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Shawn Johnson: “It’s ok not to be perfect”

After leaving the world of gymnastics, I knew I wanted to be a part of causes and campaigns that truly made a difference in people’s lives. That’s why my recent partnership with Duracell just made sense to me. The brand launched their new lithium coin batteries with a bitter coating meant to help deter accidental […]

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After leaving the world of gymnastics, I knew I wanted to be a part of causes and campaigns that truly made a difference in people’s lives. That’s why my recent partnership with Duracell just made sense to me. The brand launched their new lithium coin batteries with a bitter coating meant to help deter accidental ingestion, and I was so excited to be a part of it not only because I am a new mom and in the “baby proofing the home” stage, but because hundreds of children swallow lithium coin batteries a year, and Duracell is working to decrease that devastating trend.


As a part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shawn Johnson.

At 28 years old, American gymnast Shawn Johnson has accomplished a lifetime of achievements that include Olympic Medals, a New York Times best-selling book, several businesses, a career in broadcast, and a mirror ball trophy after winning Dancing With The Stars. Born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Shawn’s girl next door charm led her to be named “America’s Sweetheart.” After retiring from gymnastics in 2012, Shawn made appearances on several TV shows including The Apprentice and Adventure Capitalists. Shawn married Andrew East, with whom she has documented her life with on their shared Youtube channel which has over 100 million views and a podcast which has climbed to #2 on the overall charts.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

I was so active as a child and doing things like always jumping off of furniture, and my parents always took me to the “padded playground,” which was indoor gymnastics. I absolutely loved it, but my original dream wasn’t to be an Olympic gymnast — it was to be an Orthopedic surgeon. Once that got derailed, I found myself winning gold medals in the Olympics and eventually made a giant career pivot to entrepreneurship when my time in the gym was done.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I found out that my husband launched our relationship podcast, Couple Things, six days after I gave birth. I was putting off the launch because I had never done anything like this before. While this may have caused an argument, we learned that sometimes you just have to jump in, and now it’s one of our favorite things to do.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Try everything, and don’t be afraid of failure. The more you fail, the more you will learn, and the better chance you have at succeeding.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

My husband, Andrew. He’s taught me so much over the course of our relationship, but most importantly he taught me that advice that I would be giving to younger people — try everything.

How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

After leaving the world of gymnastics, I knew I wanted to be a part of causes and campaigns that truly made a difference in people’s lives. That’s why my recent partnership with Duracell just made sense to me. The brand launched their new lithium coin batteries with a bitter coating meant to help deter accidental ingestion, and I was so excited to be a part of it not only because I am a new mom and in the “baby proofing the home” stage, but because hundreds of children swallow lithium coin batteries a year, and Duracell is working to decrease that devastating trend.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

Once my daughter became mobile, I realized very quickly that you simply cannot have your eyes on your kids at all times. Batteries weren’t even on my radar in terms of child safety, but after learning from Duracell the extreme damage that can be caused to a child’s esophagus in just under two hours because of swallowing a lithium coin battery, I took inventory of everything in my home and realized there were a lot of hidden dangers — like key fobs and bathroom scales. Partnering with Duracell has not only helped me keep my daughter a little bit safer, but it will help other families avoid major accidents.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

Because of this partnership, I learned about the story of Cameron Soto — a child who accidentally swallowed a lithium coin battery, which burned a hole in his esophagus just after his first birthday. Two years and numerous surgeries and treatments later, Cameron is on the very long road to recovery. Duracell created an educational video featuring Marisa Soto (Cameron’s mom), which highlights how horrifying the Soto Family’s experience was. Marisa has been working with the brand as well to tell her story, bring awareness to this issue, and to ensure that no other families have to go through what hers did.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/a47d9a353accdebd63868669d53fdc50

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Parents and caregivers everywhere can ensure that they are taking inventory of the items in their homes that use lithium coin batteries, secure all battery compartments and keep loose batteries away from children, and purchase products like Duracell’s new lithium coin battery that have child-safe packaging and a bitter coating to help discourage swallowing.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. It’s ok not to be perfect. Gymnastics breeds perfectionism, but we’re all human, and it’s our imperfections that make us unique.
  2. Eat more cake. I was always too concerned about what people thought of me. My image, diet, clothes, everything. I wish I could go back and eat more cake.
  3. It’s ok to pursue something you’re not good at.
  4. Ask for help. I’ve always dream of starting a coffee company, but never knew where to begin. I used to be too prideful, but I finally asked for help, and now I have a coffee company.
  5. Learn from everyone.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My dream is to start an international formula bank so no baby goes without food, and no parent has to worry about when their baby will eat next.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

Everything happens for a reason, and failure often brings success. Being an Olympic athlete, the idea of failing is so scary because you feel like you’re letting your entire country down, but little reminders like “everything happens for a reason” would often get me through the day and they got me to where I am now.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Greta Thunberg — my dream is that she could meet my daughter, Drew, and teach her that she can use her voice for good. She can create change while also following her dreams and passions.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

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