If you’re afraid – be afraid while taking action!
My story is about a modest small-town boy from a disadvantaged background. Despite all odds, this boy became an Olympic medalist. It has made me believe that all the answers to our questions and the solutions to our problems lie within us.
My journey includes becoming independent as a middle school boy. In my teens, I faced the
threat of getting stuck in a tragedy that happened in my life. I started to rely on sports and on
the wish to achieve something remarkable – my wish to become independent, be competent
in my field and build connections with athletes. I changed schools, lived in many different
places and learned to plan my own time and budget.
I started working, and taking action is what helped me. The constant need for improvement became the source of my self-belief. I
understood that the results depended only on me as I never had a proper support network. My parents were far away, I lived from “hand to mouth“ and my home was the guesthouse of my trainer. I had to take responsibility and taking action improved my independence and
Still, how to achieve success?
I realised quite quickly that if I practised as much as others,
it would take me too long to succeed or, as I was not talented, I would just be average. I
never had physical features to support me in becoming successful in rowing. Fortunately, I
did not know that at the time. My talent was my capability to do the work and analyse the
I did more than others – that was my secret.
It was like I was constantly stealing minutes
and doing repetitions with myself. After practice, I sneaked back into the sports hall. In the
evenings, I practised alone – with my heavy sports bag as a tool, and observed the other
successful athletes to gain new knowledge. I had a bar in front of the toilet door for doing
pull-ups. I didn’t count the times I used the toilet in a day, but there was never any dust on
In my mind, I had a vague picture of what I wanted, and at one point, I started to notice
results. At first, I thought it was just luck. Then I started to realise that my life today is the
sum of decisions done earlier. If our whole body can renew itself by 99% on the cell level
within seven years, you can certainly change your life within six months. This is your chance
and you do not have to wait till the 1st of January to make decisions.
Thanks to all the hardships in my life, I have reached the present moment, when I am ready
to give back to support others. As my coaching lecturer, Peep Aaviksoo (Estonian Business
School) said: “You’re like an oak with strong roots and an oak always stays put! All of us
have potential, and you have managed to realise yours. You can probably also see the
restrictions that prevent others around us from setting goals and moving towards them. “
I have been on top in the sports world as a member of a team whose goal was winning the Olympic gold for 4 consecutive Olympic cycles – 16 years in total. My interest towards human development has always been broad, and my studies in biology class at high school and at the faculty of sports sciences at the university have supported my curiosity.
My maturity and life experiences have also been shaped by my 13-year experience at the Police and Border Guard Board, where success is achieved via empathy, building trust, and understanding. I know that I have lost focus many times, but my colleagues helped me get back on track. Through this partnership, I have learned that even if you are 100% sure of yourself, always leave room for listening and understanding the arguments of the other party. As they say – you don’t know what you don’t know!
Being a top athlete and working at the Police and Border Guard Board also taught me how to realise my ultimate potential in stressful situations, and how to resolve conflicts between big egos. It has also given me the skill to analyse my internal monologues while turning them
to my advantage.
Source: Karli Saul
Source: Karli Saul
Will this make my boat go faster?
Before the Tokyo Olympics, in 2018 and 2019, my team and I were in a great abyss.
We did our best but failed to deliver results. On the contrary, we faced consecutive
failures. The newspapers wrote:
“Allar Raja has declared an end to the season before
the World Championships“, and
“Goodbye Olympics? Quadruple scull took last place at
the World Championships B-finals“.
In 2020, the team was assigned a new head coach and within two years, the team secured a place at the Tokyo Olympics, got onto the podium at the European Championships, and won
the Rowing World Cup. What had changed? Had the men got stronger? Were prohibited means used? Was newer equipment used? No, the men hadn’t got stronger and no unethical means were used.
What had changed was that the team had sat down and figured out their common goal, how much they were willing to contribute to achieve that goal and how to use the remaining time most efficiently. In professional sports, the end result depends on the details and we managed to fill in the gaps. The same rule applies to every team that has ambition. In the team, we made many agreements, but there was one that was special and will always remain with me, despite which goal I want to achieve in life. It was: “Will what I am doing make my boat go faster now?“ This question left no room for self-deception.
This is the mindset I am willing to develop within your boat as well, wherever you wish to go.
How can we achieve the goal together?
I will help you map the present situation, set a goal and develop a concrete plan of action to reach this goal. If needed, we will correct the plan or adjust the goals as we move forward.
You will lead the journey while I offer a trustworthy environment and ask questions which will help you to clear your focus and move forward.
What does our journey look like?
There are many possibilities for that:
I will help you map the present situation, set a goal and develop a concrete plan of action to reach this goal. If needed, we will correct the plan or adjust the goals as we go. With clear-set goals and mindful activity, you can create a future for yourself that you like!
Team building improves collaboration and helps the team to focus on a common goal more vigorously. The length of the training depends on the specific needs of the team.
If you have a feeling that your team spirit is failing, this is the package for you. Let’s discuss the company’s bottlenecks and set goals for both the enterprise and its members.