As the sloppy mid-November snow broke many a branch on the leaf-laden trees on our block, my wife dialed 311 to secure help, while I imagined myself racing down Aspen Mountain, trying to earn a gold medal (for my age group) on the NASTAR course. It’s not a hopeless cause, but let’s just be clear—I’m no Lindsey Vonn.
I bring up Ms. Vonn, the world’s greatest skier, for two reasons. First, much to the surprise of the ski racing world, she just announced her retirement and shared a lovely rationale for it via Sports Illustrated. Second, I saw her speak earlier this year at the Marketo Nation conference and was absolutely blown away by her honesty, self-awareness, humor and insights into accomplishment. It’s this last area that I’ll focus on in this month’s newsletter—one I hope you’ll read while imagining yourself making fresh tracks on the ski slopes of your ambitions.
Lean into your strengths
No matter your temperament, brain mass or eye-hand coordination, no one is good at everything. Like many of her young peers, Vonn tried tennis and soccer, but as she recalled, “These sports weren’t happening for me.” Fortunately, Vonn also tried skiing at early age and was racing by the time she was nine years old. She discovered she loved racing, and among her many accomplishments, she became the oldest Olympian to win a medal in skiing. At the risk of being Captain Obvious, if you want to be great at something, build upon your strengths.
Find courage through preparation
Needless to say, ski racing is a lot more dangerous than marketing—one mistake, one caught edge and your season or career could be over. But whether you’re a skier or marketer, if you don’t challenge yourself beyond your comfort zone, you’re unlikely to succeed. Vonn shared, “My preparation makes me fearless because if you put in the time, what is there to be afraid of?” It’s easy to see the parallel here for all you hardworking marketers.
Keep going despite setbacks
It may be hard to believe, but Vonn reported that “even after two ACL reconstructions, an MCL dislocation, multiple meniscal repairs, four tibial plateau fractures, a spiral fracture of my humerus with a plate and 18 screws, a broken ankle, broken fingers and many concussions, I have never questioned my decision to keep skiing.” In contrast, the biggest risk we marketers face is losing our jobs, which most of us know is inevitable anyway. Surely, we can muster the courage to boldly go where other marketers have not gone before!
Revel in the naysayers
At various moments in Vonn’s celebrated career, occasional self-doubts would be joined by naysayers who suggested she couldn’t do something. It got especially bad after she turned 30, the age when most pros hang up their skis. Others even suggested she’d need help with her business “from a man” after her divorce. Recognizing that she couldn’t let any of this negativity get under her skin, she used it to fuel her instead. “I like proving people wrong,” she explained.
Pay it forward
Growing up, Vonn’s idol was Olympian Picabo Street, who she met at an early age. At the time, Street offered Vonn loads of encouragement, leaving a lasting impression. Remembering this pivotal moment of inspiration, Vonn established a foundation to help young skiers achieve their dreams. “The biggest thing is telling girls that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to and supporting them financially,” she explained. Paying it forward is just one of the ways Vonn will win in her next chapter off the slopes.
If you’re paying it forward, let me know so we can feature you in our holiday posts.