One Mind, Many Matters (Strength and Resilience)

Barnaby Howarth

“Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. Rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. There comes a time when we just have to get over it and play in the puddles.”

Barnaby Howarth


Barnaby Howarth was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in his teens, was signed by the Sydney Swans at 18, suffered a horrific brain injury, after being bashed in an alcohol-fuelled gang attack, nursed his first wife through a terminal illness, became a globally recognised strength and resilience keynote speaker and hosts a very successful podcast called Everyday Greatness. He has now re-married and is a proud husband and stepfather to his teenage daughter.


Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people – this story is about the latter. It is being shared not by someone who is wallowing, moping and asking people to help him out, but someone determined to do his best to shift the perspective of people feeling disappointed about not being good enough. Barnaby is renowned for saying, “rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. There comes a time when we have to get over it and go play in the puddles.” 


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It was the diagnosis of having type 1 diabetes at 14 years of age that was the start of Barnaby creating his mindset. Not the look-at-yourself-in-the-mirror saying ‘Come on, you can do this!’ type of motivation; just every single day doing the best he can with whatever happened to be on his plate. It wasn’t that Barnaby was disappointed about diabetes, he was disappointed because he was pretty certain he wasn’t going to have the strength he needed to get through it and play Australian Football League (AFL). All the other players competing for spots seemed to have the thing he thought he was missing – more aggression, more ruthlessness and some mystical X-factor.


The next test for Barnaby was recovering from a stroke. This was the result of an alcohol-fuelled gang attack which caused a torn brain stem and has left Barnaby with a permanent disability. At the time his parents were told that if he did survive, he’d probably be a vegetable and they were faced with the prospect of turning off the life support.


The long road to recovery was a daunting one and looking back, Barnaby admits he still had that mindset where he didn’t think he had the strength needed to get through it. Sitting in his hospital bed waiting for that voice of God, the lightning bolt, the one thing that was going to make him go from a zero to a hero. The frustration was that it never came. Instead, he set about doing his required exercises such as picking up a paper clip from a bowl and putting it into a jar and clenching his bum cheeks together to help rebuild strength in his left leg.


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Losing his first wife to breast cancer was another example of bad things happening to good people. Barnaby is quite proud to say that a lot of his strength and positivity comes from belonging to a range of different communities full of good people. He has now remarried and can’t think of anything he would rather do than spend time with his wife Julia, stepdaughter Imogen and their dog Walter, just sitting around chatting and enjoying each other’s company.


As a globally recognised keynote speaker Barnaby’s message to his audience is to try your hardest to be proud of yourself. He was once told this message was not strong enough however, nowadays, the society we live in is so competitive and it seems that if you’re just a bit more relaxed, casual and proud of yourself, then that is now a point of difference.


One of the proudest things Barnaby has to say about himself is that he hasn’t tried to change his message, or who he is, to fit in with different groups or people. He has realised that strength and resilience comes from the accumulation of all the small efforts in any field of life, whether it’s physical rehab, trying to be fitter and stronger or trying to be a nicer person. His one mind has overcome many matters and it is the opinion of this writer that society is lucky to have this ‘Bag O’Doughnuts’ reminding us that we have everything we need inside us right now…


The complete interview can be listened to here, on audio platforms, or watched here, on The Culture of Leadership (TCoT) YouTube channel.


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