Back to The Journey of Health and Well-being for West Virginia and the World

If You Can’t Stand Up, Stand Out

I had the luxury of attending two great talks that turned into personal experiences over the past several weeks.

One was a keynote address by Mike Schlappi, who was paralyzed by an injury when he was a young man. That changed the trajectory of his life from normal to wheelchair bound. One day, his mom told him, “If you can’t stand up, stand out” – an impactful statement that shaped him. He committed himself to seeing no limits and became an international athlete, representing the United States three times in Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball.

Mike’s story is compelling, and he reaffirmed my belief that many limits are those we place on ourselves.

Recently, I attended an event at Mountaineer Mall for the My Bike program, which is sponsored by Variety. This charity, started by Variety Theaters, funds adaptive bicycles – at $1,800 a piece – for disabled children. Seeing children’s faces and families’ happiness and gratitude for the ability to ride with other children, participate in exercise, and be safe is inspirational.

Both of these experiences reminds me of “Simple Gifts” – that we should all have an attitude of gratitude. The foundational gifts of service, love, and independence are irreplaceable. Moreover, these gifts are as much about how you see them than what they are.

In his famous book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey mentions the ability to control how you respond to a stimulus; in other words, your response is under your control, and you are not controlled by the stimulus. I have been fortunate enough to experience culture training with Senn Delaney, and one of the key lessons I learned was to approach problems with curiosity. How we frame information is very important to how we see others, their motives, and our responses.

The bottom line is that we don’t control what happens, but we control how we frame it and how we respond to it. 

Seeing Mike Schlappi and Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Variety, reminds me that those whose lights burn brightly, light the way for others. Their eyes are open, and they understand their purpose – helping others see possibilities that weren’t there before.

They also remind us that simple gifts are most important and that an attitude of gratitude elevates others and us. Serving, doing, and learning – magical.

Be positive, understand that failing builds resilience, and that if you can’t stand up, stand out.