For those just tuning in, yesterday I started a post discussing the fact that every single person has issues, something that holds them back and makes certain things difficult. The point is that even people you know that are successful have issues just like you. The trick is not to allow your issues to determine how you live your life. One of my personal issues is that I stutter and have since childhood. If you missed yesterday’s post you can read the first part of the story here.
Basically, around my junior year of high school I had a paradigm shift and changed my entire attitude. I decided I wasn’t going to let my stuttering determine what I could and couldn’t do. I joined clubs, gave presentations, made friends, etc. My last two years of high school were two of the best years of my life.
I went on to college and earned my bachelor’s degree in accounting. I was nowhere near as involved in college as in high school, simply because I worked 20-30 hours a week in addition to my courseload. My stuttering didn’t go away, but I learned to make do. I could give a class presentation or speech and be able to get through it. I even managed to get through interviews and landed an internship during college, and then my job after college.
Stuttering In The Workforce
I was pretty nervous about my stuttering when I started my job. I really believe I managed to hide it well enough during the interview process that the hiring managers didn’t really notice, or maybe they just thought I was nervous about the interviews or something. Regardless, I got the job. All of a sudden the world I had known for my entire life (school) was gone, and I was going out into a whole new world (full-time employment). It was pretty intimidating. You see, at school your teachers and professors basically had to put up with my stuttering. I was legally required to go to gradeschool and high school, and I was paying good money to go to college. By comparison, employment is an at-will arrangement and, while I didn’t really think they would fire me because I stuttered, the thought did cross my mind. And so I was faced with the same situation I’d been facing all throughout life. Do I try and get by and do my job while being as invisible as possible so that people don’t notice my stutter as much? If I have an idea at a staff meeting, should I just keep it to myself so I don’t embarass myself by not being able to get the words out? While this might have been the easiest option, I knew that it wasn’t the best. Just like in junior year of high school, I decided I wasn’t going to let my issues determine how I managed my career.
- I have conversations with my co-workers and managers. Yes, I still stutter sometimes, but it’s worth it.
- When asked for input in meetings or on projects, I tell them what I think rather than playing dumb to avoid speaking. Yes, I still stutter sometimes, but it’s worth it.
Having A Family
One of the most difficult things about stuttering is that I was terrified about asking girls out on a date. Giving a class presentation and sharing my ideas at work were one thing, but the dating arena was something totally beyond that. But I didn’t let my stutter prevent me from asking girls out on dates, and I found a girl I really liked (and still do). Now I’m married and have a little boy. I still stutter, and it’s still a struggle a lot of times even to have a conversation with my wife. Not because we have nothing to talk about, but because I have trouble getting the words out.
What Could Have Been
I sometimes look back and imagine where I would be in life right now if I hadn’t made that shift in thinking back in high school. I could have easily kept doing what I’d been doing: staying quiet, not interacting much with people, being afraid to try new things, and always feeling inferior because of my stuttering.
I know I would have graduated high school, and probably college. After all, as I mentioned above the teachers and professors pretty much have to put up with you, and I was smart enough to get through the classes. But I wouldn’t have had the achievements and activities on my resume. I wouldn’t have had the self-confidence from doing all those things to perform well at a job interview. I’d like to think that I would have still found a job somwhere, but I honestly believe it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as the job I landed.
I think that once I finally did land a job, I would have probably taken the approach of staying quiet so people didn’t notice my stutter as much. I certainly wouldn’t have earned any promotions doing that, and my performance reviews would probably have suffered as a result.
I can easily see that version of myself looking at the real version and saying, “Well, of course he’s successful. He hasn’t had to deal with the things in life that I’ve had to deal with.”
The Bottom Line
You see, there isn’t a person in this world that hasn’t had some sort of personal issue that makes it a struggle to achieve certain things. Mine is a stutter. Yours is probably something totally different. Maybe you have a weight problem. Maybe you have a social anxiety problem. Maybe your mother or father abandoned you as a child. Maybe you were raised in a rough neighborhood. There are an endless number of issues that people face.
But how we respond to those issues is entirely up to us. We can choose to let our issues determine what kind of life we live, or we can choose what kind of life we want to live and find ways to get past the issues. The choice is yours.