Jonathan Horton is a two-time Olympic medalist, captain of the US Olympic gymnastics team and 5-time American Ninja Warrior competitor. He knows about winning and losing, and he’s very good at helping leaders excel. This will be a GREAT conversation!
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Fall Forward with Jonathan Horton
We’re going to be talking about falling forward, maintaining your ambition through defeat. I thought I’d share a little bit of my own personal experience in the area of competition and winning. I’ve never thought of myself as a competitor. I’m not one of those people who spend a lot of his childhood years participating in competitive sports. I was a nerd. I was a loner in some ways. What I finally discovered in my life that gave me some sense of drive or competition or a sense of purpose was theater. I became an actor. That was the way in which I expressed myself and began to understand what competition means.
As an actor, you are constantly having to prove yourself on stage. You have to prove yourself to the casting director. You’ve got to compete and win in order to get that part. You’ve got to maintain a certain mindset and focus. A certain confidence in order to keep going and to keep winning that next role or winning the audience’s affection or staying as in the moment as you possibly can to do a great job on stage. That was my relationship with competition. My childhood was not a very athletic childhood. In reality, I grew up thinking I was absolutely incapable of anything of an athletic nature.
I didn’t have any athletic skills. When I thought about athleticism, I thought about jocks. The jocks were the cool guys and I wasn’t one of them. There was a lot of shame associated with that relationship. It wasn’t until I was about sixteen years old that I reconnected with my friend Bob Dowman. Bob had been the star athlete of our high school until he had a major hip injury that took him off to the sidelines and out of the hearts of our classmates. He became a pariah because he couldn’t win the next game for them. Bob and I reconnected and rekindled our friendship. We had had one back in the days before school from the ages of five to seven. We are still friends to this day.
Although he had a hip injury that kept them out of the big games, he was still athletic even at his worst. He could work out and he could run. He was a remarkable guy. I realized that all those years spent thinking I couldn’t and that I didn’t have what it took. All those years, replaying the shame of being on the ball field when I was seven years old on little league. I was running out onto the field when everybody else was running off the field because we had lost the game and I was too clueless to realize it. All of that stuff was blocking my ability to see that, firstly, I’m a fairly good athlete.
Secondly, most people are. There are people who are gifted and there are people who are blessed to be able to accomplish things without a lot of work. The reality is that most of us were given a body growing up. A lot of the stuff that keeps us from using our body to our fullest is not our body, but our minds. Being able to acknowledge and embrace my athleticism, my physicality brought new possibilities to me. I had run with Bob. Sometimes I’d race him, sometimes I’d even win. That was a mind-blower. I played Frisbee with a friend of mine and I always thought he was a better frisbee player than I was, but lo and behold, I was hitting the mark more effectively than he was. I realized that my old programming made that a surprise.
It shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was to me. I became a great skier and I was even on the ski patrol up in Vermont for a number of years. Being capable of doing things of a physical nature and even winning in certain competitive ways were something that came later to me. When it did, I realized that the game is about attitude, mindset, and being willing to fall forward. To not be so triggered by your failures that you’re unwilling to stand up and try again.
Our guest is going to talk to us about that at some length. He’s somebody who is an outstanding example of what I’m talking about because he’s distinguished himself in a remarkable way in the world of sports and physicality.
I’m thrilled to introduce you to a wonderful guest, Jonathan Horton. He is a two-time Olympian winner of the Bronze and Silver Olympic medals for gymnastics. He was also the Olympic team captain and two-time American all-around champion. He’s a six-time collegiate NCAA champion and a five-time American Ninja Warrior Competitor. Jonathan is out in the world of motivation, personal development, and professional development. He’s speaking to groups and helping empower business people and entrepreneurs to break through their barriers and maintain what he calls the Olympic Mindset. Jonathan, how are you?
I’m doing great, Steve. Thanks so much for having me on the show.
It’s a thrill to have you here. Where are you now, Jonathan?
I’m at Houston, Texas after a month of non-stop travelling.
Where have you been?
I was at Pennsylvania speaking to kids for a gymnastics camp. I was in California for the company I partly owned called the Ninja Coalition. We set up ninja courses around the country for businesses, schools, or churches. We were up and ready during the fire in one of our courses. We almost had to cancel it, but we’ve come to find out it was the little bit of joy that we were able to bring that city in their times of sorrow. I was in Phoenix in my latest speaking event, The Habitude Warrior, where my friend Erik Swanson invited me.
Erik is a mutual friend that puts on a great conference, The Habitude Warrior event that brings together some remarkable people like yourself to help entrepreneurs to produce greater results in their lives and to have the attitude of success. Bravo to you to be part of that.
That is a phenomenal event. There’s a reason they call Erik Swanson, Mr. Awesome. It was an awesome event. It’s great for entrepreneurs and anybody out there who’s looking for a way to develop personally.When you know what you want and when you want it bad enough, you are relentless. Click To Tweet
This Ninja warrior thing, I was thinking that’s become quite the phenomenon here.
It’s got to be the fastest growing sport on the planet. I got into it about five years ago because I was looking for a new competitive outlet. I knew I was on my way out of gymnastics. It’s funny I thought, in my overly confident mind, “This is going to be easy. I’m going to go on the show. I’m an Olympic gymnast. I’m going to go with the million-dollar grand prize.” I was quickly humbled by how difficult it is. It’s unbelievably challenging. It takes a ton of strength. It takes a mental approach of you can’t hold back. You have to attack from the starting line to the finish line.
Five seasons later, I’ve been a finalist, but I still haven’t won. I’m having a blast with it and I partnered up with a couple of other guys. We’ve got this big beautiful mobile obstacle course that we’re taking around the country and people are loving to have the opportunity to play around on some of the obstacles that they see on TV. It’s one of the most popular shows on primetime NBC. People, when they see some of the ninja competitors up close or they see obstacles like the Warped Wall or the Salmon Ladder, they go nuts.
I watch it sometimes and think, “That can’t be that hard. It doesn’t look that hard to do.”
That’s exactly what I was thinking. You watch somebody run across this course and it’s like, “He’s jumping from one thing to the next.” Until you get on the course and you find out that that thing that they’re jumping on his six and a half, seven feet apart. Then you get up on obstacles like the Salmon Ladder, which takes an incredible amount of upper body strength. The big one is the Warped Wall because it is fourteen and a half feet tall. When you see it on TV, it’s one thing, but when you see a fourteen-and-a-half-foot wall in person that you’ve got to run up, it’s unbelievable. Now the guys are doing eighteen-foot Warped Walls. The sport is advancing so fast. I got to pat myself on the back real quick. I don’t always do this, but I am the shortest guy on the show to ever make it up Warped Wall. I’m pumped about that.
That brings me to your backstory and how you ended up in the Olympics and whatnot. You’re not the typical physical specimen of athleticism and yet you’ve done amazing things. Can you talk about that?
I love to share my story because it’s not one that people would expect from somebody that’s had my level of success to the Olympics. Most people would think, “You got in the Olympics. You’ve got medals. You must have been some child prodigy growing up.” That wasn’t me. I’m not Michael Phelps. I wasn’t born with fins and flippers for hands and feet who was exiting the womb and smoking people down the pool. My story is much different. I got involved in the sport at the age of four, I was a wild kid. I had some natural strengths and quickness, but I’m not top level. When coaches saw me they would think, “The kid can do a little bit, but not what we’re looking for.”
The biggest thing that I had going against me was I’m an extremely slow learner. Naturally whatever it is, I don’t learn anything fast and it takes me forever. I started competing around the age of six and loved the sport but found myself leading competitions with nothing. No medals, no ribbons, no trophies. I was discouraged and never thought that I was going to get anywhere in the sport. The only reason I stuck around is because I loved playing on the foam pits, swinging on the rings and the high bars, and climbing the ropes.
The big moment that shifted everything for me was when I was ten years old. I remember watching my first Olympic Games on TV in 1996 at Atlanta, Georgia. There was a ton of buzz around it and as a little kid I was like, “This is crazy, what’s going on here?” Then I remember watching the women’s gymnastics team win the gold medal. That’s the moment where I was glued to my TV and I remember pointing at TV and I told my parents, “That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go to the Olympic Games. I’m going to go win medals.” People laughed at me. They were like, “You realize you’re not very good at the sport, right?”
I made a commitment that day that I was going to do whatever it took. As soon as I made that commitment, I had my why. I knew what I was doing and why it was doing it. It took forever to find any success in the sport, but around the age of sixteen, I started winning stuff. It took me twelve years to find any success from the moment I started. Once I started winning, I broke through this glass ceiling. I was doing things that other guys weren’t willing to do. I was in the gym longer. I was there first, I was leaving last. Before I knew it, I was the best gymnast in the country and I made the Olympic Games at the age of 22.
You made a commitment and that’s what propelled you into the gym for the long hours. Even though you’re not a fast learner, you are consistent like the hare and the tortoise.
When I was eleven years old, I went to this competition and it was amazing. As soon as I knew why I was doing the sport and I’d seen the Olympics and saw someone succeed in a way that I wanted. I improved dramatically in the next year. It wasn’t enough to be one of the top guys yet, but I became one of the best 50 junior level gymnast in the country. I got to go to this competition called the Future Stars Nationals where they invite the top 50, eleven and twelve-year-old boys who did that competition and they were going to take fifteen of the best guys from that. They were going to make the national team. In my mind, “You’re going to be an Olympian one day. You first have to make the national team.”Find something that you couldn’t live without. Click To Tweet
I walked into that competition feeling pretty good like, “This is going to be my breakout moments.” I was so amped up and I thought at the end of this competition, people are finally going to believe me and they’re going to know my name. I ended up getting dead last. I fell six times on my final apparatus, which was the pommel horse. Out of a ten in gymnastics, I scored a 1.9 on the pommel horse. I remember being devastated and thinking, “I’m done. I quit. I’m never going to do this again. I can’t believe I got last place.” Many years down the road, out of all 50 of those kids that were in that competition that day, only one of them became an Olympian who won two medals and that was the kid that got dead last. It’s exactly a tortoise and the hare thing. I had no success early on, as a marathon, not a sprint I kept going.
That’s a moment we could all relate to. That moment when you’ve decided, “I can’t imagine coming back from this. I’m as low as I can go and maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m not as good as I think I am.” What was going through your head and how did you turn it around?
The big thing for me, and what everybody needs to find, is I found something that I felt like I couldn’t live without. I always in a moment of disgust with my gymnastics or competition, I couldn’t get the image out of my head of when I was ten years old watching someone have a medal placed around their neck at the Olympic Games. It was etched in my brain and I had to have it. As soon as I would want to quit, that image would pop back into my head and I mentally, physically, emotionally, I could not get myself to quit. It was funny my mom and dad, they would see how frustrated I was getting and how discouraged I’d be.
They were so loving and great and such a great support system. My mom comes up to me all the time be like, “Son, are you sure you want to keep doing this? You look like you’re so angry.” I’m like, “I am, but I want it so bad.” As a kid, I cried and I throw these temper tantrums in the gym. I remember watching those girls on the women’s team go up on the pedal podium watching the flag go up the national anthem playing. The medals place around their necks, they were crying, and there were 40,000, 50,000 people in the arena, I had that moment in my head. I could see the colors, everything about it. I told myself, “I’m going to have that no matter what.” I hit some low moments in my career, but it was that vision that kept me going forward.
As a hypnotist, my job is to help people capture a vision. In hypnosis, we’re putting people into a state of mind or state of consciousness where they become receptive and open to something new that you could put in. If you can help to create for someone a clear vision, a clear outcome in their minds, like your experience, they will move toward that vision relentlessly. Vision is a powerful tool.
When you know what you want and when you want it bad enough, you are relentless. You will do whatever it takes. You’ll go above and beyond, you’ll do what other people simply aren’t willing to do. The lowest moment I ever had in my entire career was when I was twenty years old. I was on top of my game. I had become one of the best gymnasts in the entire country and I qualified on to the world championship team, which is basically the equivalent to the Olympics in gymnastics, but it’s not in the Olympic year. I made the world team. I’m one of the best guys. I’m feeling confident. I feel like I’m close to my goal. As a twenty-year-old in 2006, I lead my team to the worst performance in the history of USA men’s gymnastics.
I stepped out onto a world championship team, I fell six times over six different apparatus, and I was the only guy in the team to make any major errors. We finished in thirteenth place, no team, before or to this day, has ever finished so poorly. No other gymnast in the United States history has ever fallen as many times as I did at a major international competition. Just like I was when I was a kid, I was devastated. I wanted to quit, “I’m done, it’s over.” It never lasted long. I would get upset, angry, and frustrated, not understand why this was happening to me.If you can help someone create a clear vision, then they will move towards that vision relentlessly. Click To Tweet
It was the vision that made me relentlessly pursue this goal. I always tell people, even at the end of the day, “If my body fell apart and it wouldn’t let me do gymnastics another day, I never accomplished my goal, pursuit, and vision, and everything that I had would have led me to a point where I would have known, at least that I did everything that I possibly could and I had no regrets”. It’s that moment of watching the Olympics as a ten-year old, has been my driving force every step of the way.
What happens when you get there? You have one to two medals, a bronze and silver medal. What happens on the other side of that? You’ve been pursuing this your whole life and you get it, what happens next?
I won two medals in the Olympics and people say, “That’s awesome.” In my mind, I was like, “That was pretty good. It was close. I almost got gold.” I trained another four years for the 2012 Olympics. I’m sure that made the Olympics, I had that moment, I stood on the podium, and I had my medal, but I re-engaged in the sport because I set a new goal. I was like, “Cool. I did part one. Here’s part two. I want the gold medal. I want to be an Olympic champion.” I trained four more years and put myself through a lot.
I made the Olympic team in 2012 where I was the captain of the team and 2012 didn’t go well. I was a much better gymnast in 2012 than I was in 2008. It didn’t work out. We ended up getting fifth place as a team. I was fifth place on the high bar. Like when I was a kid I left with nothing. I got a nice little participation award that said, “Congratulations, you went to the Olympics.” It wasn’t enough and I know I should have been so grateful for it, but I know other people that I meet that wants something so bad one of the worst things you could do to someone is go up to them and say, “I know you didn’t get what you wanted, but you did so great. You did such a good job.” It’s frustrating and you want to punch them.
I have dreams and goals pertaining to my career as a speaker or author, which I haven’t met. I’ve done well. People will come up to me after a presentation and say great things, but it’s not the thing that I see in my mind. I’m constantly driven and sometimes I’m not happy about that. Sometimes I wish I could give this thing up because it’s discouraging not to be living the vision. I totally agree with you, it doesn’t serve you at all to have people try to shove the consolation prize down your throat.
I put myself in their shoes and I understand what they’re trying to do. That was hard after the 2012 games and I told myself, “Gymnastics is not a sport of longevity.” Most people retire right out of college around the age of 22 right when I made my first Olympics. I probably should have retired, but I kept moving forward. I kept pushing and I was like, I’m going to see how far I can take this thing. Then at 26, I made my second team and I was six years older than the oldest competitor on that squad. I wanted more and I told myself, “I’m going to go one more time, 2016 Olympic Games here I come,” and my body fell apart.
Most guys start having injuries around eighteen, nineteen, and twenty. That’s why the retirement comes at an early age. I was fairly bulletproof until I was about 26, I felt great. At 26 years old, everything came crashing down. I hurt my foot bad on a vault and ended up having three major surgeries to repair that. Then as soon as I returned home from the Olympics in 2012, I got an MRI in my right shoulder where the doctor said, “It’s pretty much shredded to pieces, I can’t believe you’re doing anything.” I had a reconstructive shoulder surgery to repair to different muscles rotator cuff, the bicep, and the laborium. Then I came back from that even though my doctor said, “Stop. This is a career-ender. Be done.” I came back and it took me a year to come back from that injury and then I competed in my first competition back.
One week later, I completely ruptured my pec muscle. I’d have another surgery. After I had that surgery, I came back six months later and then I got into the best shape of my entire career. I had never been leaner, lighter, and stronger. I was well on my way to making my third Olympic team and I thought, “This is it. I’m about to make the Olympics. I’ve never been better. This is my opportunity to go win a gold medal.” Nine months before the Olympics, I had gone to the Olympic Training Center every six weeks for a week at a time. We had a practice competition, I smoked this competition so bad. I nailed everything. The Olympic team coach comes up to me and he goes, “Jon, I’ve never seen you this good. You’re ready.”
I returned home from that training camp. The very next day, I was doing the pommel horse and I felt a tear and a burn in my left shoulder. I had completely ruptured my rotator cuff. My career ended right then. I knew that at 30 years old I wasn’t going to be able to train another four years for the 2020 games. I had this moment where I was like, “I’m not going to ever get that gold medal. It’s done. It’s over.” I was upset. It’s okay for people to feel sorry at some point, but you got to pull yourself out of it.You’re going to fall enough times until you figure out how not to fall. Click To Tweet
Then I remember thinking back, “This is my moment. This is where I finally practice what I preached. I know that I have zero regrets. I did everything possible to try to get to where I want it to go. I walked away from my career with a smile on my face. What’s next?” I love to share my story with people. I’ve got these huge, radically ambitious goals as a speaker, author, and entrepreneur with my business, with the other Ninja Warrior competitors. I’ve got these ideas like when I was a kid, people that come up to me they’re like, “Dude, you’re crazy.” That’s what it is. I believe in radical ambition of, “Why not? Why not go for something big?”
We had talked about the title of the talk and you said Falling Forward. Talk a little bit about that.
I got that idea from one of my coaches one time about falling forward. It’s something that I’m writing in one of my books currently. There’s a vault called a Handspring Double Front and it’s one of the hardest vaults in the world. It’s a blind landing, you can’t see the ground before you do it. My coach used to always tell me he’d say, “Jon, make sure you over rotate the vault. It would be better to over-rotate and jumped or fall forward than it would be to fall on your butt.” I started thinking about that one day and I was like, “Isn’t that the same thing as life? Shouldn’t we want to overdo it? Shouldn’t we want to be overly aggressive in every move that we’re making so that if we do make a mistake, if we do fall, we’re moving forward at the same time instead of being tentative.
Instead of holding back a little bit. When we do make a mistake, we get up and we’re in a better position to keep going. If we didn’t make the mistake being aggressive and attacking because what are you going to learn from that?” That was my idea, that was always been my thought process is everybody’s always heard that the saying, “Go big or go home.” There’s something important behind. It’s like the five steps forward, two steps backwards thing. You want to keep moving in the right direction.
It comes down to faith, faith in yourself, nature, and your ability to correct. When we lack the faith in our ability to correct, then we would become over cautious and then we don’t take steps in the right direction. We take a half-ass step in the right direction and then we fail and we prove to ourselves, “You see, I knew I couldn’t do it.” There are so many areas I see it when you’re talking to guys about approaching women. Just get off your butt and start walking in that direction. If you get there and you fall on your face, so be it. Sitting back here to be cautious isn’t going to get anywhere.
You always hear successful entrepreneurs or athletes say, “Successful people take action. Successful people pull the trigger. It’s a ready, aim, fire kind of thing. You have to be willing to go, ‘This is uncomfortable. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I may eat it, but I’m going to go for it.’” I may not have been the strongest, fastest kid in the world of gymnastics and I was a slow learner. One thing that I did have that propelled me to where I was as an athlete was that I was never afraid to go all out. I was never afraid to take a risk and to go big.
The event that I want my silver medal on the high bar, a lot of people say it’s the most exciting event gymnastics is very X game style. One of the things I was good on that event is because I wasn’t afraid to crash and burn. I was up there going big and trying to do things that other people were maybe too afraid to do and attack, be aggressive. If I fell, I fell. You’re going to fall enough times until you figure out how to not fall. That’s where I was in my career.
Your attitude is stellar and it’s gotten you all the way to the Olympics and Ninja Warrior Games. It’s gotten you onto some pretty prestigious stages. Is this teachable? Can people learn how to have that attitude? If so, what would you say to those people?
There are two different answers to that question. There’s “yes, people can learn it,” but I also believe that some people are born with it. It’s going to come more naturally to some people. They’re going to have that attitude of attack and belief and being relentless in all that they’re doing. There are other people that naturally hold back and they’re scared to take those step forward. That’s okay and what matters is that we’re always trying to develop ourselves. You can always try to develop yourself into someone who is stronger, not just physically, but mentally stronger.
Somebody that can handle the punches, handle a fall. I’ve met a lot of athletes that are naturally didn’t have the aggressive outlook and goals that I had, but they developed it over time. You can’t do it on your own. It takes mentorship, coaching, and surrounding yourself with the right people. It absolutely can be learned and sure it’s going to come easy for some people, but I would never let that step in my way or let that step in anyone else’s way. You have to understand yourself, understand what your strengths and weaknesses are and then challenge them. Step out of the box and say, “I’m going to become different. I’m going to learn new ways of me becoming successful.”
That brings me to what I was about ask you about, which is the role of self-awareness in the hero’s journey and the champion’s journey. How important is self-awareness and how do you cultivate that?
It’s crucial. One of the most important things that we can do, as people, is to search deep down in our soul. To understand what we’re great at and what were you suck at and being okay with that to the point where you go, “I’m not any good at this. I’ve accepted that, but I haven’t accepted that I can’t change it.” For me, I was aware of what my strengths or weaknesses were as an athlete. I’m aware of who I am as a person, post-career, and I don’t think that you can grow without sitting down and figuring out what is it about myself that makes me tick? What am I good at? What am I not good at? Where am I going to be able to take my career at this point? What do I need to work on? I’ve been married for nine years and I tell my wife all the time I’m like, “What is it about me that’s good and what’s bad? Be honest with me.” It’s so important that people find good people to surround themselves with that keep you accountable, keep you in check, and you’ve got to be honest with yourself as well.Understand yourself, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and then just challenge them. Click To Tweet
Jonathan, you have kids, right?
I do. My son is five and my daughter’s two.
Two is a little young for this question, but as a five-year-old, how do you ingrain these values in your five-year-old son?
The truth is I don’t know. Maybe some people are different than me. I don’t have any idea how to raise these kids. God gave me the ability to have kids and I’m not sure why because I’m like, “What do I do with these things?” They’re great kids and the best thing we can do is lead by example. My wife and I, she was also an elite athlete. She was a gymnast as well. I don’t think you can start drilling them at a young age like “You need to be doing your personal development reading every day.” No, we’re going to let them be kids, but they’re going to see how mom and dad lived their life. They’re going to see that dad wakes up at 5:30 AM and hits the gym. They’re going to see that mom’s got a business and she works every day. All we can do is encourage them to work hard and believe in themselves. Hopefully, that will stay with them as they become adults. When you ask a lot of people, “Who are your heroes?” Somebody people say, “My mom and dad.” That’s my goal. I want to be my son’s hero. I want him to look up to me and want to be like me. That’s the best thing we can do.
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We are in the habit of ending our shows with a metaphor, a quote and a challenge for this episode. I always defer the challenge to my guest. First, let me share my metaphor in my quote for this episode. The metaphor that occurred to me had to do with something that happened the other day. I was at the dog park with Woody and I was watching an English Sheepdog puppy, not too little a puppy. I want to say maybe a nine-month-old puppy, not quite full-grown, but still getting used to his body.
This dog was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen because he would run relentlessly. In the middle of galloping along trying to chase another dog, he would completely stumble and fall over. He would fall on his face, but he would roll who would tumble while moving, he wouldn’t break his forward momentum. This dog would be running full speed ahead, lose his footing, tumble over, end up back on his feet again, and keep going the same as he had before, as joyfully and relentlessly as he was before he fell. That’s the metaphor I would encourage you to carry with you this episode is to be that Sheepdog puppy.
Be the one who runs full out. Yes, you might tumble, you might fall over, but keep that momentum going, fall forward. The quote that I picked is from Michael Jordan, which is, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take a game with the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” With that, let me turn the microphone over to Jonathan. Jonathan, how about a challenge for this episode?
As an athlete, the best challenge I can give is this, it’s great to work on our minds. A lot of entrepreneurs are working on their minds every day, but don’t forget to also work on your body. I would challenge everybody to wake up early in the morning. The best time is in the morning, get out, hit the gym 30 to 45 minutes, you’ll be amazed on how good you’ll feel. Do that five days this week.
That’s a great challenge. Let me echo something around that because I have a friend who’s a mindfulness coach. He’s been on me about the physical part to saying that, “Sometimes we, as successful thinking people, think that thinking is the answer.” That we’ve got to be in our heads 24/7 and we forget our bodies. We forget that it’s important to be physically fit and to get out of our heads. I’ve been doing this lately. I’ve been out running every day. It clears my head and it makes me better at everything. Thanks for that challenge, Jonathan. For people to find you, I know that your website is JonathanHorton.net. You also tend to communicate with people via Instagram @JHorton11. Reach out to Jonathan there. Anything else that you’d like our folks to know about how to find you or anything that you’re up to?
My website is not done yet, so you can definitely check that out. It’s a working progress, but you can also reach out to me easy on email JonathanHorton@ATT.net. I tried to get back to people in a day or two.
Thanks for that and I appreciate your accessibility. This has been a lot of fun, I got a lot out of it. I feel inspired. Please remember to share this with your friends, subscribe to my podcast, visit Executive Zen on iTunes, or find replays on SteveTaubman.com/ExecutiveZen. In the next episode, we’ll be joined by communication expert, Stacey Hanke, and we’ll talk about redefining influence. Thank you for reading. Remember to lead consciously and profit responsibly.
- Jonathan Horton
- Ninja Coalition
- The Habitude Warrior
- Erik Swanson
- @JHorton11– Instagram
- @JHorton11– Twitter
About Jonathan Horton
Horton began gymnastics at the age of four in 1990. “I was a wild child”, Horton said, “I once climbed a pole in the middle of Target all the way to the ceiling. I used to do back flips on my parents’ bed and I rode a garage door to the top when I was 3 years old.”
Horton made his debut as a senior (despite still competing as a junior) in 2002 competing at the U.S. National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio where he placed first on rings and vault, placed second in the all-around and the floor exercise, and tied for fifth on the high bar. In 2003 he competed in the Winter Cup challenge, where he qualified to the individual event finals. Later that year he was chosen to compete for US at the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo where the men’s team won bronze and he placed fourth all-around.
He competed in both the U.S. Nationals and the Olympic Team trials in 2004, where he placed 13th. The same year he entered the University of Oklahoma. He was recruited by Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Penn State and committed to compete for the University of Oklahoma beginning in 2004 for the 2004–05 NCAA season.
From 2005–08 he competed for the Oklahoma Sooners gymnastics team alongside his 2010 & 2011 world teammates Chris Brooks and Steven Legendre. During his time competing for Oklahoma he won 6 NCAA titles and 18 All-American honors, breaking the record that had previously been set by Bart Conner. His OU record for titles and honors still stands.
In 2005, he once again competed at the Winter Cup, placing eighth all-around and was selected again for the U.S. National Team.
At the beginning of 2006, during his Second year at OU, he won an all-around silver at the Winter Cup. He went on to compete at the American Cup where he won the all-around and rings competitions. That summer, he competed in the U.S. National Championships where he won gold on the floor, silver in the all-around and bronze on the horizontal bar. His performances led to him being chosen to represent the U.S.A. at the 2006 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Aarhus. A very young and inexperienced worlds team, they finished 13th in the qualifying rounds not making the team finals.
In 2007 he competed at the Winter Cup and the American Cup again. He won his second consecutive American Cup All-Around title, the first male gymnast to do so since Blaine Wilson. After competing in the NCAA and U.S. National Championships he was once again chosen for the 2007 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, where he finished fourth in the all-around and helped the U.S.A. qualify a full men’s team to the 2008 Summer Olympics.
In 2008 he competed in Winter Cup, the American Cup as well as competing as a Senior for Oklahoma. That year the Sooners won the NCAA Championships, and Horton won another NCAA individual title on the rings. At the U.S. National Championships in Houston, Horton won silver medals on the floor, rings and all-around. This qualified him to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Horton was named to the U.S. Olympic team following the 2008 Olympic Trials, where he was the all-around champion. The team entered the 2008 Beijing Olympics amongst much skepticism as to whether the team could compete against such established teams as the Japanese, Chinese, and German teams. Injuries had forced team leaders Paul Hamm and Morgan Hamm to withdraw from competition, causing the American team to bring in alternates Raj Bhavsar and Alexander Artemev. The American men performed better than anticipated, with Horton being the team’s top performer. The American team ended the competition with the bronze medal after a stressful pommel horse event. In the event finals, Horton placed ninth all-around and added a silver medal in the high bar event.
In 2009, Horton became the U.S. National Champion, and went on to compete in the 2009 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in London where he reached the finals in the all-around and on the horizontal bar.
In 2010, he competed in the American Cup where he placed second all-around. That summer he defended his national all-around title at the U.S. National Championships in Hartford. He was selected for the 2010 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Rotterdam, where the U.S. team placed fourth, and Horton won the all-around bronze medal.
In 2011 he won his third American Cup all-around title, and was captain of the U.S. team that won the bronze medal at the 2011 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Although qualifying fifth all-around in the preliminary round, he was edged out by teammates Danell Leyva and John Orozco (only two athletes from each country were allowed to compete in individual event finals). Regarding this he said “I didn’t make the all-around final because two of my teammates are freakin’ awesome at gymnastics – but it doesn’t matter, because I’m all about the team”. During the team final, he had a bad landing on vault, injuring his left foot, but continued to compete. The next day he was unable to walk, yet after treatment competed on the rings. On returning home, it was discovered that the injury was worse than previously thought, with a torn ligament and broken two bones in a foot that would require surgery. Despite this setback in his training, he told media that it could actually make him stronger gymnast because ‘[he would] have an opportunity to get really strong on the other four events.’
In 2012 Horton qualified for the men’s artistic gymnastic 2012 London Olympic team. The New York Times stated that the team roster was “considered so good that it could be the first United States men’s team to win gold since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.” The team finished fifth, while Horton’s best result was sixth place on the horizontal bar.