At age five, Bonnie St. John had her right leg amputated. At age 19, she became the first African-American to win medals at the Winter Paralympics, taking home a silver and two bronze medals.
St. John went on to attend Harvard where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in economics. She was then awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, one of the world's most prestigious scholarships, to attend Oxford University where she also studied economics.
So how did this self-described "one-legged black girl from San Diego" go on to achieve so much? St. John says it's because she "just went for it."
"No adult made me stop and I didn't stop myself," she says at the Women's Sports Foundation's third annual Athlete Leadership Connection Conference.
St. John, who has worked at IBM and in the White House as the director for human capital issues under the Clinton administration, tells CNBC Make It that the biggest hindrance to success is "asking for permission."
The Paralympian says that she sees this most often with females in her current role as a leadership consultant for Fortune 500 companies, in which she supports leaders who are at the "forefront of business transformations."