Amanda Heal – Having the courage to face my fears

Amanda Heal is a resilience expert with an extraordinary life story.

In her keynote talks, she shares her 5 keys to increasing resilience by building courage.

Amanda survived being born 14 weeks premature in the ’70s when such tiny babies were not deemed viable. She was so small, her father could hold her in the palm of his hand.

The oxygen which kept her alive at birth damaged her eyes, leaving her totally blind.

Despite this, Amanda has continued to surprise people with her professional and personal achievements. After graduating with honours in law from the Australian National University, she embarked on a 17-year legal career. In her spare time, she climbed to an altitude of 10,000 feet in Nepal and conquered her phobia of getting lost to travel independently both within Australia and overseas.

When not speaking, Amanda is a podcaster and author of multiple books, the latest being Seeing By Vision Not By Sight.

Amanda is sharing her inspiring and empowering story with us.

Thank you for joining us here at The Corporate Escapists. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They would love to know about you, your passion, and how you came to find and follow your passion.

I’m totally blind and have been since birth. I was born at 26 weeks, and weighed just 1 pound nine ounces.

They didn’t know about the effects of too much oxygen on the eyes back then and thought you could never have too much of a good thing. But as we all know, you can. The oxygen saved my life but caused a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity, which caused the abnormal formation of blood vessels on my retinas which scarred, causing them to detach. But at least I’m here to tell the story.

My twin sister Lisa didn’t survive. Back in the early ’70’s, it was quite normal for blind children to be sent to special schools in Sydney or Melbourne. However, thanks to the determination of my parents, I was not sent interstate for my education.

They got together with a group of other parents of blind children and lobbied the Government until the Government made it possible for us to be fully integrated into the ACT School system, with the support of specialist teachers and braille transcribers.

I worked hard and got into the ANU to study commerce and law. after 7.5 years of study, I graduated with a combined commerce/law degree with honours in law and started on a 17-year legal career. My career ended when I was suddenly made redundant due to government downsizing, and I started on a journey to discover my life’s purpose, as I’d always believed that I had been put on this earth to do something but didn’t know what that was.

Eventually, I discovered that my life’s purpose is to inspire and encourage others to reach their full potential.

I passionately believe that we are all put on this earth for a purpose, and if we discover that purpose and live it out, we will be the best versions of ourselves. I’ve written two books on the subject, the most recent being Seeing By Vision Not By Sight: How To Discover Your Life’s Purpose And Put It Into Action. One of the tools that I believe is essential to discovering your life’s purpose is courage.

This is what I speak about – how to increase resilience and overcome uncertainty by building courage.

As a successful entrepreneur please share your viewpoint if you believe that entrepreneurs are born or made?

I believe some entrepreneurs are born. They seem to instinctively know what the world needs, and have the determination to go out and provide it.

Others, like me, have to learn the skills of entrepreneurship, as they don’t come naturally to us.

Nelson Mandela once quoted – ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’  What has been one fear you have overcome?

I love that quote, as I know from my life experience that it is true.

My biggest fear has always been getting lost. Partway along the journey to discover my life’s purpose, which I mentioned earlier, I retrained as a John C Maxwell speaker, trainer, and coach, because I knew deep down that part of my life’s purpose was to speak.

Shortly after I had qualified as a John C Maxwell speaker, trainer, and coach, I was offered a job as a PR speaker for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. I jumped at the chance, as this would allow me to put my new speaking skills into practice, and it was also a way that I could give back to the organisation that had given me 4 beautiful guide dogs. Just as a side note, it costs 50 thousand dollars to breed, raise and train a guide dog, and I haven’t paid a cent for any of my guide dogs.

I’m sitting at the interview, and the interviewer asks “how are you going to get to your speaking engagements?”, and I say “by taxi, like any other self-respecting speaker who can’t drive.” “How would you feel if I said that you would need to get to as many engagements as possible using public transport?” She asks. I start to shake and have to swallow really hard so that I don’t throw up in her lap.

You see, the thing I fear more than anything else is getting lost, and I am absolutely convinced that if I go anywhere on public transport, I will get lost, and that will be an absolute disaster. I used to catch busses to school, uni, and work, but haven’t caught one for around 20 years.

The fear of getting lost has become so great that I only leave the house if I am being driven by friends or family, or if I feel very confident to walk where I am going.

My fear is such that I have completely lost sight of all the benefits of independent travel.

Instead, whenever I think of catching a bus, I worry about all the things that could go wrong if I get lost. At that very moment, the other interviewer walks in with coffees in hand, takes one look at me, and says “what have you done to our speaker?” Apparently, all the colour had drained from my face, and I looked as if I’d been asked to travel to the moon and back on my own.

The interviewers told me that they wouldn’t expect me to go to my first engagement by public transport, that I could have the training, and that everything would be OK.

I didn’t make a decision at the end of the interview, as I was still feeling sick and anxious at the thought of having to travel on my own by bus to speaking engagements. After getting some fresh air and having something to eat, I felt better and started to think seriously about the job.

I had just finished reading John C Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates Few Connect for the second time, and remembered that one of his 10 steps to good communication was authenticity.

He said that you had to walk the talk. It was then that I knew deep down in my heart that I couldn’t stand up in front of an audience and talk about independent travel with a guide dog if I was being driven everywhere by friends, family and taxis.

If I wanted to be an authentic communicator, I would have to face my fear, do the two weeks of intensive training that had been offered to me, and learn to catch public transport again.

So I did. Because my fear was so great, I started small, just getting on and off a stationary bus. Next, the bus driver drove round and round the block, and I practiced ringing the bell, getting off, and then getting on again and finding a seat.

Once that was under control, I went on a couple of journeys of just a few stops with an instructor sitting beside me to keep me calm.

My courage muscle was gradually growing stronger. After that, I went on a few slightly longer journeys with the instructor somewhere on the bus in case anything went wrong. Finally, I traveled alone on the bus and met the instructor at a designated location.

Now, I travel all over Canberra by bus to speak and am even calm enough to check my email between stops.

Tell us what the word “empower” means to you?

To me, empower means having the courage to face my fears, overcome the challenges of life, and do what I’ve been put on this earth to do. It means having the right tools, and the right support.

What has been one of the biggest business ideas you have had and how did you have the courage to implement it?

I spoke earlier about how I felt that part of my life’s purpose was to speak. I approached some successful speakers and asked them a lot of questions, and the one thing they all said is that I needed to write a book. After a lot of thinking and soul searching, I did. This was my first book, in which I reverse-engineered my journey to discover my life’s purpose into 3 steps, which others could follow to discover theirs.

When COVID hit and I could no longer speak, I decided to write a book on courage. But then I met a book coach who advised me to rewrite my first book instead and make it better. So this is how my current book came into being. It now not only contains the three steps, but also stories of people I have coached through the process of discovering their life’s purpose, and the additional wisdom I gained as a result.

The hardest thing I had to overcome when writing both books was the little voice in my head that said “who are you to write a book? only special people write books, and you’re not special enough. Besides, who’d read it anyway?” The only way I could overcome that was through determination, and the conviction that there were people out there who really needed my message.

Running your own business can be scary.  Success requires moments of courage to push through to the next level, please tell us one of the moments you have had to push through to take your business to the next level?

One of the things that I have to push through regularly is the fear that I am not good enough, and that nobody wants to hear what I’ve got to say. I don’t find my life inspiring, as it’s mine, and seems normal to me. I have to constantly remind myself that my normal is not everyone else’s normal, and that sighted people find what I have done throughout my life to be not only inspiring but encouraging as well.

Tell us what attributes you feel make a good leader in business today?

Good business leaders have to be courageous enough to adapt to this ever-changing world. But they also need to be able to inspire and encourage those that they lead to do the same.

What is your favourite quote about empowerment?

As I believe that empowerment requires courage, my favorite quote is a quote by Mark Twain which is very similar to the Nelson Mandela quote above which says “courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of fear”. I know from experience that if I wait until I feel brave, I’ll never do anything. I just have to master what it is that I fear, and get on and do what I have to do.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?

Where do I start? I think the most important thing is clarity – clarity of message, market, and product. I have wasted a lot of time trying to get my message out there when I wasn’t clear on who my market was and how I served them best. I think I am still refining that.

What would be one (1) question you would you ask the person who most inspires you?  Also, share with us about this person and why they inspire you?

I am a woman of faith, and the person who most inspires me is Jesus Christ. I am inspired by his courage and selflessness, and his determination to do his father’s will. The one question I would ask him is “how can I best do what you’ve put me here to do?”

You can connect with Amanda right here on her website.

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