Two-time Winter Olympian James Matheson on the elements that construct a strong environment for success

James Matheson Winter ParalympianImage credit: AAP Image

Confidence plays an integral role in facing challenges, accomplishing great things and realising outstanding achievement in work and life. But success is rarely a journey that is travelled alone.

To celebrate the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, four remarkable elite winter athletes share their journey to success and the people who helped them #SparkConfidence as they navigated their extraordinary sporting careers and professional pursuits.

James Matheson is not afraid of a challenge. Whether facing a mogul course, a complicated skiing trick or forging ahead with his career outside of the sport, he approaches his goals with the same dedication and fearlessness.

Having competed at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, where he was the second best placed Australian male mogul skier, this year, James is representing Australia once again.

But there’s no rest for the ambitious. While navigating a successful skiing career, he has also dedicated time to preparing for life after the Olympic Games, completing a Bachelor of Commerce at the University in Sydney in 2020. He has also held several digital, strategic marketing and wealth management roles at a range of organisations, from start-ups to multinationals.

James’ journey to success is one that, in addition to his incredible talent and passion for the sport, has also been defined by collaboration, a sharp emotional intelligence and focus.

“Mogul skiing is an individual sport on paper. But at the end of the day, it’s the people around you, from fellow athletes you train with to coaches and wider support staff, who enable success,” says James. “It takes a collaborative effort to be the best you can be.”

As the host of a podcast where he sits down with leaders, visionaries and friends from the athlete community to explore how they found their mojo off the field of play, and uncover their journey beyond sport, he knows the value of working with and learning from others. “More than just a podcast, my vision is to use it to foster a growing community of athletes beyond sport,” he said. “It’s about how athletes have taken the skills they've learned but in sport, and then transferred them elsewhere.”

Mental preparedness is one such skill, from James’ experience as an athlete, that he says can be seamlessly applied to the world of work.

“When it comes to mental preparation, everyone is definitely different. For me, everything is about just keeping it simple. Within sport, when you get to this [elite] level and you've been doing it for so long, you already know how to do things well. For me, trying to overthink things too much can really get in the way.”

While it comes as no surprise that hard work is a key ingredient for success, James says that what has helped him is constructing an environment for success - a multi-faceted space that comprises mentors, collaborators and working consistently towards goals.

“[Sometimes] the hardest thing is asking for help. But people are usually willing to help,” says James. As for mentors and people who have helped shape his professional life, he mentions the networks he has gained through his university studies. “There was a mentoring program where we were paired with someone from the business world or an area of interest, and then [the University] facilitated it. It comes back to teamwork and surrounding yourself with the right people.”

So, where to next after the upcoming Olympic Winter Games? “I want to be working in the FinTech space. My plan is to just dive headfirst into the next chapter,” he says.”

But he’ll be bringing much more than his formidable skiing career to the table if the lessons he’s learned so far are anything to go by. “The similarities between high-level sport, or just sport in general, and business is a lot closer than people realise.”