Three Surprising Things I’ve Learned From Being a Motivational Speaker

Being born without arms was a tremendous challenge, but also a tremendous gift. From the earliest years of my life, I needed to find ways to not only adapt to a world that was designed for people with two arms, but thrive in it. I learned to dress and feed myself with my feet, and later earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I took my dreams further, and literally higher: I wanted to learn to fly a plane with my feet, and I did it. I’m proud to stand in a room with other aviation speakers and know that I belong there, simply because I put my mind to it. The reason? Because I didn’t let anyone convince me that I couldn’t fly a plane with no arms.

I realized that people were interested in my story, which I understand is unique, even though to me my life isn’t strange at all! Over the last few years, I’ve been spending a lot of my time serving as a keynote speaker at motivational events all over the world, sharing my story with attendees in the simple hope that they learn to overcome their obstacles and start living their best possible life. I’ve learned a lot of things from my experiences as a motivational speaker: here are some of them.

Motivating Others Motivates Me

As a motivational speaker, I often encounter highly motivated and successful people who are looking for an extra edge in their life and career. I’m happy to help them achieve that edge by telling my story, offering advice, and providing leadership training so they can continue to advance in their careers. Although they may feel they don’t have much in common with a person known for being the world’s first armless pilot, they couldn’t be more wrong. Above all, I did the best I could, refused to let my situations or adversity dictate my life direction, and more than anything else, cared deeply about my faith and positive impact on the world. Those things combined have made me the person I am today.

However, I’m not always surrounded by highly motivated people: in fact, it’s often quite the opposite. Sometimes, the people I meet are instead looking for a spark that can get their life and career back on track. As a motivational speaker whose passion it is to help others find that “spark,” nothing brings me more joy personally or professionally than knowing I’ve helped someone break through the obstacles that have been holding them back. When I see that I’ve helped them accomplish that, it’s motivating in ways that are hard to describe.

People Are More Similar Than You Think

I’ve been very fortunate to have a public speaking career that has taken me to places like Ghana, the White House, and the Vatican. I’ve been on TV, and have met a lot of celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, Buzz Aldrin, and Pope Benedict XVI, not to mention a lot of ordinary folks at my leadership events who are just trying to improve their lives in any way they can. If I’ve learned anything from these experiences, it’s that pretty much anywhere you go, people are all pretty much the same when you get down to it. They care about their lives and want to succeed, but don’t always know exactly how to get there. That’s where my leadership motivation strategies come in. I truly believe that everyone on Earth is capable of great things, if they choose to achieve them.

Adversity Will Always Be There, But…

Nobody gets through this life without dealing with some form of adversity, and it comes in many forms. Adversity can come at work, at home, or even the day you’re born. Acceptance of everyone’s struggle is important to me, and that’s why I’ve committed myself to discussing acceptance and resilience in my personal speaking career.

My diversity events are important because they help identify the types of social adversity people face due to being a certain race, gender, or physical obstacle. Disability culture is something that I have very strong opinions on, and I stress that it’s more important to discuss what a person can do than what they can’t. Everyone has a mountain to climb, and my job is to help people identify that mountain and rise above it with the proper mindset. The mindset is simple: don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. That’s how I became the first armless pilot in history, and it’s how you can live life by your own rules. It’s simply a choice: the choice to make your own destiny, and see obstacles as temporary events that will only make you stronger.

Whatever your goal is, that mindset will help you achieve it. Period!