Conferences Wikia

Victor over Victim -- Bruce Walsh[]


Bruce Walsh standing on "his own two feet"

Walsh started by talking about the routines and rituals that determine our comfort zones. When we make decisions to change our lives, such as changing our jobs, then we can change our routines to accommodate the change. But when the change is thrust upon us, through retrenchment or other trauma, then we're left feeling disempowered. Walsh was injured in a bomb blast in Cape Town's Planet Hollywood. "I walked into the restaurat on my own two feet. I came home, 10 weeks later, in a wheelchair, having lost both my legs." He was standing.

We are the sum of our choices[]

We are the sum of all our life choices. He classified people who choose to fall into the category "winners" who set themselves goals, who perservere. Winners are team players. Then people choose to be classed as "losers" who start, but don't finish; who promise but don't deliver; who don't perservere and who don't play in teams, and who don't set goals. When disaster strikes, the winners pick themselves up and see the circumstances as a challenge. Losers on the other hand, turn the experience into victimhood.

Choosing to win[]

Walsh said he could easily have allowed the trauma to force him into victimhood. Ironically, Walsh was a keen runner, having run the Comrades and Two Oceans race many times. He also played league squash. He was there on company business and said he could still be blaming his employer and Planet Hollywood. If that were his choice, he would be sitting in a wheelchair, and not standing in front of us. When he laced his shoes that fateful Tuesday morning, he didn't realize that this would be the last time he would do that. That night, he Walsh was in the restaurant with two colleagues, both of whom died.

A hell of a party[]

When he awoke a month later, he remembers his first thought being: "That must have been a hell of a party – I don't recognize the view and I'm in a stranger's bed!" Then he got out of bed, and hit the floor. He had no legs. At first he couldn't believe it – when he looked down and saw his missing legs, Walsh says he cried. "Winners are goal-focused people," says Walsh. "My first goal was: Bruce Walsh will get his life back. The perpetrators can take my legs and colleagues, but I will not give the perpetrators of that bomb the satisfaction that they had taken my life." The prognosis wasn't good. I was told I would never walk again, never drive again, never work again.

Going Running[]

The one thing Walsh wanted to do was to run again because running had always been his therapy. Walsh went to Run/Walk for life, and started walking round the field. He finally graduated to the "road" group and finished his first five kilometer fun run. Eighteen months later, the doctor said he would never have the use of his left hand again. Two days later, when the doctor came to his bedside, Walsh said he stuck his left forefinger straight up his nose – just to prove the point. He says learning to drive and the other physical pain wasn't as hard as dealing with his emotions. He says there were times he spent three days in bed, just crying. He realized he would never feel the sea lapping at his ankles. He says winners are team people. He says he relied on his family, his physiotherapist and a psychologist to help him deal with what had happened. He is now a published author, which may never have happened without having been caught in the bomb blast.

'n Boer maak 'n plan.[]

One of Walsh's goals was not to ever appear in public until he could walk unaided on his artificial legs. He practiced on his prosthetics around the kitchen. He graduated to two crutches, then to one crutch. He donated his wheelchair to charity and has never sat in one again. He went to a public place with two friends in a public place, walking unaided. As he lurched past a young couple, the woman nudged her companion and said: "Look at that. Nine o'clock in the morning!"

"Most people are given one shot for this thing called Life. I was given a second chance," says Walsh. Then he asked: Are you a winner, or a loser, a whinger, a complainer. If you want to be a winner, you have to

  • acquire the skill of perseverance;
  • set goals;
  • be emotionally functional;
  • be emotionally consistent.
  • You cannot be a winner unless you are intellectually challenging (looking for solutions, not problems)
  • and he says you cannot be a winner if your relationship with your creator is not what it should be.

He was given a rousing ovation.