Almost as if it was scripted, NAU and Flagstaff welcomed the first significant snowfall of the season Wednesday night, coincidentally the same night Olympic snowboarder Shaun White visited campus. While at NAU, White discussed his professional successes and personal motivation.
Flagstaff resident Kenneth Klawitter said the community was especially excited to see White because the same extreme sports White makes history in, such as snowboarding and skateboarding, are sports that are definitive parts of Flagstaff’s culture.
“The skateboarding and snowboarding community in Flagstaff is very much alive and is continuously growing,” Klawitter said.
Freshman John Bliss said he has been skiing for his entire life. He was excited to see White because he is the best at what he does and isn’t simply inspirational, but is his idol. Similarly, sophomore Raymond Langlais said White is an incredibly inspiring person and while his successes might relate more to snowboarders and skateboarders, White’s perspective and emphasis on persistence and motivation can be inspiring to other sports and aspects of life in general.
“Shaun White changed the sport of snowboarding,” Langlais said. “He’s been on the top of the competition fields since 2006, so he’s like the Michael Phelps of snowboarding. Any perspective that he’s gained from being on the top of a really competitive field would be cool.”
White said his successes as a professional athlete were how he showed the world what he is capable of. He said he has always been very contest and career-oriented, as he had been motivated to be groundbreaking in the newer sport of snowboarding, and urged people to motivate themselves to succeed.
“Are you excited when you wake up?” White asked. “Are you content when you go to sleep?”
Being excited and motivated to do what he wants and proud of himself at the end of the day is what White said success means to him.
Klawitter said aspects that White advocates for, such as persistence, positive thinking and not giving up, are leading factors in success, but are essential in extreme sports.
“Motivation is key with all aspects of life and especially skateboarding,” Klawitter said. "Shaun White, I feel, is the next level of these ideas of motivation. He is pushing himself to do things no human has ever done and he does not fear failure.”
White is a role model to Klawitter because he exemplifies what all people need to be successful. Freshman Jacob Anteau said White can be a role model to those who do not snowboard themselves.
“[I’m a runner and I’ve] been on the grind trying to achieve some crazy goals, and so I have to have a lot of motivation,” Anteau said. “Whether it’s snowboarding or in the classroom, you have to have that drive and motivation because nobody else is going to push you whether it’s your coach or teacher. You can only succeed after you have your own personal determination and you’re putting that work in every single day.”
White also said his motivation translated to more aspects of his life outside of snowboarding. Whether it is his pursuits of real estate, merchandising or music, White said he sets a lot of goals and is determined to be the best at whatever he does in his life.
While White inspires many who want to be like him, White looks up to Tony Hawk. Hawk said to White that he didn’t need to be the next Tony Hawk, but rather the next Shaun White. He said Hawk inspired him to constantly push his boundaries and do better, regardless of what challenges might get in the way.
Even as a three-time gold medalist, White said he isn’t perfect and faces failure and injury like anyone else. While failure can be discouraging, White said he learned from every one of his injuries and losses and is thankful for the lessons those experiences have taught him.
“As long as you learn from those mistakes, they’re not mistakes,” White said. “Now when something happens to me, I take a pause and say, ‘what’s the lesson to be learned from this?’”
White said he wants to inspire others to push themselves to succeed but also not be afraid to learn from mistakes and keep going. He said with the limelight on him so often, he’s had trouble deciding how he can represent snowboarding to the world. Ultimately, White decided that being himself and staying true to what he believes is the best route, which he has expressed through sporting different hairstyles and always wearing a helmet regardless if people thought it was not cool.
“I always felt like the same person through and through but all these amazing things were happening to me,” White said. “Being true to myself and doing what I wanted to do as always the right course.”
White said he will continue pushing boundaries and constantly strive for gold. He urges people to do the same in their own lives no matter what they are trying to achieve.