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Janine Shepherd        

Champion Cross-Country Skier, Pilot, Resilience Educator, Change Agent & Author

Janine Shepherd is an inspirational speaker and writer whose books have become classics in the survivor genre. A champion cross-country skier in training for the 1988 winter Olympics, Shepherd’s life changed forever when she was hit by a truck during a bicycle training ride in the Blue Mountains of Australia.

Doctors warned her parents that—even if she somehow miraculously survived her massive injuries— Shepherd would almost certainly never walk again. After a risky procedure to rebuild her shattered vertebra, and almost six months flat on her back in a hospital spinal ward, Shepherd came home to heal. With the promise of a career as an elite athlete now gone forever, Shepherd faced a daunting recovery and an uncertain future.

Struggling to rehabilitate with permanent disabilities, Shepherd rekindled her defiant spirit in a dramatically improbable way. Sitting outside in her wheelchair one day and watching a small plane fly overhead, she declared, “That’s it! If I can’t walk, I’ll fly!”

Still encased in a full body cast, Shepherd had to be lifted into an aircraft for her introductory flight lesson. But within a year she had defied the odds and succeeded in gaining her private pilot’s license. Her talent and skill as a pilot subsequently earned Shepherd a commercial pilot license and ultimately, her flying instructor’s rating. She then decided to learn to fly upside down, and finally, to teach aerobatic flight to other pilots.

Shepherd went on to succeed not only as a professional pilot but also to attain her University degree, raise three children and author several best-selling books.

Her remarkable life story ultimately captured the interest of a prominent film company, which produced the feature length movie, aptly titled Never Tell Me Never.

In recognition of her service to the community and her tireless efforts in raising awareness for spinal cord research, Shepherd was awarded the Order of Australia, her nation’s highest honor. She is an ambassador for Spinal Cure Australia and Red Bull’s “Wings for Life” and a contributor to Deepak Chopra’s workshops. Shepherd’s story has been featured on 60 Minutes, This is Your Life and CNN’s Turning Points with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Her inspirational and emotional TEDx talk, “A Broken Body Isn’t a Broken Person,” has been viewed almost 2 million times.

She was recently named as an “Architect of Change” in Maria Shriver’s “Sunday Paper” Her latest book, “Defiant: A Memoir” was published for worldwide distribution by SoundsTrue®.

Shepherd lives in Wyoming, USA but is frequently traveling the globe delivering keynotes and her inspirational message of “defiance.”

Speech Topics


In Janine's signature keynote presentation, she shares her lived belief that ‘The Defiant Human Spirit’ is not something we have, it is something we are. It is the essence of our true selves and, when fully employed, is what makes us unstoppable.

Janine is a gifted storyteller who uses her wit, humor, and impeccable timing to engage her audiences. As she shares her journey in the realm of defiance, she will touch every heart in the room and invite listeners to dream and reach beyond their preconceived ideas of what is possible.

This presentation will not only leave audiences inspired, humbled, and motivated, but will also cause them to think at the deepest level about how they live their own lives.

Listeners leave with the conviction to change their attitudes and find the power within to enable them to perform to the best of their abilities.

DON’T BOUNCE BACK, BOUNCE FORWARD: How to Reinvent and Repurpose in The Face of Challenge.

Any disaster in life can create challenge in the most profound way. Responding appropriately requires resources and courage that you may not even know you have until you tap into your innate resilience.

It is at times such as these that there is a choice to be made: Do you sit back trying desperately to make life work using old patterns of thought and beliefs that no longer apply, or do you choose to explore and learn new and more effective ways to approach life?

Janine relies on her personal experience, as well as her extensive study in neuroscience, neuroplasticity and positive psychology, to demonstrate that when tragedies or difficulties cross your path, not only can you bounce back, you can actually reappraise, learn and grow.

The audience leaves with actionable steps toward putting this powerful knowledge into practice—to building an unshakable core.

This program is ideal for corporate audiences, especially companies in industries challenged by competition or unwelcomed changes in the marketplace.

A PATIENT’S JOURNEY: The Care, And Caregivers, That Changed My Life

As a former spinal patient and today still a “walking” paraplegic, Janine has a unique understanding and perspective on injury and trauma—and the roles of the caregivers for those in need. In this talk, most often to health care professionals, Janine shares her personal experience of both being a patient and living with a disability, and the importance of the caregivers in her journey.

Janine has witnessed first-hand the teamwork that has gone into her recovery, from the surgeons who operated on her, to the nursing staff and imaging professionals who cared to her, and the family that supported her. She shares her health and fitness philosophy and the tools she uses to maintain wellness.

Janine's presentation instils in all those working in the healthcare industry how critical are their roles in caring for patients: they can, and often do, literally change a life.


There is no question that most women are innately resilient, and Janine’s life is testament to that quality in her.

From the earliest age as an elite athlete, Janine harnessed her resilience to achieve national recognition in multiple sports, as well as forging a career in aviation, where women were then few and far between. It is these skills that equipped her to overcome a near fatal accident, and to thrive as a woman with a disability, turning seemingly insurmountable obstacles into opportunities.

As founder of ‘The School for Resilience’ Janine has identified the 12 pillars of resilience that enabled her to create an extraordinary life. Janine has a unique perspective into what it takes to make a mark on the world, both as a woman and a person with a disability.

She believes that if we are to fully embrace and develop our potential as women, we must start by recognising and calling on our Defiant Human Spirit, and this keynote delves into the ways in which listeners can readily do so.

WHY WALK WHEN YOU CAN FLY? Attitude Plus Power Equals Performance (Corporate Keynote)

People often ask Janine why she chose flying, to which she replies, “I didn’t choose flying, flying choose me!”

During recovery, when sitting outside in her wheelchair, an aeroplane flew overhead and the seed was planted. “If I can’t walk, then maybe I’ll fly! Janine exclaimed, unaware at the time of the consequences of this momentous decision.

Flying represents the ultimate freedom, and it was flying, she says, that gave her her life back. Learning to fly revealed to Janine that her real strength had nothing to do with her body or her athleticism and becoming a commercial pilot and aerobatic flying instructor proved her point.

In flying there is a formula based on physics: Attitude plus Power equals Performance. This aviation equation, which she argues applies to life as well, is just one of the tools Janine uses in teaching her audience how to navigate challenges in their own lives.

Janine demonstrates how the metaphor of flight allows us to achieve equilibrium in life, both personally and professionally.

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