Story by Neema Ward
38 year old Canadian, Chris Koch, is a renown motivational speaker, farmer, and adventurer who lives by the motto: you only die once (YODO). For Chris, life is not about only choosing one career path and sticking to it, but trying out everything he has always wished to do and giving it absolutely 100%. In addition to the three careers, Chris has run a marathon and is in the process of producing a travel show, If I can.
I met Chris in Ottawa, Canada during the Global 4-H Summit this July. When I registered for the conference and got sent the link with speaker profiles, Chris Koch’s stood out to me. We had just been approached to start a 4-H Club for a special needs school in Western Kenya so we were contemplating how to go about agricultural activities for children with disabilities. Up until then, we had never quite paid special attention to disability mainstreaming in our programs. Now I was reading about this farmer, entrepreneur and adventurer who was living life to the full all without arms and legs. I had also recently committed to being a writer for Ability Africa Magazine, so my mind was racing and I quickly made a mental note to try and get Chris for an interview for my first Ability Africa article, if I got the chance.
It is Friday July 14th 2017, and here I am sitting next to Chris Koch for an interview. It is amazing how stars align to deliver exactly what you wish for. Yesterday, I got the slim window I was looking for during a field trip after his key note address. I was last in the extremely long queue to take selfies and ask follow up questions but I didn’t mind. As soon as I was done with the introductions I summed up the courage to request him for an interview for Ability Africa Magazine and without hesitation, “Sure” Chris said with the most vibrant voice ever. Well the pressure is now on me to not disappoint with the interview.
“I was always a smart kid. I got really good grades and wanted to be a Sports Broadcaster”. Chris begins the interview. He explains that this is the first concrete memory of what he wanted to do, well after going through the cycle of wanting to be every career you come across. We all go through the ‘Doctor-Pilot-Engineer-Plumber-Policeman’ cycle at some point in our lives. Chris settled on a Sports Broadcaster and went on to study broadcasting at Mount Royal University in Alberta. Emmy award-winning news anchor Chris Gailus and actor, writer, comedian, and film director, Bruce McCulloch, (Acts as Tobin in Gilmore Girls and is also writer for the award winning American Political Satire show, Saturday Night Live) are both alumni of this university, so this was a great launchpad for Chris to pursue a media career. But he fell out of love with broadcasting and decided to go back to school to study History and Psychology, this time at the University of Ottawa. “I learnt a lot about myself during my psychology courses”, Chris reflects. “At the back of my mind, I knew that I always had the option of being a motivational speaker, but it felt a bit cliché… a person with disability speaking to inspire others, so I wanted to live out life first, in order to enrich my experience and then I would have alot more to give as a speaker”. And so was the genesis of Chris’ philosophy, motto and brand “If I can…”.