Wisdom from Bonnie St. John

Bonnie St. John, whose right leg was amputated at age 5, has won Paralympic ski medals and now gives motivational speeches. She has worked with President Clinton’s White House National Economic Council and appeared on CNN, The Today Show and other television programs. Although St. John came from a humble background, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and as a Rhodes Scholar holds a graduate-level economics degree from Oxford University in the United Kingdom. The best-selling author (a recent book is How Great Women Lead: A Mother-Daughter Adventure into the Lives of Women Shaping the World) shares this advice with SUCCESS:  

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On failure: “You have to be willing to fail. The people who have failed the most are Olympians, because they’ve failed and failed and failed until they learned how to win.”

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On leadership: “A leader gives you the opportunity to show what you’ve got and then also has your back when things don’t work out perfectly. An inspiring leader does not micromanage.”

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On goals: “Have a portfolio of goals. Just as you’d have a portfolio of investments, you wouldn’t put all your money in one place. With your goals, your talents and your time, have a range, because not everything is going to work out.”

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On support: “When I had my amputation, there was a nurse who kept me going. As kids, we have people like that in our lives: coaches and parents and teachers that push us. But as an adult, nobody can push you without your permission. Now I find people who can push me.”

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On work ethic: “It comes from my family and from having one leg and having to work harder than everybody else just to do the same thing. Hard work works. I learned that early on.”

She's had more than one obstacle in her life, but Bonnie St. John didn't let her circumstances define her. Read her story of becoming a medal-winning skier, Rhodes Scholar and can-do role model.


Chelsea Greenwood has been contributing to print and online publications as an editor and writer for more than 10 years. A University of Florida graduate, she is the editor of a lifestyle magazine in South Florida.

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