Episode 36 Transcript

Published: Thursday February 29, 2024

From Stunt Performer to Spinal Injury Ambassador | Jonathan Goodwin

How one stunt on AGT Extreme changed Jonathan Goodwin’s life forever


Alycia Anderson: Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia, a podcast that gives disability a voice. Each week we will explore topics like confidence, ambition, resilience and finding success against all odds. We are creating a collective community that believes that all things are possible for all people.

Open hearts. Clear paths. Let’s go.

Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia. I’m Alycia Anderson, and wow, do we have a guest today!

I’m a little starstruck. I’m very excited. We have got Jonathan Goodwin.

He is a renowned retired daredevil stunt performer. He’s a role model, spelled “R-O-L-L”. He’s an ambassador for Spinal Injury Association (SIA).

And I’m really excited to dive into your story. It’s fascinating. It’s multilayered. Welcome to the podcast.

Jonathan Goodwin: Thank you so much. It’s so lovely to be here. I really appreciate it. Thanks for having me. It’s great.

Alycia Anderson: What is your… kind of your career background? Your connection with disability? Whatever you’re comfortable with, do you mind sharing that path a little bit with our audience?

Jonathan Goodwin: Certainly. I was actually… I started as a magician a very long time ago when I was, you know…, my dad bought me a book about Houdini when I was, when I was a kid, and I was fascinated with the character of a superhero, like any kid. But the thing that was resonant to me about Houdini, was that he was real, you know, he really did the things that I read about.

And once I realized that you could do that for a living, then I never really wanted to do anything else.

So I was kind of was, you know, into escapes and magic and all that sort of stuff. And then the… sort of the escape world kind of took over a little bit and I started to do more of that escapology and stunt work in my in my career. You know, I was very successful.

I made a bunch of TV shows in the UK, couple in the in the states as well. I made some shows for Discovery Channel. I hosted a Shark Week show for Discovery Channel and then I did a lot of live theatre shows. I was in a touring Broadway show.

So, we played Broadway, you know, a few times and London’s West End. ..Sydney Opera House. I toured the states extensively. I played every state except Alaska, actually. And so that was that.

And then… and then in 2021, I was rehearsing the stunt for a spin-off of America’s Got Talent and I was in a really bad incident.

Essentially the stunt that I was performing was… that I was hanging upside down from a crane 30 feet in the air in a straightjacket, and then hanging from the same place as me were two cars that were held back and they were laced with explosives. And the idea was that I had to escape from the straightjacket and pull the relief of my ankles before I…, you know, so I could drop into an airbag before the car swung collided and exploded. And for the numerous reasons that I can’t really get into at the minute it didn’t go as planned.

I did everything I was supposed to do, but when I went to pull the release at my ankles, I didn’t drop and the cars collided with me, exploded, and then I fell. But by that time, I was no longer over the airbags and I fell 30 feet to the ground.

And I broke both my legs. I suffered massive third-degree burns. I destroyed one of my kidneys. I broke ribs, punctured the lung, broke both my shoulders, and then I suffered a complete spinal injury. And, I got a free ride in a helicopter and that was me.

Then in hospital for the next six months, getting back to a new normal.

Alycia Anderson: Where do you go from having this life of adventure to all of a sudden a total shift? Like what does that look like for you?

Jonathan Goodwin: It’s just a different kind of adventure. I think that my previous work… You know, I would never wish what happened to me on anyone, but I think I was uniquely adapted to dealing with it.

Magic is a really good primer. It’s a really good beginning for dealing with a lot of things.

You know, if you’re…, if you’re learning a magic trick or you’re learning to be a magician. Then there is such a vast topic… you know, you do magic tricks with anything, and so if when you’re practicing and learning. You’re essentially going out and risking failure… being caught, you know, over and over and over again.

And it’s a little like being put in this, you know, the samurai sort of going into the fire and over, over and over you strengthen, you learn to deal with what happens when things go wrong, and so you know I’ve always been quite stoic by my nature, and Stoicism teaches us that whilst we don’t control what happens to us, we do control what we feel about it.

And so you know, I’m lying in hospital and I’ve got all of these injuries and I could very easily think to myself, you know, “Oh my God, I’m so unlucky.”

Or… I could take exactly the same set of information and have the opposite viewpoint, “My God, I’m so lucky. I should have died. You know, I shouldn’t be here, you know?”

And I think the moment that you can make that shift, then everything is a gift.

After that, you know I wake up and I pinch myself every day because you know I have such good fortune and that’s kind of my attitude.

Alycia Anderson: I think that’s really powerful insight, especially for people who are newly injured and kind of rolling down that path right now.

And that quote, “We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we feel about it.”

I love that. I’m going to quote you again and I don’t know if I’m going to say it correctly, but because I was binge watching your videos…, anybody who is listening, you need to Google Jonathan and just binge because he’s fascinating.

But you said something about, “taking each moment, moment by moment and kind of compartmentalizing it.”

Jonathan Goodwin: It’s a really good rule for life. You know that… that the only moment that we get to control is now.

Alycia Anderson: And, I love that too.

Jonathan Goodwin: Yeah, but we spend a lot of time dealing with stuff in our heads that is… that isn’t that. You know how much time do we spend, you know, bemoaning things that have happened or worrying about what’s gonna happen in the future. And the reality is, you know, you can’t change the past and we can’t predict the future. The only moment that we can control is now.

And so you know, if you’re in a situation where everything is very large and overwhelming. You have to realize that the only thing that you need to do is think about: OK, where am I? Am I OK? If I’m not OK, what can I do about it? And in that moment there is your ability to kind of shift and improve.

And the moment that you think outside of that into a bigger reality you’re just wasting your energy. You know, it’s practically when you’re dealing with, those kinds of things. And that’s how I would deal with stunts.

You know, if I was gonna be…, I don’t know, hanging from my teeth 75 feet in the air from a burning rope on a zip line. You know, there’s literally something I did. If I thought about the whole thing, and I’m live on television as well. I thought about the whole thing. It would be incredibly intimidating but, what I would do is I would… It’s called chunking.

You break down the whole thing into a list of little moments, and then you just check them off one at a time, and then before you know it, you got through the whole thing and you didn’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed, if that makes sense.

Alycia Anderson: I love that and I could imagine that there could be some fear like that could be equated to the first time you get in a wheelchair and move across the room and you’re not walking. And how scary that moment could be. And it must be useful in the way you compartmentalize and also have I would assume… and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but become accustomed to taking on challenges that there is a lot of… there could be a lot of fear wrapped around it and adapting on the fly to make it happen is that true?

Jonathan Goodwin: I basically I got to a place where I had eliminated the emotion of fear. I’m not afraid of anything and I think that the solution to eliminating fear is, knowledge.

You know, the more we know, the more… the less scary things are. You know, if you… if you imagine a toddler walking unaccompanied along the side of a busy highway, like that’s a terrifying idea. And yet, you, as an adult, walking along the side of a, you know, on a sidewalk, inches away from that same jeopardy you, you’re not panicked.

You don’t have an elevated heart rate because, you know the circumstances, you know your abilities and you know all of the information that is required to make that not scary anymore.

And so that was a lot of my job, was basically learning as much as I could and the thing that makes it scary is that I did things that are so out of the realm of the normal that people don’t have a good point of reference.

They don’t have that same amount of information or rehearsal or training that I had, and so you know, the things that I did seem a lot scarier to people watching, and that was the job, you know?

Alycia Anderson: And does that maybe translate to a little bit to the advocacy work that you do with SIA, a spinal injury association. Because I did hear you say on an interview that you’re doing that advocacy work because you want to provide information knowledge to people who are going down the path of spinal cord injury that you did not have when you were. Like, does that translate there?

Jonathan Goodwin: It totally does. You know, I was… I was never really told about the Spinal Injuries Association or indeed any spinal charity while I was in hospital.

And I… you know if I had the opportunity to talk to somebody with lived experience at that moment, it would have been a much less steep climb, you know, out of out of that situation. Because… you know, if you don’t have that help, then you have to work everything out for yourself.

You know, and it’s little things, but little things when you’re, you know, somebody waved the magic wand and you just become an adult baby. Little things are a big challenges. You know, I was in one moment, you know the greatest challenge of my life was being buried alive, you know, or you know, anything like that, and then cut forwards just a few months and the greatest challenge that I had was, you know, sitting balance, sitting up.

And so I think… I think that that’s one of the main motivations that I have for becoming an ambassador for the Spinal Injuries Association. You know, I think that there’s never been a better time to have a spinal injury and I think that it’s highly likely that within our lifetime there will be a workable solution. You know, to the experience of SIA of sorry SCI and you know to me it’s quite exciting.

It feels like being part of the Apollo mission, you know, and while whilst we… whilst we may not all get to go and walk on the moon to just be in the conversation, is exciting and it’s a huge privilege.

Alycia Anderson: I agree and I love that analogy. It’s like being on the Apollo mission. I feel like that my advocacy work right now too, that we are in a really special place where we’re visible.

We’re more visible than ever. There’s more science than ever. There’s more opportunities than ever. There’s more representation than ever.

Not saying that there’s enough, but we are in a place of movement and visibility which is really cool.

Speaking of representation, like, do you see disabled stuntmen doing the work?

Jonathan Goodwin: I think that you know those things do happen, but probably not enough. I mean from my point of view, I’m very much out of that business, you know, I… It.. it was… It’s not something that I could continue to do, especially not in the way that I… that I did and also I would… you know, my… my partner would leave me if… if I… if I said that I wanted to carry on, that wouldn’t go down very well.

So…, and that’s fine. It… I… I’m… I feel very privileged because you know, very, its very rare that people get to lead a whole second life, and that’s what it feels like to me.

You know, in my pensive moment, shall I say, I could be utterly persuaded that I didn’t make it in the accident, and that this is a whole new reality. Is that’s what it feels like. You know, everything changed for me in a in a moment, and I understand that that, you know, that’s quite an overwhelming thing, and it’s quite perverse, I realize it’s quite perverse to say, but I found it quite exciting that… I have new and different challenges, and I was very lucky. You know, I’m OK. You know, I’ve got… I’ve got stuff.

We’ve all got stuff, you know and it’s given me such a perspective on life that I would never have had, you know, in in a different circumstance.

Alycia Anderson: And I just think that’s such a beautiful way to depict the path, you know, and I agree with you 100%. I mean, I… I’ve never walked, but I know that my life is very multifaceted and layered and all that because of my disability too.

So yeah, I think that’s really beautiful and thank you for sharing.

You are listening to Pushing Forward with Alycia, and we will be right back.


Alycia Anderson: Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia. We have got Jonathan Goodwin. He is a renowned retired daredevil stunt performer.

I want to talk about your hypnotherapist work.

Jonathan Goodwin: Yeah. So… I have been in and around hypnosis for 20 years and it was always a thing… It was never a thing that I’d pursued professionally, but I always felt that it gets a bum rap. It’s a panacea that has the potential to help so many people with so many of the different challenges that we all deal with.

And yet it is kind of kept at arms-length by people. People don’t really know what it is or understand it, and that’s a shame because it…, you know, it’s this amazing thing.

And so, I always thought that, you know, somebody needs to come along and do a bit of a PR job on hypnosis and you know, after my accident, when I was sort of thinking about what I wanted to do now, I was like, well maybe that’s me. Maybe I can. Maybe I can do that.

And so, I did a lot of training, you know and I had a real sort of breakthrough.

I really understand it and hypnosis is… especially hypnotherapy is one of those things where you can practice it and have no idea what you’re doing and it still work. And so, there are a lot of hypnotherapists and hypnotists who do not know what hypnosis is and why it works, and I really do.

And it’s actually very simple, but it’s an amazing thing, and I, you know, I’m very lucky I get the opportunity to help people and change lives every day.

Alycia Anderson: Can you give us an example of a success story? Like what is some of the work? Like if I was to say…

Jonathan Goodwin: Well, hypnosis is for what I term unconscious controls. Those things that that you experience in your life where you have a feeling and emotion or behavior that you exhibit. That you don’t choose that you didn’t desire, you know, so that could be an anxiety response. It could be, you know, a phobia. Or a habit.

But you know it goes into all kinds of different avenues and nuances that you perhaps wouldn’t give it credit for, you know. Assertiveness, organizational skills, procrastination. We can get into like some physical and physiological things, chronic pain, IBS. You know, I mean there, there.. it’s a very, very long list of things and essentially the way that it works is that it’s…

Hypnosis is learning. That’s all it is. It’s just learning in a way that we’re not used to.

You know, we learn in two ways. You know, there’s intentional learning, which is usually through repetition. How you learn to tie your shoes or ride a bike. And then unintentional learning happens in moments of heightened emotion. No Child is born with a fear of ice, but you know it’s not something you choose to have a fear like that, but when you see Mum freak out because something scurried across the floor then you’re gonna learn and absorb that fear.

It doesn’t have to be fear. It could be love.

You know, to our partners and our parents are in positions of extreme power because they can tell us things and we love and you know, if you walk down the street, go to the mall later today and someone you don’t know calls you an idiot, you would dismiss that, probably with a few expletives move on with your day.

But if somebody you care about says that to you, especially with a bit of repetition, goes in, you learn it and the point of all of this is that you can’t consciously unlearn anything.

I can’t tell you to unlearn how to tie your shoes. Where would you possibly start? And for that, how people get stuck because they’ll learn things in an unconscious way. You know, emotionally tinged is a great example. Somebody that’s going to go and eat a full packet of cookies of an evening and they know that they shouldn’t.

And that’s the point is that if you compare the guy on stage in this hypnosis show that’s being made to think they’re a Penguin, an emotional eater that’s going to go and eat the cookie. The guy knows he’s not a Penguin, but he’s compelled to act in that way. He emotionally knows they shouldn’t eat the cookies, but they’re compelled to act in that way.

And the difference is that there’s nobody standing over the person with the cookies swinging a watch or doing any of this, “look into my eye” stuff and the reason is that person, the person that created that hypnosis… because that’s what that would have been a well meaning parent back when they were a kid who gave them a candy bar instead of a cuddle when they were upset, and in that moment when you’re a kid, you learn to connect to your emotional needs with food, right? If I feel crappy or I want a reward then I’m gonna eat something. You know and… that gives me a little dopamine hit and I feel great for a second. And then, very quickly, I still have that emotional requirement and now I feel guilty because I ate a thing that I shouldn’t.

So, it’s a little trap that people get into, but it’s an entirely unconsciously learned thing, and hypnosis is a way that we can get in and just move the furniture around and disconnect those two things. So that people don’t have that experience.

Alycia Anderson: Wow. That’s amazing. That’s incredible. And you just listed off like 5 things… I think I need to book you. I need to have a little session with you.

Jonathan Goodwin: Well, you can. You know, I… my company is growing and we’re creating a bit of a platform but the minute the facility is 1 on 1, but I treat people entirely over zoom like this, and so I from that point of view I have clients all over the world and so if you need some help, I’m happy to.

Alycia Anderson: I love it. So thank you for sharing that. That’s fascinating. Like we could just do an episode on this only. Wow. So what does the future look like?

Jonathan Goodwin: You know, I’ve been doing keynote speaking, which I love. You know, I’m very, very happy on stage. I spent a lot of my life on stage, you know.

And so even though I can’t do the performing in the way that I did before, to be able to get onto the stage and you know, create a little something that people are gonna remember. You know, I really love doing that and I wanna do more of that.

The hypnosis thing is growing and it’s gonna become a little business and will exist outside of me doing it as well, which is exciting because I want to find a way that I can use the… you know the medium that I’m working in that this medium [zoom to help as many people as I possibly can.

You know, I don’t want the price of it to be preclusive because I’ve found quite quickly that the people that need it most, can’t afford it.

And so I’m creating a platform which will have a very low price point but allow anybody access to vast amounts of hypnotherapy help, so that’s what Project Rewire is going to become and then from my point of view, I’m…

I love writing. I’m a screenwriter and so I’m writing TV shows and movies, you know, that’s my little sort of selfish, indulgent part of the work that I love doing. You know, because really, I’m a creative. That’s my sort of little spark that I… that I carry with me.

Alycia Anderson: You gotta. You gotta write your movie. Your story is fascinating.

Jonathan Goodwin: Well, you know what? You’re not the first person to say it, but my response to that is that I don’t have an ending yet. That I haven’t… that I… that you know…, there’s a great beginning and a killer middle, but I don’t think I’ve lived the end yet, so I’m… Give me a couple of years and I’ll get to it.

Alycia Anderson: I’m so grateful and thankful for meeting you. So, we wrap up this show with the pushing forward moment. So I am going to put you on the spot. No pressure, but…

Jonathan Goodwin: OK.

Alycia Anderson: I like to leave our listeners with a motto, some advice, something that’s encouraging.

Do you have a little nugget that you could… a pushing forward moment that you could share with our audiences?

Jonathan Goodwin: I do. If anybody ever asks, you can you do something. Say yes, and then worry about it afterwards.

Alycia Anderson: That just gave me chills all the way up my arm…, back of my arms. That’s awesome. I love it. Yeah.

Jonathan Goodwin: Say yes.

Alycia Anderson: That is so powerful, Jonathan. Thank you so much for your time, and thank you to our listeners for tuning in and showing up for us every single solitary week.

This has been Pushing Forward with Alycia and that is how we roll on this podcast.