Deep, dark fog swallows the sky around me. A soft drizzle makes the twisting tree trunks blend into the distance. The distant mountain has dissolved into the sky, and the leaves shine with the color of sage while the bright red Adirondack chairs by the firepit stand out against the blurred background. It’s another chilly morning here in Austin on the long back porch under the metal roof, here at the old homestead. Well rested, I’m ready to conquer the fog and go exploring.
I’m always exploring. I’m curious. I’m trying to get to know other people and their stories. A fellow artist introduced himself, clearly and confidently, during the seminar I attended last week. Yet according to him, clarity and confidence were not always the case for him because he grew up with a severe stutter that never left him.
Like a Leper
In school, his fellow students treated him like a leper, leaving him with no friends just because he could not get a sentence out easily. His own parents treated him differently than his siblings, as though he were flawed mentally, when his only problem was the ability to get words out of his mouth.
His hopes of growing out of the stutter never came true, and my new friend became an adult and was drafted to Vietnam, where he was in the infantry, on the front lines and in combat. He was treated as though he was expendable, always pushed into the most dangerous assignments. It was difficult for him to defend himself from his fellow soldiers because talking was so hard.
Upon exiting Vietnam, a feat unto itself, he was faced with finding employment, but every job interview resulted in a no. No one wanted a stutterer. One day he applied for a job as a stockbroker, and that interview changed his life. The man interviewing him told him that to make a living, he would have to learn to overcome his stutter in order to make sales calls. The interviewer said he didn’t think he could overcome it, but was willing to let him try.
His first and second and third sales calls went badly. People hung up before he could complete his introduction. He could not even make a reservation for dinner — how was he going to make a living on the phone?
Hearing the Bad Was Good
With the encouragement of his wife, he came to believe he could overcome the stutter, but he didn’t know how. Then one day a co-worker slammed him verbally, told him he had no business doing this job, that he was a complete loser who needed to get a job as a janitor somewhere. That did the trick. He got so mad, he became determined to overcome his stutter. And he did. It took all of his will power, but he got on the phone and got through that first call, and made a sale. Then another call, and another. Simply talking was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.
A Vast Change
Soon, he became so successful that he became the number one stockbroker in the firm, partly because he started a radio show about stocks and did that show for several years. Imagine a stutterer with a radio show. Yet no one knew.
His story got out, and one day he was invited to speak at a national convention for stutterers. Before he spoke, he saw people wearing T-shirts that read “A Stutterer and Proud.”
When he got up in front of all those people, he said, “I’m a stutterer and I’m not proud, and you should not be either.” He said, “I saw the shirts about being proud. Instead of being proud, you should get mad and overcome it. Don’t let yourself off the hook. If I could do it, you can do it. You need to hear the hard truth. You need to get mad enough to make a change in your life. You need to get so angry that you stand up to others and prove them wrong. Don’t accept it, change it.”
The room was dead silent. Then one single person began to applaud, and then another, until the room broke out in applause and a standing ovation. He told them what they did not want to hear, and didn’t tell them what everyone else had always said. They loved him.
This man made a life as a successful stockbroker against great odds. He did something everyone said was impossible, yet his mind overcame his affliction. His anger drove his resolve.
“My own parents did not believe in me,” he said, “but my wife believed, and my anger made me believe. Anyone can overcome anything if they don’t give themselves excuses and pity themselves. “
What about you?
What excuses are getting in your way?
Maybe you have no affliction, but you’re telling yourself a story and you’re allowing it to limit you.
I’m not a big fan of anger and I don’t like myself when I get angry, but sometimes enough is enough. There is a point at which anger results in getting sick enough of something that you’re willing to make a change. Sometimes you’ll put up with something for years till you just get sick enough of it that it’s like flicking a switch, and you can no longer accept the way things have been.
Do you need to get angry?
Are you putting up with something that is stealing your happiness or success?
Most of us spend our lives avoiding pain. I’m the king of avoiding conflict or pain. No one likes pain, inconvenience, or difficult times. I’m sure my friend had no idea how he was going to overcome stuttering, and knew it would be easier not to overcome it. But his anger drove him.
You may have disadvantages, you may have problems, you may have things in your head that are holding you back. Just know, you can overcome them. We’ve all seen stories of soldiers who lost limbs and are living amazing, adventurous lives, while others are telling themselves they have to live bad lives. I can’t relate to their mindset, but I can tell you that some can overcome almost anything by getting sick enough or angry enough.
In reality, most of us don’t have severe problems, most of us are not confined to a bed or a chair, yet many of us are holding back on life because of something that is stuck in our heads that is causing a success roadblock. Yet your mind can get you through it. It requires mental toughness, determination, big dreams, and action. Every big success starts with one small step. You can do this. But taking action, that first step, makes up half of the goal.
You have a fresh year, and something inside of you that is dying to come out. Get angry. Scream loudly and let it out. The beast inside needs to be released so you can live the best possible life. Get angry and let it free.
PS: I’m noticing a change. People around me are getting fed up. People are realizing that no matter which political party we identify with, we are all being manipulated and polarized. They have turned us all against one another, which gives them control. People are noticing, finally grasping it, and starting to refuse to play the game any longer. We all deserve our voice, our opinions, and though we may never change them, we need to be willing to respect the opinions of friends and others. People are so sick of it that they are cutting people out of their lives, not because they disagree, but because they are being baited with social media posts that polarize people. I for one am done with all of it. If you’re on my social media account posting ANY political content, pro or con, you’re unfriended. Not because I don’t love you, but because I’m sick of seeing friends being manipulated and friends polarizing others. Let’s make 2020 a return to civilized behavior. Social media has brought out the worst in many of us. Let’s all make a commitment to only bring out the best by lifting others up, not tearing them down.