Limb Loss: Setback Or Opportunity – Natalie Du Toit Shares

This week’s leadership interview on Leadership Platform was with Natalie du Toit. Many of us know that as a talented swimmer and 17 year old matriculant who almost qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the age of 16, she lost part of her leg in an accident.

Not only did it seem like her swimming career was history, but when she eventually returned to school she was held back a year while watching her peers complete their final school year. While these were difficult times she casually yet sincerely explains that she made new friends.  It is also important to understand that not only did it seem like she would never be able to compete, but she actually loved swimming; she loved being in water; it was a passion! She decided to swim again and even compete, but had to start off in the slow lane. One can only imagine what it was like for her to eventually stand in front of a crowd once again, but this time without part of her leg, about to compete in her first race since the accident.

To overcome her “setback” she made one small decision at a time to take a next step towards living again, not giving up, which probably went something like this: first step, just back in the pool; second step, participate in some tournament; third step, set sights on an international event; fourth step, to qualify for the Olympics in 2008; and so on. As she took each step her belief that she could achieve more grew and so did her confidence.

Was what happened to Du Toit at the age of 17 really a setback? Ironically, I don’t think so! It was an experience that put her on a more visible platform from which to inspire the entire world!

So, perhaps the so called setback was a blessing; a defining moment after which not only one major choice but several smaller choices led to something greater.

Each of us need to remember to ask ourselves this question, when an experience like being retrenched, or having to close a business, or losing a loved one, or not achieving important objectives, feels like a setback: “One day when I look back at this experience will I want to see it as

a) a setback or

b) a defining moment that flung us on to another platform that led to something greater?”

This article appeared in the




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

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