DAD.CEO recently had the pleasure to sit down and speak with Bruny Surin, an Olympic and World Champion in the sport of track and field and now a sought-after speaker, CEO, and Director of the Bruny Surin Foundation in Canada.
DAD.CEO: How are you and your family dealing with the COVID-19 Stay at home situation in Canada?
Bruny Surin: Overall, we are doing great. My daughter who is also a runner was training to make the Canadian National Olympic Team and as predicted all plans have now been postponed. She was initially disappointed but understands that everyone is in the same situation. She is now refocusing herself for next year’s Olympic Games and making the Canadian National Olympic Team.
My other daughter works in the film business and obviously everything there has been stopped. But once all is settled with the health crisis, she will be called back for several projects. As for my wife, she still continues to actively work which is great for her.
As for myself, I had several speaking engagements as well as my other business interests which are all tied to marketing campaigns which had too all be postponed. So now, I am now doing my part by 'staying home' and I am just trying to keep busy! The most important thing is that my family is healthy and everyone keeps smiling!
Olympic Gold winner, World Champion and now CEO, Bruny Surin
DAD.CEO: As a fellow Canadian, it’s a real honour for me to be speaking with you as I've been a fan of yours for a very long time!
Bruny Surin: Thank you! This is very kind to hear this.
DAD.CEO: What top 3 lessons did your parents leave you with that you feel are still relevant in today's digitally connected world?
Bruny Surin: My father who is now 76 and who likes to keep busy, helping people, etc. thought me 3 key points that are timeless in life and work equally well online or offline in my opinion.
1. Always keep working hard. There are no free things in life. You need to work hard if you want something to happen.
2. Integrity is core to a person's character. My parents thought me to always demonstrate the highest integrity possible in all situations of life.
3. Be helpful to others. Always try to help others in need no matter how difficult the situation may be.
These are the 3 key elements I would say I received from my parents which I feel have served me well and continue to serve me well to this day.
DAD.CEO: What traditions have you continued from your childhood? Or have you created new ones with your children?
Bruny Surin: I would say we have created new ones. The reason is that my father's generation is quite the opposite in terms of thinking as to the one that my kids now live in. The main attributes of working hard, having integrity and helping others, I have made sure to pass them on to my children. But in terms of generational differences, there are so many things that have changed that no longer really apply to today’s realities. So, I decided to move forward with my kids and create new traditions that are more in line with today’s norms.
DAD.CEO follow-up question: So, if you are moving forward, how do you bridge the generational gap with your kids to stay relevant with their interests?
Bruny Surin: Sometimes when I speak with my kids, I have expressions from another generation where they just don’t understand the meaning or the background as to how it is connected to today’s society. At that point, often my expression has lost its impact and I should have chosen a more up-to-date version in order to make my message clearer for them. Sometimes they will use words or expressions that the younger generation uses when speaking and I will need to ask them to clarify the term for me. For example, we have a private family group on social media where we send each other jokes and other family-related information. Sometimes, I will read it and I won’t get what the joke was about while both of my daughters are laughing together. So, I would say that it’s small things such as expressions that are disconnecting us. But besides that, I would say that I don’t see many differences from my generation to theirs.
Staying up to date with the latest social trends is a key part of Bruny Surin's business success.
Of course, texting is a difference that is obvious from the previous generations, but I don’t see that as an issue, as it’s something that I am quite heavily involved in due to my marketing and business activities. I find that I am even more prone to texting than speaking on the telephone. Sometimes, I get my daughters asking me to speak and not to text with them as they want to hear my actual voice!
Some may want to call me ‘Old School’, but I would say I am the opposite. Due to the nature of my business, I am forced to be connected to all platforms. A good example of this was the other day, my daughter had posted a photo on Instagram and I replied to it with a joke. She replied to me how her friends were commenting on how funny I was and in a way I believe she felt proud that her father was truly a part of the conversation in a good way.
I can confidently say that I am more adjusted to this new generation as opposed to them having to adjust to mine.
DAD.CEO: So, you are what some might call a ‘COOL DAD?!’
Bruny Surin: Yes, I think I’m a ‘COOL DAD!’ (says it with a laugh)
DAD.CEO: How do you ‘unplug’ with your family/children?
Bruny Surin: I often remind my family on the importance of having family dinner together where we can speak about several topics such as what is happening in their lives and to find out about each other’s interests, developments, my business, etc. All in all, it’s important to help keep the connection alive and to stay relevant in each other’s lives. It’s especially important for me to know and understand what my daughters are doing and what their challenges are, etc. and the best place to discover this happens to be at the family table when sharing a meal together.
The Surin family sharing dinner and staying connected.
As well, every weekend, we like to meet to either play dominos, card games or to catch a movie together, etc. These are the simple, yet important things that I like to do with my family which creates and strengthens our bond as I don’t want us to become strangers to each other. I want us to continue to have this bond so that they feel comfortable enough to speak or ask me anything that might be important to them. They might be adults now, but I feel it’s even more important for us to work harder at keeping our family bond alive and well.
DAD.CEO: You had mentioned earlier that one of your daughters was training to become part of the Canadian National Olympic Team. Are you in any way part of her coaching?
Bruny Surin: I have purposely stayed out of her training. Even when she started, I knew a young coach and I simply made the arrangements. It was made clear that her training would be his job and I would not interfere.
During her training, If I would see something technically that she could improve on, I would then have a personal talk with the coach and not to her directly and it would be up to him to make the final decision as a show of respect to both of them. She made it clear to me that she did not want me to become too involved as it was and still is very important for her to achieve her dreams on her own terms and not because she got it because she was the daughter of Bruny Surin, the gold medalist, etc.
She told me:
“If I need your help, I'll let you know.”
So, out of respect, I stay in the background. But she likes it when I come to see her in either training or during competition.
Kat Surin, right, is an elite-level sprinter like her dad, Bruny, left. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
DAD.CEO: It can’t be easy having a father who was a World Champion? It’s must be an unbelievably high-bar and pressure for a kid to have to live up to.
Bruny Surin: I absolutely agree! That’s one of the things at the very beginning that I made sure to communicate to her. That she is my daughter and that I did not want to put any pressure on her. My main aim was to make sure she understood that this was her dream and not mine! Simply be happy, work hard, have fun and the rest will follow. It’s that simple!
DAD.CEO: Do you have time management tricks to balance work and family that you could share?
Bruny Surin: When it comes to balance, I try as much as possible to plan my time accordingly. I don’t want to become a robot per se, but at some point, planning is essential.
When I was a competing athlete, my schedule was ‘cut-up into blocks'. My schedule was pre-set and I would have my training, then my therapy, time to rest, time to snack, and so on. Everything was planned out so I could focus on what was important during that particular time-slot. When I was in training, I was 100% focused on my training.
Focus & Balance is the key to success according to Bruny Surin.
But it’s important for me to mention that even when I was an athlete and with my very focused schedule, when my day was completed and I came home to my family, I was 100% a husband and father.
“There was no room for an athlete during family time!”
Now, I feel in a sense that it’s the same thing when it comes to business. When I am doing my work, it’s 100% focus on business and when I am home, it’s 100% on my family. There can’t be any compromises unless it’s a major emergency which is only natural as we cannot control everything in life.
This is how I have created my life-balance, otherwise, something will suffer. I can’t stress enough the importance of this aspect of being present and in the moment!
When you are home, be home and 'be truly present with your family’. Being in the moment is what I believe to be the best advice I can give in terms of time-management.
"When at home, be 100% focused on your family," says Bruny Surin
DAD.CEO: Having been a professional athlete who had to travel a lot, how did you make your time count at home with your children?
Bruny Surin: To be honest with you, my family has always been first priority and being an athlete was second for me.
I was once in Europe for 5 weeks or so working on contracts & endorsements. At one point my family missed me so much that I felt I was no longer ‘balanced’. I informed my manager that I needed to go home and that I needed to change my tickets. Naturally, his reaction was:
“Are you serious?! We have contracts coming up and other great opportunities, etc.”
I responded calmly:
“This is what I need to do.”
It’s all about identifying your priorities and sticking to them no matter how unpopular they may seem to other people. I truly believe that my life-balance approach is the main reason why I am still married to my wonderful wife today.
The Surin family - Stylish as always!
DAD.CEO: We read that you had a 50m race a few years ago with your daughter. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?
Bruny Surin: Every year we would spend the new year holiday in Florida as it was close to my daughter's tennis academy in Boca Raton when they were into tennis and I had bought a place there. At one point, my youngest daughter had the audacity to call me ‘old man’.
My response was:
“As long as I am faster, you have no right to call me ‘OLD MAN’!”
We made our first race and I beat her. The year after, the challenge was active again, but this time we made the challenge a bit more intense by posting and promoting it on FaceBook. On the day of the race, I felt something strange and somewhat tight in my calf. I was thinking about postponing or canceling, but we had promoted this too much on social media that I felt it was too late to back out of this ‘event’.
As the race started, not even 3 steps in, I felt a major pull in my calf which forced me to stop and it turned out that I had severally pulled my Achilles tendon which cost me 3 months of therapy and included physiotherapy 3 times a week, etc.
My doctor asked me directly:
“What were you thinking about?!”
The strange thing is that in my mind, I am still a world-class athlete, unfortunately, my body and reality do not agree! (laughing).
Since then, when I make speeches and people challenge me to race them, I kindly tell them:
“If you want to see me run, go on YouTube!”
DAD.CEO: What lessons from being on the global stage of sports do you believe transferred well in being a good CEO and a DAD?
Bruny Surin: I sometimes see clear differences between high-level sports and being a good CEO in business, but for myself, I feel the differences are quite minimal. For example: To be a good DAD and CEO, you need to be present and constantly working on becoming better. Having a very strong sense of discipline is very important otherwise the focus just won’t be translated into results. It all comes down to having a strong mindset, a clear vision, and a will to win no matter what.
Bruny Surin is proud to be a leading DAD.CEO
Take a look at what is happening now around the world. We are all in this very tough situation due to the Coronavirus and its effects that are out of our control to a certain degree for a lot of people (Stay at home please and let's work together to flatten that curve!). I recently wrote a blog about not letting this situation affect you in terms of developing a possible depression and to try to keep a positive mindset no matter what. I had many events that were canceled or postponed, and while it’s disappointing and not easy, I have the mindset that we will get through it and we will come out stronger from this.
Having been an athlete has helped me a lot for times like these. For example, in sports, you can have an injury and this means losing out months of training, competing and losing that edge, but you have to keep thinking that you will come back stronger and better. Otherwise, you won’t survive in being an athlete at the highest level. It’s the same for business and the same applies to what we are now going through.
To tell you the truth, my life is great as I am already visualizing 2021! I plan to be even busier and more productive and I will reach new heights that I was only dreaming about because everything will be ok!
We simply need to keep going forward and not dwell on the past and the bad lucks that happened.
DAD.CEO: What’s your favorite part about being a CEO and a DAD?
Bruny Surin: What I love about being a CEO is the fact that I am in the ‘driver’s seat’ where I can choose and make my own schedule.
I have the ability to develop and deliver my leadership style and create a unique synergy with my employees and partners so we may have a common goal in order to reach the very best possible results together.
I also love to share and create team-building with corporations that hire me to speak to them and this is something that I am lucky enough to do through my public speaking services that I offer.
What I love about being a DAD, is being able to share with them my stories, my knowledge, and advice, etc. Helping my kids to understand that there are no such things in life as gifts, but rather you need to go and get it. This has become my slogan:
“GO GET IT!”
I enjoy being the person they can look up to and come to when it comes to getting honest advice without any pressure.
Graduation day for the Surin Family
Having seen both my daughters graduate from university gave my wife and me the greatest pride and more so, they both have turned out to be truly great people who bring positivity into this world. This to me is the true definition of success as a father and with my wife, we are incredibly proud of them and can’t wait to see what great things they will accomplish next. The one thing for sure is that
“No matter what, I will always be there with their mother to help and support them!”
DAD.CEO: Can you give us 3 tips that a father should be teaching his children on finance/money/life so they may have a better chance at succeeding in life?
Bruny Surin: I was raised to put at least 10 – 15% of whatever you make aside because you never know when you will need it. Actually, take a look at what we are all going through now with the COVID-19 global situation. This is where having some savings can really come in handy.
The next advice might be considered simple economics, but my business coach told me that you should determine what you can afford and then go 1-notch below. Again, you never know what the future might bring. But, you should go 1-notch above when investing in yourself and your education. Investing in your education is something you will never lose in life.
“Be prepared for the worst, but always expect the best!”
DAD.CEO: What would be your top 5 tips for being a successful DAD.CEO?
Bruny Surin: To me the most important aspect of being a successful DAD.CEO would be:
1. Determine what is important for you in life and find a way to keep that balance going.
2. Be a good listener. You need to understand that it’s not always about yourself as you can get more perspectives and answers when listening to other's viewpoints. Often, too many people are so wrapped up into what they are trying to sell that they forget that there is a client who as his own special needs which may not be what you think is the right answer.
"Listen so you can discover!"
3. Loyalty above all else. Without it, you have no direction in life for those closest to you.
4. Integrity is the foundation of what you stand for and this how others see and judge you by.
5. Visualization. You need to focus, see it clearly and then GO GET IT! Without visualization, you will not know what you are aiming for.
DAD.CEO: Any last words, advice, etc.?
As I mentioned before, the power of visualization is incredibly important no matter if you are an athlete, a CEO, an entrepreneur, a parent, etc. See yourself actually achieving a goal. For me, this is something that helps create confidence and it will force you to want to work harder to reach that goal.
DAD.CEO: Being a long-time fan of yours, I have 2 last questions for you. Do you miss being a full-time athlete? Winning a Gold medal, the stadiums, etc.?
Bruny Surin: To be honest, I don’t really miss those days. The only thing that I could say I miss would be specifically when I was training in Austin, Texas. Working with colleagues and competitors and at the same time the camaraderie we had together. We were working out together, going out together and sharing moments as one team. These are the moments I could say that sometimes I like to reminisce on and those old days I sometimes miss them. But to now see myself on the starting block and the pressure of the competition, etc. then the answer is a clear NO! I did this for like 18+ years and while it was wonderful, it was enough for me. Once I decided to retire, I knew I was retiring for good!
“I miss the camaraderie the most.”
Bruny Surin is truly a Hall of Fame legend
DAD.CEO: At the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. Team USA was heavily favored to win. What was going through your mind during that race?
Bruny Surin: You know, we were so focused and we wanted it so much. I remember clearly the four of us before entering the stadium,
“We all agreed that we were going to ‘kick ass!”
We had already agreed and visualized that we were going to win! Our team spirit was simply incredible. The biggest motivation we had was watching television and hearing the US team boasting how they ‘had it in the pocket’ and how they were going to win this, etc.
I remember at that time my idol Carl Lewis had not qualified to run at the relay because he had come in 6th place at the Olympic trials. His coaches were mulling about putting him in the squad because it would get him another record gold medal and we were like
“Are you serious?! they really think they have the gold?! Well, we’re going to show you all!”
As soon that the starting gun went off and the race was started, we knew we would win, because we had 100% confidence in ourselves as a team.
With all the excitement of a sold-out stadium, the energy was naturally very high! But during those moments, I could not hear anything as I was so focused and in my zone waiting for Glen Roy Gilbert to pass me the baton. Thankfully we had a great exchange and from there my main goal was to stay positive and focused in order to pass it on to Donovan Bailey.
We were in Lane 6 and just moments before passing the baton to Donovan, I had a slight angle on my left to see if there were any runners and I did not see any at that point. As soon as gave it to Donovan, I knew there was no way anyone could catch us,
“At that moment, I raised both my arms knowing the victory was ours!”
About Bruny Surin
During his athletic career, Bruny Surin participated four times in the Olympic Games (1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000), where he notably won gold in the 4 x 100m relay in 1996 in Atlanta. He is an eight-time Canadian champion in the 100m and a world champion in the 60m indoors as well as the 4 x 100m relay. He remains the 7th fastest sprinter of all time. He is a member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame and is the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 as well a being the recipient of National Order of Quebec in 2018.
Bruny has also been a Mentor for CIBC Pan Am athletes in 2015 as well as a Mentor for the VISA team, 2012 to 2015.
He was the ‘’Assistant-chef de mission’’ at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 and the "Chef de mission’’ of the Canadian Team at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2018.
Bruny is also a frequent contributing analyst to Track and Field competitions for CBC Television and Radio Canada for such events as the Olympic Games of 2004, 2008 and 2012.
Today Bruny Surin is an entrepreneur and the head of the Surin Group (www.surin.ca) where he motivates and speaks to more than 50+ companies each year while coaching more than 150,000+ participants since the inception of the Surin Group.
Bruny Surin also leads the Surin Sportswear Collection where he actively contributes to the design of innovation of its specialized products line.
He has been an official spokesperson for such companies as Sanofi Canada, Emovi, Athletigen, and HBC for the 2008 Olympic Games.
About the Bruny Surin Foundation
• Promotes a healthy and active lifestyle in Quebec schools in order to prevent student dropout.
• Offers financial assistance to student-athletes for them to successfully pursue their academic and athletic journeys.
• Offers grants to the Moojen-Ribeiro Soccer Draft Camp.
• Provides financial support to athletes at the elite and excellence level through annual contributions to the Fondation de l'athlète d'excellence du Québec.
• Has distributed more than 1.5 million dollars to various programs since its inception.
For more information: www.surin.ca