Heidi Dening: Is this Australia’s Most Resilient Woman?

#1 Amazon Best Seller Heidi Dening, has transformed her own real-life setbacks into opportunities and shares these impactful strategies to inspire others to find their courage and become the incredible self-leaders they were destined to be. I caught up with her and deep dived into her experiences and asked if her near-death experiences have strengthened her resilience?”


From not being able to walk for eight months; forced into a car at gunpoint in South Africa; and narrowly escaping being burnt alive while leading a volunteer mission in Vanuatu, Heidi shows us how to turn our stories of adversity into stories of resilience.


Have Near-Death Experiences Strengthened My Resilience?

Resilience is defined as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

What is so interesting though, is that we all define and react differently to adversity. It can be the exact same situation, but how one person responds compared to the next, can be worlds apart.

There is no doubt that while I was in the thick of some of my own adversities, I could never have imagined that anything positive could have come from them, but they have taught me crucial insights about resilience that I’ve been able to apply to my professional life.


Leadership Insight: See Life As A Puzzle, Not A Problem

When I woke up one morning to find I had lost all use of my legs and couldn’t walk for the next 8months, this taught me to never take no for an answer. When doctors said there would be a 75% chance I’d spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, I learned that even experts don’t know everything and when you are navigating the medical world with a virus no one knows how to fix, you have to make a decision to either give up or keep searching for a cure, despite what you are told. True leaders see life as a puzzle, not a problem which means they keep taking one more step forward until they unravel the challenge and reach their goal.


 Leadership Insight: Trust In Your Mentors

When I was forced into a car in South Africa with an AK47 at my head, I learned how to distinguish irrational risk-taking from informed risk-taking and how to listen to the advice of people who know more than me. As leaders, taking risks and pushing boundaries definitely helps us operate in this ever-changing and complex business environment, but taking informed risks after listening to mentors not only protects us from mistakes that can be hard to come back from, but they can elevate us to heights we never dreamed of.


Leadership Insight: If it’s Going To Be, It’s Up To Me

And when I woke up in a burning building while leading a volunteer mission overseas because some men had thrown petrol bombs with the intention to burn us all alive, I learned that PTSD, crippling insomnia and chronic physical pain can break you, but you are the only one who can fight to get your life back. Leadership is hard when we are not physically and mentally at our best but taking responsibility for ourselves is a courageous decision we can all proactively make.

People have told me I am resilient because of the challenging events I have experienced from across the globe, and the fact that I’ve risen above them. But what I now know, is that resilience is not a finite resource. You are not born with it and then have it forever. You have to continuously work hard at putting things in place during the good times, so when life throws unexpected curve balls (or petrol bombs) at you, you have the strength and capability to keep moving forward.

To answer the question, “have near-death experiences strengthened my resilience?” Yes they have, because not only do I now understand the factors that will lower resilience in all of us but I also know what we need to do habitually every day, every week, every month and every quarter to strengthen it so we can become the incredible leaders we were destined to be.

Having the opportunity to share these empowering messages plus my easy-to-implement strategies from stage is something that makes the adversities worthwhile because I can see the positive impact they have on people’s lives – one micro-change at a time.


Keith Harwood is the founder of Inspire Speakers. Keith has been representing and promoting the world’s best conference speakers since 1998. Keith spends almost all of his time working with speakers who have great stories with powerful lessons and can tell their story really really well. You can contact Keith anytime on 0450 077 997 or email keith@inspirespeakers.com.au