It was the summer of 2017. We were gathered in a conference hall for the summit organized by TCS for the Nordics customers. The hall was buzzing with representatives from multiple companies from the Nordics and there was a great sense of anticipation on how the evening would unfold.
There were three sessions for the evening and one that read “inspirational session” by Aron Andersson. Not checking up on the speakers (I knew the other two anyway) prior to the event, I had no clue and so did some of the participants I have interacted with, on who this Aron was and what could be “inspirational” to such a set of diverse and distinguished audience. We had some senior people representing from every company and all of the leadership team from TCS attending.
And this guy (that looked like a college kid) rolls into the hall on his “wheelchair!!!” with a camping sort of a bag and a fresh sense of enthusiasm dancing on his face. It was some time to go before the first speaker was to take stage and I saw Aron(as I found out that this was Aron later) moving around interacting with people quite at ease with the place and in particular with the person that would help him set up for his session. Looking at how fit Aron seemed to be, it felt as if he was holding himself back in the wheelchair and would jump out any moment. And when the first session began, all of us forgot about him and tuned to the speaker.
As the first session concluded, the hostess invited Aron over to come on to the stage and then it hit us all. There was no ramp for his wheel chair to roll on. How stupid could this be, I thought! Aron calmly rolled in to the front of the stage (which was about 3 feet high) looked at it for a few seconds and turned to us all. “How did you guys think I would go up there with my wheelchair without a ramp for me to roll on, huh?!”. And before we all could revel too much in the sadness of the moment thinking who should volunteer to lift him up along with his chair, Aron turned around, launched himself on to the stage (jumped literally) and pulled his wheelchair up in a flash and before we could let out a gasp, he was up on the stage smiling at all of us. “Did no one tell you guys, I climbed the highest peak in Sweden, ‘the Kebnekaise‘ on my wheelchair, this stage is no big deal!“. This was the perfect introduction of Aron and we set ourselves up for a session of real life inspiration.
Aron spoke about his life, how he had been hit with cancer at a very early age and how he grew up learning to deal with pain as his constant companion. As he spoke about how the realization hit him as a kid when he got to know that he could no longer stand up on his legs, he threw a challenge to everyone in the room. “What if I asked you that I will give you a 1000 Sek if you don’t sit on your butt for a week. How about if I gave you 10,000 or a 100,000? Would you do it if I gave you a million Sek?”. Of course no hands went up as we were more interested in what was about to come and not so much on giving up on the freedom to sit on each of our butt :). “I had to go one full year not sitting on my butt as I was undergoing the cancer procedure and realized how we take small things in life for granted not knowing what power we hold to influence bigger things if we wanted to”.
He spoke about how difficult was it to transition to a wheelchair and that he distinctly remembers one person at the rehabilitation center that helped him to make this move(writing this post almost after one year and purely based on my recall, I don’t recollect more details than this one). He reflected that we would have such people in life who will constantly urge us to take the leap to a next orbit and we are fortunate to have such influences in life. “Being in leadership roles, you have such power to positively influence the lives of so many people that rely on you and that is very inspiring to me”, he told the awestruck audience.
Aron showed several videos and pictures on how he took on one challenge after another in trying to support the less privileged, raising funds for foundations, speaking at every opportunity to inspire people and quite simply making a bold statement that – “Life has so many opportunities! But it’s you – and nobody else – who determines what’s possible for you. Don’t let others limit your goals and dreams.”
It was one of the most gripping and inspiring sessions that I have ever attended and we had the privilege of interacting with Aron after the session.
Aron continues to challenge himself and inspiring others. You can find his website here.
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