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Kelly Clark on Career Development

When you start snowboarding, you don’t necessarily think of it as a career. Just like anything, you start out because you like it, it’s fun, and you hope you get to do a lot of it. Like with a lot of career choices, you might start to notice a bit of talent you have for something. Then you combine that with passion, and start to consider what it would look like to pursue this thing further.

When I started snowboarding, there was no such thing as X Games and we weren’t in the Olympics. It wasn’t what my dad would have called a “solid career choice.” It’s amazing to see how far its come over the past 20 years. Before that, I had women like Anne Molin, Nicola Thost and Shannon Dunn to thank for helping pave the way for what a career in snowboarding might look like. Whether you’re talking snowboarding or biology, the progress of any field depends on the mindset of its members.

n 2002 I went to Japan right after I won gold medal at the Olympics. It was great to be on my snowboard again. P: Jeff Curtes

n 2002 I went to Japan right after I won gold medal at the Olympics. It was great to be on my snowboard again. P: Jeff Curtes

Snowpark with Blotto in 2008. The pipe was a zoo that day, but we got the shot. 

Snowpark with Blotto in 2008. The pipe was a zoo that day, but we got the shot. 

Park City in 2009. I’ve always loved this photo. I had been working on getting my board parallel to the coping after seeing a tail grab from Hood that I liked from Nico. P: Adam Moran

Park City in 2009. I’ve always loved this photo. I had been working on getting my board parallel to the coping after seeing a tail grab from Hood that I liked from Nico. P: Adam Moran

No matter what you’re doing, the most important thing is to remain teachable. Realizing that you’re never going to arrive, or know it all, or be the best: that’s a super important part of career development, because it allows you to continue to develop, always. The other most consistent thing I’ve seen in my career is that you get out what you put in, all the time. I’ve never been the most gifted athlete or snowboarder—there have been people more talented than me around me my entire life—but I’ve made the most of opportunities. I always appreciate the work ethic my parents instilled in me, because contrary to popular belief, the more successful you are, the busier you get. The relationship between success and effort isn’t inverse—if I want to continue to create value, I need to continue to work just as hard or harder than I did the day before.

A backside 5 from last year’s X Games. I always like to say it’s a switch frontside air with a snap like this…that would be nice. P: Blotto

A backside 5 from last year’s X Games. I always like to say it’s a switch frontside air with a snap like this…that would be nice. P: Blotto

The success of our careers depends on our personal attitudes toward progression, but sometimes it’s inspiring to think bigger-than-me. I’ll always be a snowboarder, but I want to build something that outlasts the ability I have to perform. Whether that’s continuing to develop product with Burton, or continuing to create access to the sport through my foundation, I want to leverage the platform I have now to create value beyond me showing up and winning a contest. I want to be a voice and an influence on snowboarding for a long time, and know that snowboarding’s better off because I’ve been a part of it.

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