Have a vision of where you are going with your life with clear goals to keep you focused on tomorrow and not what you are dealing with daily. For me, after my accident, I had to make sure my focus was not on where I was or the situation I was in, but where I saw myself tomorrow.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Grant Lottering.
Since the age of 12, Grant Lottering had a passion for cycling and would eventually start racing as a professional at 21. On July 21, 2013, as Grant prepared for the World Championship in Trento, Italy, he crashed. Grant’s accident was so severe that as he lay on the mountain road, he resigned himself to the reality that he would die — yet he lived. The doctors told him that he survived death, and in the hospital, Grant received a vision of a blank page, which he felt was a message telling him, “you’ve got a new story to tell.” Grant would then do the impossible by conquering the French Alps in under 50 hours, the French Pyrenees in less than 72 hours and the entire length of South Africa, despite having undergone 11 surgeries, including emergency cancer surgery. As an international motivational speaker and Laureus Sport for Good Ambassador, Grant has taken his story to over 11 countries and 40 million people.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Since I was 12, I’ve had a passion for cycling, mostly because I wasn’t good at anything with a ball. Growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, I made junior national colors twice by the time I turned 18 and at age 20 I was a professional cyclist, racing in Europe from 1987 to 1989. In 2012, I qualified for the World Championship in Italy 2013. As I prepared for the race in Trento, Italy, on July 21, 2013, I had an accident that would change my life forever. As I was going downhill, I took a turn too fast, hit some water, lost control of my bike and smashed straight into a rock embankment. My crash was so severe that as I lay on the mountain road, I realized I was dying, and I even spoke with God in my spirit, saying, “Take me.” Yet I lived. Today, I am an Extreme Endurance Cyclist and Laureus Sport for Good Ambassador, having conquered the French Alps, Pyrenees, South Africa, and soon the length of California. Since my accident in 2013 I have undergone 12 surgeries, while also overcoming emergency cancer surgery in 2016 and 2017. I’ve reached over 60 million people through broadcast, print and online media, sharing my story and testimony “From Death to the Top of the Alps.” And I am very honored to have raised millions of dollars for underprivileged children in disadvantaged communities in South Africa — and it’s all thanks to the grace of God.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
While in the hospital, I received a vision of a blank page, a message saying, “you’ve got a new story to tell.” I would spend ten days in the ICU, and as soon as I was out, I knew I couldn’t squander my chance at life. Having surrendered my life to God, I decided that I needed to go back and finish the race that had almost claimed my life. I believed that if I could complete that race, my story could inspire others. But first, I had to recover. It takes most people 12 months to recover from a broken femur, but I managed to start training in seven — still, I could barely walk. Within 11 months of my accident, I was on that same turn that should have killed me. Only five of the 12 surgeries I needed were complete at that time, but that didn’t deter me. When I finished, the feeling of accomplishment was incredible — however, I kept thinking that I could have ridden further and faster. Moreover, I realized that I could raise a lot of money for a good cause if I continued riding.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I’ve been fortunate to partner with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, the Reach for a Dream Foundation in South Africa (the equivalent in the US is Make a Wish Foundation) and UHSM Health Sharing Ministries. Laureus Sport for Good was actually founded under the patronage of Nelson Mandela, leveraging the power of sports to help disadvantaged children and young people overcome violence and discrimination. The program gets kids involved in sports, but — more importantly — it tracks their development, checking in to see if they have been attending school regularly, avoiding crime, getting job interviews, etc. My partnership with UHSM Health Sharing Ministries has been integral to strengthening my relationship with God and disseminating my testimony of overcoming adversity and promoting healthy living to audiences.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m grateful for my brother Glenn — he is three years older than me and lives in Holland. When he heard of my accident, he quickly traveled to Italy to be with me in the hospital. Glenn is with me for all my Im’possible Tours, serving as a pillar of encouragement and support. When I found out I had aggressive melanoma, he was a vital voice of reason and wisdom on many occasions as he himself had to overcome skin cancer. We have a special bond of friendship and trust, and when I need an ear of encouragement, he is the one I turn to. Other people I am very grateful for are, surprisingly, the man who crashed into me and broke my femur during my accident. As God would have it, this man was a doctor, and he stayed with me until I got airlifted. To this day, I don’t know his name, but I have a picture of him, and I know he is from New York. The other person would be the head of the ICU unit for the World Championship race, who managed to stabilize me even though my heart stopped twice.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
To me resilience speaks of mental strength. Call it grit if you like. It is the ability to continue pressing on despite the circumstances, that dogged determination and refusal to give up. Resiliency can come naturally, but even inherently resilient people need to train to have physical and — more importantly — mental toughness. It’s something we must develop through life, learning to be resilient, and we do this by transforming unexpected things into opportunities to help ourselves and others. Likewise, resilient people aren’t too dependent on things — in the sense that they are not reliant on an employer or a paycheck for their personal wellbeing or purpose. These things don’t define you. Even if these things get taken away, you still have your mind, body and soul. You have to cultivate your mental, physical and emotional durability. I honestly believe people who have a vision and purpose in their life and know what they want to achieve or accomplish, have that grit to persevere and not give up.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Both require mental toughness. Stepping out of your comfort zone, taking on something which you know is going to stretch you beyond what you are comfortable with, takes courage. Resilience says I will not fear, I will not hold back out of fear of failure, or what others may think; I will be bold, I will be courageous, I will not quit.
The first time I started riding a bike again, I got so nervous when I went down that initial hill. I was on the brakes, and I had to get my mind right. Resiliency may be the ability to bounce back even stronger from setbacks, but courage is knowing that those challenges are coming and taking them head-on. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t asked God to make me resilient and courageous.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Greg LeMond for sure! He was the first American to win the Tour de France in 1986, having arrived in Europe in the early eighties he frequently had to prove himself to the French team he was signed with. He could have won the 1985 Tour de France but was forced to support his French teammate, sacrificing his own chances. He never gave up, knowing he would be able to show his worth, but he would get accidentally shot in the back by his brother-in-law while hunting. The doctors told him that he would have died if he had arrived 20 minutes later at the hospital. The cycling world thought his career was over — especially in Europe, where the competition was fiercest. Nevertheless, in 1989, he came back and won the Tour de France by 8 seconds and later the World Championships. But he wasn’t done yet — the following year, in 1900, he would win his 3rd Tour de France despite the 35 shotgun pellets still inside his body. He was my cycling hero throughout the eighties, and it’s really special knowing that we both overcame death and fought our way back to achieve great things. Although mine was on a rather smaller scale!
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Absolutely, after my accident, the doctors got me up to speed, telling me, quite bluntly, that I should have been dead. My body was wrecked; 22 broken bones, collapsed lungs and thorax, ruptured veins in my arms and neck and internal bleeding in my abdomen and spleen. The surgeons in Italy were adamant that I would never ride a bike again; as did the doctors and medical experts in South Africa. However, I miraculously wasn’t paralyzed, despite my spinal fractures. I knew I had a second chance and a clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish. My mental strength was solid, and I spent every day visualizing myself riding my bike again. Eleven months later I was in the Alps and finished the ride I crashed in the previous year, to the astonishment of everyone. I have proven medical professionals wrong by riding my bike again and cycling multiple impossible feats. Because of my success, I learned that very little is impossible when you are mentally strong and committed.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
My accident in 2013, as described above, was my biggest setback. But since then, I would get humbled when my surgeon called me and told me I had a very aggressive, invasive melanoma. I had to go in the next day for an urgent surgery. What made cancer so different than my 11 cycling surgeries was that this was an invisible disease. Going through rehabilitation after my accident, I could see visible progress and feel my body getting measurably stronger. But cancer was different — it had the potential to end my cycling career. It was very frightening at first, and I lost a lot of sleep, wondering if I’d be clear and if my cancer would come back. Then in late 2017, less than a year after my cancer surgery, while out training for my next Im’possible Tour, I crashed heavily trying to avoid a car in the road and fractured/dislocated my left shoulder, the healthy one! It set me back 3 months as I had to undergo two surgeries to repair the shoulder, while only 6 months later I was due to attempt a non-stop cycle through the French Pyrenees and Alps. However, I kept telling myself that God was in control and that this was just another setback that I would overcome; I fortunately succeeded. Moreover, this experience got me back on my knees and reminded me that I need to dedicate my life to God every day. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
As a child I never fit in at school. When I started cycling I was never taken seriously as it was not a recognized school sport. I endured quite an amount of bullying, but I learned to have tenacity, determination and a single-minded focus to achieve my goals. From an early age, I became more determined to succeed and follow my own path in life. It still helps me to this day! But, you can’t rely solely on your own strength, in Proverbs, it says: “Acknowledge God in your plans, and He will direct your paths.” When life is not just about you and your achievements, you remain grounded, humbled, and ultimately resilient. So many times, at the start of my extreme endurance Im’possible Tours, I prayed to God to give me the strength to finish. And, sure enough, I felt God’s supernatural power carrying me and pushing me to complete those 600+ mile courses without stopping. Healthy practices can also build resilience, but, in the end, it comes from God and trusting Him.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Have a vision of where you are going with your life with clear goals to keep you focused on tomorrow and not what you are dealing with daily. For me, after my accident, I had to make sure my focus was not on where I was or the situation I was in, but where I saw myself tomorrow.
- Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage and uplift you and not share their own worries and ‘what ifs’ with you.
- Live a life of gratitude — when you are thankful, you can’t find reasons to complain as easily.
- Be mentally strong — become your own biggest fan and refuse to let other people put their limits on your life.
- Make God 1st place in your life, and honor Him with your mind, body and spirit.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d encourage people to live more outward-focused; we all can make a positive change in others’ lives if we focus less on ourselves. There is always someone worse off than we are, no matter our situation or hardships. If I had focused on myself and let my accident get the better of me, I wouldn’t have been able to use my talent and testimony to inspire people and raise money for underprivileged children. I’m just a guy who fell off his bike. But I’ve intentionally used God’s gift, and now, I’ve been fortunate to share my story with corporations, conferences and churches in over 12 countries.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Rick Warren. He has the most incredible amount of wisdom, he firmly believes that everyone is born with a pre-determined purpose, destined by God. He has helped countless people realize their purpose in life and he is a very humble human being!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The best place is to visit my website www.grantlottering.com. Hyperlinks to all my social media handles are on my homepage, as well as links to my YouTube videos of my testimony and my Im’possible Tours.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!