Following a serious motorcycling accident that nearly lost him the use of his legs, James Ketchell became the first British person to row single-handed across the Atlantic and summit Everest. A hugely inspiring motivational speaker, James' key message is that we can all potentially set ourselves difficult goals and achieve them: the capability to succeed is within everyone.
Motivational speaker and serial adventurer James Ketchell has built his reputation on courage, determination and sheer grit.
On 1st February 2014, James became the first and only person to have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, successfully summited Mount Everest and cycled 18,000 miles around the world - in what the media dubbed, “The Ultimate Triathlon”.
Seven years prior to all this, he was recovering from a serious motorcycle accident that left him with broken legs as well as a severely broken and dislocated ankle. The prognosis was that he was likely to suffer a permanent walking impairment and would certainly not be able to continue the active physical lifestyle he had enjoyed up to that point.
James talks with candour and enthusiasm about his response to that challenge and the way he has, in his words, “without doing anything special”, set about physical tasks that most of us can only imagine experiencing.
He describes his approach to these extraordinary tasks -how he continuously set incremental and achievable goals, how he drew upon a capacity for making and cementing contacts to secure the necessary support and how he prepared for and experienced the physical effort these challenges demand. As James tells his story, the listener will often find it easy to believe that they too could achieve the extraordinary.
James is passionate about the places he has been and the people he has met and talks with knowledge and affection of their lives, culture and beliefs and of the debt he owes them. He is particularly grateful to the Sherpas who assisted him on Everest, as they were instrumental in helping him off the mountain when he succumbed to a severe lung infection on the descent.
The key message that James reveals is that we can all potentially set ourselves difficult goals and achieve them: the capability to succeed is within everyone. His practical and pragmatic lessons include the importance of interim goals, breaking the task down into small, achievable steps, each one of which increases the commitment to the overall goal; the need for self-belief; the willingness of others to help if only you dare to ask; and, finally, the value of persistence.
James also talks about disappointment, something he had to get over in 2015 when attempting to row across the Indian Ocean and was rescued two weeks into the row after his boat capsized injuring his rowing partner. The pair were picked up by a 100,000-ton crude oil tanker and subsequently their rescue was international news.
James is deeply involved with schools and charitable organisations, where he provides motivation through speaking about his adventures, and relating his tale of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
He is also a Scouting Ambassador, where has been tasked with raising the profile of scouting in the UK, in order to encourage more adult volunteers to boost the movement.
As he neared the summit of Everest, James learnt that the last few hundred metres are completed a mere ten steps at a time, until the summit is in reach. With hindsight, this has been the secret of his success to date.
His speaking topics include:
- Motivation: how to set yourself challenging goals and to achieve them
- Organising and logistics: the need for a network; the value of persistence; setting intermediate goals; pushing the boundaries
- Rising to the challenge: overcoming adversity and staying positive
- The rewards: what it feels like to achieve your goals and how to create a performance culture
- Places and people: there is nothing better than the personal experience
- Helping others: what others can learn from this