Bruce Kirkby

Bruce Kirkby

Acclaimed Explorer | Writer | Photographer

Bruce Kirkby lives life on the edge. An acclaimed explorer, travel writer and television host (with a degree in engineering physics), Kirkby’s travels have taken him from the world’s highest mountains to the wildest rivers and driest deserts. He draws on these experiences to provide real-world, practical lessons on resilience, risk management and change leadership, helping individuals and organizations confront fears, embrace change and find lasting success.

With journeys spanning more than 80 countries and 2000 days, Kirkby’s accomplishments include the first modern crossing of Arabia’s Empty Quarter by camel, a raft descent of Ethiopia’s Blue Nile Gorge by raft, sea kayak traverse of Borneo’s northern coast, and a coast-to-coast Icelandic trek. The former host of CBC’s No Opportunity Wasted, Kirkby recently spent six months travelling to and living in a Himalayan Buddhist monastery with his young family — an experience chronicled on Travel Channel’s Big Crazy Family Adventure.

Kirby is the author of three bestselling books. A columnist for The Globe and Mail, and a National Magazine Award winner, Kirkby’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, EnRoute, and Canadian Geographic. His photography was selected by National Geographic as among “the most compelling adventure images of the decade.”


GRIT: Developing Resilience, Endurance and Enthusiasm for the Long Haul

In today’s business landscape–where organizations face relentless disruption–success is largely determined by the ability to navigate unfamiliar obstacles, bounce back from disappointments and maintain enthusiasm in the face of headwinds. It is a world where GRIT matters.

Yet GRIT remains an elusive, and vastly misunderstood quality. Facing hardship, most teams and individuals turn to willpower alone, and soon begin to GRIND instead. This is the hustle culture we are familiar with. The late nights. The skipped meals. The exhaustion and burnout.

But if a team can learn to shift their focus to a few simply fundamentals, GRIT will flourish naturally in any organization.

While leading teams through unthinkable wilderness challenges (high-altitude storms, debilitating injuries, helicopter crashes, hostage takings), Kirkby has witnessed unlikely individuals (elderly clients, middle-aged parents, young children) rise to perform astonishing acts of bravery, endurance, and strength. Bringing these lessons to the workplace, Kirkby shares a series of simple routines that will help build any team’s natural “grittiness”. Peppered with stories of high adventure, Kirkby’s entertaining and visually stunning keynote is a reminder of the powerful resilience that lies within us all.

Risk Management: Protecting Good People from Bad Decisions

Every risk is made up of two essential parts: an external threat, and our reaction to it. To be effective, risk management must account for both. Yet, modern governance models and safety practices tend to be highly quantitative in nature, relying on statistics and forecasts while overlooking the common psychological vulnerabilities — heuristics (mental shortcuts) and cognitive biases (systematic deviations from rationality) — that can weaken any decision.

With examples ranging from avalanches and grizzly bears to Himalayan expeditions and African white-water, Bruce Kirkby illuminates these universal blind-spots to leave audiences with a series of powerful yet easy-to-implement strategies, allowing teams to stay sheltered from crisis, yet open to opportunity.

Highly entertaining, laden with content, and immediately applicable, Kirkby’s keynote is a reminder that an engaged, enthusiastic risk culture offers the most certain path to both protecting current assets, and creating future growth.

Your session was one of the most effective explanations of risk management I have ever heard — from speakers within the industry or beyond. It combined a solid explanation of principles with fascinating real-life examples, and was relevant for the entire spectrum, from risk neophytes to seasoned professionals.”

Executive Director, Preparation, Planning and Risk, Government of Alberta

Change Leadership and Management: Navigating the Uncertainty, Unfamiliarity, and Discomfort of Growth

Between today’s comfortable routines and tomorrow’s possibilities, lies a maze of uncertainty, unfamiliarity, and discomfort. The ability to confidently and competently complete this journey — the archetypal journey of all human growth — stands as one of the greatest determinants of success, both organizational and personal.

Unfortunately, there is a broadly-held assumption that teams and individuals either have the magical ability to lean into fear and seek sustained uncertainty, to stomach failures, and brush aside judgements — or they don’t.  And that is simply not true. Navigating change and growth is a trainable, repeatable skill.

Drawing on experiences from three decades of expeditions, and sharing his learnings from the competitive realms of television production, photography, and writing, Bruce Kirkby lays out the universal obstacles to change and growth — fear, failure, judgement, crisis, and paralysis — and shows audiences how to transform these obstacles into signals, illuminating the path towards future innovation, creativity, and success.

“I have seen plenty of keynote speakers over the years, and without question, your Comfort Zone address ranks among the very best. Perfect tone, perfect message, perfect presentation.”

Global EVP, Open Text

Practical Mindfulness for the Skeptic: Enhanced Focus and Attention amid a Distracted Workplace

The modern workplace is awash with distractions: texts, internet, social media, phone calls, beeps, tweets, flashing alerts. The average Canadian worker checks email almost 200 times daily, and switches tasks 37 times every hour. Such cognitive overload erodes our basic abilities to focus, make decisions, and advance objectives. The results are often devastating, and include lowered productivity, compromised quality, missed deadlines, and lost revenue.

With travel adventure stories ranging from the Himalaya to Asia and the Arctic, Bruce Kirkby lays out the challenges facing the modern mind, and shares a series of simple habits and exercises designed to keep it in top shape. Think of these like flossing your teeth, or doing a burpee for your brain — they don’t take long or require much, but they will make a world of difference.

GRIT: Developing Resilience, Endurance and Enthusiasm for the Long Haul.

In today’s business landscape–where organizations face relentless disruption–success is largely determined by the ability to navigate unfamiliar obstacles, bounce back from disappointments and maintain enthusiasm in the face of headwinds. It is a world where GRIT matters.

Yet GRIT remains an elusive, and vastly misunderstood quality. Facing hardship, most teams and individuals turn to willpower alone, and soon begin to GRIND instead. This is the hustle culture we are familiar with. The late nights. The skipped meals. The exhaustion and burnout.

But if a team can learn to shift their focus to a few simply fundamentals, GRIT will flourish naturally in any organization.

While leading teams through unthinkable wilderness challenges (high-altitude storms, debilitating injuries, helicopter crashes, hostage takings), Kirkby has witnessed unlikely individuals (elderly clients, middle-aged parents, young children) rise to perform astonishing acts of bravery, endurance, and strength. Bringing these lessons to the workplace, Kirkby shares a series of simple routines that will help build any team’s natural “grittiness”. Peppered with stories of high adventure, Kirkby’s entertaining and visually stunning keynote is a reminder of the powerful resilience that lies within us all.

This virtual presentation is an interactive 45-60 session, which includes the opportunity for interactive Q&A. (Note: length is customizable based on client’s needs, and Kirkby is available for interview-style and round-table sessions as well.)

Risk Management: Protecting Good People from Bad Decisions

Every risk is made up of two essential parts: an external threat, and our reaction to it. To be effective, risk management must account for both. Yet, modern governance models and safety practices tend to be highly quantitative in nature, relying on statistics and forecasts while overlooking the common psychological vulnerabilities — heuristics (mental shortcuts) and cognitive biases (systematic deviations from rationality) — that can weaken any decision.

With examples ranging from avalanches and grizzly bears to Himalayan expeditions and African white-water, Bruce Kirkby illuminates these universal blind-spots to leave audiences with a series of powerful yet easy-to-implement strategies, allowing teams to stay sheltered from crisis, yet open to opportunity.

Highly entertaining, laden with content, and immediately applicable, Kirkby’s keynote is a reminder that an engaged, enthusiastic risk culture offers a clear path to both protecting assets and creating growth.

Note: This virtual session includes multiple scenarios from low-likelihood / high-severity environments, with pertinent takeaways for all frontline workers (health services, caregivers, teachers, etc.) potentially exposed to COVID in the course of their duties.

This virtual presentation is an interactive 45-60 session, which includes the opportunity for interactive Q&A. (Length is customizable based on client’s needs, and Kirkby is available for interview-style and round-table sessions as well.)

Practical Mindfulness for the Skeptic: Enhanced Focus and Attention amid a Distracted Workplace

The modern workplace is awash with distractions: texts, internet, social media, phone calls, beeps, tweets, flashing alerts. The average Canadian worker checks email almost 200 times daily, and switches tasks 37 times every hour. Such cognitive overload erodes our basic abilities to focus, make decisions, and advance objectives. The results are often devastating, and include lowered productivity, compromised quality, missed deadlines, and lost revenue.

Such challenges have only intensified during the COVID pandemic, with workplaces turned upside down, and many now working remotely or from home.

With travel adventure stories ranging from the Himalaya to Asia and the Arctic, Bruce Kirkby lays out the challenges facing the modern mind, and shares a series of simple habits and exercises designed to keep it in top shape. Think of these like flossing your teeth, or doing a burpee for your brain — they don’t take long or require much, but they will make a world of difference.

This virtual presentation is an interactive 45-60 session, which includes the opportunity for interactive Q&A. (Length is customizable based on client’s needs, and Kirkby is available for interview-style and round-table sessions as well.)