The Power of Women, Featuring Shannon Miller

Lisa Gable

March 15, 2022

Photography by Renee Parenteau

This week for The Power of Women, Lisa Gable met up with Shannon Miller, an Olympian, cancer survivor, health advocate and mom. Seven-time Olympic Medalist, Shannon Miller is the only female athlete to be inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame—twice! At the ’96 Games, she led the “Magnificent Seven” to the US Women’s first ever Team Gold and for the first time for any American gymnast, she captured Gold on the Balance Beam. She is the first American gymnast to win an individual gold medal at a fully-attended summer games and cemented her place as the most accomplished gymnast, male or female, in U.S. Olympic history. Read Lisa’s full interview with Shannon below.

Employees are exhausted after juggling family and work throughout the pandemic. Many are considering stepping back and those who resigned in 2020/2021 are reluctant to re-enter the workforce again. To recover from the aftermath of Covid-19, our nation needs all hands on deck but we recognize that each individual must find ways they can contribute while also meeting personal needs. Give us your thoughts about teamwork, maintaining a positive attitude and committing yourself to excellence during these complex times.

First, thank you for inviting me to take part in this edition. I feel like my life has had many twists and turns; it’s difficult to sum it up in just a few sentences. I am fortunate to hold some amazing titles like Olympian, Gold Medalist, President of my company dedicated to women’s health and fitness. I am also a cancer survivor and advocate for awareness, research and funding for significant health issues such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. However, my absolute favorite title is “mom”. I’m a lover of dogs, reading and golf. Mostly I hope each day to utilize my platform, gained through sport, to help others whether that is sharing my 10 Minute Fitness videos via social media, advocating with FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), continuing my advocacy with regard to cancer, diabetes and heart disease or traveling the country speaking to companies and nonprofits about the Gold Medal Mindset. Every day is an adventure, but my goal is to wake up and do something each day that helps someone focus on their health or motivates them to be their very best and overcome the challenges that they face. 

Photography by Renee Parenteau

We all face challenges, big and small, in life, work and even in our health. We get exhausted after juggling family and work, especially throughout the pandemic. You speak professionally with regard to the Gold Medal Mindset. What does this mindset mean to you and how can we utilize these lessons in our everyday lives? 

Facing challenges is not new to any of us. Some challenges are more complex, and some seem absolutely insurmountable. The lessons I learned through sport have helped immensely whenever I face a challenge whether it’s working through an injury, achieving a goal at work or even in my battle with cancer. They make up what I like to call the “Gold Medal Mindset” and include things like goal setting, teamwork, positive mental attitude, resiliency, and a commitment to excellence. Of course, you don’t have to be an Olympian to utilize these lessons. You do not need to do cartwheels or wear a leotard. The Gold Medal Mindset starts with an attitude of believing in yourself and understanding that what you do today matters. For example, setting goals is wonderful but it doesn’t stop there. It’s not enough to know what we have to do, we also have to do what we need to do if we want to be successful. Goals mean nothing if we don’t follow through with the work. To quickly run through a few others: For me teamwork means remembering to identify team members and utilizing them for a specific task. In other words, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Then make sure to contribute to your team and be a resource when someone else reaches out for help. 

I believe a positive attitude is always helpful. That doesn’t mean being cheery 24/7 but rather to have the ability to find something good to focus on. During the height of my cancer battle there were days just being able to focus on the fact that I got to have that day, that I was able to see my little boy…that day. That was enough to give me the strength to keep moving forward. Resiliency is that “get back UP attitude” that we have to have in life. It’s the old saying, “If you fall down 9 times, get up 10”. And for me a commitment to excellence simply means you go out each day and you give it 100%. You may not always win, you may not always be successful but as my mother would say, “If you give it your best then you can hold your head high and be proud of what you’ve done.” 

You and I share a common bond as our families have been touched by cancer. My husband has had a reoccurring malignancy for over 20 years. You survived your own cancer journey and used the lessons you learned through your Olympic training to persevere.  Can you tell us the top lesson you learned and what you want others to know who are struggling with a life-altering disease?

My cancer journey reminded me to truly cherish each day, to really look up and around and appreciate every moment. I’m a very goal-oriented person, I always have been. For most of my life I have moved at light speed from one achievement (or failure) to the next with little personal celebration (or dejection). I have always been more interested in the work it takes versus the actual outcome. My cancer journey showed me the importance of stopping and appreciating these moments. Another critical lesson for me was to understand I was not alone in the fight. A cancer diagnosis can be very isolating. You don’t want to burden anyone or complain.  I want everyone facing a cancer diagnosis to understand that there really is a team available, they want to help. One of my top priorities these days is partnering with others to create awareness around the availability of resources for both survivors and their caregivers. It is critical that people know they are not alone. 

Photography by Liliane Hakim

As a child of the 70s, I was an avid watcher of ABC’s Wide World of Sports whose famous tagline was, “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat”. Life is a roller coaster. Share with our readers why you wrote your book and how you hope to support others as they manage the ebbs and flows of life. 

My book, “It’s Not About Perfect: Competing for my Country and Fighting for My Life” was initially written to share the insight I gained through elite training that we can all utilize in the challenges we face. It became a memoir that includes much of my gymnastics career and shares my cancer journey. Ultimately, I wanted this book to be a message of hope.

What women inspire you the most?

Too many to count. I would say my mother was my biggest inspiration. 

What are you doing to inspire the next generation of female leaders?

I hope that I can share with other women through speaking or example, that through hard work you truly can achieve amazing things. It may not always be easy, the road will have plenty of curves and hills, maybe even some potholes, but when you work hard, good things will happen. 

What advice do you have for a young woman watching who’s trying to break through or a woman who might be re-entering the workforce?

As an advocate for women’s health, I would remind all women to take care of themselves along the way. Prioritizing your health is not selfish. In fact, focusing on your personal health is about being there for all who depend on you. And it has the added benefit of setting a great example for those around you. Get those screenings and exams. Work to find a healthy moderation in your diet and exercise. Take time for yourself so that you can recharge.