Event: Kate Philp Explorer Extraordinaire

On Wednesday 27th April, I was fortunate enough to be invited to an event hosted by Broadminded at the Man Group offices in London, with Kate Philp as the guest speaker. I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Kate before I was invited to the event, but as soon as I read the summary of her life experiences, I was very interested in meeting her and hearing more.

Educated at Oxford, and going on to Sandhurst, Kate served in Iraq and then Afghanistan before an IED cut her tour short, resulting in a below the knee amputation of her leg. In sharing the experience with us, Kate only briefly touched upon what for most people would have been an extremely life-changing, if not devastating injury. She told us how she had been dubbed ‘Captain Papercut’ by fellow injured servicemen and women, as apparently her injury was one of the less severe examples. Her experience puts realistic perspective to the oft-quoted adage “there’s always someone worse off than you”.

Kate spoke of how important teamwork is to her, and how that is what drew her to the army in the first place. So it should be of no surprise that she chose to supplement her rehab by participating in a team challenge. What is less straightforward is that this team challenge involved racing to the South Pole, with none other than Prince Harry on her team!

Kate Philp with Prince Harry
The physically and mentally challenging trip was intended to be a competition between the British, American and Commonwealth teams taking part, travelling 3 degrees or 335km over 16 days. However, due to the terrain and the inclement weather conditions, the competitive element was dropped, and the distance cut short, to prioritise the competitors’ safety. Kate spoke of these changes introducing different types of challenges for those who had come intending to ‘win’, adjusting to this non-competitive approach.

Kate Philp skiing
Kate Philp skiing to the South Pole
Kate is clearly no stranger to adversity, and she shared her tips for facing challenges. In fact, she recommended that we welcome them as “opportunities to build resistance muscle”. She advised us to become accepting of uncertainty, and to feel more comfortable with being uncomfortable. She broke her approach down into the 4 E’s – Explore, Express, Experience and Examine; a cyclical approach to facing challenges and achieving success.

Kate recommended that we ask for help when we need it, reminding us that not only is it not a weakness, it sends a clear message to others saying it’s ok for them to ask too. She encouraged us to be an example for others, to exceed expectations rather than just existing. Don’t make excuses.

It’s difficult to sum Kate up into one word, and as she said in the Q&A, she’s not a fan of labels. And once you’ve heard her story, you understand why. To say she is impressive is an understatement. The word formidable sounds as if it has negative connotations. So let me just say that Kate is a remarkably talented, tenacious woman, with a wicked sense of humour. So look out for the next chance to hear her speak, and take hold of that opportunity.

When Kate spoke of the need to practice becoming comfortable with fear and uncertainty, and shared her experience of running drills in the Army to help them acclimatise to adversity, I was reminded of a Ted Talk I recently watched on facing fear. Colonel Chris Hadfield’s “What I learned from going blind in space” tapped into that paralysing sensation of terror, and how we can condition ourselves to prepare for these situations to allow ourselves to think more clearly.

And of course when discussing snowsports following an amputation, I couldn’t help but think of Amy Purdy’s story “Living Beyond Limits”, which really helps put our life challenges into perspective, and dismisses any of those excuses we come up with for not meeting and exceeding those expectations. We really should embrace challenges; they make us more creative with our solutions.

This was my first time attending a Broadminded event, but I cannot wait until the next one. I was struck by how manageable the size of the group was – there can’t have been more than 30 people there, which is far less intimidating for networking purposes! They also shared a lovely summary after the event, with their Top 10 takeaways, which they’ve kindly allowed me to share below:

  1. Think of the four Es: explore, express, examine, experience
  2. Keep things in perspective: there’s always someone worse off than you
  3. Remember your goal but don’t be afraid to redefine success
  4. Get out of your comfort zone and test your limits
  5. Trust yourself and the decisions you make; this goes deeper than confidence
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; and be ready to help others
  7. Exercise your body and your mind
  8. Don’t be defined by labels
  9. Don’t just exist, be excited
  10. And always have Prince Harry on hand to do the washing up…

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