Race morning at the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.
Tony has won over 75 triathlons and 5 world titles for his age.
On April 30, 1973, Tony Schiller finished his first race - in last place. Now in his fourth decade in racing, he's a 5-time world champion in the grueling sport of triathlon.
As a full-time speaker since 1989, Tony’s drawn on the lessons from his life as an athlete, businessman and event producer to inspire hundreds of organizations with his BreakAway Results programs. His clients include Target, Microsoft, the Mayo Clinic, Wausau Insurance, Cisco Systems, Merrill Lynch, Carlson Companies and Land ‘O Lakes to name just a few.
The toughest competition of Tony’s life came from home. Surrounded in age by six sisters, the middle child of eleven kids learned to compete as a survival instinct. It was a good thing too because his mental toughness was tested when he was cut from seven different sports teams. Despite those cuts, he just kept coming back for more, refusing to quit. Eventually, unsatisfied with merely being water boy on his high school basketball team, he found the courage to try out for track where... five years and fifteen thousand training miles later... he became an overnight success. The kid who was “too big for distance running” finally broke through at Winona State University, setting school and conference records that have yet to be broken and winning NCAA All-American honors in the steeplechase.
Upon graduating into a recession, the only work Tony could find was selling insurance door-to-door. He used the mental toughness gained from racing to get past the constant rejection to become a top producer, selling policies to over 700 new households in 18 months. That led to seven successful years in printing sales. Throughout it all, he raced, earning a try-out for the 1984 US Olympic team with a 2:18 marathon. He raced those trials at 180 pounds, easily the heaviest runner in the field. That distinction motivated him to switch to the far more physical sport of triathlon. It became a turning point in his life… soon he was racing on the professional circuit, and that led to his career in speaking.
Tony’s first speech was delivered to a Minnesota high school hockey team in a basement family room. It came just days after he’d crashed in the 1989 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. With his dislocated shoulder still in a sling, he shared the story of what it took to finish that race - injured - and the message was a huge hit. The team was more motivated than ever and asked him back for what became weekly motivational sessions on goal setting, staying focused, teamwork, discipline, visualization, self-confidence, and dealing with pressure. They went on a long winning streak and enjoyed a championship season, and Tony's career as a motivator was born.
In the next few years, he helped numerous high school and collegiate athletic programs by teaching mental preparation techniques. In working closely with many top teams, he began to realize that the majority of successful athletes also shared his life-long struggle with low self-confidence. So for both his clients' and his own benefit, Tony began to go deeper in a search for the keys to creating and sustaining confidence. From that search was born the BreakAway philosophy, Tony's powerful approach to life and work that hundreds of organizations all around the nation have benefited from.
Tony's BreakAway message has now been retooled as a mental toughness program for corporate America, and more than 100 business and association conferences and conventions have adopted BreakAway as their theme. In a 2 for 1 deal, organizations get a theme they can use to anchor their meeting initiatives plus the keynote speaker who will inspire their audiences to a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Going Beyond Corporate Speaking
In 2004, compelled to do something about the rise in childhood obesity, Tony launched a one-of-a-kind event that drew on kids' natural desire to help others as a way of inspiring them to get off the couch and out exercising. His "Kids Racing for Kids Who Can't" idea for a race worked and has already grown into one of the world's largest triathlons for kids. In 2007, under Tony's leadership, the 4th annual MiracleKids Triathlon drew over 800 kids who also raised over $100,000 to support the work of the Miracles of Mitch Foundation, a non-profit that provides financial assistance to families with kids being treated for cancer.
Through it all there remains competition... today, though having lost a few steps, at the age of 50 he still races and holds his own against top triathletes half his age. Since turning 40 he's won 17 triathlons - outright - plus five national and two world master's championships.
Susan and Tony were married in 1985 and they live in Minnesota.