This week’s leadership interview on CliffCentral.com Leadership Platform was with Natalie du Toit. Many know that as a talented swimmer and 17-year-old matriculant who almost qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the age of 16, she lost part of her leg in an accident.
Not only did it seem her swimming career was over, but when she eventually returned to school, she was held back and watched her peers complete their final year. While these were difficult times, she casually yet sincerely explained that she made new friends.
It is also important to understand that not only did it seem she would never compete, she loved swimming; she loved being in water; it was a passion. She decided to swim again and even compete, but had to start off in the slow lane.
One can only imagine what it was like for her to stand in front of a crowd again, this time without part of her leg, to compete in her first race since the accident.
To overcome her “setback”, she made one small decision at a time to take the next step towards living again, not giving up, which probably went something like this: first step, just back in the pool; second step, participate in some tournaments; third step, set sights on an international event; fourth step, to qualify for the Olympics in 2008; and so on. As she took each step, her belief that she could achieve more grew, and so did her confidence.
Was what happened to Du Toit at the age of 17 really a setback? It was an experience that put her on a more visible platform from which to inspire the entire world.
Perhaps the so-called setback was a blessing; a defining moment after which not only one major choice but several smaller choices led to something greater.
We need to ask ourselves this question, when an experience like being retrenched, or having to close a business, or not achieving objectives, feels like a setback: “One day, when I look back at this experience, will I want to see it as a setback, or a defining moment that flung me on to another platform that led to something greater?”