Noelle Pikus Pace: The Price Paid to Become an Olympic Champion
It was "the moment of the games" and one that will be forever etched into Olympic history—the moment when skeleton athlete Noelle Pikus Pace cleared a barricade to jump into the stands and celebrate her silver medal victory with her family. What you may not know is the road that brought Noelle to that moment: a runaway bobsled, days and weeks spent away from her young family, a shoestring dragging on the ice, and a miscarriage that led to a decision to come back one more time to a sports she loves. This is Noelle Pikus Pace’s journey to a silver medal, a medal she says was “as good as gold.”
I didn't lose the gold medal, I won the silver.
Noelle's Book: Focused: Keeping Your Life on Track, One Choice at a Time
Hope Works Video: The Ultimate Bucket List | Hope Works
TEDx Talks Video: The color of a medal | Noelle Pikus Pace | TEDxUSU
NBC Sports Video: Headfirst and Fast: Noelle Pikus-Pace Profile
Team USA Video: Best Olympic Moment | Best of U.S.
Video of Elder Bednar explaining revelation: Patterns of Light: Spirit of Revelation
Tabernacle Choir Video: I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go
PDF Link: Personal Development Youth Guidebook
5:54- Maintaining Focus
11:37- We Never Lose
14:58- A Family Goal
20:07- “He is the Finish Line”
22:31- “Where You Look is Where You’ll Go”
25:33- A Bucket List
30:05- Competing Vs. Comparing
33:32- “Expect the Best”
37:24- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
If you watched the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, chances are you remember seeing the clip of Noelle Pikus Pace, clearing a barricade and jumping into the stands and into the arms of her family to celebrate her silver medal run in the skeleton. It was called "the best moment of the Games." Shortly after her silver medal-winning performance, Noelle said, "This is everything I could have imagined and more. Just to have my family here with me and all of the love and support and cheers we've had, and all of the trials we've had to overcome to come to this moment. This is as good as gold." Today we talk with Noelle about the trials she faced on her road to the silver medal and the role of her goals and her faith along the way. Noelle Pikus Pace is a two-time Olympian and 2014 Olympic silver medalist. She is also a two-time world champion, as well as an author and motivational speaker. She and her husband, Janson, have been married for 18 years and are the parents of four children.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am honored to have Noelle Pikus Pace on the line with me today. Noelle, welcome.
Noelle Pikus Pace 1:21
Thank you. It's so good to be here, Morgan.
Morgan Jones 1:24
Well, I have been a fan—I own your book, you should know that. I've been a fan since the Olympics. I think that you were just such a bright light and such a good example, and also just an incredible, inspiring story. I'm so excited for people to hear more. And I have questions, like, I've read the book, and I've watched videos, but I still have some questions for you. So hopefully, we'll answer some questions that maybe you haven't tackled before us
Noelle Pikus Pace 1:54
Awesome, let's dive in. Let's do this.
Morgan Jones 1:57
So, first question is, for people that do not know what skeleton is like, how would you describe it?
Noelle Pikus Pace 2:05
All right, so for those of you that don't know what skeleton's like, it's basically like laying on a little cookie sheet and going down the freeway at 80 to 90 miles an hour in and out of the corners, with your chin less than an inch off of that pavement. It's like having concrete barriers to one foot of each side of you, and you're trying to dodge those and steer yourself in and out of those corners. You can hear the wind flying past your face, flying past your helmet, and it just whistles. It's a really high-pitched, whistling noise that you hear the whole way down a mile-long track, and you see distractions all around you. I mean, you see people waving flags and blowing horns and yelling and screaming. And the second you turn your head to look at these people, you're gone, you're going to hit one of those concrete barriers, so you've got to be 100% and completely focused the entire way down that mile-long course. So it's pretty exhilarating honestly, it's just a huge rush. And the first thousand times that you go down, you have no idea what you're doing or where you're going, but that thousand and first time that you go down, there's this thing that clicks and you're like, "Oh, that's how you do it. I'm starting to get it!" But you have to take those bumps and bruises along the way in order to get down to that finish line.
Morgan Jones 3:34
I feel like there are already so many things that you just said that I want to ask you about. But first, I have to say, I am like one of the most cautious people on the face of the planet, so the idea of doing what you just described is the most horrific thing imaginable. So for people like me that are thinking, "Why on earth would anybody want to do that," why did skeleton appeal to you, and how did you initially get into it? Because I was watched this video, and you said you came home one day and you said you were going to do this, but you didn't say why. So I'm dying to know.
Noelle Pikus Pace 4:08
Oh man, who wouldn't want to do that, right? Throw yourself down at 90 miles an hour, this is so fun. For me, I got into it when I was about 16 years old, actually. So I was a youth, and I was running track and field at Mountain View High School in Orem, Utah, and my track and field coach actually came up and just said they were recruiting track and field athletes to go up and try this crazy sport. It was actually bobsledding was how I got into this. So I went up and I tried bobsledding, which is like a little car, a little tube-type thing, so you're more protected. Obviously you have walls around you. So maybe that's how they suckered me into it was to say, "Hey, look, you're gonna be protected in this little tiny car thing! Oh, nevermind. We're gonna take the walls away and just put your face on the ice." But honestly, I absolutely love the thrill and the speed and the uniqueness of it. I love the technique, I love figuring it out and seeing that there's so much more to learn. Even being a world champion, even being on the Olympic podium, there's still so much more for me to learn. And I'm retired, obviously. I'm retired, I'm done, I'm not going back. But even when I was at the top of my game, there was always more to be learning, there was always more to figure out, and an another puzzle piece to add to that puzzle. So for me, that was just exciting to look forward to how I could grow a little bit more each and every day.
Morgan Jones 5:39
So I imagine this is not something that you're still like, going and doing for fun now.
Noelle Pikus Pace 5:45
Morgan Jones 5:46
You're like, "I'm done."
Noelle Pikus Pace 5:47
No, I've got my twin five-year-old boys, and that's about enough action pack I can handle in one day.
Morgan Jones 5:54
Bless you. I want to come back to something that you said earlier though, Noelle, when you were talking about there are all the distractions and you have to be so focused. How do you maintain focus when you're the one on the little cookie sheet?
Noelle Pikus Pace 6:08
Yeah. You have to be intentional about it. You have to make a decision before those distractions come. What you will do once those distractions arrive in your face and in your life, if you don't know before that what you will do or how you will try to handle those distractions, then it's going to kick you off your course. It will. And just in life, we have distractions all around us, and especially now, they're just more prevalent than ever with social media, the news, just so much going on in our lives that can distract us and take us off course, not just from year-to-year, but I'm talking day-to-day. What are we here to do? What's our purpose? And just like in skeleton, if somebody's waving a flag in my face, and screaming and yelling and I'm flying 90 miles an hour, and I take my eyes off of the direction that I want to go, even just for a split second, I'm going to come off of my course and hit a wall or two, and I'm going to say, "Man, that wasn't what I wanted. That wasn't the kind of race I wanted to run."And as we go through our day, if we automatically go to our social media devices in the morning and we get distracted from our day and we say, "Man, what happened to that hour that two hours or five hours of my life? What just happened?" And all of a sudden, we come out kind of feeling upset and frustrated and tense. It's the same principle. Just being intentional with your time and with your purpose and with your direction and saying, "I already know what I'm going to do when I see those distractions coming, and I'm getting to keep my sights looking forward where I want to go rather than where I don't want to end up."
Morgan Jones 7:49
Yeah. That's profound. Noelle, I think that your story is so incredible because you were the number one skeleton athlete in the world when you were hit by a bobsled, which, how does that even happen? I heard that story and I was like, "What?"
Noelle Pikus Pace 8:09
It was crazy. And when I got hit by the bobsled, it was really one of those Titanic moments, you know, where if one thing had gone right then it would have never happened. But it was literally one problem to another problem to another problem to another mistake, and it just ended up in myself getting hit by a bobsled, and four of my teammates were in the track as well. It was just a messy situation. The brakeman never pulled the brakes, and they came flying out of the track onto the pavement where we were waiting for a truck. So yeah, it was a one in a million chance. And you know, a lot of times you're like, "Oh, I hope I'm that one in a million," but in this case, getting hit by bobsled isn't necessarily on the top of anyone's priority list. But to be honest, you know, people have asked me if I would I go back and change that. Would I go back if I could and do it differently if I knew that was going to happen? And knowing what I know now, as weird as this sounds, I'm grateful for the trials in my life. Not that I'd ever wish them upon myself or upon anybody else. I'm not one of those people that asks for trials to come into my life, I have plenty of them.
Morgan Jones 9:19
I always think that's a terrible idea.
Noelle Pikus Pace 9:23
It's a terrible idea, Morgan. But I am grateful for the challenges that have come into my life, because of who they have helped me to become. I wouldn't be here in this exact situation or in this place or with my family in the way that we are had I not gone through those trials. I think one of the biggest things is, while we're going through trials, just like those distractions on a track, those distractions in our lives, we have to have a plan beforehand as to what we will do when those trials come. It's not if. In skeleton it's not if you crash, but when you crash. We have to know in life we're going to have crashes, we're going to have times of trials and tests as they come. But if we know beforehand how we will move forward through those things, if we know that we will rely on our Savior, Jesus Christ, through those experiences and that He can be our strength and we can rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ for that enabling power to make us stronger and help us through these dark times of hitting these walls in and out, bouncing back and forth down our track, down our course of life, we will make it out safely. I mean, it's not if we will make it out safely—we will make it out safely as we rely on His power, and that's what I've seen in my life through the bobsled accident and through many of the other trials I've faced. I know where my sights are set and I trust in Him forever.
Morgan Jones 10:55
Yeah. Another thing that you went through, so after you'd come back from the bobsled accident, you were a tenth of a second away from a medal in 2010. You finished in fourth place, and you've said it was because your shoestring was dragging.
Noelle Pikus Pace 11:12
My shoelace, oh my word! A tenth of a second, you guys. Do you know how close that is? Like, a tenth of a second for an Olympic medal? I have to tell you, four years later when I went to the Olympics again, I had zippers on my shoes. Zippers. I didn't do shoelaces anymore.
Morgan Jones 11:33
You're like, "I'm done with shoelaces."
Noelle Pikus Pace 11:34
I'm done. I'm done.
Morgan Jones 11:37
So my question about this is, 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 now. So for somebody that has tried for this for a long time, just like you had some stuff 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 12:15
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.
Morgan Jones 14:58
Yeah, you mentioned "no regrets." And I think that's what your husband said to you, right? When he was encouraging you to go for the 2014 Olympics. One thing that I noticed as I watched videos with you is how many times you said, "Janson and I," or you'd say, "My husband and I," and the thing that I thought was so touching as I watched these videos where he talked about that experience and about setting that goal as a family for you to achieve that, is that I think a lot of people would probably look at this and be like, "This lady is gonna slide down an ice track at 90 miles per hour headfirst and she has kids? Like, that's crazy." But I think it was so cool to see that your husband was so supportive of that goal. And in fact, it was him that was like the motivating factor. So what did it mean to you to have that kind of support in your marriage?
Noelle Pikus Pace 15:56
Man, I mean, it meant—and it still continues to mean everything to me and to us. So just a brief background: we had Lacee, our oldest daughter, before the 2010 Olympic Games, and at that point, I was traveling the world all by myself—I mean with my skeleton team, but without my family. So I left and my daughter, when I went to the 2010 Olympic Games, she had just turned two. It was so hard. I was so torn. I mean, I wanted to be sliding and working out when I was at home, and when I was sliding, I kept thinking about being at home. My mind and my heart were never in the same place at the same time. So it was extremely difficult. I missed Lacee's first steps, I missed her first birthday, I missed her first words, I missed everything. And I was just so heartbroken in 2010, going into the Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. But to be honest, when I crossed that finish line in fourth place, I had a huge smile on my face. It was almost because I didn't even comprehend that I had just received that fourth place, which is the worst place to finish. But I was done. I was done. I wanted to be at home with Janson, I wanted to be home with Lacee, and I was just done with that atmosphere. It wasn't conducive to my beliefs and to being married. It just wasn't the best atmosphere. So after I retired after 2010, we had Traycen, our second child. And then what really drove me to come back was, I was actually pregnant with our third child and it was a little girl, and at 18 weeks her little heartbeat just stopped beating. For me, after the 2010 games, I knew I just wanted to be a mom. Like number one in the world, I just wanted to be a mom. The athletics is awesome, there are so many great things in this life, but I wanted to be a mom and be home with them. When that little baby's heart stopped beating, I was devastated. I was a mess. I couldn't think of anything. Anytime I saw anybody that was pregnant, I would just start crying. Anytime I'd see somebody holding a little baby in their arms, I would just start crying, and I couldn't help myself. Janson saw this, and he knew that I needed to move forward towards something. And I wasn't ready to get pregnant again, I wasn't ready to move forward with our family quite yet. But he knew I still love skeleton, and he knew the joy that it brought to both of our lives. So it was actually him that said, "Hey, what if we could do this together as a family? If you go back to compete, what if we could do this together as a family?" And that was like this whole new light in my life. To be able to say, "Wow, I can do this thing that I love." He actually built and designed to my sled along with my brother-in-law, Troy. They built and designed this sled for me to be able to compete on, which was absolutely incredible. I remember seeing Lacee going over there when she was three or four years old, and she started drawing on it with crayons and I'm like, "Oh, no, no, no, that's my Olympic sled, she's drawing on it, Janson!" And then all of a sudden I looked and I'm like, "Oh, so cute." I rememeber just like, "Okay, I'm totally leaving it on there." It just became a family affair, and it means everything to have him by my side. He's my best friend, and it wasn't an "I did this, I won this medal. I am so awesome. Look at me, people." It definitely is a "we." We did this. And even when I say we, Janson and I truly believe it wasn't even just us. I mean, yes, it's me and him all along the way, and it's not a give and take—hopefully it's a give and give. But it's "we" as in the community and the people that supported us all along the way. There were so many more people than just the two of us that made it possible to win that silver medal, so it really is a piece of everybody that cheered for us all along the way and were there to support us.
Morgan Jones 20:07
Yeah. I think anybody that watched the 2014 Olympics remembers that moment where you ran to your family and climbed over and were hugging them—I still get emotional just thinking about it. But I think that's such a beautiful example of making adjustments that make it conducive to the Spirit and inviting God into that experience and your family. I think it's also such a good reminder, I have a friend that always says, "Champions pay the price," and certainly, you paid a price in doing this, but then making adjustments so that that price is one that's worth paying.
Noelle Pikus Pace 20:46
Yeah, absolutely. And I'm glad you mentioned it, because at the base of this, at the very foundation of this whole Olympic journey, we committed—Janson and I—long ago to always put God first. Always, always, always. And that, come what may, first, middle, last, crash, whatever happens on the ice, whatever happens in our lives, no matter what, we will not deviate from our sights being set on our Savior, Jesus Christ and on our Heavenly Father. And that is first and foremost the number one principle in our marriage. I know that that's what's held us so tight together. It doesn't mean that it's always going to be easy. That's not what it means at all. But it does mean that, when those rocks come and when those trials and tribulations and the world wants to tell us one thing, and we're trying so hard to figure out the path that we should be on, it does mean that we will strive to hear Him. It does mean that we will strive to listen to a Prophet's voice and to say, "How can we invite the Spirit into our home amidst all the chaos, all the confusion, all the distractions around us? How can we be going down this track of life together and be fully committed to crossing that finish line in the best way possible?" And for us, we've realized along our way through the bumps and bruises that we've had, that it's always by keeping our sights set on our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is that finish line. He is the one that can carry us through when we do hit. Not if we crash, but when we crash, our Savior, Jesus Christ, is that Savior and that Redeemer that can save us through those trials.
Morgan Jones 22:31
Yeah. Building off of that, Noelle, I watched a TEDx Talk that you gave, and we'll put a link to that in our show notes because it's excellent. But you said, "Where you look is where you'll go." And when I emailed you about coming on the show, you told me that one thing that you've had on your heart recently is the idea of, "I'll go where you want me to go," which is obviously something that's familiar to members of the Church. But I think there's significance when you compare that past statement, "Where you look is where you'll go," with, "I'll go where you want me to go." So what have you learned about those two phrases?
Noelle Pikus Pace 23:06
Wow, there have been times in my life where—so let me explain a tiny bit really quick. In skeleton, our vision is so critical. As we're going down a track, going 90 miles an hour and steering, we apply pressures with our shoulders and our knees, and we're constantly torquing our sled the entire way down a mile-long course, countering against the pressures that come. And if our sights, the second that our vision gets distracted, the second we look two inches to the right, our sled will go two inches to the right. We go where we look. Where our vision is taking us, that's where our sled will go. And in life, "where we look is where we go." Where are we setting our sights each and every day? What are we doing with our habits? And in the morning, what's the most important thing before you leave your bedroom? Are you saying your prayers or reading scriptures, or are you just getting up and rushing through the day? So, one of the things that's been on my mind and heart lately is "I'll go where you want me to go." That's actually, it's one of my absolute favorite hymns, and I remember having this thought even before the 2014 Games, so before I won the Olympic silver medal, just wanting to fully commit myself to doing the Lord's will. And that's, that's easier said than done. I wanted to make sure that, whether I took first, second, third or even fourth again—or what if I crash and finish dead last?—I wanted to commit to go where He wanted me to go. I wanted to be an instrument in His hands and for Him to place me where I could be utilized the most to be the best for the world. One of my good friends, Clint Pulver, always says that it's not enough to be the best in the world, but we should be the best for the world. And I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Where you look is where you go, and as we go where the Lord wants us to go, our lives will be tremendously better, our talents will be amplified, the people's paths that we cross are going to be the ones that we can connect with the most. And that's as we connect our will with the Lord's will. Where we look is where we go, so if we're setting our sights on our own will and our own desires, it's only going to take us so far, and it's going to be a rough, rocky road. But as we connect our will with His will, and connect our sight with His sight, He'll take us all the way.
Morgan Jones 25:33
Yeah. I love that so much, and I think a big part of that is goals. I couldn't help but notice, based both on a video that you and your family did where you talked about goals—fun, family goals, I think it was—and then also your Hope Works talk, you talked about setting goals, and I was so impressed by your approach to goals. So my first question for you about this is, when you go about setting goals, how do you set them? And secondly, why do you think goals are so important?
Noelle Pikus Pace 26:07
Oh man, Morgan, I love setting goals. We just love it. Like, the possibilities are endless. You can do anything in this life, it's so cool. So right before the Olympics happened—and I would recommend this to everybody listening, just take some time to write down everything and anything that you've ever wanted to do. Like, give yourself freedom to go crazy. Give yourself freedom to just go out there and write down whatever it is, even when you were five years old and you wanted to try something and you're like, "Nah, I can't do that." Anytime you've ever said, "Nah, I can't," or "Man, that's too far out there." Just write it down. Before the 2014 Games—this was literally like a week before the Games, or two weeks, maybe—my husband and I could feel the strain of knowing that retirement was just around the corner. Knowing that this huge chapter in our life was about to come to an end. So we said, "Well, what can we do? How can we make it so that this doesn't hit us in depression and anxiety and worry? How do we make it so that we can move past these feelings that naturally want to come?" And we said, "You know what? Let's just make a bucket list." So we just started writing down everything and anything. I'm not kidding, like, the craziest things that you can imagine. And our bucket list isn't like, swimming with sharks in the middle of the pacific at 300 feet down. We don't really care about that stuff. But like, juggling or learning some songs on guitar, or, this may have been mine, but like, singing a song on YouTube that gets 10,000 views. We still have to do that. I've tried to talk Janson into one and he's like, "I'm doing what?"
Morgan Jones 27:50
I feel like maybe what you should do is, you put that song on YouTube, and then we'll drive traffic to it. We'll get your 10,000 views.
Noelle Pikus Pace 28:01
Yes, that's awesome! I love it. Do you hear that, Janson?
Morgan Jones 28:09
You're in business.
Noelle Pikus Pace 28:09
Oh, he's gonna be thrilled. I love it, Morgan. So anyway, I would just say like, just really go crazy. Write it down, anything and everything from playing a musical instrument to getting up and speaking in front of somebody because maybe speaking is scary for you. Do the things that scare you, the things that are holding you back, and the things that you say, "I don't think I could." Whatever it is, just write it down. And even just yesterday, I wrote like two or three more on our bucket list every day I go by and I'm like, "Oh, that would be really cool." And I'll just say get on my phone, we have this shared note on our phones. And I'll just get on and I'll be like, "Hey, guess what I just added to our bucket list today. We're gonna hike Kilimanjaro," or something like that. I don't know, just something crazy. But I would just say to start with discovery. And the Church has the children and youth program for setting goals, and actually, I don't think it's just for kids. If you want to know how to set goals, they do an excellent job of putting it in order and explaining how a great way to set goals is. And the first step is just discovering. Just discover what it is that you love, and then you plan it out, and then you act on it, and then you reflect. So that's a great cycle to get into for setting goals. To just know that nothing is impossible, and that by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass. So for us, you can't just start juggling in one day, but you can start by throwing one ball up; and then by the end of three days, you could probably do two balls, one in each hand; and then by the end of seven days, you might be able to criss-cross those balls, just two balls at a time; and by the end of 10 days, awesome, you're doing three balls, just one at a time. It's just baby steps. Don't look at the big picture when you're setting a goal. Try and break it down into the absolute smallest pieces that you can handle and you can do anything. I mean, you could play Flight of the Bumblebee on the piano if you just do it one note at a time. Anything is possible.
Morgan Jones 30:05
Yeah. I loved it when you were talking about this on the Hope Works talk. You said, "I just want to see what my best can be." And I thought that was such a good approach, because I think so many times we're like, like you said, "I can't do that," or, "I wouldn't be very good at that." But I think if you approach it as, "I just want to see what my best can be," then you're willing to try it. I noticed when I was watching that talk, I scrolled down and there were a bunch of comments, all of them positive, but one person said, "Man, she's competitive." And I thought that was so funny, I think because I'm a really competitive person, so I empathize with that. But I want to talk a little bit about competing vs. comparing, because you've talked some about that. You're obviously very competitive, but how do you keep that competitive drive from comparing yourself to others?
Noelle Pikus Pace 30:59
Yeah, that's huge. There's a massive difference between competing and comparing. And the world wants us to compare. The world wants us to feel like, if I'm not as good as them, then why try? The world wants us to say, "Oh, second place is the first loser." And that's not what God intended. That's not how it's supposed to be. That's not it at all. Even in competing at the Olympic, at the highest, most elite level, I had to understand—and this didn't come to me as a rookie, I've got to tell you, this took some practice and some intentionality—but at that highest level of competition, I realized that it was never a competition between me and them. It was always a competition between me and me. And I had to just pick it apart and say, "What is my absolute best today? What can I give? How can I improve? What did I mess up on so I can improve so I can be better tomorrow?" Instead of looking around us, it's so easy to get caught up in the comparison game, oh my word, especially with so much social media and distractions around us to say, "Oh, they just went on this awesome trip. Why can't I do that?" "Oh, look how tan they are." "Oh, what about me?" "Oh, she can do that really well," or, "He can go there." It's so easy to get caught up in that. Instead of thinking of it as comparing ourselves with each other, competing, to me, means you're giving your absolute best. Like, yes, I am a competitor and I will give my absolute best, and if I take second place, and I gave my absolute best, and as the world compares me, you have to get that ranking, and I show up with a number two next my name, guess what. If I gave my absolute best, I'm gonna jump in the stands and celebrate with my family. I didn't lose the gold medal, I won the silver. There's a huge difference in that mindset, to know that comparison says, "Yes, I lost the gold," but that competitiveness says, "No, I won the silver," and to give yourself that privilege of saying, "I gave my absolute best, there was absolutely nothing more I can do, I'm going to celebrate this success all along the way. If somebody else can juggle better than I can, who cares? Good job, I'm so proud of you," and to support them, but at the same time to give my absolute best in whatever it is that I'm doing. Maybe I can only juggle a couple times, but guess what. It's better than I could do yesterday. So yes, to be a competitor just means that you have the mindset to say I'm going to try you have that courage to say, "I'm going to give it my best despite the outcome, and I'm going to see where this leads me."
Morgan Jones 33:32
Thank you, that was amazing. Another thing that I love that you said, you said, "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 33:53
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 even for something as small as juggling, or as any goal in your life, or as 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.
Morgan Jones 36:40
Thank you so much. That reminds me, my trainer on my mission wrote me a letter. I think it actually may have been like her homecoming talk when she got home. She emailed it to me, and she was talking about the different principles of the gospel and at the very end, she got to "endure to the end," and she said that the biggest thing that she had learned was that Jesus Christ, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, is not just to give us a light at the end of the tunnel, but light all the way through. So I love that idea of expecting the best, and I think that's what the Lord wants to give us, and He wants us to have that light in our life all the way through. Noelle, I was reading something—NBC Sports, on their caption of a video with you, they said, "Skeleton athlete Noelle Pikus Pace dives headlong into seemingly everything she does. From competing in one of winter's fastest sports to raising her family, Noelle is all in." And I was like, "It's a sign we're supposed to do this episode." But at the end of every episode of this podcast, we always ask the same question and that is, what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Noelle Pikus Pace 37:58
I love this question. To me, to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ means setting your sights on our Savior, Jesus Christ, at all times and in all things and in all places. Wherever you are, whatever comes your way, you will put your focus on him. And planning ahead to know that this life isn't meant to be easy. We are faced right now with so many distractions around us, so much temptation, so much worry, fear, doubt concern, anxiety. Just turn on the news and you can see it all around us. And to know that we always have a choice. Being all in means using our agency—not just having our agency, but actually using it to do good and to follow our Savior's example, each and every day. To be resilient. To know that when hard times come, we will make the choice to turn our sights to Him. I'll go where you want me to go. That's what it means to be all in.
Morgan Jones 38:59
Thank you so much. Noelle, you are a delight. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with me and we'll be rooting for you off the ice.
Noelle Pikus Pace 39:09
Thanks, Morgan. You're awesome.
Morgan Jones 39:16
We are so grateful to Noelle Pikus Pace for joining us on today's episode. You can find Noelle's book, Focused: Keeping Your Life on Track One Choice at a Time, on deseretbook.com. As always, thanks to Derek Campbell from Mix at 6 Studios, and thank you so much for choosing to spend your time with us. We'll be with you again next week.