Courage to Grow – Rob Woolley

About the Author: Rob Woolley has stuttered since he was 9 years old. Over the past 12 years especially, Rob has accumulated knowledge and experience working with people who stutter and using himself as a living, breathing experiment. Rob by completing a degree in Business Studies and developing control of his speech now trains, consults and mentors in business, leadership and communication where he specialises in public speaking.Rob has had leading roles in the McGuire Programme – former New Zealand Regional Director, and Toastmasters – former Division Director, National Trainer and finalist numerous times in National Public Speaking Contests.

Rob is now in the early stages of developing a new venture, Stutter Zen. Stutter Zen, through various social media platforms, will seek to improve the publicโ€™s understanding of stuttering and assist people who stutter to develop confidence as speakers through developing techniques to change their mental and physical approach to speaking.

This video is about the change is us as people when we grow by being courageous in accepting we can do what we want to do stutter or no stutter and how avoiding keep us where we are and not where we want to be but speaking in any form can set us free.

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Courage to Grow – Rob Woolley — 25 Comments

  1. Hi Rob,

    Awesome video. Thanks for putting this piece together. As a person who does not stutter, I found your intro very thought provoking. While not to the same extent as PSW, there have been times in my life where I have found myself not engaging in communication either out of fear or anxiety and the feelings emotions that have come with that. And other times where I have had those same feelings, yet still engaged, and the positives that came out of those experiences. Taking time to reflect on those past experiences bring a level of empathy which I hope to find use in practice as a future SLP. Using that self-reflection seems like a great way to find the courage to grow. Thanks for sharing.


    • Cheers Kyle. I feel whoever we are we are human at the end of the day – very different but very much the same. Good luck in your endeavours!

  2. Thank you for sharing, do you feel that becoming vulnerable and letting yourself go through these experiences have molded you into a more confident person? Do you still experience hard times with yourself and do you have any advice for people who have hard time letting go of the idea of not being perfect?

    • How I might answer this depends on who I am and where I am mentally on the day. When I was working hard, as in focused on employing a mental and physical approach to speaking, then I gave myself no choice and having no choice makes things simple. You do become vulnerable insomuch as you can be imperfect, definitely, but the speaking situation always ends well. If I had some imperfection, I put myself back in the situation or repeated what I wanted to say until I got it right. Sometimes getting it right is quick and sometimes not so quick. But you could always reward yourself for sticking at it and I even used to say out loud “Rob, well done, the second attempt was better only because the first attempt happened.” Now that isn’t anything to brush over. Many times we avoid the first attempt so the better attempt never exists. Without giving ourselves a chance to see our improvement we cannot gain the confidence from seeing (hearing) ourselves improve and get the win.

      Yes, I still experience times when I stutter or think I will stutter and I seldom have experienced the thought without the action following. But I think confidence is like walking up a slippery hill. The moment you stop walking you never stay where you were, you slide down the hill a little. We are either going forward and getting better or we are getting backwards – we never stay the same.

      My current ideas are around who we are being when we stutter as opposed to who are we being when we just talk. So maybe next time we want to be less vulnerable we might ask ourselves who are we being by trying or avoiding and who would we have to be to try or to speak well. I think there’s a big space in there for growth. So courage to try and space to reflect are key.

  3. Hi Rob,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the impact that stutter has had on your life. I think self-reflection is extremely important for personal growth and this is a step that is often overlooked or forgotten. I agree with you in that people avoid certain situations or make excuses; therefore we are unable to challenge ourselves by stepping outside of our comfort zones. We can accept the dysfluencies but we shouldn’t accept the stigmas associated with them. You said something that was really powerful when you said “The ultimate failure, is failure to try” and I think this was extremely inspirational and can be applied to everything we do in life. My only question for you would be, what do you feel was your biggest challenge you had to overcome in order to become the confident person that you are now?

    • I sometimes think the perception of me is not always the reality of me. I am very confident in some situations and far less so in others. I still have baggage. My biggest challenge at the moment is to accept that I can do whatever I want regardless of speech as in, I can try, that is within my power. The outcome may not be but the choice to try is. The reality is, so here’s the releasing of the pressure valve for us, sometimes it’s easier to make that choice than others and I find self-talk VERY powerful in that. If we can give ourselves SIMPLE rules like “do not avoid” then we can gauge whether we did to did not. Too many rules or none at all don’t work for me and Im sure others too. If I say I will not avoid any speaking situation, I may well stutter, I may well fail in my desired outcome of speaking, but only I can make myself fail to speak in any given situation. Hi five to all those who take that challenge up!

  4. Hi Rob! Thank you for sharing your message in the video. Although I am not a person who stutters, I found myself relating to several of the points you discussed. I often feel that what I have to say is not worth otherโ€™s time and I worry about what others will think if I have difficulty articulating my thoughts clearly. Your experience with Toastmasters interests me. I had the opportunity to attend Toastmasters for free through a company I used to work for. For over four years I thought about going but never worked up the courage. I know that my insecurities and anxieties have held me back in some aspects of life, similar to the missed opportunities you mentioned. How did you break down the emotional and social barriers to embrace who you are and what advice do you have for others who need small steps to get started? Also, you discussed having a presence of mind to observe yourself from the outside. How do you evaluate shortcomings positively and turn them into motivation? If not done properly, I imagine this could have some harmful effects. Finally, you mentioned therapies that have been successful for you. Which ones have been most impactful and why? Do you believe that delivery of these therapies by a therapist had any impact? Thank you for your time!

  5. Hi Rob

    I am a health practitioner in Cameroon and a person who stutter – member of the Speak Clear Association of Cameroon. Thank you so much for sharing. You are a great speaker. Its sounds always weird to me when I hear echo of my voice on a microphone. I don’t like

  6. I see my responses have been quite long as I love talking – even when typing lol – so let’s be succinct.

    We all have to right to express our opinions. We do not own the outcome of that.
    Toastmasters should require little courage to attend as every club should be really friendly and you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to.
    Do insecurities and anxieties hold us back or the options we take when we experience them? Sometimes it does feel too big a mountain to climb – it won’t always feel like that – sometimes we have to ask “what’s the worst that could happen here?”
    Controversial statement warning: maybe we do not accept ourselves because our type is that we also do not accept others. Just a thought there. Everyone follows a path laid out at birth, I’m not sure we always have the power to change that path but there are certainly sometimes when it’s easier to try – take advantage of those times.
    Breaking any barrier is easier when you sit down and contemplate the risk vs reward – how much might this hurt vs how good might I feel. many people fear speaking when they visit a Toastmasters club so I often say don’t think about how you will feel standing up but consider how you’ll feel when you sit down. It’s a big step for many to visit and to leave knowing you introduced yourself most feel like an accomplishment and no one ever wants you to fail!
    If you are asking about social barriers such as what people around us will think then I’m reminded of the saying that those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.
    I dot NOT like making mistakes and I make a LOT of them. But you get desensitised after a while unless you don’t experience them. if you do you realise the downsides get less and less and the learning gets more and more. Trying helps you learn, avoiding consolidates the lie that we can’t do it.
    I don’t think there are as many potential harmful effects from trying and failing (failing being imperfect as I don’t think we really fail often) than living in avoidance. Avoidance means giving in to the every barrier we perceive and then are we us or some stifled version of us?
    I would really consider finding a friend or group to work with to help get through barriers even if only a group to share our challenges with, hold us accountable and share our successes with – every try is a success if we have never tried before.
    I did standard speech therapy as a child and I wish I had never done it. It was labelling and unproductive – hopefully that has changed now. I don’t want to advocate any particular therapy but I think if we buy in to any therapy and are serious about it, they actually all might work. Commitment is key and sticking at it and keeping it simple – anything where you have to think too much and can’t make immediate decision on courses of action to take, don’t bother, you’ll just find excuses rather than empowerment. Anyone googling me can find out what I did. But if you follow me on You Tube from about a week or so (I hope) then I’ll be crating a whole series of videos on what I feel we can do. Good luck Katie, just don’t think too much it gets in the way of doing ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Short responses to all above – THINKING GETS IN THE WAY OF DOING.
    Be courageous have a go and grow by doing so.

  8. Hi Rob!
    I enjoyed listening to this video. Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts about the impact of stuttering. I am a Speech Language Pathologist graduate student. This was very inspirational to me as a student. “The Ultimate failure is failing to try”. This quote really stuck with me.

  9. Thank you for sharing this inspiring video. Although Iโ€™m not a PWS, I can definitely reflect on times when I choose not to engage in certain activities due to feeling inadequate or due to fear of speaking in front of my peers. As I continue to reflect I wish I had those moments back because I would have overcome an obstacle, and would have been able to grow from the experience.
    I accept your challenge. I will no longer shy away from moments due to fear or anxiety.I will instead have the courage to face my fears.
    Thank you again for this motivational video!

    • You inspire me! Good luck, make it happen, lets see how we have done in a years time ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. This was a great and inspiring video for anyone who has the opportunity to watch it. i am not a pws however, i am so into learning all i can about this so that i can hopefully one day be able to help many people young and old to become comfortable in who they truly are even if it means they stand out. thank you for sharing.

  11. Rob,
    This video really inspired me and I was in aww of hearing you speak about this subject. I am in school to be a Speech Language Pathologist and although I am not a PWS, I cannot wait to help many people in your position and to help them see their worth and give them the confidence they deserve and need. Thank you for sharing your story.

  12. Great speech Rob! I really enjoyed this one. I loved how this can be applied to both people who stutter and to people who don’t. When you said “your biggest failure is failing to try,” it made me realize all the chances I should have taken but didn’t. I’m going to live by this and try to speak up more than keeping quiet. Thanks again Rob.

    • Thank you. Many empowering people have helped mould me so now it’s time for you and me to mould ourselves and others we are fortunate enough to meet.

  13. Thankyou for sharing. Your video is very inspiring and encouraging. As someone who was once a severe stutterer avoiding certain interactions were common. I have grown out of stuttering but can still relate to people who stutter because I know how it feels first hand to be embarrassed or teased. “Growth through speaking” is very valuable and is a solid way to overcome your disfluencies.

  14. You, my friend, have a message to share from what you have achieved. I encourage you to tell that story so others may see the opportunity in there for themselves – good on you.
    You remind me of a story – I was doing insurance valuations after our big earthquake a few years back. I was tired after a long day. With one last customer to see, I decided to disclose about my stutter as the couple answered the door. Hearing what I said, the lady responded “that’s ok, I knew someone who had a terrible stutter once”, I replied “have you ever met anyone who had a good stutter?” She thought she had offended me until I started laughing. I said I had never heard a good word prior to the word stutter but actually those of us who stutter are really very very good at it ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Hello Rob thank you for what you shared and your vision. Are you still in New Zealand I juts wondered as don’t know if I tried hard enough but I only discovered stammering community by chance and it changed my life in a very positive way with the people I met and people I talked to on the Facebook pages and the friendship with Alexis and mentoring from Anita, and my outlook on the fact that having a stutter wasn’t such a bad thing in my life. Thanks again for all you doing.