Simone Biles knows a thing or two about perseverance. The honored Olympic gymnast took to the stage at Monday morning’s National Retail Federation convention to share some tips on how to overcome adversity — both in athletics and business.
“Growing up in gymnastics, through a lot of trials and tribulations, taught me to never give up — to always push forward,” she said. “Sometimes, if you make a decision, you might be the only one who believes in yourself. In those moments, you really have to dig deep and think about why you’re doing it, who you are, what you stand for, what you want to accomplish .”
Growing up, her mother would call her and her siblings into a room in January and ask them to write down their goals for the year, she said. When she was younger, it was easy, but as she got older, she realized that “failure is a choice.”
“So I kind of changed my mind about it,” she said. “Well, there’s plan A, and if that doesn’t work, there’s plan B — and then the rest of the alphabet.”
Biles proved successful at a young age—she was 19 when she competed in her first Olympics—but instead of resting on her laurels, she set new goals. “What would you do when you were 19 and realize your dream?” she asked. “That’s a really good question. So I said, this is just the beginning. I’m going to create a platform where I’m going to do everything I can to be happy and confident and hopefully inspire people.”
As she begins the next phase of her life beyond gymnastics, Byers says she will continue to use the skills she learned on the mat to excel in business.
“I was a persistent kid,” she said. “If someone tells me I can’t do something, then I have to prove that I can. It’s been my entire career. I’ve watched other athletes and their path from sports to business and tried to follow a similar path. “
She believes that teamwork is also important in athletics and business. In gymnastics, she owes her success in part to her doctors, therapists, parents and teammates. “It does take a village, and I think people tend to forget that, especially in athletics,” she said.
She said she was actually banned from the recent Olympics because she was mentally unfit and could harm herself. She said many people were unaware of the many things going on in private, such as a stalker outside her gym every day for seven months, and other issues that took a toll on her mental health.
But by opening up about her struggles, Byers has brought the issue to the forefront and made the previously taboo topic “a normal thing that everyone can go through in their life. It’s okay to be bad.”
“I think as an athlete, you kind of learn to navigate and search your brain and turn it on and off. I realized there can be joy outside of gymnastics.”
Biles’ first steps out of the gym will come in 2021, when she signs a long-term partnership with Athleta, with a specific focus on Athleta Girl for kids ages 6 to 13. She said she wanted to work with the company because it is “designed by women, for women” and comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. The company not only supports gymnast Simone Biles, but “only Simone,” she said.
The Athleta Girl program, in particular, is close to her as she co-designs special capsules for this young customer. The collection includes inspirational quotes, including: “Because I can” or “Courage is your superpower,” in hidden places on clothing, such as belts, as a way to empower these girls, she said. “It’s like having a little Simon on your shoulders.”
Will that Simone be in Paris for the next Summer Olympics? Byers said she’s “trying to figure it out right now. Obviously, mental health comes first. I’m still in therapy, I’m still doing everything I can to be the best version of myself. So I’ll be in Paris, but don’t know if On the floor with the girls, or cheering from the stands.”