Foster child turned Olympic gold medalist turned mental health advocate, gymnast Simone Biles offered Realtors some advice for being successful and overcoming adversity: put your health first, enjoy what you do and surround yourself with people you trust.

Biles spoke at the National Association of Realtors’ annual conference on Sunday in San Diego, fresh from wrapping up her 35-city Gold Over America tour where she shared the stage with other star gymnasts.

In addition to seven Olympic medals, the 4-foot-8, 24-year-old has won 25 World Championship medals — the most of any gymnast in history. At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Biles made headlines when she partially withdrew from event in order to focus on her mental health — a decision for which she was mostly praised.

In September, Biles testified at a U.S. Senate hearing about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, where she condemned the FBI’s handling of the case.

At the Realtors Conference & Expo, Tacoma, Washington-based Realtor Margo Wheeler-Willis interviewed Biles about her decision to prioritize her mental health and her “championship mindset.”

“I would say, be yourself. Stand on your own. Pick good peers that are going to motivate you and make you the best version of yourself,” Biles said.

“That’s why during this process I was so successful because I was surrounded by successful people who motivated me. Every time I went to the gym I knew that technically it was a job, but for me it was fun and something that I love to do, so every day didn’t feel like a job.”

When she pulled back in Tokyo, she knew that her physical and mental health were on the line, along with a team medal. She chose to put her health and the team first, she said.

“To have that chance to kind of make these decisions on my mental well-being was really nice, but it was also scary,” she said.

That choice turned out to inspire many around the world. Biles said she’s gotten “amazing” feedback from people who realize “it’s OK to not be OK when they see some of their favorite sports heroes going through the same thing.” Gold medals are hard to relate to, she said, “but people can relate to mental health issues.”

People have come up to her and told her that she’s inspired them to quit their job. “I didn’t say do all that now,” she said, chuckling.

Asked for advice for Realtors dealing with adversity, Biles said, “You have to have a positive mindset. If plan A doesn’t work, there’s still Plan B. If plan B doesn’t work, there’s still the rest of the alphabet.” The crowd of thousands laughed.

Biles started gymnastics at the age of six. “Every dream is feasible,” she said. “People forget that it’s taken me 18 years to achieve my dreams.”

She stressed the importance of having boundaries when on social media and surrounding herself with a team of people she fully trusts.

“Social media can not be the best at times especially when you’re in a sport where you’re constantly criticized,” she said. So she’s not shy about blocking or unfollowing people to “push out all the bad.”

“We’re trying to be perfect in a world where perfect doesn’t exist,” she added.

Asked for advice for little girls, she said, “Make sure you have fun in what you’re doing and make sure it’s your decision to do that.” While parents will often push kids to do certain activities, especially if they’ve spent a lot of money, “make sure it’s something you fully want to do,” Biles said.

While Biles emphasized loving her work, she said the biggest thing she’s learned about herself is that she’s more than the work that she does.

“I’m more than just gold medals,” she said. “You’re more than your work. The world is your oyster.”

She advised attendees to find things they love to do outside of work to decompress, whether it’s taking a walk with the dog — she has two French bulldogs — or spending time in a hot tub or getting their nails done.

She said she doesn’t know what’s next for her. “I’m not sure if my gymnastics career is done just yet, so I’m going to take some time off, weigh the options,” she said.

Asked whether she’ll be at the Paris 2024 Olympics, she said, “If I decide to continue with gymnastics, you’ll see me out there.”

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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NAR | realtors
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