Conor Dwyer: Why Hard Work Beats Talent That Doesn’t Work Hard


“You can never really dream too big. Just open up your mind and if you really do want it bad enough, you can achieve it through hard work.”

Conor Dwyer

See Rich Roll’s complete show notes below.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s rather convenient for any Olympic athlete to say that hard work trumps talent.

For perspective, take a glance at the palmarès of this week’s guest:

  • 2012 London Olympics: Gold in the 4×200 meter freestyle relay
  • 2016 Rio Olympics: Gold in the 4×200 meter freestyle relay
  • 2016 Rio Olympics: Bronze in the 200 meter freestyle

In total, Conor Dwyer has won seventeen medals in major international swimming competitions: nine gold, six silver, and two bronze. I could geek out on his statistics forever but you get the picture. The dude is super fast in the pool; one of the fastest swimmers of all time.

An extraordinary athlete, Conor is obviously immensely talented. So this idea that hard work beats talent can’t possibly apply to him, right?

Not so fast. Conor was the furthest thing from a natural talent right out of the gate. His performances out of high school were so mediocre in fact, he couldn’t even get the attention of college coaches let alone a swimming scholarship. I simply cannot overstate how rare it is in competitive swimming that an athlete of his current caliber had yet to distinguish himself by 18. It just doesn’t happen.

But Conor refused to give up. Through persistence and a robust work ethic relentlessly applied, a series of circumstances slowly aligned. A believing coach appeared to mentor him, followed by training partners to push him to new levels of possibility and further fuel his self-belief in potential. Over time, all the important ingredients alchemized to bake the cake that is the superstar athlete we know today as Conor Dwyer.

This week Conor shares his extraordinary story from bench warmer to Olympic champion. A story that lays bare a simple core truth I have experienced myself:

when the heart is pure and fueled by self-belief, extreme faith, unwavering patience and an unabating work ethic, the universe conspires to support the dream.

One of the good guys, Conor lives it with every breath. A recipe for success that has fueled his accomplishments and will support anyone — irrespective of talent level — in the pursuit of an audacious dream.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Why I love host RICH ROLL, and you should too.

Rich Roll is no stranger to the swimming family. I used to race Rich back in the day, back when we were age groupers. Rich went on to swim at Stanford, then built a career on the biz side of entertainment. In middle age he made a dramatic lifestyle change that spun him and evolved him into the world-class ranks of ultra-endurance athletes.  Rich Roll is now one of the most sought-after speakers on the planet. Famous for his plant-power lifestyle, Rich Roll challenges the traditional ideas of performance, aging and simply living your best life. Rich is, in one word, authentic. He’s doing it, and doing it well.

Rich is also a bestselling author. FINDING ULTRA dives deep on what I outlined above. But don’t take my word for it. Buy the book. It’s an inspiring read, one you will consume in a sitting or two.  It’s a great 4 hour journey that will make you rethink your own lifestyle.

Rich Roll’s HQ

Rich Roll Twitter

Rich Roll Facebook

Rich Roll Instagram  

About Rich Roll via his HQ

A graduate of Stanford University and Cornell Law School, Rich is a 48-year old, accomplished vegan ultra-endurance athlete and former entertainment attorney turned full-time wellness & plant-based nutrition advocate, motivational speaker, husband, father of 4 and inspiration to people worldwide as a transformative example of courageous and healthy living.

In 2012, Rich became a #1 bestselling author with the publication of his inspirational memoir Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself (Crown Archetype). Taking up where the book leaves off, in 2013 Rich launched the wildly popular Rich Roll Podcast, which persistently sits atop the iTunes top-10 lists.

In May 2010, Rich and his ultra-colleague Jason Lester accomplished an unprecedented feat of staggering endurance many said was not possible. Something they call the EPIC5 CHALLENGE – a odyssey that entailed completing 5 ironman-distance triathlons on 5 islands of Hawaii in under a week. Commencing on Kauai, they travelled to Oahu, Molokai and Maui before finishing on the Big Island, following the course of the Ironman World Championships on the Kona coast.

In addition, Rich has been a top finisher at the 2008 and 2009 Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. Considered by many to be one of world’s most daunting and grueling endurance races on the planet, Ultraman is a 3-day / 320 mile double-ironman distance triathlon that circumnavigates the entire Big Island. Limited to only 35 carefully selected invitation-only participants from all over the world, Day 1 involves a 6.2 mile ocean swim immediately followed by a 90 mile cross-country cycling race. Day 2 is a 170 mile cycling race. And the event culminates on Day 3 with a 52 mile double marathon run on the searing hot lava fields of the Kona coast.

But what makes Rich truly remarkable is that less than two years prior to his first Ultraman, he didn’t even own a bike, let alone race one.

Although he competed as a butterfly swimmer at Stanford University in the late 80’s, Rich’s career was cut short by struggles with drugs and alcohol — an addiction that led him astray for the next decade, alienating friends, colleagues and family, landing him in jails, institutions and ultimately rehab at age 31. Although sober, Rich soon found himself 50 pounds overweight; the furthest thing from fit. Everything came to head on the eve of his 40th birthday. Defeated by a mere flight of stairs that left him buckled over in pain, he foresaw the almost certain heart attack looming in his near future.

It was time for a major life change.

The day immediately following his staircase epiphany, Rich overhauled his diet, became a dedicated vegan, put on his running shoes and jumped back into the pool. It wasn’t long before ambition took hold and his quest to participate in Ultraman slowly began. Two years later, 50 pounds lighter, and fueled by nothing but plants, he surprised the triathlon & ultra communities by not only becoming the first vegan to complete the 320-mile über-endurance event, but by finishing in the top 10 males (3rd fastest American) with the 2nd fastest swim split — all despite having never previously completed even a half-ironman distance triathlon.

In 2009, Rich returned to Ultraman twice the athlete he was the year prior. Despite a stacked field, he took home first day honors with a blistering 2:21 swim victory (6th fastest of all time) and a third fastest bike leg to win the day with a 10 minute lead on the field. On Day 2 Richard suffered a serious bike crash but managed to salvage the day in 6th place overall. With an injured knee and shoulder Richard nonetheless went on to a 7:51 Day 3 double-marathon to hold onto 6th place overall.

Rich’s plant-fueled feats of boundary-pushing athleticism have been featured on CNN and in the pages of the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, The Huffington Post, Stanford Magazine, Men’s Health Living, VegNews, Triathlete, Outside, 3/GO Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, which named Rich as one of the “25 Fittest Men in the World.”

Along with his wife, four children and golden retriever Bodhi, Rich resides Malibu Canyon outside of Los Angeles.

When he isn’t writing, podcasting or spending time with his family, you can find him lost on the remote trails of the Santa Monica Mountains.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mr Piano
2 years ago

This aged well

Mr Piano
2 years ago

Who’s here after the pellets?

5 years ago

Except if you’re the Goat. I’m kinda was mad at him for his London training.

5 years ago

4:40.12 500 in high school to a 4:11.36 by his senior year also dropped around ten seconds in his 200 free. Crazy but maybe the most impressive is dropping nearly a whole minute on his 400 IM from high school

Wendy Hotz Montgomery
5 years ago

I am so very proud of you Conor! GOD gives us the ability to dream big, he wants us to and you are living proof! Awesome!!!

5 years ago

I think it’d be funny if someone Rick Roll’d Rich Roll. LOL

Reply to  Bossanova
5 years ago

One day…

cynthia curran
5 years ago

Its easier for guys to be late bloomers. Now a girl that doesn’t make Jr worlds at 16 is more likely not going to make it, but guys can be as old as 20 years old/

Reply to  cynthia curran
5 years ago

Not all of them….Madison Cox, Claire Donahue, a know a lot of girls that got alot better in college even if they have had a few off years in high school

Reply to  cynthia curran
2 years ago

Limitation mindset based on history, not possibilities.

5 years ago

*through persistence, work ethic, and a massive growth spurt

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

Read More »