Speaker Alex Staniforth Doesn’t Let Anything Stop Him
Date: February 19, 2016
When Alex Staniforth thought he was going to die during a powder avalanche, he learned the hard way that life is too short.
Suffering with a speech stamina since a young age, he’s never let anything stop him from living a positive and healthy life.
Forgetting about your nerves when speaking is never easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 20-year-old Alex spoke with us about how he has used him life experiences to inspire his audiences of all ages.
Hi Alex. What have you been up to for the past 6 months?
Thanks for having me! Well, by my standards, it’s been a very uneventful few months considering I’ve not been gearing up for an expedition or fundraising drive.
My autobiography, ICEFALL, is due to be released next month; I finished writing in November so it has been the focus of my time and energy.
A bit of time out to step back, plan and think is never wasted- but I always need to feel busy!
What inspired you to become a speaker?
I’ve had a bad stammer since I’ve been able to speak. It makes daily life difficult for me.
Buying a bus fare can be the most terrifying thing I do all week. I used to truant school for the fear of presenting in class; the list goes on. So how did I end up as a speaker?!
When I carried the London 2012 Olympic Torch, I was asked to speak about it to my old primary school. I struggle saying no so I agreed, but had never been so scared- then I was amazed at how fluent my speech was.
The buzz of conquering my limitations and confidence inspired me- I still stammer badly today- but my stammer gives me something unique.
I think speakers need to show their flaws and weaknesses to show they’re human too, and just accept it as part of who they are.
People can relate to them much better.
Can you tell us about your experience with Mount Everest and how that changed your life?
Through my childhood adversity, reaching the summit of Mount Everest has been my ultimate goal.
After training, fundraising and securing sponsorship to get myself there and be properly prepared, I made my first attempt in 2014 aged 18.
Our expedition was cancelled whilst at base camp following a huge avalanche tragedy that killed 16 people. We hadn’t even set foot on the mountain.
I returned stronger in 2015. This time we were on the way to the first camp when the Nepal earthquake struck, causing huge avalanches, one of which decimated a large part of base camp and sadly killed three of our Sherpa staff.
On the mountain itself, I had a very lucky escape from a powder avalanche- for the first time in my life believing I was going to die- but especially if we hadn’t left base camp a few hours earlier, I most likely would.
The lessons learnt, the experiences, skills, opportunities and the contacts made have enriched my life and future career immeasurably.
What techniques do you use to inspire your audience?
I don’t want to give away too many party tricks, but to be honest I don’t use many techniques as such.
I hope that my story does the inspiring- that’s the most important component. My coach (John Thomson) has worked with me on plenty of ideas to fine-tune performance.
I always present with photos too- and as you might imagine, I have some quite impressive shots to really give some perspective of the size of man against nature.
Where was your last speaking event and how would you describe the overall experience?
I spoke to three small groups of high school students who were from a disadvantaged background.
Speaking to students like this can be a challenge because they have the attitude of not wanting to be there, or even look like they’re interested (when they clearly are!).
When discussing the avalanche experience, every single student was fixed onto my every word.
Afterwards the praise from the teachers was exceptional and the students took the time to tweet me that evening, saying that I’d proven “if you believe you can achieve”.
If it’s changed just one outlook, then it’s a successful event to me.
In what ways do you encourage listeners to overcome their obstacles?
I think the important thing as I tell my journey is to keep it relatable to the audience, so they know they have the capability within them, too.
For that reason, I don’t go on to high school kids about securing corporate sponsorship. Again, I use my story to create this example.
One example, is simply telling them how I took huge risks (even risking my life) and spent years of time obsessively dedicated to making my dream a reality, then got knocked for six by an event completely out of my hands.
I can create the disappointment and ‘fear of failure’ we all feel. But instead of complaining or giving up… life owes us nothing. It’s showing them what I did next- how I got back on my feet and grew to something bigger- that almost takes away peoples excuses.
It’s getting them to think ‘’If he can overcome that, then I’ll never complain again!”. I’ve had people telling me that afterwards in tears before.
Do you believe that anything is possible?
An interesting question. To be honest, I’m not a fan of those inspirational quotes you see everywhere.
As a realist, my answer is no. I guess it has limitations. If I wanted to cycle to Jupiter- that would be impossible… at least at the moment. As would becoming an Olympic Gold Medallist tomorrow.
But if I was to put in the absolute dedication, commitment and perseverance required, the latter could realistically become possible in my lifetime.
What are some of the themes you use for your speeches and can you briefly explain the content of one of these?
My talks incorporate quite a few key messages around achieving goals and potential by overcoming adversity, management of disappointment, and taking risks.
This links back to the idea that the biggest obstacle will always be ourselves. I often relate my talks to the Icefall on Everest- metaphorically it’s the place where the avalanches happened
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Life is limited- and especially after the avalanche I know how important it is to live to my best potential and purpose every day. Good coffee helps, too.
Do you believe in fate or think that we make our own choices in life?
Hmm! I think ultimately fate has some play, and those choices are just part of that.
I certainly don’t believe in ‘good things come to those who wait’, but when I reflect on my journey, the way some things just slipped into a miraculous chain of events and at the right time, makes me struggle to believe it was coincidental.
Alex is a prime example that without a positive mind and driven spirit, you can’t push yourself to where you want to be in life. No matter your personal experiences, there is no excuse to settle for less in life.
Have something to get out of bed for every day, and take control of tomorrow by living for today.
Stay in touch with Alex Staniforth:
Pre-order his Kindle book ICEFALL here.