Ryan Campbell is “regular Aussie kid,” and yet he was the youngest person to fly around the world solo, achieving more in his teenage years than some do in their entire careers. Just after an early zenith in his young life, he also endured a plane crash that made him a paraplegic.
“Turbulence Tough” is what he became as a result, and it’s a message he shares globally, including as the closing keynote for CASE-NAIS 2021. It’s easy to see why audiences find him so engaging: he’s an explorer, an adventure connoisseur, and his affable nature and quick smile endear him to the viewer instantly. When Ryan explains his “Mindset Toolbox” as a visualization for the strategies we can all employ during difficult times, we want to listen.
Of course, times are difficult for all of us these days. Even with light at the end of this tunnel, we are all weary of the ongoing pandemic. Add to that the daily business of keeping a school afloat, and you have a recipe for sheer exhaustion.
In talking with Ryan after his keynote, I was struck by how positive and uplifting his message is, not only for us as professionals, but for a potential student audience. Here was this kid – and a kid he truly was when he flew solo around the world at just 19 – who had already experienced a range of emotions that could fill a lifetime: the incredible high of achieving his truest ambition, followed shortly by losing the ability to walk. Throughout that experience, Ryan learned to stay positive despite the overwhelming truth that his life had changed forever. As he pointed out to me, “On the rehabilitation ward, the glass half full cases were not blurred with the glass half empty cases. Those who stayed positive were far better off than those who weren’t.”
It’s because of this realization that Ryan shares his story and encourages audiences to find that level of positivity and gratitude for what they have, despite obvious challenges. He isn’t a therapist, and doesn’t claim to be, but his message is powerful. Regardless of the difficulties you face, you have within you, the ability to emerge from them stronger. Even when that includes asking for help, organizing your own “Mindset Toolbox” will help you shape your own future.
The students in our schools are growing up around words that have worn thin: “unprecedented,” “unusual,” “uncertain.” A year in the life of a 12- or 15-year old is an eternity, and no one knows better than a school leader that kids, while resilient, need an uplifting message. The “Mindset Toolbox” allows us all to see that we have agency in a time when it feels like we have no control over anything.
Please take a moment to view Ryan’s keynote, if you haven’t already. Give yourself – or your school community, should you invite Ryan to speak – a dose of “glass half full” today, and remember that we can all become #TurbulenceTough with the right mindset.
About the author(s)
Ann Snyder is the director of independent and international schools at CASE.