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Climb Your Everest - How To Reach Your Goals Against All Odds

Since breaking his neck in his first professional rugby match, Matt King OBE has gone on to become a motivational speaker, Formula One solicitor, author, record-breaking marathon runner, skier and the youngest ever recipient of an OBE.

At the summit of your personal Mount Everest lie your goals, your ambitions, your dreams. Climbing towards this summit requires desire, a good amount of hard work and a strategy to help you negotiate the perilous path towards achieving your dreams.

But what happens when those dreams are suddenly crushed, when the achievable becomes unthinkable?

As a 17-year-old boy, this is where I found myself. Lying on a pitch having made my professional debut just 20 seconds earlier, a broken neck left me unable to move any part of my body, feel anything below my neck or even breathe for myself.

Quite simply, surviving this tragic hand of cards was the very best I could wish for. That is, if I even wanted to survive.

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"In this new life of mine, I didn’t know what the next hour would bring"

Up to this point in my life, I had always known what lay at the summit of my Everest: a career as a pilot in the RAF. But with my world turned upside down, I was lost, not knowing what to aim for.

What followed were nine months spent recovering in three different hospitals during which I had to learn to cope with having every little thing done for me, and to me: feeding, drinking, washing, toileting… I could not achieve the most basic human functions for myself. And all of this whilst breathing through a ventilator and sitting in a wheelchair for 14 hours a day.

In those most desolate of days, I knew I faced a battle to see a way forward, to get a foothold on the first rung of the ladder towards “rebuilding my life”. This goal became new Everest.

But what exactly did “rebuilding my life” mean to me? In this new life of mine, I didn’t know what the next hour would bring, let alone the next day, week, month or year. I knew if I focused on the destination goal of “rebuilding my life”, I would quickly lose direction: it was an unidentifiable, unquantifiable and utterly unachievable.

But choosing to focus on my journey, rather than the destination, was my way forward.

By breaking the meaning of “rebuilding my life” into the smallest of component parts – the building blocks of success – I gave myself the smallest of challenges, challenges I knew I could succeed at. With each success came a growing sense of pride, purpose, but more importantly, progress, towards gaining a foothold on the first rung of the ladder on my journey.

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"My overriding ambition was not to let my aspirations be defined by my disability"

Lying in that hospital bed, I learned that when the path ahead seems blocked, when your dreams seem unachievable, do not lose focus, do not lose direction… And never stop moving forward!

As you raise your eyes to the sky and look toward your Everest, in that moment in time, concentrate your efforts into securing a foothold on the next rung of the ladder, whilst never losing focus on where that ladder is taking you…

And once you have secured a foothold, simply reset your target and continue to climb.

Laying in the hospital bed, the first rung on my ladder was simply being discharged home – 254 days following that fateful day on the pitch, I had taken that most difficult of steps and was, for the first time in a long time, embracing the challenges which I faced.

Right, so what next? For me, my overriding ambition was not to let my aspirations be defined by my disability, and I knew that returning to school and gaining qualifications would open the doors to building a career for myself and ultimately becoming fully independent. Two months after returning home, I started my first day back at school…

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Matt receiving his degree

Climbing each rung of the ladder has seen me recalibrate my goals, refocus my objectives. Never on the summit, but always on the next rung of the ladder, the journey – leaving hospital, returning to school, graduating from university, qualifying as a solicitor and in every sense of the words, “rebuilding my life”.

Each step has opened up new possibilities and given me the confidence to climb higher and higher. Today I no longer need to rebuild my life, but to simply live it.

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Matt being awarded his OBE

I never knew what rebuilding my life looked like, nor entailed. But as I now sit here having overcome all that life could throw at me, I realise that the summit of my Everest was never to merely rebuild my life, but simply to be happy. And in that, I can truly say I am. 

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