In my career I’ve met a lot of achievers, both famous and not so famous and I loved collecting their stories. One thing they all had in common was an absolute blind refusal to give up when the load became too heavy.
The ability to pick oneself off the ground…(yet again!) and dust off the seat of our pants is in all of us. If you are experiencing tough times this little series of stories is for you. For some folk, who seem to have been handed it all on a plate, their stories will surprise you!
WHO? : Stephen Hawking
IS? : Professor, Physicist
SAID? : ‘I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family, and being successful in my work. I have been lucky…it shows that one need not lose hope.’
Stephen Hawking is one of the most famous physicists on the world. In fact I would go as far as saying that he is the only one most of us could identify by name. He is a great candidate for the ‘Grrr! I Ain’t Beaten Yet’ trophy because he has not just lived with motor neurone disease he has positively ‘cocked a snook’ at it! (An english term for the 1 fingered salute!)
When Hawking was young he enjoyed the freedom and exuberance of any young boy. He admits to being clumsy but there were no other signs of what was to come. It was whilst he was at university and he began to topple over unexpectedly every now and then that his father took him to get a check up.
…To A few Years To live
He describes an exploratory search while he was in hospital that did not immediately provide definite answers but the grey area that it did provide was not promising. He knew that he had an incurable disease and he was given no more than a couple of years to live.
Life Lived In The Present
He was ultimately left in limbo as he did not know how long he had to live and initially wondered about the point of getting deeply involved in his research projects. Fortunately for him this turned into a renewed appreciation for life lived in the present because that was all he was guaranteed. Of course that is the same for all of us, it’s just that most of us don’t appreciate that fact.
One Step In Front Of The Other
He started ‘brick building’ his life one piece at a time. He got married, which meant that he had a new focus other than himself and a responsibility to provide for his family and so decided to get a job. He applied for a fellowship at a college in Cambridge and was not only accepted, but as the years went by he found that as his value to the college increased, they were more than willing to accommodate his increasing disabilities and adapt the post to suit him.
The Famous Synthetic Voice
With the help of his wife, various live-in students and the occasional nurse, they managed for many years, but in 1985, following a trip to Geneva, Hawking contracted pneumonia which was an enormous life threatening strain on his already compromised respiratory system. As a result he lost his faltering ability to speak and his voice was replaced by the American accented voice machine made famous by Hawking today.
The process of communicating with this voice synthesizer is arduous and long and on television much editing is done to make Hawking’s answers appear fluent, but it has not stopped him writing best selling books and and giving speeches all over the world.
Grrr! Why YOU ain’t beat yet!
You are not beaten because of that old story of the poor, homeless bloke wondering the streets begging for food and handouts with no shoes and feeling very sorry for himself… until he met someone with no feet.
While Hawking was in hospital, as the doctors tried to ascertain what was wrong with him, he had watched a young boy die of leukaemia. In his words, “Clearly there were people who were worse off than me.”
Whenever he would feel sorry for himself he would remember how physically sick the boy had been and how he had suffered before he eventually died.
The great thing is noting how Hawking is able to talk about these knock out blows in his life as though he were discussing doing the gardening. It shows where he chose to place his focus. The emphasis was placed on what he wanted NOT what he had lost which explains why he has achieved so much.
Self pity my friends, not only takes up good living time but it saps energy that you could be putting to plenty good use.
Like Hawking do you need to resolve today to change your focus to what you want and where you want to get to and NOT the difficulties in getting there? Let me know below!
(Originally written before Stephen Hawkings death.)