Creating a winning mindset with Giaan Rooney

In business, mindset is EVERYTHING! Olympic gold medallist Giaan Rooney shares her secrets for creating a winning mindset to set yourself up for success.

In this Episode:
03.14: How Giaan learnt to embrace her achievements
06.37: The role of mindset in and out of the pool
14.46: What is your Lizard Brain? And how does it affects your mindset
18.36: Giann’s thoughts on routines, systems and rituals when setting up for success
24.13: Giaan’s toughest professional time



Giaan’s Bio

Giaan Rooney’s memorable smile, natural beauty and ability to engage are almost trumped by her enormous energy forwork. An adept speaker and presenter, Giaan is a person of enormous talent and professionalism.

As a former darling of Australian Swimming, Giaan holds medals at every level of competition, including an Olympic Gold.In 2006, Giaan retired from swimming to forge a successful career as an Australian TV presenter.

Giaan’s high profile broadcast involvement with Channel 7 has included the Brisbane News team, 2018 Commonwealth Games, 2016 Rio Olympics, Australian Open coverage, commentator for the Australian Swimming Championships, and presenter on the House of Wellness.

Giaan has previously spent years with Channel Nine where she was involved across a range of shows including a co-anchor of Wide World of Sports, presenting stories on Getaway, Postcards, the 2010 Winter Olympics, 2012 London Olympics, Nine’s Spring Racing Coverage and the Today Show weather.

Giaan is an Ambassador for CareSuper, Life Space Probiotics, Maxxia/RemServand PetStock National Adpotion Day. She is also an avid supporter of her chosen charities, the Nelune Foundation, Lort Smith Animal Hospital and the Sony Foundation.

After spending many years in Melbourne, Giaan relocated to the Gold Coast with her husband Sam and two children, Zander and Alexa.


Mindset is everything in business! I know you guys are going to love today’s episode of the podcast because I have joining me, Olympic gold medallist, Giaan Rooney, chatting about how to create a winning mindset. In today’s episode was chat about how she works on her mindset, whether she believes in having routines, systems and rituals to set herself up for success and how she has applied her mindset learnings from her professional swimming career into the work she does now. This episode is full of nugget’s of wisdom so make sure you stick around until the end.


You’re listening to the Clare Wood podcast, where we talk all things business, finance, marketing, and mindset for entrepreneurs, sharing practical tips, and actionable advice to help you take your business to the next level. Introducing your host: me! I’m Clare Wood, I’m a numbers geek, a travel lover, and a reality tv addict, and I’m here to empower you to create an extraordinary business and an amazing life, because I believe you don’t have to choose between the two. Now let’s dive right in to today’s episode.


CLARE: Before we start today’s episode, I’d love to give a shoutout to two of my favourite humans in business, Katy and Hayley from Oh My Digital. They left me a review of the podcast that says “I worked with Clare as a business coach for my biz, Oh My Digital agency, so I knew these podcasts would be packed with value. But I didn’t realise how much she’d be giving away for free! I highly recommend this podcast to any business owner that needs a little pick me up, inspiration, or needs more information on business, marketing or money. Clare brings all the gems!” Thank you so much ladies for leaving a review. And to everyone who has left a review on the podcast. If you aren’t sure how to leave a review, make sure you pop over to my Instagram, @theclarewoodpodcast, and it shows you exactly how to leave a review or alternatively, you could share your fav episode on your stories platform and tag me.


So welcome to the podcast Giaan Rooney. For anyone that doesn’t know you can you please explain a little about who you are and a bit about yoru journey and what you currently do?


GIAAN:I used to be an elite athlete, I used to be a swimmer. I made my first Australian team at the age of 15. I was lucky enough to be on that Australian swim team for 10 years and then after that, what I consider now to be a fairly easy transition into the world of media. That has been my life for the last 14 years, and it’s a very different environment to swimming, but lots of lessons to learn from both.



You just glossed over this swimming career, like it was just a bit of swimming, but can we talk about some of your achievements in the pool?


How Giaan learnt to embrace her achievements



It’s still one those of things that is such a part of Australian culture, to be humble and not talk up your achievements. I listened to a lady the other day say “you could call me mean, you could call me a bitch, you could call me anything under the sun, but if you called me stuck up, that is the worst insult anyone could say to me!” And I think that is ingrained in us as Australian’s that you can be anything you want, but don’t you dare be up-yourself.


I’ve learnt to embrace my achievements because it’s had to shift in my mindset a lot. For a long time I would said that I was an above average swimmer in a superstar era. And that is still really the case, if you look at my fellow swimmers at that time, but I’ve also come to be very proud of my achievements and ultimately know that I couldn’t have done any more than what I did. I have no regrets, it sits comfortably with me.


My milestones were:

  • 2 x Gold Medals at the Commonwealth Games (age 15 and my first international trip)
  • Individual World Championship in 2001 and 2005 for very different strokes/events
  • 2 x Silver Medals at 2000 Olympic (Sydney)
  • 1 x Olympic Gold Medal at 2004 Olympic Games (Athens) as part of the 4x100m relay.



I can’t believe you didn’t want to shout that out from the roof top, I got goosebumps just listening to hear you talk about that. You should be so incredibly proud of those achievements. And it’s funny as Aussies we don’t talk about it.


GIAAN:I think it’s ingrained in us as Australian’s, and especially as women we are taught to deflect, deflect any positive feedback that comes our way. I’ve been fortunate to come across now, women who speak up, like Jamila Rizvi who write ‘Not Just Lucky’ because straight away our dialogue as women is to say, I was in the right time at the tight time, lucky that someone took a shine to me, or lucky that this and that happened, and it’s like, no, own your achievements, it wasn’t luck that got you there, you worked damn hard and you recognised opportunities that came your way. For even me, I’ve had to change the narrative in my head about how I explain my achievements and how I describe where I am and where I’m going, because it goes against the grain and we tend to play down our achievements the attempt to stay humble.



So many topics in that we could delve into a lot more. The main reason, I wanted to get you on the podcast was to talk about mindset. Given that you are, among a bunch of other achievements, an Olympic medallist, I wanted to hack into that.


First of all, do you believe mindset has played a big role both in and out of the pool?


The role of mindset in and out of the pool



I don’t believe mindset is a large part, I believe it is THE part. It’s the only part. Mindset is everything. Funnily enough, it’s across everything you do in life. It’s not just a sport thing, it’s not a business thing, it’s across everything you do. The best way to explain it is, as an athlete from day 1 I knew if I wasn’t going to back myself, how could I think anyone else was going to back me, or think I was going to make it happen without believing that. I tell this story where, I’m lining up behind the blocks at major international competitions and you are there with your googles, the announcer is announcing your name at the start of an Olympic final and I wave to the crowd like a cheerleader when they announce my name in lane 5…. But in my head, I’m like get the hell out of my way bitches, I’ve done more work than you, I deserve to win, get out of my way, I’m going to win. Might have been a few superlatives actually, but it had to not only be a belief in 90% of that, I had to believe that in every fibre of my being that I could win that race, because the moment a little shred of doubt comes in your mind, it’s game over. That’s what we are designed as humans to focus on, the negative or the doubt. So for me, I learnt that innately and from a young age, but it applies to everything in my life, if I am not going to think positively, I’m not going to back myself. If I don’t believe I can do it, then I probably won’t. That doesn’t mean you don’t have times of doubt, but what I keep coming back to is when something magical has happened in my life, I haven’t been in my comfort zone. I’ve had to step out to allow that magic to happen. So if I get that now, start thinking they are going to realise I’m a fraud or find out I don’t know what I’m talking about, I come back to that thought process of, nothing magic has ever happened when I’ve bene comfortable. I know that applies to every person on the planet.



It’s applies to so many different aspects of life! Everything. Nothing hurts easy.



Nothing has ever come easy without hard work. But nothing magical has ever happened when you are comfortable, so get used to being comfortable with being uncomfortable.



I love that! While you were swimming professionally. Did you ever do conscious work on your mindset and if so, what did you do? And was it from a coach or did it come from within?



It came from within. Two parts really – I almost refer to my career as the Gold Coast part and the Melbourne part. The reason is growing up on the Gold Coast, where I learnt to swim and I started to train with Dennis Cottrell. For the most part, that squad was to train boys. I never felt any different, the boys always made me feel part of the team like one of the boys, but the only difference was that it really helped me, because there was no time cycle for the girls that was different for the boys. It was the same. So I had to keep up with the slowest boy, even if he was a breaststroker, otherwise I didn’t keep up. That helped me so much on race day, to get up on the blocks and be racing women. I knew I could mix it with the boys, I know I can train with boys, they are a different mindset to us, they innately for the most part back themselves, there’s no downplaying anything. So I learnt a lot from them in a positive way, and it got my beautiful naivety of youth at that stage too which I was lucky to have success early on, which taught me I was on the right path and I had found my thing. I was addicted to that feeling of winning, that euphoria that my work had paid off. I had no need to find any other motivation and work on my mindset, it was simply about feeling that feeling again, every time. Tick that box, yes I got the feeling, how do I get it again.


But then when I moved to Melbourne, at age 19. I’d had a horror campaign after a lot of success. My body was letting me down, and I found out later I had Glandular Fever and an infected wisdom tooth. I was thinking of walking away from the sport and my Dad was the one who said maybe you need a change of scenery. I went to train with Ian Pope in Melbourne, and he gave me another 4 years in my career, because he was a very different coach to Dennis. Dennis was what I needed at a young age, doing the work and finding out what worked, I could not have had a better coach or mentor in him in the early years. But the last 4 years I devote to Ian Pope because he allowed me to have a say about what worked for me, it was different relationship, an adult relationships, rather that a coach and child. I started seeing a sport psychologist in Melbourne too, because I was struggling with the motivation of training. I was an athlete that loved racing, hated training by the end of my career, because I only got to race twice a year at that level. The rest of the time I was doing the component I was struggling with and I couldn’t dodge it to get to the part I loved. I always said if I could have been a footballer or tennis player, and could compete every weekend or regularly, I still at the age of 37 would be training to make the Australian Swim team. So yes, I had someone help me with it, but it was purely driven by the desire to achieve my dreams and reach my goals.



Ultimately, it has to come from someone within, as much as you can have tools and systems, you need that underlying self-belief.


What is your Lizard Brain? And how does it affects your mindset



Absolutely. I wished that I had known then what Dr Gemma Munro spoke about. She has done studies on what is called the Lizard Brain. It’s a part of our brain that sits at the back part of our brain and it used to have a very real and urgent purpose when we were cavemen. That part of the brain is designed to keep us small, safe and hidden. The whole idea being that it stopped you from doing anything dangerous because back then, it could get your head bitten off by a sabre tooth tiger. We have evolved as humans, but our Lizard Brain is still there, trying to keep us small, safe and hidden, which means it attacks our superpower, whatever you are really good at, the Lizard Brain attacks that component and makes it diminish so you don’t put yourself out there. As soon as someone explained that too me, it’s real, it’s there, and this is why it was there, far out, I wish I knew that when I swam. Everyone has that voice that says we aren’t good enough or smart enough. Enough. It is there and designed to keep us camouflaged. For me my Lizard Brain told me, you are just an above average swimmer in a superstar era, you have no university degree, no credentials, what is your right to be existing in this world.



Isn’t it scary what goes on in our brains!



That’s my superpower, and people tell me I’ve done a really good job, and I know I do a good job, but again, what I do is out there, it’s the opposite of being hidden and camouflaged so my Lizard Brain is in overdrive trying to tell me to get in my box. It constantly tries to take my power away, but my greatest power is knowing it’s there, knowing why it exists and knows that nothing magical ever happens in your comfort zone.  



So exciting to delve into that. To your point, having that recognition and knowing in your core that this isn’t me. My core believes in me and what I do, and I’m not going to put up with that Lizard Brain talk.


Giann’s thoughts on routines, systems and rituals when setting up for success


When you are in the pool and bringing that into your life now, when you are about to go to a race, do you have any routines or systems in place that you used to reinvigorate that self-belief?



The short answer is no. I was not a superstitious athlete, which I think was a good way to be. The best athletes in the world can deal with any scenario, they are flexible, because you cannot replicate every time you’ve had success. Especially at an international level. You are going to miss a bus on the way to your race, you are going to forget to put something in your bag, you are not going to feel amazing every time you line up, it’s not possible. You need to learn to be flexible. That’s also why I never worried about athletes on drugs, that I was competing against, because I believe they are beatable. They might have an unfair advantage, in something they have taken for a physical edge, but they still need to line up on race day and deal with the all the other emotions that come, the pressures, the expectations, the nerves, they still have to deal with that the same as me. So do they have an unfair advantage, no, there are too many other elements at play. I thrived on expectation funnily enough, I thrived on pressure, the bigger the meet the better I swam and that has always stood me in good stead throughout both career’s, because it comes back to magic happens when I’m out of my comfort zone. If I’m nervous, it’s for a reason, it’s because it means something. If you are not nervous it doesn’t mean enough, you are on the wrong path. There needs to be an element of adrenaline that shows you, you are on the right path. It’s the most common question I get asked from kids and athletes, is, how do I stop being nervous? You don’t want to stop the nerves, you need the nerves, and once it’s explained, that nerves are the bodies way of channelling your adrenaline and your focus so that you can concentrate on the task at hand, so you want them playing a part on race day or presenting to you work mates, or making a public speech, because those nerves are making your brain focus on the task at hand. If everyone could switch that from nerves are a negative to nerves are a positive. I actually actively had to switch that on before events, because I knew I thrived under pressure, I was always better when there were nerves and expectations involved. I’ve learned to look for that and give myself a pep talk if there aren’t enough nerves there. Doing live TV and speaking there are always plenty of nerves so it’s ok at the moment, but that keeps me honest, if those nerves didn’t show up.



I love something that you said, that if you are dependant on something, and I find this with kids, I know you have young kids too, if they have a favourite toy or something and it’s terrible when they don’t have it. If you had a ritual before swimming and you couldn’t do it, your mindset would be in a worse place.



Motherhood is a whole other conversation, oh my goodness. First time in my life that I felt like I was failing. Went to sleep school, with my first child at 6 months old, and had two sleep consultants for my second child. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was failing in an arena that was meant to be fundamentally natural. Or so I thought. So many topics to cover on that, but caught between that with my kids, what works, like routine, works well, but what until what age do I say I don’t want you to be reliant on that because life isn’t set in cement, you have the power and ability to change it.



You’ve spoken about how you went through a tough time as a mum. Every mother can relate to that. What has been the toughest time though for you professionally? And how did you get through that?


Giaan’s toughest professional time



So many tough times professionally. Tough times in the pool and out. The toughest times now are outside of the pool, because in the pool I felt like I had credibility, I had runs on the board, I felt there was a connection there that was tangible with my output of work and the success that followed. Professionally in the world of media, it can be very difficult to find that connection. No matter how hard you work or how good you are, it can be reliant on someone upstairs liking you, or a job that fits your skills at that time, but also how long you have been out of the swimming pool and are you still relevant to people and today’s society and other things that are out of your control. That’s an aspect of life. The hardest thing I struggled with also was body image and the physicality of it. When I was swimming, I never thought about the fact that I was in togs everyday of my life as a female, it was never about what I looked like, it was about what my body could do. When I retired from swimming at the age of 23, and walked straight into a very visual medium of TV where it doesn’t matter what your body can do, it’s about what your body looks like, especially as a female in media in 2006. I’m 5’10, I have broad shoulders, sat in the average height/weight ratio of a female swimmer… I’m an amazon woman in the world of TV for both males and females. If I had a male co-host, or working with men on TV, the subtle shift of power or the notice of the shift of power, of wow, you a larger than me, and especially in sports media, I did have credibility. I really had to fight against those who said I only got the job because I was an athlete. But I would say to myself, I wouldn’t continue to have a job, surely, if I wasn’t any good at what I did. There are so many things to cover in that question. Ultimately, it’s about what I have to say and add to the conversation rather than what is going on in the exterior.



You are absolutely gorgeous Giaan! So it’s interesting you’ve had that perception on the journey. Getting through that tough time, it’s that self-belief and challenging the norms of what peoples perceptions are. Knowing in your heart you have a lot to say.


Do you go through the practice of regular goal setting? And what do you do if you don’t hit those goals?



This is quite a hard question for me. I came from swimming which was so much about goals, and it wasn’t about the next competition it was the next training session. If you weren’t getting the best out of yourself, in each training session, in a sport that is won and lost by 100th of a second, the next training session is everything. That’s where you get your confidence from. I find it a) really difficult to set goals in my current work and b) I feel fortunate that I haven’t had to set goals because my pathway has happened quite organically. I have little things I put out to the universe, which in some ways can be called goals, but I find that doors open that I never thought would open, and experiences happen that I never could have foreseen. This is where I’m different, I’m not looking to climb a corporate ladder, I was offered 2 years ago, what would have been my dream job before I had a family. This job would have required me to move my young family to Sydney, it would have required ridiculous hours and being on-call and away a lot, but I didn’t want it anymore because the goal posts had changed and shifted so dramatically in that time. I feel fortunate, I travel for work most weeks, I’m away usually a night a week from the kids and sometimes longer stretches at certain parts of the year, but I feel in control and a master of my own destiny and it’s more of the ‘dream job’ rather than the dream job I had imagined being obligated to someone else and on a contract. I don’t have goals so to speak, I feel very fortunate to say I wouldn’t change anything about where I am at, at the moment. I took a massive risk walking away from a fulltime media contract because I wanted the ability to say no, it’s not what I’m interested, and I don’t want to be in a box you put me in. There are elements of every job you are not going to like, but for the most part, I love my job. I’m fulfilled, excited and am learning from my job every day. Rather than goals, putting things out to the universe if my new goal setting.



That leads me to my next question. What is next for you and the end-term goal?



From a family perspective, my little boy has started school this year, my little girl is still young, so for me is to raise kind, hard-working empathic children who will thrive in this world. My husband and I have always been a 50/50 team, there is no person that does more than the other. He has his own business and travel for work, so there are times where we both solo parent, we have a great team and work well.


From a professional point of view, things keep coming across that I never ever dreamed possible. There are things I’d like to do, but I feel fulfilled where I am now. I’ve been in two very fickle industries and I’m very aware of that, so I don’t have expectations. If I’m still on TV and doing media in 30 years’ time then great, but otherwise I’ll make hay while the sun shines. It’s no given I’ll be here and my goal posts might have changed by then too. It comes back to my only mantra, one day when it’s time to leave this earth, I just want to look back and say I’ve got no regrets.



What a great note to end on! I’ve taken so much from our chat today, thank you so much for joining me Giaan!



Thank you for having me Clare!



Thank you so much for joining me today, if you enjoyed this episode, please make sure you subscribe to receive future episodes, and I’d be so grateful for a review on apple podcast! If you’d like a copy of the show notes or any of the links mentioned today, please jump over to and remember that Clare is spelled CLARE, have a wonderful week and look forward to chatting to you again soon!


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