TURIA PITT is one of Australia’s most admired and widely recognized figures. In 2011 at age 24, Turia was an ex-model fitness junkie and successful mining engineer when she was caught in a freak firestorm while competing in a 100 km ultramarathon in Western Australia. She was choppered out of the remote desert, barely alive and suffering from full thickness burns to 64 percent of her body. Surviving against overwhelming odds, Turia came back stronger than ever. Turia completed the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, in late 2016 and later wrote her memoir Everything to Live For: The Inspirational Story of Turia Pitt. Her popular TEDx Talk, “Unmask Your Potential,” details her incredible story of triumph over adversity.
What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are books that have greatly influenced your life?
My personal favorite book is The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester. A canal digger (William Smith) ended up creating the first geological map of England and Wales. You would think that this would earn him accolades and honors, but instead, he was accused of heresy and ended up in prison. Having said this, I know that most people aren’t as fascinated by geology as I am (I used to be a mining engineer), so I try and give them a book based on their interests.
If they’re interested in running, I give them Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. If they want to turn their finances around, I give them The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape. If they want to find out more about me, I give them one of my books, and if they’re doing a bit of soul searching, hands down it’s Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
It cost me a bit more than $100, but it’s completely changed my life. I got a pair
of Beats Solo3 headphones while I was in the airport a couple of months ago. They’re the goods! I love listening to the app Brain.fm using the headphones—it helps me to get into the zone and focus on the task at hand. I guess if I’m sticking to the “$100 or less” rule, the Brain.fm app has been life-changing, too. Really helps me to focus on my work. I use it every day.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
I’ve had plenty of f***-ups throughout my life, almost too many to count! I’ve owed the tax office a gigantic sum of money (yes, it’s been paid now). I blew $10,000 on speech coaching and later realized I didn’t need it. I’ve flown to conferences where I was presenting . . . only to realize that I flew to the wrong city. I’ve gotten extremely drunk at an awards night and made an idiot of myself.
None of these failures have “set me up” for success, but they have taught me that it’s okay to make a mistake. Because you know what? The Earth doesn’t stop spinning just because you made a mistake. In fact, mistakes are more useful than success in life. I’ve never learned anything from making a success happen. It’s almost . . . too easy. Mistakes, on the other hand, point out your fallibility and, more important, you can learn and improve from them.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Gratitude. When I was younger, it’s not like I was “ungrateful,” but I never stopped to take the time to reflect on everything I had going for me. Now I do a gratitude practice every morning, every day, and I might even do it again throughout the day. I don’t weigh in too much on the science behind it, I just know if I do it, I feel better. I’m not a believer in “quick fixes” but I know it’s a very effective method to instantly change how you’re feeling.
[Here’s what it looks like:] First, I listen to my gratitude playlist on Spotify, any song on the list. For example, here are nine tracks as of today:
- “Breathturn” by Hammock
- “Your Hand in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky
- “Devi Prayer” by Craig Pruess and Ananda
- “Horizon” by Tycho
- “Recurring” by Bonobo
- “Hanging On” by Active Child
- “Long Time Sun” by Snatam Kaur
- “Angels Prayer” by Ty Burhoe, James Hoskins, Cat McCarthy, Manorama, and Janaki Kagel
- “Twentytwofourteen” by The Album Leaf
Then, I think of three things that I’m genuinely grateful for. I’ve found the more specific the better. So for example, rather than just thinking, “my mum,” it could be “my mum for making me spinach pie last night.” Instead of “my partner,” it could be “the run I went for with my partner yesterday.” This morning, it was:
- My son kicking me in my belly
- My coffee
- Seeing the sun rise
If I do this properly and genuinely (i.e., not just rattling them off in my head— that’s why music helps me to get into the right frame of mind), I’ll usually start crying from gratitude. If I feel frustrated or pissed off during the day, sometimes I’ll do this again to center me.