I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who will reflect on 2020 and say – ‘that was the best year I’ve ever had!’. It has objectively been a bad year. 

And to make matters worse, we are not all in the same boat. Some people are sailing on a super yacht, complete with full staff, a hatted chef and a giant jacuzzi and while the ocean isn’t exactly calm, they are only suffering from mild sea-sickness, so things aren’t terrible. Others don’t even have a boat. They’re clinging to a plank of wood they found drifting in the ocean. The seas are wild, the forecast is grim and they have no idea of their location. They only know that the water looks sharky and there’s a good chance pirates are close by.

There are some things we can control and some we can’t. Sometimes we can’t control the size of our boat (or plank of wood) and we most certainly can’t control the weather. However one thing we can control is our mind and the way we handle this challenge. Everyone’s approach will be different and I think it’s important to respect that.

When I was young, I unfortunately decided to look up the word ‘disabled’ in the thesaurus and this is what I saw: challenged, impaired, halt, lame, immobile, ailing, diseased, ill, incapacitated, sick, unfit, unhealthy, unsound, unwell. The antonyms of disabled were: fit, healthy, hearty, robust, sound, well, whole, wholesome. I found it extremely upsetting. Those words didn’t resonate with me at all. I remember reading the words out loud to my Mum and when I was finished, she took the book out of my hand, tore out the page and threw it in the bin. Then she looked me in the eye and said with strong conviction: ‘It does not matter what is written in that book, you will only ever be constrained by your mind’. It was a pivotal moment for me. The beginning of believing that my arm wasn’t going to hold me back. My mindset was the only thing capable of that. 

What my Mum was actually doing was giving me an early education in what it means to have a growth mindset. She was teaching me how to break free from the perceptions and expectations of others. The goal of her message was simple: The way you see yourself is the way others will see you. From that day forward I wanted to be seen as someone who was capable and able and fit, healthy, hearty, robust, well, whole and wholesome.

The concept of a growth mindset was coined by psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck and it’s the belief that our basic qualities can be cultivated through dedication and hard work and with help from others. In contrast, people with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are carved in stone and no amount of hard work can change the situation. In essence, talent alone doesn’t lead to success. Grit and determination are essential for great accomplishment. 

I think it’s important to emphasise two things. Both are key ingredients for a growth mindset: support and a struggle. Support can come from anywhere. For me, a huge amount of my support has come from my parents, but small acts of courage and kindness from strangers have also shaped my mindset. 

Second, the struggle. There needs to be an element of being in the trenches and doggedly finding the way out. As I foreshadowed in my previous post, the past 6 months has been a particularly unsettling time for me and my business and I have had to call deep on my courage to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Growing up with a disability and being an elite athlete has made me resilient and gritty, but it took hard work. On a daily basis. Constantly failing to figure out how to tie my hair, tie my shoes, climb on the monkey bars (which on one occasion led to me breaking my right arm), peel a potato – all those little things on a regular basis led to a view that no matter how hard things were, I could navigate my way through. 

We tend to see ‘failure’ or ‘challenge’ as a negative thing. I’ve learnt to view those things positively. I’ve never navigated a challenge where I haven’t grown as a person through the process. I read recently that when NASA selects its astronauts, they reject people with pure histories of success, and instead select applicants that have bounced back from failure. The ability to be agile, problem solve and innovate are often fabulous byproducts of a challenge. 

Despite the challenges I’ve faced, having a disability is actually my power. It’s equipped me with the skills and mindset required to navigate this one strange but glorious life. It’s given me more grit, more determination, more empathy, more resilience as well as the opportunity to meet inspiring people – and for that I’m very grateful.

What you see as your greatest challenge is often your pathway to power. 

Whatever mindset you adopt today will determine where you’ll be tomorrow, so even if you don’t know what path you’re on, look ahead and take the first step, in the direction that makes the most sense to you. That’s a great start!


Here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to this month: 

I was featured in a spotlight interview with Women in Innovation, a global community of innovators working together to build a world where women are defining — and designing — better futures.

I was honoured to be announced as a Minerva Legend an organisation dedicated to supporting elite female athletes and professional sports women. 

I also was interviewed by Port Phillip Publishing, Australia’s largest independent publisher of financial information and research about resilience and determination.

Lastly I had the honour of speaking at Qantas alongside their CEO, Alan Joyce, about the importance of resilience and wellbeing in these difficult times.