“I think sports teaches you a lot about yourself.”
She ought to know. That’s Lindsey Vonn talking about herself and her life as America’s current premier female downhill skier. Actually, that does not complete the picture of Vonn’s place in history. As long as Americans have been involved in competitive skiing in world competitions, no American – male or female – has been more successful than Lindsay Vonn.
What Tiger Woods is to golf and what Michael Jordan is to basketball, Lindsey Vonn is to downhill skiing.
In the documentary Lindsey Vonn: In The Moment, and in interviews that can be seen on YouTube, she discusses the work, the sacrifices, and the keys to her consistent world class performance as a downhill skier.
Being an enduring top performer in any field not only means you have figured out how to stay at the top of your game. It also means you know how to recover from setbacks and how to blast through obstacles in your way.
In addition to her many accomplishments on the slopes, Lindsey Vonn has experienced two major crashes, a divorce, and now a very recent (post-crash) knee surgery. As of this writing, she is recovering from the most recent crash and surgery, and – timing what it sometimes is – it has precluded her from being able to compete in the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia (February 7-23, 2014).
Secrets to Success
It is a given that the schedule of Olympic athletes and hopefuls includes countless hours of exercise. They all put an insane amount of time into training and conditioning. Nonetheless, only a few win in competition. A much smaller number get the gold, silver, or bronze medal at more than one Olympic Games or World Cup competition. But as Lindsey Vonn’s achievements listed in the side bar make clear, this woman has, since 2007, been sitting atop the list of the elite among the elite in her sport for several years now.
Discussing how she has been able to accomplish so much in the sport of downhill racing, Miss Vonn points to elements of personal excellence that, for her, are non-negotiable. Sustained success and achievement is accomplished with much more than just the time invested in physical training. She believes the difference between champions and everyone else is in the mind.
There are three principles that Lindsey Vonn applies consistently. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of all that goes into training the human mind for greatness, but they are at the top of Lindsey’s list because, whatever your endeavor in life, each of the following three elements feed a mind that is focused on winning:
- A Coach or Mentor… or Both!
Vonn deeply believes in herself and her abilities. Referring to the average speeds of 75-80 miles per hour in a standard downhill run, she says she loves to go fast. “I have no fear of going into a particular part of the course ten miles an hour faster than everyone else. That’s just who I am.”
Believing to the core that she can handle the speed, she does. And she keeps winning. And that validates and strengthens her belief! It is a wonderful vicious cycle that can only be pushed forward with the risk associated with constantly pushing boundaries, going where you have not gone before and doing what you have not done before.
When she talks about her belief that things will go her way because it is her time, it is her mountain, and because she believes she has more than adequately prepared herself for this moment, it is difficult to distinguish between belief and confidence.
Speaking of which …
Vonn says, “Confidence is one of the most important parts of me and of having success. I believe that I can do it. And I walk in that every day and it definitely gives me my confidence.”
A Coach and/or Mentor
Vonn emphasizes the connection between success and having a great coach. She says everyone needs a coach, no matter what you want to be great at. Referring to her coach: “Whenever I am on snow, Thomas needs to be there. He is my coach, my mental trainer, my motivator.”
She says that your coach must be someone that actually knows what you are going through because they have been there. Her coach of many years had a successful downhill racing career of his own. He was in the 2002 Olympics for alpine skiing in the Super-G and Giant Slalom and was top 15 in many World Cup competitions.
But before she ever had a coach, Lindsey found a mentor. When she was 9 years old she met her hero, Picabo Street, Super-G gold medal winner at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. Vonn says “it was life changing” because it brought the dream of being a world class downhill skier into the realm of possibility for her.“I hung her poster up on my wall and from that moment on I was determined to be an Olympian.”
Whatever your dream…
You can attain it. You are, all of us are, a member of a pretty exclusive club. Among the ways we are different from animals is our amazing capacity to make choices that can result in a better life for ourselves and those around us.
And when we really utilize that capacity in a big way, we feel a sense of awe and humility when things work out the way we hoped and prayed and dreamed they would. Especially when it was really tough to attain. Yes, we worked hard and there is such a thing as expecting fruits from our labors. But we still know we would not have been able to overcome the obstacles and setbacks if it were not for the people who helped us along the way.
I think that the emotion Lindsey Vonn feels when she says near the end of the documentary, “I just want everyone to know that your dreams are attainable,” comes from that sense of awe. She is humbled to be where she is today.
You do not have to be a world class athlete in order to enjoy the great results that will come from the limitless mental resources that are available to us all. Belief, Confidence and the uplift you will get from a committed Coach and/or Mentor will provide you with more than enough fuel, lift and propulsion to get you wherever you want to go.