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Building resilience in times of extraordinary change

Motivational speaker, adventurer, mountain climber - Warren Macdonald is many things but most of all he is a survivor.

In 1997 Warren set out to make the gruelling climb to the top of Australia's spectacular Mount Bowen.

But what had begun as a two-day adventure suddenly turned into a nightmare when Warren found himself lying in a creek bed, both his legs pinned by a giant boulder.

Two days later he was rescued, only to undergo the amputation of both legs at mid-thigh.

The accident on North Queensland’s Hinchinbrook Island changed his life forever.

But just 10 months later, he climbed Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain. Then in 2003 he scaled Mt Kilimanjaro.

That’s where Warren’s story starts. It’s an inspiring tale about embracing life from a man who almost lost his.

Warren will be the closing keynote speaker at RCSA’s second digital conference, Revival on September 17.

He will share his life story and discuss the power of perception, the need for resilience, and how to build a breakthrough mindset.

Five minutes with Warren

Where did you grow up?

In Melbourne. I live in Canmore, Alberta now but have always been kind of restless. I got bitten by the travel bug pretty bad in my mid-20s and spent a couple of years travelling through Europe, and then Africa.

What has been the defining moment in your life?

In April 1997 I set out on what was supposed to be a five-day hike along the Thorsborne Trail on Queensland's Hinchinbrook Island.

On the second day I had an accident that dramatically changed the course of my life.

I'll talk about it more during Revival, but at the end of the day, I ended up losing both of my legs.

Needless to say, my life became pretty different from that day forward.

I had to learn how to navigate, how to not be shut down at the first sign of an obstacle (of which there are many when you're living life as a double amputee).

I believe there is a lot to learn from others' experiences, especially in times of uncertainty and hardship, and I went through my own revival after my accident.

You could say I had to literally rebuild my life from scratch, so I'm looking forward to sharing some of the ways I went about doing that with the Revival audience.

What will you be discussing at Revival?

The primary point of my presentation will be based on the importance of how we see and how we perceive a given situation.

That's where the rubber hits the road for me. No matter what happens, we have a choice in how we see.

We all know that person that sees disaster at every turn, while others witness the very same thing and see it totally differently.

What the first person doesn’t realise is that they had a choice in that moment to see differently. I'm going to be talking about how we can make that shift in perception.

What were the main challenges you faced after the accident?

Apart from the obvious mobility challenges, there was dealing with other people's perceptions on me.

It drove me nuts when I caught people looking at me, feeling sorry for me. I remember thinking ‘Hang on a minute, you have no idea who I am. You have no idea what I'm capable of’.

That morphed over time into a realisation that a big part of how others see us is how we see ourselves first.

How did you overcome such major obstacles?

Honestly, because I had to. What happened to me was so extreme, that in some ways made it easier to push back, to want to reclaim my life.

What really helped was that mindset shift, that feeling of not wanting to be limited, of asking myself ‘what if?’. Of telling myself ‘why not?’. 

In a time when a lot of people are struggling, how do you encourage people to find resilience?

I've always said, the best time to build resilience is before you actually need it.

I call it practising resilience, and you do it by choosing to do something, anything, that is outside of your comfort zone. 

The second-best time to start building resilience is now. You don't need to go out of your way to find challenging situations in this environment, we're all living it, so what you need to do is engage with and take on the challenges presented, not shy away from them.

Many people have lost their jobs and are struggling to find work in the current climate, what is the main advice you can give to help keep people moving forward?

Keep. Moving. Years ago here in Alberta, when the price of oil first tanked, I was driving through the city one day and it really struck me as to how many people were out running. Like, way more than usual.

This was at a time when many in the city had been laid off, and I remember thinking, that’s the best thing you could do right now in this climate.

Pick something, and running is an easy one because most of us can run (or wheel in my case), and just go with it.

Find a win by getting yourself in better shape (not to mention you're building resilience while you're at it).

It sounds so simple, but it works. Just find something, anything, to get some traction and to keep your life moving forwards.

What key points do you want the audience to take away from your upcoming talk?

You're much stronger than you think. When you change the way you see, everything changes.

All Revival registrants will receive a code to download a free digital copy of Warren Macdonald’s book - A Test of Will

For more details about Revival, to view the speaker line-up and to register, click here.

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