Don’t let self-pity stop potential

When I met author and motivational speaker John Foppe a few
years ago for breakfast at a fancy hotel, I was a bit startled when
he angled his bare toes toward his coffee cup and with precision
and grace, hoisted cup to lips for a swig.
When I met author and motivational speaker John Foppe a few years ago for breakfast at a fancy hotel, I was a bit startled when he angled his bare toes toward his coffee cup and with precision and grace, hoisted cup to lips for a swig. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been warned – I already knew that John was born without arms. I knew, too, that his mother had refused to feel sorry for him as a small child, would not allow him to wallow in pity, and further, drove John relentlessly toward independence. Still, as we sat at the table face to face, I wasn’t fully prepared for the impact of the moment – or of the man.

John Foppe has faced obstacles most of us have never known. To say he has confronted adversity is a silly-sounding statement. (Think about doing something as simple as getting dressed without using arms.) Just maneuvering through life’s routine has no doubt been a challenge to test his limits daily.

Much to his family’s delight, John’s dogged life-long determination and subsequent accomplishments have been truly remarkable. Besides earning a master’s degree in social service, he was previously named as one of “Ten Outstanding Young Americans.” John has spent the past 15 years traveling throughout North America, Southeast Asia and Europe talking to audiences about attitude change, problem solving and performance improvement. He’s also written an inspirational book entitled, What’s Your Excuse? Making The Most Of What You Have.

Although I’m astounded by his achievements, what impresses me most is not any of that – nor that he lives alone, or even drives solo in a specially-equipped van – it’s rather, John’s ever-sunny spirit. If anyone could understandably be down in the dumps, it would be him. Talk about a perfect-case scenario for melancholy! Yet his conversations are positive, uplifting and forward thinking, with never a hint of “poor me.”

John faces life with gusto and verve. “At some point,” he told me, “I had to decide what I wanted to be, what contribution I wanted to make.” Which gives me pause and calls to mind these probing questions:

Do I have any excuse for not fulfilling my potential?

Do you (and I) show that kind of indomitable fortitude?

Do we tackle challenges with comparable chutzpah?

Scholar, theologian and philosopher Virgil wrote this choice tidbit of wisdom, “They can because they think they can.” Each of us was born with a unique purpose, together with talent and energy to help pursue it.

Have you convinced yourself you can’t do something just because it appears difficult? Have you thrown in the towel and surrendered in defeat before you ever got started? What possibility have you left undone or neglected to pursue?

The world contains unlimited abundance and opportunity. It’s up to you to decide what you’ll do with it. You have everything in you to live fully and victoriously. Don’t be handicapped by thoughts of inadequacy or negativity. Don’t thwart the evolution of success with excuses, self-pity or narrow, defeated thinking. I urge you: Go for it!

As for me, when I need a surge of “can do” spirit, I think of John.

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