Books·My Life in Books

How 2 books helped CBC Olympics reporter Karina LeBlanc think like a champion

The Olympic bronze medallist and CBC Sports host shares two books that she enjoyed reading.
Karina LeBlanc is a two-time Olympic athlete and reporter at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. (CBC)

Karina LeBlanc is reporting for CBC at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, which take place Feb. 9-25, 2018. The two-time Olympian played goalkeeper for Canada's national women's soccer team for 17 years, making her the longest-serving player in Canadian soccer history.

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In her own words, LeBlanc highlights the two books that fortified her winning outlook on life and in sports.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Brazilian author Paul Coehlo published The Alchemist in 1988. (Matej Divizna/HarperOne)

What LeBlanc learned from The Alchemist:

"Fear is a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I learned that at an early age when moving to Canada and then life continued to throw challenges my way. I learned through sport that failure is a beautiful thing and beyond my greatest failures were my greatest successes — both as an individual and also as a team. 

"Live in the present. Life is about moments, and when we are present, then we experience the power of that moment.

"The importance of gratitude: at the beginning and end of each day, I say a couple things I am grateful for because life is so much about how you look at what is happening. Look for the good and good things will come back to you.

"Keep moving forward one step at a time. As my dad would say, 'Forward ever, backwards never.'

"Take that leap into your life. Stop living other people's version of your life. Go out, be brave and courageous, and live your best life. I took the leap and retired from soccer when there probably was still some game left in me; I did it not by listening to the world, but listening to my soul. The transition wasn't always easy, but I knew life wasn't always going to be. Sometimes we all need to just take that leap into a new life, even though it is unknown, because not only will we learn so much about ourselves in the process, we will also learn that our life to that point, prepared us for what was next.

"Your dreams should scare you."

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Stephen Richards Covey was an American author, businessman and public speaker. (Simon & Schuster/Wikimedia Commons)

What LeBlanc learned from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

"Be proactive. Take responsibility for your life. Step into the world making a choice to live, love and matter.

"Connect with your own uniqueness. I moved to Canada at age eight. I was shy and bullied, and sport changed that for me; it gave me hope and I was finally seen by others. We are all uniquely created and have the potential to bring something unique unto this earth. It's a beautiful challenge to find that and choose to make it matter.

"Put first things first. We all have a purpose and once we are clear on that purpose, then decisions in life, and what is a priority, change. You don't end up wasting time on the things that don't matter.

"Think win-win. Live life with integrity. Stop seeing everyone as a competition. I learned this in playing goalkeeper for Canada. Earlier in my career it was about me versus the other goalkeeper, but later on, when you take the ego out and actually put the team first, everyone got better. I was able to walk away from my career knowing I had integrity and the respect of my teammates and opponents because of how I handled myself.

"Seek first to understand, and then to be understood. This was relevant to me when I retired from soccer. I played for Canada for almost 18 years and leaving my job and what was my life, I was lost. Instead of forcing myself onto others, and since I didn't really know who I was without the soccer ball, I decided to listen and seek to understand my lost self through others and their experiences, rather than telling a story that wasn't my truth.

"Synergize. I came from a team sport. One of our greatest learnings was coming dead last in 2011 and then winning a medal, nine months later in 2012. [Former coach] John Herdman came in and asked us what we wanted our legacy to be. We went into the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games not wanting to just win a medal (all athletes want to win a medal). We wanted more…. We wanted to inspire a generation. I saw the power of getting a team to connect on something greater than our own individual selves, the moment we came home to Canada and saw how the country embraced and shared that moment with each of us.

"Sharpen the saw. Taking the time to make sure all corners of our lives are in a balance: the physical side (eating, exercising and resting), mental (growing in your lessons through reading or writing about them), social (meaningful connections) and spiritual (for me this is my connection with God, but for others it is in other ways.)"

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