Yvette Yong is an Olympian, a 15-time Team Canada TaeKwonDo athlete, and a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. Yvette is a true champion in every sense of the word, having won three world TaeKwonDo championships and multiple international medals, including a world-ranked number one position in the female 46-kilogram category, which was a first for any Canadian athlete. In this episode, we chat with Yvette about her journey to the top, the challenges she’s faced along the way, and how she stays motivated to achieve her goals. We explore the influence of her mother on her success, managing intensity in everyday life, how she thinks about confidence, and giving back to the next generation.

Originally published May 2023

This episode of Actualize is hosted by Rob Pintwala, the founder of First Session.and Kim Foster Yardley, a Clinical Psychologist and mental performance coach and owner of The Mental Game Clinic.

First Session

Find the right therapist for you.

First Session exists to help you find the right therapist for you so you can get help now. We deeply believe that the fit between you and your therapist is the most important factor for a positive outcome. First Session is committed to making your search for a therapist user friendly, transparent, and trustworthy.


Yvette Yong (00:00):

Sport is always short-term, right? No matter how long you're in it, sport is always short-term, but your life is a long-term project.

Rob Pintwala (00:17):

Welcome to Actualize, a podcast focused on the intersection of performance, ambition, and mental health. I'm Rob Pintwala, and I'm joined by my co-host Kim Foster Yardley.

Kim Foster Yardley (00:31):

Rather than fixate on the wins and successes, our mission is to uncover the whole picture of the human beinghttps://www.firstsession.com/podcast/0-introduction-to-actualize-podcastbehind the performance. Join us as we interview top performers across business, sport, and the arts.

Rob Pintwala (00:46):

Actualize is presented by first session. Have you ever considered trying therapy or simply just wanna level up in your personal or professional life? I started first session back in 2019 to help Canadians find the right mental health professional for them. Since then, we've connected thousands of Canadians with the right therapist, and I'm really passionate about helping each individual find the right fit in the therapist for them. We spend hours and hours interviewing therapists across Canada, and each one of them has a professional video for you to take a look at while you decide who might be the right fit for you. Check us out @firstsession.com.

Kim Foster Yardley (01:23):

Actualize is also presented by the Mantel Game Clinic. The Mantel Game Clinic was founded by myself, Kim Foster Yardley. I combined my 20 years of experience as a clinical psychologist with my passion for sports psychology, and I built a team of therapists who specialize in working with high performance Olympians and founders. Find us at thementalgame.me

Rob Pintwala (01:46):

Today's guest is Yvette Yong. Yvette is a 15 time team Canada TaeKwonDo athlete, and a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. She is a three time world TaeKwonDo champion and multiple international medalist resulting in a world ranked number one position in the female 46 kilogram category, a first for any Canadian

Kim Foster Yardley (02:16):

Yvette Yong. It's so incredibly exciting to be speaking you to you today.

Yvette Yong (02:21):

Yeah, it's so great to be here.

Kim Foster Yardley (02:23):

So just because I think you have kind of so many different levels at which you've functioned at a high competitive level in the military in your sport as well, and then of course, taking it all the way to the Olympics. So we've got lots of questions to answer today, <laugh>

Yvette Yong (02:42):

For sure.

Kim Foster Yardley (02:42):

To, to start, I just want to ask you what it has been like to be a female in martial arts? You know, assuming that it's quite male dominated. I was curious about that.

Yvette Yong (02:53):

Yeah. well, yeah, throughout history there's a, it's mostly male dominated, but you know what, it actually never really bothered me. You know, people used to say after I fought or when I was training, they're like, oh, you fight like a boy. And like the, the thing is like, I don't think they actually meant it in a bad way because it's just the history of it. You know, it was a male dominated sport. People were not used to watching females in sport in general, let alone fight. So, you know, I felt it as a compliment always. And yeah, no, I, I really just felt it as a compliment and, and like I wanted to be actually that example in the future. Instead of them saying, oh, you fight like a boy. I wanted them to say, wow, you fight like Yvette, you know, <laugh>. So, and actually recently there has been a lot of people, like, all since I kind of semi-retired or getting there. We've been watching a lot of fights and all these girls and they're like, wow, she fights like Yvette. I'm like, yes, I did it. <Laugh>. Yeah. So I know it's, it's I didn't really bother me to, to be a female in that sport because I knew that I wanted to help change that perspective of it. So, yeah, I love a good challenge.

Kim Foster Yardley (04:08):

So you did have this idea that, that you wanted to change the sport. Yes. What did that, what did that ask of you, you know, like, I'm just thinking, did it feel like added pressure or was it motivation for you?

Yvette Yong (04:23):

Actually there, no, I wouldn't call it pressure. I think it would call it motivation because a lot of the pressure that I have, I really tried to turn it into motivation. And I just really wanted to be more of a positive change rather than being somebody to fight against it, you know? So changing that into a more positive direction for sure. Yeah.

Kim Foster Yardley (04:47):

Do you, do you feel like you, I mean, it sounds like you feel like you've made an impact, and I'm just wondering, you know, you say you kind of see me retired. Does that mean you've been reflecting a lot on your sport and your history in your sort and, and what have you been re thinking about it?

Yvette Yong (05:01):

Yeah, now that I have more time to actually sit down, I mean, I have time to do this into, or this podcast yeah, it's a lot of time to sit down and they're mainly very positive reflections and seeing how my experiences have has changed other people's perspectives, especially the younger generation, you know, thinking about all the, the things that the parents say, all the coaches say and what people are in generally saying about martial arts and in TaeKwonDo, you know, there's a lot more female practitioners now than before, especially and it's just great to see that, you know, I, I love to see that I can make an impact on the future generation of sport and in TaeKwonDo especially a more male dominated sport because it's more based on fighting and you don't really see a lot of girls fight <laugh>. So, yeah, I, I used to fight though in school <laugh>, but for the right reasons. So defending myself, I didn't just go up and fight anybody. It was just a, it was more about a, a, a defense defensive kind of way <laugh>.

Kim Foster Yardley (06:10):

I mean, I've, I've actually watched you fight, so and I noticed that when you are, when you're sparring, you have this very kind, you're a different person, I would say, just to me, that's what it feels like when I, when I see you off the mat, on the mat. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I wondered like, what are some of the, the mindsets that you adopt when you go onto the mat like that for you to be that? Cuz honestly, you're ferocious, like you're fierce and, and I just wondered what some of those strategies are that you use.

Yvette Yong (06:40):

Yeah. so yeah, a lot of people say that I've been called a lot of different things. In the ring <laugh> I've been called, I'll give you some examples. I've been called this was in, I think a, a news report or something. It was, I was called a rabid pit bull <laugh>. I was called like, oh, I, I just, I can't remember mostly now, but yeah, a rapid pit bull. So when I am in the ring, it, it took me a while to kind of switch off and be in that mode and in that mentality, in that state of mind. Because if, you know, me personally, I'm a very empathetic person. I vary. If somebody cries, I'll look at them and I'll start crying <laugh>, you know, but I can't do that in sport. I can't do that when I'm literally fighting somebody else.


Right? And what helped me is that when my sister said, my sister told me, because I was having a hard time, like I didn't want to kick people in the face because I didn't wanna hurt them, but my sport was literally kicking people in the face <laugh>. But so I had, I had to talk with my sister and she told me that everybody's in there doing the same thing. If you're not going to do it, they're gonna do it to you. So if I don't kick that person in the face what I'm supposed to do, they're gonna kick me in the face. And she's like, do you wanna get kicked in the face? I'm like, absolutely not. And you know what? That's, that's so true. That's the only thing you have to think about. You're there to do a job. If you don't do it right, then you're not doing, then why bother?


Right? There's no importance of doing it if you're not gonna do it the right way. And I've had zero problem problems with that in the fight. Like, some of my best friends were the people that I competed against, the people that I kicked in the face, <laugh>, the people that I've beaten. And some, some of them have beaten me. So we're, we're literally there just to do our job. And that's what I have to think about when I'm in the fight. This is my job. I have to turn on. I have to do my best cuz that's the only way I do things to a hundred percent. It's either, it's either <laugh>, it's really funny. It's either zero or a hundred for me. <Laugh>,

Rob Pintwala (08:48):

I, I had, I had a question about that. Yeah, actually. And sort of that intensity and the competitiveness. I imagine that as a Olympian and competitive athlete and being in the military, these are ways that you can put some structure around that intensity. I imagined <laugh>, but how, how have you learned, I guess, since your youth, you know, when did you like two part question. When did you understand like, your intensity, like, and competitiveness, and like, how has that had to fit in with the rest of your life outside of the competitions?

Yvette Yong (09:29):

Right. That is, how can I explain it? There was, there's just so many things that I could say that how the intensity and the sport and martial arts in general has affected my life positively. There's very few negative, the only negative thing is that I try to do everything the best. You know, the, I don't really know how to explain it. That's not a bad thing, but it is also because you don't wanna be too intense in everything that you do, right? There's some things that don't need that much importance. Some things that don't need competition always. And as a high performance athlete and, and in the military and, and training every day to reach peak performance, it's very hard to do things in an, in an average kind of manner. <Laugh>, if you will, if I, if I say it that way. And it's, it's not a, it's not a bad thing and it's not a good thing as well.


You have to find the balance, right? So finding the balance was very hard for me, <laugh>, because everything that I did, I wanted to do at a hundred percent. Like even just walking, I'll give you an example, walking to the, the dorm and there's like three people walking beside you, and you just automatically wanna walk faster because you wanna get there faster. <Laugh>, you wanna be the first, but there's no reason in doing that, right? So all these small things, like those are kind of negative effects that you have from always training at high performance and, and at, at a high level, just always trying to do your best. But that also has positive effects as well. Like, you want to be the best and you want to find ways to be the best. And with that, it's, it's the problem solving. It's the anticipation, it's the, you know, you learn to work with other people to become the best because you know that you can't do it yourself. You know, if there's people who are, are good at other things, who are better at other things. For example, in my team, I'm very fast. I'm very strong, but I need work with you know, getting in there. And there's some people on my team who are very good at getting in close. So you use them and you use each other to get better, right? So it's a lot of positive and negative with that. <Laugh>

Rob Pintwala (11:57):

Was, was there a point in your life where you, was there like a switch between purely just being competitive with others and wanting to be the best in a crowd or a group versus trying to convert some of that competitiveness to your internal <laugh> barometer? Like, did you have to do that? Has that always been, is like, how do those two things balance, like beating others and then beating yourself? <Laugh>,

Yvette Yong (12:23):

<Laugh>. Oh yeah. First we always beat ourselves up no matter what. Right? Because you, when you are doing it yourself, there's nobody else to blame or, or give credit to other than yourself, right? If you're working with other people, you can just say, oh, you know, it wasn't a good day for, for that person. So as a team, we, we didn't do as well. You can always give that blame per se to, to somebody else, not to yourself, right? But if you're doing it to yourself internally as a high performance athlete, we're always very hard on ourselves. No matter if we get to where we are, there's always something that we find that's wrong with us. Something that we can work towards something that we can make better. And that's, that's the whole point of high performance, right? We know no limit, there is no limit for us because we push past a limit.


And that's also a bad thing because we don't know what the limit is. Like where do we stop? And in, in life, this actually leads to overwork and it leads to burnout, right? So that, that's a really hard thing for me to kind of understand. I have to really sit back and I have to ask for help from other people who are like, in my everyday life. Like, is this, am I doing too much or am I doing too little? Like, as a high performance athlete, it's very hard to know what that limit is outside of sport.

Kim Foster Yardley (13:40):

I mean, I think the, the positive side to that is the, what it did for you in terms of your path to the Olympics. Could you speak a bit to what that path was like,

Yvette Yong (13:49):

<Laugh> and what it was like to be?

Kim Foster Yardley (13:51):


Yvette Yong (13:52):

Oh boy. Ah, my path's Olympics. Well, my path to Olympics started when I was nine years old. I, I knew that I wanted to get to the highest degree of that sport. So I started TaeKwonDo when I was nine as a birthday present. I actually wanted to join Kung fu because my dad was a kung fu master back in Malaysia. He didn't practice in Canada. My mom was a track and field athlete, so I was just naturally athletic. And the, the closest school to our house was a TaeKwonDo school. So I just joined and I was ecstatic. But my path to Olympics, my real path to Olympics like a, a mental path was two weeks before the Olympics came, two weeks before I actually fought, because that was when I found out that I was going to the Olympics. Yeah, there's a, there's a whole nother story about that.


But to the point I found out two weeks before I left, and I mean, I was happy, I was sad, I was frustrated, I was excited. There was all these emotions that just like went all throughout my mind. It was an emo like, it was an emotional rollercoaster for about two days. Like the first two days as I was telling everyone the news, I was, I was really happy that I made it, that my dream fam like finally came true and all that hard work, the sacrifice, the endless training and, and the money spent. But it was also a bittersweet feeling. It was hard work, the sacrifice, all the same words, but you can say it in two different tones, you know? So <laugh>, it was until like the second day where I was like, man, two weeks, I have two weeks and you're telling me I have two weeks to go to the Olympic Games.


The hard work, the sacrifice, the training, the money that I spent, like, it, it, I became a little bit bitter, but it was that point. After that two days, like I said, I was ecstatic, then I was bitter, then I was like, I can't use this excuse for my entire life's work, right? So when I thought about it, I took some time and I really had to take some time for myself because everybody around me was happy. Everybody who's been through and and known my journey from when I was younger, all the way to the Olympic Games, they know what I've gone through. They've known everything. So I had to separate myself, and I really had to think about it, but I knew I had to focus and get over it because my goal, since I was nine, I've been training, I had to think about it.


I've been training over 20 years of this, 20 years of this to get to that place. I can't just use the excuse of, oh, I just found out two weeks ago. No, that's not it. Like I, I literally made this goal when I was nine, and I had to go back and remember that, right? Because all these things that happened in your day to day, everything that is happening around you can really can really confuse you of your own self, right? So I, I knew I had to think back and, and say that my goal started when I was nine years old. So I actually had 20 years of practice, 20 years to get ready for this, not the two weeks. And I, I don't really like to use that story anymore. Like, this is what I told everybody because it was true.


I had two weeks before I, I, I went to Olympics and, you know, I had to start from zero, but I didn't, I had all this experience with me, all this and I just have one word that really described my entire journey to the Olympics, either from the two weeks point or from when I was nine years old. And that word is resilience. I've, it was over 20 years of training, over 20 years of everything, the ups and downs and resilience really taught me to basically bounce back from anything that brought you down, basically, which is literally fighting <laugh>. So yeah, my, my path to the Olympics, that one word I can describe it is just re resilience.

Kim Foster Yardley (18:04):

Thank you. I, I just, I, I wanted to just ask you a little bit more about some of those sacrifices that you needed to make, because I think we often get this, we, we, you know, the social media, the Instagram, the glam, we see all the successes, we see all the victories. And you and I, we've had conversations in the past about, actually there's a lot of those 20 years contain a lot of sacrifice. Mm-Hmm. Can you speak a bit to the hardship? Because I, I also, the reason I'm asking this question as well, Yvette, is because to me it seems that people out there have a misconception that resilience means the absence of hardship and the absence of painful emotions and the absence of difficulty. But actually, yeah, like, but actually resilience is, is actually what comes from those difficulties. And so I'm really curious to hear more about that from you.

Yvette Yong (18:53):

<Laugh>, this is a hard one. <Laugh>, there's so many places where I wanna start off with, so how I overcame resilience, I mean, first of all, my sport is very, very physical. It's basically just pushing your body to limit. We're, we're not just using one part of our body, right? And we're not just using just our body. We're, we have to use our mind as well. It's a fighting, we have strategy. We have to do physical. We're punching, we're kicking, we're moving, we're almost wrestling with each other when we fight. So physical resilience is definitely we have a lot of that. But the mental aspect of resilience is, is pretty difficult. It's pretty challenging for, for TaeKwonDo athletes especially, who want to reach the Olympic games. Because it's not only that one fight that we have to win, there is a a point system that we have to follow.


And if we don't, wait, lemme rephrase that. We have to continue fighting, and if we lose one fight, we have to continue anyways, because if we don't, then somebody else is going to take your spot. So it's actually like a race. So for example, in one year, there is about like maybe three or four competitions a month. And if you don't go to all of those competitions, if somebody else does go, they actually get more points than you. And then the next month you're gonna be under in points and they're gonna be on top. And basically it's a race to get points and to win. So, in both ways, it's very it's very taxing on the mind and the body, right? So you have to understand that if you lose one fight, it's not the end of the world. You have to keep going.


You can't just take that loss. You know, some people win that one fight and they're like, oh, I have to take a rest now. I have to, you know, reset. Re no, you don't, we don't have time for that. We just gotta keep going. And the thing is that when you realize that you do that, that that six minute fight, so our, our fight is actually six minutes long. That six minute fight doesn't have to be the end of the world. It ends, and you gotta keep going. So when we start to understand that, it just becomes easier to move on. Right? When I was little, when I was nine years old, I, I lost, I obviously cried. I was like, I don't wanna do this anymore. I'm gonna lose all the time. But my mom was like, now, you're not gonna lose all the time. This is just one fight. Six minutes of your entire life. How many fights do you think you're gonna have for the rest of your life, right? You're gonna have way more. And if you act like this right now, you're not gonna get anywhere. You have to brush it off and you gotta keep going.

Rob Pintwala (21:39):

I love that. That's an amazing explanation of how <laugh>, I imagine a lot of the resilience. I'm curious where that has played out in the rest of your life. You know, like that ne you know, pick yourself up, keep going. It's not just mm-hmm. <Affirmative> one and done. Where ha, where have you feel like you've benefited maybe from that mindset, outside of the sport,

Yvette Yong (22:05):

Honestly, and almost everything and almost everything. It's just that when you do something, you know that that thing is going to end someday, right? So you either think about it your whole life and not go anywhere, or you move on, right? When you move on, you realize that the things in the past don't, or, or only a, a fraction of what your whole life is, right? So if you always keep thinking about that one thing, you're never gonna move on. So, in my mind, I have to keep thinking that there's other things in my life that I need to do, that I need to accomplish, and not think about the things that you weren't successful at. Cuz everybody has to try all these things to become successful. You have to find success, right? You have to work towards success, not, not one idea, and then keep focusing on that, right? If it doesn't work, you gotta move on.

Rob Pintwala (23:00):

Was there a time when your interests or motivation shifted towards, like, your own success, more so to the success of others? Like, was that a, did that happen? I've, I've heard you mention kind of giving back to the sport and, you know, being a leader and having your name mentioned as like, you know, someone fighting like you. Did, was that a gradual shift in, in sort of like being more interested in the impact in, in, in helping others? Or was it sort of like, okay, like, I'm past my prime and I need to do this, or like, you know, how did that look?

Yvette Yong (23:39):

Yeah, no, I, I definitely am a person that loves working with people and that loves to share my knowledge. And I realize that to actually give knowledge that is useful to other people is that I have to, I have to have more experience. I have to have all the knowledge, and I've always wanted to work with people and teach them and, and share my experiences. But I first had to create my image per se. I don't know how to say in another way. Create my own image and create and, and gather all the experience so that I could really give that back to the other athletes and to the younger generation. Because as an athlete as a younger athlete myself, I've always looked up to those those famous athletes out there who are successful athletes. And I've always wanted to know how they got to where they were.


And I wanted to know the real stuff, you know, not just the, the simple words like, oh, I worked hard and then I got there. No, I wanna know the real stuff. There's, there's no story that doesn't have a failure. There is no story that does not have any failure, and that people have to accept that, and to know that they can't know all the successful stories and, and, and just getting there with no, no you know, hardships along the way. There's always failure in the success story. And I wanted to be that example for other people because this is, this is more realistic and it is more relatable to everybody else. And I, I would rather the people in, in the future generation to know that first, rather than getting to a place where they don't want to be, you know, getting to a place where they're mentally stuck or they're psychologically stuck or physically stuck. And I just wanted to be that example to, to show them how to do it. And, and even if you're in your, your lowest time of your life in your sports career, there's always a way that you can get past that. And that is, again, resilience. I

Kim Foster Yardley (25:59):

Wanted to ask about if you could give me an example of a low point in your life that you've even perhaps used to coach other, other athletes and, and what that low point was and how you got through it.

Yvette Yong (26:12):

So I have been on the national team since the, the senior national team since I was 16 years old. So that's the first year that I could get on the senior national team. And I've been from 2006 until 20 20, 21. So a very long time. <Laugh>. And I have never lost a national games since then. But in, I forgot year, that was, I, it was either 20, no, it wasn't 20, 20, 20, maybe 16 or 15 or somewhere. In the middle of my career, we had a double elimination game, so you could have a chance to lose, and then you can win again. And for the first time in my career, I lost that third fight, and it was the worst feeling in the world. I have never lost a national games ever. And this is the first time that I have lost.


And the thing is, the crowd was like crazy, you know, like, who, and I, and now I understand why, because you, you always want an underdog to win. You always wanna see somebody else beat somebody who is like, amazing, right? And I, I can totally see that from this perspec, this perspective. Now I'm like, wow, amazing. You just beat one of the best people in the world. Like, of course they're happy, of course the crowd's happy, but I felt that as like sort of an attack on me. You know, like everybody in the stadium was like, yeah, you're being her. But the thing is, I had my, I had a chance to come back again, but it was very difficult because when you feel that the whole world is against you, how do you, how do you get back? How do you prove yourself again?


Like, where do you get that support? And so what I did was like, I had to sit down. I didn't talk to anybody, actually lock myself in the washroom. <Laugh>. I don't think I've ever told anybody this. And I thought it was silly before, because, you know, I'll tell you what I did. I, I went into the washroom, I looked in the mirror, and I started crying to myself. And I looked at myself. I'm like, man, you look so stupid. Like, why are you crying? Like, what is that going to do for you? You know, like when you look at yourself acting the way you are, you finally realize what to do. I said, you don't need to cry what you need to do. And I actually talked to myself like, you don't need to cry because that's not going to help you. What you need to do is get yourself together, go out there because you know that you're the best, you know, that you can get, you can beat that person.


Sometimes things happen and whatever, you know, it happens. So what, it's not your best day that happens. You cannot be the best every single day, but you can get better. All right? You cannot be the best every single day, but you can get better. And me being better be that person in the next fight. It's not because I was the best, it's because I'm better, right? That's one of my mottos. Practice makes better. It never makes, makes best. I always say that to everybody because, you know, you can always get better. It doesn't mean that you're the best. You can always get better. And when I have students who are in the same kind of situation, and I know that they were capable of beating this person, or, or, or kicking higher or, or kicking stronger than this other person, they used the entire they used everybody else's emotions to prevent themselves from doing better.


And what I said is, <laugh>, I said, go to the washroom, lock yourself in there, <laugh>. Look at yourself in the mirror. And I want you to tell yourself that you're the best. If you don't think that you're the best, if you don't think that you can do better, tell yourself that you can do better. And if you look at yourself in the mirror and you think that you're lying to yourself, and don't come back out until you say that you can do better. And that, that really helped a lot of students that I worked with, because it, there's nobody around you to, to force you to do anything, to force you to say anything. You have to be okay with yourself first, right? So that's why I said, don't care about what anybody else says. Go into that room by yourself, and when you can admit it to yourself, then you're gonna be more successful. Then you're gonna be more resilient, right? You don't need everybody else around you to, to lead your life for you. You first need to lead your life. You first need to make your own decisions, right? And guess what? Student came out, won the next fight, <laugh> <laugh>.

Rob Pintwala (31:01):

Did you have anyone in your life that was this figure? Like that you're describing this kind of motivational <laugh> source of wisdom for younger athletes? Like did you have someone like that in your life to help you find this?

Yvette Yong (31:16):

Absolutely. Oh, absolutely. My mother, my mother is the one that taught me everything. My mother's the one that taught me all the things that I'm telling you right now. She is the most resilient person in the world since I was, like, since I could talk, she was telling me to be resilient. Not, not that word, because I wouldn't understand it, but the things that she taught me, right? When I, I, I did so many other sports. When I was younger, I was always interested in skating. So, and my mom, she would, she would be so supportive in all the things that I would do. So I was interested in skating. And she's like, Hey, why don't you try speed skating up? I knew nothing about speed skating. And so I went into it and I loved it. But the thing is that she put me in <laugh>.


She put me in a, a kind of more advanced class, even though that I was very athletic, I still didn't know the right things to do. So I was just watching and competing, and I felt very, very out of place. Like, very out of place. And I, I told him like, oh, I don't wanna go back anymore because I just feel out of place. I didn't have the right equipment. I didn't have this, I didn't have like, all the things that everybody was like having, you know, at that age, you're kind of like, I wanna be like everybody else. <Laugh>, right? And then I, I went back home. My mom's like, what? Why are you telling me this? Do you like skating? I was like, yeah. She's like, do you like racing? She's like, yes. She's like, do you like winning? I'm like, yeah, absolutely. Then why does it matter what you're wearing? Why does it matter who's around you? Why does it matter? Like what everybody else thinks? It, it doesn't matter. Like, if you love what you're doing, if you're good at it, and if you enjoy it, then just do it. You know? Like, it doesn't matter what anybody else is thinking. Like it's your life. Don't let other people run your life, right? It was as simple as that. <Laugh>.

Rob Pintwala (33:04):

Was there ever a time when you, when you felt like you were doing some of it as a younger person for your mother, like to prove anything to them? Or, or did they, did your mother kind of give you this identity, your own identity, or the courage for your own identity early, early on?

Yvette Yong (33:25):

Well, I <laugh>, I'm very much like her <laugh>. She was the type of person that was resilient as well in her own kind of sports career. She, in, in, back in Malaysia, she was a, a track and field athlete. And she was like, she did shot put, she did running <laugh>. She was so resilient to, how do I say this? She was so resilient that it was, it was crazy. You know, she would sneak out because her parents wouldn't allow her to do racing or, or running of any kind. Cuz she had something, I'm not sure, like something would her heart at that moment when she was younger, but her brothers would be there to, to support. So she snuck out, she really running and she wanted to win to bring something back home or like, you know, something that, that she would, her parents would be proud of.


And she ran so hard that she couldn't breathe, but she won the race and that she fell at the very end <laugh>. And then her brothers came, like, tried to carry her away. Like, this was the kind of mentality that my mom had. And I think that, you know, not to that extent, but <laugh>, I'm like, mom, what are you doing? You're crazy. Like, she's like, oh no. I was like, I wanted to be the best. I want to do it. I want to, to, you know, but I, I'm, I feel that I'm very much like her and her, her determination and her drive like everything that she, she tried, she tried to pass it on in a, in a better way, <laugh> like, to me. So yeah.

Rob Pintwala (34:59):

Did you ever feel like you, you, did you ever feel sorry for yourself when you were younger? That you thought you had like a, a, a tough mother or a tough parent?

Yvette Yong (35:08):

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. When you're that young, you don't know anything. You think that they're trying to, to punish you, <laugh>, you know, and there was a lot of times where I'm like, why? Why do you want me to do this? Like, I, I am so tired, I don't wanna do this. But the thing is, like, when you're younger, you don't really understand why you're doing it. You don't understand what the hardship is until you're an adult, right? That's why adults take care of children. That's why we, we teach them, right? We, they need guidance. And yeah, I think that's really important.

Kim Foster Yardley (35:39):

I mean, I don't know if this is like a weird question, but I'm wondering, did you ever, do you love TaeKwonDo? Do you love your sport? And was there ever a time where you, where you lost your love for the sport?

Yvette Yong (35:51):

<Laugh> so many times. <Laugh>, I, that's the truth. I mean, your emotions go up and down all the time. I, in the end, I love the sport. I, I love it. Like, this is my life. I, I could say, Larry, I could quit for I, and I've never wanna do it again. But there's like always times when you're walking around in the house and I'm like, kick in the air. You know? You don't even know that, right? This is, it is my life. But at times, I have to say at times I hated it because of what I had to do and because of all the, the, the feelings and emotions that came with it, you know, like I had to just to win. Just to be on top of the game, just to be number one in the world again, I had to go to another competition to fight just to secure that spot, you know, like, but I didn't wanna do that cause I was exhausted.


I was tired. I didn't wanna travel again. I didn't want to, you know, get hurt again. I was injured. Also, there's that ti there's times when you absolutely hate it. Like, when you wake up in the morning, you have to train three times a day. I didn't wanna go for that first training. I'm like, I quit. I don't wanna do it anymore. But deep down, I don't want to, it's just that you, you, it's, it's a bittersweet, you know, you have to do it, but then it is all worth it in the end. It really is. But I have to definitely say that. I, I never, I didn't love TaeKwonDo throughout my entire career. <Laugh>. There's times I really hated it and I wanted to quit. But it's all part of it. It's all part of it.

Rob Pintwala (37:16):

At this current stage of your career where you've been to the Olympics now a few years ago, and you're, you know, considering your next moves <laugh>, what are some of your current, you know, deliberations and challenges that, or, you know, what, what do you, I I, if not, like, what do you think you'll have to get better at to make a transition away from the highest competitive level?

Yvette Yong (37:47):

I have to chill out <laugh>. I have to be more relaxed. It's very hard. It's difficult. And I, I say this like for a lot of athletes too, who are at that high level, it's very hard to just sit back and sit down and do nothing for two minutes without even thinking about something to do. You know, we have to relax, and that's one of the hardest things for me to do. I cannot relax. I'm always thinking about the next move. And I don't know if it's because of TaeKwonDo or it's because I'm a high performance athlete, because in TaeKwonDo, you always have to anticipate the next movement. It's like a physical game of chess, basically <laugh>. But for me it, it, it's very hard to just relax and, and try to do things at a normal pace. You know, even walking, you know, with my outside, we're taking a walk. I'm like racing like <laugh>, like, where are you racing to? Like, I don't know, <laugh>, it's just normal for me to always be like, I, I'm always getting somewhere, always going somewhere, always trying to, to make my next move, right? So that's one of the hardest things that, that in my day-to-day life that I have to change just to relax and, and enjoy.

Rob Pintwala (38:56):

Is this isn't an individual like project for you. You know, like is this an individual focus for you or are you able to like maybe look at some you know, older professional athletes that may, that you see maybe have made this transition to <laugh> chilling out and like ask them like, how the heck did they do it? Like, you know? Yeah. Or is it like, yeah, tell us, tell us a little bit about this.

Yvette Yong (39:24):

Absolutely. So yeah, a lot of my friends actually are, are a lot older than me. They are the generation that was before me. So a lot of my friends were ex-athletes on the same, the same team as me in the same club. So I've always kind of got along with the older athletes, and I think mainly because of my older sister. She's five years older than me, so I had a really close relationship with her, and I still do. So I was generally you know, I, I moved towards like the older age group, and I was always the youngest one, <laugh>. I was the one that was still competing. But we all still hang out together. We all still talk with each other and have dinners and you know, there's, they said one of the hardest things is to kind of transition from that high performance of doing everything at a hundred percent and just like relaxing, right?


But I see a lot of 'em that are very successful in what they do now because, because first of all, that they were, they had their mindset like that. But the thing is that you have to change your physical aspect. Your mindset doesn't need to change, but your physical does, right? You need to relax your body, but you need to keep your mind off and going, thinking always, right? So that's, that's one of the hardest things that I had trouble with. But speaking to them and talking to them about that kind of transition really helped me. And they said, you know, it's, it's not easy, but you really have to, to practice, you have to practice to slow down. Isn't that weird? <Laugh>, well, we practice all our lives was to be fast, but now we have to practice and train to be slower and to, to kind of like, take in everything all at once and then kind of do it in a more long-term. Kind of like a, a long-term project. And the goal, because right now sport is always short-term, right? No matter how long you're in it, sport is always short-term, but your life is a long-term project. So you really have to train to, to take it back a little bit and, and work on that long-term project. Does it make sense to you? Yeah.

Rob Pintwala (41:18):

<Laugh>, Kim, I know you have a good follow up question.

Yvette Yong (41:21):

Okay. <laugh>,

Kim Foster Yardley (41:24):

I'm, I'm just, yeah. You know, I'm thinking about the, the role of mentors, like the way you were talking now about like, these mentors and I, I just wondered, do you have a plan? Like, you know, is that an audacious question for me to ask you? But do you have a plan? Like what, what's, what's next for you? What are you doing at the moment?

Yvette Yong (41:43):

Yeah, so for me, I have all this energy inside of me, in my mind and my body, and I need to channel that energy into a more like, long-term project. You know, I like to address things as projects because I know that they all have an end to it. And that's not a bad thing at all, because it just means you can keep finding new projects to do and to, to venture into, right? And life is full of projects. Like one can be two days, the other one can be 20 years, like my sports career, <laugh>. And I've always had this interest in helping other people, and it just came naturally to me. So for me, my project would be to kind of channel all that experience, my knowledge and, and everything that I've learned as an athlete, as a leader, as military member as a person, as a woman, as a female in sport, as anything that you can ever think of.


For me I wanted to share that experience and knowledge to other people who would take it and, and benefit from it. You know, whether it be training them in fitness teaching them TaeKwonDo, being a mentor to younger athletes teaching basically anything. I I just want to share that knowledge with everybody, you know? So that's, that's my, my next long-term goal. And that's very broad and very open because it's, I cannot set my mind to one thing. I, I cannot just say, I need, I wanna do this. And that's it. My, to make it simple. I want to work with people and help people and share my knowledge and my experience.

Rob Pintwala (43:25):

That's amazing. Is there a particular population background that you feel either you can relate to more in terms of like, giving back or maybe they can relate to you more? Like is there a group of people specifically that you're more, maybe more drawn to or more passionate about giving back to?

Yvette Yong (43:46):

Well, yeah, definitely. Because of my background and my experience, I can definitely give back a lot to the, the, the sports industry or like the, the fitness and the, the martial arts. A lot of people, there's, there's actually over 80 million practitioners of TaeKwonDo in the world. Did you know that <laugh> a lot of people. Yeah, a lot. A lot, a lot. And I feel that that's, that's the, the people that can relate to me most. And whether it be a young athlete or like even an older athlete, male, female, any race, any country, like martial arts is, is martial arts. Like anybody can do it, right? So I, I feel that that's the, the population or that, that can relate to me the most. And anybody really, anybody, there's no limit to that.

Rob Pintwala (44:41):

That's amazing. One, one more question just about Yeah, for sure. The, just general, general relationships with folks like I I <laugh>, you know, as you are training yourself to relax more <laugh>, <laugh> before that training started, when, when you were just purely focused on output and, you know, winning, getting better is it hard to relate with people who are not like, focused on getting better and winning? Like how do you, you know, <laugh> deal with that speed? Is it frustrating? Right?

Yvette Yong (45:21):

It is. It is, but it isn't. And you have to understand that these people are, are the, the people who are not kind of like in that same level as you or that same mentality as you. It's, it's just not who they are, right? I, this is who I am, and there's nothing wrong with those people, it's just that, that they're on their own level, they're on their own speed, they're on their own time, and I respect that. And they should respect, like, mine, mine too. So I surround myself with people who are like-minded and people who can make me better. It's actually like they tell you, show me your five closest friends and tell you who you are, right? And I, I really do surround myself with people who I think I can learn from who I can you know, where we can share ideas and benefit from each other and, and make each other better. Yeah. And if, if the piece people who are not on my level, I try to help them too. If they don't want it, then they don't want it, right? So you gotta respect everybody at their own level and their own time in life. Maybe it's not their time yet. I mean, I wasn't always like this, you know, go, go, go. I wasn't always doing everything a hundred percent. But I learned from that, and I'm, I feel that that's, you know, that's better for me. So

Kim Foster Yardley (46:34):

I don't know if I'm changing the subject slightly, and I dunno if it's you may have spoken to this a bit, but I wondered, do you have any regrets looking back at the last 20 years?

Yvette Yong (46:44):

No regrets. <Laugh>? No. <Laugh>. I definitely have no regrets. Sorry. That was <laugh>, you know, that some people have that tattoo. No regrets. <Laugh>. Yeah, sorry. No, I most definitely can say that I have no regrets at all in what I did in my life. And mainly because if I never lived the life that I had lived, I would've never gotten any of the specific experiences that I've had and that have shaped me into the person I am today. Right? So I, I definitely have no regrets at all.

Rob Pintwala (47:23):

Maybe my, my last question might be I, as far as younger ambitious people who may feel like they have maybe they feel like they're at a disadvantage because of, you know, their, their gender or their background, or their coming from an immigrant family and just being a minority or in a, in a sport or in a profession that's, you know, their minority, like mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, what, what would you tell them if they are feeling like more of, you know, at the, you know, less, less in control and more of like a kind of a victim perhaps

Yvette Yong (48:08):

What would I tell them? Well, I would tell 'em to not use that as something to drive yourself. You know, that's, this is what other people, this is, it goes back to the same thing as what my mother told me, right? Who cares what people think about you? Who cares about what they say about you? Who cares about what you know, there's, I said what they're saying about you, what they're thinking about you, it doesn't matter because in the end, this is you. You have to be okay with it at first. You have to be, you have to accept it yourself first, right? You have to be confident in yourself first. If you're not confident in yourself, you will allow other people to run your life. You will allow other people to come into your mind and, and, you know, make you think about something else.


Make you think in another direction. You have to be confident in yourself first, and you have to accept yourself first. So I would suggest some, again, lock yourself in the washroom. <Laugh>. You don't have to lock yourself, but just look yourself in the mirror and say, what are these people going to do for you? What can you do for yourself? Right? You have to look at yourself and say, what can you do about it? You can either complain about it, you can either, you know, fight them back at it, but when you're doing that, you're wasting your own time to work on yourself. You're really wasting your own time to work on yourself where you can ignore that negative energy, okay? And work on yourself first, and then people will really see what's inside of you, really see whether you are at a disadvantage, whether you are you know, from a place that you know, cannot give you all the things that you need. Do the best of yourself. Do everything that you can in your power. First. People can see confidence.

Kim Foster Yardley (50:02):

I mean, I, I really love what you're saying, Yvette, you're just so inspiring to speak to <laugh>, honestly, like I just, because what I'm hearing is that there's so many times where people don't back their own play. You know, if I wanna put it in a sports analogy, and, and, and you really truly talk, speaking to that, to me, around that sense of agency, like actually, you know, I'm using a bit more of the sports psych terminology, but that real sense of like, like it's my responsibility. I'm gonna take responsibility for my decisions. I choose this, you know, I I'm hearing that in what you're saying but also like backing yourself first and then going out there. And I, and, and, and I, I think that is so inspiring and, and so, and so important for athletes and high performers to hear.

Yvette Yong (50:51):

Absolutely. Yeah. It doesn't even just you know, it's not only in sport, it can be in anything in your work life, in your job, in your hobbies and, and all the things that you do. Really.

Kim Foster Yardley (51:02):

I mean, the other piece that I thought as well that I, that was so important in what you were saying is not letting the failures define you. Like they happen and then they've, they're gone. They go, it's in the past. Then you move on to the next thing

Yvette Yong (51:16):

You've gone. Yeah. There's no success without failure. Absolutely. <laugh>. Actually, this is all from my mom too, you know, she actually just messaged me too. <Laugh>, oh, this's. Another thing that she's, she's so good at that she doesn't even know that she's an inspiring person. She was sending me pictures of like old pictures that I've had with her. And she, cuz she was just looking through old pictures and I, I replied to her, oh my goodness, I look horrible cuz you always say that you look horrible in the past. And she's like, you look always great. It's the inner part of you that truly matters. Always remembering that you can be miss, miss world, but without the genuine true beauty at heart, it means nothing. She just wrote that to me.

Kim Foster Yardley (51:58):

<Laugh>, we gotta get your mom on the podcast.

Yvette Yong (52:00):

Oh yeah. You gotta get her on the podcast, mom,

Kim Foster Yardley (52:02):


Yvette Yong (52:02):

The podcast. Oh, that's so funny. What a

Kim Foster Yardley (52:07):

Is there anything else you wanted to speak to? I mean, we've asked all these questions. Was there something you wanted to, to say or something we didn't touch on that you wanted to speak to around mental wellbeing and high performance?

Yvette Yong (52:20):

No, I just, the, the, the main thing I always wanna say is just practice always makes better. And that's like a, sorry. Because you can always be better every day. It doesn't matter if you're better at 50%, it doesn't matter if you're a hundred percent better every day, 1% all it takes, even 0.5, right? It's, it's, you just have to strive towards being better for your own self first before you let other people try to, you know, control you in that way, right? You have to be okay with yourself first. You have to be confident in yourself first. And really practice makes better. That's like, that's the saying. I love to say all the time to everybody, all my students as well.

Kim Foster Yardley (53:05):

And, and what about someone? So you, cuz we've spoken about people who are, cuz now you're going into kind of your second stage of your career, like you've had a complete career now and you're transitioning into a second career essentially. And I actually was thinking of this selfishly in terms of myself, because <laugh>, I love TaeKwonDo. I also started TaeKwonDo cuz there was a school very close by. So it's funny, it was a locational issue as well, but fell in love with the sport. But now that I'm in my forties, there's only so far I can take the sport because of my physical limitations as a 40, 40 something year old, you're already shaking your head <laugh>. So I just, I just wanna know, like, what advice do you have for people like me who's going into my, like, is it as a second career doing my sport? Or, or, or you actually for yourself transitioning from one career to the other. Do you have any insights into that or advice,

Yvette Yong (53:56):

Right? Again, so Kim, this is again what other people are saying. What does age matter? What does that matter to you? It's the stereotype. Oh, you're too old to be starting this. It's, it's what everybody else is saying, but do you believe it? Can you do it? Are you strong? Are you healthy? Are you confident enough? This is all you, anything actually is possible. Anything is possible. But what you're saying right now, oh, do you think I'm like a little, you know, I've started really late, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. <Laugh>, take that out. <Laugh> No, but that, that really are just, those are really just excuses what you hear from other people and you don't realize that, right? Because everybody else is saying, oh, you know, started at this age and you know, I don't know if it's like good enough for me and you know, all these kind of things, but these are actually from other people. I think you can do it, you can get to wherever you want to get. Really, if you make it your goal, it doesn't matter how long it takes for you to get there. This is just one goal, just one project. Right. I really think that you need to, to say to, you need to go to the washroom, Kim <laugh>, look in the mirror, tell yourself and you can do it. <Laugh>.

Kim Foster Yardley (55:08):

I love it. Thanks. Thanks for coaching me a bit. <Laugh>. Thank you.

Yvette Yong (55:16):


Rob Pintwala (55:18):

Thank you. Because this has been very, very inspirational and your energy's infectious, and I imagine you've got tons more impact ahead of you to anyone you're working with anyone who's lucky enough to be in your wake. So thank you for sharing this all with us.

Yvette Yong (55:38):

Absolutely. Anytime. Anytime at all. <Laugh>,

Kim Foster Yardley (55:42):

We might ask you to come back, <laugh>.

Yvette Yong (55:44):

Oh, for sure. I'm always open to it. Anything, anything. Yeah, we can dig deeper into other topics too, so

Rob Pintwala (55:52):

<Laugh>. Okay, well, we'll do that. Thank you again and good time to end it. So have a great rest of your day.

Yvette Yong (55:59):

Awesome. Thank you so much.

Rob Pintwala (56:13):

Thank you for listening to this episode of The Actualize Podcast. You can find the show notes for this episode as well as all other episodes at first session.com/podcast. If you like this podcast, please leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. Thank you again and we'll see you next time.

More episodes