Advice for life

03 Jul 2019

Inspirational, entertaining, thought-provoking, real. Through their wit, wisdom, and good old-fashioned advice, the speakers at this year’s Emerging Leaders conference made for a truly memorable day.

Paralympian bladerunner Liam Malone shared with honesty and humour the story of how he turned his life around to become one of New Zealand’s greatest athletes, winning two golds and a silver medal at the Rio Paralympics in 2016. He wasn’t a runner, crowdfunded to buy his first pair of blades and, after training – hard – on his own, had to convince a coach to take him on. “When I started to train the idea of revealing my legs made me feel physically ill. I was so nervous because I’d never been an athlete before ... but I had to succeed, I had no choice.”

He learned how to manage stress by using mindfulness, put together a team that focused on collaboration, communication and creativity, and became fascinated by the relationship between biology and technology, how it can be used and how far it can go. “Blade running is about the relationship between the user and the technology. For the first time in my life I was not simply good at something, but was the best in the world.”

Liam took full advantage of the incredible opportunities that opened up for him as a result of his success. Since retiring, he has worked in the realm of Artificial Intelligence, become an angel investor, created stand-up comedy, run a marathon and started training for an Ironman. He is restless, curious, always open to new ideas. His advice? “Be authentic, be real, do the work and be honest about what you want to do, surround yourself with good people, and practice mindfulness, practice everyday, and go out and make the most of life.”

Associate Professor of Marketing at UC Ekant Veer talked about failing vs failure, and how failure has come to be seen as something bad. “Most successful people have failed at some point in their life, failing happens a lot, but a sense of failure can become a state of mind that affects behaviour.”

He shared some ideas about how to build resilience, manage disappointment and use failure as an opportunity for growth.

After a successful career in hospitality, Ronald McDonald House South Island CEO Mandy Kennedy found her true calling in charitable work. “I meet incredible, courageous people every single day and it’s a true privilege to walk alongside these families on their medical journey.”

As well as plenty of practical tips, Mandy encouraged the students to work hard, follow their passions, but make sure to have “a whole heap of fun along the way.”

Nutritionist Marco Mollo dished up a hearty “four course” strategy focused on nutrition and wellbeing. “We need to look after our health so we can show up and get the most out of each and every situation.”

Marco stressed the importance of enough sleep, healthy and nutritious food, and regular physical activity to ensure optimum performance.

Therapist Jessie Kendall talked about how she learned to manage her own mental health issues and mild disability and now dedicates her life to helping others. She stressed the importance of lifelong learning. “I didn’t let my past dictate what I was capable of and what I could become. We all have an authentic power – the ability to work on ourselves and improve our lives. Become more aware of how you think, because the mind is the greatest vehicle for change.”

Isaac Giesen hasn’t just rowed the Atlantic once, he’s done it twice – and, in the final session of the day, Isaac took all the students along for the ride, asking them to imagine they were also rowing across the ocean, letting the cares of life on land wash away. He explained some of the practicalities of life at sea, the food he ate, the creatures he saw, the challenges he faced and the thrill of landfall, and shared his tips for getting the most out of life. “In life there are always ups and downs, a constant battle between highs and lows, but keep rowing. Whatever happens, keep rowing.”

Hundreds of students from schools all over Christchurch and Canterbury came together at College on Tuesday 2 July for Emerging Leaders 2019. Many of them will step up and take on leadership roles in their schools, all of them now have greater insight into how best to approach their lives.