Speaker Robert Paylor on Facing Adversity After His Rugby Injury and Paralysis

During a recent company-wide meeting, we were joined by a special guest, former UC Berkeley rugby player and motivator, Robert Paylor. At a time when the pressures of daily life are mounting and we are facing unprecedented global challenges, Robert spoke to our team with a message of positivity and resilience. 

During the 2017 Collegiate Rugby National Championship, Robert’s life changed drastically. A few minutes into the biggest game of his life thus far, a sudden and devastating neck injury left Robert paralyzed from the neck down. He remembers lying on the field, surrounded by his teammates, aware that he was unable to feel and that this would be a life-altering injury. 

After an emergency surgery, doctors confirmed that Robert was quadraplegic and might never walk or use his hands again. In an instant, Robert had gone from being a top-tier athlete to suddenly losing all of his physical abilities. The grief, shock, and frustration were inevitable, but they were only the beginning of a lifelong journey marked by persistence and hope. Robert began the daily struggle of regaining his mobility in rehabilitation, and most importantly, adjusting mentally and emotionally to the new challenges he faced. Three years after his fateful injury, after countless hours of effort and dedication, Robert is now able to lift himself out of his wheelchair on his own and support himself to walk 200 yards. 

Although we do not all face the same challenges that Robert faces, we can learn from his mindset. Here are the two principles that Robert shared with our team for overcoming difficult times.

1. Control Your Mindset

When Robert realized how difficult the road ahead was going to be, he was scared and didn’t know what to do. He called his religious advisor, who shared some wisdom that stayed with Robert. His advisor told him that although he couldn’t control the circumstances around him, he could control his mindset. He could control how he decided to wake up every day and face the things that were beyond his control. 

Robert recognizes how difficult it can be to control one’s mindset through adversity. He shared a few tips that help him. 

Make a decision. 

Make a conscious decision to not let your circumstances beat you. Every day set your focus to not let the challenges and roadblocks keep you from moving forward. You may have to adapt to how you tackle challenges, but you can drive your future. 

Have a mental diet. 

Whatever fuels our mental diet will affect our output. Robert recommends keeping a gratitude journal and writing down three things at the end of the day that you’re grateful for, whether they’re big or small things. Just like a food diet, we have to keep a healthy mental diet in order to feel good about life.

Focus on the controllables. 

Robert says that humans have a limited capacity for focusing on things in life, so it’s especially important to focus on what we have, rather than what we don’t have, as well as focus on what we can change instead of what we can’t. Learning to forgive and let go of the disappointments will help us move forward in life. 

2. Practice Perspective

Robert compares a time in his life when he was thrilled about a great play in rugby, to a time after his injury, when he was just happy to sit upright for 15 minutes without passing out. In order to practice perspective more effectively, Robert recommends three strategies. 

Practice perspective through our personal experiences.

It helps to remember how resilient we are, and that we have overcome difficult things in the past. If we compare our current situation to a past situation, we may find an appreciation for the progress we’ve already made in life. 

Practice perspective through the experiences of others.

We need to remember how much we have. Robert recognizes that although his struggles can be difficult, there are people who are in worse situations, and many persevere regardless. 

Ask, “Compared to what?”

This is the question that Robert uses to reframe the difficulties he’s experiencing in the moment. Yes, the present situation may be difficult, but compared to what? There is always the possibility that things could be worse. If we compare our problems to more difficult scenarios, we find that our struggles can be manageable. 

Whether it’s at work or in our personal lives, we all go through periods of difficulty. While we cannot control everything that happens around us, we can control our response and how we choose to face our challenges. Robert Paylor’s story and outlook on life inspires us to believe in ourselves and never give up.

Our team at Feedonomics greatly appreciated Robert’s inspirational talk especially during these very challenging times. Feedonomics CEO Shawn Lipman says, “Our team members were enthralled with Robert and many reflected on how they can use optimism as the fuel for overcoming their own adversity and challenges. Everyone should spend some time with this remarkable man. His strength, wisdom, and tenacity shine through and we all feel richer having had the time to meet him.”

To learn more about Robert’s story and his message of positivity, go to his website and check out his video below: