TedXAmsterdam speaker Marc de Hond shared his powerful message that every person has the extraordinary power to adapt to extreme situations. But instead of waiting for an external threat, people can already find this power and use it to their, or the world’s, best advantage right now.
As jack of all trades, presenter, DJ, entrepreneur and athlete Marc De Hond is used to performing for large audiences. But he is not here to talk about what we actually pay for things, like he does in his TV-show “De Rekenkamer”, or to score a three-pointer like he does in his wheelchair basketball matches. No, he is here to talk about the amazing power of adaptation of both body and mind.
One day at a time
Marc starts his talk with a story about his grandparents. They were Holocaust survivors who had lived in war for five years. When he was younger, Marc asked his grandfather: “How did you survive those five years of war?” His grandfather told him that as they did not know when the war would end, they just took it one day at a time, staying positive and believing that one day, the war would end. And it did.
Little did they know that these words of wisdom would be of large value to Marc in the years to come. In the year 2002, both of his grandparents passed away, and in the same year Marc lost his ability to walk. One day on the soccer field, a strange tingling in his body led him to the hospital, where they discovered a tumor in his spinal cord. An operation successfully removed the tumor, however post-surgical bleeding led to paralysis from the chest down. At that time, the doctors were not sure if any or all of his nerves would recover. To stay positive, he just assumed that he would recovered fully.
Before the operation, Marc was an active goalkeeper, and was used to training hard to achieve a goal: to win the match. Now, his goal became to walk again, “taking it one day at a time.” For the first four months of his rehabilitation process, nothing happened. Then, a toe moved. This milestone led him to train even harder, and for four years he worked hard every day toward his goal. On good days he could walk for 20 meters, but then suddenly his legs would stop moving. Improvements in walking became slower and slower, but his wheelchair skills became better and better.
The more he used this wheelchair, the easier it was for him to move around. Meanwhile, the every day training began to feel like a burden and a loss of time. When he realized this, he analyzed his situation, and saw that they only thing that was holding him back from living a ‘normal life’ was training to walk again. With this, the decision to accept the fact that he could never walk again came as a relief.
The power of adaptation
Accepting the way his body had changed gave Marc the strength to excel in his work and become a player on the Dutch national wheelchair basketball team. Because of his rehabilitation process, he discovered the ability of his body and mind to adapt to new circumstances. People often praise him for being so strong in accepting this fate, but Marc believes that this is not an exceptional power that belongs only to exceptional people. He believes that everyone has the strength to do exceptional things. What you need are three things: a spark of optimism, time and effort, and the support of others.
If you believe that one way or another there will be a positive outcome, you devote your time and energy, and you have the support of your loved ones, you can start to use your extraordinary power of adaptation to change the world, starting right now.