AN INSPIRATION: American W. Mitchell overcame insurmountable odds to be one of the most successful motivational speakers in the world
KUALA LUMPUR: W. Mitchell is a motivational speaker extraordinaire.
He has guided former United States president Bill Clinton, as well as thousands of others across the globe. But it wasn't always this way for the American author and businessman.
Some four decades ago, Mitchell had to motivate and pull himself out of a tremendously debilitating personal obstacle.
In 1971, Mitchell was involved in a motorcycle accident and sustained 65 per cent burns.
As if that was not bad enough, he was in a plane crash four years later. The incidents left him wheelchair bound.
While most people would have given up and given in to self-pity, Mitchell picked up the pieces and refused to allow himself to dwell on his misfortune.
This once robust Marine firmly held on to his feisty nature and quick wit.
His accomplishments have received media recognition in America on Good Morning America, The Today Show and NBC Nightly News.
"I cannot walk, but I still fly planes and have my pilot's licence. When I was in hospital after the plane crash, I met a 28-year-old guy who was also paralysed during a skiing accident.
"He had somewhat given up on life because up to that point he had led an active life, skiing, playing games and doing all the things he loved best.
"I told him that before I was paralysed, there were 10,000 things I could do but now, there are only 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I have lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left," he said in an interview.
Mitchell, who was here recently to give a talk to corporate leaders and managers at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, said he imparted the same message to Clinton.
"I don't focus on the 1,000 things I cannot do. Why bother about them when there is so much more left to do."
To date, he has travelled to 40 countries, spoken at 30, and imparted his life's lessons to some 150,000 worldwide.
His travels have taken him to Canada, South Africa, China, Singapore, New Zealand, Dubai, Australia, and Europe. He had also made numerous visits to the White House.
Mitchell, 69, has never allowed his physical disabilities get in the way of his quest to help others.
Personally, he has also achieved more than many other "normal" or physically able people -- he is a successful businessman, a congressional nominee from Colorado, a radio host and television personality, and an environmentalist and conservationist.
"Whenever I speak to my audience, I tell my story and then empower them to accept challenge and also embrace change and be focused. I tell my audience that they have a choice and life is about choices.
"People should always look at the possibility and not at the impossibility. What they should also know is that a change in life takes energy, and one can change a difficult situation into a positive one."
Life, according to Mitchell, has "bumps, cyclones and also tsunamis".
"Your loved ones die, people lose their jobs, or their relationships end. All the cyclones and tsunamis in life are part of being a human being on this planet.
"I have seen people in mental wheel chairs and internal scars. Don't blame yourself for what has happened or is happening but instead take responsibility and move forward.
"It is like being in a car, there is a reason why the windscreen is so much larger than the rear mirror."
He said people need to always look at the windscreen and see what is ahead instead of looking back into the rear mirror, and dwelling on the past.
"In life, it is not about what happens to you, it's what you do about it. Ultimately, what we do and where we end up, is our choice."
Mitchell has also written a book titled It's Not What Happens To You. It's What You Do About It -- about taking responsibility for change.
"Life's ups and downs can throw a person in an emotional prison, like what had happened to me and still happens to me from time to time. Now, we can get out of it sooner, than be stuck in an emotional prison, because there are tools and keys for us to do so."
Mitchell said, in jest, that he does occasionally dream of having Brad Pitt's body, Bill Gates' resources, Stephen Hawking's intelligence, the Dalai Lama's compassion and "a girlfriend who is drop dead wonderful with a great heart, loving, caring, compassionate and strong", someone like American actress Andie MacDowell.
"But really, I am just really happy with what I have."