Lori was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1982 – one of five children of an inter-racial couple. Her family was poor, in large measure because her father spent a good deal of time in and out of prison. For all intents, Lori’s mom was a single mother who did whatever it took to care for her children. With little money, the family moved often – so much that Lori went to eight different schools in eight years. There were times her dad showed up having purchased a clunker of a car, which, without fail would break down.
When that happened on cold nights, he would tell Lori they would run home to stay warm in the cold Des Moines nights. Lori fell in love with running – it became the friend that never left. Running was the only constant in her life. Growing up, she learned what it meant to fight for everything in life. She learned to shoplift – not for the latest fashion, but for food to eat. For a period, she, her mom and siblings stayed in a church basement compliments of the Salvation Army.
Lori found some stability as a student at Roosevelt High School. She joined the track team, volunteering to run hurdles when no one else stepped forward. She excelled at track – both sprints and hurdles. Kim Carson, a Roosevelt alum, had achieved great success running for Louisiana State University. Kim became aware of Lori and recommended her for a scholarship to the LSU track coach, Dennis Shaver.
Shaver had his doubts about the level of Lori’s talent – could she make it at LSU, a school whose female track team had won the national championship eleven years in a row. He offered her a scholarship based on the traits she showed – organized, motivated, goal oriented, enthusiastic. Shaver was the rock-solid, positive male figure Lori had never before known. He was her coach, her mentor, her father and her friend. By the time Lori graduated, with an Economics degree, she had become the number one ranked female hurdler in the country.
It was 2004 and she tried out for the U.S. Women’s Olympic team. Failing to qualify, she sat on her couch, crying, as she watched the Games on television. Things were different in 2008. She had become the number one ranked hurdler in the world and a heavy favorite to win Gold in Beijing. She advanced through the qualifying rounds with relative ease. Then it was her day – the race for gold. She streaked down the course, clearing hurdles and breaking in to the lead. Suddenly – disaster. Lori’s toe clipped the ninth of ten hurdles – she stumbled and finished seventh. Her dream of winning Olympic gold for herself and country instantly shattered.
To see her live interview with Bob Costas the next day, one would never know the loss and pain and angst that Lori felt. Her strength of character summed up in this quote “In 2004 I cried on my couch. In 2008 I cried on the track, In 2012 I’ll cry tears of joy in victory.”
Lori had lived a life filled with hurdles before she ever stepped foot on a track. She learned early on that those hurdles needn’t turn into failure – rather, they were learning opportunities. She went on to be a three time Olympian, a three time World Champion and an American record holder. Today she is still a professional athlete, a spokesperson for Red Bull and Asics and a celebrity known throughout the world. Those accomplishments are amazing. They only occurred as the result of the efforts of a fearless brand – Lori “Lolo” Jones.
Fearless Brands face their hurdles, converting them into positive experience
Lolo is a woman of intelligence, talent, beauty – and a very unique name. Her mother is also a Lori. When people would ask for Lori the question became Big Lori or Little Lori – Little Lori morphed into Lolo. She stands out partly because of those attributes, but what best defines Lolo is her character, conviction and sense of self.
Her Olympic loss was devastating, but she wouldn’t allow that to define her. When she raced again, she clipped more hurdles – something that had never happened so consistently in her career. It turns out that Lolo had an issue with her spinal cord – hers was much lower than normal and was placing great strain on the nerves to her legs. Her brain would tell her foot to lift but had no idea where the foot was. Lolo underwent a successful operation to clip the affected nerve, recovered faster than any other patient and got back to training.
She made the Olympic team once more in 2012, finishing in what many consider the worst spot possible – fourth – no medal. Again, she pressed on. In 2014, she became a member of the U.S. Women’s Bobsled team and competed in the Winter Olympics, her third. Again, there was no medal. Again, there was the pride of having given her best and representing her country.
Lolo receives a great deal of grief and chiding because she is very open with her Christianity. She is also open about being a virgin, and remaining that way until she is married. Many scoff at the attention she receives having never won an Olympic medal, yet Lolo remains true to herself – her standards, her beliefs and her personality. There is much to learn from Lolo and her experiences.
Adversity is a given, make it a positive! – Lolo had a childhood which stacked the odds against her graduating college, much less achieving world-class success and being a global celebrity. She is open about her childhood, not for sympathy, but because it was a never ending learning experience. She learned to be a fighter – to not quit. She learned that hurdles could either hold you down or lead to great success. Look for the positive, learn the lessons, fight the fight, strive to succeed.
Adapt to your environment but remain true to yourself – Her childhood certainly had its challenges but it was when she went to college that Lolo had to adapt in a totally different way. She had grown up in Des Moines, a quiet city with Midwestern values and a predominantly Caucasian population. Suddenly she was in Baton Rouge with its Southern culture, abundant seafood and a much more diverse demographic. Lolo showed how to adapt – how to integrate her personal brand into her new setting. Situations change. You need to adapt to new environments without compromise – be true to who you are.
Acceptance, Courage, Wisdom – There has been no shortage of things in Lolo’s life beyond her influence – poverty, injury, defeat – things which she had to learn to accept. She also knew that much could be changed and that she would find the courage to do just that – education, training, dedication. More often than not, she has done a good job of knowing what to accept and where to change. She found mentors to advise her. She used her experience to make decisions. Put your efforts behind things which will yield results – don’t waste time addressing matters which you can’t affect.
Lori “Lolo” Jones has achieved things very few ever will. She has handled disappointment and devastation in a way most can only hope to replicate. As you seek success – as you look to improve in life and ‘upgrade your brand’ learn from Lolo Jones. Face life’s hurdles head-on. Don’t let them keep you down. Learn from them. Be a fearless brand.