Rick Hansen was a budding athlete in five different sports with dreams of being an Olympian when, tragically, he suffered a spinal cord injury at the age of 15, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Rather than suffer through the injury as most people would do, Hansen turned the tragedy into a new avenue to master. He worked through rehabilitation, graduated high school, and became the first person to graduate with a physical education degree from the University of British Columbia. He helped his teams win national championships in wheelchair volleyball and basketball, and competed for Canada in both the 1980 and 1984 Paralympics, bringing home a record six medals in racing.
In 1985, having already mastered the world of Paralympics, Hansen embarked on his most audacious journey yet, mastery of the entire world…literally! With fellow British Columbian Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope as his inspiration, Hansen started his Man in Motion World Tour, a 26-month, 40,000 km journey through 34 countries to raise money for spinal cord research. Despite little media attention when he began, Hansen arrived in Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium on May 22, 1987 to cheering crowds, and with almost $26 million for research and quality of life initiatives raised.
Hansen’s lifelong commitment to athletics highlights that for some people mastery of a discipline is at the heart of their life’s work. Even without the money (and there wasn’t much in the beginning) Hansen would’ve worked just as hard to compete at a world-class level. That he was paralyzed merely dictated which events he would compete in, not whether he would be the best. Like Hansen, many people get up and go to work each day so that they can get better at what they do. For them, the journey is as much a reward as the actual reward.
Let me know what motivates you to go to work every day. Are you motivated to be the best like Rick Hansen? Do you have incentives in place for your employees who are motivated by mastery? Leave your comments below.
Peggy Grall is a guest blogger for the OREA Centre for Leadership Development