“You win some, you lose some.” “Hope for the best, expect the worst.” These are two clichés we’ve all heard, but on this week’s episode of All In, Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus Pace shared that she has made her own adjustments to both sayings. The changes to the traditional phrases reflect the skeleton athlete’s optimism and drive that carried her over hurdles and past setbacks onto the Olympic podium.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones: I recently interviewed MyKayla Skinner, who was an alternate on the women's gymnastics team, and she's currently preparing to try to make the 2021 Olympics. So for somebody that has tried for this for a long time, just like you had some setbacks, what advice would you have for someone in that situation? And it could be MyKayla, or it could be somebody else trying for something significant. But what advice would you have, and why was it so important to you not to give up?
Noelle Pikus Pace: My advice to her—for those that don't know, she's pushing her way through gymnastics—and the Olympics have been obviously postponed this year due to the pandemic. For those of you that don't understand what it takes to get to that point to be able to go to Nationals, to be able to qualify for the Olympic Games—it's your life. You put off everything else to make this dream possible. So I guess my advice to her and to others would be, you never know what's just around the corner. A lot of times when we're in our darkest moments, that's when we're being tested the absolute most, and that darkness seems to last for quite some time. But we just continue to have faith and continue to take those couple steps into the darkness.
As Elder Bednar says, a lot of times that light, that inspiration, doesn't come like a flipping on of the switch. It's not like when we're looking for answers as to, "Why did this happen to me? How can I continue to move forward?" A lot of times it's not like going into a room and flipping a switch, but it's more like the gradual rising of the sun. It's like when the sun is just coming up over the mountains and you can see just a little bit of glimmer. You can see that little bit of hope. So you take another step.
I would say to just keep stepping forward. Keep pushing. Keep working hard and never give up on those dreams, because for me, I would rather go into something full-heartedly and maybe miss out because I gave my best, but miss out and just fall short, rather than turn and look back and have regrets along the way. So I have a quote that I like to share with my kids, and it says, "You win some, you learn some. You only lose some if you never learn." And I don't believe that we ever "lose" anything. I don't believe that we ever fail or that we ever fall short of something unless we don't learn from that experience. But those experiences where I've missed out on the 2006 Winter Olympic Games because I got hit by a bobsled, or where I finished fourth because my shoelaces were dragging—no excuses really, for me, I should have tied it up and figured that out beforehand—but for me, it's only losing if I couldn't learn from it. And I have learned more from my shortcomings than I ever have from any success. So continue pushing forward. Look for that light, even if it's just a glimmer. Look for the things to be grateful for. Always looking for things to be grateful for can add so much light and perspective in our lives.
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Morgan Jones: Another thing that I love that you said [is], "God doesn't expect us to be the best in the world at something. He expects us to have faith, and He expects us to try." So Noelle, my question for you is, what has your faith meant to you in your life?
Noelle Pikus Pace: Faith is everything. I don't know where I'd be without faith. I know I'd be just so sad and so lost without faith that I've had. He expects us to just give our best and to try, but He expects us to have faith in Him. So even with something as simple—I'm just coming back to the juggling just because that's kind of a silly goal maybe to try to achieve— but even with something like that, if it matters to you, then it matters to Him. And [it matters] for something as small as juggling, or [with] any goal in your life, or [with] anything that you're wanting to achieve or find an answer for. If it matters to you, then it matters to Him. And it takes faith the size of a mustard seed. If you could imagine a mustard seed and how small and seemingly insignificant that seed is, to know that if you had that much faith you could literally move mountains, how can we not have faith? How can we not put our faith in our hope and our trust in Him?
I used to have this saying. Growing up, I used to think, "Hope for the best and expect the worst." And I felt like that was a pretty good way to go through life. I felt like it kept me protected from getting really hurt in life when those trials came. It helped me to kind of build a wall around my heart and myself to be able to say, "You know what? If bad things happen, it's all right, because I expected it. I can get through this on my own." And then a big trial came in my life where I realized that by expecting the worst to happen, I was still miserable through the whole process—through this trial and thereafter. I was so miserable, and it was so hard to pick myself back up and to get back on my feet again. I had this kind of "aha" moment when I realized that by hoping for the best and expecting the worst, all I was doing was limiting my faith and hope in our Savior, Jesus Christ. And instead of hoping for the best and expecting the worst, I needed to hope for the best and expect the best, and rely on that faith and that hope in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Once that happened, the walls of fear and anxiety and doubt and despair started to crumble around me because I could see the light that our Savior, Jesus Christ, was offering. But that was only through faith in Him and a hope for a better day.
Lead Image: Courtesy of Noelle Pikus Pace
Where are your choices leading you? Regardless of our circumstances, each moment presents us with decision to make. It doesn't matter what question, trial, or success we experience—each traces back to a choice. At any given moment, we can choose to doubt, fear, worry; to be prideful, angry, depressed, or miserable—or we can choose to move forward. We can choose to be a light. We can choose to be happy. The choice is always ours, and each choice can be a step forward on the path of life we want for ourselves. The life lessons learned by Olympic athlete Noelle Pikus Pace can equip each of us to turn daily choices and challenges into opportunities for growth. In her warm and relatable style, Noelle shares touching personal stories and teaches how these experiences can help us keep a healthy perspective on the things that matter most. She helps us to see that though all of our goals and trials are different, we each can choose to become the best versions of ourselves one day at a time. Buy Noelle's book, Focused, by clicking here.