CFD 427 – Surviving and Thriving By Overcoming Obstacles

Janine Shepherd reveals the story of the accident that changed her life and how you can learn who you really are by overcoming obstacles.

Janine Shepherd is a former Olympic skier-turned-pilot. Her career as an athlete ended when she suffered life-threatening injuries when hit by a truck during a training bike ride. Before the accident, she had been in contention to win Australia’s first ever medal at the Winter Olympics. Though she was told she would never walk again or have children, and doctors had significant doubts as to whether she would survive at all, she defied all of these, and her story later became the focus of national attention, as well as a popular telemovie. She is the author of the new book Defiant: A Broken Body Is Not a Broken Person.  

Podcast Highlights

  • Who is Janine Shepherd?

Janine started her athletic career at the age of 6 which is the age where she discovered her “superpower”. Janine found her love of the hills, she learned that by loving the hills she became physically stronger than her competitors but also mentally tough. That is where she earned the nickname “Janine the Machine”.

There is always another hill. Once you accept that life has hills, the hills don’t matter anymore.

  • How did you go from running to Olympic skiing?

Australia is not known for winter sports but it actually has ideal conditions for winter training. Janine decided early on that she was going to be the one to break the 4-minute mile of Australian winter sports. She was invited by the Canadian Olympic team to train in preparation for the 1988 Calgary games prior to the accident that changed her life.

Janine’s mindset around hills made cross-country skiing the winter sport that she knew she could excel at.

  • The Day Janine’s Life Changed

Most athletes competing at a high level need to be extremely focused. During a long day of training, Janine suffered a terrible accident. Janine was struck by a speeding truck which resulted in a number of life threatening injuries, injuries that she was not supposed to survive. After 10 days in extensive care and a death experience, she returned to her body and realized there is a difference between what happens to your body and what happens to you.

As an athlete, Janine defined herself with her body. When her body became damaged, she had to make the choice to redefine her identity and experience life in a completely different way.

After extensive surgery and six months in the recovery ward, she was told that the damage was permanent and she would never be able to do things she did before. Janine felt like a prisoner in someone else’s body and became depressed.

After a frank discussion with a doctor about Janine’s sex life, Janine felt like she hit rock bottom and had lost everything. Rock bottom doesn’t reveal who you are, it reveals who you are not.

  • Who are you, Janine?

Janine is not her body. There is something inside of you, your spirit, that is independent of your physical body. Janine still loved the hills.

If you tie your self-worth to things that are outside of you, you are doomed to failure. Life is a dance between letting go of who you are and becoming who you will be.

  • What have you been able to do since?

Janine had a moment of clarity one day and decided that if she can’t walk, she could fly. She booked a trial flight with an instructor and that day discovered her love of flying. There is no greater metaphor for freedom than flying.

The magic happens on the other side of the hill. Within 18 months, Janine became a fully licensed pilot and ended up teaching others how to fly at the same place she received her first training flight.

Janine found a sense of incredible achievement and joy in reinventing her life. She went on to become a published author, speaker, mother of three and connecting with people around the world.

Reference: Defiant: A Broken Body Is Not a Broken Person, Janine Shepherd

  • Janine’s Takeaway

Don’t let anyone else set your limitations. Create your own life and determine yourself what you can and cannot do. Stay focused on your own authentic path and love the hills.


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