How I Used My Wheelchair as Leverage to Become an International Speaker
When I was a young boy, a doctor told my mother and I that because I was born with spinal muscular atrophy (a condition that weakens the muscles), I would end up in a wheelchair by the age of 15. I didn't want to accept it, let alone believe that this was actually happening to me. While I didn't end up in a wheelchair until I was 22 years old, at that point I thought my life was over. As my muscles began to fade away, so did my hopes and dreams. I thought I would never be capable of doing anything great or significant in my lifetime. I settled for the average lifestyle, barely making it.
It wasn't until I changed the story I was telling myself that things started to change in my favor. I remember telling myself, There has to be more to life than just living and dying in this wheelchair. I searched deep within to figure out what I was good at doing and what abilities I had that I could use to excel and become successful at.
What makes you different? Use that uniqueness as leverage.
Finding your purpose in life is what most people spend a lifetime searching for, asking the question, "What on earth am I doing here?" I've asked myself that question several times. It took me several years, but I finally learned how to turn my pain into my purpose, my purpose into my platform and my platform into a profit.
I used to think this wheelchair was my weakness and that I would automatically be at a disadvantage in life. At first, I was insecure and embarrassed to step outside of my comfort zone due to the fear of being stared at, judged and ridiculed by the world. But, then I thought, They're going to stare and judge me whether I'm in a wheelchair or not, so I might as well make it worth their while. I figured, I don't have the ability to stand anymore, but I do have the ability to use my voice, and I will use that to stand up for myself.
You may not be in a wheelchair, but I know you have something different that you can use as leverage.
Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and take action.
From that moment on, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to help people use their minds to become mental beasts and succeed in life. I wanted to help others learn to dominate whatever struggles they had and overcome them. I wanted to become a speaker, so I spent months studying the greats, taking notes and practicing my craft. I was preparing myself so when the opportunity came along I would be ready to dominate it and step into my greatness. A wise man once said that if you stay ready, you never have to get ready.
In December 2015, I saw a Facebook ad for free tickets to see the legendary motivational speaker Les Brown. I really had to take a leap of faith because even though the event was free, I would have to take the day off of work unpaid. I couldn't really afford to do that, but I did it anyway. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. There was a long line to meet him, so I pushed my way through the crowd until he noticed me. I asked if I could give him my speaker kit and he said yes. I was prepared, I was hungry and I was ready to work with him. Brown called me the very next day and we've been partnering ever since. Who would've imagined that the very thing I thought was a weakness would actually turn into a strength that I could use to win in life. In November 2016, less than a year later, I was speaking on the same stage with Brown (see the photo above).
Today, I am an author, mental toughness expert and speaker taking a message of hope to millions of people and organizations around the world. What steps are you taking to increase the impact on your customers/clients that's outside of your comfort zone?
You don't have many resources? Use what you have right now and make it work until you're able to level up.
Many people spend unnecessary amounts of time focusing on the things they can't do and on the things they don't have. You must learn how to reverse that type of mindset into a positive one by focusing on the things you can do and the things that you have right now. When I first started in the speaking business I didn't have much, but I also didn't let that stop me, either. I used what I did have, and I made it work until I was able to level up.
Whatever you think may be a struggle, figure out a way to leverage it to turn things around.
Being in a wheelchair is one of those things that attracts people's curiosity. The fact that I don't look "sick" gives people an itch to wonder what happened to me. And I'm OK with that because now it sparks a conversation, which often leads to a speaking engagement. I definitely use my wheelchair to my advantage every chance I get because it gives me the opportunity to get in front of the right people.
I remember getting an invitation to a huge business conference that real estate mogul Grant Cardone was having called the 10X Growth Con. Out of 2,800 people in attendance, there were only two people in wheelchairs, and I was one of them. I definitely stood out among the crowd. I made my way into the VIP area to meet Cardone and I wasn't even a VIP, again using my wheelchair as leverage. As a result, I met some of the world's top entrepreneurs and have spoken for their multimillion-dollar companies!
I was honored when Grant took notice of my hustle and posted this picture of him and me on his Twitter account that says, "Do whatever it takes to get out in front of everyone else." I've held on to that advice ever since to become a successful entrepreneur, and I would encourage you to do the same.