What do a beat boxing cellist; a college president who was the first woman and first American to row solo across the Atlantic; the first African American international chess grandmaster and a double-leg amputee who climbed the highest mountain in Africa have in common? They’re all Thrivals. They don’t just survive, but thrive in odds-defying conditions and quests.
Exhibit A: 23-year-old Kevin Olusola, from Owensboro, whose five-member electro-pop a cappella group Pentatonix won season three of NBC’s “The Sing Off.” Olusula was a musical prodigy at age four, playing complicated melodies by ear without any training. By age six, he was well on his way to mastering the cello. Listen to how he makes those strings sing in this video:
We met up with Olusola at the Thrivals 5.0 event during the Idea Festival in Louisville last fall. The term “Thrivals” was invented by futurist, thinker, and University of Louisville professor Nat Irvin who wanted to redefine “out of the box” thinkers and doers; those who embody the ingenuity of the human imagination, often in the face of tremendous obstacles and menial expectations.
Last year, Olusola was in the company of Tori Murden McClure, an athlete with herculean determination to row across the Atlantic Ocean; Maurice Ashley, the first black international grandmaster of chess; and Spencer West — who despite losing both legs at age 5 from a genetic disease — climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
The road to wisdom and courage isn’t traveled in a featherbed, and Spencer West knows that axiom all too well. Listen to him describe his quest to redefine what’s possible for those deemed impossibly limited.
In 2008, Spencer West took a volunteer trip to Kenya where he helped build a school in a rural community and from there began his quest to advocate for human rights, poverty eradication and education.
If you need to reboot your New Year’s resolutions – these questers featured in last week’s ‘Connections’ provide more than enough inspiration.
We all need to recharge every now and then and be reminded of those among us who answer mammoth calls to adventure to redefine what’s possible for us all.