On Friday 30th March 2012, Tony Griffin (Guest Speaker) and Professor Damien McLoughlin (Chair) brought some straight-from-the-heart inspiration to the Thought Leaders Club (TLC) Speaker Series, in a talk entitled “One Wild and Precious Life”. Following Damien McLoughlin’s warm welcome and his usual charm and playfulness, he spoke of some tremendous achievements Tony has accomplished in his life: playing inter county Hurling with Clare from 2002-2009, winning the coveted accolade of a GAA All Star Award in 2006, and cycling 7,000 kms across Canada and Ireland, raising €1 million Euro for cancer charities. Damien stressed the point that many people dream of doing great things; the difference with Tony is that he dreamt and then made those dreams a reality.
Tony, not a man to be penned in by a podium, whisked the microphone from its stand and, for the hour that followed, challenged us to reflect upon the course of our own lives. He had no intention of asking any Friday night pub-quiz questions – a Tony Griffin question is more like; what are YOU going to do to change the world? This was the lingering ring to everything he shared with us that night and the focal point around which he framed all of his experiences: all roads led back to that one, solid question.
In 2007, from his student quarters in Canada, swamped by the grief of having lost his father to cancer, he was sent a video clip by a close friend about the inspirational story of father and son team, Dick and Rick Hoyt. Watching that video, something clicked. He was inspired. He wanted to turn pain into fuel: to turn an end into a beginning. He innately understood the power of, what he describes as, the ‘irrational’ heart to draw from its inner reserves to achieve feats the likes of which the ‘rational’ mind cannot even conceive. Staring at a map of Canada he happened to have on his wall, the idea struck him to cycle 7,000kms across the country and to raise as much money as possible to help others to fight the disease which had taken its toll on his departed Dad. Told his dream was impossible, at best, and insane, at worst (he didn’t even own a bike!), he remained undeterred. Tony shared with us the footage from his epic journey up and over the Rockies (“…which are actually a bit bigger than you’d think when you get there!”) and his belief that intuition can guide us to the places we need to be, to the experiences we need to have, and to the people we need to discover; if only we learn to feel life a little more and think about life a little less.
These days Tony has a new mission. Having watched this incredible documentary about the life of Jim Stynes, Tony was inspired to set up the Soar Foundation with Co-Founder Karl Swan, to do for the youth of Ireland what Jim’s Reach Foundation has done for the youth of Australia. After a number of trips to Australia, to learn the process directly from Reach, Tony and Karl are bringing the model home to Ireland. With the tenacity that took him across Canada coupled with the will to impact the lives of others in a meaningful way, no one is more determined to pull it off. Let’s hope that Ireland Inc. recognises that this is the type of initiative that can empower the next generation of youth to dream and realise their dreams, in this still great country of ours.
My thanks must go to Tony Griffin, for a wonderful talk and his sage-like counsel, to Professor Damien McLoughlin for being a dynamic host, full of good cheer, to Denis Shikunov TLC Camera Maestro, to Michael McDonnell, Mary O’Dwyer, Orla Wrynn, and the great Team in Services (especially Lucas and Dan!) for all their help to get the show on the road: you all make the TLC possible!
– Davinia Anderson, FT MBA 2011/12
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