NSW Education LIVE – Turia Pitt
This page is a transcript of the video NSW Education LIVE with Turia Pitt.
Duration – 9:01
Hello, hello. My name is Turia Pitt, I'm an athlete, author, and mom, and this video is being filmed on Yuin land and I'd like to pay my respects to the leaders of the Yuin Nation past, present, and emerging.
It is so, so great to speak with you. In 2004, I was about to graduate from Ulladulla High School and I had my career path all mapped out. I'd go to uni, I'd study engineering. I'd get a job as an engineer, become a superintendent. I probably would have done a couple of international secondments and I had my sights set on being the CEO of a global mining firm.
That never happened. I entered an ultramarathon. I was trapped by a grass fire during the race. I received burns to 65% of my body, I spent six months in hospital, and I was told that I would never run again.
So what did I do? I adapted, I pivoted, I reinvented myself, not as a motivational speaker, because us engineers are way more credible than that, but as an athlete, an adventurer, an author. I've done Ironman World Championships. I've written three bestselling books. I've run up mountains and down valleys, across rivers and through gorges. Being able to adapt and pivot is now more crucial than ever. The world is changing and evolving and you, you get to be a part of it. So it is exciting, it's thrilling. The possibilities are endless. But it's also slightly terrifying, uncertain. What's the economy going to do? What will the long-term impact of social distancing and isolation be? Will your dream job still be secure three years from now?
Now, I haven't experienced what you're going through. I didn't graduate through a global pandemic. Having said that, I do know about getting through hard times, overcoming adversity, and beating the odds. And throughout this whole journey I've been on, from being face to face with a wall of flames in the Kimberleys through to my recovery in hospital and everything else I've achieved since, I've learnt something, something simple: change your focus. See, your attention, your energy, it's limited, it's finite, and it's kind of like a torchlight, so whatever you'll shine it on is what you'll see. So when you focus on all the things that could go wrong, when you focus on what's missing in your life, when you focus in on your flaws and your fears, when you listen to that little voice in your head telling you that you're not smart enough, that you're too young, that you don't have the right experience, that's all you'll see and that's all you'll get. Change your focus.
How? Ask yourself these questions. What's one small step I can take forward? What could I be grateful for right now? How could I be of service? These questions change your outlook, your mindset, your frame of mind. They'll get you moving in a direction that is bigger and brighter and more compelling than your fear. So I'll give you an example. In the 2019/2020 summer, we had really, really bad bushfires up and down the east coast of Australia. The fires had destroyed houses, wildlife, areas of land, businesses, and from where I live in my house on the South Coast, there was no power, there were ashes raining down in our yards, and we were pretty much trapped by fires burning to the north of us, to the south of us, and to the west of us. Now, I felt about as useful as a broken zipper on a wetsuit because I wasn't out fighting any fires, I wasn't jumping in a boat helping to rescue residents from neighboring towns, I wasn't organizing food drops. I was heavily pregnant, I had a toddler at home, and I had done literally nothing to help other people affected by the fires. And, yeah, of course I was terrified because it was really hard for me to keep a lid on my emotions and not to panic, because once you let that panic genie out of the bottle, you've got zero chance of squashing it back in.
And that whole time, where was my focus? I was obsessing about how the fires were affecting me and I was ruminating on my own experience. And so I knew then that I really had to change my focus, and so what did I do? I asked myself, well, what could I do to give back to my community? And I asked myself, how could I be of service? How could I be useful? And so a girlfriend came over and we created a social initiative called Spend With Them. It was a really simple idea. It was a way to connect people all over the world with businesses in fire affected communities. So, for example, we profiled on Instagram a homewares store in Milton and then anyone in Australia or even all over the world could find out about this homewares store. They could buy something from them. They could support the business, put money back into the local economy, and boost morale all at the same time.
And the Spend With Them initiative, it went crazy. Within a few days, we had close to 200,000 followers and we had lots of incredible feedback from the businesses that we profiled. And so this experience for me, it really crystallized how important it is for us, especially in times of anger, fear, stress, and anxiety, to shift our focus away from ourselves and onto what we can do for others.
If you are having a bad day or a tough time, I have some tips for you that's gonna help you navigate those times and the first one is just to accept it. Now, your tough time might be better than someone else's tough time or it might be worse, but however you spin it, a tough time is still a tough time. So I want you try and accept it. There's no need to temper it. There's no need to try and put a positive spin on it. Say to yourself, "Yep, this is crap." It is amazing what our minds will do when we drop the facade that everything is okay.
Now, the next thing that I want you to do is change your focus, I talked about that a little bit earlier, and how do we do this? Ask yourself different questions. In the morning, ask yourself, what would make today great? And whether that's going for a walk, having a Zoom catch-up with your mates, treating yourself to some chicken soup. Think of what your something great is in the morning, look forward to it during the day, and make sure you do it because you'll feel a zillion times better about your day if you are focusing on a positive event. And since our lives are made up of our days, it makes sense to make each day a good one.
Number three, it's always a really good idea to get some perspective on our own lives. So read Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku's book, "The Happiest Man on Earth." It's brilliant. Sam Bailey wrote an awesome book called "Head Over Heels." Watch the movies "Touching the Void," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "The Intouchables." Listen to Osher's podcast, "Better Than Yesterday," and read some of my books. All of my books contain a lot of advice for building happiness, even through some really hard times.
Number four, get some support from a professional. You think about it. You would get your car fixed by a mechanic. We get our teeth cleaned by a dentist. We get our eyebrows waxed by a beautician. And your heart and head deserve nothing less than a professional to help you. So there's some amazing services out there, like Lifeline and Beyond Blue.
And finally, when things get tough, hard, or just plain crap, I want you to say to yourself, "I have the inner resources "to deal with any situation that comes my way." Change your focus. Has there ever been a better time to do this than 2020? It would be awesome if we could learn resilience and grit and gumption by sitting in a classroom taking notes. But the only way we learn resilience is by going through the hard times, the only way we get grittier is by testing ourselves, and the only way we get more gumption is by showing up when things get tough. And what we're living through right now, it will strengthen us, it will fortify us. It could just be the making of all of us. And you, you're dedicated, committed, disciplined. You're about to graduate from high school. The world is your oyster and the world needs you. We need your smarts, your problem-solving abilities, your dedication to finding the solutions, and we really need your gifts, whatever they are. Maybe you're a fast learner. Maybe you're patient, kind, optimistic, articulate, gregarious. Whatever your gift is, the world needs it now more than ever.
So whenever you get stuck in your head wondering if you've said the wrong thing, if you've stuffed things up, if you're going to embarrass yourself, whenever you start to feel scared or worried about your future, your career, your life, stop yourself, notice where your attention is, and now change your focus. Ask yourself, what's one small step I can take forward? What could I be grateful for right now? And what could I do to be of service? You have so, so, so much to offer Australia and to offer the world and I cannot wait to see what it is that you're gonna do. Best of luck.
End of transcript.