When you’re young, there’s a temptation to think of yourself as invincible, especially if you’ve experienced a healthy childhood and have had no major setbacks.
This sense of power and freedom is exhilarating and can help people accomplish amazing feats, but it can also push young people to make some rather poor choices.
Colin O’Brady was outdoorsy and a sports fanatic. He competed in soccer and swimming, and he was good at those sports. Very good. Nationally ranked.
Yale recognized his talent and brought him on because of his swimming prowess. He got a degree in economics, but he was just starting his journey.
There was a whole world out there, and he wanted to see it. So he set off, unaware that tragedy was lurking around the corner.
He was in Thailand when he faced a crippling setback: He was injured in a fire jump rope incident.
If you’re a mom or anyone with a healthy sense of avoiding danger, the term “fire jump rope” should send shivers up your spine. But for some, it’s a challenge and an irresistible draw.
The rope got caught on his legs, wrapping around him and setting him on fire from his toes to his neck. His legs and feet were damaged the most, and the intensely active young man was restricted to bed rest as his skin slowly and painfully tried to recover.
Lying in a bed and doing nothing can be torturous for anyone, but for someone who was as active as O’Brady, it must have been absolutely misery. He was even told he might never walk the same again — a thought that must have terrified him.
His mother, trying to keep his spirits up — as any good mother would — challenged him to set a goal for himself, to give himself something to look forward to and work toward and keep him from obsessing over his current situation.
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Today marks a major milestone in my life. 10 years ago today I woke up in this remote hospital in Thailand having been severely burned in a fire. The doctors warned me that I would likely never walk again normally. This tragedy shook me too my core yet also taught me some of life’s greatest lessons. I learned that trauma and pain can sometimes lead to growth especially when you can shift your mindset toward to positive and start working toward it no matter how bleak the current circumstance my seem. Who would have been able to predict that that same scared kid lying in the hospital bed in this picture would go on to become a professional athlete and set two world records? Today I am grateful for all of the people who kept believing in me and urging me to keep fighting for a brighter future. It’s hard to put into words the deep gratitude that I have for both my Mom and David (my brother in law), who literally pulled me from that fire and held me in their arms as I cried out in fear on the other side of the world. They were the first in a long line of people who would go on to love and support me through that journey and over the last ten years. Today I skied and laughed in Telluride with the sun on my face overflowing with gratitude to be able to use these legs to play in the outdoors. Sending love and positivity out to anyone who is going through a hard time right now…believe me no matter the current darkness there is so much light just around the corner. Keep believing in the power of a positive mindset. . . . #Thailand #burn #fire #mindset #positivity #gratitude #love #goals #lifegoals #Outdoor #explore #adventure #snow #ice #travel #wanderlust #climbing #climb #mountains #lifegoals #goBeyond #SevenSummits
So he did. A triathlon, he decided: He wanted to race in a triathlon.
A year and a half later, after extensive healing and training, he raced — and he won first place. That was only the beginning for him, and he picked up sponsors and started racing around the world.
After a few years of that, he wanted more, and with the help of his wife-to-be, Jenna, he set his sights on The Explorers Grand Slam, which includes both the North and South poles and the “Seven Summits” — seven of the tallest mountains in the world (including, of course, Mt. Everest).
Summiting Mt. Everest alone would have been a lifetime accomplishment for most people, but for O’Brady it wasn’t quite enough. He wanted it all. And of course, since he was competitive, he wanted to complete it all in record time.
So he did. It took him 139 days, but he was now a record-holder twice over for completing the Grand Slam in the shortest recorded time, but also completing the Seven Summits in record time (132 days).
He’s used his experiences to give back, too, speaking at schools and mentoring kids to identify and face their challenges.
His next challenge? To cross Antarctica. By himself. If anyone can do it, though, he certainly can.
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