Fostering Innovation with Shaun White

Photo credit: Shaun White Snowboarding

My job requires me to travel – a lot.  You know the magazines that the airlines provide to their passengers?  I actually read them (even SkyMall.)  From time to time, there’s a good article with a real lesson that can be shared.  As I was reading through this month’s issue of American Way, I came across an article featuring Shaun White.  I probably don’t even have to explain who he is, right?  Shaun has become a household name with his line of clothing, Oakley sunglasses, video games, newly launched partnership with Burton snowboards…he even has his own gum (“whitemint”), thanks to a partnership with Stride.  Most of us know him either by name, reputation, or by his fiery red hair.  He’s competed (and won several medals) in the Olympics.  In most people’s opinion, Shaun White has arrived.

How does someone get to this point of success in their career?  It all starts with the competition.  I’ll dig a little deeper:

Competition fosters innovation.  If we all did the same thing every day, we’d live in a very boring world.  To break it down a further, competition to me means that a variety of ideas and people are fighting to find the most innovative idea and person.    Shaun didn’t stop when he won the gold medial in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with a high score on the half pipe of 48.4 (highest you can get is 50).  He kept innovating new tricks, new ways to put a spin on snowboarding.  By the way, his business franchise speaks for itself.  He’s also breaking down the snowboarder stereotype, so think twice before you make assumptions about someone based on their job or hobby!  Consider “best” as a given…are you really being innovative in your approach to your career?  Could you do more?  We all need a little healthy competition!

There’s a deadline and everybody is watching.  Innovation doesn’t just happen overnight.  It also doesn’t happen without setting goals or without taking action regarding those goals.  In the American Way interview, Shaun mentioned that it’s all about adrenaline and focus with his tricks.  That, and the fear of failure.  “I can’t do certain tricks unless it’s in a contest because that pressure – you need it,” he says.  “You get into that zone and I’m like, ‘Ok, I have to land. It’s not an option.’ Tricks seem to happen easier when you’re at events.  You need that contest mode to see the crowd, the clock’s ticking – all these things make you push harder.”  Think about he uses deadlines and acts to achieve his goals.  Are you following a similar philosophy?  

Short and simple – that’s how this week’s post wraps up.  The next time you’re reading a book or magazine article, think how it applies to you, your success or life in general.  You might be surprised what you can learn!  For reference, check out for American Way‘s full article.

Like this post?  I want to know why.  Leave me a comment!  Disagree?  Leave me a comment.  Campus to Career is shaped largely by your feedback, so don’t be shy – let me know what’s on your mind!

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5 thoughts on “Fostering Innovation with Shaun White

  1. I am very familiar with that feeling of needing “adrenaline pumped” environment to get something done, since I’ve been a professional sportswoman for some time.

    It’s about knowing yourself. Some people do their best when they are angry, some when are calm and some when absolutely relaxed. You have to know how your mind and body react to different situations and use that to achieve whatever you have in mind.


  2. Sometimes, I think about myself as of tools for doing the right job. I think about all the “functions” that I have as a tool, and then try to use it. It gives me a certain feeling of being useful and being objective about my abilities.


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