July 26, 2020
Monday, October 30th, 2017 – This week’s featured guest is Theo Venter. Theo is a fellow speaker, who focuses his talks on workplace safety by sharing his incredible story of survival. His inspiration stems from a tragic work accident which nearly claimed his life. The only person known to have survived 22,000-volt electrocution, Theo is exceptional in more than one way.
Watch his full interview below and find out how Theo recovered emotionally from this life-threatening experience and eventually became an inspiration not just in the workplace but also for his courage to overcome challenges.
00:02 Good day Grit Nation. Brant Garvey here and welcome to episode three of DailyGrit Live. DailyGrit Live was created so that I can interview the world’s grittiest, inspiring and motivated people. Let me welcome today’s featured guest, Theo Venter. Theo are you ready to get gritty?
00:30 Let’s do it!
00:33 Theo is known as the only person so far that’s been able to survive from being electrocuted by 22,000 volts. I don’t know if it’s anything that people would probably try to beat you at though. It’s not like a Guinness Book of Record that people are trying to break.
00:48 I think people are standing in line.
00:55 Theo is now a motivational speaker and a professional speaker that is trying to educate people from firsthand experience how important safety is.
01:06 Now if there’s anything I’ve missed, you want to just fill in the gaps in terms of what it is that you do.
01:11 Well in the first place, when you say… There’s a few little bits and pieces to be the only one to survive if you get exposed to electricity, from say entry to exit wound and it doesn’t go through your heart, and that has happened. But when it goes to the heart and you got a 1200 amps, it’s insane… got a lot of amps that goes through the heart it should stop and should be dead.
01:38 So yours went through the heart?
01:39 Mine went through the heart unfortunately.
01:43 Yes I like said, it’s absolutely phenomenal. Incredibly lucky to be here. But he is and now he’s trying to make sure that people who don’t make those silly little mistakes that can cost you.
01:53 Let’s get started with the question time. I want to ask you first off what led you to do what you’re doing today?
02:04 Obviously you had the accident but what actually led you to want to help other people educate other people.
02:12 It is a bit of a story. I have never been sensitive to things that happens around me and things that’s been set up around me. So when I was young I was about 6 or 7 years old, I used to be a rugby player from South Africa of course, so when you walk down the street with a tennis racket or with anything other than a rugby ball you will be classed as (questionable?)… Yeah
02:34 That was the only sport you were allowed to play.
02:38 Well if you do the rugby then you’re the man
02:42 My mum had me go and do poems in front of people…
02:50 Yeah that’s a bit of a contrast to rugby
02:53 Oh if any of my mates saw that… So I kept rugby on one side and she kept me reading for years. When I was about six, seven, eight, nine, ten until I was 14 years old I was doing these poems in front of people and I was doing A+’s and A+’s and won all of them. You would not go and brag about this with anyone, right.
03:14 Taking that into consideration, I went from there, and my dad used to be a linesman and he worked at the same area so he took me to his job working as a linesman and sparky (?) for a full 17 years which lead me to come to this.
03:29 So everything that’s been falling into place from like the age that I was really young , pushed me to the edge which I didn’t know yet and I didn’t even believe that would happen until I had the accident. And then someone just called me out of the blue. Some random guy called me, his name was Gary Child (?). This guy called me up and said Look why don’t you come and tell my mates about it.
03:55 How long was this post the…
03:57 About five years…
03:59 That’s a decent chunk of time…
04:03 And he fell into place and into my life. He actually came in…big 6 foot 6, tall dude, baldy guy and a bit intimidating and he came in and said, “You’re gonna do it!” And after two weeks of calling him. So that’s how I got to this, pushing me to the right direction.
04:16 So you were basically shoved into doing it.
04:21 That’s what got me into this, against my will and I got lucky.
04:27 And one thing I’d just like to point out about that. Theo did everything right for 17 years. What I’m saying mostly everything right for 17 years and it was one day of trying to take a shortcut that cost him.
04:42 Next question. Share something we probably don’t know about what it is that you do, so you obviously speak to people about safety and making sure it’s a safe work environment that we probably should know. Whether it’s figures or stats about how costly these things can be. Something that the average person wouldn’t know about safety in the workforce.
05:10 In the first place, if you say share something, I should tell I am definitely not supporting the Wallabies(?)… but I am Springbok supporter… let’s just get it out there.
05:22 Hopefully we don’t lose too many people because of that…
05:27 Well I shouldn’t say that. At the end of the day it was an amazing game but we’re not gonna go into that…
05:33 I think at some stage sharing these things with people and then pouring your heart out, and wearing your heart on your sleeve is the hardest, hardest thing. Honestly, the hardest thing to speak to strangers, with a bunch of random people.
05:55 Putting your heart on your sleeve and telling them you’ve made a mistake. Because if you made a mistake in your life you want to hide it. You want to take it away and shove into a corner like I did actually for five years. But to get out there and do it… it is always hard and it is always painful and you know the emotions just flows over. Sometimes people they get inspired but they don’t know how hard you have to dig in deep to not overflow with emotions.
06:28 And to be able to share something that is obviously a mistake (that you have done) and you don’t want to admit to you because it was obviously a very important mistake.
06:37 Other than this, what would you say your biggest setback through your journey?
06:46 Because I know that you had some pretty challenging times through recovery. What would be the one major setback that you’ve had in your life that stands out above all others?
07:08 I made the mistake. I tried to do a shortcut and it was my fault. But at the end of the day everyone around me was hurt including my kids, my children and my family. And for a proud man and a father to go back home every single day and see how his family is really suffering because of the mistake that I made. And to look at their eyes in the morning I when I do get out of bed and they come to the kitchen table and there’s only sometimes two or three Weet-Bix. I had to pour milk… no I haven’t had milk, I had to pour water on the Weet-Bix to have the sugar that it had left to see them through school every day…
08:01 And this is because you were unable to work?
08:04 I couldn’t work. I couldn’t provide. I couldn’t do anything. That was the setback. That was the biggest fight for me not to spoil my kids
08:15 And I think that’s another really important thing to note is that you know these mistakes can affect a lot more people than just yourselves. It’s actually how much damage it does to the people everyone around you.
08:27 Now we’re going to shift to the other side of that, what was the biggest breakthrough or the biggest win that stands out for you?
08:35 Going through that stage where I went into this dark deep depression, severe depression…
08:43 Diagnosed or undiagnosed?
08:55 I went through severe depression where I was sitting in a dark room for three, four months and just looking at my hands. Never gone up, never did anything. I had to be supported by everyone else. They had to help me eat from spoons, with no hand support at all. Nothing to help me.
09:10 One day I had to get up and decided if I’m gonna kill myself today or do something about it. I decided that I’m gonna do everyone else and my family by killing myself and get out of here so that they can go on with their lives without me because I was a burden.
09:28 Then I got up and I walked to my front door with keys in my hand, my bandaged hands, and I had to walk through the door and it took the bravest five seconds that I have ever been. I dug so deep in to my core standards that I decided that I’m gonna go through this door and take on life.
09:48 That five seconds, counting down… 4, 3, 2, 1 and I walked through the door and just determined to get out and do something for myself.
10:00 That step I took that day essentially why I’m sitting next to an awesome guy and having a bit of a chat!
10:08 And we get to obviously hang out today which is awesome! Great! Amazing! Thank you for sharing that because obviously some of these things are pretty challenging to share.
10:17 What is the one thing that you’re most passionate about today? What is it that really gets you going?
10:31 I think at the end of the day that keeps me going and gets me going is being healthy and fit and mentally healthy again.
10:39 Taking everything into consideration, I gym very hard every day. I make sure that mental health is strong so that I can go out there and perform my best and my peak every single time. Because if you feel bad and your body doesn’t feel well and you’re not strong, fit and healthy mind and body… those things are central to being.
11:02 And what would be a sample of daily fitness routine for you?
11:08 Well me and my daughter get up in the morning (what time are we talking?) We’re talking around 5, 5:30, and then she will come up and say, “Come Daddy! Come Daddy, let’s go!” Then we go to the gym, at least an hour of gym session together. Then she will go for a jog and I’ll be doing a bit of a bike ride now and then. Then get into my work and then afternoons there’s always something with my sons. My two boys are really fit and healthy…
11:35 So they give a go in the afternoon. And I think it’s really important to start the day off by at least some form of exercise. It’s a great way to get you started.
11:44 What do you think was one thing that was holding you back from doing what it is you are doing today. Obviously you shared a little bit about having to really get shoved into a professional speaking world. And you did mention that a lot of it was fear that was probably holding you back. Was that the major thing that was holding you back?
12:07 I never knew I was going to do this but what I actually started holding me back once I’ve done the first one was I was terrified of it. I would not even speak to my supervisor and I would not stand in front of three or four people talking to them because I didn’t have the confidence in doing it. So I was terrified when I did my first one. And the fear losing or failing… that fear of failing just overcomes everything
12:30 Sometimes fear… you are scared to do it…you’re not sure if you can do it if you don’t try. That fear was just enormous. I didn’t think I was ever going to do it. I faced my fear that one day and it felt amazing when I was done!
12:54 So I can say the same thing as Theo. My first ever speaking gig, which was to a primary school… I was talking to really young kids, I was absolutely terrified! I don’t think I made eye contact with any of them. (I know the feeling) I was reading every word from a piece of paper.
13:11 Making that leap guys is when you get to have a real breakthrough. And then learn things that you absolutely love that you never thought that you would ever do.
13:18 What was the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
13:25 Wow! I’ve received lot of advice. I guess, the best piece of advice, my dad always said to me, and my dad had passed away in November last year (I’m sorry to hear that)… but this is one thing that I’ll never forget. He said to me, “A clever man will learn from his mistakes but a wise man will learn from everyone else’s mistakes.”
13:50 Oh wow…. that’s brilliant!
13:51 That stuck to me for forever
13:58 I definitely think that I’ll try and take that on. I’ve definitely made well and truly my fair share of mistakes along the way.
14:07 What would you say is a personal habit that attribute to your success. Would it be that getting up early and going for a work out?
14:23 It leads up to it but I think my personal habit is always trying to think outside the box. Get outside. Do something different. I want to feel uncomfortable at least once a day. I want to go out and do something that I don’t feel like doing or scared of doing (love that!) Do something small, doesn’t matter what it is. Just something that holds you back, but at the end of the day you’re gonna push into it. You’re scared of it but you’re gonna go do it. Anything small…
14:53 I bought myself a dirt bike. And I’ve never had a dirt bike in my life and I’ve never even had a motorbike in my life.
15:00 Just saying be careful, alright. Speaking from a person who has just one leg and meeting lots of one-legged people, try to hold on to the rest of limbs.
15:08 That’s a big thing, but there’s a lot of things that’s out of your comfort zone, and I’m going to do it because this is out of my comfort zone.
15:17 Totally agree. I think that’s amazing. I’m always trying to find ways to push myself out of my comfort zone. And I believe the more that you do it, the more you get to grow. And sometimes you trip along the way but have another crack and you probably figure it out.
15:31 Do you have a favourite book and if so why?
15:38 I suck at reading.
15:41 Same here, which I shared with these guys before. When I say read I mean I listen to audiobooks. That’s my choice.
15:49 Maybe something that I should…
15:50 Maybe you should. My last guest that I had on which was Dana, she just released a book. It’s coming out on audiobook soon, so maybe you should get that one a go.
16:04 Sometimes you meet people, different people, different perspectives where you can draw some inspiration from them. Instead of reading that book, maybe I should take it up…
16:15 Audiobook mate! Definitely, the way to go!
16:20 One final question which is, what is a key takeaway you want to give the viewers and how they can connect with you. I know we were just talking previously social media is something that you’re starting to get a bit more active in. And we should definitely join his journey and see what he does on a day to day basis. But yet one key takeaway and then how to connect with you.
16:45 Okay, there’s a saying that really hits the mark with me, and I need to get this right…
16:55 Especially after your dad’s one.
16:56 Well I know (you set the bar high)
17:02 So it goes… nothing behind us or in front of us compares to what we have within us
17:26 Are you able to give me a little bit of extra detail on how you would explain what that is. So what does that mean to you?
17:36 Whatever we have experienced, all this sadness and unhappiness, and every experience and everything that has happened in our lives, or what lies in front of us… we’re gonna go through hard times… everyone one of us at one stage is going to go get through some hardships, some hard times…but those things all combined is nothing compared to what’s within us. So we can face these things and we can get through them. We can succeed not only achieve.
18:05 Awesome… and the best way to connect with you. So what are your handles?
18:10 I have a little website right… it is called Just Another Day and you can find it at Theo Venter Just Another Day. You can find it, it’s quite easy. Just don’t laugh at my website I made it myself.
18:32 I just wanted to personally thank Theo for coming down and sharing a little bit of his journey and what keeps him motivated and gritty. Thank you so much Grit Nation for tuning in and join us next week Monday 4:00 p.m. for our next featured guest.
13:49 Thank you so much and I’ll see you next time.
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