From beating disability to becoming motivational speaker

Nick Vujicic was born without limbs, but instead of moaning the 35-year-old Australian uses his personal experiences to motivate people all over the world. 
VS MEDIA / Ti Gong

Nick Vujicic has an answer for everything.

Born in Melbourne with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of limbs, 35-year-old Australian uses his story to inspire people around the world about the possibilities that lie ahead of them — only if they have the will for it.

A frequent visitor to China, Vujicic gave motivational lectures in Shenzhen, Shenyang, Shanghai and Chengdu earlier this month.

“On an average, I come to China twice a year, we (my family and I) have a mission to reach as many people as possible,” says Vujicic, who was on his 11th visit to China. “I have been to 67 countries and regions in the world. I try to influence as many people as I can with the positive message of inspiration — never give up your values and principles.”

To interact with the Chinese fans, Vujicic opened an account on Twitter-like Weibo (@尼克胡哲_NickVujicic). Since May, he posted more than 50 videos that have been well-received by his followers. 

He has covered several topics that concern the Chinese, such as encouraging students before gaokao, or the national college entrance examination, and tackling depression. “(On the platform) I get to know about the different layers of young people in China.”

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Nick Vujicic addresses an audience of 25,000 people in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

During the exam season, Vujicic and his team created a series of videos to cheer the stressed-out students. “I was just trying to help them cope with stress.”

Vujicic, who was born without arms and legs, was only blessed with two small deformed feet. In his book, “Stand Strong,” he describes himself as “a bully’s dream,” but that did not stop him from reaching out to the world.

He got married in 2012 and has two sons. His wife, Kanae Miyahara, is now pregnant with twin girls. 

While in Shanghai meeting with the media, Vujicic remained positive and humorous and never once talked of his deformity. 

“We all can be a friend for someone else. To be a friend, you don't need arms and legs. And sometimes a good friend is really a big difference.

“I don’t think of myself extraordinary. I think of myself an ordinary person achieving extraordinary things,” he says.

The Australian first arrived in China 10 years ago. His second trip was in 2008 when Wenchuan in Sichuan Province was hit by a devastating earthquake that left nearly 90,000 people dead and missing. 

“I could feel their desperation.” 

In that grave situation, he found people helping each other. “That’s when I think a nation is progressing.”

Vujicic used money from his foundation to help the earthquake victims and spent days with the orphans.

“Now the economy is totally different from 2008. (But) I know on the social media there are young people saying ‘I have money but I still feel alone’.”

He tried to reach out to them.

“To some people, I might be an older brother, to others I might just be a friend. I try to encourage them the way my dad encouraged me.”

Vujicic found that most Chinese youngsters were struggling to deal with stress and loneliness. He urges them to “try to find balance between friends and family; and also money, success and job.” 

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Nick Vujicic in Shanghai

VS MEDIA / Ti Gong
VS MEDIA / Ti Gong

Then there is pressure from peers, parents and young people themselves.

“I was just talking with a woman who was saying that she didn’t know how to get through to her son (who was under great pressure). She told him so many times that you don't have to be No. 1, you don't have to be in the top 20 to get into the best college,” Vujicic says.

“Knowing that you’ve done your best — that's the greatest thing that I believe. And that is what my parents told me,” he says. “I’m trying to help them with the things I had as a child, the difference that I have and the principles that my parents told me — ‘To never give up, to try, to be courageous and to say it’s ok to be different.’

“We want people to be able to love themselves, respect themselves and be encouraged with love. I think love is the most powerful thing.

“My dad had three different jobs, but we still found time to get together, sometimes playing video games, sometimes playing monopoly, soccer, fishing and swimming.” 

What they talked about was more than just school or homework or job, but really about life.

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Nick Vujicic learns surfing in Hawaii from American surfer Bethany Hamilton, who survived a 2003 shark attack and lost her left arm.

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Nick Vujicic plays golf by using his neck and shoulder.

VS MEDIA / Ti Gong

“We talked about the world, talked about poverty, on how we could help other people, to be thankful for what we have. My dad passed away in May at 62 years old. The legacy that he left behind for me was to do your best work and be thankful. And those are things I want to share with my own children.”

Vujicic says he has been to six or seven cities since his first trip to China. “From city to city it's different. Some cities are more reserved and some are more exciting.” 

One thing that he observed was that everyone in China listens.

“I was at the stadium with 25,000 people last night, and that's a lot of people. When I was speaking or pausing, they were listening to every single word.”

During this trip, Vujicic also met people with disabilities on stage.

“They were doing really cool dances and sharing their skills, talents and different abilities. There are many inspiring people all around China. It is not about the disabilities, it's about knowing how to overcome the disabilities of the heart.”

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