Gregory Burns on Success

‘Success is getting to do what you’re passionate about, and what excites you‘ he said.‘

Gregory Burns

Gregory Burns wakeup call occurred much earlier. He was born the son of a U.S. diplomat, and given the nature of his father’s career, spent much of his childhood abroad. He was barely a year old when he contracted polio, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, with one healthy arm and one healthy leg. His pursuit of success was just being able to physically function like other kids his age. That was his motivation.


By the age of three, he had learned to swim, was even allowed to swim in the White House swimming pool. By age six, he was taking painting lessons while living in Paris. His early schooling took place in France, Germany, Maryland, and the Netherlands. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a minor in Fine Art from University of California, Santa Barbara. Through all of his international travels and studies, he continued to swim… competitively. He was competing in , and winning competitive events.


He represented the USA in the 1992 (Barcelona), 1996 (Atlanta), and 2000 (Sydney) Paralympic Games, where he won two gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze. He broke five world records in Paralympic swimming and numerous national records. His athletic career continued with endurance sporting events, completing the 2006 Korean Ironman race Korea Ironman race and the Singapore Half-Ironman races in 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012. If those accomplishments were not enough, he has also taken up the art of sit-down snow skiing.

Watch the inspiring TEDX talk of Gregory Burns about “The motivation of limitation”


Gregory Burns had no aspirations to be a serial entrepreneur, or a millionaire. He was just driven to function and compete, largely driven by his disability. His was not the pursuit of accomplishing great things. He just wanted to take full advantage of his diminished abilities. Great accomplishments, however, were a bi-product of those pursuits. In his case, success found him.


‘Success is getting to do what you’re passionate about, and what excites you‘ he said.‘ The idea of making a lot of money and having a lot of toys can be enticing, but temporary. The real success is to have the opportunity to do the things you love. Whether you are a ditch digger or a multinational CEO. That is real success.‘

Gregory Burns is facilitating corporate workshops using art as medium

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