Winter Olympian Scott Kneller talks working smart, the power of connection and embracing uncertainty

Scott Kneller Winter Paralympian
Image 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.

As a dual Winter Olympian and freestyle skier, Scott Kneller knows that even with meticulous planning and preparation, life is unpredictable. It’s a lot like competing at an elite level, too. Diligent training can prepare you for most things on the slopes, but a change in weather and snow conditions on the day of a race can impact the warm-up process, just as much as the race itself. But there’s one tool he says particularly helped steady his direction.

“What I tried to live by was ‘control the controllable’. There's so much that can change – being an outdoor sport subject to the elements,” he says. “You need to be able to be flexible and adapt. It’s not worth stressing about stuff you can't control. You need to focus on what you can do.”

Scott represented Australia at the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 and again at Sochi 2014, before transitioning into a career in project management and engineering, and currently, develops property and sporting infrastructure for clients at a leading commercial real estate company.

He brought with him a suite of skills – and learnings – from his sporting career to the business world, ranging from the value of collaboration to working smarter, rather than harder.

“I always had a lot of confidence when I was at the starting gate [of a race], knowing that I'd worked harder and longer than anyone else,” Scott reflects. But there is a more collaborative element to success, too. “It’s about aligning yourself with the right resources and the right people to get the most out of your performance. I think both of those elements certainly assist in life and in business.”

While the transition from a career as an elite athlete to property and project management wasn’t always easy, Scott made preparing for the next chapter of life after sport a priority, completing his university studies in commerce and engineering while he was competing on the world stage. But he says it was the positive influence of mentors – and one in particular – who really helped progress his career trajectory, an executive director at the company he works for.

“He gave me my first job after my skiing career. I was very fortunate to have been mentored by him,” says Scott. “We met at a fundraising event in Thredbo, and eventually I approached him for a job. I think he appreciated my work ethic and what I'd done previously, and while I was super green, took the time to teach me. I really appreciated that.”

Scott also had his fair share of challenges throughout this skiing career, including a serious injury at age 24, when he broke his back.

“There are always going to be setbacks, regardless of what you do. I really believe that successful people are the ones that get up time and time again and don't lose sight of their goals,” says Scott. “Being able to come back from both those injuries in Vancouver and Sochi highlighted to me that it's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to something, and when you’re determined and motivated enough. I take that approach into whatever I do.”