I work with so many amazing people, and in the world of corporate speaking most of those people are full of tips on staying positive. Barnaby Howarth is one of those people, but what I find incredibly unique about this Supernova is his ability to thrive in life, despite having every reason to declare himself a victim of circumstance.
At the tender age of 14, Barnaby was diagnosed with Diabetes. For those of you unfamiliar with Diabetes, it is a disease in which the body has a shortage of insulin. Some of you may know a Diabetic and if you do, you would also know that every day these brave people need to monitor blood sugar and inject insulin. For Diabetics, there is also a range of risk factors and complications they also need to be aware of and manage. All of these things create an ongoing battle.
Despite this, Barnaby rallied on through his teenage years eventually achieving his dream becoming an AFL player for the Sydney Swans. To achieve this level of sporting mastery, Barnaby developed a positive mindset, and attitude of resilience not only to play AFL at the highest level but to manage his diabetes at the same time. Little did he know, this positive attitude would prepare him, for another unexpected setback that he could never have planned for.
At the age 25 while out on the town with a group of friends Barnaby was the victim of a brutal alcohol fuelled gang attack. The attack not only left him bruised and battered, but within a week while training he suffered a near fatal stroke as a result of injuries he endured.
Despite the ongoing challenges of both the Diabetes and Stroke, Barnaby continues to a be a beacon of light, or shall I say a shining supernova. He shares his inspiring story as a professional speaker, is an author, filmmaker, and has been inducted into the Sydney AFL Hall of Fame.
As I write this post, Barnaby and his wife Angela (who is also battling breast cancer) are planning a trip to Papua New Guinea to walk the Kokoda Track in October. With true humility they are not looking for funds for their walk, instead wanting to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness of the causes that have affected them. If you would like to donate, please check out these links:
Need I say anymore about this superstar….welcome aboard The Supernova Tribe Barnaby Howarth. How lucky are we to spend a few minutes getting to know a person who in every sense of the word….is giving life a crack!
As a WORLD CHANGER in raising awareness for Diabetes and stroke, you have been driven by a sense of purpose. When did you discover your ‘WHY’ and once you found what you were aiming for, how did you execute your dreams?
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was 14 years old & my dream was to play in the AFL, but I didn’t know if diabetes meant I’d have to reassess what I could achieve in life. When I had my stroke, I was 25, and all I wanted was to keep living the life I’d been living, but I couldn’t even stand still in the same spot without falling over. Those two things answered my “WHY” for me, now I just had to find my drive to help me execute those dreams.
It was two different football coaches who helped me through after diabetes and the stroke. After getting diabetes, it was something I heard AFL Hall of Fame player & coach Ron Barassi say that helped me realise what I had to do – Barassi once said “there’s no disgrace in failing – the only disgrace is if you only half try, or 3/4’s try, or 99% try.” After the stroke, it was one of the best AFL coaches I’ve had that helped me get back the life I wanted. My old coach at the Pennant Hills Demons used to tell our team “Focus on the game plan and the result will take care of itself.”
I realised after both that all I could do was give everything I had to the task in front of me & let the chips fall where they may. So my purpose these days is to give 100% to what I’m doing right now, and if it works it works, if it doesn’t I can still look at myself in the mirror and say that I couldn’t have tried any harder.
Some speak of luck. In pursuing your purpose do you feel that you have been guided by luck (fate, synchronicity, providence), or was your success as simple as setting a goal and executing?
A little from column A and a little from column B. Luck will throw things on your path, but it’s the decisions you make that turn it into good luck or bad luck. I think I got lucky to have got diabetes & had a stroke, as it helped sharpen my ideas about success. I used to think that success meant winning at any cost and could be measured in trophies, medals, promotions or financial rewards. Now I realise that it’s not where you end up in life that matters, but how hard you work along the way.
People have told me I was “unlucky” to have had a stroke so young, but I had my stroke because I was bashed in an alcohol-fueled gang attack. I went to break up a fight a mate had started, so that was nothing to do with luck – I’d make exactly the same decisions I made that night if those circumstances came up again. On the flip side, if I hadn’t had the stroke or been diabetic, I wouldn’t have the clear purpose I have (give 100% to the task in front of me & let the chips fall where they may). So what appeared to be “unlucky” was just “luck” in disguise.
This ‘Project’ is very much about embracing a purpose greater than our individual identity. Do you feel that your ‘purpose’ in life was something you were born with, or is purpose created by life experience alone?
I was born with a small amount of gumption, but my life experiences have shown me that I don’t need superhuman strength, endurance or dedication. The best example of this was when I was lining up for a goal in my 100th AFL game for Pennant Hills 7 years after my stroke. I was 30 metres out, kicking on my right foot (I’m a natural left footer). I’d kicked 0 goals in 7 attempts at training the Thursday prior, and the first time I touched the ball in that game I went to kick but completely missed it, spun around and fell over, so confidence wasn’t high. I wasn’t sure my gumption was going to help me.
As I was lining up though, the advice from my old coach kept going round and round in my head, “Focus on the game plan and the result will take care of itself,” so I just looked at each small task and gave them 100% – I kept my head over the footy, took my regular 12 steps, dropped the ball steadily to my boot, and swung my leg straight, and the result was that I kicked the first goal of the day in my 100th game for Pennant Hills 7 years after my parents had been told they might have to turn off my life support after I’d had a stroke.
My small amount of gumption got me through.
It is the sharing of stories that creates change in the world. What moment in your life, made you passionate about raising awareness around the issue of dealing with Diabetes & a stroke?
One of my cousins told me after being diagnosed with diabetes that she was never going to travel overseas because of her condition, and I decided then I didn’t want to miss out on things because of diabetes. I was going to make diabetes fit in with my lifestyle, not change my lifestyle to fit in with diabetes. I stuck with the same philosophy after my stroke. I knew what I wanted, I was confident the steps I had in place would take me there, so I just stuck to my guns and had faith my life would work out.
You can make one wish upon a STAR to enable world change. What is your wish, and why?
That people realise they don’t need special qualities to do something special with their lives.
Too many people think they need a mystical, intangible X-factor if they want to do something big with their life, but they already have everything they need – they just have to find it.
We all have someone in our life that has ignited a spark in the soul. Who is that person in your life, and what was the one thing that person told you, or you heard them say that changed your life?
My father has ignited my spark – not through what he has SAID, but what he has DONE. He is a gentleman with a strong work ethic who bought a house in the suburbs, raised 4 children who consider each other mates, not just siblings, he loves my mother, and is now a doting grandfather.
One thing my Dad said that had stuck with me is “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” I think that’s been in the back of my mind my entire life.