Olympian Vonn at Marketo Nation Summit: Hard Work Can Make You Fearless

Lindsey Vonn

By Timothy Moran

“I think there are more people here than at the Olympics… no, I mean, really,” quipped Lindsey Vonn, winner of 82 world cup races, to Marketo CEO Steve Lucas, as they kicked off an amusing and wide-ranging interview on the final full afternoon of the Marketo Nation Summit, in San Francisco. The 6,000 marketers in the audience laughed hard.

“I started skiing at two-and-a-half,” Vonn told Lucas. “I mostly loved ski racing in the beginning for the sprinkled doughnuts and hot chocolate. But I really loved being on the mountain and pushing myself—doing my own thing.”

Lucas asked Vonn where her passion and drive came from. “I wasn’t very good at any other sports. I tried them all, but I was really bad at everything except skiing. It makes me happy. Going downhill at 90 miles an hour is fun for me.”

Vonn told Lucas that she took fourth place in her first race at seven years old. “I didn’t like being fourth,” she said. “The trophy really was just a participation thing. So, my early motivation was not getting what I wanted. I like proving people wrong.”

Her goal to be an Olympic champion came early, too. Lucas asked her about her first meeting, when she was a kid, with skier Picabo Street. “When I was nine years old,” she told Lucas, “I met her at a book signing, and, from then on, from that three-minute meeting, I knew I wanted to be an Olympian. It was an inspiring moment.”

“To get to this level, you have to be fearless,” said Lucas. “How did you develop that?” “I definitely have a screw loose,” joked Vonn. “In general, I’ve just never been afraid. I guess it’s my preparation that makes me fearless. If you put the work in, what’s there to be afraid of. If you make a mistake, well, that’s life. So, I work hard, don’t complain, and get the job done.”

When asked whether the recent games were her last, she frankly told Lucas, “Yes, I think it’s my last Olympics—unless someone can get me a new knee. It was really emotional, this last time, and knowing it was my last games was tough.”

Lucas then asked about her record for wins—she is five wins away from being the greatest skier of all time, man or woman. What does that mean to her. “My plan is to win six more, then retire, and live happily ever after.”

Lucas said he was curious about how she is handling the new world she is being asked to compete in—that of celebrity and red-carpet personality. “I always know my value, who I am,” she said. “but that other world in the spotlight was a challenge. But the more I did it, the better I got at it. It was a new challenge, and, like skiing, I had to put in the work to be successful.”

Bringing the conversation back to business, Lucas asked: “How do you handle all of the brands you are associated with, as well as your own brand?” Said Vonn: “I look for companies that already align with my brand. I look for companies that I can help and that can help me. It’s important for me to be able to be myself.”

Lucas pointed out that, by one count, Vonn has had to deal with more than 70 major injuries—including, to everyone’s amusement, one to her thumb caused by a champagne cork. “How were you able to overcome all that,” he asked. “My injuries were my learning experiences,” explained Vonn. Those obstacles made me stronger and taught me lesson. The main lesson was, you have to seize the moment because you never know how many moments you have.”

Lucas concluded the chat: “So what advice would you have for the audience for stepping outside your comfort zone?”

“Believe in yourself, what you are doing, and your work ethic,” concluded Vonn. “That can make you fearless.”

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