Do It Differently!

9 June, 2017

Do you remember a time when you were so excited, bursting with energy, unable to stop yourself from telling your family, partner, friends or even a total stranger what your next exciting goal or adventure would be?!

Even that crap job is now bearable because you have a wonderful and exciting goal to look forward to.

Eyes twinkling in anticipation (or maybe it’s the glare from the computer screen making them water), researching late into the night, how could you possibly sleep with your mind racing, dreaming of your exciting new goal/adventure? 

As quickly as the wonderful euphoric feeling came, your heart drops, energy is sucked from your body and that crap job now seems so much crappier as you begin to realise that the reality of your dream has seemingly endless obstacles.  Deflated and depressed, you make the tough decision of whether to down that bottle of Chardonnay or just crawl into the cold bed. 

But, there is another way to look at this…

The simple hook attached to the bed holding my wheelchair in place (I use the same type of hook for transferring into my car)

Early morning paddling down the Murray River 2016

 On one of the crappiest days of my life, I sat in my wheelchair facing a pale blue wall in a hospital room crying uncontrollably with the realisation that the life I once had was now over.  The thought of just trying to feed myself seemed like an impossible task. 

After 9 months in hospital I finally went home.  Relying on my family to help me out of my wheelchair into bed and undress me was so hard emotionally, challenging my idea of self-worth as a person. 

I tried and tried to transfer myself but couldn’t.  I just didn’t have the physical function, it seemed so impossible.  Doing it the way I was shown in rehabilitation (if you can call it that), wasn’t working for me. 


When I tried to lift myself from the wheelchair, it would move away from the bed and I’d end up on the floor.  I just couldn’t do it.  With nothing to lose and pissed-off with frustration, I needed to find another way. I decided to try and Do It Differently.

 By trying different ways, I worked out that by having my legs up on the bed first helped significantly with my balance, instead of down on the floor.  But the solution that changed my life completely was a simple hook.  By bolting the hook to my bed, I could then easily clip it to the front of my wheelchair, holding it securely attached to the bed. With this simple idea, for the first time I transferred independently and achieved my impossible goal.

To Do It Differently is about solving problems, removing obstacles or road blocks that are stopping you from achieving your goals.  We, as human beings, are all different, with different abilities both physically and intellectually.  Given our differences, why do we act like sheep and think we have to do things the same way as the last person, expecting the same success, and then becoming discouraged when it doesn’t work out.

The support team during my On a Wing & a Chair solo flight around Australia 2013 (Top left to bottom right – Michael, Paul, Josh, Bob, Me, Linda my wife & Gordon)

My kayak launching trolley (made by Paul Lucas from Solve) used to get me on & off the Murray River 2016

Doing things differently to suit my situation changed my life.  It was the turning point, which enabled me to rebuild my life and follow my dreams - realising my independence and moving out of my parents’ house, flying solo around Australia, and taking on the mighty Murray River paddling the 2,226 km length.

When you feel like hitting that bottle of vino or crawling into bed feeling totally deflated, before you throw your precious goal or dream away, ask yourself “How can I Do It Differently?”

Instead of seeing your goal as one massive project that would give NASA scientists a nose-bleed, break it down into small manageable but challenging goals. Set a realistic time-frame for each goal and apply your own HARD WORK and COMMITMENT.

Your next step is to work out what roadblocks or obstacles are stopping you from achieving your smaller goal, and think of other ways to overcome them, and if needed, Do It Differently


For example, you may want to travel through India but are fearful after reading all the horror stories on Facebook.  Consider travelling with a partner, friends or family for support!

What piece of equipment, device or modification could help get you over the hurdle to achieve your goal?  When I travel dragging a big heavy commode around isn’t possible at times so I use a padded toilet seat on my wheelchair with a bowl underneath for showering and toileting.  Check the set-up out at this link you need help, approach organisations like Solve who have volunteers with skills and knowledge that can help develop one-off solutions to, do it differently.  You don’t need to have the answers, seek out other people who have them!

When I leave my home environment on my trips and expeditions, I’m like a turtle on my back.  I need a support team to help me.  Tell people about your plans and get them excited. 

Two Support boats and a couple of the water crew on the Murray River 2016 (Left to right – Me, Ti, Peter & Paul)

My two-support crew (Josh - right, Matej - left) dragging me up, then down 544 stairs - Batu Caves, Malaysia 2015.

You would be surprised who will volunteer their time to help with your goal. You may also enable others to have an adventure that they would not do on their own. 

If money is a problem, save by cutting out the second latte each day (at AU$4.50 per serve, per year, you can save $1,638), borrow or buy second hand equipment.   The reality is, you can get by on very little, and you rarely need the best.  When I paddled the Murray River, our main support boat & punt and a lot of gear was borrowed.  We also only took the bare necessities as we had limited space and weight.  Think minimalism! 

I believe there is a solution to every problem.  With passion and persistence to reach your goal, seemingly impossible obstacles can be overcome if you Do It Differently!

David Jacka, OAM, has had many notable achievements since his accident in 1988. An adventurer, aviator and disability advocate, David is also the first person with quadriplegia to fly solo around the Australian coastline. David is driven by his ambition to "challenge the limits of disability and raise expectations of what people with a disability can achieve and inspire all".

Tags: Blog, Travel & Leisure