When I was a little boy I dreamed of being a doctor, specifically, a surgeon. It wasn't because anyone in my family were doctors, it's because for the first thirteen years of my life, I spent a great deal of time in and out of hospitals, undergoing many surgeries. No, I wasn't accident prone. I was born with cerebral palsy (CP) which for me affects both of my legs and my right arm. It wasn't easy having my body go through so many traumas at a young age but where most people cringe at the thought of hospital food and the stark and sterile environment, for me, the hospital was in a safe place where I was going to get the chance to be stronger than I was when I first came in. The idea that I could give someone else those feelings of hope and strength was too good to pass up.
I hit my first roadblock
I was thrilled to tell my parents of my newly found dream -- I could barely contain myself..
"Mom, Dad, when I grow up, I want to be a doctor, so I can help kids learn how to walk just like I'm being helped." My parents have always been my biggest cheerleaders, while also remaining realistic. My dad looked at me and said "That's great son, but it might be a little bit difficult for you to perform surgeries, you need steady hands and good balance." At this point in my life, I could walk on my own but only short distances, so I used a wheelchair to get around the majority of the time. As much as I hated to admit it, my dad was right. How was I ever going to be able to change lives from a seated position and with the use of only one strong arm? I was crushed. Just like that, my dreams of becoming a doctor were dashed.
Creating new worlds of opportunity
The positive side of practically being raised in a hospital is that it forces you to grow up quickly. Either you learn to deal with what is given to you or you let it define who you become. Although I wouldn't become a doctor, there had to be some other way I could give people abilities, new ways to see the world and how they can thrive in it. Naturally, the next obvious choice came to me -- the video game industry. I know your thinking, how is that the next obvious choice? Simple, the gaming industry would mean I could create whole new worlds, with characters that have abilities far and beyond of my own. So it was settled, after graduating high school, I went on to pursue a career in the video game industry.
I wouldn't start out at the top, even after receiving a diploma in game art and design from the Art Institutes of Vancouver, I would still have to climb the corporate latter. For the next four years I worked long and hard, putting in 18 to 20-hour shifts as a quality assurance tester and eventually managing my own team of testers for one of the biggest game companies in the world. There was always the promise that my time and dedication would eventually payoff -- that all came to a screeching halt when, in 2010, I was laid off during the recession. Again, my dreams of making an impact in this world (or any other "virtually") seemed out of reach.
Following my passion and my principles
At this point, two major career goals had been ended prematurely but I hadn't gotten this far in life from giving up easily. Besides, I was also born on Independence Day, so I felt that at least for myself I had to prove I could stand on my own two feet (metaphorically). What was my end goal? When I thought back to that first excited conversation with my parents, ultimately, I wanted to change people's perspectives on life, help them to become all they were meant to be. I never dreamed of being an entrepreneur but my girlfriend (now wife) encouraged me to follow my true passion -- inspiring others. So I couldn't help them physically change, but as it has been said that "change comes from within." My legs and arm might not work so well, but my voice works just fine. This was the moment that would change my life forever. I was going to be an inspirational speaker.
Inspirational, motivational, isn't that the same thing?
The reason I call myself an inspirational speaker instead of motivational is because everyone is motivated by different things. If I can inspire them to find what uniquely motivates them, they are more likely to accomplish their goals. Deciding to become an entrepreneur didn't come easy -- there's no guaranteed paycheck, you don't get to clock out every day by 5 p.m. not to mention there's some pretty steep competition. With all of that, there is one thing it gave me, the freedom to carve out my own path, and only be limited by how much or little I put into my business. So it might not be the easiest road, but for the first time, it was one that I could control.
What did I learn from not following my dreams?
Those boyhood dreams of making a difference would be only the first of many. I could have just given up and accepted my fate but each time one door closed, I took a sledgehammer and built a whole new building. As long as I kept what was important to me from the beginning in mind, the possibilities of what would happen next would be left in my hands. I'm a gambling man and I have to say I love those odds.
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