Winning Balance: What I've Learned So Far about Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams

Winning Balance: What I've Learned So Far about Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams


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Winning Balance: What I've Learned So Far about Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams by Shawn Johnson

At age 20, American gymnast Shawn Johnson is a four-time Olympic gold and silver medalist; a national- and world-champion athlete. Already a popular role model to all ages, in 2009 she captured the national spotlight again when she won the widely popular Dancing with the Stars. Yet Shawn is no stranger to hard work and adversity. Her loss of the major gymnastics prize everyone expected her to win in Beijing, the all-around Olympic gold medal, was the loss of a dream she’d worked for since childhood. And later, she suffered a staggering injury in a skiing accident that forced her life to a halt and made her rethink what was really important. She wasn’t sure who she was anymore. She wasn’t sure what her goals were. And she wasn’t sure she was satisfied with where she was with her faith and God. Could she find the right kind of success in life—the kind that doesn’t involve medals or trophies, but peace, love, and lasting joy? This is the amazing true journey of how the young woman who won an Olympic gold medal on the balance beam became even more balanced.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414380926
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 04/01/2013
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 189,211
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Shawn Johnson is an Olympic gold and three-time silver medalist in women's gymnastics. She was the 2007 all-around World Champion and the 2007 and 2008 US all-around champion. Shawn won the eighth season of Dancing with the Stars as the youngest competitor in the show's history. She has appeared on Oprah, Today, Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show, and other programs. Shawn earned ESPN's ESPY Award for Best US Female Olympian in 2009; she also won the Teen Choice Female Athlete of the Year Award in both 2009 and 2011.

Read an Excerpt


What I've learned so far about love, faith, and living your dreams
By Shawn Johnson Nancy French

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Shawn Johnson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-7210-5

Chapter One


Other things may change us, but we start and end with family. —Anthony Brandt

The first score I ever received was given on January 19, 1992, at Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines. I was one minute old when the doctor took me aside to perform the routine Apgar test, a simple examination given to newborns to determine their health at birth. The Apgar—which stands for appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration—evaluates the baby's muscle tone, heart rate, facial movement, reflexes, and breathing. Based on those factors, the test assigns a score from zero to ten.

After taking medication to prevent premature labor, my mom had anxiously waited for her due date—and then waited some more. Despite fears that I would arrive early, I actually arrived late. When the doctor discovered the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck, he called a neonatal specialist to work on me as soon as I was born. My parents could tell something was wrong by the concerned look on the doctor's face and the frantic way the nurses were caring for me.

They watched as the specialist worked on me in the corner of the room before telling my parents that they needed to move me to the neonatal nursery. Dad followed the nurses when they whisked me away. He wasn't going to let me out of his sight. And I wasn't looking good. The first thing Dad noticed was that my skin looked gray. The doctor said I had been without oxygen for a while, so I wasn't responding the way a healthy baby should. They put me in an incubator for forty-eight hours so they could monitor my health, and I became more responsive pretty quickly.

Only later, when my parents were going through paperwork, did they see the score of my Apgar test: a big, fat zero.

By that time, though, I'd recovered from my trauma and looked like any other healthy six-pound, nine-ounce newborn. My parents were hoping I'd be strong enough to one day run and play like other kids, but they had no idea that the nearly seven-pound bundle of joy they were holding was a future Olympic champion.

After all, even if I'd had an easy birth, there was no reason to believe I'd be particularly athletic. Dad played hockey and wrestled in school, but Mom never participated in organized sports. She did gymnastics recreationally but never competed. However, both Mom and Dad roller-skated, which is what brought them together. They met when they were only thirteen years old at a roller rink in a small Iowa town. Maybe it was the romantic music playing over the loudspeaker or maybe it was just destiny, but soon they were skating hand in hand around that rink.

They saw each other around town whenever possible, even though they didn't attend the same school. Because her family moved several times, Mom attended three different high schools in the area. Yet Dad was a constant in her life. Mom had a little motorbike, which she would ride four miles to see him. They also sat together at football games, and Mom started going to Dad's wrestling matches. In 1977, they decided to get married two weeks after Mom graduated from high school. Because she was just seventeen, she had to get her parents' permission. Needless to say, their engagement raised eyebrows around town. The fact that I didn't show up until fifteen years later quieted the rumors.

In the meantime, Dad went to work for a construction company, learning to frame and then becoming especially skilled at interior trim work. Several years before I was born, he and his brother started their own contracting business. Mom, who had grown up helping her mom keep the records for her stepdad's business, continued working in bookkeeping and accounting.

Growing up, Mom's family had moved around a lot, so once she was married, she worked hard to create a warm, welcoming home with my dad. Not long after they married, they got a dog, the first of several family pets. Dude, their first golden retriever, arrived just about a year before I did. He would become one of my first playmates.

Once Mom was pregnant, they talked about choosing the perfect name. They loved "Shawn," which was going to be my name whether I was a girl or a boy. If I'd been a boy, I would have been Shaun Douglas, after my dad. However, since I was a girl, I was named Shawn Machel (pronounced like the traditional spelling "Michelle") after my mother, Teri Machel Johnson. I used to hate my name because the kids at school thought it was a boy's name. However, I've grown to love its strength, uniqueness, and meaning: God is gracious.

By the time we left the hospital, my parents had the healthy newborn they'd waited so long for. Though they were certainly ready to welcome a baby, Mom was a little afraid. I seemed so delicate and tiny. When she gave me a bath, she was more hesitant than if she had been washing fine china. When she changed my diaper, she was worried she'd hurt me.

That's how Dad ended up doing a lot of the bathing and the feeding when we first came home from the hospital. After working all day doing trim work, he would come home and immediately bathe, feed, and take care of me until bedtime. This might explain why I'm such a daddy's girl even to this day.

Once when I was still a baby, I was lying on the couch when Dude, who had just noticed movement outside the window, jumped on top of me to get a closer look. Mom was convinced that I'd punctured my lungs and frantically called the doctor.

"Well," he asked, "is she breathing?"

"Yes," my mom replied.

"Then," he assured her, "she's going to be just fine."

After a few months, Mom learned I wasn't nearly as breakable as she thought. She found that my arms could actually be raised and bent to fit into my tiny clothes. My head survived, even when she stretched the opening of a shirt to fit around it. Bathing me and changing my diaper now came naturally ... no matter how much I wriggled.

And—wow—did I wriggle.

In fact, by the time I was about six months old, my mom began noticing that when I eyed something, I was so determined to get it that I rolled sideways until I could reach it. I completely skipped the crawling stage. When I was nine months old, my parents looked up one day to see me toddling into their room, grinning from ear to ear. I had flipped out of my crib and sauntered to their bedroom. They had no idea how I'd learned to walk.

I never slowed down after that. Once, I crawled up on the kitchen counter to try skydiving. (Hey, I was little ... so the counter seemed as high as the sky to me back then.) When I landed, my teeth went through my bottom lip, and there was blood everywhere. But that injury didn't stop me for long. As a toddler, I would pile all of my toys on the floor as a makeshift ladder to reach the top of our entertainment center. From there, I'd jump onto the red leather couch, pretending it was a trampoline.

Even more fun than trying these daredevil tricks myself was urging my cousin, Tori, to do them with me. Tori, the daughter of my mom's sister, is two years older than I am and a bit more cautious. I had to talk her into doing flips over our couch. When she stayed over on Saturday nights, we'd sleep in the bunk beds in our basement. I loved to do flips and pull-ups on them, as well as hang from the bars. At first Tori just watched, but before long she was doing them with me.

Tori and I also loved to play outdoors. Sometimes we dressed up and acted out stories; other times we would take turns tying a rope around our waists and pulling each other in a wagon. Since I was smaller and younger than Tori, I'd also jump on her back and let her carry me around.

I'm an only child and Tori's brother is eight years older, so I guess it's not surprising that we not only played like sisters—we also fought like them. I admit I was usually the instigator. When we'd be playing in the basement, occasionally I'd hit her lightly, waiting for her to respond. Almost always, she'd give me a funny look and keep playing. But I'd go running upstairs, crying that Tori had hit me. Though she was the one who got in trouble, she never held it against me.

Tori also joined me in my first tumbling and dancing classes. Because I was so physically active, Mom decided she needed to find an outlet for all of my energy. Even though Tori went with me, I had no desire to continue either of those activities. So my mom took me to a local gymnastics center and signed me up. It's not that she was particularly fond of the sport. She just knew that I needed a large, open (and soft!) place to play. And I loved it. Even though the coaches were very strict, I enjoyed tumbling and running and always had a smile on my face while I was there. For three years, I happily went to the gym at least once a week. My coach told my mom that I was full of energy, but not full of talent.

Then Mom heard about a new gym that was closer to our home. One day after dropping me off at my gymnastics class, Mom drove to that facility and watched a class through the windows. She was struck by how happy all the young gymnasts appeared and how much fun they seemed to be having. She never imagined that she was staring at my future.

Lesson I've Learned

Even if you fly high in life, stay grounded. From the time I was very small, my parents supported my daring ventures out into the world, while making home a place I always wanted to come back to.


Excerpted from WINNING BALANCE by Shawn Johnson Nancy French Copyright © 2012 by Shawn Johnson. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


A Note from Shawn....................ix
"My Lord's Prayer"....................xi
Part 1 Finding Fire....................1
CHAPTER 1 Unbreakable....................3
CHAPTER 2 Finding My Place....................9
CHAPTER 3 Just a Normal Girl....................21
CHAPTER 4 Inspiration....................29
CHAPTER 5 The Secret Video....................35
CHAPTER 6 Not Your Average Summer Camp....................41
CHAPTER 7 "Who Is That Girl?"....................47
CHAPTER 8 Watch Me, World!....................55
CHAPTER 9 A Cast and Some Power Tools....................63
CHAPTER 10 Travails and Trials....................71
CHAPTER 11 Nothing Is Certain....................79
Part 2 Champion....................83
CHAPTER 12 Handstands at 35,000 Feet....................85
CHAPTER 13 The Showdown....................93
CHAPTER 14 The Day I Grew Up....................99
CHAPTER 15 Do Not Make Bob Costas Angry....................107
CHAPTER 16 A Truly Winning Balance....................113
CHAPTER 17 More Than I'd Bargained For....................123
CHAPTER 18 Last Night in Beijing....................133
CHAPTER 19 Proud to Be an American....................139
CHAPTER 20 The Best of Both Worlds....................147
Part 3 Dancing through Life....................151
CHAPTER 21 Hollywood, Here I Come!....................153
CHAPTER 22 Finding My Space....................161
CHAPTER 23 An Arresting Development....................167
CHAPTER 24 Little Bullets....................177
CHAPTER 25 The Mirror Ball of Glory....................185
CHAPTER 26 Learning to Be Me Again....................193
CHAPTER 27 Shaping Up....................199
CHAPTER 28 How God Became More Real to Me....................203
CHAPTER 29 Wipeout....................211
Part 4 Coming Back....................217
CHAPTER 30 Everything Changes....................219
CHAPTER 31 The Surprise Announcement....................225
CHAPTER 32 A New Identity....................231
CHAPTER 33 Just Believe....................237
CHAPTER 34 No Regrets....................241
"My Heart"....................247
About the Author....................253

What People are Saying About This


Olympic gold-medalist gymnast Johnson has written an endearing memoir of her rise to winning three silver medals and one gold at age 16. Every bit as interesting are her accounts of coping with the aftermath of fame, both as an Olympic champion and as a reality-TV star on Dancing with the Stars. Among the details: slips on the balance beam in front of Olympic judges, spats with parents, learning to wear heels, and realizing that what looks good on TV—makeup and hair extensions—can look strange in person. Johnson’s “balanced” beginnings seem almost too idyllic at the start of the book, but as her struggle toward Olympic glory plays out, we come to appreciate the sturdy values of parents who knew instinctively to honor her high energy and uniqueness. Johnson emerges as a powerhouse champion with a winning attitude, always making the best of circumstances, even an injury that could have ended her career. Her book celebrates both family love and faith in God as wellsprings of strength. A solid offering from a woman wiser than her years suggest she might be.

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Winning Balance: What Irsquo;ve Learned So Far about Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My mom went to a Christian bookstore fair and actually was able to meet Shawn. I extremely enjoyed reading her book. Shawn Johnson is very open and honest, talking about a variety of key moments in her life - from growing up in Des Moines, dedicating almost her entire childhood to becoming one of the world's greatest gymnasts, the fierce competition at the Beijing, a brief but impacting experience in Hollywood, the fear of the man who was planning to kidnap her, a skiing accident, and finally her vital decision to end her career competing. Additionally, she includes some poems she wrote throughout her teen years, and parts from her journal. I highly recommend her book. It is an excellent Part One to her life. Shawn is a great role model to many people today. Since many magazines have written a lot about her, I am glad she took the time to sit down and share her side of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's hard to know their life outside of gymnastics.This book showed it !! !!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is AMAZING... Great story of Shawns incredible journey. Highly recommended!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book if you are a gymnast or an athlete or nothing anyone can connect!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a real gymnast because i am 10 and already have 10 medals and 1 trophy and this is my first season Shawn autographed my book because Ryan is my cousin (Not kidding)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi all you gymnasts! Please follow me on twitter and facebook! And always try your best and follow your dreams! Love, Shawn A. Johnson
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read Dominique Moceanue's book (Unbalanced) and then this one. Two gymnasts make the same journey in incredibly different ways! Shawn tells her story in a positive upbeat way and we learn more about the world of competitive gymnastics. Enjoyable read for sure!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having been a gymnast, Shawn Johnson was my rolemodel. I always commented about how easy her and the other olympic athletes make their sports seem. Reading this see that Shawn struggled throughout life, whether it was in the gym or when she was left alone on the playground because no one would play with her. Shawn tells the many stories I already knew but in ways the magazine articles and newcasters can't. She lets you see a lot more than you ever thought was going on behind one of America's sweetheart's famous smile. But she helps everyone to see that if you fight for what you want and stay true to who you are, you can achieve the best "gold medal" of them all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She is such a good.role modle amd she's great at gymnastics. Really like this book because it tells her life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cant read any if my nook tablet book they all just wont show any words and it is making me made if anyone knows how to fix it please tell me.!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I need to know the lexile but great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is it good? #isitgood
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got the sample and didnt want to buy it cause i can buy it cheaper but i read the sample and really want it know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is such a great book. Right when I read the sample it had me and I was so temted to buy the book. So I did! I am almost done with it and it is so inspiring. In words, it is a book that I would recomend to a friend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shaw johnson basically just tells about how she became an olympian and all of the stuff she had to do to get there. It is not an auto biography she said in the book she just wants it to be a normal book. Overall it is an outstanding book and is very interesting. I want to become a gymnast in the olympics or atleast an elite gymnast. If you like gymnastics you should read this!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. It is a book all about Shawn Johnson's life, from the time she started training for the olympics, until now. Shawn tells alot of details about her trip to Beijing. In Beijing she picks up a relationship with Taylor, a olympic cycler, finds a huge fan club, and suffers a bit of homesickness. She also tells about her life afterwards, like Dancing With The Stars. And trying to train for london 2012. Overall it is a great book . For ages 10-adult
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very up close and personal of an amazing personality!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was great
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my favorite book I have ever read it really inspired me
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Shawn Johnson has a very balanced, down to earth healthy outlook on life. Although she is young she has gained wisdom and unlocked truths about life that people twice her age are still struggling with. I definitely recommend this book. I never read books twice but this one is a book I think I will read again just because it is so motivational, positive and inspirational. Shawn Johnson is a great person and I am happy she allowed fans to get to know her better through this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I need advice shawn i have been doing gymnastics for 4 years and the highest trick i can do on floor is a front tuck and on beam backwalkover vault half on bars kip how do i get better i go to saddle rock school of gymnastics wich is not competitive
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Look into Shawns world before 2008 summer Olimpics!!! #lovehertotaly Oh My Goodness! How do Olimpions stay cool? They have many fans!!!! Ha Ha Ha
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi all you hardworking gymnasts, Hi hope you all keep up that hard work and go towards your goals. - Shawn .A. Johnson