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Sam Cawthorn: Transforming Crisis into Success

“Your decision, not your condition, is what determines who you are.”

So says leading Australian entrepreneur and professional motivational speaker, Sam Cawthorn.

And he should know – losing his right arm and permanently damaging his right leg in a 210km head-on collision with a semi-trailer 11 years ago, to becoming a successful author, corporate speaker, and company CEO.

Lucky to keep his life, this one-time pizza delivery driver and government youth advisor accepted rather than resented his disability, and began speaking in schools about overcoming adversity to achieve success. Motivating students across Australia and overseas with his story by demonstrating how it was possible to overcome barriers, Sam was eventually awarded the Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year in 2009.

With the key to his success based on being grateful for what he did have, rather than what he didn’t have, and ignoring all the ‘what-ifs’, Sam believes that it was his inherent defiance in not accepting the doctors’ prognosis of never walking again that helped his initial 18 month recovery to become upwardly mobile again, thus helping to create his concept of ‘Bouncing Forward: transforming crisis into success’.

“Changing a person’s mindset is the key to moving on to be the best that they can be. After my accident, I didn’t suffer any depression or anxiety - because it just didn’t serve me. I have always believed that everyone has the capacity to overcome adversity – that we have been given the freedom of choice – and so we get to choose whether or not we want to overcome something or not. We can choose either bitterness or gratefulness, and I chose the latter.”

Inspiring others to re-evaluate their state of being and to unlearn negative thoughts and influences, Sam is adamant that people’s natural state is one of positivity and authenticity, not despair or pessimism. By not worrying about what others think and aiming to charge through life at full capacity, Sam says that re-educating onesself about how to live a happy and more fulfilled life is the key. “It’s important in life to have a purpose and to develop goals, because if we don’t know where we are going or why we are doing it, then we can’t truly understand our core - which is the very essence of why we get up each morning.”

Also a philanthropist who runs the Cawthorn Foundation raising awareness for people with disabilities in developing countries, he has shared the stage with notable figures such as Richard Branson and the Dalai Lama, illustrating his motivational philosophy. Sam is also Founder and CEO of his own company, Speakers Institute, training others in speaking and presenting with influence and persuasion to an audience. Working with the likes of TEDx presenters, up-and-coming youth thought leaders, and influential businesses and organisations here in Australia and overseas, Sam and his team coach other professionals in mastering communication – skills born from growing up in a large family in rural Tasmania.

Endowed with the gift of the gab and an intrinsic will to explore and learn, Sam says that being the ninth of eleven children created good communication and resilience capabilities. “When you have seven brothers and you are all competing to be heard, you needed to learn to speak loudly, clearly, and precisely. Even fighting over the fish and chips that mum and dad bought home meant that we had to eat fast – first in, first served. But it was an amazing environment to grow up in, and we were always spurring each other on and encouraging each other – something I try to impart in others.”

As the author of seven books delving into concepts such as converting crisis into achievement, taking positive action to turnaround a person’s life, and how to excel as a professional speaker through visual storytelling, Sam believes that none of us should conform and settle for mediocre - instead to challenge the mindset to learn and grow, even if that is through inspirational stories like his. “Movie theatres will always be filled with customers and books will always be consumed, because we are human beings that love the story; the thrill, the adventure. We love the journey, to be inspired, and we look for people we learn and grow from. Loneliness, doubt, depression, anxiety, relationship or financial issues, the boring, or mundane – that is the condition. For me, the condition is physical – a lost limb. We just have to remember that it’s our decision, not our condition, which determines who we are.”

Sam’s Four Principles of Bouncing Forward:

  • Crisis Creates Opportunity: realising that crisis can ignite some of the greatest growth periods in life.

  • Proximity is Power: the company that we keep determines who we are, and that we are the average of our five closest friends.

  • Leveraging Happiness that Fuels Success: understanding that happiness creates success, not the other way around, and that we have a choice in which to be happy every day.

  • Don’t Bounce Back, but Forward: overcoming adversity and jumping forward in life, not back to where you were.

For more information about Sam Cawthorn’s philosophies, books, and contact details visit


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