By Lydia Zilinsky – Collegiate Staff
Grand Rapids Community College welcomed paralympic skier and motivational speaker Josh Sundquist to a lecture on inspiring perseverance.
The lecture was held in the Ford Fieldhouse auditorium, filling the floor with GRCC students as well as many students from Davenport and other curious Grand Rapids citizens. Sundquist shared many stories from his best selling book, “Just Don’t Fall.”
Sundquist told lighthearted stories of growing up with one leg from the humorous situations to awkward encounters he dealt with because of it. He recalled the feeling of walking with two legs for the last time the day of his amputation. He then compared it to the walk he took at the paralymics in 2006 when he walked across an arena of 30,000 people in Turin, Italy.
“I didn’t start skiing until after I lost my leg, which means that the most beautiful walk of my entire life only happened because of the toughest walk of my life,” Sundquist said.
“The most positive things that have happened to me (have happened) because of my disability.”
Sundquist said we all have some sort of disability or something we feel that we aren’t quite enough in, but that, “Oftentimes the greatest increases in strength happen because of our disability.”
He went on to explain, when you set out for a certain purpose, sometimes challenges get in your way. Everyone goes through bad days and still has to carry on with life, go to work or class, maybe put on a mask, but we have a choice about the way we respond to these things.
“We always have moments that we feel like everything is falling apart, but in those moments… the best choice you can make is to try and find the courage to stand, and the strength to walk, and to keep walking forward and to put one foot in front of the other; that’s what perseverance is.”
During his skiing career, Sundquist’s motto was, “One more thing, One more time,” which he abbreviated to 1MT, 1MT to inscribe on his ski for extra motivation.
The newest addition to his story is that there is now a U.S. soccer team specifically for amputee players, to which Sundquist has been accepted and will begin traveling with worldwide this December.
He referred back to a childhood memory of wanting to wear a certain soccer jersey and travel the country, and now he has the opportunity to play and travel the world.
“Sometimes the uniform you get in life, is better than the one you thought you wanted,” he mused.
Sundquist also said it is important to have people you look up to in different areas, such as authors, speakers, people in the career you want to go into, or simply people that live the lifestyles you want to live.
“Whatever you’re trying to do, if you’re having trouble believing in yourself and your ability or just figuring out how to do it…(the best thing) is to find the person who’s done the thing you want to do and draw inspiration from the fact that, A: they are a human being and you’re a human being too so if they did it, you can do it; … B: figuring out the steps they took to get there and then taking those steps yourself.”
As he shared his he personal experiences and growth as an author and motivational speaker, he explained that it isn’t because he is constantly a positive person, but because he wants to encourage and inspire people through his experiences, both negative and positive.
“A bad thing can happen, but if I can take that negative thing and share that story, and for other people that negative thing is an encouragement to them and gives them hope, then in some ways that transforms it in my own life and the way I see that situation,” he said.
Sundquist said he plans on writing more books, beginning his soccer career, and continuing to share his life experiences with people through both speaking and social media including his humorous YouTube videos. His YouTube channel can be viewed here.