Turia Pitt’s life-altering story is one most Australians would be familiar with.
A talented athlete and former mining engineer, Pitt was caught in a raging grassfire during a 100km ultra-marathon in 2011. She suffered full thickness burns to the majority of her body and underwent more than 200 medical procedures. She would then go on to spend more than two years in hospital fighting to recover.
But while that single moment changed her life forever, Pitt harnessed her harrowing experience to become a spokesperson for self-love, contentment, courage, confidence and resilience.
Speaking to host, Shirley Chowdhary on the latest episode of The Leadership Lessons and the first of Seasons Four, Pitt is humble about her prodigious strength. When asked about those early days following her accident and how she got through, she simply cites her belief that most people have inner resources to cope in their darkest hour.
“I believe that we’ve all got the inner resources to be able to cope with whatever life throws our way,” she says, adding that “a lot of people just never get tested so they might not know that about themselves yet”.
“I knew in those early days that if I just kept ruminating on what my future may or may not look like or how I was going to rebuild my life, or the unfairness or the injustice of it all, that would just eat me up inside. It would make me feel sick and it wouldn’t do anything to help my recovery”.
Instead, Pitt chose happiness and focused on answering key questions posed to herself each day: “What can I be grateful for today? How can I make today good? How can I enjoy today with my partner?” she explains, adding “I really think someone who is happy most of the time is generally more productive, more energetic, more focused and more determined.”
And it’s these traits that Turia Pitt exhibits in spades. In the time since her accident, she’s written three best-selling books including the newly released ‘Happy (And Other Ridiculous Aspirations)’, coached over 40,000 people in her digital courses and competed in the Ironman World Championships. She’s also a mum to two little boys, Hakavai and Rahiti.
But despite her significant achievements, Pitt refreshingly doesn’t pretend to have everything figured out and laughs at the notion of “balance”.
“When people ask how I do it all or how I balance it, I don’t,” she says. “Some weeks I am a really good mum and I’m really present with my kids and maybe the next week I’ll have a lot on at work.”
A couple of weeks out from her next running program, Pitt’s long hours at work have made it challenging to be present with family. “But I think it all sort of works out in the long run,” she says. “I haven’t found it to be possible to be really good at everything all at once.”
She’s also honest about her reliance on support networks.
“It’s so easy to think you can do everything by yourself, but I don’t think we can,” she says. “I know in my experience I never would have been able to do all the things that I’ve done if I didn’t have my partner, my mum, amazing doctors and compassionate nurses.”
And indeed, it’s the people in Pitt’s life that serve as her greatest inspiration and light—a realisation that came to her after her accident.
“I just never spent a moment thinking about how awesome it was that I had of all of these great people in my life,” she says. “My accident taught me to be grateful for the people who are there for you and to make time for those relationships”.
“At the end of the day, when things go down to the wire, it’s our relationships that are the most important thing.”
Turia’s interview with Shirley shares some powerful ideas around leadership, happiness, resilience and so much more. The Leadership Lessons is made possible thanks to the support of Salesforce. You can listen below, or subscribe via iTunes or Spotify.