Janine Shepherd’s story reads like the plot of a Hollywood movie. An Australian national champion skier in training for the upcoming Olympics, she was hit by a truck on a bike ride, suffering multiple life-threatening injuries. Doctors warned her parents that, even if she lived, Janine would never walk again. After major spinal surgery, and five months immobilized in a hospital bed, Janine came home to heal. She faced a daunting recovery and an uncertain future. Struggling to rehabilitate with permanent disabilities, Janine rekindled her defiant spirit in a dramatically improbable way. Seeing a small plane fly overhead one day, she declared, “That’s it! If I can’t walk, I’ll fly!”
Janine went on to succeed not only as a commercial pilot and flight instructor but also to attain her University degree, raise three children and author a best-selling book, “Never Tell Me Never.” Her memoir was subsequently made into a feature length film of the same title. Today, Janine Shepherd is an internationally renowned speaker whose inspiring TED talk, “A Broken Body Isn’t a Broken Person.” has garnered over 1.5 million views. She’s been featured on “60 Minutes”, “This is Your Life”, and CNN's "Turning Points", with Dr Sanjay Gupta. She is an ambassador for Spinal Cure Australia and Red Bull, "Wings for Life." Janine has been recognised with her country’s highest civilian honor, The Order of Australia, for her service to the community, her inspiration, and her work in raising awareness of spinal cord research.
What do I do best?
My strength has been my ability to communicate my journey with complete vulnerability and authenticity, both on stage and in my books. I strive to act as a mirror, giving others insights into their respective personal struggles and seeing their roles as a key part of a greater collective. I encourage everyone to tap into his or her innate “defiant human spirit,” knowing that we all possess the inner strength to overcome whatever challenges we face in life.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I am determined and tenacious—my athlete-competitors christened me “Janine the Machine”— so I face my challenges with a never-give-up attitude. These characteristics enabled me to survive a near-fatal accident, to learn to walk after a spinal cord injury left me a paraplegic in a wheelchair. My burning desire to accomplish my goals motivates me to try even harder when I’m told something can’t be done, to break down the barriers of what I believe is possible.
What are my aspirations?
Personal: To get back into flying after taking a break to raise my kids. I have already converted my Australian Commercial Pilots License to a USA validation, and would love to start teaching aerobatics again, just for fun!
Business: It’s my mission to help people embrace what I call “the defiant human spirit,” tapping that force within each of us to live more meaningful and effectives lives. I have been on the speaking circuit for over twenty years, and have just published my memoir—both are conduits to enable those hearing my story find a way to tap into their personal defiant spirit.
And I am excited to be featured in the movie, THINK, the Legacy based on the principles of Napoleon Hill’s personal development classic. My “business” aspiration with the film is to help offer another perspective on what it means today to create a rich and rewarding life.
My Biggest Success?
There are two successes for me that truly stand out for me as great—each with its own special place in my life
Those who know my story would say that deciding that “If I can’t walk, then I might as well fly!” was certainly a pivotal moment in my life— for my first lesson I had to be lifted into the aircraft while still in a plaster body cast. In less then 18 months after leaving the spinal ward in a wheelchair, I went on to earn my wings as a commercial pilot and aerobatics-flying instructor. This is the success for which I’m best known.
From my perspective, though, my greatest accomplishment (and a gift for which I give thanks daily) is having created an extraordinary family. Recovering from my accident, I was flatly informed that—due to the extent of my internal injuries—I would never have children. Having defied that grim prognosis to be the proud mum of three beautiful children is something I’m tremendously proud of.
My Most Challenging Moment?
Ok, without giving too much away, let me say it is my “poo story,” told publicly in my memoir for the first time in thirty years. At the time, I was faced with an inconceivable choice, and called upon to make a tough decision that ended up significantly changed the course of my life. My choice to say YES I CAN in that moment showed me just how courageous I could be—it was a baptism by fire in first tapping into the depth of my defiant human spirit.
My personal mantra is, ‘Love the hills’. As a young athlete, I excelled by embracing and even relishing the most grueling climbs, digging deeper and reframing them as my special talent. Modeling this mindset has enabled me to overcome the challenges I would face later in life. “Loving the hills” now represents the things we would rather avoid, what we dread or fear. When instead we choose to face and tackle them head on, it’s the triumphs at the top of the life’s hills that become defining moments of our lives, and often our greatest teachers.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
I’ve been blessed with so many outstanding role models in all facets of life, but there is one that stands out in particular to this day. Maria was in the bed next to me in the spinal ward after my accident. She awoke from a coma on her 18th birthday to learn that she was a complete quadriplegic, the result of tragic motor vehicle accident. The nurses thought I might help encourage and motivate her recovery, but in fact it was seeing her positive attitude that bolstered my resolve. Maria never complained, always smiled and she gave me a gift I cherish to this day: The Gift of Acceptance!
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
It’s a tie between two top destinations: In the US, I live in the most gorgeous part of the west—near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at the base of the Rocky Mountains. And of course my native Australia will always be a favorite, too—it’s an extraordinarily beautiful and diverse country, filled with some of the most warm and welcoming people on the planet.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
There’s this cute set of egg-shaped 1970’s children’s toys called “Weebles” whose marketing tag line was: “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” I’m not sure the makers of Weebles realized just how inspirational that catchphrase could be! I found them again recently after so many years and keep one on my nightstand, as a reminder that I’ll always bounce back.
My Current Passions?
I absolutely love flying; time at the controls of an aircraft always fills me with joy and wonder. While aviation helped me create an entirely new life after my accident, I naturally put my flying on the back burner during the years of raising my children. Now that they’re on their own respective paths to success, brushing up on my piloting skills is a newly-renewed, current passion.
IN OTHER NEWS,
Think Rich Films announces the October 14th release of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, a feature-length docudrama chronicling inspirational stories of some of today’s most renowned entrepreneurs, cultural icons and thought leaders. The film shares personal journeys of rising above circumstance and how iconic author Napoleon Hill's timeless principles can help one achieve ultimate success.
Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy unlocks the eminent significance behind the bestselling self-help book of all time,Think and Grow Rich, and reveals the global impact it has created. Many of world's most notable people have been deeply influenced by its philosophy including Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Elon Musk, Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey.
Originally published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich was the result of a 25-year journey where Hill discovered that that those who succeed in any industry do so irrespective of their circumstance, that potential is not predicated on age, race, education, gender, finances or any other perceived disadvantage.
Think and Grow Rich ignited a flame of ambition, and helped end the Great Depression. One hundred million copies and 80 years later, it remains the best-selling book of all time and continues to inspire ordinary people to extraordinary achievement. It is the playbook through which countless innovators unlock their potential, creating an alternate reality of abundance, purpose and prosperity.