Living without limits.

A journey through living with out limits, limbs and conquering fear.


By Greg Mitchell- from Smile Teachers.


Pick a number between 1 and 4.


Now keep this in mind as I take you on an incredible journey that will help you unlock yours and your student’s full potential.


Now imagine that this afternoon, while you are doing bus duty that a bus driver is going to be distracted by a fly on the windscreen or a phone message or a random eclipse of the sun and completely, accidentally runs you over!


You wake up three weeks later and you find out that you have lost a limb or two or three or four.

That number is determined by the number you chose in the first sentence of this story!


Now choose which limbs you are going to lose! You can choose an arm or a leg or a combo or if you chose four you have no choice at all!


I have done this activity (with images like the one to the left) with thousands of students and one hundred percent of them choose to keep their dominant hand if they have a choice.


I then see how quickly they can adapt to their new imagined situation.


“Stand up if you have just lost both legs.” I call out.


It is amazing how many students stand up. Everyone laughs and then it dawns on the newly legless students. Some though take a while to get the point!


“Why are you standing?” I propose.


“Why not?” Year 9’s often challenge belligerently.


“Because you can’t stand up if you haven’t got any legs!”


They then scrunch up their eyes and engage in metacognition and sheepishly sit down…


The point I make to them is that accidents by their very nature are surprising, they are random and hurtful and the effects of them are often not recognised at all. (As opposed to “surprises” which are the kind of accidents we would like to happen.)


When these thoughts sink in, I ask them the next carefully crafted question in this step of the winding emotional journey of wonder.


“What are you going to do with your life now that you are missing a limb or more?”

Most students end up somewhere in the Paralympic field but many have no idea.

So then I take them on a walk on the wonder side.


“Imagine that you have lost just one leg, what would you do?” and I get students to talk to a partner to figure out the possibilities.


Then I ask who would choose to become a dancer?


And then I show them this clip…



Here’s a part of Reynald Ojeda’s story from Reuters SoundOcean


Colombian Reynaldo Ojeda lost his left leg at birth due to complications - but that did not dim his zest for life and in particular his passion for salsa dancing. He has now become a star on a YouTube with a video showing him dancing salsa with dance partner Claudia Sanchez with the help of a crutch. Despite his disability, 33-year-old Reynaldo has now become one of the best salsa professional dancers in the Colombian capital city of Bogota. But success has come at a price.


During his youth he was the target of cruel jokes and girls shunned him. He was discriminated against by employees and was bullied at school for his disability.


"When I graduated from high school and had my own responsibilities, I started circulating my C.V. among companies; from companies I thought would help me. But they rejected me, disabled people were discriminated against. That was a difficult stage for me and being a teenager at school was also tough because a disabled person was looked down upon."


Reynaldo has been dancing since childhood. He learnt to dance salsa with his cousins and sister - becoming an inspiration to the disadvantaged.


"I go out and do my thing, go out and dance, go out and express what I have learnt over many years; that I am no longer that disabled person, but a living example of self-improvement and an example for others to follow. Some people tell me that they thought about committing suicide, but after seeing me, they rethink about doing it."


While students are absorbing this I ask “What would you do if you lost both your arms?”


No one answers “Pilot”.


So then I show them Jessica Cox.



Jessica Cox was born 1983 in the US) is the world's first licensed armless pilot, as well as the first armless black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association. She was born without arms due to a rare birth defect.


There is a great film about her called “Right Foot”.


What I love about Jessica’s story is that she became a pilot because she was scared of flying!


After this I wonder “What would you do with your life without both legs?” by now students have kind of figured out that they should be thinking outside the box, but no one chooses gymnastics!


So then I show them Jen Bricker.




This story is even more astounding, in that it has the double insight into being able to overcome the labels of disability plus the issue of abandonment, adoption and reconnection.


Finally we get to say “So what would you do if you lost both your legs and your arms?”


One student said quietly “Nothing”.


So then I introduce them to the awe-inspiring Nic Vujicic



Nic is now known by almost a billion people on the planet for his incredible insights, strength and his evangelical missions. Nic has been all over the world presenting to all kinds of audiences, he regularly inspires students and teachers by building resilience and self-worth.


All of these people are great inspirations, but although they are vastly different people, nevertheless they have several things in common.


All of them have been labelled disabled and none of them are, these people are “differently-abled”.

All of them have rejected using prosthetics as they grew older, although Jen Bricker still uses a wheel chair, simply to make it quicker to move around… in the manner that most people use a car.


All of them defy common logic and push the boundary of “common sense” and all of them are amazing adapters with a flexibility of the mind that most neuro-typical people with all of our limbs are not.


All of them have an endless talent for inspiration…


Jen Bricker says that the best day of her life was the day she was abandoned in a Romanian orphanage by her birth parents. Why? Because without that incredibly sad event she would never have met her incredibly supportive adoptive parents.


You will also have noted that every one of them has abandoned the word ‘can’t”.


How many times have you said the word “can’t” to others or to yourself today?


I believe the word “can’t” has disabled all of us.


We all have an incredible fear of what we lack rather than what we have.


For me it’s the problems I have with reading and writing. Writing this blog is like a marathon to me and a huge chore! My dyslexia slows me down and my brain’s solution is called “procrastination”.

While assembling these clips I have been distracted by clips of dancing competitions, the best waterslide clips, two bits of toast with peanut paste, a couple of cups of tea.


AND NOW my brain is really telling me to go for a walk now because it is going to rain tonight.

I wouldn’t check my emails or twitter feed because I will never finish this! All the while the three sides of my brain are at war with each other.


The rational side is saying “just get it done!” and the crazy paranoid psycho half is screaming, “No one will be interested in this and someone will have to edit this and they will know that you are stupid and 2000 words is huge and you should be angry with who ever told you to write this much and….” and my procrastinating brain is going “There’s a football game on television and you really do need milk and….”


This is tiring but normal. Each of these fabulous people have these arguments but they are forced by the reality that they live in to consider alternatives that most of us can’t even entertain.


In a world that is made for people with two arms and two legs, every move they make involves adaptations which enables them to see the world from a totally different perspective.


I believe my dyslexia is an advantage.


I am a really good story teller and I believe, I am a pretty good teacher because of my processing problems … just don’t get me to teach spelling, although when I first started teaching my little Year 2 students used to tell the superintendent that “He is getting better at spelling because we help him all the time!”


You see if we decided that reading and writing were discriminatory against people like me and that you had to teach children without reading and writing first up we would not have to differentiate.


Reading and writing would still be in the instruction but not until it had meaning, context and a purpose.


This is the type of thinking you develop when you move your mindset from a fixed mindset, to a growth mindset and onto a benefit mindset.


You may have noticed that all of these amazing people educate others simply by being and they intentionally reach out to others by sharing their perspective. This is the magic of the Benefit Mindset.


The Benefit Mindset is when we not only set out to fulfil our potential, but choose to do it in a way that contributes to the wellbeing of others and society as a whole. This happens when we question ‘why’ we do what we do, and believe in doing good things for good reasons.


Reynaldo, Jessica, Jen and Nick would all agree that it is not who the person is but what that person does that matters. Their point of difference is that they are packaged differently from most people and they have had to work harder to define who really are.


This has made them assess their disability as an essential part of their own being and strangely as a gift to the world.


Nick Vujicic has travelled to several places on the planet where disabled people have been discriminated against, humiliated and abused. In these countries he has drawn huge crowds and pointed out that he would have been aborted, discriminated against, humiliated and abused in the country that he is speaking in.


The challenge for us all is to assess the internal limbless-ness we all possess, bring it out into the world of light and talk and own those seeming weakness , when we do this we will truly become ourselves and can then contribute to others.


My guess is that shame stops us too often from doing what Nick asks students to do…

· To be thankful for who we are

· Dream big and to

· Never give up.


Here is a family who has embraced this challenge several times over.





The Denehey family is indeed a testament to the fact that sharing enriches our life with happiness. By opening their home to children who needed love and care they have created happiness not only in their own lives, but in the lives of the children who never thought they’d be so lucky as to become a part of such a big happy family.


Altruism I believe is the antidote to narcissism and it takes us to level of happiness that greed cannot.


Here are nine ways to go about the changes you need to make without losing your limbs. They come directly… (I directly copied them to make me get over the word limit and they are phenomenal) from David Gray’s book Liminal Thinking.


Nine practices to help you minimize reality distortion, envision possibilities, and create positive change.


1. Assume that you are not objective. If you’re part of the system you want to change, you’re part of the problem.

2. Empty your cup. You can’t learn new things without letting go of old things. Stop, look, and listen. Suspend judgment. What’s going on?

3. Create safe space. If you don’t understand the underlying need, nothing else matters. People will not share their innermost needs unless they feel safe, respected, and accepted for who they are.

4. Triangulate and validate. Look at situations from as many points of view as possible. Consider the possibility that seemingly different or contradictory beliefs may be valid. If something doesn’t make sense to you, then you’re missing something.

5. Ask questions, make connections. Try to understand people’s hopes, dreams and frustrations. Explore the social system and make connections to create new opportunities.

6. Disrupt routines. Many beliefs are embedded in habitual routines that run on autopilot. If a routine is a problem, disrupt the routine to create new possibilities.

7. Act as-if in the here-and-now. You can test beliefs even if you don’t believe they are true. All you need to do is act as if they were true and see what happens. If you find something that works, do more of it.

8. Make sense with stories. If you give people facts without a story, they will explain it within their existing belief system. The best way to promote a new or different belief is not with facts, but with a story.

9. Evolve yourself. If you can be open about how change affects you personally, you have a better chance of achieving your aims. To change the world, you must be willing to change yourself.


To further develop your ability to influence others and teach with a Benefit Mindset. Join us in an online webinar, at our Perth Workshop or in Bali in January at our Teachers Retreat.

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