Q4 · 2015Making it happen

As some of you may know, I have had the privilege of working with some exceptionally talented individuals during my career, both in the business world and also in sports. Some of them are most famous athletes – including the perhaps greatest tennis player of all times – as well as various international soccer stars. And there has also been an Olympic Champion.

The Olympic Games, be it the winter or summer Games, are the absolute pinnacle of an athlete’s career. Just qualifying for the Olympics is a major achievement, requiring the ability to compete with the world’s finest athletes. Winning a bronze or silver medal is an even higher step and a dream coming true. But to win gold is the ultimate – there is no higher achievement.

This story began in 2004 when a young Swiss skier, blessed with talent and passion, reached out to me after her surgeon advised her to seek some psychological advice after she ruptured her knee. After a three-hour conversation, it was clear to me that this girl’s injury, though serious, had not adversely affected her mental state. She was just as confident, courageous and determined as ever, so I told her she did not need me as her performance psychologist. I simply handed her my business card, just in case she needed someone to talk to in the future.

That talented skier was Dominique Gisin, who went on to become the Women’s Downhill Skiing Champion at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

Four years after my first meeting with Dominique, out of the blue, her mother gave me a call. Her daughter had had the misfortune to suffer constant injuries and was now facing a major crisis. And so our collaboration began.

What happened then is so extraordinary, not even the cheesiest Hollywood movie could make up a better story. The setbacks Dominique faced and overcame are unparalleled. She suffered injury after injury, including damage to her knees that required no fewer than nine operations.

The more Dominique was knocked back – such as not being nominated for the Swiss National team at one stage – the more determined she became. At the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, for example, she lay in third place and was a strong contender for a medal, perhaps even Gold, when a crash in the final curve of a race left her with nothing but concussion.

Dominique didn’t just refuse to give up, but managed to turn every setback into a challenge, and every challenge into success, culminating in her Olympic gold medal. Her fighting spirit – and her ultimate triumph – is an inspiration to everyone who has to deal with setbacks, and for all of us whose career or journey in life is not a linear path upwards, and who may even be about to give up on their dreams.

Dominique retired this year at the age of 29. Today, she is a well-known public speaker and influencer. Wherever she speaks, and whether she is addressing shop-floor workers or CEOs, children or parents, she moves her audience (to tears) with her inspirational story. It seems everyone can somehow relate to her struggle, appreciate her strength and enjoy her eventual success. It is a story about trust, hard work and faith. It is a story about an exceptional individual who in the very end managed to fulfil her dream.

I have had the tremendous pleasure of not only working with Dominique throughout her sporting career, but also sharing a stage with her at various speaking events and co-writing the book “Making It Happen”, which tells her story. I am extremely proud to have shared a significant path with her and also I have learned so much from her. Now you can too, by reading the book.

Key messages

Here are some of the key messages from “Making it Happen” that remind us to focus on the right things:

  • In order to maximize your learning experience, challenge yourself with the most difficult conditions
  • All of us carry different burdens. Carry yours step by step, with dignity and patience, yet never losing sight of your goal
  • Aim for your full potential. Mediocrity is not worth striving for
  • “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” (T.S. Eliot)
  • Focus on YOUR challenge by finding peace and strength in solitude.

Best wishes and may you also get inspired by reading her story,


P.S: You can buy “Making It Happen” via Dominique’s homepage only: www.dominiquegisin.ch. If you are in a difficult situation yourself, and cannot afford to buy this book, you can share your story with her and get your copy for free!