At the age of 28, a devastating car accident left Steve Judge fighting for his life and following life-saving operations was subsequently told that he may “never walk again”.
Not leaning on his excuses he set goals, turning his excuses into challenges which lead to learning to stand and walk again. Steve’s journey took him from wheelchair to two times World champion in the sport of paratriathlon.
Now as a professional speaker author and resilience coach Steve shares his story to empower people to go confidently on their journey in the direction of their dreams, their GOLD. To experience the happiness and fulfilment of achieving the life that they have imagined and truly deserve. By doing this it ensures that the pain and suffering that Steve has endured will not have been in vain.
We asked Steve a few questions….
Steve, what does ‘Resilience’ mean to you?
The word ‘resilience’ has been used an awful lot in the last two years, and rightly so, it’s such a big thing. The great thing is I can talk from experience, whether it’s from my car accident, which some people can’t relate to, or whether it’s now from my experience of the pandemic, which more people can relate to. I think the big question is, what is resilience? People give different versions of it, and I think my quick version is ‘get knocked down six times, pick yourself up seven.’ It’s along those lines: you keep going and going.
Then the next question is, how do you grow your resilience, how can you get better at resilience, how can you get stronger at resilience? And that’s something that I looked into last year because I’d been through it. I had to get it out of my head and onto paper so that I could then share it with others. I really want to help people, and you can’t just say, “Well, you’ve just got to pick yourself up all the time,” or “pull yourself together.” That doesn’t work. So I had to work out what I did throughout my journey, and what resilience was, and that’s when I came up with the concept of the ‘wave of resilience.’ If you ride the resilience wave correctly, you can end up in a better place than you were before.
The resilience wave can be broken down into stages:
First stage: Shock
Some sort of adversity, change, or traumatic event happens to you which triggers the cortisol chemical in you sending you into a ‘fight or flight’ mode.
Second stage: Denial
Everyone goes through this and it’s ok because your testosterone kicks in and you’re trying to get used to a major change in your life.
Third stage: Anger
Don’t try and say that you don’t get angry about it, or you don’t need to share – you do. Your testosterone will be pumping around your body so it’s about admitting that, and getting the punch bag out, or pillow fight, or screaming out in the wilderness.
Fourth stage: Sharing
To help with the anger and the emotion that you are feeling and going through you need to create oxytocin release so do something to get it out, and to share it with someone – drawing, writing, listening to music, a film, poetry – anything, just don’t keep it in.
Fifth stage: Rock bottom 🙁
After the first four stages, you’re now going to hit rock bottom. And it’s horrible, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Your chemicals are all mixed up inside you causing confusion. Now how long you’re going to be at rock bottom depends on the action you’ve taken before, and it also depends on the traumatic event, and how big that is. But how you’ve dealt with the anger, how you’ve shared, impacts how long you’re at rock bottom. After that comes the good stuff, so hang in there!. All this is instinctive, it’s affecting your brain with the cortisone, the testosterone that’s realised.
Sixth stage: Acceptance
After rock bottom comes acceptance, and that’s where the serotonin kicks in, and that helps you to see clearly – you can see where you’re going. You accept the situation, and that takes you up a little bit.
Seventh stage: Action
The next bit is taking action. And I love this, I’m all about taking action, instead of just talking about it. When you take action, you feel good about it – dopamine is released – and then you do more, and more, and what happens is you climb the wave of resilience and you end up being higher than where you started.
Eighth stage: Moving Forward
Thus, adversity can be a good thing, as long as you ride the wave of resilience correctly. It’s knowing what’s going on, how to control it, and how you can end up being higher. Meaning that if everything is going smoothly, maybe you should start pushing yourself out of your comfort zone so that you’re using your resilience more! Trust me, you get better and better and better at it. So in life, if you want to get higher and higher and higher, you’re going to have to go down and up and down and up and down and up. But if you just stay ‘flatlining’ as I call it, then you’re just going to go nowhere, you’ve got to push yourself out, you’ve got to use that resilience and build it up.
Steve, you have overcome so much to get where you are now. Can you explain about goals?
You’ve got to find out what makes you go, what’s your passion, what’s your goal? Or as I call it, what’s your GOLD? GOLD for me stands for your Goal, your Opportunity, your Love, your Desire – your dream. What is that thing that gets you out of bed in the morning? Find out what that is, spend a lot of time on that. That is the thing that will motivate you, even on those dark days when you’re wondering. ‘what am I doing, why am I spending all these hours, all this time..?’ It’s because of your GOLD, the thing you really want. Mine to inspiring people to achieve their true life goals. it can be anything, it can be academic, it can be sport, it can be physical work, money family, love. Everybody’s different. But they need to find out what that is, and then that will motivate them.
How you get that is something we do in workshops. I’m a visual person, so generally, I draw pictures. I drew a picture when I was in the hospital of what I wanted: I wanted to walk again. As an elite athlete, I drew a picture of becoming a world champion, and I worked towards that. As a business owner, I drew a picture of me standing on a stage with the bright lights on a big stage with the head mic, and all of that malarkey. That’s what I wanted, that’s what I worked towards. And now I’ve got a different picture. And it’s me being a global speaker, helping inspire and motivate people. And I don’t even think about how I’m going to get there yet, because that’s very serious. So you just do the fun part of ‘what do you want?’
Then you have to be serious and think ‘well how am I going to get there?’ And you don’t have the answers, but your brain is already working and looking for opportunities, you’re networking, you’re planting seeds. You’re taking action every single day and before you know it you are achieving those things, you are ticking them off on your to-do list.
Can you explain more about this ‘system’ of visualisation you use?
Visualisation is a technique I started using as an elite athlete, about what I wanted to achieve, and that was a gold medal. Now as I went through my career as an elite athlete, I realised that on the day I was actually putting too much pressure on myself. So there’s nothing wrong with having that goal in my training. But on the day it was just to be the best that I could be, that was my visualisation: do nothing wrong. Triathlon is a very complicated sport, so just don’t make any mistakes. So I used to just close my eyes, maybe in a park, about two hours before the race started, I’d do some tai chi, some yoga, some stretches, put some music on. And I’d visualise the whole race, in the most perfect way. And in as much detail as well, sinking into the water, feeling the water in my wetsuit, getting the goggles set, hearing the horn go off and going for it, feeling the excitement, the nervousness as well. But on this swim I would not get kicked, I would not get punched, my goggles did not leak, it was perfect. I’d come out of the swim, I’d be buzzing, I’d get on the bike, I’d whizz off. And the wind through my hair, going through the gears and the brakes and taking the corners perfectly – not skidding, no punctures, chain coming off, nothing. Coming off the bike onto the run, trainers on. You’re running, not going wrong, you don’t get lost or anything. And I’d cross the finish line and just punch the air in triumph. And that’s when I’d open my eyes from my visualisation – what a rush! And that would take me about twenty minutes. I would then walk down to the start line where all the athletes were getting ready with a massive smile on my face because I was still buzzing about the visualisation that I’d just done. And the other athletes would say, ‘what are you smiling about Steve?’ And I’d say, ‘well I’ve just done the race and it was awesome!’ And they went ‘oh ok, I think Steve’s lost it!’ But because I was so confident and so happy, that almost gave me an advantage, because they thought they were missing out on something.
So I use that now – every morning I do a visualisation of what I want. And I have a very strict golden morning routine where I do some reading, journaling, stretches, exercise, words of affirmation. But one thing I do is visualisation. I sit down on the floor and I just give myself five, ten minutes and I visualise ‘what do I want in my business?’ I put myself in the future, whether that’s doing workshops, one-to-one, helping somebody. And I usually open my eyes when I’m smiling, because I’ve clearly kicked on something that I’m really happy about. And then I think, ‘right, that’s what I want, that’s what I’m going to work towards today, and off I go.
Can you give us some clues on overcoming adversity?
I think to overcome adversity, you’ve got to admit that it’s going to be challenging, that there are going to be down times. But you’ve also got to know that there’s going to be a time when there’s going to be acceptance. And you’ve got to work towards that and notice when it comes that that’s your time, your time to shine. You’ve been through the anger and the sharing, and the rock bottom, but the acceptance part, and then action, doing something about it, is really important. If people talk and talk but don’t do anything, then a year later they’re going to be in the same position. You have the power to make a change and do something about it. You decide when you’re ready for that.
And everybody’s different. When I talk about adversity, I generally talk about myself, I don’t want anyone to compare themselves to me – what I want to say is, ‘this is what I did,’ and if people can take something from it then that’s great.
What are your next goals?
I wrote my next goals down for my action coach and there were about 22 of them. He said ’22! All you need is about 4 or 5!’ I was just brainstorming, I just wanted to get them out of my head. But there are certain things, like I want to speak more, and speak globally. I want to speak in Japan. Japan’s got a very special part of my story. I want to get a play made of my journey and do that at the Edinburgh fringe. I want to get a film made of my journey. I’m writing a book at the moment, it’s more of a business book, about the five strategies that you need to become an achiever, to have success in whatever you want to do.
In scouting, I’ve got big goals, I want to create an online platform so that young people can start working out what their goal is. No matter how young they are. It’s just a picture, it’s a bit of fun, but it can help you work out what you want to do. I want to do this for businesses, but I want to do it for charities as well, almost giving something out for free. I want to be speaking in front of large audiences of scouts, whether that’s a region, a country, a jamboree, and eventually, the world scout jamboree that happens every four years with 60,000 scouts. That’s a good audience, and that’s where I want to be. I want to be known as a fire-starter, helping people realise what it is that will ignite their fire and go even further.
So there’s loads that I want to do. At the moment, to bring it right back to reality, it’s still very much about survival. The last year, two years, it’s been really challenging. I’ve survived. We’re in September now, so this is my fifth year in business, which is an amazing accolade, I think only 3% of businesses achieve that, I think Life Group is the same, five years and three months. So I’ve survived, and that’s great. I was doing really well in 2019, so things have taken a dip, but now is the time to build them back up again. So I’ve got to keep my head above the water, keep surviving, and then work on all these massive big dreams that I’ve got. It’s exciting times.
Tell us something interesting about you?
One of the guys at the school on Friday who I sat down with at lunchtime said ‘Oh I thought you were a stand-up comedian!’ and I said, ‘That’s good!’ …because I watch stand-up comedians as part of my homework to get better as a speaker, so it’s kind of a fun fact. I’m in the entertainment business. I’m a professional speaker, a motivational speaker. But if you don’t put the comedy in there, if you don’t put the humour there, people will switch off. They’ll remember two emotions, an audience, they’ll remember the last time they laughed and the last time they cried. You’ve got to put both of those in your talk, so you’ve got to put in the highs and the lows. And knowing how to do that, and what sort of skills and tools you can use, is what comedians do. So watching someone like Michael MacIntyre, and digging into some of the lower parts of my journeys as well, and intermingling them, not wedging them in but blending them in, means that the audience stays gripped and entertained. I have a black book, as comedians do, which I carry around everywhere so I can write down anything funny that happens. Or I look for funny things in my journey. It is difficult. At one point one of my goals would be to do a stand-up comedy routine. And I hesitate on that because I don’t want to do it, but I’ve got to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve got to do a 5-minute comedy gig to learn the skills and put it out there. I’m not a stand-up comedian, but humour is part of my job.
What advice would you give anyone reading this?
On Friday I got a question from a student asking me how you get started. How do you start out on your journey? And I thought about my journey and how that started, and it’s all about getting some kind of distance. When I first started to grow my leg back after the car accident, I had to twist these bolts to lengthen my leg – but not a full turn, just a quarter of a turn, a quarter of a millimetre. That’s all I needed to stretch my leg. It’s minute. And that’s what I had to do four times a day to reach a millimetre, and eventually, I reached 10 centimetres, and that’s how much bone I had to grow back. Then I managed to stand again, that was the next part of my journey. And then I managed to walk again – so we’re talking step by step. Getting to 1m, 2m, 5m, 10m. As my journey progressed, I was amazingly able to start running again. So now you’re talking kilometres, 1k, 2k, 3k. And eventually moving up to world championships, where I’m swimming, I’m cycling and I’m running 5k to become a world champion. So how do you start on your journey? Step by step. Just do something, even if it’s just a quarter of a millimetre. You never know where that journey’s going to take you to.
How can people get in touch or book you
Visit my Website at www.steve-judge.co.uk
There’s no doubt about it, the last couple of years have required more resilience in business than most. What can we learn from Steve’s journey that could help you in your business?
- The right small steps, done over time lead to great things. Maybe it’s taking time to ask clients how they are, or maybe it’s spending a few minutes a day writing down ideas – small things definitely do add up and matter.
- Your journey starts with the first step. Steve had to turn a screw just a quarter of a turn every day in order to make his leg grow. It wasn’t glamorous and it hurt but it was a small step and it was in the right direction – what’s your next step?
- When Steve’s accident happened he had to face a change, which wasn’t easy. Maybe there’s something you can learn from his ‘wave of resilience’?
- Sometimes we need to pivot on what we know and another door opens in that pivot which is even better. Maybe this could be looking for customers in a new market or expanding your existing customer base in an innovative way. How could this work for you?
One final thing…We highly recommend Steve Judge’s book, available from his website or on Amazon.