My favorite sport is football, but it is International Rugby that provides the backdrop of today’s reflection on becoming unstoppable. When I recall the rugby days of David Duckham, Andy Ripley, Roger Uttley and Bill Beaumont, followed by a new generation of stars in the 90s such as Will Carling and Johnnie Wilkinson, one man rises above all others as a global star and rugby legend.
In recent months, rugby and indeed the sporting world paid tribute to the great Jonah Lomu, whose life sadly came to an end at the young age of 40 years in November 2015
He has been heralded globally as someone who changed rugby, combining strength, speed, agility and intelligence on the wing, like none before him, to outrun, outwit and seemingly swat his opponents out of the way, en route to scoring multiple tries. He graced the world of rugby and crowd attendances rose, as many watched a man in action described as ‘unstoppable’
The tendency among so many people watching such success is to observe with a mild or greater degree of envy that they may have been bestowed with luck or special qualities. What many fail to appreciate about Jonah Lomu was the huge obstacles he had to get by to obtain such success.
I am not so much referring to his childhood and exposure to domestic violence at the hands of his father, or the gang culture that exposed his troublesome youth. It is the critical illness he overcame on a day by day basis to grace the rugby field and the world with a display of skill, speed and power that had not been seen to this degree
Jonah Lomu was diagnosed with a critical illness only 2 years after breaking onto the international scene at 19years old in 1994. Many will remember his world cup performance in 1995 against England where he scored 4 tries. His diagnosis came in 1996 requiring him to take time out for treatment. Yet this man refused to lie down and bow to the medical implications of his condition, choosing to live his rugby dream.
The illness would rob him of muscle strength particularly in his legs. Yet strength is what he worked on both inwardly and outwardly, and belief is what he cultivated. He made a comeback in 1997, and won an Olympic Gold in 1998. His last international appearance was in 2002 before his illness worsened, requiring him to have a kidney transplant in 2004. He made it his goal and dream to play in the world cup of 2007
An Insight into Jonah Lomu
I do not know many people who could go overnight from prolific rugby star to struggling to walk to the fridge due to the loss of muscle and nerve conduction in the legs, and then defy medical expectations of becoming wheelchair bound to make it back to the rugby field. Jonah made a comeback in 2005 but unfortunately did not manage to secure a super rugby contract, which denied him his dream of a World Cup place in 2007. He retired from the international scene and was later desrevedly inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame
He was not supposed to be able to have children, yet the impossible happened when his wife gave birth to two children in 2009 and 2010, and he devoted himself to becoming the best possible dad, whilst contributing to world peace through sport via the Champions for Peace Club, What does this man teach us about unstoppability?
When you are unstoppable, you are not void of challenges in life, neither are you immune to doubts and fears. Challenges can come in many forms on many levels, physically, mentally and otherwise. What separates those who are unstoppable from those who are not is the capacity to get back up when life knocks them down, to navigate challenges with a perspective that allows them to keep moving forward to achieve their goals, dreams and lifestyle aspirations .
Such people are characterised by a ‘never say die’ attitude. Rather than ignoring the obstacles they look at what lies beyond and adjust their focus accordingly until they reach thir desired destination. Their resilience and resolve do not decrease in the face of challenge, rather they increase.
Somewhat ironically his body could not hold his undying spirit, and yet his life continues to breathe life into those who wish to become and remain unstoppable, myself included. When people who read my book Breaking Free remark about my irrepressibility, I can only humbly testify to the undying influence on my life of such icons as Jonah Lomu from whom I continue to learn how to be unstoppable. You can get his Jonah Lomu’s Autobiography from Amazon too.