When I was a little girl, my parents encouraged my sister, brother and me to get involved in sports. My parents believed sports would be a positive influence in our lives, and they saw sports as a tool to help us sharpen the skills that we needed to succeed in school, and broadly speaking, in life.
They were so right.
Through skating, I've learned many lessons that I've been able to apply off the ice as well. I learned how to set high but realistic goals. And even during the long hours of training (six to seven days a week), I was still able to maintain a high level of self-motivation, and a positive attitude. Most athletes will tell you that competing at a high level is very nerve-racking and that in order to succeed, they need to be able to manage their emotions and anxiety during the most crucial moments.
I've also learned that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but even in the toughest times, you have to pick yourself back up. Competition has no guarantees, and you quickly learn to stay focused and be more determined when things become difficult. These same criteria apply in life.
As an athlete, I had the good fortune to travel all over the world representing the United States. My extensive globetrotting helped me gain insight about people with different cultures, beliefs, values and traditions. Today, those experiences allow me to effectively interact with people from different countries in my current position as an American Public Diplomacy Envoy.
The skills and lessons that I learned through sports are transportable. I believe that all successful athletes, whether they realize it or not, have the capabilities to be multidimensional people, excelling both inside and outside the sports arena. The skills acquired through sports can be applied in a variety of situations and career paths.
I look forward to continuing to discuss this topic with my fellow panelists and seeing everyone at the espnW Summit.
Michelle Kwan is a five-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist who now serves as a public diplomacy ambassador.