RISK vs. REWARD: Creating Desire

ABOUT RISK VS. REWARD: Throughout the season I’ll be sharing tid-bits about my life as an athlete, the trials and tribulations of growing up a tomboy, being a woman in the male-dominated ski industry and reinventing myself in order to make a living doing what I love. These are the lessons I have learned along the way that have helped make my business successful and my life fulfilling.


I am often asked by dads of young girls, “what and who were the influences in your life that made you the way you are, and what advice do you have for me, as a father, to help my daughter grow up to be confident, independent and adventurous?” It’s very flattering when this happens and I don’t take it lightly when a young dad asks for my input. My answer is always the same and it applies to all kids, not just girls, as well as all parents, coaches and mentors of any kind: Make them make choices.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my dad ignoring me. It seemed as though no matter what I did, it was like I wasn’t there. He was a hard ass and very intense, but all my dad’s energy went towards my two brothers. I listened and did everything my dad told my brothers to do, but it never mattered. I must say, there is nothing more motivating than the desperate need for recognition -- especially for a little girl from her father. Because I was so obsessed with making my father proud of me, I turned into the uber-tomboy.

As I got older I showed promise as an athlete and ski racing became my sport. As the trophies piled up, my dad began to show some signs of support. But he never said, “yes” the first time I asked for anything. He always made me prove to him that what I wanted was important to me and that I was willing to make sacrifices and work hard to get it This pattern shaped me into the adult I am. I learned to wisely select the things I wanted and to make them count when I got them.

At the time, my childhood friends got whatever they wanted and didn’t value any of it or have any motivation. I, on the other hand, was jumping out of my skin every time my dad said yes and I was excited to do the work to get there. From a young age, I learned that a lot of my happiness and excitement came from setting goals and making sacrifices to get what I wanted.

All kids want their parents/coaches/mentors to be proud of them. So supporting, encouraging, praising them is important - but don’t make it too easy. A bit of struggle is a good thing. As long as they know you will be there to pick them up, dust them off and be proud of them, they will continue to try. Teaching our children at an early age to not be afraid of failure is one of the most powerful tools we can give. If we all operate within our comfort zone, very little is actually accomplished. Teaching children to take risk and rewarding them for doing well teaches the value of hard work, the satisfaction of accomplishment and provides the tools we need as adults to be successful and happy.

The hilarious part of this story is I ended up being just like my dad. We all want what we can’t have and I wanted more then anything to make my dad proud of me. Everything I did was with the hope that he would recognize my accomplishments and give me praise. It took 30 years but I did get there and I’m not angry or disappointed in any way that it took so long. Actually the opposite is true, I am happy my dad made me work so hard for what was important to me.

It takes discipline not to make it easy for the people we love, but life is not easy and learning to overcome setbacks and the reward of hard work at a young age will help the people we love be successful in sports and in life.




MJ Carroll