Get to know... Michael McGrath!By Michael McGrath -
known as Muscle Dreams.
We are all very excited to work with Michael and The Muscle Help Foundation in the future. Keep your eyes peeled!
Before we get into travel paradise, can you tell the readers a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Michael McGrath. Three life vices, aka my ‘three-M’s’ underpin my world; you’ll have to read the rest of this to find out what they are!
I’m a speaker. I derive great fulfilment in spending time learning about and getting in under the skin, the DNA if you like, of a business as part of the process of interpreting a client brief – for the Latin scholars amongst you, the expression ‘ipsa scientia potestas est’ may resonate; literally translated meaning, 'knowledge itself is power', the phrase underpins this process, enabling me to meticulously research and prepare.
In engaging the hearts and minds of private and public sector organisations, the prevalent 2018 topics will I’ve no doubt continue to be leadership, resilience and change, although risk, inclusion and teamwork will always be popular themes.
Clients say that my greatest power is my emotional and intellectual force in connecting with different audiences and reinforcing different business messages. So, may the limitless force be with you (who doesn’t like a bit of Star Wars!) and in reaffirming one of The Jedi Code principles, there is no ignorance, there is (only) knowledge.
I’m the Founder and CEO of The Muscle Help Foundation, a small multi award-winning charity (with national reach) that delivers transformational experiences in the UK called ‘Muscle Dreams’ for children and young people (8-28yrs) with muscular dystrophy.
After being diagnosed with the muscle wasting disease Muscular Dystrophy (MD) aged just 18yrs in 1984, I made a little history of my own 20 years later in 2004 by becoming the first disabled person to lead expeditions to the North and South Poles – the force was definitely with me!
In 2005, I received the prestigious Business Traveller of the Year Award presented to me by Kate Adie in Dubai, UAE. On another visit to Dubai working for Hilton Hotels as their disABILITY Champion, I recall being lifted into and whisked away in one of those big off-road 4x4 Toyota vehicles so that I could experience desert life – I sat up front with the young driver who was evidently looking to impress with his deft dune driving skills – you guessed it; we got stuck in a huge sand dune! Patience is indeed a virtue and we were eventually towed out!
On top of that, a special photo-shoot had been planned on the helipad of what is today the 3rd tallest hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab, to support a PR stunt with the draft headline along the lines of ‘disabled polar adventurer on top of the world’ having recently reached two of the most inaccessible places on earth (the North & South Poles); plans were afoot to invite various media outlets and the overarching message was about positioning itself as the most accessible tourism destination in the world, open to everyone. Remember the Federer v Agassi tennis knock-up on the helipad or Tiger Woods using it as a driving range in return for an appearance fee of $1 million! What the organiser hadn’t clocked was that for a wheelchair user to actually get onto the helipad, there’s a set of very steep steps that need to be climbed – the stunt sadly never happened, and as for the appearance fee, well that was a non-starter!
One of the proudest moments in my life was being a Paralympic Torchbearer in 2012 – I was determined to carry the flame in the upright position and thanks to my powerchair, a knee brace and a chest strap, that’s exactly what happened. And a few years later, I found myself in both the 2017 and 2016 Power 100 listing that revealed Britain’s 100 most influential people with a disability or impairment. Whilst I was of course proud and humbled to have been recognised in this way, especially for the work carried out by the Muscle Help Foundation charity, I said at that time that I look forward to the day when a Power 100 list ceases to exist because inclusion is simply a societal norm, a part of our cultural DNA. Perhaps utopia but for now, it’s my hope that as role models, we have a really important responsibility to not only inspire tomorrow’s young people and lead by example but also make a commitment in helping others travel their own journey (like Limitless Travel is doing) in enabling others to achieve their own success and fulfil their own potential.
What 3 words would you use to describe travel and what it means to you?
1st word = hygge
It’s a Danish word that my wife and I use when looking to establish a comfortable moment in time; let’s get some ‘hygge’ going in the lounge translated meaning, let’s light some candles and chill out on the sofa!
2nd word = serenity
Travel for me is all about achieving a heightened sense of serenity. As someone with BMS (busy mind syndrome!), the road to calm can’t come fast enough when a travel journey begins. Another way to describe that feeling is when you inflate your lungs by taking a very long, very slow deep breath, when for example you’re looking out to sea.
3rd word = escapism
The wonderful concept of escapism and freedom is for many a driving force in our desire for travel; I’m no exception!
If you were a country what country would you be and why?
When I hear samba music, there’s something that stirs deep within me – I would be Brazil, not least because I have family living there but also the South American spirit is very much a part of who my mother is – it resonates! I have a Brazilian table-cloth, a small Brazilian flag and I used to have a Brazilian cushion, all gifts from my mum and only a few weeks ago, I had a conversation in Portuguese with my Uncle, thanks to Google Translate.
What is your favourite bar/restaurant?
It’s no secret but I’m a fan of Lussmanns. They have five restaurants in Hertfordshire and they certainly do the county proud according to The Good Food Guide. Sustainability is at the heart of everything they do – their fish is to die for and they’ve got great options for those with special dietary requirements such as gluten or dairy free. If you get the chance to enjoy a Lussmanns luncheon or dinner experience, you won’t be disappointed – be sure you try the cod cheeks or the vegetarian paella!
Where have you been that genuinely took your breath away?
With my wife, back in 1997 (yup, we recently celebrated our 20th anniversary), enjoying the most fantastic dinner whilst on honeymoon in the Windows On The World, a world famous 40,000 square foot restaurant near the top of the North Tower on the 107th Floor at 1 World Trade Center, New York – a very special memory that will always be with us.
What one piece of advice would you give for accessible travellers?
Research, research, research – the destination, the hotel, the route, the airline, the amenities etc. I try to plan with military precision. It’s so true that planning is an upfront investment in success – plan for the unexpected and don’t forget to take one or two of your favourite home comforts.
What's your funniest travel moment?
Being stuck in one of those large off-road 4x4 vehicles at an acute angle on the side of a huge sand dune in the desert in Dubai – I will never forget that experience!
Where have you been where you felt most at home, away from home?
There are a few places that come to mind but I think most recently, my wife discovered a stunningly beautiful converted accessible barn in Cornwall that my family and I stayed in – we loved its remoteness. We’re hoping to return later on this year.
Where have you visited that you could see yourself living?
Perhaps one day, Cornwall. We love the rugged coastline, the community aspects of the county and the great outdoors much of which is delightfully accessible.
What life advice would you have given yourself five years ago?
Five years ago, that’s 2013 – ok, perhaps something along the lines of focusing on strengths, as opposed to weaknesses. Whilst change is often so very unsettling, make it your friend. Wind the clock forwards to 2018 and guess what, the world evenin 5 years has changed! It’s a frightening thought – you only need look at where the world was and where we are today.
The world is changing – in the first week of 2018, I had a fascinating conversation with a client who spoke about the expectations of millennials and that we now live in an age known as ‘the experiential economy’ – I feel a 1000-word LinkedIn post coming up!
It’s my belief that there’s a direct correlation between the speed with which we process and how we live our lives and technology – we’ve been moving faster and faster into a winner-take-all world. Watching the news, I sometimes feel that the worlds compassion and kindness barometer is heading south! I get the fact that in order to succeed in life today, it appears that being a master of differentiation and self-promotion is for many where it’s at – but let’s not forget our humanity or those more vulnerable groups in society that need our support.
Where do you hope to visit in five years’ time?
Hawaii – it’s the destination that my older brother who lives in New Zealand suggested for a fraternal reunion.
Which book would you recommend to take travelling?
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by writer, personal mastery and leadership speaker Robin Sharma. There are so many dog-eared pages and highlighted scribbles in my copy – sorry Robin!
Would you rather go into space or explore the depths of the ocean?
Those that know me well are very aware that movies like Interstellar, Apollo 13, Sunshine, Gravity, The Martian and 2001: A Space Odyssey set my world alight! And on one of my visits to Dubai several years ago, I had the opportunity to transfer into a Virgin Galactic demo space pod seat at a special exhibition – suffice to say that if the opportunity ever arose, I’d be there in heartbeat, something I mentioned in conversation with Tim Peake last year!
What's the craziest activity you did abroad?
In harnessing the power of the Antarctica wind, being lashed in my manual pole2pole wheelchair to a rigid plastic sheet and then being towed at what felt like great speed by the legendary Norwegian kiting god ‘Rocket’ Ronnie, an expert in kite polar travel – would I do that crazy activity again, hell yes!
For more info about Michael McGrath, the speaker: www.michaelmcgrath.co.uk
For more info about The Muscle Help Foundation: www.musclehelp.com