“It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you.” That was the recurring theme in Wednesday’s assembly with Chris Waddell. And this seven-time Paralympian does indeed practice what he preaches.
In assemblies with the Middle School, and the Group III and IV girls, Waddell shared the story of “what happened to him”—going from an able-bodied college student and avid ski racer to breaking his back in a ski accident and becoming a paraplegic. “What he did with it” is extraordinary by any measure.
After spending close to a year in the hospital, Waddell went back to college. And not long after that, he went back to the ski mountain. Learning to ski without the use of your legs, sit-skiing, is no easy feat, but with plenty of help and a deep reservoir of determination, he learned how to monoski. But that wasn’t enough for him. Waddell went on to compete in four different winter Paralympics as a monoskier, amassing 12 medals. His accomplishments don’t end there—he’s climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in an all-terrain vehicle powered only by his arms, authored several books, and competed in three summer Paralympics.
Waddell breaks down his ability to persevere and thrive in the face of adversity into what he calls the Four Ss of Resilience: self, situation, support, and strategy.
- Self: Think of yourself as a survivor rather than a victim.
- Situation: Look at the path ahead as a challenge rather than letting it overwhelm you.
- Support: Be comfortable asking for help and working with others to achieve a goal.
- Strategy: Be flexible. When one approach to a challenge or problem doesn’t work, try another, and then another, until you figure it out.
The girls’ ultimate takeaway from this inspiring speaker? See opportunities instead of limitations. It’s a message that goes hand in hand with GA’s motto, Toward the Building of Character.