Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

40/40 Hindsight: Rick Hansen reflects on his fifth decade

Rick Hansen is the chief executive officer of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Famous for circling the world in his wheelchair during his Man in Motion World Tour, a 26 months-long journey he completed at age 29, Rick Hansen is the chief executive officer of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Here, he reflects on leadership, balancing work and family, and what he feared most during his 40s.

I moved from a world where I could handle one big dream and put everything into it and there was nothing really else. Now I was moving in so many different dimensions and there wasn't enough of me to go around.

Story continues below advertisement

My dark decade of energy output was all-consuming. It's amazing how busy I was during that period.

Work in my 40s was all about taking the next step and trying to figure out what time and energy and resources could we place as a foundation. What could we do to make a difference?

The key to really break through was to focus and maybe put some things on the slow burner until we got some momentum on the most important thing to focus on.

I had to ask myself how is my time and energy being applied against my whole priorities in life? It really caused my wife, Amanda, and me to have very intentional conversations about the balance between family, health and work.

Success in my 40s was the integrity of setting your priorities and then managing your time against those priorities. And being able to be more roundly engaged in life as a whole.

And success was also compromise.

If I was to do things again a better level of success might have been to slow things down a little bit more and even up the ante on where the line of busyness should be.

Story continues below advertisement

My biggest fears were to drop the ball somehow. I didn't want to let anybody down. I wanted to do the right thing to make a difference and be there as a husband and a father.

What made me happy most importantly was to, one, see the joy and to be giving and receiving love with my wife and kids. And second, to see results of the hard work we were doing with the foundation and see it in the lives of people with disabilities.

What I learned about leadership is that everybody has a role. Everybody has something to contribute.

My goal when I was a kid was to be the athlete I had always dreamed of being and maybe represent my country at the Olympic games.

I had two career interests. One was to be a phys-ed teacher or a coach. The other was, I had a crazy dream of wanting to fly jets. I was fascinated with flight and with space.

If I could go back and give myself advice on my 40th birthday, the first thing I would say would be to just continue to listen to yourself and make sure you continue to honour and celebrate the successes that you're achieving in life. Keep embracing yourself because it's going to be a great decade.

Story continues below advertisement

The second thing would be to keep your compass clear and don't sweat the small stuff on how to get there. And the third thing would be, maybe slow down a bit. You don't have to be so busy.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Halftime aims to fully understand a person's fifth decade. Reporter Dave McGinn will be talking to a wide range of experts, looking at everything from questions of existential dread to what your finances should look like. He'll also be interviewing people from across Canada who will reflect on their own lives to glean from them their guidance and wisdom. If you have any suggestions for what you'd like to see covered, or want to share stories of your own 40s, please get in touch. Dave McGinn can be reached at, or share your thoughts online using the hashtag #globehalftime.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨