Want Success? Take a Lesson From Lindsey Vonn

Did you watch the Olympics last night?  The Americans did pretty well, winning gold medals in skiing – Lindsey Vonn, speed skating – Shani Davis and snowboarding – Shaun White.  Good for them.  Their years of training, hard work and dedication paid off.

In this post I want to focus on Lindsey Vonn.  She lives in Vail, my favorite Colorado mountain town.  I live and do my career success coaching work in Denver, so I think of her as kind of a neighbor.  More important, I find her story compelling.  Right now, she is the best woman ski racer in the world.  Over the past three seasons, she became the first American woman to win two World Cup overall titles and winning two gold medals at last year’s world championships.

She won five of six downhill competitions in this year’s Skiing World Cup.  The downhill is the glamour ski race.  It’s fast and dangerous.  Downhillers, men and women, are the big guns in the sport.  Yesterday, Lindsey Vonn won Olympic Gold in the downhill.  But she almost didn’t get to race.

A couple of weeks ago, she took a nasty fall and bruised her shin.  On Monday, after her downhill training run, when she was in so much pain, she could hardly get out of the gate – a necessary precondition for qualifying for the race.  She wasn’t sure that she could even race.

I know a bit about deep bone bruises on the shin.  Way back in 1973, I severely bruised my left shin in a rugby match.  My leg turned the most amazing colors – black, blue, yellow, green – from my ankle to my thigh.  My lower leg was the size of my thigh, which is very large.  I was on crutches for two weeks.  It hurt.  Lindsey Vonn had the same injury.  Last week, her leg was so swollen that she couldn’t put on her ski boot.

As a career success coach, I always tell my clients that what happens to you isn’t important, how you react to what happens is.  I call it committing to taking personal responsibility for creating the successful career and life you want and deserve.  In Lindsey Vonn’s case, she had some really bad stuff, and some pretty good stuff happen to her over the past couple of weeks.  The bad stuff was her deep bone bruise.  The good stuff was the warm weather in Vancouver, which delayed the ski competition and gave her a little more time to heal.

Even with these extra couple of days, I’m sure she was in real pain during her run.  She was skiing on bumpy ice, going over 80 miles an hour, and making some big jumps.  That had to hurt.  Yet she persevered and won the gold medal.

Picabo Street, considered my most as the best American woman skier prior to Lindsey Vonn said, “She’s given the U.S.A. something to be proud about.  She’s given young dreamers a reason to dream, and that’s a beautiful thing. Now she is the greatest American female skier ever. She is a great champion, and she is so deserving.”

I think so too.

Lindsey Vonn didn’t let circumstances dictate her fate.  She took control of the situation and did the best she could given the situation – which, as it turned out was really good.  In her words, “It’s been a really tough couple of weeks.  Pretty much having your Olympic dreams crushed, and fighting back from it, doing therapy and trying to get healthy again. I just tried to stay positive.”  Her positive attitude got her an Olympic gold medal.

The common sense career success point here is simple.  As you go through life, stuff will happen; good stuff, bad stuff, frustrating stuff, happy stuff, sad stuff, fortunate stuff, unfortunate stuff.  Successful people choose to react the stuff that happens – especially the negative stuff — in a positive way.  Lindsey Vonn had some really bad stuff happen – a deep bone bruise on her shin; and some lucky stuff – the warm weather in Vancouver that delayed the women’s downhill — happen to her over the past couple of weeks.  She did what she could with it.  And what she did was pretty spectacular.  The next time things get you down, think of Lindsey Vonn, do what you can to recover from circumstances and stay positive.  Because that’s what successful people do – they choose to react positively to the negative people and events in their lives.

That’s my take on Lindsey Vonn’s courageous gold medal run last night, and what it teaches us about staying positive.  What’s yours?  Please take a minute to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. Thanks Bud – Great Post!

    I was overjoyed when I learned Lindsey won yesterday afternoon. Having had ups and downs in my own career, there is nothing more inspiring than a woman who takes everything in stride – bumpy as it may be – and comes out on top!

    I recently had a business meeting with a former professor of mine who reminded me that 8 years ago, I described to him my perfect job. Now he found himself sitting across from a woman in the very role I outlined. When I look at the course charted over the last ten years since I graduated from college, I was not always certain I was making the right decisions nor continuing with strength. I work in an industry that is full of a lot of promises and returns very few gold medals. However, I have held on, practiced, learned, trained, and embraced every new challenge to the best of my abilities, knowing there is always another race!

    Lindsay’s victory is a perfect reminder that even in the darkest of days when you aren’t certain you can put your boots on and take the next step, faith, courage, training, and conviction may very well drive you to victory! Let’s see if she can take a few more golds before the Vonn-couver Olympic wrap up!


  2. Summers:
    Thanks for the comment.
    How are things going in your new job?
    I’m expecting great things from you.

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