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40/40 Hindsight: Rick Hansen Reflects on His Fifth Decade

40/40 Hindsight: Rick Hansen Reflects on His Fifth Decade

Rick Hansen is a Canadian icon who has dedicated his life to creating a world that is accessible and inclusive for all. Best known as the “Man In Motion” for undertaking an epic two-year circumnavigation around the world in his wheelchair, Rick is also a four-time world champion, nine-time Pan Am gold medalist, and three-time Paralympic gold medalist. Now the CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, an organization committed to creating a world without barriers for people with disabilities, Rick uses his presentations to challenge everyone to become a difference maker and a legacy leaver. Here, he reflects on leadership, balancing work and family, and what he feared most during his 40s:

I moved from a world where I could handle one big dream and put everything into it and there was nothing really else. Now, I was moving in so many different dimensions and there wasn’t enough of me to go around.

My dark decade of energy output was all-consuming. It’s amazing how busy I was during that period.

Work in my 40s was all about taking the next step and trying to figure out what time and energy and resources could we place as a foundation. What could we do to make a difference?

The key to really break through was to focus and maybe put some things on the slow burner until we got some momentum on the most important thing to focus on.

I had to ask myself how is my time and energy being applied against my whole priorities in life? It really caused my wife, Amanda, and me to have very intentional conversations about the balance between family, health and work.

Success in my 40s was the integrity of setting your priorities and then managing your time against those priorities. And being able to be more roundly engaged in life as a whole.

And success was also compromise.

If I was to do things again a better level of success might have been to slow things down a little bit more and even up the ante on where the line of busyness should be.

My biggest fears were to drop the ball somehow. I didn’t want to let anybody down. I wanted to do the right thing to make a difference and be there as a husband and a father.

What made me happy most importantly was to, one, see the joy and to be giving and receiving love with my wife and kids. And second, to see results of the hard work we were doing with the foundation and see it in the lives of people with disabilities.

What I learned about leadership is that everybody has a role. Everybody has something to contribute.

My goal when I was a kid was to be the athlete I had always dreamed of being and maybe represent my country at the Olympic games.

I had two career interests. One was to be a phys-ed teacher or a coach. The other was, I had a crazy dream of wanting to fly jets. I was fascinated with flight and with space.

If I could go back and give myself advice on my 40th birthday, the first thing I would say would be to just continue to listen to yourself and make sure you continue to honour and celebrate the successes that you’re achieving in life. Keep embracing yourself because it’s going to be a great decade.

The second thing would be to keep your compass clear and don’t sweat the small stuff on how to get there. And the third thing would be, maybe slow down a bit. You don’t have to be so busy.