What better way to rejuvenate during the dregs of winter than with a hearty dose of motivation?
For the next installment of The Knowledge Guild, Speakers Corner and The Brewery teamed up once again on February 6th, 2017, to bring you our latest speaker showcase. Now four years into a fruitful partnership, those of you who are familiar with this events series will know that, three times a year, we gather together the best speaking talent within their industry to talk on a particular theme. This time round, we decided to focus on ‘Extraordinary Lives—The Path to Achievement’ to blast away those February blues and ready ourselves for an exciting year ahead!
Hosted by TV star and comedian Clive Anderson, our guests were regaled by the stories of three outstanding motivational speakers—Paralympic swimmer Liz Johnson, blind adventurer Miles Hilton-Barber and intrepid mountaineer Cathy O'Dowd—who, against the odds, have all carved incredible careers out of achieving the impossible.
On Monday evening, glad rags on and excitement levels high, we began welcoming invitees from the world of professional events to The Brewery—a historic venue in the heart of the City. Wine in one hand and tasty canapés in the other, we headed into the main room for the presentation kick-off at 7:15pm, where our host for the night warmed up the audience. A familiar face from television, Clive was sure to draw on that wit that we know well from ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’ and ‘Clive Anderson Talks Back’ as he introduced our line-up.
Our motivational speakers took us around the world with their stories
First to the stage was Cathy O'Dowd to talk teamwork, risk assessment and project delivery… at a cool 8,848m above sea-level. The first woman to climb Everest from both the North and South sides, Cathy described the challenges faced during her very first experience of the precipitous peak in 1996 with the South African national expedition team and relates the lessons learned on that rocky ascension to common problems arising in businesses.
After dealing with harsh conditions threatening frostbite and broken bones, severely impaired vision upon entering a maze of rock towers and snow slopes, and running out of supplies at a crucial stage, the expedition team finally reached the top...of the wrong summit.
"How could a group of six supposedly experienced climbers make such a mess?" Cathy suggested three factors: the difference in expertise between the sherpas and the westerners; the small day-by-day structural aspects that broke down communication e.g. layers of clothing over the ears; and a desperate clinging on to the original plan when changes needed to be made.
The message here for businesses is that, when you attempt things that have never been tried before, you need to combine the clarity of the objective with a flexibility in terms of how you reach it, as well as rapid channels of communication that allow the expertise of all the team to be used. And as for Everest? Don't worry - they made it to the top of the right summit eventually. “But that’s another story,” teased Cathy, leaving her audience on a literal cliff-hanger.
Next up, the charismatic Liz Johnson took the stage to keep the intrigue and inspiration levels flowing. A Paralympic swimmer holding a Gold, Silver and Bronze medal, Liz was first introduced to the sport at the age of 3, following advice that it would help with her cerebral palsy, which renders the whole of her right side weaker than her left. It wasn't until later on in life, however, that she considered taking swimming to a competitive level.
And competitive she was. In 2008, after years of intense training, early rises and constantly smelling like chlorine, Liz fulfilled a lifetime ambition by winning Gold at the Beijing Paralympics, dedicating it to her mother who sadly passed away during the Games.
"One thing that I always had was that I was competitive; I always wanted to win. For me, that makes me who I am. It's about finding what makes you tick; what makes you get out of bed in the morning."
Now with a plethora of World Championship medals under her belt, Liz's enthusiasm, energy and resilience was an undeniable boost at The Knowledge Guild that left us feeling that there is nothing you cannot do if you're determined enough, no matter what's standing in your way.
Why? Because: "Every obstacle presents you with an opportunity."
“The only limits we have in life are the ones we accept ourselves,” was the key lesson of our third and final speaker for the night, Miles Hilton-Barber, whose knack for firing off inspirational quips in a lightning-fast flourish immediately charmed the Knowledge Guild audience.
After going blind from a degenerative disease, Miles explained how he acted like a victim from 21 to 50, until his brother, also totally blind, turned his life around by setting an example with his amazing adventures. Miles now makes it his own mission to do the same for his audiences.
Having adopted a totally different mindset, the adrenaline junkie has spent his life since he was 50 leaving no stone unturned and no mountain unclimbed. In 15 minutes, we learned that sledging across Antarctica, running ultra-marathons through the Sahara and climbing 17,500 feet into the Himalayas are not only possible; they are possible without sight - something that many of us take for granted.
Blind or not: “The day you realise you only have one life, is the day you are given two”. Looking around at the faces of Knowledge Guild attendees, it's clear that his point has struck a powerful chord.
Highlights from our February Knowledge Guild!
After opening the stage up to a Q&A, Clive took questions from our guests for Cathy, Liz and Miles, before inviting everyone to meet the speakers in person over a drink by the bar. Another successful Knowledge Guild, it was the enlivening evening that we all needed to brighten up a cold February - and we're already looking forward to our next one!
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