Liam Malone: MindsetLiam Malone: Mindset


March 22, 2018

8 min read
Words: Helene Ravlich, Lucy Brock

Liam Malone is a man with no regrets, and has packed more into his 24 years than many of us will achieve in a lifetime.

Born with a fibular hemimelia – in which part or all of the fibula bone is missing - he had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 18 months old, but went on to compete – and win two golds and a silver – at the 2016 Paralympics before announcing his retirement from competition earlier this year. He also made the cover of former Paris Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld's CR Men's Book and recently walked in New York Fashion Week, whilst tackling a serious career in AI.

You recently announced your retirement, which must have been a difficult decision in the countdown to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games…

I haven’t retired… I’m too young for that (laughs). Okay, I have retired from racing, and I’m now working with a company called Soul Machines. Let’s just say I don’t run anymore. New rules came into place around the Paralympics on January 1 and I fundamentally disagreed with them. After two days of thinking about it I made the choice not to compete again. As an athlete your life cycle is really short anyway, and I didn’t want to get to thirty and wonder what the hell I was going to do. It seemed like the right time.

state of mindlessness
  1. The preparation.

It’s natural human nature to try and fit into groups. I just try and do my own thing.”

Competing in the Paralympics, working within the tech community… does taking part in something like New York Fashion Week seem a little trivial to you? Or just a lot of fun?

I’m not interested in being a model (laughs), but I want to help reshape society’s view of people with so-called “disabilities.” I don’t see having artificial legs as a problem, if anything I use it to my advantage. Getting asked to take part in the show seemed like a unique experience and I thought: “why the hell not?”

The daily get up
  1. The daily get up.
Carine Roitfeld was the person responsible for getting you to NYFW, and put you on the cover of CR Men’s Book. How did you meet, and was it a bit of a surreal experience?

She reached out to me. In terms of how surreal it was, just having two artificial legs is a unique experience in itself – a series of disasters and embarrassments and surprises, so nothing really phases me anymore. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was twelve and died when I was eighteen, my aunt and uncle died within six months of that. When you compare everything going on in my life at the moment with that, these things seem less surreal.

Do you think experiencing loss early on and growing up with two artificial legs gave you a greater resilience and confidence than the average person?

I guess. It means that I can’t care about what anybody thinks, and I don’t have to try and be cool because by definition, having two artificial legs means I can’t ever be cool. It’s natural human nature to try and fit into groups. I just try and do my own thing. I’ve had so many embarrassing moments with legs falling off during running races at school, I’ve been such an easy target for teasing… it’s made me super resilient, for sure.

“Well, my whole life is fun. I don’t want to go through life thinking I have a job, then time for fun… I just want to have a life.”

Nelson Lakes
  1. Nelson Lakes National Park.
self belief
  1. Keep going.
With so much having already been achieved, how do you keep your motivation going? Have you set goals for further down the track?

I have a lot of set goals, but I’ve also done a lot of bad things too. When I was at high school I sold drugs. When I was nineteen I drove drunk and crashed my truck off a cliff. That crash was a real wake up call and made me turn around and look at how I was reacting to all of the negative things that had happened to me.

Over the next three days I built up a framework for the next three years, and that included going to the Paralympics and then using that as a platform to go on to do other things. I used that broader vision to help push through any barriers that came up before me.

What would you say to someone who saw their disability as a negative, and let it impact on their life?

I actually haven’t met many people like that. The people with the biggest disabilities seem to be ones who are way more intelligent than me, way more able physically in every respect… but they have a weak mindset, a bad attitude. That is the most limiting thing you can have. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve got two artificial legs, or you’re perfect. It really comes down to mindset.

Mind game
  1. Mind game.

“Everyone knows to do physical exercise and eat well, but your brain is probably the most important part of your body and undoubtedly the most neglected.”

What do you do for fun?

Well, my whole life is fun. I don’t want to go through life thinking I have a job, then time for fun… I just want to have a life. That’s the simplest vision I have. I get to spend my days with incredible geniuses and then I skydive or go snowboarding on the weekends… anything with an extreme emotional response. I’ve just become addicted to that. I don’t like normality, I like change. I don’t want to look back on my life with any regrets.

All highly paced, adrenalin surging stuff. Do you ever crave serenity?

I meditate on a daily basis. I had very high anxiety when I went I was in my teens, when I started getting interested in girls and realised that having two artificial legs was an evolutionary disaster. I wore pants every day from twelve through to nineteen because I didn’t accept myself. I handled it by drinking and smoking, getting more and more depressed. Then I started training and meditation helped me tackle the really audacious goal of going to the Olympics when I hadn’t run in six years.

How does meditation play a role with competitive athletes?

Mindfulness now is probably the number one thing that is being drilled into Olympic athletes. It’s a big part of human performance whether it’s in sport or business, art or science. Everyone knows to do physical exercise and eat well, but your brain is probably the most important part of your body and undoubtedly the most neglected.

Do you have any daily rituals?

Routine is key for me. You only have so many resources and time in a day. I find that if you want to achieve something great, you have to minimise the amount of decisions you have to make. I wear the same thing and eat a lot of the same foods. It eliminates all of the things I have to think about that really aren’t necessary. I also meditate and stretch first thing in the morning.

Is there anything in particular you’ve read or listened to that’s really inspired you?

Yeah absolutely. I find that the quickest path to achieve something great is to mimic people that have done it before you. Learning principles through other people and applying them to your life, whether its through your love life, career, or for fitness. The world is full of intellectual, spiritual, inspiring people that you can take things from. One of my favourites is the Jeff Bezos minimization principle.

How do you instil self-belief and confidence?

I don’t take myself too seriously. My life’s funny – comical. I mean, I have two artificial legs, I trip up over everything. I’m not concerned about other people’s opinions and I think that’s what can sometimes cause insecurity and social anxiety. By definition I’m not socially accepted. So I’ve just learnt to accept myself.

Is there one-thing you absolutely live by?

No, I don’t think so. It’s too regimented, I need to be flexible. If it were one thing, it would be to be adaptive. The rate of change in the world is going to accelerate. We’re going to be in careers for less time, life is ever-changing. I’m just exploring what I’m good at and how I can contribute to the world.

What does nature mean to you?

There is something so therapeutic about being in nature. I grew up on a farm up in the Nelson Lakes. I spent most weekends in the lakes either fishing, wakeboarding or snowboarding. It’s something I miss. Then running became my priority. You can only do so many things well and if you want to be great at something you have to do that twelve hours a day, otherwise you probably wont be the best in the world at it. So that became my focus. Running however wasn’t my passion, the things I enjoy most are mountain biking, snowboarding, skydiving – some form of interaction with nature.

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