Leadership character vs. The Hippo

Paul Templer is from Zimbabwe and grew up with my college roommate Anton, so I had the privilege to meet him years ago when he was traveling the states.  When he was visiting us in NC, I commented how much I appreciated his velskoene shoes from Africa – they are traditional leather bush boots, pronounced ‘fellsquin’ and known commonly as ‘fellies.’  Anyway, at the end of his visit he said he would like me to have them and I insisted to pay him something.  He said, “surprise me with whatever you want to pay for them, but they are yours.”  I gave him the $40 or so in my pocket and enjoyed these African boots, but even more so, appreciated his warm fun company and stories from Africa.  That brief story is just to set up his generous character.

A few years later we had all graduated and set off on other adventures, and Paul returned to Zimbabwe to become a licensed river and bush guide and establish a touring company.  This story you might vaguely recall from over ten years ago, because his heroic efforts hit the international news wire, and was later featured in a National Geographic story.  Paul was guiding a group of tourists down the Zambezi river and had divided his clients between himself and the two other guides aiding him that day.  Paul was keenly aware hippos are notoriously territorial and took precaution to keep his group close and periodically bang the side of the boat to encourage the hippos to surface and be seen by their little armada.

Suddenly his friends guide boat was flipped by a 4,000lb hippo and both the guide and his clients were launched into the river.  Paul responded immediately and lept into the river to save his guide and direct his clients to the shore, but the hippo attacked Paul repeatedly holding him down beneath the surface, and eventually when he was freed by the beast and swam to shore, his arm had been nearly severed and his lung had been punctured.  The nearest surgeon was 270 miles away in Bulawayo over a dusty difficult jeep ride, and hours later upon arriving and the doctor was left with no choice but to amputate Paul’s arm.

Paul’s second act has been to marry, father three beautiful children and become a successful, dedicated and talented speaker, coach and inspiration for many around the world.  In the wake of this event, Paul has found strength.  Check him out – be inspired.