I believe transformation is about choice, change and adaptability. In order to successfully transform yourself or your business, you first need to make a conscious choice to develop an opportunity. You will have to change the way you think, plan and execute, and you will need to adapt to your new self and the environment you wish to create.
I experienced what could only be described as an extreme transformation as a young man in my early 20s. A professional footballer at the time, I was cycling, training for a triathlon as extra fitness, when I was hit from behind by an eight ton truck. I came out of a coma several days later in intensive care, and over the coming weeks I had to come to terms with my new reality – spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair.
Over the four months I spent in the hospital, I realized I had a choice to make – I could come to terms with my new mode of mobility and embrace the things I could do, or I could retreat and ruminate on the past and what I wished I could still do.
At the time, I admit, neither choice was particularly appealing, but I do recall a moment sometime in the first few days after my accident, when deep in a coma, I could easily have let go of life. I remember wanting to live, indeed making a decision to live. Clearly I wasn’t done with living. The 27th of June, 1988 was not my time to check out.
So I chose to create my new self – mind you, this took the next year or so to evolve, as I started to truly accept I’d spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. Acceptance came gradually, but once I had it in my grasp I knew the choice to embrace a vibrant new future was entirely mine.
I had to change the way I thought, the things I did, and I had to challenge my mind and my body to see how far I could go. Always an athlete I had to adapt, not only to my wheelchair and how I saw myself, but to how others saw me and the options available for athletes in wheelchairs.
I discovered I could paddle and I entered races in a double kayak with my best mate. I tried tennis, and found I was good at basketball and made the national team. I bought a hand-cycle, and before I knew it I was entered in the triathlon I had been training for when I was hit by the truck. I did my first triathlon as a wheelchair athlete in 1994, 6 years after my accident. I enjoyed being in a field of able-bodied athletes, competing on the same course, starting and finishing on the same line.
After three attempts over three years, I then became the first wheelchair athlete to complete the Hawaiian Ironman in 1997. My swimming had improved with all the triathlons, and in 1998 I became the first wheelchair athlete to swim the English Channel.
My sporting career built year after year. I represented my country at the Paralympic Games twice, winning a silver medal rowing in Beijing in 2008. I competed in the world championships for Open Water Paddling, and I sailed one of the most treacherous bodies of water in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
It took me a few years to "find my wheels," but I did embrace my transformation and I had directed my own outcomes. I chose to become my new athlete self. I changed my thinking, my training, my belief in myself and my goals. I adapted to a new way of mobilising and challenged myself to give things a go.
Transformation, particularly personal transformation, is so empowering, such an immense sense of self achievement. I continue to live my life transforming, always seeking to challenge myself a little more, see if I can do something different, try that little bit harder.
After 25 years in a wheelchair I learned to walk again in 2013. Life is extraordinary.