Recently I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sinead Kane, PhD, BCL, LLM, Lawyer, International Speaker, Blind Adventurer and Consultant (Phew!) over a delicious cup of Bewley’s Coffee in my old alma mater, Bewley’s Café on Grafton St. in Dublin.
It was a thoroughly fascinating experience for me and when we finished recording the video we realized that all of it deserved to be seen and/or heard so rather than cut it up, we have decided to offer it out in three parts.
This is Part 1.
Truthfully, the best way to get the most from this lady’s fascinating tale of overcoming and achieving, is to watch the video or listen to the podcast (highly recommended) but in case you prefer the written word I have done my best to capture the spirit of the conversation in written form below.
Me: Dr. Sinead Kane, many of our readers will know of you but some perhaps don’t as of yet, can you offer a potted history?
Sinead: Well, I’m a double-PhD Doctorate, double-Guinness World Record holder, qualified solicitor, certified mediator, writer with the Irish Criminal Law Journal, consultant, and then… I run my own business as well, being self-employed as a speaker mainly, mostly for companies in Ireland and abroad in places like Sweden, Austria and Boston to name but a few.
Me: My goodness, that’s some potted history. I thought I was busy until I heard your resumé. That’s some list of achievements.
Sinead: Yes, well I qualified as Ireland’s first visually impaired solicitor in 2009 which feels like a lifetime ago and to get to it took a lot of hard work and passion. I’m not practicing at present because I’m speaking full-time but I’m not saying never, not saying that I’m not going back to it. My problem is I want to do everything full time! I want to practice law full-time, speak full-time and be an ultra-runner full-time! I will probably go back at some stage; the day of having one job, 9 to 5, are long gone.
I’m very grateful, that I, with a disability, have a lot of options open to me; there are many that don’t. Education, knowledge, is power and I think you can learn a lot by having a variety of different jobs. I’ve learned more from sunning than I would have in a text book. I’ve learned a lot more about life through meeting people – you learned different things through having a varied career.
Me: Sinead, your resumé is already impressive enough and then you throw in the little caveat, “Oh yeah, I’m visually impaired as well. The rest of us are thinking, my goodness, how does this woman do it all? May I ask, was your visual impairment part of your motivation for wanting to become a lawyer, to prove to yourself and others that people with disabiliy can go on to do great things?
Sinead: An ‘aha’ moment in my life was when a careers guidance teacher told me, at age seventeen, that I couldn’t study law – law is a reading based subject – for me that was a turning point and I thought, ‘I’m not going to allow your limitations control my destiny.’ That was when the pendulum swung for me.
Up to that age, I was very introverted, had very low self-esteem, no confidence. Now, I stand up and do many speeches for schools – my largest audience to date has been 7,500 students in the Three Arena for ‘Cycle Against Suicide’. Smallest audience might be ten. People say I’m a very good speaker but I haven’t always been that. My ‘aha’ moment was at seventeen.
Me: Great story. May I ask, is that careers guidance teacher following your progress today?
Sinead: I don’t know whether that person is still alive to be honest. I don’t look that person up. I was very badly bullied in school and often receive friend requests on FaceBook but haven’t accepted them. In my heart, I forgive them, but I don’t feel that I have to be around them.
My PhD was on the area of bullying. It was interdisciplinary education and law, and a secondary school teachers duty of care, inside and outside of school regarding bullying. I think it’s interesting that despite having been very badly bullied, I go on to do a PhD in the area.
Me: But are they not all linked? Your careers guidance teacher saying you can’t, the fact that you were bullied, you thought to yourself, well I can do something about that…?
Sinead: When I did my law degree, followed by my Masters in Law, I thought, ‘that’s me done with education.’ And I got into my solicitor trainee-ship. My dad even asked, would I not go on get a PhD? That was 2005. I said ‘Never, ever!’ And now I have two! Moral of the story, ‘never say never’.
My first PhD was honorary from the National University of Ireland and that was for all my activism, followed by the academic one a few years later.
Me: You and I reconnected at Frankie Sheehan’s Pendulum Summit recently. How was that for you?
Sinead: Really enjoyed it. I think it’s nice to go to an event like that with like-minded people. It’s a great event at the start of the year. We all recharge our phones, but few of us really recharge ourselves. Even the most positive people have to recharge themselves on a daily basis.
I’m very mindful to do things such as read affirmation quotes, listen to TED talks. We physically exercise, but we need to concentrate on nourishing the brain too and not take it for granted.
Me: I agree. What we saw at Pendulum were thousands of leaders. Leadership doesn’t happen by accident; it’s a decision and we must prepare ourselves for it. May I ask, what is your daily routine around that?
Sinead: I try not to go for the phone straight away when I wake, which signals to me I’m not held captive to it. My main focus then is nutrition, getting some protein in such as eggs. I’m vegetarian so it’s important in terms of the running for me to maintain my muscle whilst not eating meat of fish. The last thing you want is for your muscle to be wasting away because then the exercise you are doing isn’t worth it.
Instead of watching upsetting news I sometimes ring a family member, or read an affirmation quote,
I’ve tried meditation, and some days it works and some days it doesn’t, so on the days it doesn’t, I ask myself ‘what am I grateful for today?’ I think people think about me in terms of my visual impairment, “Oh, that only affects her, she’s like that since birth.” but anyone could become visually impaired through accident or illness.
Some days I don’t want to go running; I have the treadmill record for the furthest distance for a female in twelve hours but even so, some days I struggle to go out and do 5k or 10k. It’s then that I say “Snap out of it, Sinead. There are people out there who would love to go for a run, but they can’t and here you are complaining, yet you have the opportunity. So, I try rephrase things in my head when I feel I’m becoming a bit negative. If, perhaps, I’m feeling a bit angry about something, I listen to a happy song. I also think getting out into nature is important.
I’m a ‘habits’ person, so when I get up, I cannot leave the house unless I know my bed is made. The day only starts when the bed is made. But I also like to air it, so that requires a process of making sure the bed is aired and then going back to make it. If you leave your duvet to the side there’s always that temptation to get back in and snooze for the day if you’re feeling in any way sorry for yourself! Being self-employed, means I am not speaking every day so it does’t matter to people if I get back into bed, but it matters to me.
Me: Powerful stuff. Can I ask, what’s been a highlight for you to date? Have you one stand-out moment that was particularly special?
To find out what Dr. Sinead Kane’s highlights are and to hear some of her hilarious most embarrassing moments, come back next week and join her again in Part 2 of Dr. Sinead Kane’s “Coffee with Colm”.
Check out Sinead here.
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Come back next week for Part 2 of 3.
See you then.
Thanks for thinking with me.
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