On Friday 2nd March 2012, Mark Pollock (Guest Speaker) and Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh (Chair) brought us an incredible second talk in the Thought Leaders Club Inaugural Speaker Series, entitled: “The Art of Making it Happen”. Dean O’hOgartaigh welcomed us all to the talk and encouraged us to remember that no one is untouched by problems: they come in various shapes and sizes, weights and severities, at different times in our lives. He reminded us that having problems is not remarkable- but how we deal to deal with them can be.
Mark Pollock then took to the podium for the next hour. Simply put: he blew us all away. It is hard to put into words the quality, intricacy, and depth of the story he shared with us and to accurately convey the level of insight, awareness, humour, tenacity, and courage he displayed; not only in his story, but in his remarkable telling of it. It is one thing to paint a picture, and quite another to paint one so magnificently well. His is a masterpiece of human courage triumphing over adversity. It is clear to see why he is renowned as an international public speaker and how he has inspired the business community to face down its own challenges, at a time of such deep unrest and uncertainty.
After a decade of sporting achievement, which started out with winning silver and bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in rowing (having gone blind at the age of 22), and which culminated in being the first blind man ever to reach the South Pole, Mark’s life changed suddenly in a way no one could ever have expected. He fell from a second story window, broke his back, and became paralysed from the waist down.
Mark now faces the challenges of spinal cord injury and conventional medical wisdom. He is testing the limits of what is possible with the support of the Mark Pollock Trust which enables him to regain his strength with Project Walk in the US and which gives him access to Berkeley’s ongoing developments in the field of robotic leg technology.
The writer, William Arthur Ward, once said that “adversity causes some men to break; others to break records”. For those of us who heard Mark speak, it is not just the impressive list of sporting records that will stay long in our memories, it is the impact and quality of a man, whose spirit is inspirational, in its own right. By continuing to fight the good fight, Mark encourages us all to to reflect upon our own lives, challenges, and choices- and to do the same.
My thanks must go to Mark Pollock for leaving such an indelible mark on the students of Smurfit Graduate Business School, to Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh for his support in chairing this event, to Denis “TLC Photographer” Shikunov and Linh ”TLC Poster Girl” Thi Bao Nguyen (MBAs of 2012), and to the MBA Programme Office and Services Team for their continued support in helping to make these TLC talks happen.
The next speaker in the series is Tony Griffin on “One Wild and Precious Life”, chaired by Professor Damien McLoughlin, on Friday 30th March 2012, 7-8pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Smurfit Business School.
– Davinia Anderson, FT MBA 2012 and Founder of the MBA Thought Leaders Club