What Lindsey Vonn's Story Can Teach Us About Failure

Far too often, we define ourselves by our failures, and not our successes. Many wrongfully think that any failure experienced while striving towards our goals is the end of the road. Failure can be the end of your dream, but you always have the option to keep working towards your goals in spite of obstacles.

A woman who is  living proof of this is Lindsey Vonn. Today she is a successful World Cup alpine skier on the US Ski Team. She was the first American woman who won the gold medal in downhill at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and she has won four World Cup overall championships.

Her road to success was far from easy, even at the peak of her career, to get where she is today. The thing that often separates successful people from the rest isn’t how many times they’ve failed, but who had the determination to keep going.

It starts with a goal

Lindsey Vonn grew up in Minnesota, where she fell in love with skiing at an early age. Her interest was spurred by her immense talent from day one. Despite her talent, she still worked harder than anyone on the slopes to shine through and set her sights on Olympic gold.

Vonn’s path to success wasn’t without sacrifice. When your whole world revolves around skiing, many things fall by the wayside. She was homeschooled throughout middle school, and in her high school years, she always consumed by everything that came with competing. This obviously can take a toll on someone, as those are formative years that are important for social development.

Lindsey Vonn has expressed sadness about missing out on some of the experiences of typical youth, but she also got to experience things that not many other people get to do. She first went to Europe when she was only nine years old without her parents. It was there where she earned the opportunity to see other talented athletes in the prime of her careers, which always inspired her to keep chasing her dream.

Vonn nearly quit skiing at 16 after experiencing a difficult year. She didn’t finish 50 out of 55 races and experienced a lot of depression. Her failures made her reconsider whether or not skiing was really what she should be doing, and it came at a time where she still had to build mental fortitude.

After that season, she decided to refocus and take a deep look at her failures. She wanted to see how she could learn from them, instead of doing the same things and expecting a different outcome. She started with the things that she could control, so she changed her fitness program and decided to leave doubt and negativity in the past.

Ask yourself who you are doing it for

Setting your goal is an important step, but you have to remember that journey isn’t going to be easy. No matter what you’re after, we all experience difficulties along the way. We all have insecurities that we have to overcome, and a winning mentality that we have to build. Slowly but surely, Lindsey Vonn became more confident in herself.

The key to her success came down to few core questions. In the end, she had to ask herself who she was doing it for and why – and the answer became clear: she loved skiing more than anything else in the world.

We can learn a lot from Lindsey Vonn’s story. If you’re at a crossroads, then ask yourself the same questions.  Who you are doing this for? What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? What makes you happy? Imagine a life where you take a different turn and create another goal for yourself – would it be possible? If you can’t see another way, then you’re on the right track. Remember this when things get tough. Use this as a tool to push you through adversity.

Asking the tough questions made it clear to Lindsey Vonn that it was all worth it. The world of skiing and the gratification was essential in her life.

After realizing this, she was willing to do anything. She didn’t mind working harder than ever or giving up certain things, because the satisfaction from achieving her goals made the struggle worth it.


Lindsey Vonn competing in 2018 Winter Olympics/Getty Images

Dedication keeps you going

When Lindsey Vonn looks back now, she says it was her talent that got her started. She was a natural and it made her interest in the sport grow. It worked for a while, but then she had a tough time and she understood that talent wasn’t enough. She had to dedicate herself fully to it or quit.

It wasn’t until she changed  her mindset and dedicated herself completely to the sport that she became truly successful.

Most people have a talent, but very few become successful within that field. It takes more than skills to reach a goal. Why? Because talent is just the starting point. We have to remember that there are many other people who are talented as well, but some are willing to work harder than the rest. Soon enough, the ones who work harder will be more talented than the ones who had the skill but didn’t care to go above and beyond.

If you don’t accept that talent isn’t enough, then you’ll never have anything to aspire to. But if you keep setting the bar higher, you’ll outgrow the ones who aren’t willing to put their best foot forward.

The successful people who reach their goals are often the ones that are willing to set aside external factors and focus on what really matters the most to them. Failure is a natural process of learning and improving, but many people see failure as an insurmountable obstacle rather than a lesson. When you fail, you can either grow up, or give up. The choice is yours.

True failure is only experienced by giving up

Lindsey Vonn’s most defining moment in her career was her crash before the Sochi Olympics. It ended her season, but not her hopes. While some may have seen it as a sign to give up, she saw the setback as another lesson.

People say that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. At that point, her goal and dream seemed lost, but she decided to push even harder and work through it.

She did it by considering her options. It was clear that she had two: giving up or going all in.  But the choice was clear, If she didn’t give it her all now, then she would always regret not trying.

She stayed as many hours as needed in the gym and dedicated all of the hours of her day to the sport. Her dream was more important to her than anything else. Once you have a drive and a clear mindset, then you’ll be able to push yourself further than you ever thought possible. It may seem impossible, but everything seems impossible until it’s done.

Her drive pushed her to keep going to compete in the 2018 Olympics. She didn’t fare as well as year’s past, but to sustain a career for this long shows her determination and unrelenting ambition. Lindsey Vonn now finds her motivation by looking at her competitors. She looks at what they are doing to keep her mind-set flowing and stay focused. If you aren’t willing to put in the work, there are always someone else out there who is.

No matter what you’re trying to achieve in your life, or how old you are, you can use Lindsey Vonn as a shining example of what incredible work ethic and laser focus and can do in your life.