Despite suffering a life-changing injury at just 18-years-old, Stephen Cluskey has since got on to achieve more than nearly anyone else would in their life-span. The successful entrepreneur is dedicated and passionate about helping others like him and plans to make an even bigger impact not just in Ireland but around the world.
In August 2002, Stephen’s life would change in a matter of moments as an accident on a camping trip would result in Stephen suffering a broken neck and a severe spinal injury that left him paralysed. Despite his injury, Stephen still wanted to live life to the fullest by completing his Leaving Cert and then went to college completing a business degree in 2012. The first eight to ten years after the accident was dedicated to his recovery, but he has now set out to be of help to others.
He started two previous businesses, wheelchairtaxi.ie and Go Accessible, and is the co-founder of the award-winning Mobility Mojo with Noelle Daly. He advocated on behalf of disabled people to help change regulations at the top level and has also helped secure more than €3m to put more wheelchair accessible taxis on Irish roads, after he was left stranded on the side of the road after a night out in Dublin in 2010. His IFTA nominated TV show ‘Rugby’s Wheelchair Challenge’ aired on TV3 to change people’s perceptions around access issues.
Stephen is a truly inspirational guy as I was delighted to have interviewed him as part of the What I Know Now 1 year anniversary in front of a live audience. I am sure his story touched everyone in the room on that truly inspirational evening. From going through the tough times of dealing with his injury to helping others, Stephen said that one of the standout moments in the past 15 years was meeting Bono and spending time with his favourite band U2.
Here are four key things to take away from Stephen’s truly inspirational podcast:
1. Don’t let anything hold you back. Having spent more a year in rehab after his accident, Stephen wanted to return much to normal life as possible. He decided to sit his Leaving Cert as a coping mechanism to help him through it, but it also gave him a huge sense of achievement. From the feeling of vulnerability and helplessness, he began to see opportunities. He would go on to study various courses at university, set up a number of businesses and now tries to help people similar to his situation. There were tough times of course, but Stephen did not let his injury stop him from becoming the best possible version of himself.
2. Be of value to others. While Stephen loves to help other people, he admits he gets a lot from it and that it helps to keep him going. He plans to make an even bigger impact globally as he eyes a move into politics and would be honoured to be the first quadriplegic in Leinster House. See what way you can help others around you and to your community. As Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”
3. Push outside your comfort zone. After spending around five hours in the rain on the side of the road in 2010 because no taxi was suitable for Stephen to travel, he still said it was one of the best experiences of his life. That is because it was the start of an advocacy journey, as he successfully lobbied to the government to help get a €3m investment into regulation changes and providing more accessible taxis for wheelchair users on Irish roads. It just goes to show once you take a chance and push yourself beyond your limits, anything is possible once you set your mind to it. Some of the best things happen when you choose to move outside your comfort zone.
4. You must build perseverance. When he was younger, Stephen thought things would come easy and that he would go with the flow. However, he soon realised it doesn’t work like that. To make a real impact, things will take time and you must have the perseverance to get there. Reaching your goals will take time and effort; that is why they call it a journey. There will be different challenges along the way, but you must retain your belief and really keep on going no matter what until you achieve success.
Do you agree with my take aways’s from Stephen’s inspiring interview? Was there something else you learned from the podcast? Please leave a comment below and I look forward to reading your thoughts.
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