To triumph in work and life, proceed with purpose and always get up when you fail.
Scott Hamilton is famous for winning. He brought home the Olympic gold medal from Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, in men’s fgure skating in 1984. He also came out on top at both the U.S. and
world championships—four years in a row. In the decades since his
Olympic victory, Hamilton, 59, got married, had four kids, became a
TV commentator, survived cancer and brain tumors, founded a skating
academy in Nashville, Tenn., and started the Scott Hamilton CARES
Foundation to fund cancer research.
But his professional and personal triumphs followed years of strug-
gles. He was sickly as a child with an illness that stunted his growth.
His mother died when he was a teenager. At his frst U.S. National
Figure Skating Championship, Hamilton fell fve times and fnished
dead last. In his new book, Finish First: Winning Changes Everything
(Thomas Nelson, 2018), he counsels that the way to become a winner
is by living with purpose and getting back up when you’re down.
You write that finishing first isn’t necessarily about beating other people.
So, what does winning mean for you?
It’s about fnding your purpose and
then doing everything you can to get
the greatest impact from that. That
means leveraging your abilities to
give yourself the best life possible.
Of course, you will encounter barriers and unpleasant experiences in
your pursuit of excellence—whether
it’s failures, criticism or living in
fear of those things—but you’ll get
You have been critical of the modern parenting notion that all kids are
We’re seeing a whole generation of
young people who see the mountain
peak and desperately want to be
there, but they don’t want to climb
to reach it. We’re not preparing
them for life, which will be filled
with failures. Trying to be excel-
lent at something comes with a
mountain of disappointments. But
it is not this debilitating, horrible
thing. It’s part of the process; it
makes you more resilient. Once we
embrace failure and stop fearing it,
we can joyfully live our lives.
How can coaches—and HR professionals—help people find their competitive fire?
As the manager of my skating
academy tells me every
day, “There are only
solutions.” Of course,
people have challenges,
but let’s not be completely oppressed by them.
Let’s look at how to solve
problems instead of
dwelling on what’s
from competitors in the
Get up every
pull of seemingly impossible feats
demonstrates the commitment it
takes to go from point A to B. It can
help people to summon their own will
to lose 15 pounds, eat better, take that
class, read those books, volunteer.
The Olympics is a celebration of youth
and excellence where the world comes
together in peace and focuses on what
unites us instead of what divides us.
You’re a cancer survivor, and you’ve
had three brain tumors. What does
winning mean in that context?
Cancer won’t defeat me. I control the
experience. I approach every new
piece of information with confdence
and courage, not weakness. I say
this every time I go in for my scans:
“Whatever it is, I’ll face it joyfully.”
And my faith really allows me to do
that, too. I just feel there’s more to
this life than the years I occupy this
Does your book’s focus on individual choices downplay the role of a
A lot depends on chance, but
we’re not alone in any of this. My
coach would always tell me
humans are social ani-
mals; they can’t sur-
vive without other
people. So much
But you make
the most of what
you’ve got and do
can to eliminate
the things that
hold you back.
Novid Parsi PHOT