Eating the Elephant

So one of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to get into Public Speaking…

I kind of achieved that goal when I started working for the University as a Student Ambassador and began running workshops with High School kids. The thing is though, to be completely honest with you, running workshops with school kids on Journalism and Public Relations was always in my comfort zone.

Then, an opportunity came up when I was asked to run a workshop at #ONEWorldSummit in Melbourne. A group of highly motivated, inspired youth leaders makes an awesome audience and I was instantly excited… but also instantly nervous. I took this as a good sign.

I was initially asked to speak on Project Management. “Sure”, I thought, “I run lots of little projects, I manage my time effectively and can organise a team through from initiation of an idea to it’s execution”, but something just wasn’t right. This audience are changemakers, I want to inspire them.

I just so happened to be given a Book…

The book was called “How to Eat an Elephant” and it was about making little changes to your daily habits and routine to become healthier and more mindful. I thought the idea was great – to take this massive and somewhat arbitrary vision of “becoming more healthy and mindful”, and breaking it down into manageable chunks to actually get going and take the steps which will get you closer to the goal. I started to think that this applied to all big goals in life, and the reason we often get stumped on a goal and can talk about it but find it hard to take action is that it seems so bloody big. I’m pretty confident all of us have at some point or another been faced with a vision or a problem to which our initial response is “Where do I even begin?!”

So I Changed My Angle, to Tackling the Elephant

I have taken some of the most useful theories, concepts and exercises which I have come across that have helped myself and others close to me break our goals into manageable chunks. The following presentation should have enough information on it to be useful even if you weren’t in the workshop, and my details are in the opening and closing slides if you would like any further information. You can also contact me here.

 

It’s one thing to care and be passionate about a cause or a goal, it’s another thing to actually figure out how to tackle it, much like ‘eating an elephant’. In This workshop on effectiveness, we’ll be breaking down the huge goals and passions we have into manageable chunks. A number of exercises and activities inspired by awesome change makers around the world, focusing on your own goals, will have you looking more analytically at your vision, your thinking and your actions. You’ll leave ready to take that first or next step towards achieving your dream and making change!

An Ability to Make the Impossible, Possible

Have you ever wondered how far belief can take a person? We live in a society of labels. Of Men and Women, of Rich and Poor, of Black and White, of Gay and Straight, of Disabled and Abled. Although none of these labels define who we are as people, they frame the way that other people, and society as a whole, view and treat us. So what can we do? We can challenge these labels, and break free of the constraints that these social constructs place upon us.
 

Meet Martyn

Martyn Sibley is a 30 year old guy living independently in London. He has a beautiful fiance, has earned a Masters degree, drives a car and has travelled as far as Australia. He has SCUBA dived and runs his own business… He also happens to have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Diagnosed since birth, Martyn cannot walk, shower by himself, or lift anything heavier than a book.

As someone who has never let a label restrict his dreams, Martyn, in his own words, has decided that his goal in life is to “inspire, inform and change the world around disability issues.” and is leading by example.


Childhood

SMA is a genetic condition, meaning that Martyn has had it since birth. He’s never walked or known any other way of life. Despite this there has still been a share of the hard times, times where in comparison to friends and society he’s realised he’s different and has had to come to terms with his disability.

As a young child it was hard knowing I wouldn’t play football for my beloved Tottenham. As a teenager it was hard to party, meet girls and imagine a great career.

Fortunately, Martyn got through these negative phases and found a way to see his disability as something to be overcome, rather than a restraint. He has developed into an adult who never sees a brick wall, only an obstacle, and loves his life and the people he shares it with.
 



Blood Ties

Family and friends are important to all of us, but for Martyn, the most facilitating thing his family have done is to look through his disability, and only see him.

Ever since I can remember my family, friends and colleagues never saw my disability. Of course they’ve had to help me, do things differently, and be aware. They’ve just done what was necessary and off we went.

Martyn’s mum in particular was a very strong, positive and encouraging influence in his life.
 

She found my flying the nest difficult because of our bond, but she’s a big reason why I’m so out there and happy now.

Making the Impossible, Possible

Because of his upbringing and support from family, Martyn has always lived with an attitude of making things possible; Where others would look upon his condition and shake their heads, Martyn nods and always finds a way. It was his decision to start blogging however, that truly refined this stance on life.

I was at a Fundraising conference for my work with the disability charity Scope, and I attended a social media workshop. A guy called AJ Leon spoke about telling your story, building a community and making a call to action. He also spoke of living a life of purpose.

This struck a chord with Martyn, and he really took Leon’s advice to heart. Ever since, he has written, posted pictures and recorded videos on his website, www.martynsibley.com. By not only continuing to do the things in life Martyn loves and cares about, but by also blogging about his journey and experiences, he has realised that he has found his life’s purpose; Changing the world through inspiring others to make their dreams possible too.
 



The Beginning Of Many Adventures

Living with SMA has made every major life event more complicated for Martyn. Going to University meant he had to grow accustomed to strangers doing his personal care and travelling to Australia meant funding PAs, getting on an aeroplane with a wheelchair and exploring new terrains. The complications Martyn faced on these adventures didn’t stop him. Instead, the more challenges he overcame, the more he believed was possible and the more he realised that so much could be done to improve the accessibility of everyday tasks for those in need.

Flying a plane over Stone Henge and SCUBA diving in Tenerife was awesome. However some days getting out of bed, accessing a local cafe and seeing a gig is made difficult by our still inaccessible world. Luckily I love a challenge and get a buzz from showing the world what is possible. We need to ensure the basics aren’t so tough and include everyone in everything.

From John O’Groats to Lands End

Following the blogs, the projects and travels a few things came together. Martyn, and his fiance Kasia, supported a Polish project where a lady went 2500km by wheelchair. At the time he was also an ambassador for Britain’s Personal Best and so Martyn decided that putting together their own version of the project made sense.
 

 

Following a couple of frantic months of logistics, PR and sponsorship planning; Martyn and Kasia headed to John O’Groats on September 4th 2013.

You can see the videos and pictures on my blog, but needless to say it was amazing! With Kasia on her bike, me in my wheelchair, the sites of Scotland and dramas of breakdowns in Bristol – we had it all. The media coverage and funds for our charities was fantastic too.

It was the day after Martyn returned from Lands End that I met him at the Britain’s Personal Best reception. The chair still covered in mud and Martyn and Kasia clearly exhausted, you couldn’t ignore the excitement on their faces of having conquered yet another challenge.


The Road Still to Come

In the coming months Martyn’s doing an accessibility review at Center Parcs, a Social Sector exchange in Tokyo, 3 months in the Catalan and a month in Poland. “That should keep me busy.” he added, before I asked him to tell me where he can see the future taking him more long term.

In general I’d love to be a dad, travel South America, write the novel I’m planning and basically have fun!

Overall, I’m living my life by my principles, educating society, inspiring disabled people and leaving a dent in the universe. I just want people to live their life by their own principles, and leave their own dent!

Meeting Martyn has been incredible. His passion and determination to live life to the max and to help facilitate others in their goals, whatever they may be, has been an inspiration. It has also been a reminder that whilst anything is possible, we all need to pull together as a community, and society, to help others achieve their dreams.