It’s easy to get bogged down when things don’t go your way in business, but Sam Cawthorn is urging organisations to focus on the positives and bounce forward rather than back.
After all, Cawthorn knows better than most what it means to come back from the bottom – he was pronounced dead after a car accident, but fought back to live to tell the tale.
Dynamic Business spoke to Cawthorn about his new book, Bounce Forward, his foray into the world of motivational speaking, and how he’s teaching the business world to bounce forward.
Your book is called Bounce Forward – how would you explain the concept in a sentence or two?
We’ve all heard the term ‘bounce back’, because everyone’s had a crisis, everyone has problems, everyone has tough times both personally and professionally, but for me it’s not about going back to where you were before, it’s about bouncing forward into what you can become. I believe that through crisis and tough times, we can end up better than what we were before that crisis hit.
What led you to write the book?
As you know, I’ve got a bit of an extraordinary story. I’m originally from Tasmania, I had a great job, was married, had kids and a mortgage, I had the whole lot. In the prime of my life at 26 years old I was driving my big company car and I fell asleep at the wheel and veered over to the other side of the road and had a 206km head-on collision with a semi trailer. The paramedics said that I died at the scene so my heart stopped for 3 and a half minutes. I was resuscitated and put on life support for a week, was in hospital for five months, and in a wheelchair for a year.
The doctors initially said to me I’d never be able to walk ever again. But my rehabilitation was very interesting because my occupational therapist, physios, doctors, nurses, their sole purpose was to bounce me back to as close as they could get to the same life pre-accident. But something had changed, not only physically – because I now live with an above-elbow amputation after my arm was ripped off in the accident – but their job was to get me back to that same environment where I was before the accident, but something had changed emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually.
I was no longer focused on bouncing back, I was more focused on bouncing forward into what I can become. Looking back at it all now, my life is greater, it’s significantly better than what it was before the accident and I believe that through any crisis and any tough times we can find better circumstances, which is why I wrote the book. I wanted to give people the right tools and the right strategies that through crisis, whether it’s an economic crisis or natural disaster or personal crisis, whatever it is, we can become better through that.
How did you first get into speaking at corporate events?
It was very organic initially. After my accident there were a few small groups that asked me to tell my story, and then I started telling my story in schools, and then from there, there were a couple of businesses. Then slowly but surely I realised that people need to hear powerful and inspirational stories, and people are inspired and get motivated through that, because in a way it’s a reality check through our own crisis or downtime, and hearing a powerful story of triumph over adversity helps. So through that I’ve been obsessed with this whole area of not only resilience but also with becoming better through crises, which led me to develop the four principles in the book.
The first is crisis creates opportunity. Even if you look at the fastest growing company in history, Groupon, it started during the biggest financial crisis of our time. The second is proximity is power, so that looks at the idea that we’re the average of our five closest friends. The company that we keep determines who we are, so we look at positive proximity compared to negative proximity, and how much of a difference that does make in a team environment, staff engagement, leadership and so on.
The third is leveraging positivity to fuel success. We specifically look at happiness, positivity, and optimism, and how that makes a significant contribution to the way we show up to work, but also our productivity and success rates when we can actively focus on the positives in life instead of what’s going wrong. The last one is bounce forward, which is not focusing on what we were, but what we can become.
You can order a signed copy of Bounce Forward: How To Transform Crisis Into Success from Sam’s website.