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Gill Hicks tells Xerocon it’s not enough simply to survive

Posted 4 years ago in Xero news by Erin Smith
Posted by Erin Smith

Gill is an Adeladian author, founder of M.A.D. for Peace, and a 2005 London terrorist bombings survivor – and today at Xerocon Brisbane, she came prepared to test our outlook on life.

After surviving the London bombings, Gill found herself lying in a hospital bed, without the ability to walk or talk. Learning to live with the loss of both her legs under the knee and a lot of time ‘with just me and my mind’ challenged her perspective on the things she fears the most.

Is it enough to just ‘survive’?

“What’s the worst that can happen?” Gill asked the 3,500-strong audience of accountants and bookkeepers.

I used to fear death. I would do everything it took to avoid being dead. But then I died, and I realised there are far worse things that could happen,” she said.  

“I had been dead for thirty minutes when the team at the hospital agreed to give me three minutes and thirty seconds of resuscitation before they gave up. I woke up, in true Gill Hicks style, with 30 seconds to go.

“If life or death was a matter of 30 seconds for me, what can I achieve in five minutes? What can we do in 30 minutes?”

Get a better baseline

Before the bombings, Gill was a self-proclaimed workaholic, who spent her days charging around the city, chasing her baseline of success. Suddenly, that reality came to an abrupt halt.

“I was lying there without my legs or the ability to speak, and I thought, is this actually the worst that could happen? But instead I became euphoric. I realised: I am alive, and I am Gill. I have my mind. 

“Ninety percent of my ability to learn how to walk again was in my mind. It was not a question of learning to walk, but learning to trust. Just because I can’t feel the ground, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

“I had a new baseline.” 

Write a new script

Not many of us get the chance to write a new script and start again. 

“I got that chance. And it made me realise that perhaps the skill I needed to learn most was to be agile and to expect broken expectations; to fall and get back up.

“Which is why, for me, the worst thing that can happen is not death and it’s not failure. It’s to be alive and not live. Because surviving is not enough.”

And that comes back to time – and how you choose to spend yours.

“I’ve learned to look at moments and ask myself, at what cost is this? What value do I get back and what value do I get to give? What is the exchange, and what meaning can I find?

“Because if I can’t leave a footprint on the ground any more, I have to leave a different type of footprint altogether – through the legacy that I leave. And that’s something we all can create, a more positive lasting effect on one another.”

One comment

Kirsty Pastoor
September 14, 2018 at 2.23 pm

This was by far the most inspiring and compelling keynote I have ever attended. I doubt there would be any attendee that was not effected by this. Each year you provide inspirational speakers but for me this topped any I have ever attended anywhere. I am just disappointed I am unable to access her book as it is out of print.

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