“So What if I’m a double amputee below the knees. I can still run that race.” There’s nothing more enabling than the power of positive thinking, the ability for all of us to face great challenges and fears with a will to figure out how to conquer them.
I had the privilege of hearing Aimee Mullins speak this week. Actress, model, one of People Magazine’s Top 50 Most Beautiful People, track star & world record holder, Olympian, and, oh yeah, double amputee.
Born with a genetic defect, Aimee lost both legs as a toddler, and learned how to adapt with her new prosthetic legs. She was dealt a tough card at the beginning of life, but approached life as a matter of course. Did she have a disability? Not at all. She was just a bit different, just as any person has their own unique differences. Whether Catholic vs. Jewish, white vs. black, Italian vs. Polish, she was the one with her legs made just a bit differently. And these legs did not stop her from doing anything. She was just as much of a contender in her large family’s sporting events as anyone else.
When Aimee went off to Georgetown, a person she met asked if she had ever considered competing in sports as a disabled person. Initially affronted (again as it wasn’t her mindset to be disabled), she took it into consideration, and signed up to compete in an event at MIT. So now it was time to figure out just what she would do. She tried the 100 meter. By the time she went to the event, she had tried to run the 100 meter three times. Not one of those times was she able to complete the distance. Arriving at the event, she immediately took note of the competition. Their prosthetics were technologically advanced (think Robo Cop) compared to her traditional wood and rubberized legs. The whistle sounded and she was off – picturing a big hairy monster behind her. She won, beating by a nose the current national record holder. A year later, she was the world record holder.
Amazing story. Her challenges and experiences have created an extremely wise woman. The primary premise of her speech was on leadership – how to face obstacles and creatively overcome them. As she noted, successful people train themselves to see adversity differently. It’s not a road block, but just maybe a bumpy turn in the road.
Below are some of Aimee’s wise thoughts. They’re worth taking note of.
1. Know thyself – it is the cornerstone of integrity. Self reflection is key. Remember that you are no good to others if you’re not good to yourself first. Think about what you want to change about yourself. What is your disability? Always remember not to overlook the advantage of being different. Be proud of yourself. Your best self celebrates all of your triumphs and challenges.
2. Our greatest creative fuel is facing our challenges. We survive when we move forward and adapt. Don’t figure out the ending before you’ve run the race. Hold onto your imagination and creativity – the regiments of adulthood can present huge barriers for progress. Never stop thinking like a child.
3. No one achieves greatness alone. Bring others along and make them feel great as well. Be determined. Be disciplined. And dream.
4. Embrace change and discomfort. Nothing else can make us grow as much. True to Darwin’s theory, it’s not the strongest or the most intelligent people that succeed; it’s the ones that are the most adaptable to change.