I'll admit I can be cynical when it comes to inspirational speakers. When you cover enough conventions and annual meetings, you get to hear a variety of such talks.
But there was something about Amy Purdy's message during NAHAD's annual convention. Her talk made me take notice and listen. And she definitely had the attention of the hose makers and distributors in attendance.
In case you don't know her story, she was an active athlete, competing in snowboarding. At age 19, she contracted meningococcal meningitis, a vaccine-preventable bacterial infection. She had both legs amputated below the knee, and later she had to receive a donated kidney from her father.
Maybe her story resonated with me because I was a fan of two television shows she appeared on, “The Amazing Race,” and later “Dancing with the Stars.”
And her message is compelling. Now 36, she told the audience that obstacles can cause you to do two things: Either stop you dead in your tracks, or make you get creative. She helped develop legs that she could snowboard on, with the artificial limbs including a number of rubber components, which I, of course, appreciated.
She went on TED Talk, the non-profit known for spreading ideas. In it, Purdy put 30 years of her life into eight minutes, and her presentation went viral. Purdy was instrumental in getting adapted snowboarding added to the Paralympics, and she competed in the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia. At the same time, she accepted the challenge to compete on “Dancing with the Stars.” She doesn't know why she said yes, other than that she's “crazy competitive.”
In Sochi, she had to train four hours a day snowboarding, intertwined with four hours of dancing with partner Derek Huff. The first live show was in Los Angeles just 72 hours after her race, where she won a bronze medal.
Her goal was to not be the first dancer eliminated, but instead she made it to the finals, finishing as runner-up. “Other dancers worried about what kind of shoes to wear. I had to worry about what kind of feet I would wear—and what shoes to wear,” she quipped.
Her performance on the show led to going on the road last year with Oprah Winfrey's “The Life You Want Tour.” She spoke of “the power of intention.” In other words, “whatever you want to do, declare it and own it, and tell everybody about it.” She believes everything happened in life to get her to where she is now. “Accept what is, but daydream about what can be,” Purdy said.
Would she change her situation? No. “My legs haven't disabled me; they've enabled me,” she said. “Use your obstacles. In our mind, we can be and do anything.”
Now that's a story even a cynic can appreciate.
Meyer is editor of Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bmeyerRPN.