|About the author: Derek Mitchell is a 35 year old native of Atlanta Georgia in the United States. He has had a stutter since the age of approximately 8 years old, but he’s not the only one in his family. His father, an interior designer, and his uncle, a developer for IBM, both had their struggles with a stutter. Derek has also achieved a good measure of success in spite of, and in cases as a result of, having a stutter, including attaining an MBA in international business and a project management position with ABB. However, Derek’s involvement with the National Stuttering Association and Toastmasters has had the most impact on his life, confidence and outlook on his struggles with stuttering. Derek is now focused on building a career as an author and motivational speaker to use his experiences to inspire others to overcome fear and reach for their goals.|
Introduction to paper and explanation of alignment with theme
The title of my paper is The Gift of a Stutter. Each component of the theme Stuttering Pride, Respect, Dignity and Recognition is required to see the gift of a stutter.
- Pride: We must take pride in who we are including being a person who stutters. Pride is a source of satisfaction. Finding satisfaction in your stutter and what it has given you is required to see the gift.
- Respect: When you consider something a gift, you have respect for it. To see stuttering as a gift is to respect the life it has helped you to create. You can’t see the gift, respect yourself, respect your life and disrespect your stutter.
- Dignity: A gift is carried and presented with dignity. You must not allow the negative experiences of having a stutter to take away your dignity. You must have dignity to see the gift. When you feel the power of that dignity it will allow you to continue to see the gift and not lose sight of the benefits to your life
- Recognition: The basic requirement to see a gift is recognition. You must first recognize your stutter and not hide it or hide from it.
The Gift of a Stutter
“Derek you spoke to us about your challenges, but you have a gift. And I do mean that it is really a gift” said the evaluator of my last Toastmasters speech. I had just given a humorous speech about my experience as a person who stutters (PWS). While I expected people to say that it was mildly funny, I didn’t expect for anyone to call my stutter a gift. That comment and subsequent compliments from the evaluator as well as others who were in the meeting made me question, is my stutter actually a gift?
Having a stutter certainly has felt like a curse for most of my life and recently I’ve started to view it as necessary evil that has helped develop me into the person I am today. But now I’ve begun to wonder if I will ever be able to get to the point where I can honestly say that my stutter is a gift and I’m grateful for it.
What would it take to view an aspect of your life that has caused constant struggle, frustration, fear and rejection as a gift? It requires a complete overhaul of your mindset towards the source, in this case a stutter, of that struggle and a shift in your outlook on the struggle itself. I have made an immense amount of progress towards unpacking the emotional and mental baggage I’ve accumulated since childhood, but I’m still not at the ultimate milestone that I’m aiming for. That milestone is to one day think about my stutter and be able to say thank you for this gift.
While I haven’t reached this milestone yet, I do have an idea of how to get there. The method is found in the word G.I.F.T. itself. In order to see the gift of stuttering, you must see the:
I call it the G.I.F.T. mindset and the four components of this mindset are critical in order to see positivity in having a stutter or any other circumstance. Whether you want to be able to recognize stuttering as the gift or the gifts of stuttering, your mindset will determine the possibility to see the gift in any capacity.
Gratitude for anything starts with recognizing its benefit. I can say that my life, as it is, would not exist without my stutter. I have grown so much as a person, not just as a result of having a stutter, but also because I recognized the growth it had already inspired, and the potential for more. I want you to ask yourself, regardless of how much pain your stutter has caused in your life: what are the ways it has benefited you and pushed you to grow? I’m sure you can find at least one benefit and one positive personal quality that your stutter has brought to you.
Gratitude starts with growth or at least the recognition of growth. Once you began to see the growth that your stutter has inspired in your life, the gratitude can begin. In my case, once I saw the growth I was able to start feeling gratitude that in turn caused me to see more existing and potential for growth. Gratitude and growth go hand in hand. Understanding the necessity of both is essential to the G.I.F.T. mentality. Also accepting the path, or the struggle, to these qualities is key to this process.
Nothing seems to develop and refine us as people quite like adversity. It’s not what most people want to hear that in order to grow you must face challenges, but that just seems to be our nature as human beings. Have you ever met a person who has had an easy life with very little friction? I have met some very good people who fit this profile and I have noticed in many cases that something is missing. There is a certain sobriety, compassion, empathy and clarity that is present in the perspective of the world with people who have endured some form of hardship. When I assess my life there is no doubt that my experiences as a PWS have shaped my identity and growth into the person I am today.
Life without intent can seem meaningless and quite cruel. I have found that overcoming and coming to grips with certain aspects of life requires seeing the intent in the things we experience. I’ve seen people experience the same things in life and have polar opposite reactions. Why is that? It’s all about seeing the intent. I think it explains how two PWS with the same severity can be living two very different lives. One person hides away in their home afraid to show themselves to the world. Meanwhile, the other pursues their goals and lives life on their terms, despite the fear of judgment and rejection. It’s the presence of intent for one person and absence of intent for another.
When I began to see intent is when my experience with, and view of my stutter, began to change. Without that intent, having a stutter seems like a cruel joke that life is playing for the sheer amusement of it all. That type of cynical mindset will keep you trapped by resentment, anger and fear, which will ultimately restrict what you can achieve with your life. Reason and intent can be like rays of sunshine lighting a dark path illuminating. Not only the destination of the path, but also the place of origination. Once everything behind and in front of you is illuminated, the intent of your struggle, which is to make you better, is made clear.
Several people who are close to me have said I was born to be who I am and that God created me perfectly for the plan/purpose He has for my life. Those words sparked a thought processes that eventually lead to a very comforting conclusion. My PAIN has PURPOSE!
When you can give purpose to something it takes on an entirely new meaning. That meaning can elevate and expand your experience beyond the impact to your life. A friend once told me, “Derek your stutter might not even be about you”. I took slight offense to that at first because I couldn’t understand how something that affected my so deeply wouldn’t be about me. If not me, then who is all this about? When I began to see the impact my experiences had on others, I saw a deeper level of intent as not only self-improvement, but also the improvement of others. That deeper intent now fuels my purpose and passion to help others break through the barriers blocking their best version of themselves.
Faith is critical to seeing the gift of your stutter. You must have faith in the intent of your stutter and the future it is leading you towards. Seeing intent is one thing, but having faith in how that will play out in your future is necessary for it to have a positive impact. Intent is limited in the fact that it doesn’t actually produce anything. We live in a world full of intent that manifests nothing; consider all your intentions, the intentions of people you know and ask yourself what have those amounted to? Despite seeing the intent of my stutter to make me better and ultimately have a positive impact on my life, I also needed faith that positivity would actually manifest in my life as a result of my stutter. That faith bridges the gap between concept and reality. Faith drives the action that brings the concept of intent into your reality.
Seeing the gift is not an abstract idea or ethereal experience. The gift needs to be very real and it’s the action that makes it tangible in your life. Once I realized the intent of my stutter and had faith that everything that resulted from that intent would work in my best interest, I was able to act on it. This faith allowed me to do things that I would previously have never given any consideration. I knew that no matter how uncomfortable or temporarily unpleasant a certain experience might be, the result would be worth it. Now I can stand and speak in front of various sized audiences, risking the exposure of my stutter, because I now understand that it helped me to constantly drive fear out of, and claim more power over, my life.
The Alchemist is one of my favorite motivational books and when I reached this level of faith the book’s message became much clearer and more tangible. The most widely quoted part of the book is, “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” My newly found faith made this line come to life for me. I realized that despite my perception of past experiences, the universe’s intent has been, and is conspiring to help me achieve my dreams.
The final step to realizing the G.I.F.T. mindset is paying it forward. After you have achieved something for yourself it feels as if all your efforts have been properly rewarded and that you can go on to achieve even greater goals. That’s a great space to be in. But when you understand how your victory can help others achieve a victory, it seems as if the world instantly expands. When I realized how my personal victories were inspiring others, my vision and perception of the world expanded exponentially, because it became clear that how I live my life touches the lives of others.
This is the phase I’m currently in and the final key to my ascension to the G.I.F.T. mindset. I use the word ascension because I believe that when I attain this mindset, it will result in a higher perspective on my life. It will be a higher and clearer perspective on life in general as well as on my life as a PWS in particular. When you can see things from a higher point of view, it’s harder to get absorbed in temporary situations, whether positive or negative. The big picture is what’s ultimately important, and that picture is showing me that I can impact people with my life. The higher your perspective goes, the clearer the gift becomes and what it means for yourself as well as the world around you. One day I will be so confident that I will see the full scope of the gift, what it will produce in my life and what it will produce it the lives of others. On that day I will be able to face my stutter and say thank you for everything.
Coelho, Paulo. (1993). The Alchemist. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
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