Chris Waddell always thought that the lessons he learned in sports would provide the foundation for later success. As a ski racer at Middlebury College in 1988, he had no idea how profoundly one moment could change and paradoxically enhance that conviction. On December 20th his ski popped off in the middle of a turn. He fell, broke two vertebrae, and damaged the spinal cord. Paralyzed from the waist down he learned and achieved more than he could have imagined.
He returned to college just two months after the accident, started monoskiing in less than a year and was named to the US Disabled Ski Team a little more than two years after that paradoxical moment. With 12 Paralympic medals, he became the most decorated male monoskier in history. Also a track athlete, he’s one of a handful to have won World Championships in both the winter and the summer. He competed in four Winter Paralympics winning 12 medals and three Summer Paralympics winning a silver medal in the 200 meters in Sydney. In World Championship competition, Waddell won 9 total medals: four gold, one silver, one bronze; six in the winter and three in the summer.
Waddell was inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and the Paralympics Hall of Fame. The Dalai Lama honored him as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion”. People Magazine named him one of the “Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World”. Skiing Magazine placed him amongst the “25 Greatest Skiers in North America”. Middlebury College presented him with a Doctorate in Humane Letters.
In September of 2009 Waddell became the first nearly unassisted paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. The film documenting the climb has won awards throughout the world. He has appeared on Dateline, Oprah and 20/20.
He is the founder of the One Revolution Foundation and speaks throughout the country sharing his universal message, “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you.”
The Power of Change
Learning is painful and hard
2 diametrically opposed desires: security and growth
Stop growing learning and dreaming we’re essentially dead
No choice. Change or perish
Our greatest moments, when we look back, are when we changed for the better
Opportunities to learn from each other. What happened? What did you do?
Eliminate emotional part: Change doesn’t mean failure.
Change before change finds you
Culture of change: pursuing a direction, accepting that there will be specific diversions along the way and opportunities to revisit the strategy
Achieve Your Goals
How often do we say that something is impossible and it’s entirely true until someone does it? Why not us?
Depression after competing. Didn’t want to be passionate. Cut myself off from optimism, the trigger to my greatest power.
Dream, imagine, make it personal
Achieving goals=growing as a person—confronting fears, improving skills, growing confidence
Confidence not what we can do—it’s knowing we can handle whatever comes our way
Goal bigger than ourselves. Make a difference and tap into greater power
Learn triggers to best self. How were you at your best?
Run toward fear
Embrace the Struggle
No matter how smart, rich, strong, educated we are we will struggle. Death of loved ones, divorce, bankruptcy, disease, addiction or many other things will have the power to force us to question everything we believe about ourselves and every decision we’ve ever made.
I know struggle of traumatic injury but more damaging the struggle of complacency, indecision, and insecurity
When I look back I miss the struggle (the two a day training sessions, the times that I was so sore it felt like someone had hit across the top of my back with a baseball bat) more than I miss the medals. The daily struggle was the part. It was my connection to my world and friends and colleagues
Struggle was belonging
We have the ability to determine how we react
Be the underdog
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Talent abandons us when it’s most needed
Little things matter, daily routine, showing up everyday makes change
What does winning look like
Find strategies (those are yours. You made a difference)
All guaranteed is struggle and journey
Struggling is a game we can win either by emerging from struggle or turning struggle into something we can enjoy
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