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Jon Montgomery: Embrace your average, be great

It’s not every day that you get to chat with an Olympian. In this episode of Ratehub’s Real Money Talk Podcast, Tyler and MoneySense Editor-in-Chief, Sandra Martin, do just that.

Jon Montgomery was a hero of the 2010 Olympics, winning gold in the Men’s Skeleton and famously walking through the streets of Whistler, chugging a beer. The Amazing Race Canada host now works with charitable organizations helping kids get involved in sports.

The Jon Montgomery story

Jon didn’t dream of being a skeleton racer. His academic career led him towards a job as an automobile auctioneer. He stumbled upon Skeleton racing as a way to achieve his dream of representing Canada at the Olympics. This dream was intense during the 2000 Olympics. While watching Canadian athletes succeed, Jon was dying to find a sport that he could participate in. “In witnessing it (skeleton), I knew that I had seen something that I would like to try myself, and my very first descent was a game-changer.”

The sport’s adrenaline was one appealing aspect to Jon, but with fewer athletes participating, choosing Skeleton made his route to the Olympics a little easier. It’s a challenge to take on a new sport in your 20’s, but Jon worked hard and achieved that dream.

The importance of education

Jon credits a lot of the success he’s had in his life to the education he received. The public speaking skills he learned while studying to be an auctioneer are helpful in the work he does with Amazing Race Canada. He believes education is incredibly important: “If you’re going to take some risks in life, take the risk of bestowing an education on yourself.”

He recognizes the privilege of his parents’ support to help cover some of the costs in education. Now, raising his kids, he wants to instill that same respect for knowledge in them. “The conversation around education will be this is a privilege; this isn’t something everyone gets to benefit from because there are incredible barriers to achieving this.”

His main tip for other parents is to expect that your kids will be incredibly average and therefore need some support to cover school costs. “You have to start thinking about it now because [you] can’t give them a shot at everything if [you] haven’t thought about it today.”

The value of sport

Jon and his wife Darla (also a former team Canada skeleton racer) now support charities that make sports accessible. “To be able to play as a youngster is a right… you should have the capacity to play sports in Canada. Organized sports, with coaches and parents and community people around you cheering you on. As human beings, we need to celebrate, we need to be celebrated individuals.”

Their work with Right to Play and Kid Sport helps provide those opportunities for families who may struggle to afford them. He believes that sports can give kids a sense of belonging and new perspectives. It allows them to escape some of the pettiness and distrust they may be experiencing at school. 

“We’ve had the privilege to learn our value, our worth, our ability, and we’ve realized all of those through sport. We’ve realized our ability to be a part of a team, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Embrace your average

Not everyone is going to be an Olympic athlete. Jon believes that most people are ordinary and will have to work hard to achieve greatness. But he also feels that there is nothing wrong with that.

If you accept the fact that I am average and I’m going to have to work really hard… then that’s to be expected. And so embrace your averageness and get ready for some work, because we can all be great if we don’t have the preconceived notion that we’re born that way.”

Hear the full conversation with Jon, Sandra, and Tyler on your trusted Canadian personal finance podcast, Real Money Talk.

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