Chris Koch inspires positivity at Alltech ONE Calgary
Climate change. Economic uncertainty. Geopolitical tensions. The challenges facing the global agriculture industry are intense, and many things are out of our control.
As we face these obstacles, however, we must remain optimistic and never be afraid to change, said Dr. Mark Lyons, president and CEO of Alltech, in his keynote address last week at Alltech ONE Calgary.
“We must push forward and think about things in a different way,” Dr. Lyons said. “Change is the only constant. We must embrace and anticipate change and adjust our mindset to make sure we’re responding as the changes take place.”
That same message of the power of positivity was beautifully demonstrated by the event’s closing speaker, Chris Koch, a renowned motivational speaker who was raised in a small farming and ranching community in Alberta.
Despite being born without arms and legs, Chris leads a meaningful and fun life full of adventure and purpose. He is an avid traveler, marathoner, farmer, advocate and motivational speaker.
When Chris first came into the world, his family welcomed him with a sense of humor, kindness and positivity — qualities he grew up to possess in abundance.
Chris had a normal childhood. He went to a regular school, helped out at his grandfather’s farm and played all the same sports his friends were playing. He and his family did not let limitations or obstacles stand in the way of achieving his goals or dreams.
“I go as far as to say that my life growing up without arms and legs was actually quite easy, considering,” he said at Alltech ONE Calgary. “A lot of people find that surprising. How could it possibly be easy growing up without arms and legs?”
Chris was not raised with pity or sympathy. Neither he nor his family treated his disability like a tragedy. Because of that, young Chris developed a great sense of humor. He would crack a joke with strangers to break the ice or to put them at ease and see that he’s just a regular guy.
“I am a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine, and that mindset was started right from day one, the day I was born,” Chris said. “When my grandma heard that I was born missing arms and legs, her reaction was to say that my dad never finished anything he started. I could not have asked for a better start to life. Her reaction wasn’t, ‘Oh my goodness, this is a tragedy.’ Her reaction was ‘Everything is going to be fine, we’ll figure this out and we’re going to have some good laughs along the way.’ And we’ve done just that.”
Chris has learned to use humor — and the power of positivity — to take control of his life.
Here’s a look at the key lessons he shared at Alltech ONE Calgary as he encouraged attendees to challenge themselves and build the life they dream of.
Laughter is powerful.
“If you can’t laugh at life, what can you laugh at?” Chris asked. “We all have bad days. We’ve all had one of those days where absolutely nothing is going right. When you’re having one of those days, if you can find any reason to laugh, laugh it off. It helps you get over it a little bit quicker and it gives you some semblance if having control of what’s going on.”
Chris’ message, “If I can …,” resonates strongly with audiences all over the world. Laughter plays a huge role in the delivery of his inspirational and empowering story.
“When people first meet me, they’re not too sure how to react, how to respond. They don't want to say anything rude or inappropriate,” he said. “So, if I can crack a joke right from the get-go, it puts people at ease and they realize I'm just a regular guy, enjoying life and having fun.”
Take control of your life.
For Chris, growing up without arms and legs was normal.
“I’ve never known what it was like to have arms and legs. A lot of kids will ask me, ‘What does it feel like to not have arms and legs?’ And I ask them, ‘Well what does it feel like to have arms and legs?’”
Children with arms and legs figure out how to grasp things with their fingers and learn how to crawl on their hands and knees, and it just happens naturally, he said. It was the same for him, but he had to figure out how to do things just a bit differently. For example, instead of walking, Chris learned how to get around using a longboard.
“Certain day-to-day tasks require a lot more energy and take me a little bit longer, but I am completely, 100% independent and self-sufficient,” he said.
He credits his independence to his parents, who always let him do things for himself and resisted the urge to jump in and help. It allowed him to take control of his life.
“If they did everything for me, it would have robbed me of the opportunity to develop things like perseverance, resilience and clever, outside-of-the-box ways of doing things,” he said. “If you give a person an opportunity to prove what they could do, more often than not, they will shine and impress you.”
Go beyond your comfort zone.
Chris was raised in the small farming and ranching community of Nanton, Alberta. He loves agriculture and works as a freelance farmer. One of the aspects he enjoys most about farming is his ability to surprise and inspire others with his farm skills.
“It’s not a job people expect a guy without arms and legs to be doing. I love that wow factor,” Chris said. “I love proving to myself and others what I'm capable of doing. It’s a bonus if it makes them look within themselves and say, ‘Hey, if this guy is out there driving tractors, maybe I can raise the bar in my own life a little bit more.’”
When he is not out in the field, Chris is on the road, sharing a message of hope and inspiration and his “If I can…” motto. He has traveled the world as a motivational speaker and adventurer, enjoying activities such as snowboarding, surfing, marathons and more.
“Absolutely anybody is capable of doing some pretty awesome and amazing things,” he said. “And that has nothing to do with arms or legs. It has nothing to do with physical ability. It has everything to do with that six inches of space between the ears.”
Our brain is the strongest muscle we have in our body. Koch suggests strengthening this muscle everyday by constantly taking yourself out of your comfort zone and raising the bar just a bit more each day.
Find the positives in life.
When bad days happen, instead of blaming it on something we can’t change, Chris suggests focusing on the things that are going well and being grateful for what you have. For him, that’s traveling, meeting new people, spending time with this family and working in agriculture.
“Every day may not be great, but there’s something great in every day,” Chris said.
He encouraged ONE attendees to never give up, to change their thinking and to always stay positive, knowing that there will be a brighter tomorrow.
“Take control of your circumstances instead of passively waiting for them to decide your fate,” he said.
Make your dreams come true.
In closing his keynote speech, Chris encouraged the audience to take action to make their dreams come true and to prepare for unexpected challenges by getting accustomed to navigating unfamiliar situations.
Cherish the freedom to pursue your dreams.
“Don't take life for granted. Don't cheat yourself out of any of the opportunities to get out there and make the most out of life,” he said.
Alltech ONE Calgary, July 3–4, 2023, was the third stop of the Alltech ONE World Tour, a series of international events that invite collaboration on the greatest challenges and opportunities facing the agri-food industry. You can find highlights from Alltech ONE Calgary, including photos, speaker biographies and more at one.alltech.com/Calgary.
Learn more about our future Alltech ONE World Tour stops at one.alltech.com.