Motivational speaker throws back beer shots on P.E.I.

Without fingers from a fiery motorcycle crash, later paralyzed from a plane crash, W Mitchell tells Islanders to turn everything to good

Nigel Armstrong
Published on June 13, 2014

Kevin Murphy, left, owner of the Prince Edward Island Brewing Company, W Mitchell, author of the book It's Not What Happens To You, It's What You Do About It, and Joe Sherren of Gateway Leadership Inc., took time out for a photograph at the brewery this week prior to enjoying some of the facility’s samples.


W Mitchell likes his beer, and is ornery enough to drink a sample tray of it at the P.E.I Brewing Company without the use of hands, which he doesn’t really have.

He is also ornery enough to arrange his name just the way he likes it, a W that stands for nothing and Mitchell because it means something to him, and it’s not his birth name.

Sort of like life for Mitchell, make good things happen for yourself. That is a key message he gives in his current occupation as motivational speaker.

He delivered it to students at Birchwood and Colonel Gray schools this week, and to staff of Murphy Investments.

His book is titled It’s Not What Happens to You, It’s What You Do About It, a message he has delivered close to 1,000 times.

He talks about his dramatic life, his fiery motorcycle crash in 1971 where he lost most of his fingers, his plane crash about five years later that left him paralyzed, his political career and how he likes to wrestle good out of every experience.

He co-founded Vermont Castings of wood-burning fireplace fame, was a disk jockey, gets hugs from United States presidents and became mayor of Crested Butte, Colorado, not the most wheelchair-friendly place, he said.

“The kids, first of all, get to meet someone who is different,” said Mitchell of his P.E.I. speaking tour. “Next, they get an opportunity to hear that they have some power to influence. They will realize their power to make things a little bit better.”

Mitchell is not religious and does not recall any deeply dark times of despair in his storied life.

“It gets better,” he said of life’s menacing events.

Mitchell was brought to Prince Edward Island by Joe Sherren and his company Gateway Leadership Inc. It provides motivational workshops, speakers and trainers to business clients.

Mitchell was sponsored while on P.E.I. by Danny Murphy’s group of companies.

“There is a lot going on with young people, they are not optimistic for the future and they are letting things get them down,” said Sherren.

“Mitchell’s whole message is that it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it. I felt we needed him here on P.E.I.,” said Sherren.

Sherren said he has other great speakers he would like to bring to P.E.I. and just needs business leaders to make it happen.