Anita Kendrick featured in the Attitude episode Bulletproof:Anita. There she shared her story as a hard working and determined shepherd on a King Country farm. Why is that extraordinary? She is excelling in this role, living a life of self-love, positivity and gratitude, after experiencing a quad bike accident at 18 that left her a paraplegic.
Anita may work in an intrapreneurial industry not personally aligned to yours, but her story will absolutely touch your heart, inspiring you to push beyond boundaries or ceilings you may be facing. What did I take away from my time with her? She is a woman of boundless positivity and gratitude, with a spirit & work ethic to be admired. What quote from our time together will I draw on when I need a future empowered moment…
I’ve never been in such a good place in my whole entire life. I look back now, from pre accident and it’s like, “Wow, I had no idea that you could be that, that you could love yourself”… I think it’s such a powerful thing that a lot of people have no idea how powerful it really is.
Q1. I really want to thank you for being here today. I was so happy, and humbled, that you responded to my message as I was incredibly inspired by your story. We’re honoured to provide this space for you on our platform, to get a more personal sense of who you are, especially of your passion for your career. To begin, for those that haven’t yet seen your story, can you tell us in your own words what happened that changed your life?
I was doing a bit of casual work on Labour weekend October 2011, I was 18. I was mustering for docking, went out and to get some more ewes and lambs and I came up to a bit of a track that I didn’t really want to drive the quad (bike) up that I was driving. I went back down the hill to try to find another track but I couldn’t see one that was any better. So I came back to my original track, I was on a larger quad bike than I was used to, I gave it too much gas coming up rough bit of track then the quad came over, landed on my back, sort of pushed my head down between my legs and broke my back.
Q2. Was it clear you wanted to be a shepherd before the accident. Was that the career path you’d always wanted to take?
Yes, I’ve been brought up on farms ever since I was born pretty much and always been out with the animals, out with Mum and Dad. I had always been hands on involved with what was going on. I knew from probably when I was about six or seven that I wanted to be in farming and it was pretty much the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do. It’s sort of in the blood as well. My brother was a shepherd before I left school for quite a few years. He actually used to work on the farm that I’m on now, long before I came here. So yeah, I guess it’s always been in the blood and I’ve always known what I wanted to do.
Q3. You’ve said you love your job and that working on the farm is more than a job or career path. So, not being certain you’d be able to return, what helped you through those times? Did you ever have any doubt that it wasn’t going to happen?
I definitely had doubt, especially at the start. Not knowing what I was going to be able to do, where I was going to be able to work, you know, a lot of questions that no one had answers for. It was just a time thing. I didn’t know how mentally I was going to deal with that, how the people around me also we’re going to deal with it. I suppose just taking it day by day, and I slowly worked my way back into a bit of work. I also had my dogs, I downsized my dogs once I had my accident, because it was just all a little bit too much, but kept my base of three to four. I suppose just having them out in the kennels everyday, having to walk them and that was a good drive to get back out there and do it
Q4. I was amazed at the distances you cover for your work with your dogs. I don’t know if control is the word you would use, I guess a better word would be precision(?) As your dogs are very much an extension of who you are on the farm and the job that you do, is training them a part of your job that you love? How have you developed that skill?
I suppose, just been a lot of trial and error over the years. I probably have a lot more passion than the majority of your Joe Blog farmers out there for the dogs. It takes a lot of time, a lot of discipline, you have got to mean what you say, have the boundaries that they know they can and can’t cross some days. But yes, it’s been trial and error as the years go by, getting into new systems, trying what works, what doesn’t work, you get out what you put in. If you put the time in then you get the results out the other end. They’ve always been such a big passion for me, so, when you’re passionate about something, you’re going to work hard and do your best to be the best. So, yeah, they’ve definitely been a big highlight of my life.
Q5. You touched on systems there. How do you want to keep growing with your job, dog breeding or agility. What’s what’s next for you?
So definitely always striving to be better for my working dogs, I don’t think you can ever really stop learning or trying new things. I just want to keep working with them, breeding litters for myself mostly and other people a little bit as well. I believe you have got to keep learning, like with the Border Collies, I don’t really want to get too big with them, I quite like just having a few just getting them better, and working with Mum while she’s still green too. So getting her into some more training, and the dogs, and then seeing where we end up really
Q6. That’s exciting, is this something your Mum is enjoying?
Definitely yeah, she used to be right into horses but had a bad fall three or four years ago so she kind of got to a point where she was like, right, I’m done with these horses, they’re too high to fall off and the ground’s a bit hard and she doesn’t quite bounce back the same. So she came to me and was like, why don’t I take over the Border Collie side of things, you can keep your working dogs and then we kind of just meet in the middle, when we do any breeding with the Collies, so that works really good
Q7. Back to your work, on the show your manager, Mickey McDonald, spoke of your drive to get back. When you started at 16, before your accident, I understand you had to prove you could do the job because you were a woman (we get a lot of that type of feedback at Her Career) so you had already experienced some gender bias in a significantly male dominated industry. Both before and after your accident, what was more important to you, doing it for yourself, or to show others that you could?
So when I first started shepherding, I knew of only one other female shepherd that was out there farming. Back then I think there were a lot of what you call “old school” farmers that had that vision of the man’s a farmer while the woman stays at home. Yeah, quite old school and their way and also having their “Oh men are stronger” views. So definitely at the start when I first went shepherding, before my accident there was definitely a lot to prove. I was really lucky, having farmers around me, around where we used to live, I was really lucky to get male farmers that were happy to give me a go. They said, “Look, come out, do a bit of work and we’ll see what you like”. I suppose I know I really had to let my work do the talking for me. Definitely, there were allies happy to give me a go. Then as soon as they could see, “Yep she’s passionate, she’s keen, she’s reliable”, then it sort of snowballed from there really.
Then, from my accident, it was probably a bit of both really. I had to prove to myself that me coming back to work was going to work for everyone, it wasn’t going to cost the farm a whole lot of money and it not work out at the other end. So and then also had to prove to myself, you know that I was still able to do it physically and mentally, so probably a bit of both on that front
Q8. I saw how you’d also become involved in fitness. Are you still boxing? What positive effects has physical fitness had for you?
I kind of got into the boxing in the the last three to four years. I got to a point in my life where the clothes were getting a bit too tight and I was consuming a little bit too much alcohol, not just on a Saturday night either
So yeah, I got to a point where I thought, I’m sick of doing this, I’m over it, I feel like crap. My mindset, which I thought was good, now I look back I can see wasn’t very good. That’s when I decided to get onto a nutrition plan and get into the workouts. This year I’ve really flown ahead, lost quite a bit of weight, I’ve got a home gym here in the garage and just getting right into it.
It’s been incredible for my mental health. The confidence that I’ve got from losing so much weight and getting really really strong. The confidence I’ve got, it’s just been incredible, which I really needed.
Also having that time to workout every second day for about an hour, an hour and a half, just to zone out, get a good sweat on, let all the crap out of your mind and just let it all go. Then it’s like “Ahhh”, you can just get rid of it all and start fresh again. That’s been such a huge game changer, definitely
Q9. That’s fantastic. I really understand what you mean about confidence, when you’re fit and feel great in your own body, it makes such a difference to everything else that you do. You don’t realize how much confidence you’ve lost until you get it back again
Oh, definitely, like I’ve never been in such a good place in my whole entire life. I look back now, from pre accident and it’s like, “Wow, I had no idea that you could be that, that you could love yourself”. You know, people say yeah, you gotta love yourself and you’re like, “Yeah, okay. Okay, sure, sure. Yeah, I love myself. Yeah”. You know, I’ve never met anyone in the past that ever really did, maybe not love themselves, but even like themselves, there are a lot of people out there that don’t even like themselves. So to that point, where you can say, actually, I really do like myself and almost love myself. I think it’s such a powerful thing that a lot of people have no idea how powerful it really is.
Q10. I love that so much because it speaks to gratitude as well. I think that feeds nicely into the next question. I saw in another interview, you talked about how you broke your back, the operation procedure and then then you finished with “So pretty lucky really”, that’s an amazing attitude to have. Where does all this positivity come from?
So the positivity thing probably comes from a story I got told, really early on in the piece I was probably only maybe 12-18 months from my accident. I got told about a little girl I didn’t know her, have never met her, have no idea where she’s from or anything but she was just 2 years old and ended up in a wheelchair. I think that that story has stuck with me really clearly in my mind, it just sits in the back. So whenever I think, the odd time which is not very often lately, but especially in the earlier days when I thought, “F** this, this is dumb”. Those days, when you want to throw your toys out of the cot and be like “You know what, nah, I don’t like this” I think that story has always stuck with me. Then you hear of people that have got cancer and stuff like that, you know that really get dealt a really bad hand. When you’ve always looked at things like that, you’ve got to be really grateful for what you’ve got because there are so many people out there that wish they had what we have. I think that side of it really keeps you grounded.
Q11. We’ve spoken a little bit about this, but in what ways has your accident made you stronger, and how do you think it’s made you embrace your life differently?
It’s made me realize what is important in life and what isn’t. I think you realize a little bit more about what people mean to you. You have to grab the bull by the horns because you just don’t know what’s around the corner. I think that a lot of the time we think “One day, we’re gonna do this one day, we’re gonna do that…one day”, everybody says the one day.
I watched something online a few years ago and was like, you know what, I’m going to get rid of this one day thing. So now, I always make sure once a month, I’ve always got somewhere to go. Whether it’s going to catch up with an old friend, going somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, just making a list like that and actually doing it. Instead of just the one day one day, one day, one day rolls around, and nek minute, you can’t do any of that. It’s a matter of actually doing it, and I’ve got dogs, but I don’t have kids or anything like that so I’m in a position that I could probably do it a lot more than other people. I think a lot of time we need to get rid of that one day and actually go out and do the things that we want to do and go and live life instead of just dreaming about it.
Q12. What other key messages do you want others to take away from your story and your experience. Especially for our women looking to grow their careers, dealing with their own challenges and celebrations, resilience and vulnerability?
I suppose it’s just, if you want to, go and get it, if you want something that bad, you’re going to work for it and you’re going to work hard for it.
Being grateful for what you’ve got is a really big thing. I’ve got a friend and we message every night and before we go to sleep, we have to tell each other what we’re grateful for on that day. It can be absolutely anything under the sun, as easy as “I found my missing sock”, it could be something just so basic to you listening to it but not to them you know? So I got into a bit of a routine of doing that and it really opens your eyes to thinking about what you’re grateful for, and the little things that you’re grateful for. The simplest little thing that you know that made your day, or made it easier, or made you appreciate something a whole lot more. I think getting into that, and surrounding yourself with people you want to be like, you don’t want to be around negative people, people that are going to lift you up.
Even if you know you don’t have a big network of people going onto YouTube, reading stories about people that inspire you, watching a video of someone who’s had it really bad. Like that two year old girl in a wheelchair. Getting those stories into you really make you realize what you’ve got, I suppose is a big thing
Q13. That whole gratitude piece, sharing with your friend, that’s so amazing. I came across a meditation piece on Audible which started with gratitude for your breath. Like having gratitude for your breath because it’s the most precious gift you can have. For a second was like, that’s so profound and so true.
I actually went and saw a life coach. I started changing my diet on the nutrition plan and then went saw this life coach / counselor, just for a few niggles I had going on and in my mind and that was a huge game changer too. You know a lot of people think “Counselor, are you depressed?” or that you’ve got big issues, when really, I think a lot more people should be using them. They’re there and they’re extremely good at what they do. Even if it’s just changing your mindset, something you might be stuck on. You might go there thinking you don’t have problems then come out thinking “Well, okay, I’ve got this, this and this to work on”. So the stigma and negativity around going to life coaches, or counselors, people like that, isn’t overly great. People would really benefit from going and finding out different ways to look at things. A lot of the time, you’re talking to them and they come back with the view and you’re like, “Wow, I never saw it like that”. Half the time you don’t even know you’re doing it or coming in from a certain angle. So that was a huge game changer as well. I went back and saw them three or four months later just to pretty much say thank you, yeah, so it was awesome, really good.
I love that that’s what you’re an advocate about. Thank you so much for your time, we’ve covered absolutely everything and it was such a pleasure to talk to you Anita!