Reframe of Mind

Episode 6: Who is Nathan Parker?

Nathan Parker, 2021 NSW Young Australian of the Year

NSW Young Australian of the Year, Nathan Parker dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot for the Royal Australian Air Force from the time he turned six. He was on the way to that dream when a bus accident left him severely injured resulting in the amputation of his left hand. Nathan was the first upper-limb amputee in the history of the Australian Defence Force Academy to complete his final 12 months and graduate, and has since represented Australia in sports bringing home gold at the Invictus Games.

With the aid of his bionic arm, Nathan reached his goal of becoming a pilot, and now teaches others to fly as well.

In this episode of Reframe of Mind, Nathan tells Louise and Andy about his ‘make one consistent small choice to move forward’ philosophy and takes us along his journey of recovery, from which he wants to continue to share his message of resilience and assist, encourage and inspire people everywhere to transform their toughest times into their greatest opportunities.

You can connect with Nathan on his social media directly below:

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Reframe of Mind contains discussion around mental health that may be disturbing to some listeners. If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, please seek professional individual advice. 

Some of the main crisis lines in Australia are listed on our Mental Health Crisis Resources page, including those that operate 24/7 like Beyond Blue and Lifeline.

Guests this episode:

Nathan Parker

2021 NSW Young Australian of the Year


Show Notes:

Here’s some extra things you might not know about Nathan Parker, as well as some of the things he mentioned during the episode.

Listen to Nathan’s Ted talk on resilience:


Andy Le Roy  0:00  

We acknowledge the Yuggera and Kaurna nations as traditional custodians of the land on which we work, live and learn, and their continuing connection with the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their elders past and present


Louise Poole  0:13  

all content related to this programme is for general informational purposes only, and contains stories and discussions around mental health that may be disturbing to some listeners. If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you know, please seek professional individual advice and support. More details are contained in our show notes.


Nathan Parker  0:31  

I was still there lying in a hospital bed Googling around the iPad, to work out how I was going to overcome all these challenges. And for me, it was just about trying to make one consistent, small choice at the time, no matter how hard it got, no matter what challenges, were in front of me just find that next smallest choice that I can do to regain control and just keep moving forward ever so slightly.


Louise Poole  0:50  

That’s Nathan Parker 2021, New South Wales, Young Australian of the Year. And this is Reframe Of Mind,


Andy Le Roy  0:57  

the podcast that cuts through the platitudes and gets to the core of living authentically challenging our assumptions and improving mental health with the guidance of good science, philosophy and learning from other people’s lived experience. Were your hosts, Andy Le Roy,


Louise Poole  1:11  

and Louise pool. And previously on Reframe Of Mind, we’ve been looking at getting a better understanding of why our mental health matters, and why it’s important to hold conversations about it.


Andy Le Roy  1:21  

Yeah. So originally, we set out to make a series that looked at how to just turn things around, because that’s what we all want, isn’t it? Really?


Louise Poole  1:28  

Yeah. But as we spoke to more people, we felt that treating the series like a quick how to guide wasn’t doing justice to the work that our guests have put in order our own process, which started to unfold along the way of recording it.


Andy Le Roy  1:40  

Oh, boy did it. I mean, it’s easy to fall into this thing of, you know, if I do this, then I’ll get that and everything’s gonna be fixed. And we can just get on with it.


Louise Poole  1:48  

Yeah, but that’s toxic positivity, telling us just to soldier on and everything is going to be fine. But…


Andy Le Roy  1:54  

there are other things going on that contribute to everything just being fine. And spoiler alert, just saying it won’t make it happen.


Louise Poole  2:02  

No. I mean, have you ever heard someone say, I don’t want to open up that can of worms,


Andy Le Roy  2:07  

that was probably me. But seriously, it’s actually that can of worms that when you let yourself just really sit with it to understand it, then it’s probably we will start to see things shift


Louise Poole  2:17  

We’re not psychologists or scientists, at least not yet. That degree’s pending


Andy Le Roy  2:22  

that is, that is, you’re starting that soon. We’re podcast makers, and we’ve got an interesting opening up the conversation about mental health, and how we can move towards the things that are important to us.


Louise Poole  2:32  

Because now more than ever, we might struggle to make sense of the world and what’s happening around us. And that’s okay, we need to make sense of things in our own way and in our own time.


Andy Le Roy  2:42  

So, last time, Scientia Professor Joe Forgus from the University of New South Wales delivered us some fairly blunt messages. We do love Joe, but his messages are blunt and real. That’s why we have affectionately called them Joe bombs,


Louise Poole  2:57  

like his spin on how we actually form our opinions.


Joe Forgas  3:01  

We are biassed and influenced by society, we are profoundly social creatures, and almost everything we think and know comes from somebody else. Human beings have not been designed to seek truth and rationality human beings have been designed by evolution to be good members of a particular group. So searching for information that agrees with your particular virtue is the natural fallback condition.


Andy Le Roy  3:29  

It makes sense that we seek to be a member of the group or a tribe and sometimes that group though it doesn’t give us what we need for our continued growth and development.


Louise Poole  3:37  

We also spoke to 2021, Queensland Australian of the Year Dinesh pellet parner, who told us about his need to push against well intentioned opinions that tried to encourage him to pursue law instead of medicine after he became a quadriplegic.


Dinesh Palipana  3:52  

So many people having an opinion about what we should do, when you look back at life, there’s only one person who you can hold to account and that’s you. So I decided not to listen to anyone and pursue my dream, which turned out to be the best thing that I ever did.


Andy Le Roy  4:10  

So if our tribe can’t see the potential we see, how do we make that move forward for ourselves?


Louise Poole  4:16  

And where do you start when there are so many choices? I mean, we have to start somewhere. So how about we start by talking to someone who was an expert at making those small choices,


Andy Le Roy  4:26  

and in the spirit of integrating other people’s wisdom into our own experience, it’s the perfect time to introduce you to 2021 New South Wales Young Australian of the Year, Nathan Parker.


Louise Poole  4:36  

Now Nathan is a nine times medal winner at the Invictus Games.


Andy Le Roy  4:40  

Yeah, he’s won 17 medals in the Warrior Games, and he’s a 2017 Indoor rowing championship medalist


Louise Poole  4:47  

 Impressed. In 2019. Nathan was also co captain for the Australian Warrior Games team,


Andy Le Roy  4:52  

and he’s also an adaptive world record holder for indoor rowing.


Louise Poole  4:56  

Yeah, but Nathan is not a professional athlete.


Andy Le Roy  4:59  

No. Although sport has played a huge role in Nathan’s rehabilitation after an accident opened up a whole new world of adaptive sports


Louise Poole  5:07  

and his mindset played a crucial role not only in recovering from a near fatal accident, but adapting and continuing along the path to his own dream and goal of becoming a pilot. Despite losing his left hand as a result of that accident


Andy Le Roy  5:20  

from the age of six. Nathan’s one goal was to become a fighter pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force


Louise Poole  5:25  

after finishing year 12. In 2013, he was accepted into the RAAF as a pilot trainee, he started his military training and a Bachelor of Technology in aviation at the Australian Defence Force Academy.


Andy Le Roy  5:36  

And so one day after returning home from a trainee exercise, the bus Nathan was on rolled over, and Nathan was trapped for an extended period. And eventually he needed to be airlifted to hospital and was in a critical condition. That accident


Louise Poole  5:47  

left Nathan as an amputee with a long road of recovery ahead of him and a question over whether he’d ever fly again. And now with the aid of his bionic arm. He does! Not just that, but he teaches others to fly as well and helps with disadvantaged youth. And Nathan has generously taken us along his journey of recovery through to the position he’s in now, from which he wants to continue to share his message of resilience and to assist, encourage and inspire people everywhere to transform their toughest times into their greatest opportunities.


Nathan Parker  6:15  

Ever since I was young, I had one goal, and that was to be a fighter pilot in the military, I was on the pathway to that that dream. And then things took a turn for the worse or had a bit of a roadblock, so to speak. So we were coming back from a training exercise in Jervis Bay, and the bus I was travelling on went around the bend and rolled over and endedup sprawled across a quiet country road. Unfortunately, for me, my left hand became pinned between the bus and the road, sustained a whole number of injuries there as well, when the bus actually rolled over, my first instinct was to try and get out of the bus and get off to safety. But obviously, being pinned to the road, I couldn’t do that. So thankfully, I had some guys jump in and apply torniquets to my arms and basically saved my life, which was awesome. But at that time, I set myself my first ever goal in this journey. And that was to basically arrive at hospital with a pulse. And the smallest thing I could think of focusing on at that time was just to focus on my breathing, and follow the instructions that everyone was giving me. And then a few days later, I set myself My second goal, where I decided, Yep, I’ve got to the doctors were worried about something and they came and said, mate, we need you to either break wind or go to the bathroom by this time tomorrow, otherwise, we’re gonna have to do some more investigations. So very quickly, I went from having the goal of flying one of the most technologically advanced aeroplanes in the world to then focusing on my next smallest choice, my next goal is to fart. And from there, that was just find that next smallest way to move that needle ever so slightly. So initially, it was things like learning how to get out of bed, learning how to feed myself to, to get dressed in the morning. Because if I couldn’t do those small things, I’d never be able to move on to the bigger and bigger dreams that I had, from that point forward.


Andy Le Roy  7:48  

So in the context of life goals, passing wind seems like a pretty insignificant thing in like an average conversation. But like you say, you actually managed to break this down into very small steps. So is that something that came again, through the military training? Or is that something that came instinctively to you,


Nathan Parker  8:04  

I think there was always… the military is very big on, you know, just getting in getting the task done and doing whatever it takes to do what you have to do. But I think it also came fairly naturally, as well. And I knew lying there in a hospital bed, the reality was, I wasn’t overnight, just gonna get back to normal, I wasn’t able to go back and do exactly the same things I was doing. And for me, it almost became a game of, okay, let’s, let’s break this down to the smallest possible chunks and just keep pushing forward. And I think there was a lot of value in that too, in that, even if I didn’t cover a lot of ground very quickly, I was still moving forward. And even the steps might be something simple, but it gave me that, that sense of hope that okay, I’m still moving forward, I may not be moving forward as quickly as I want to. And I still might have this big, hairy, crazy obstacle looming in front of me. But if I keep moving forward one step at a time, eventually I’ll get there. 


Louise Poole  8:51  

Can I say how refreshing it is to hear you talk about making a fart, your small change, like your next step, because we hear sometimes from motivational speakers, they’re just like, just change your thought, just don’t do that thing. Just change the action. You know, it’s easy to go from pivoting from this thing that happened to it’s just the way you think about it, but it’s not. I just love that you’ve broken that down to the point where it’s so, it’s so relatable like, so when you do motivational speaking, how does that kind of come across to for you, because it’s not just, “just think about this other thing instead” That doesn’t solve the problem? Yeah,


Nathan Parker  9:28  

it’s a tricky one. I think, to me, that was a big perspective shift I had during those days after the accident while I was still in Hospital where I couldn’t go and change what seat I sat on. I couldn’t change what had happened. But I had to then focus on what I could control. That was my recovery. And what I did today, what I did tomorrow, and the next day to get better. It sticks in my mind as his perspective shift of getting better, not bitter. The problem is that it’s very easy to say, quite hard to do in practice. And there’s been so many times throughout my journey where I’ve stumbled, and I’m sure my family and everyone else will attest to that. But I think we all do. Everyone has challenges we face, everyone has journeys. And often it’s in those times that we stumble, that we get that opportunity to build that resilience to, to learn those lessons. And looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing, because even each one of those stumbles have led to something bigger down the track, which is pretty cool.


Andy Le Roy  10:18  

There are a lot of practitioners out there, you know, it’s really selling this concept of self reliance and inner strength and inner motivation, that type of thing. So how much would you attribute your progress to your own inner strength compared to the support you had externally from social structures and other structures around you? 


Nathan Parker  10:35  

Yeah it’s a tricky question. I think I there’s, without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am today, without support that I had around me, being the military, that incredibly supportive environment, the camaraderie of my mates and everyone, my family, I’m very lucky to have a very tight knit family group that supported me through everything that I’ve faced, even from a young age. But then I think there is that need to sort of build that resilience in oneself. And one of the things I think my support network did, for me, that I found incredibly valuable was they gave me the opportunity to try, but they also gave me the opportunity to fail as well. And I can’t imagine how hard it was for my parents, for example, to stand there and watch me drop things over and over and over again, as I was trying to learn to use my prosthetic hand. But without that opportunity to build that sort of self belief to build that knowledge that I can do this, or I will find a way to do this, then I wouldn’t have been able to overcome those simple challenges let alone the big ones I’ve faced since then,


Andy Le Roy  11:28  

was there a real sense of having to let go pride in that process? Because I think, you know, a lot of people these days tend to think if I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all. But you’re speaking there about the importance of failure in that journey as well.


Nathan Parker  11:40  

Yeah, it’s I mean, you’re talking to a perfectionist. And to this day, I still am very much a perfectionist. But for me, it was almost almost started to look at my recovery and my journey as a game, it was almost like a clean slate. I didn’t know what my limitations were. And neither did really the people around me. But no one, even me included up until that point, had never lived life with only one hand. So I didn’t know it was possible. So for me, the way I decided to try and put my my ego, my pride to one side was to just see life as a game. And without a doubt, one of the best things that’s helped with that was the ability to just have a laugh. Oftentimes, I was getting in trouble at hospital because we had so much laughter and we’re cracking jokes all the time. Because in my experience, if I wasn’t laughing, I was crying. And sometimes with the frustration, you just had no option but to just drop everything and laugh because it just wasn’t working. But yeah, definitely one of the hardest things for me was being a perfectionist, being someone who always strives to do the best I can. I really had to quickly learn how to get comfortable that failure. But looking back on it, I’ve learned so much from it as well.


Louise Poole  12:41  

How do you find the joy in that situation? How do you find that you can have a laugh?


Nathan Parker  12:46  

I think dropping things is always pretty funny, particularly when it involves eggs or various other things. Yeah, it’s a tricky one. I think it depends on the situation. I’d much rather laugh than get frustrated. And sometimes it was just about, okay, it’s not working. Now, let’s, let’s give it some time, we’ll come back to it or focusing on that small step again. So finding, okay, this isn’t working. But let’s go back to something that I could do to get that. Okay, I’ve made at least I’ve made some progress. I’ve had a small win, and then we’ll build from that next time. But yeah, it’s not always easy to laugh. But the best thing I’ve been able to do is just to laugh throughout it all. And it’s made everything a little bit easier.


Louise Poole  13:19  

Do you think that learning the importance of failure has in that context influenced you in other parts of your life? I’m thinking specifically like how you were involved in the Invictus Games, if you were afraid to fail, you wouldn’t get in there and give that a go. 


Nathan Parker  13:33  

Yeah definitely. 


Louise Poole  13:34  

So how has learning the importance of you know, the lessons that you learned through failure impacted everything else for you?


Nathan Parker  13:39  

the key takeaway I found was that not everything goes to plan, but you never know what’s going to happen. And I was always very, more of a reserved sort of person. And never, never much of an athlete either. The importance of overcoming that failure and getting comfortable with failure was that it opened me up to take opportunities that were coming up that I may never have even considered before. I was sort of, I played soccer in school and all that sort of stuff. But I was never really a competitive athlete in any real sport, getting comfortable with that sense of failure and learning how to be comfortable with okay, I can give this a crack. And if it doesn’t go to plan, that’s okay. opened me up and expanding my my blinkers, so to speak, that I’ve now made the most of that opportunity, where otherwise I probably would have avoided it because, you know, I’m not an athlete. I can’t do that. In fact, by giving it a go, you might be surprised as to what actually is possible.


Andy Le Roy  14:28  

It really sounds like that you’ve made a very clear distinction there between using failure and what some might term is wallowing in it. So how did you kind of avoid getting pulled into a vortex of feeling like that you can’t, arising out of that?


Nathan Parker  14:41  

Good question. I think it was all about trying to find the lesson not so much focusing on the failure, but focusing on what I could learn from it. And that’s been prevalent throughout my entire journey. But always like I think there’s a good quote from from some famous person I can’t recall my head but it was, might have been the Edison inventing the Light bulb, and he said, You know, I’ve now got 1000 ways, I know that don’t work, let’s try something different. And for me, it was just pulling the lessons out of each and everything. Even there was a, I had a classic stack at one of the sprinting races I was in, pulled all sorts of skin off and all that sort of stuff. And it was all about, okay, well, now I need to know that I don’t need to slow down as quickly, particularly with my top heavy mass, I need to take a more measured approach and focus on that. And it was just by pulling those lessons out having a bit of a laugh and pulling the lessons out of it. You’re not focused on the failure, per se, you’re focusing on what that experience has taught you to prepare you for the next next attempt or the next challenge ahead.


Louise Poole  15:35  

Thinking of our own experiences now Andy with when we’ve been working on our business the last few months or so, when we’ve had knock backs from people like we’ve been able to take that and kind of reframe that for ourselves and go, Well, this approach isn’t working. It’s technically a failure. But how can we re do this and approach it in another way? So I think there’s so many skills that you’re talking about there that are so transitional to people who aren’t experiencing, you know, major life events, but who can help in an everyday way. Is there anything that you would say to them about that that would be helpful?


Nathan Parker  16:10  

Yeah, I think my perspective, it’s always interesting doing motivational speaking and talking to various people in it. You know, I see myself as a normal everyday guy. I do have different challenges to most but everyone has a story. Everyone has challenges. And I think I like to get people to think about even the things that we do day to day for a lot of people sitting in traffic, and you know, the road rage and everything that that’s a challenge. It’s something that we don’t even think about, or we don’t think twice about these days. But it’s still a challenge that we’ve overcome, or we overcome each and every day. So I think everyone’s got challenges. And it’s about finding those those skills that work for you finding the things that help you get through those challenges. But certainly everyone faces challenges. And I think the more that we can arm ourselves with a variety of different tools that work for us, the better we are to face those challenges and to live a much better and happier life as well.


Louise Poole  16:58  

What part do you think sports has helped play in your mental health?


Nathan Parker  17:03  

sports has had a massive role to play, particularly Invictus Games. Like, oftentimes people focus on the medals and that aspect of the games. But by far and large, the biggest thing was that camaraderie in our community, I look back on our Australian teams that I was a part of and there were so many incredible stories and people that had been on amazing journeys, each with their own challenges and struggles that were able to come together and share that knowledge and push each other to get better through sport. In my mental health, like there were times in my recovery, when I was going back to ADFA and navigating the challenges of working out what I could and couldn’t do for a career. There were times where it felt like everything was going wrong. But I could still get on the rowing machine or I could go down to the running track. And every time I went an extra metre on the rower, or when that split second faster on the track, I was still moving forward. So even though everything else could have been a complete nightmare, and nothing was working sport gave me that thing that I could focus on bit of an escape, but also a way in a means for me to see continual progress, which was cool.


Andy Le Roy  18:03  

How important do you think the element of spontaneity or surprise is in all of this development, I’ve got a story, when we were very early on, reaching out to people for one of the products we have, and I was doing a call to find details for a contact and ended up actually being transferred cold to that person to have that conversation then and therre which I wasn’t prepared for, but actually, in hindsight really helped us to refine the way we approach things. So do you think there’s also great value in the unexpected?


Nathan Parker  18:30  

Definitely, I think for me, I was never really one to venture outside of my comfort zone too much prior to the accident. But I was very lucky early on in my journey to meet Kurt Fearnley. And one of the best pieces of advice that he gave me was that just to be open with opportunities, there’s going to be so many things that might pop up. And don’t be afraid to try and make the most of every opportunity and be open to just accepting whatever may come. And that’s true in my experience. And he was he was dead, right, because there’s been so many things that have popped up along the way, as they say, one door closes, another doors open. And there’s been so many doors that have opened that I never would have thought about. And I feel that by making the most and taking those opportunities and taking the chance and giving stuff a crack. I’ve actually learned a lot more and had some amazing experiences as a result.


Louise Poole  19:14  

Do you think 15 year old Nathan would have imagined having a trophy room full of golds and silvers and bronzes and… have you got a trophy room?


Nathan Parker  19:23  

No, they’re just in a cupboard, for me like, the medals were nice, but for me the biggest things were the the memories, the experiences and the teammates that I got to share that amazing experience with, I learnt so much from all of them. Looking back at when I went to Toronto, I’d probably only been out of hospital for 18 months or so just over 18 months. And I remember then at that time looking back thinking, wow, 18 months ago, or however long it was, I never thought I’d be here. I still remember those dark times wondering what on earth I was going to do with my life given now I only had one hand to be standing on the world stage representing Australia in sport and for me that’s probably the most powerful things I’ve gotten out of it was the mates I’ve made, and the experiences I’ve had that I never imagined. So the medals are just sort of tucked away nicely in the cupboard. Because for me, it’s the the memories and the experiences that I have that I value the most, 


Andy Le Roy  20:14  

I was really interested to hear you talking about finding your passion, because you started out wanting to fly the planes in the air force and go along that trajectory in your career, and what happened in between changed all of that for you. But what you decided in between now and then was that it was the flying that was important, not the fighter pilot side of things. How did you come to that point?


Nathan Parker  20:35  

I guess I was lucky in it, it sort of became really apparent when I had that crossroads, it was I could stay in the military and do another job, which would have been an incredible experience and opportunity. But for me, I already felt at that point that I’d lost that childhood dream twice, and I couldn’t afford to sort of walk away at the end of the day, when the chips are down, I couldn’t walk away from flying without sort of working out what was possible. Because I had this this gut feeling deep down that I knew in 10-15 years time, I’d be kicking myself that I didn’t give it a shot and see what was possible. So for me, it was very obvious that at that point in time, at that crossroads, there was a very strong pull towards you need to give this a go. And given that you’ve already potentially lost it twice over, give it one last shot and see what is possible. But I think it’s definitely a challenge. It’s particularly these days with so many different things that are going on. For so many of us it’s hard to narrow down what is it that we’re passionate about? And how do we find our passion? How do we pursue our passion? And that’s something that I’ve been very lucky throughout my life to have had a very clear passion from the start. 


Louise Poole  21:33  

Is that what fueld you when people said that you won’t fly again, it’s so it wasn’t so much proving them wrong, but following your own gut on that, that they were wrong? 


Nathan Parker  21:44  

Yeah, I think for me, it was about seeing what was possible. I knew deep down, I had a sense deep down that I think I can still do this. And I was very lucky along the way to have so many incredible people give me opportunities to try and see what was possible. But I mean, even thinking back to my hospital room, one of the first things that went up on the wall, in my room was a picture of the fighter jet that I had always hoped to fly. And even in those tough times when it was, I’m struggling to put food in my mouth, you know, with only one hand, I look at that and saying, you know, I’ve got to do this to start moving towards that goal. And there was no guarantees that I’d get back there. And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pursue that dream in the long run. But at that point in time, that passion, that dream, and that that goal, gave me that inspiration, that motivation to keep pushing through no matter how hard things got.


Andy Le Roy  22:29  

So I guess my next question naturally from that is, you know, how the process of using visualisation and keeping your goals up in front of you. And you’ll hear people like Oprah speaking about their vision boards, that sort of thing. So is that sort of another way of saying the same sort of thing that you’ve got to keep whatever you want in front of you to actually reach that?


Nathan Parker  22:48  

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don’t necessarily have a vision board, per se. But every day, I’m always thinking about where am I? What is my goal? What am I trying to get to? And someone asked the other day, you know, what are three ways that you describe yourself, and for me, I said, I’m very much goal orientated and goal driven, but process focus. So it’s, it’s focusing on the goal, having something you’re aiming towards, no matter how crazy it is, if it if it lights a fire in you, and gets you moving in the right direction, and you’re passionate about it, then that’s a that’s a goal worth having, in my view, and then bringing that back back down to the process of No, and I always start with the vision and the goal, and then work backwards in those small steps to go well, right down to what can I do now, to move towards that goal? Yeah, I think vision and having a goal, and they can always change. I mean, for me, my goals have changed so many times throughout my journey. And as I’ve found that different opportunities didn’t work out and various other things. But having something that feeling like you’re working towards something I think is very powerful in both giving you purpose, giving you motivation, but also feeling like you’re heading in a direction to somewhere, and it makes the challenges you’re facing now a little bit more worthwhile.


Louise Poole  23:50  

What is it about flying that you love? What is that feeling?


Nathan Parker  23:55  

Yeah, it’s always hard to describe, there’s definitely a sense of freedom up there. When you can sort of move in any direction you want. For me, one of the cool things I like about it is it’s you have to be so focused in the moment of what you’re doing, you don’t sort of have the time or the space to think about all the things that are piling up on your to do list back on the ground or, or the challenges you’re facing. So for me, it was a very, it’s always been a very grounding experience to go flying and just focus in the moment, enjoy it, and then come back and worry about everything after that. But throughout my journey to the other thing that I really liked about flying is that you can never be perfect. There’s always something you can learn from every flight. And you can always learn more. There’s different ratings, different qualifications you can get. And for me, that’s a really powerful thing because it’s constantly challenging me to improve myself as both a pilot but also a person as well. 


Andy Le Roy  24:45  

I imagine flying is a pretty intense kind of experience, like any time I’ve tried to picture myself in the pilot’s seat. I’ve thought there’s no way I could actually keep myself across all these instruments and actually enjoy it. Do you get to the point where you can just enjoy the view?


Nathan Parker  24:58  

Yeah, I think that’s One of the biggest misconceptions, I think out there is that flying is challenging. I think there are certain types of flying that are challenging and the certain aspects of flights that can be challenging. Really, it’s like any skill, it really is just a skill, at the end of the day, you know, I found reverse parallel parking, and probably still struggle with that even today, but over time, you get the hang of it, and then you sort of find what works for you, you find a flow and a rhythm. And then yeah, it’s, it’s, and that’s one of the most rewarding things of my, my day job as a flying instructor is seeing those moments where people find it. And they, they can, you can see it making sense and working out, they start to relax, and really just enjoy how cool it is to be up there and flying around.


Andy Le Roy  25:39  

Do you see yourself as a risk taker, I mean, doing that sort of thing, several thousand feet in the air is different to actually parallel parking outside the cafe, being actually someone who has to take risks?


Nathan Parker  25:49  

No, I wouldn’t say I’m a risk taker at all. I’m scared of heights, I hate abseiling, I hate rock climbing. And one of the things is with flying is that it’s all very, you plan, you brief, you take, there are risks involved, but you’re managing those, it’s definitely not a risk taking activity. Often I find I’m more cautious with flying I am with anything else in my life, which is pretty cool.


Louise Poole  26:15  

It stands out to me that there’s two parallels in that, that you love flying because it almost helps you be in the present and connect and like do that single focus thing, which is how you have been able to achieve so many things in your life as well. That’s the skill that you’ve taken into that. And I love how those two things kind of run parallel, like getting up in the air where you were up in the air before the accident you were learning at that point weren’t you so you’d already felt that feeling so but the journey has been about grabbing that feeling.


Nathan Parker  26:45  

Yeah. And it’s, I think there’s a lot of skills that I learned even from learning to fly at a young age at 15. I was I was flying around having a great time, while my mates were weren’t even learning to drive yet. And there’s a lot of skills I think I’ve learned throughout that process of learning to fly, how we how we breathe, how we manage risks, the situational awareness, working out where everything is, and what impact that may have going forward. So many of those skills I brought back into day to day life. And I think many pilots do it. Yeah, it’s a really awesome experience. And I’ve learned so much from that as well,


Louise Poole  27:16  

is freedom, the ultimate feeling that you think that we’re all seeking?


Nathan Parker  27:20  

I think for me in my journey, I mean, I can’t speak for everyone, but I think it’s that the biggest thing for most people, I think is that that sense of passion of waking up every day feeling like they’re, they’re doing what they love feel like they’re making a difference. Certainly that’s been true. In my experience, the times where I felt the best have been when I’ve been helping other people through talking or mentoring, or even teaching people to fly. And I think that’s one of the most inherent things for us as humans is we want to be able to help others we want to make a difference and do our little bit to make the world a better place. And I think if people can find a passion that that they love, that gives them that ability to help others, then that’s I think the holy grail almost.


Andy Le Roy  27:57  

So would it be fair to say that a part of your passion then although it’s flying, is also connecting with people?


Nathan Parker  28:03  

Yeah, I think especially given, I think back to the support I’ve had, the various sources of inspiration I’ve had, since those darkest days in hospital. And for me, my purpose is almost shifted from wanting to be a fighter pilot to just wanting to help one person in their darkest days overcome whatever challenges they’re facing. And for me, if I can even help one person then that’s, then my life has has been worth something. It’s been purposeful. So I always have every opportunity I can to help others and and help them overcome whatever challenges they’re facing that they can transform their toughest times into their greatest opportunities as well. 


Andy Le Roy  28:37  

Do you feel like there’s been a shift there, Nathan,  like with some when you had the aspiration to become a fighter pilot, do you feel like it was coming from the same place of wanting to help people? Or was it slightly different in your approach to how you look at things now,


Nathan Parker  28:49  

I think trying to be a fighter pilot was for me, it was flying. And that was always my passion and trying to go as far as I could in flying. And I remember looking at the various options from a young age and thinking, well, that to me, was that the pinnacle, that’s if I want to keep trying to see how far I can go and how good I can get at various things. But definitely there was an element of service there too, to be able to, to serve in the military and help the community and help our country is something I was incredibly proud to do, and wouldn’t go back and change it for the world like I always feel incredibly privileged and lucky to have served in any capacity. So that was definitely a big part of it as well making a difference in helping others in a slightly different way. 


Louise Poole  29:30  

The project that you’re working on with kids, the aviation project, do you think that’s been inspired by your passion to connect and help people now?


Nathan Parker  29:38  

Yeah, so that was actually started by my mentor who mentored me through getting into the Air Force and various other things. So he and his wife started that awesome organisation and I was just incredibly lucky to be asked to kind of be a part of it. And for me, I think it’s I feel really lucky to be invited to participate. But also it’s a way for me to use both my passions of of aviation and helping people and combining them together to really make a difference in the lives of young people that are struggling with so many challenges that young people face these days. And often, what I’ve found really cool too, is that even if they don’t take away the message on that day, if they don’t understand exactly what the message is that that peeps and laws are put together to try and get across to them, if nothing else, they get an awesome experience. And it may be in five or 10 years time down the track that they’re really facing a challenge that they’re stuck with. And it may be that one thing that pops out of nowhere and goes, Okay, that’s a good idea. Let’s try that. But yeah, it’s a real pleasure to be involved in it. And I’m so lucky to have not only incredible mentors, but but people that have started this awesome organisation and have invited me to be part of it as well, which is awesome. 


Louise Poole  30:40  

And when you’ve done the talks with particularly school aged kids, is there a difference in the way that you connect to them versus adult?


Nathan Parker  30:47  

Yeah, it’s always good. I think some of the best questions I ever get after the talks are from from young people. And it really gives you an insight into the challenges that they’re facing. And I think I feel really lucky as, as a kind of young guy, I’m 25, I feel old. But I’m constantly reminded, I’m young, it’s a cool place to be in that I feel like I can still relate to young people and young people not only enjoy the journey I’ve been on, but I can take away some of those lessons that that they may be facing with their challenges of high school or various other challenges, but then to also have the ability to talk to adults, and impart some of that other side of the coin as to what can help them overcome their challenges. But when you boil it down, it’s resilience is something that all of us, all of us have. But all of us can work on and improve as well. And the lessons are still the same. Regardless of if you’re you’re eight years old, or you’re 18 years old, it’s all about focusing on consistent small choices and not letting your situation or the setbacks you’re facing, determine your story and, and just focus on whatever you can to move yourself a little bit closer to whatever it is you want to achieve, or whatever it is you’re trying to overcome.


Louise Poole  31:50  

What are the unexpected questions that they ask, particularly the younger kids? 


Nathan Parker  31:54  

There was one the other day I can’t remember exactly, it was but there’s been all sorts of about Do you regret anything? And from a year four kid to ask a question like that really sort of blew me away, because oftentimes, that’s… you don’t even think about young people having those sorts of questions or considerations or, or that perspective. And that sort of really blew me away, that the young people these days actually have so many questions, but also so many challenges they’re trying to overcome as well. I think that gave me a lot of insight into young people actually probably have more challenges these days than we then we think 


Andy Le Roy  32:27  

That’s actually a point I was gonna ask you, whether you feel like the kids now have more challenges then than you or I would have actually had at their age. So what are some of the things that you’re noticing that they’re coming out with?


Nathan Parker  32:38  

I think there’s a lot of challenges, particularly around social media and things as well. It’s obviously a big thing. But I think there’s just, we see it around the world at the moment with with Coronavirus, and various other things. And I think that has a toll on young people. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there. You know, I can only imagine what it was like for those high school students going through the HSC. And stuff last year when when they had to do it remotely and various other things. And I think the uncertainty, yes, it doesn’t maybe directly impact young people. But I think they definitely feel that uncertainty, particularly for many of them that may not have any idea of what the future is going to look like to begin with. And then there’s all this extra uncertainty piled on top. But there’s also a lot of young people I’ve met that are struggling with with potentially broken homes, or they’re struggling with their school environment, and not necessarily being able to engage in that, that normal school environment. So there’s so many a large variety of challenges out there, that young people are facing,


Andy Le Roy  33:36  

how much value is there, then, in I guess, expanding our minds to work within that discomfort to work outside of our comfort zones, because we do have our shells that we like to stay within? And if we go too far out of that it can feel very uncomfortable. So would it be wise, for example, to start training our kids to, to challenge yourself to outside of those zone on a more regular basis to actually expand? You know, where the where the boundary between uncertainty and certainty is?


Nathan Parker  34:02  

Yeah, I mean, I’m no expert. I’m not qualified as a parent or, or a professional in any respect. But the way I’ve often thought about it, I have been asked at times to talk to parents about resilience. And for me, the thing that I came up with was that trying to find opportunities in a controlled and safe environment to allow young people to experience failures, but to allow them to experience challenges as well, but also helping guide them and mentor them through how to break that down into a goal setting process or finding out ways to make decisions to overcome challenges. Sports is a great example of those times where we can encounter failure we can encounter, not necessarily doing as well as we would have liked, or we can try new things in that sporting environment in a fairly safe way. Learn through that as well. So I think there’s a lot of value in taking steps outside of our comfort zone in a safe environment where not too much can go wrong because that prepares us to deal with those bigger challenges we face. Because we’ve got sort of evidence behind us as to how our decision making works and that we do actually have the ability to make choices to overcome challenges.


Andy Le Roy  35:11  

What do you think is the most important thing in your toolkit from day to day?


Nathan Parker  35:14  

Oh, good question. I probably sound like I’m repeating myself. But for me, it’s that consistent, small choice, it’s each and every day, I’ll get up and I’ll write down a list of here’s what I’m gonna get done today. The small choices, whenever I’m struggling, I come back to those consistent small choices. But the other big thing too, is asking for help. What I quickly learned that I couldn’t do everything myself, especially in those early days. Really, that changed my mindset, my focus towards asking for help and, and really, there’s no shame in it. Yeah, okay. We may have to sacrifice some pride or some ego, but there’s so many people out there that are able to help. And I think everyone is actually more willing to help than we often give them credit for. I’ve certainly found that in my experience of, you know, right down to walking up to complete strangers at the swimming pool, asking if they can help me tie my speedos because I can’t do it with one hand. And you’ll be surprised how willing people are to help. I think for me, that’s the other big thing is small choices. But also don’t be afraid to seek help to find support and, and try and find people that can help you move past whatever it is you’re facing, 


Louise Poole  36:12  

It kind of builds up that momentum, doesn’t it. So you start with something small and then as as it progresses, it gets easier and easier and easier.


Nathan Parker  36:19  

Yeah. And what I’ve found too, is that oftentimes, that’s, you know, when you make that first choice, as you start going down that pathway, it’s like unravelling a ball of wool. And the next steps sort of become more and more apparent as you keep making those steps. And the hardest part, it’s easy to say just make small choices. The hardest part is taking that first choice, distil it down and then then actually making that choice to start that, and just trusting that you’re going to be able to start moving in a direction even though it may not be apparent at the time.


Louise Poole  36:47  

The other thing I wrote down from something you said earlier, Nathan, was better, not bitter. And I think that’s such a great philosophy. Do you want to expand on that?


Nathan Parker  36:55  

Yeah, it’s, it’s something that I stumbled across it, it was sort of my mindset was, I can’t, I can stay where I was. And no amount of hoping wishing and dreaming that I wasn’t on that bus or I wasn’t in that seat was going to change anything. And really all I could control at that time was to focus on whatever I could do to get better. But as I said, it’s one of those things that it’s easy to say, and it sounds cool. But it’s often hard in practice, and it’s something that I still find myself, even my family will come back. And when I’m struggling with something these days, or are complaining about something, they’ll still roll it out and go, Well, here’s your own words against you get better, not bitter. But it is really cool. And it gives you that it is so that Oh yeah, you know, I need to focus on the choices I’m making here. And then I can change the outcome based on the way I choose to look at this. So it’s been something, I’ve continued going back to over and over again. And I’m sure why my parents and my family love reminding me of it every time I start to complain. 


Louise Poole  37:49  

So how do you feel about telling your story now? And I know it’s a really powerful tool to help people connect and to make positive change in the world. But does it reactivate trauma? Or is that a part of the healing process?


Nathan Parker  38:04  

I’m very lucky, I don’t really have any trauma that I’m aware of. So I’ve never had it really a nightmare. Anything about the accent. Certainly had challenges, but certainly no negative thoughts. And for me, I think it was actually quite therapeutic almost to think back through my journey and, and go over some of those challenges and talk to people that have walked that journey with me to try and find those lessons. I think for me, it gave myself a lot of meaning in that, okay, this accident has actually taught me a whole lot of stuff that I don’t want to be, I don’t want to give back like I wouldn’t go back tomorrow and change to pick a different seat because I’ve just learned so much. And I’ve gained so many incredible opportunities from it. But I think too, it’s also about me being able to use what’s happened to me to actually make a difference for others. And if I can help even one person to overcome a challenge that they’re facing, regardless of what that is, then for me, that’s gives me purpose. But it also means the accident actually has meaning and value to not just myself but but other people as well. 


Andy Le Roy  38:57  

Do you think sometimes we try and live a bit too quickly these days that we actually lose sight of what’s in front of this?


Nathan Parker  39:03  

Yep, I’m definitely the guy for that. Having the big ambitions of becoming a fighter pilot from a young age, you know, even now I probably still get… see my peers and the guys who w ent through ADFA with offline the fast jets and having a great time. And for me, I said look where I’m at in my flying journey thinking or am I behind where I should be? Should I have done more before now, but let’s just think about living the journey you’re on. And everyone’s walking on a different journey. And for me, that’s something that I still struggle with is is not getting too far ahead of myself. And I’m very lucky to have mentors that sort of keep pointing in the right direction and keep me in check and say, Look, you still got plenty of time, and you actually achieved a hell of a lot. And one of the things I find is that I often lose sight of what I have done. Like it’s you feel like something’s not working in the moment. But if you look back even 12 months ago, or three years ago, for most people have actually achieved a hell of a lot of stuff. When they look back. They actually go wow, I actually have done a lot and I am actually moving forward and it’s oftentimes we’re just spinning our wheels at the time, because we’re faced with a challenge. But if you look back, there’s often plenty of evidence there that we actually are more resilient than we think. And that we actually are moving in in pretty good directions and doing better than we think 


Louise Poole  40:10  

that’s that disease of perfectionism. I think, isn’t it? Like it’s telling us that it’s not enough? It’s not good enough. We need to keep doing more. But it’s not. That’s not a true statement. That’s kind of just this inner critic that’s on our back all the time about that. But we are doing a lot. We are moving forward.


Nathan Parker  40:26  

Yeah. And even the smallest choices each and every day, move us closer and closer.


Louise Poole  40:31  

Can I ask the I don’t know, the inappropriate question. But how cool is? that bionic arm? I kind of want one. Like, it looks really cool.


Nathan Parker  40:41  

Yeah, I’m very lucky to have it. And I think it’s definitely changed my recovery, my journey. I don’t think I’d be flying aeroplanes today without the technology I’ve got but it’s yeah, it’s awesome. It doesn’t quite work as well as the original that I had. The flesh and bone Yeah. But it certainly, and I often say to people, if there’s a time to be an amputee a right time, to be an amputee, I think now is the time with the technology that’s coming out the research that’s going on, you know, I have no doubt in my lifetime, there will be prosthetic hands that have almost been flesh and bone back or exceeding the original. It’s, it’s a really exciting space to be in. And I feel incredibly lucky to have the technology that I do.


Louise Poole  41:21  

Do you feel kind of cool. Like you’re part Terminator? 


Nathan Parker  41:24  

Yeah, I often joke to the school groups. And I give talks about how I’m lucky that I get to wake up every day, put on my prosthetic hand and pretend to be to be Arnie, which always gets a few laughs, it’s always been about that, in that, you know, I use a black prosthetic hand because that’s my way of owning it. I’m proud of my injury. I’m proud of my amputation and what I’ve achieved since then. And yeah, it is kind of cool. It seems like a shame. At least in my eyes, it seems like a shame to cover it up. When it’s it’s a pretty cool piece of technology. A lot of people haven’t seen that sort of technology as well, which is, which is cool. And what I’ve found in my experience, too, is it’s yeah, people look at me funny down the street or whatever. But I don’t think it’s because of me. I think it’s because the technology that I have in my prosthetic. Like that’s something that people have only ever seen in the movies. So for a lot of people, it’s almost like curiosity about the cost a technology not necessarily me as a person or, or my situation,


Louise Poole  42:21  

what are the unexpected things that you can do now with this arm,


Nathan Parker  42:24  

I can make my wrist rotate 360 degrees as many times as I want to. And I never, in all honesty, I never thought I’d be programming a hand with my phone, which is pretty cool. So yeah, it’s there’s so many cool perks to having a prosthetic. And the cool thing I like about it too is I’m able to adapt my prosthetic to whatever task I’m doing. There’s not many people out there that have a closet full of hands or arms that they can chop and change. It’s almost like I’ve got a Batman utility belt of different prosthetic devices that I can tweak and change as I need to to achieve the intended outcome.


Louise Poole  43:00  

Nathan, thank you so much for having a chat today. This is, it’s been so wonderful to talk to you.


Andy Le Roy  43:05  

Yeah, really appreciate your time.


Nathan Parker  43:07  

That’s alright. Thanks so much for having me. It’s been been good fun and hopefully imparted some sort of value and a few jokes and stuff on the way which has been awesome.


Andy Le Roy  43:15  

You can get in touch with Nathan and read more about his story or book him to speak at your next event by visiting We’re really grateful to him for the time and insights he gave us.


Louise Poole  43:26  

And as we’re recording this podcast Reframe Of Mind, we’ve taken on Nathan’s advice whenever we felt overwhelmed, and asked ourselves what’s one small thing we can do to move ourselves forward?


Andy Le Roy  43:37  

Yeah, I’ve commented several times over many months, Louise, that we don’t live in a vacuum.


Louise Poole  43:44  

We don’t live in a vacuum. We are influenced by the world around us.


Andy Le Roy  43:47  

Yeah, we are. And so all of the things that we we face internally can impact us in any part of our life. And one part of life that we embarked on together was to start a new business. Welcome Change Media. 


Louise Poole  43:59  

Yes, it wasn’t enough to start a podcast,  Reframe Of Mind, we went and tried to create an entire empire around it. Because when you try to create an empire out of nothing but an idea for a podcast that you haven’t made yet, it can be overwhelming, and the possibilities can be both endless and daunting. 


Andy Le Roy  44:18  

Besides which we took on the new titles for ourselves. Self adopted titles of middle aged entrepreneurs 


Louise Poole  44:24  

Speak for yourself, I’m the baby.


Andy Le Roy  44:27  

So it’s probably starting to sound like we’re just gonna start talking business in the next episode because we’re talking about our business and starting it up. But, nah, buckle in,


Louise Poole  44:36  

no, buckle in. You got to trust us here. This isn’t about starting a business. This is about overcoming those mental and emotional challenges that we all face and the business for us was just the subject that brought them up. 


Andy Le Roy  44:48  

Because Louise…


Louise Poole  44:49  

Because we don’t exist in a vacuum 


Andy Le Roy  44:51  

we don’t live in a vacuum. 


Louise Poole  44:53  

Next time on Reframe Of Mind, entrepreneur specialist Alex Mertz quells some of our fears


Alex Maritz  44:59  

And these late career transitions to self employment are possible. Over 30% of all entrepreneurs in Australia or senior entrepreneurs. It’s the highest growing sector, it can all be done 


Andy Le Roy  45:12  

And entrepreneurial thinker and innovative strategies Jacinta Carboon gives us some food for thought on how to take an innovative approach ourselves.


Jacinta Carboon  45:20  

I think that largely the economy hasn’t really paid attention to women. You know, most businesses in the past have been run by men for men thinking about men from a man’s perspective not actually thinking about women.


Andy Le Roy  45:34  

We’d like to thank today’s guests for sharing their personal stories and insights and for more information on any of the subjects, guests or references used in this episode. Please see our show notes or


Louise Poole  45:46  

Reframe Of Mind is a Welcome Change Media Production.


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Check out some of our other guests who appear throughout Reframe of Mind: