luckily I didn’t go down that road.
Dr Ro: Even you saying that is such a great frame as people overcomplicate situations. The fact that you look at and say I have to accept it, what do I do next or I give up so that is a powerful tool.
The question is now how you shape yourself to become the next stage if you want to stay alive and live purposefully.
Would you say having people around you was part of that switching away from giving up towards acceptance?
Harms: Did all of this dialogue happen with yourself and with no external input or did you lean people around you, did you go seek advice?
Jaco: For me this was all internal.
When I saw someone I was so happy with any visitors, friendly faces but when the curtain draws and night-time falls some very dark thoughts start coming out and this was all internal dialogue and for me especially the morning when my parents left especially my mum, I saw the worry in her face.
I think even for herself sitting next to my hospital bed there was an element of I’m here looking after you. I will do whatever I can for you to now get back on the plane from England to South Africa you remove her and she will be in her house and she’s like who’s going to feed him, look after him?
If he is in pain who is going to make sure that he gets painkillers and stuff like that and I can see the worry in that so for me it was always showing to her that I’m okay and just seeing that in her face that day, when she left I could not even imagine the heartbreak if I took a decision to not be here anymore.
I would destroy her life.
I would end her life to a degree as well because for myself and my sister that’s one of the reasons she’s here, she lives for us and if I took that away the ripple effect of my stupid decision and the consequences of my decision to do something like that is so big and especially my mum being the first ripple from that centre.
I decided to accept what happened to me and I need to learn to live with that new me the way I’ve now been shaped and formed and some of the challenges I’ll be facing.
That night I accepted and I decided for the second option, the latter to carry on with life. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so well in my life. It felt like someone to the world of problems away from me. I was clear and fresh that morning.
I said, it’s going to be tough, I’m going to come across a lot of difficult times but I think I’m ready to take this on and it was like a light switch.
With that came as well I can’t be a soldier any more and I think that was also another big element of my change and my moving forward. It was moving on because there were still days before this where I was hanging on. I was thinking what can I do in the army? Can I go back to Afghanistan? Is there a prosthetic that I can have that can hold a weapon and I can still operate a weapon safely and accurately?
This is where my mind was at but my body was going. You need to slow down, so they were at two different places.
Once I had that acceptance of actually the words of career changing injuries was the literal meaning of it that we need to look somewhere else for something that I’ll be happy with but not within the military. That was like again just a big load off me and then my mind and my body was synced finally, after weeks they were synced.
Now I’m ready to heal and I can promise you that in that protein shake someone poured an extra scoop of magic in there as suddenly my body was healing faster than what it did in the last two, three, four weeks.
I was constantly fighting infections and the skin didn’t want to heal and suddenly there was a bit of me that was healing better. I was ready to heal and my path to recovery just sped up by 100%.
Dr Ro: How old were you at that point Jaco?
Jaco: I was 23.
Dr Ro: When we used to run the turning point events we’d talk about the fact that when something dramatic happens to you a turning point often creates a new set of beliefs, values and a new sense of purpose which leads to a new sense of identity, those four, five key steps and that hits you almost in an instant.
The thing about the decision you made is a new set of beliefs that I can do something different, a new set of values that you live for something different.
A new sense of purpose not necessarily in the military now but something else but also now a new identity. Did it feel like an instant turning point overnight once a decision had been made?
Jaco: That’s exactly it.
It was a turning point, a defining moment as well.
People think the turning point was the night I got injured and you’re right it is a turning point but for me looking back and even after injury of things I have achieved and gone on to do with my life, but for me mentally that evening that mental switch, that acceptance, that conversation I had with and that moment going option number two let’s go live life and see what we can do.
That for me is one of my biggest turning points, one of my biggest defining moments in my life that I made a conscious decision that then led to everything from that very moment onwards to where we are today.
Dr Ro: A fundamental lesson here is that shit happens to us, you had a situation that occurred to you a set of circumstances, but the true internal turning point was when you make decisions yourself.
You couldn’t control what happened, but you could control how you dealt with that.
Jaco: And shit still happens to me on a regular basis. The fact that I had something so horrific happen to me doesn’t mean I’m cleared for the rest of my life, I still come over very difficult times.
I still feel like why is this happening to me? Why am I getting injured? Why is this property deal not going through?
There are still difficult decisions to make but if anything from that moment on as significant as that incident happened to me at or that night I made that decision, no.
I think if I can come down that moment then anything else is actually quite minor and if I could have gone through that moment and made such a decision to carry on with life then when I’m facing anything difficult from that moment onwards is it as significant as that?
No. If I can get through that moment I can get through any others.
Dr Ro: We’ve all had something shit happen to us and we’ve come through it, it may not have been as extreme as yours, but we’ve grown through it as a frame of reference.
We’re talking about your adventure, cycling Everest. Would you go back when things are tough to remind yourself that it’s never going to be as bad as that or you’re grateful that you’ve had this experience, but you’ve grown so you can overcome it. All things pass.
Jaco: It’s both.
Both physically and mentally, but mostly the physical side. But I’ve been in worse pain than this and I know I can push through and then there’s an element as well, where you can have that internal dialogue.
The beautiful thing about this is there are so many beautiful podcasts like this one that you can learn you can listen from and can grow from and again from previous books. I think I’ve read a quote somewhere or a stat that when we are at the point of giving up when you’re doing something very hard and you feel like you’ve reached the limit you’re only 60% there you still have 40% in the tank, be that mentally and physically.
Even just by knowing that you can actually go I have more we can push through this difficult time and it comes from learning.
Resilience is something you’re not born with, it is something you most definitely learn about over the years from going through difficult times getting through that and it like a recipe you can constantly use the base of it and add a bit more and more and eventually you have the perfect recipe getting through adverse times.
You can learn from that and that comes from you just during life and how you actually deal with that and the tools you use to get through those difficult situations.
Harms: Talk to us about how quickly you were able to accept adversity and then make a shift in your life.
The speed you talked about was two weeks, possibly a bit longer. Going back to the point where we’ve seen people spend decades hanging on to adversity without acceptance.
What was it, did you have an approach? Why were you able to come through adversity within the space of two weeks, that’s incredibly quick versus someone who maybe takes years and years. Is there a process you follow now that happened back then?
Jaco: It’s probably something I do need to ponder on a little bit to give you the correct answer, but something that really does spring to mind immediately is that even now on a daily basis we face change.
We face adversity in various different levels and sometimes we don’t even know it because they’re so minor. What do I have for breakfast? Constantly making choices.
Especially in the army the one place I learned to deal with change was within the army. I see that through my training and my preparation for missions and operations that you can plan to the best possible way you can but you can land on target or arrive at the location and something’s totally changed since the last info update that you had and you can’t abandon the mission just because there’s a change.
You have to adapt and change to make a quick decision to go okay, we’ll place two men here and then we’ll carry on. But you can’t abandon the whole mission just because there was a slight change from what was briefed to you.
Especially throughout the army they taught us so well to deal with change, deal with adversity and to think outside the box and I think that really helped with the ability for me to go okay, there’s a significant change, but there is only one outcome and that outcome is I need to adapt to it and I need to seek what life now looks like.
Especially in the Parachute Regiment we’re extremely proud of who we are, what we stand for. That helped me to think I’m ready for anything you know I can take on because I’m actually proud to be a paratrooper.
I’m still a paratrooper, I’m going to be a paratrooper in a different way, but I’m ready for anything and I’ve helped me make that shift and then move on to that level of acceptance.
Dr Ro: I think there is also the debate over affirmations.
Some people argue affirmations work, other people say that people mechanise up affirmations because particularly through the 90’s and 80’s there was a big movement towards positive development and personal mindset and affirmations.
I think an affirmation you have to own it.
It’s on your shoulder it sits in your mindset this whole concept of anything just became a way of life for you and I think that’s a great lesson. Acceptance affirmation and also you talk about dealing with change.
You’re right it could be breakfast but it can also be work you work find out you’ve lost a contract at work so be ready to deal with it. deal with the situation now what I do next, as opposed to gurgling and whining about it.
Harms: Or saying that wasn’t the plan because often the opposite to what you described is somebody has a fixed plan in their mind of how their life is going to be and we know that always changes by default.
Nothing goes to plan, as you described. So that’s the opposite kind of frame reference.
Dr Ro: I think with younger people this whole concept of being disciplined is still not quite there. It is like if it doesn’t go quite right look for another easy option. You were fortunate at 23 to have had a military discipline but I think the average 23-year-old has a very different mindset to that.
Harms: I think because of the environment were in the convenience and the speed which we can get things it’s always what is the easier option and also being able to change from I don’t like this app I’ll use this app instead.
I can’t get my food from this delivery company I’ll switch over, that becomes their frame of reference.
Whereas when something really happens in life they’re not quite adapted to make that change because that requires a difficult process. Jaco talked us through the process that went on in those two weeks that’s not happening in people’s minds.
If you embody everything Jaco has spoken about and you’re ready for anything, what could happen next to you?
Dr Ro: The compass got reset obviously what’s the next big north for you?
Jaco: It pointed to the North Pole to be very honest.
Through my realisation I found as well the way I work in my head was that I needed something to work towards. I always have goals and challenges and if I don’t work towards them then why am I breaking myself, putting myself through discomfort to achieve something?
That was very much through my reputation as well, so the challenge was let’s get out of bed. I needed to get into a wheelchair and then the wheelchair turned into a walking frame and a walking frame with a walking stick and then obviously all on my own and then from walking to running again.
I had these short but very clear achievements I want to work towards and through that life progressed very quickly. V
ery soon I was approached to take on this challenge to be part of a team to be able to walk unsupported to the geographical North Pole, something that’s never been done before by a group of wounded service men or women and this was the perfect challenge for me. It was so out there.
I had never experienced such a cold environment, but the challenge was can I go and do something?
Eventually I went for the interview phase and I was told no, because at that stage in my mind I was like I’m on the team and I’m walking to the North Pole. But I was actually still on a walking stick and I had a colostomy that was still relatively fresh.
My leg was healing up, but still touch and go and I walked into this interview and I can still remember the main guy of the charity. Their faces just dropped. They were like you were basically a walking corpse compared to anyone else we saw that day.
Dr Ro: How long since you had the accident?
Jaco: I would say from having the accident we’re talking about three months down the line. I’m thinking I’m going to trek to the North Pole and actually smash it and in my head that’s where I was heading.
They did a few exercises, they had a doctor as well and they did a really good consultation on me and thank you very much Jaco we will be in touch.
Almost that very same day they called me back and said, I want to thank you for coming in. You were by far the most severely injured guy we’ve seen that day, your injuries are still fresh, the colostomy bag, how is that going to work in -30°?
We don’t know anything about that and the dangers around that getting frozen and the injuries I could sustain from there further on it was just too severe. I was like okay, I understand and it was a disappointment to me, but it made me refocus.
So maybe I need to dial it down a bit. I still need a challenge. I then went into running, I then went on to do my first ever half marathon in Kenya. I went on to do the New York marathon.
Dr Ro: Do you set just short-term goals?
What is the new makeup of Jaco Van Gaas at this point? How do you focus? What do you believe about yourself?
Jaco: I learned and developed that if I set short-term goals which eventually lead to the bigger goal which is further down the line and I work backwards from that and then again be that in business, property and in my sporting career. I had a conversation with my coach a few days ago. We were talking about Paris and that’s three years down the line.
We will go backwards and there are world Championships here and we’re looking to change certain training elements.
Yes, I’ve done really well to now, and we’ve got a base of how I can do it, but if you don’t change and if I just do the same things I’ve done over the last four years I’m going to stagnate. I’m going to be in one place and the rest of the world will advance, so I need to move on. If you do more of one thing than another it has an effect on the other and we’re still working and experimenting, that keeps my passion going. And then the love for it.
One thing for me is short term goals towards the long one and then you’ve got to love it, you have to have a passion for it. I can’t tell you I want to win the paralympic games but I hate riding my bike. It is torture then as why am I then putting myself through quite a lot of discomfort and those hard sessions and so much sacrifice, time away from my wife to be and other things that we sacrifice.
We never go on holiday without a bike, which she will probably love us to do.
So have a clear goal of what you want to achieve in life.
Harms: What I’ve taken away from that is often and I think I see this in younger people. I have felt that personally you want to get to the big goal right now, but because you love the process because you love whatever you’re doing and this applies to individuals as well you’re more than happy to take a small step.
There’s a real process to this but like you said if you don’t love it, then you won’t do the first or second mini goal.
Dr Ro: There’s a value and a set date like Paris is a set date whereas when someone is like creating an idea, a new business or deal, unless you put a stake in the ground saying you want to get it by this date often it’s very easy to flex on that aspirational activity.
Jaco: Myself and Catherine as a couple as business partners as well we very much do that.
We actually tell ourselves we want to buy X amount of houses by the end of this year and it puts a bit of pressure on you because if you say, we would love to have two houses hopefully soon you keep pushing it back and that soon could be five years down the line.
Our goal is to have X amount of more properties in our portfolio by the end of the year. You go out and do the research, the groundwork, you put that pressure on you to do everything that’s required for you to do.
To be brutally honest I almost parked the North Pole because they were in full preparation. There was a team selected for that and I just thought that opportunity passed and that’s why I then found a new interest in cycling, trying to get back on a bike, but also very much running.
One of the other team members was in the same unit as me and he came back and he saw me in the gym and he was actually the person interviewed before me nearly a year ago and he couldn’t believe having seen me walk through the door in my crutches and hopping along.
Suddenly I’m in the gym. I’ve run a number of marathons. I’m pushing big time all over the place and jumping and skipping all over the place. He made me aware of two of the team members we pulled out voluntarily.
He felt that he wasn’t actually in a space to go and do something like that and another had a very good opportunity actually in the army to actually go out to Afghanistan once more, so he wanted to pursue his career in the military.
Get back in touch with Ed Parker, which I did and I joined him for one of the training weekends and I slotted straight back in. I was at a very similar fitness level because all the marathons started dragging tyres and I was accepted into the team.
I think it was another six months that we trained and prepared and we found ourselves in the polar ice caps in Svalbard to take on this amazing challenge. We had a wonderful patron who joined us, Prince Harry,
he is a lovely lad and I was so blown away by just how kind he was, how generous he was, how down to earth he was. We actually had a really good time on the ice with him and he sadly had to leave the expedition as his brother was due to get married.
We faced a lot of challenges because nothing in the whole world can actually replicate the North Pole.
It’s so unique because it’s frozen sea ice. It’s constantly moving and changing and the ice is different because we trained in Norway which is snow on frozen lakes, but again just the extra cold that there is in the North Pole the ice is stickier.
We found ourselves, caught out a few times with just how difficult terrain was but we overcame it as a team. We very, very much relied on each other’s strengths and weaknesses during the two-week period because there was definitely things I could do, but the risk of me doing them a tent blowing away, me trying to do my zip up, my own clothing it’s so much easier to turn to a teammate and say can you do my zip up, I’m unfreezing and he does it in a couple of seconds.
I can do it, but I have to take my glove off and I’ve got one good hand and I’m exposing that hand to the cold to a zip that is potentially frozen that I can get frostbite on my fingers so all the things you’ve got to think about that.
During that time, the biggest thing I took away from the North Pole expedition was that it’s okay to ask for help. When I was a paratrooper, we did everything, I didn’t need help, we’re the best soldiers in the world. Then I found myself in such an extreme environment, where I could do it but it’s going to take me three minutes, I’ll probably get frostbite on my hand and then the expedition is over just because I’m a paratrooper and I can do everything myself.
Where I can turn to a mate and go could you zip up and it will take two seconds and I’m cosy and warm and we can continue on. That for me was a really big step as well towards you. I accepted my injury a year before that, but then I accepted that there are things I’ll struggle with and again it’s okay to ask for help.
Dr Ro: It’s just accepting that some things you’re better at than others.
For example, with your left arm there is nothing you can bluff. This is the situation I cannot do this, I need help.
Whereas I think on a day-to-day basis people can hide things and maybe don’t admit those weaknesses. I’ve seen you in business and if you need help you’ll ring up and you won’t blink you just say, Ro I’ve just got a quick question on this.
I guess that it is built into your DNA now.
Jaco: It very much is. It’s the same within business.
If you’re really bad at accounting and doing your taxes for the year, get someone to do that because why waste time on that when you can focus on the stuff you’re good at two then excel in that area and that was one of the biggest learnings I actually took from the North Pole.
We were faced with a number of challenges, we faced temperatures of -40 and again as a reminder the North Pole is frozen sea life, and sometimes it cracks open and it exposes the bare sea underneath you and with the temperatures that will freeze over quite quickly but then it’s much thinner than some of the other thin ice that you can easily fall through.
Luckily we’ve not experienced that but them and polar dates and even had to think about that you region so at night we had to and polar bears. At night we had to put polar bear traps out so when they walk through it a little flare will go off and wake us up and we were like okay, polar bears in the area be alarmed.
After two weeks of skiing and looking after each other and making sure we were okay and sleeping a few hours and eating freeze dried food we made it. we stood on top of the world at 90 degrees which was just the most remarkable feeling in a long time.
I had tear in my eyes because I went from going to a hospital bed wishing I wasn’t here to standing on the North Pole having done something that no other wounded soldier has done before and inspiring people along the way, if I can do this I’m so excited to see what else I can go off to achieve.
That was quite a memorable moment for me at that time. Then I came back and the question on everyone’s lips was what’s next?
We came up with Everest.
The idea to put a serviceman or woman on top of Everest became a reality and we worked very hard towards that and I think there were about 80 applicants for this and five of us were chosen.
I wanted to do this and they were like, Jaco your story has been told you have achieved something remarkable and we would love to give as many people out there with various different disabilities, cognitive injuries and physical injuries the best possible opportunity to do something as amazing as you’ve just done, so we will take you along I think you’re a great mentor.
I took on a mentor role for the new guys and I was very proud to be part of the process. In order to do that we have to see how people cope with high altitude because we’re different.
We deal with scenarios, climates and altitudes very differently. We were a group of seven then down to 5 guys and we went to the Himalayas and went to climb Manaslu. I was actually one of the first guys up to the summit.
I dealt with altitude, which again I didn’t know my body deals with altitude well. A few of the other guys dropped along even with oxygen their bodies couldn’t cope. We came down and for me again that was it, it was like the end of the journey.
The Everest team will now get selected and they will go off so I carried on and I was actually in Washington due to run another marathon. I received a phone call from Ed Parker and he is like we had a really good assessment of everyone we want to take but because your ability to climb and deal with the altitude the chance of you actually getting to Everest on the top is really good for you and a few others and we want the success of that.
It was amazing I was blown away.
This amazing opportunity came my way and we found ourselves I think only like four months later back in the beautiful Himalayas walking to Everest base camp. We had a big acclimatisation there and then suddenly we had a summit window and we did our first climb through the base camp and up to camp one.
You climb in the middle of the night, because that’s when the mountain is the coolest. Because it’s an eyesore it moves and flows, so hopefully when the cooler temperatures are there, it freezes over and it slows us down, making it slightly safer to go up.
But it wasn’t to be, so that night we went up and we actually faced myself and another climber Frances and there was a big crack and then a massive rumbling and then this avalanche started heading our way and we both ran to a big ice boulder and hid behind that.
We kept climbing up, eventually got to camp one which is purely just the medical camp, had something to eat and drink and then carried on to camp two which will be our next camp where we stayed.
The rest of the other climbers got to camp two extremely exhausted, but that was a very eye-opening experience for me and that was the first time that night actually was the first time since the night I got injured I never had flashbacks or anything struggling, dealing with what happened to me.
But that night only again later on I had to make the connection that night I had very vivid dreams of being in Afghanistan getting hit and getting injured and screaming and I woke up the next morning really distorted.
It was this big crack of the avalanche all at night so you can’t see much further than what your head torch is showing you so there was darkness, it was the sound of the big crack and that the rush of the adrenaline and all that started. That must have been a connection to my brain to go this is an emotional flashback and that was the first time I really had to deal with a few flashbacks.
Luckily I had amazing teammates around me and I started talking to them about it and being able to share the experience and the emotions with them with people that understood me and knew where I came from was really helpful and I managed to deal with that actually quite quickly again as well. I felt that ease and I haven’t had much flashback again.
But from the beginning there was something about Everest that wasn’t right. We saw really warm temperatures warmer than normal.
There was times in Everest base camp I was walking around in shorts and a T-shirt and a light jacket and it’s unheard-of, we should all be in down jackets and beanies and with this kind of warmer temperatures there was a lot of movement in the mountains and a lot more avalanches, making it very difficult.
We actually did a few attempts to then go from camp two camp three and again due to weather conditions we couldn’t get to camp three. Eventually a decision was made to go from camp two back to base camp and actually rest up. It’s a lot more comfortable there and actually wait for the second window then try again.
It’s once we were back at Everest base camp that our expedition leader Russell Brice who is a very, very experienced mountaineer and New Zealander called us into the big tent and said guys, something is not right the sherpa isn’t happy.
The Buddhists of the mountains and to them Everest is a God and according to them, she’s angry for some reason, and if the sherpas aren’t happy or comfortable climbing Everest there’s no bigger sign in the world telling you something isn’t right.
And fair enough Ross made that difficult decision he was like I’m stopping the expedition, we’re not going further from we’re actually going down, expedition cancelled. That was a big shock, we were on this high coming back from the North Pole, we climbed other mountains and we did really well and then this was just like another little blip on the road.
We now have to face and tell the people that we failed and that was very difficult, very hard for us to deal with. Myself actually and two other climbers started talking to other expedition managers out there like how much would you charge if we come with you?
How much is the oxygen and a bit of food and a sherpa to take us up and I was like, I’ll take some of my savings and transfer you some money as my passion was so great to get up and it was actually the wrong thing to do.
I was very lucky.
I made a really good friend called Harry. He was one of the guides and he got wind of what we were trying to do behind their backs, and he called us and was like how many times do you think it took me to get there?
We were like from this conversation clearly not the first time, he was like it took me seven attempts to eventually get to the top of Everest and he’s one of the most experienced climbers I know. He was like every time something was wrong or something came up or the situation changed, but we didn’t force that and it’s when you force a situation that something bad can happen.
You’re with one of the best outfits in the world and Russell Brice is saying it’s too dangerous to go up if he says that it’s too dangerous, I promise you he’s not here to take your money and you are not having success listen to us.
I’m glad he told me that and talked me out of it because two days later we were back in Kathmandu in a very lovely Hyatt hotel sipping cocktails and suddenly we can hear all these helicopters scrambling from the airport and news came through that a big avalanche happened early in the morning and 11 climbers died.
11 climbers lost their lives and suddenly that realisation sunk in going that could’ve been us, we could have been that stupid by not listening to someone with all this experience and that could have been us.
That was in 2012.
Sadly Ross had to be proven right by 11 climbers losing their lives. It was during that time that I actually sat down and I was having this conversation with a friend in the hotel.
I was so disappointed I still wanted to go up to the mountain and he sent me a beautiful quote saying, success is not final, failure isn’t final but it’s the courage to continue that counts.
I read it over and over and over again and I couldn’t really understand what it meant and then suddenly after a little while it clicked and it was similar to that North Pole moment where I realised that just a little bit more than a year ago I was in the hospital bed wondering what my life would be, not knowing when I’ll be able to walk again, I’ve just walked to the North Pole.
I’ve just attempted Everest the pure fact that we attempted it that in itself is a success. That in itself is something absolutely unbelievable, the fact that we didn’t reach the summit but the fact that we tried something extraordinary that’s amazing actually.
Dr Ro: It is a big lesson with ego as well as when sometimes you’re faced with a situation and that ego wants to drive-through.
The lesson I take from this listening to you is that sometimes you have to be appreciative of the fact that there are signs around us.
I was asked the question years ago what’s the biggest mistake you made in terms of building a portfolio or building a business and that was chasing money.
When an opportunity is there and signs don’t look right if the deal looks really good and everything else around you is telling no, walk away. That’s where for me I have had the biggest mistakes, I’ve kept going and I have ignored the signs even from people who maybe were a bit wiser than me at the time.
The fact that you reflect on that in that way is a great lesson for our listeners.
Harms: I think there is a hidden secret message in these two scenarios Jaco’s lived through one was the North Pole and the second is Mount Everest in that in both times you faced a level of rejection, but because of work you were doing in the background that opportunity was still open to you.
So often people get rejected and they think the opportunities are closed.
Dr Ro: And that work was actually staying in line with the purpose. Okay, I can’t do this but I can go running. I can do this, I can stay disciplined. It’s not losing the passion and creating the momentum around.
Harms: Exactly and that’s why you got the invitation back so you got to experience these two amazing things which most people won’t get to experience in their lives.
That lesson you extracted from this story is a lifelong lesson people have to learn the hard way whereas you learnt it through this experience and you’re still here to tell the story.
Jaco: As I mentioned earlier again, you have the time of acceptance and looking back on it and then I realised that life is very much like climbing Everest, whether that’s in business, personal life we all have and need an Everest in our lives and what is the top you want to achieve?
I think there comes a point where you will probably reach something: retirement, fulfillment, the peak of that business, let’s start a new business, but what I’ve learned of this is the climbing process.
We all start at the bottom and you can’t just start at the bottom and walk all the way to the top it doesn’t work like that, you have to acclimate and the acclimatise stage works at base camp and you climb to camp one and I found that climb was the single hardest day I have faced in my life physically.
Physically trying to get to camp one and I got to camp one exhausted, frozen to the core thinking if I’ve only done this tiny section of the mountain, how will I ever get to the summit of Everest.
I couldn’t see it, I was talking myself out of it already and then you spend a few hours a day, your body gets exposed to the high altitude and you go from camp one and back down to base camp and you’re back in a low altitude.
So your body goes woah if we’re going there we need to change something, so your body creates red blood cells, which helps carry oxygen so the second time we went from base camp to camp one I found it a great deal easier, much easier than the first time.
I arrived at camp one and I was like, I still have energy that wasn’t as bad as the first time. I can get to camp two and guess what?
All the trouble started again. I got to camp two exhausted, my legs were burning, I was thinking this is almost too much for me and you go from camp two back to camp one and your body readapts and that blood gets thicker and thicker from all the red blood cells and you go back to camp two and you’re like that wasn’t hard and you follow this whole process a number of times until you get to the summit of Everest.
We do that the same in life, we have to work towards something and we’re going to struggle and there will be very difficult times but it’s what we learn.
I’ve learned a lot coming back from Everest and that really helped me along in life.
Dr Ro: When you came off there was an immediate I’m going to shift the focus to something else, did cycling fall in your path or did pick that back up again but at another level now?
Jaco: No, I have always had a love for cycling, but no ambitions whatsoever to become a professional cyclist. It was not until I returned to the UK that it was actually quite timely as the Olympic and Paralympic games were hosted in London and I was living in central London at the time.
I was there during the phase of their leaving the army, which I found very difficult, and didn’t know what to do.
I went to see a few of the events and I was so inspired I sat in that stadium and I saw these athletes in this physical peak of performance and just their professionalism and how the crowds are drawn to them and how they cheer them on and just the atmosphere blew of me away and that day a little seed was planted in my chest.
I was so jealous I wanted to be on that field, I don’t want to be in the stands. I want to be that athlete getting cheered on and that’s when my dream of becoming a paralympic cyclist came about.
In 2013 I was selected onto a British development team and through the development team I went to the academy team and very soon presented Great Britain on international levels and again this was a very up and down path.
I was a soldier and I dabbled in adventure for a couple years and now I’m trying to learn to become a professional cyclist and again you have to learn, there were so many mistakes I was making. I was overtraining. I took my diet way too seriously. I lost so much weight and I had not enough energy to actually feel myself on the bike.
I made so many mistakes and I lost races because I was bad at making decisions during the race and you’ve got to keep doing this stuff to learn until eventually one day it becomes, how did I do that?
This works, how can I become better and better?
My aim was to participate in the Paralympic games in Rio in 2016. I worked extremely hard, I left London, moved into the Midlands and from the Midlands up to Manchester to be closer to British cycling and with my coach.
At the end of the day I wasn’t elected, I didn’t get selected to be on a final team to go and represent Great Britain at the paralympic games and it was a huge shock for me. I knew I was on the level to win a medal and that was almost a requirement to go but what we hadn’t done was bad management from the team because there is quite a big process you have to go through to qualify spaces towards each game and we only qualified five spaces when there were 14 available.
On the British team there were 12 male cyclists all at the level to go and win a medal so out of 12 candidates all being able to win a medal only five of them could go and I was not one of them.
So that was a very hard thing to deal with and, but again I think it was more the disappointment and the way they break it to you, you get an email saying you haven’t been selected. It’s so impersonal you realise that you’re such a tiny little piece of a huge machine at the end of the day.
So I went away and actually went on a cycling trip with a few friends and during that time I had the head space to think about it and rationalise and I look back on everything I did and it was a sacrifice.
I lived my life on one question and that one question: what’s going to make me fast on the bike?
So I get invited to a friend’s birthday party and you know it’s going to be a late night drink and eat whatever you want or you don’t go to the birthday party you have early nights rest you have very healthy food you wake up the next morning, you’re rested and you can actually train really well and that keeps going.
So which one is going to make me faster on the bike and its option number two, it’s don’t go to the birthday party and that goes for everything in life.
Even if I take this opportunity to speak to someone or train because there’s travelling involved, a day of training potential of getting sick is even before Covid.
Do I catch flu on a train and you always choose the option that’s going to make you faster and usually that will the latter and that was stay at home, train isolate yourself from the rest of the world and you don’t get invites to friends birthday parties anymore or wedding as they know you’re going to come.
You create that scenario anyway so I decided to actually leave that environment.
I left British cycling, which was actually a shock to them because I was on a positive trajectory to go to Tokyo and I said it’s too far away. I need a break.
Dr Ro: Was it two or three years to get to that point where they said right you’ve not been selected?
Jaco: So 2013 and up until literally two months before the actual games before you know whether you go or not, so they keep you on the pipeline all the time, and two months before the games whether you go or not is really late. And along that line I’d been competing domestically and internationally.
I went to the world championship as well. I won a few medals but the goal was always Rio. for me at that stage it was just win a medal and trusting in your heart I knew in my heart if I get the opportunity if you put me on the plane, I’m going to bring you British cycling and Great Britain I will bring back a medal.
I just needed that opportunity and sadly I wasn’t given it.
I had no balance in my life cycling was everything, so be that family members, relationships be that friends everything sacrificed just for cycling. I realised that I need to rebalance my life and get a bit more enjoyment into it as I actually started resenting the sport.
I actually started hating it because what was very difficult to do is to take something that you’ve got a hobby or passion and love for to turn that into a profession and manage that right and still have that love and passion that’s difficult to do.
I went the other way and I started hating cycling for a sport I loved so much and that’s given me so much as well. I hated being on a bike. I hated looking at the computer.
Everything monitored your power, your heart rate, your speed, I rode my bike thousands of kilometres and there was always a purpose and it’s always like doing this effort. X amount of hours, my training plan was my bible basically every morning that’s the first thing I open up. I wake up in the morning and I see what I have to do today. It would be between certain hours so I couldn’t get on my bike and ride it.
There were set ways how to ride it and I had enough of that, I decided to remove myself in that scenario and I’d taken on a number of new challenges.
Myself and seven other wounded guys did the race across America. We were a team of eight and cycled from East to West all across America in six days, which is unbelievable.
I did the Cape Epic, it’s a race in South Africa and myself and another friend who is a below the knee amputee we became the first disabled team to ever complete the eight day mountain bike race, which is one of the hardest mountain bike races in the world over eight days.
I started doing all these things and that love and passion for cycling came back because this time I was riding my bike myself. I was riding my bike because I wanted to ride it, and what came was actually really good performances, as I still raced.
I would enter races and I’d win them and British cycling went because you won that race, you automatically qualified yourself to represent us at the world Championships.
Do you want to do that?
I actually went over that period of time for the race. I would be back with British cycling wearing a skin suit and they would look after me for that week and then I’d get a good result. I would win a silver or bronze or whatever it might be.
Then I’d come back and then I wasn’t under their jurisdiction anymore and I could race when I wanted. I followed this colour cycle for about two and half years where I’ll do my own thing and every time for the world Championships I qualify and I’ll go.
In 2020 in January exactly the same pattern happened at the world Championships and this time I actually won three gold medals.
I won three world championship titles which is just unbelievable and then with this new status of a triple world champion, British cycling said your chances of going to Tokyo are very good.
Do you want to come back on the team?
I had a really good think about and it and a really good discussion and I said I have a system in place that works really well for me and I know you as an entity there are boxes I need to tick, so let’s work together how we can both be very happy and they were very open for that.
We struck a really, really good balance where we were both very happy. But then Covid hit and the world went into lockdown and the one thing I was hanging on for and the first lockdown I enjoyed and it was amazing.
As a cyclist we had good weather and there were no cars on the road so as a professional cyclist I was still allowed to go and train.
There was this constant about the games going ahead and then the bad news broke that postponement was going to happen and again it was purely just a phone call between me and my coach.
The goals that were supposed to be two months away now have 18 months. How do we actually make the best of the time that we have and we just reset.
We went the new day and time literally down to the minute I’m going to ride my first race and work backwards from that and because I was an independent rider not on the team there was a number of things that I almost had to blag and there were areas we could have looked into that will massively support me or give me an advantage, but we didn’t have enough time to make those changes leading into Tokyo.
But suddenly now we do and we looked into the areas where I can actually improve in and we worked hard towards that and before we knew it 18 months actually flew by pretty quickly and we found ourselves on a plane to Tokyo.
Ironically enough eight years before sitting in the stands being blown away by the crowds and these athletes and being in a crowd and the atmosphere eventually I’m flying towards my paralympic games, but we’re going to have empty stands.
No family, no supporters and I’m like it is only my luck, but eventually we make it and I can’t even have my beautiful wife and my mother and my sister or anyone there enjoying these big moments I’m going to experience.
So the opportunity came and it was still unbelievable and I came away a double paralympic gold medallist, bronze medal winner and three-time world record holder, I blew myself away.
Dr Ro: It is such an accolade as well, I remember being in touch with you whilst you were over there once you’ve got your first medal what was going on in your head to reset for the next one?
Because you’re still on a high there you cannot take your foot off the pedal.
Jaco: You are right. There was this hype and build up, it ran a little but in my favour that one event I wanted to win was my first race as well, which was brilliant.
So we got that out of the way and I was just on an absolute high. My race was a 3 km individual pursuit. So with myself, 3 Km as quickly as you can. It’s a very tricky race because it’s one of those it’s short enough to go very fast, but if you go too hard on the start, you’re going to pay for it at the end and your time will be really rubbish.
Then also if you do kind of take it easier at the beginning to have a bit more power at the end you could ‘ve left too much in the tank. It’s one of those races you have to do over and over and over, it’s like muscle memory you have to find the rhythm, a balance.
There is a specific time lapse for each lap and I had a time I wanted to keep roughly for each lap and I timed it to perfection.
I won this race and wanted to make my own for so long, smashing the world record. The old world record was three minutes and 26 seconds and I broke it by three minutes 17 seconds so nearly 9 seconds off the world record which is amazing.
My program was very packed because the next day I had a race and the day after and I’m just lapping all this up, enjoying the moment, enjoying the experience and I remember once the medal was on me I did not take it off.
I wore it in the taxi all the way to the hotel and once I was back in my hotel room I took it off and I stared at it for a minute and I was just like I did it. This is what we’re here for and I played it softly down on my bed and the mascot next to it and I was just like the right job done, but I have a job tomorrow and I literally put that medal down and that was the end of it.
I actually got back into the cycling kit. I went to our balcony. I got back onto my turbo trainer to cool my legs down. Cathryn called me asking how I am doing and she said what are you doing?
I was like I’m on my bike. She was like you’ve just raced. You broke a world record and you’re back on the bike. I said yes but I’ve got a job tomorrow because I’m actually racing tomorrow again.
I just had a switch and everything started, cooling my legs down, stretching, food, massage, sleep, waking up the next morning and doing it all again and then the next day was the kilo.
I broke the world record and that event is adapted as there is a guy in a different category to me so they get a little bit of a time bonus. So with the time bonus I broke a world record. Again with all the hype I went through everything the same as the last day and then again, I got to my hotel room I laid the medal next to my gold medal, I got into my shorts I went to the balcony and I did the process again.
Up until the third event to then partake in the team sprint event and this was actually much, much more difficult because both the previous two events it’s individual events. If I felt bad if I made a mistake, whatever it might be, it was my result that will have the effect on me now that you’re part of a team.
There are three of you in a team event. So if I cock up in any way or form here or I have very sore legs whatever fault there might be the effect is having an effect on two other people and their results at the games.
There’s a lot more pressure there and I actually did cock up.
This is an event where you have to ride a qualifier and then the fastest four teams ride for the medal.
So, honestly, someone will be a loser without the medal, but the fastest two teams ride for gold and silver and then the other two teams ride for only bronze and then we rode the fastest time at that time and it was only China.
Even though I messed up I had a really, really late start, because actually in training I was trying to have a very good start, but a few times I had a false start. I actually pulled away before some of the other riders and in my head I said to myself, this is not the time to have a false start.
And actually I went the opposite. I had actually such a late start the other two riders went off and I was still standing still and then I pulled away and then there was a really huge gap between myself and the first rider.
So the first rider pulls up then I’m the second rider and then I lead out the rider behind me I pull up and then he does the last lap so three laps in total at the fastest time and at that moment in time I rode the fastest time and China obliterated the world record and rode the fastest time.
We were by far second favourites for this event and I came off so angry from that because I knew I made a mistake. I knew the margins are so small and Jodie is a veteran within the parasports he’s been to I think nearly seven games. He used to be a swimmer and he transferred to cycling and he came up to me and said don’t worry about it, it’s a small mistake we can rectify this.
We have a second chance; we can beat them. If we come together we can beat them. So we got the video and analysed what each of us did wrong and done right.
Looking back and I thought I made the biggest mistake but you look back on it and see actually we all made mistakes. So we had a plan in our heads. The final came when both teams lined up on the track and just before we went I said just do the basics right. The gun goes off and we’re off.
Dr Ro: This comes back to muscle memory.
My experience of muscle memory is it gets tricked if you overthink if you start to bring in the cognitive process of thinking about what you’re doing. You can hijack it by overthinking.
Jaco: That is exactly what happened in the first round, I over thought it. I was thinking I’m going to put out more power than I’ve ever done before and by doing something that I don’t usually do I then mucked it up.
It didn’t work and then I sat on the second race like right just do what you’ve done in training over and over again. And guess what I was on time. I get goosebumps thinking about it, we spoke about if this team comes together we have three phenomenal athletes and for the whole build up to the Tokyo games there’s always something wrong with one of us.
Three athletes from different backgrounds from different training schedules everything.
So either I was tired on a day we trained then we had a bad lap or Kadina had a niggle with an injury or, Jodie had a big race so his legs were sore but we all knew in our minds the one day this team comes together we are unbeatable.
At that moment in time all the universe and stars aligned in the right place and everything just happened magically together. Kadina rode the best lap I’ve ever seen, I rode the best that I could potentially ride and Jodie just went like a rocket. I was looking up.
We were actually down by 3.3 of a second. We were down from the Chinese and I was looking and the next thing a green light appeared above our names and the number one and WR came out.
We did not just beat the Chinese we won a gold medal and we just beat their world record they set about five minutes before and everything just came together. I have never experienced such joy in a very long time especially for three individuals coming together.
We had all different disciplines, training routines, different interests but for 47 seconds we just came together and we set the world on fire and that medal is still one of my favourite medals to win.
There was much more interest than just me. There were two individuals on top of that and I knew how much it meant to them as well.
Dr Ro: All I can say is congratulations because I think the discipline that you put in to get out there and all the challenges you faced back here as well.
I have to say as well on a personal level, I think your beautiful fiancée she’s been such a great support over the years I’ve known you training for this. I actually think without that support a lot of this probably couldn’t have happened and correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s my gut feeling knowing the two of you.
Jaco: 100%, there is no chance that I would have achieved any of those even getting to Tokyo. It would not have been possible, yet alone winning medals and breaking the records without her.
There were days in my training where it was so full on there was days in the morning I could barely wake up and I don’t even want to get out of bed and she’s there for me and she’s supporting me and I need to reply to one email and that one email seemed like one of the biggest challenges of my life and she would be there like I’ll do it for you, get on your bike.
She was that rock that pillar when I needed it the most.
It comes with sacrifice because there’s a lot of things we couldn’t do again, friends ‘ weddings, once again, we had to make difficult decisions and the amount of time I spent away from her training it’s a lot. I am so happy and am so glad that we are actually one of the couples that rise together.
We can spend every second of the day in each other’s company and we are happy about that. It was hard not having her there but knowing her support was there and that whole support structure that she gave me getting there was just phenomenal.
What I’ve learned about the first phase towards Rio was the fact that I was learning.
I relied on British cycling to be that team and don’t get me wrong they played a positive role, but there were certain individuals that weren’t in the right role or weren’t the right person for me in that role.
There wasn’t that rapport between them for me to get the best out of them and for them to get the best out of me.
No there wasn’t and that’s the one thing I picked up. When I then became an independent rider for the whole four years building up to Tokyo I did exactly that. I said I need to find people that believe in me, are the right person and be that my gym instructor, my coach, my masseuse.
You need to have the right person to understand what you have done today? What training are you doing tomorrow? What state do your muscles need to be in?
Through that I found a mind coach which just for me was the next level up. Once I introduced the ability to have a stronger mind, I can work and get my body strong but my mind was something I’d never trained and that was something that was lacking in the first phase in Tokyo.
I found mind coaching was so good because then everything else fell in place.
Building that team around me was so individual, but it was so crucial. That comes down to the sponsors that I had, the ambassadors of companies that believed in me, they had a trust in me to actually help me through this phase of this journey together to represent them in Tokyo.
So it was so important to build that team around me.
Dr Ro: Paris is the next focus?
Jaco: Yes and then the selection phase and the whole point scoring phase. I’m really excited about this, I think this is one of the bigger challenges.
I think it sounds weird but actually sneakily climbing that ladder and building up to be one of the best in the world is easier than actually now being the best in the world and staying there and maintaining.
I always had someone to work towards and that I want to be and now I’ve surpassed him. Who is the next guy?
Now I’m the guy that’s got everything everyone else wants and that’s why I’m so passionate about you can’t stand still, so I’ve set the bar, but it’s my responsibility now to raise it even higher than what I’ve done because if I stand still someone else will go higher than me and faster than me.
The challenge is to retain the title.
Dr Ro: Are there any words of wisdom you want to share with people?
Jaco: Sense of enjoyment, purpose but you need to enjoy what you’re doing, you need to have a passion for what you’re into.
Life is so short. I realised that when I was 23 years old and my life flashed before my eyes that I came to this realization that it’s installed in us that you need a career and the systematic process you have to follow. You go to school, you get a job and you buy a house, you buy a car, you can still do that but in a different way.
Once we have kids I would love to be the dad who is there and support them on the sporting field or on a weekend or holiday.
There needs to be an element of love and passion in what you’re doing in life.
Harms: These two episodes have been a phenomenal opportunity for me so thank you Jaco. The phrase that comes to mind is so incredibly good they just can’t ignore you.
That’s Jaco, Ro and myself signing off, we shall see you on the next episode.
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