“If I can leave one memory in my life, I don’t want it to be about Macquarie Bank.
It got me to a point. It developed me. It was great. It gave me a chance to meet global leaders and build a business that never has been built and to change that world. But that’s not what I want to be remembered for. I want to be remembered for making a difference to society.”
– Bill Moss, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 August 2010
Every now and again, if you are as fortunate as I have been in my life, you meet a truly outstanding, inspirational person who restores your faith in human nature and people’s capacity for selfless altruism.
One such person is Greg Norman, who at the time I met him, had been ranked as the world’s number one golfer for more consecutive weeks than any other person in the sport’s history, a record only since surpassed by Tiger Woods.
Greg and I met as the result of a business proposition; that in a joint venture between Macquarie and his company, Great White Shark Enterprises, we build real estate golf-based developments through a company called Medallist. The idea took off very quickly and strongly, leading to a number of successful projects in Australia, the US and eventually South Africa.
Working and travelling with Greg, I soon realised he was a very deep thinker and a most sincere and generous person who, without any fuss or publicity, was a committed philanthropist and behind-the-scenes benefactor of many worthy causes.
As a world champion golfer, he could have been forgiven for being preoccupied with his sport, but one of the things that most impressed me about him was that he was always keen to talk about issues other than golf. He showed an interest in disability issues for example, and what it was like living with physical disabilities, that I rarely encountered in non-disabled people.
Greg had one particular lasting influence on me, a philosophy of life that was summed up by his famous motto, ‘Attack Life’. As a golfer, he was never afraid to go for the toughest shot, no matter how much was at stake if he failed.
‘Attack Life’ struck me as very magical words. They made me think that life and its inevitable challenges, problems and misfortunes boil down so often to two stark choices: to let a problem or setback attack and defeat you, as a disability like muscular dystrophy can do; or alternatively, go on the attack and fight back.
Talking to Greg made me realise that most people choose to respond passively and go where life takes them, rather than deciding what it is they want, where they want to go, and then working out how to get there.
Greg was obviously in the second category. He came from a background without money, without privilege and without much education, but he had the physical skills – and more importantly, the mental attitude – to strive to be, and to become, the best in the world. I’ve met many sportsmen in my life, but it is very rare to encounter someone who is a true global champion, excelling in a sport played all over the world.
I was very fortunate to watch Greg play golf up close, driving around a course in Pittsburgh with him. It’s a beautiful game I would have loved to be able to play myself, and I did for a time. But one day, when I swung a golf club and ended up on my backside in the middle of a fairway, having lost my balance, I thought: “That’s it for me”. My golfing days were over, but the influence Greg Norman has had on me – and in particular my determination to fight FSHD – will remain with me until the end of my life.
Challenge the status quo
What do you do when you have a disability? You do your research, work out what the solutions are and then start to educate those around you. You stand up and fight for what is right and just, you speak out and challenge the paradigms within which we live.
Within just a few months of leaving Macquarie and focusing my attention on the issue of FSHD research, I realised that nothing was ever going to be done for sufferers of this disease in Australia unless this issue could find a champion and that, in the absence of any other candidate, it might as well be me.
In October 2007, I launched the FSHD Global Research Foundation, a not-for-profit charity to promote and fund research to identify the causes and search for ways of preventing, relieving and one day curing FSHD.
In the years that the FSHD Global Foundation has been operating, we have funded research projects in Australia, the US, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Italy, with all the research findings openly available for scientists everywhere to access. Our website is regularly visited by people from more than 80 countries, and the daily emails and messages sent via the site are both inspirational and horrific. If I ever need to refocus my life, I go back and read some of these messages because they give an instant perspective on what we are trying to achieve.
I have been extremely fortunate over he course of my life, in that my disability emerged only gradually and slowly. I was able to rise to the highest echelons of the Australian business world, meet many great people and travel extensively around the globe before disability forced me to retire from Macquarie at the relatively early age of 52.
Many other people with disabilities are nowhere near as fortunate. People far more obviously physically disabled than I was in my teens and early adulthood are rarely given any opportunity whatsoever to prove their worth; to contribute to society through employment; to travel and to make enough money to live comfortably and with any sense of financial security. Millions of people have been, and continue to be, thrown on society’s scrapheap solely because they carry a disability. This is not just a personal tragedy for all those treated in this way. It is a waste of human potential on an epic scale. And that, in the end, is society’s loss.
If you are living with a disability, you can challenge the status quo, you can change the system; it is simply about having a go and educating those around us, never giving up and telling it as it is.
– Excerpts taken from ‘Still Walking’ by Bill Moss, available here in paperback ($39.95) and hardcover ($79.95). All profits received from the sale of the book go directly to the FSHD Global Research Foundation to support research into finding a treatment and a cure for FSHD.
About Bill Moss
In 2006, Bill Moss was awarded one of Australia’s highest honours, the Order of Australia (AM), for services to the banking, finance, and charitable sectors. He participated in the Australian Government’s Australia 2020 summit while also joining the Government’s Disability Investment Group. Bill currently Co-Chairs the Territory 2030 Steering Committee and is a member of the ASIC External Advisory Panel.
About The FSHD Global Foundation
FSHD is one of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy and genetic hereditary diseases seen in skeletal muscle. Its prevalence varies from country to country depending on medical diagnostic competence. A 2010 report estimates that FSHD affects 7 in 100,000 people, while in some third-world countries its prevalence is not recorded at all.
The FSHD Global Research Foundation has been solely formed to fund medical research projects in Facioscapulohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD). The Foundation aims to promote funding that will improve the quality of life for people and families suffering from this cruel and misunderstood disease.