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Interview with John Amatt

Learn more about leadership, teamwork and effective keynotes from adventurer and speaker John Amatt. Read the interview below.

What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations?

Throughout my 30-year career as a professional speaker, my mission has been to encourage people to push beyond their self-imposed limitations, to be more personally accountable for the results of their own actions, and to embrace effective teamwork by valuing the contribution of others.

I strive to achieve this by using the metaphor of ADVENTURE – using my story-telling ability to show that adventure isn’t hanging on a rope on the side of a mountain, but an ATTITUDE that we must apply to the day-to-day obstacles of life – facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, testing our resources against the unknown and, in the process, discovering our own unique potential.

I want people to leave my presentations thinking that if John Amatt can do the things he has done, then there really is nothing I cannot achieve myself if I commit to my goals, assemble the resources needed to attain those goals, and learn the lessons from the struggles that will eventually take me to the top!


Do you have a favorite experience from your speaking career?

Every presentation I give is a favorite experience! It is an incredible privilege to be given the opportunity to stand on a stage and speak before audiences and, in some small way, influence their future direction by sharing my own adventures in life.


Can you give 4 tips for effective leadership?

  1. Always let your intuition be your guide. If your gut says it’s right, act on it!
  2. Don’t ever let anyone say it can’t be done!
  3. Always question the status quo, looking for new and better ways.
  4. Reject complacency and remain positively dissatisfied with your performance, dissatisfied, but in a positive way, always looking for improvement.


How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?

It’s vital! There can be no doubt that my programs are inspirational (I’ve been told this many times by attendees). But I don’t think of myself as a motivational speaker.  I am an educator and entertainer, whose job is to communicate effectively with everyone in the audience, so that they can reflect upon their own lives in the context of my own experiences.


Who or what inspires you the most?

As a child, I lived in a protected world and was painfully shy! I aspired for success, but didn’t have the confidence to achieve it. Consequently, I’ve struggled throughout my adult life to prove to myself that I can make it and I draw great inspiration from others who have struggled in a similar way to overcome adversity in their own pursuit of excellence.


How are your keynote presentations unique?

I was a leader of an Everest team, which suffered four tragic deaths in two unpredictable accidents before we were able to put six climbers on the summit. My expectation is going to Everest was to do everything I could as a leader to help put one climber on top of the world, because in my definition of team success when one person reaches the goal, the entire team achieves success. So my “NO MOUNTAIN TOO HIGH” presentation celebrates teamwork, through building trust in the team and taking pride in contributing to a team effort. I celebrate the fact that I didn’t personally reach the top of Mount Everest but played a critical leadership role in the team success.

My presentations also investigate “the adventure of change”. Human beings are creatures of habit. We seek out the comfort of predictability, doing things the way we have always done them. But the world is changing rapidly and if we don’t change with it we will be left behind by more adventurous people – people who are visionary enough to anticipate the future and prepare for it – and adventurous enough to seek out new and better ways of succeeding in a changing world. But this is old news! In 1945, Winston Churchill wrote … “We are shaping the world faster than we can change ourselves and we are applying to the present the habits of the past”. In today’s world, we no longer have this option!


How do your expeditions influence your keynotes?

Everything I share with my audiences I have learned through personal experience. My “Adventure Attitude” philosophy is not something I have learned by reading a book.  Through story-telling, I relate some of my most extreme adventures and share the lessons learned on mountains all over the world.

My greatest ever achievement was at the age of 20, when I was part of a team that made the first ever climb of Europe’s  tallest and steepest mountain face – the 5,000 foot high “Vertical Mile” Troll Wall in Norway. A rock dropped from the summit of this mountain touches nothing until it lands in the valley floor, one vertical mile below. At the time, expert climbers said it couldn’t be done, but with the audacity of youth and two companions I decided to try. The climb took 10 days, sleeping on ledges no wider than a chair, often with our feet dangling over a drop of thousands of feet of empty space.

After the climb I said to myself … “If I can do that, if I can do something everyone said couldn’t be done, there is nothing that’s ever impossible again”. It was that experience that opened up a crack in the door of possibility that would eventually take me to Mount Everest as a leader of Canada’s first team to climb to the top of the world. I tell the story of both these achievements in my presentations, illustrating them with dramatic photography from some of the most extreme environments on earth.


Click here to see John Amatt’s profile!

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