Many of my problems are of the first world kind. Maybe many of yours are too. When my midlife crisis collided with the affluence required to buy a decent sports car, I made sure to get one with twin turbos. This, the sales guy assured me, was a way to avoid the dreaded "turbo lag". After gunning it on the way home from the dealership and discovering I still had the problem, I spent the following week's coaching sessions, thinking, "yeah, you think you got issues? I still have turbo lag!" I feel embarassed about that now, obviously–a rather stunning lack of perpective–but at the time, I was seriously stressed. I've been very lucky my whole life. That was the best I could come up with at the time. A worn out cliché.
Not everyone is so blessed.
In 2004, Josh Dueck crashed during a bold ski jump gone wrong, and began his life as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. He crushed his spine but not his spirit.
I met Josh during a cat ski trip to Mustang Powder for a Power to Be Foundation event. The charity, founded by Tim Cormode a quarter century ago, has the mission to help disadvantaged youth experience the healing power of the outdoors. This is something that Josh understands well.
To say that he held his own in the steep chutes and glades is an understatement. The first time I saw him wiggle his way through the waste deep powder–his whole face covered in snow-I felt a kind of inspiration mixed with mild shame. It was the look in his eyes. He clearly has character and poise: he is a multipodium Paralympic sit skier and the first person to do a backflip in one. But there was something more. It's what he's done with his life since.
Life is hard for Josh. The cat skiing was often terrifying as we dropped into the various runs and through the tight forests. The activity was hard on his body. Getting into and out of the snow cat and around the lodge required all sorts of assistance. But he remained joyful through out.
It's well-trodden personal growth terrain to seek the best in every person and situation, no matter how terrible. Josh is clearly an optimist and said that for the first ten years after his accident he was able to hold his mood high and "create opportunity from the unknown". Most people return, more or less, to a certain level of happiness after exceptionally good or bad events, like a lottery win or a bad injury. But Josh is clear that he would prefer to have his legs back. Turbo lag would be a treat.
Still, he's managed to inspire and empower others. Sports and outdoor activities are uniting forces in a world so polarized. He is a superb public speaker and we managed to coax him out for an after dinner speech, that gave us an insider view into the paralympics and life in a body with different capabilities than ours.
I don't know what I'd do if I found myself without the use of my legs. I am prone to depression and outdoor activities keep me from falling over that edge. I'd like to think I'd rally as Josh has, but I just don't know. At the moment I don't have to ask myself that question: more relevant is how I can follow my new friend down the bold path of making the most out of what I've been given.
What are you not making the most of?
You can book Josh as a speaker at https://joshdueck.com. Worth it!