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My story is one of tragedy, incomprehensible loss and triumph.
On Labor Day of 2003, my family and I were flying from northern Michigan to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. As we were preparing to land, the aircraft crashed and burst into flames. My dad threw me out of the plane to save my life. He went back into the flames to get my mom, Julie, my sister, Lindsay, and brother, Ian, but tragically, was unable to. My mom, sister and brother did not survive. My dad and I grieved the loss of our family members but we found ways to keep living in the midst of the incomprehensible pain. We pushed each other to overcome, as we knew my mom, sister and brother would’ve wanted.
Eventually, my dad met a lovely woman named Kimberley, who had three kids of her own. They got married and together, we formed a wonderful blended family. Meanwhile, I worked hard on my basketball skills and began to have success on the court. My dream was to play for The University of Michigan. On June 15, 2011, Coach Beilein offered me a full scholarship to play basketball for The University of Michigan, which I accepted. It was a dream come true.
Nine days later, on June 24th, 2011, my father and “second mother” were flying to Northern Michigan to have a weekend of celebration. As we were preparing to land, the aircraft crashed, and my dad and second mom were killed on impact. I suffered severe injuries and was nearly killed myself. After being in a coma for over two months, I had to relearn how to walk, talk and basically how to live my life. With the help of many incredible doctors, nurses, therapists, my family and friends, I made a great comeback to take the place at The University of Michigan that coach Beilein held open for me.
Ten years later, I am a graduate of The University of Michigan and am a full time motivational speaker with a message about Grit & Thriving in the midst of adversity. I consider myself blessed to be in a position to add value to organizations across the country. My message is about my journey from a coma, to a wheelchair to playing for Michigan. Yes a lot of things had to happen to achieve my goal, but more than anything, it took some Grit.
A lot of people have talked about Grit recently, Grit seems like a good trait for both people and for organizations to possess. It has been said that Grit is working hard for a long period of time. Grit is about consistency over the long term, not just intensity in the short term. That’s true, but how can we apply Grit to our daily lives? How can we use this idea to help us, not merely survive adversity, but thrive in the midst of adversity? How can we use Grit to help us achieve any goal we set for ourselves and for our organizations? I believe the following definition applies to, not only overcoming adversity, but to accomplishing any goal, as well.
There are four key components to Grit, but I believe Grit is driven by having a Greater Purpose for why we do what we do. If we are working just for ourselves, it is very likely that we will eventually face some form of adversity that will cause us to give up because we don’t have a driving force for why we do what we do. If we are working for something bigger than ourselves, I believe we will always do what it takes to get the job done, no matter the task and no matter the circumstances. Our Purpose drives Grit.
Growth Mindset, the first component of Grit. The Growth Mindset views every setback, every failure, every adversity, is an opportunity. Adversity is opportunity in disguise. Even when we inevitably fall short of a goal, the Growth Mindset does not believe that is a permanent condition. We can use it as an opportunity to get better. Adversity does not define us. Adversity can refine us if we approach it with the Growth Mindset. The event will not be a source of growth, but I believe we can grow from how we choose to respond.
Resilience, the second component of Grit. If we make the decision to be Resilient, we take Massive Action in the face of adversity. It took Massive Action to go from a coma to playing for Michigan. I believe achieving our goals in the midst of challenges is the result of taking Massive Action, consistently. Integrity, the third component of Grit. In the context of overcoming adversity, or working to achieve any goal, I believe Integrity is about following through on our commitments, especially when our circumstances change. Integrity is doing the common things in an uncommon way, consistently.
The result of doing the common things in an uncommon way is we will leave people and places better than we found them.
The Team First Mentality is the final component of Grit. I believe we should always think about our teammates first. We should train ourselves to think We before me. Every person on every team has a role and that role is very important. We can all contribute to the team’s success. If do our very best to fill our role to the best of our ability, the only impact we will have on our team is a positive impact.
I believe that part of the reason I survived two plane crashes, endured tragic losses and made a great recovery, is to help others. We all face challenges every day, and I believe that it is my purpose to help others find ways to thrive in the midst of them.
Why is it that some people and groups are able to overcome adversity while others are not?
When you look at all individuals and organizations that have been able to persevere in the face of great turmoil, tragedy, and tribulation, there is one thing they all have in common… GRIT.
In this keynote, Austin shares his personal G.R.I.T Framework that will equip you and your team to:
Best-Selling author of The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent
Cross Country Skiing – Gold Medalist in Korea & Team USA’s Closing Ceremony Flag Bearer
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