Have you ever thought about what life would be like if you could not speak? What if you so badly wanted to say something, but the words just couldn’t come out? For most of us, we never think twice about not being able to communicate, be it saying something simple like good morning, or trying to express our deepest emotions. But for some of us, the words we want to say just won’t come out. It’s like everything is at the tip of the tongue, but we can’t just spit it out.
This is the realty for many with a speech impediment. For me, I have had not had the gift of using my voice to it’s fullest potential. Expressing myself came in a form of a severe stuttering; one in which impacted my life dearly. I’m told there was a time that I used to speak, but after one day in a farmer’s field lost and panicked, I developed a severe form of stuttering. Overwhelmed with anxiety, I spent most of my childhood quiet, reserved and shying away from activities. I let my struggles define who I was. I would like to share my story with you to show that despite life’s struggles, you can persevere to achieve your dreams.
Living in a very sheltered and simplistic farming lifestyle, stuttering was not a big issue in my younger years. My fear started to increase in junior high school, when I realized that I was different than others. Speech Therapy was not readily available and getting the assistance I needed was simply not there. Technology was years down the road and there wasn’t even a touchtone phone, let alone a medical device to assist someone with a stutter.
I spent most of my teen years being picked on and bullied. Being constantly ridiculed, resulted in me hiding from social interaction and participating in activities in school. And although the old saying is “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, it is far from the reality that I felt. Those words contributed to social anxiety and living in fear my entire life.
A big change in life came as we moved from the small Saskatchewan farm to the big city of Regina, Saskatchewan and I was tossed into a very large high school. These years were very challenging and communicating was difficult due to my fear of socializing, participating in extra-curricular activities and hiding from the dating world. I wanted to utilize my skills and talents, but my fear held me back.
After graduating high school, I was employed by Saskatchewan Power Corporation. My girlfriend Sophie (now my loving wife of 47 years), suggested I take Speech Therapy at the University of Western Michigan. The therapy proved to be decent and my stutter did improve slightly, however, it didn’t resolve my issues with anxiety and fear. In 1971, I joined Toastmasters Club, which I found to be very supportive; however, it was still frustrating for me to force and push the words out. For the next 11 years, I persisted through my struggles and continued to give speeches to gain self-confidence, but I still had a significant amount of fear.
In the early 1980’s, I joined the Chamber of Commerce, started my own business and became interested in politics; however, I realized quickly that communicating was an important part of this goal, and once again fear held me back in pursuing this interest. I then heard of a specialized therapy called the Tomatis system which focused on how I listen to myself. The concept was that by listening to myself though my left ear, the speaking process would be slowed down by a hundredth of a second. It was determined that I had an above average I.Q. which confused the speaking process by processing the words faster than I could spit them out. In 2002, a new technology called Speech Easy was released. The device is similar to a hearing aid, but has a mini microphone in which I hear myself with a time delay. I tried the device for the first time by making a phone call, which ended up being one of the most emotional experiences of my life. For months, I would find tears flowing down my face in excitement.
It was my retirement that led me to seek new interests. In 2005 I joined REIN to learn more about my passion for real estate. What was supposed to be a learning experience, turned into a positive life-changing event. I met a wealth of coaches and leaders who become my mentors helping me to not only learn about real estate, but learn more about who I am and what I could become. The encouragement and guidance I received from the team at REIN was impeccable. Then in 2012, I met Richard Dolan, who was my mentor/coach and friend. Our friendship led me back into Toastmasters with a new purpose, excitement, and determination. REIN introduced program opportunities such as REIN Mastery, REIN Results, REIN Speak and opportunities such as working with Dr. Paul Stoltz on dealing with Adversity. I was given the opportunity to become a REIA at the Dragons Den Business School.
I joined Toastmasters again in 2012, which allowed me to work on leadership and communication skills, leading as an Area Director in Division B, District 42 and lead to completion of my DTM (Distinguished Toastmasters Award, which involves giving approximately 200 speeches). I continued to accept opportunities as the Club Growth Assistant in Division B, District 42. I also stepped outside my comfort zone and attended the Toastmasters International Accredited Speakers Workshop at which I accepted the invitation to speak to some of the world’s best speakers in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have also had the opportunity to speak at a REIN event with amazing support from the entire REIN leadership team and members, Rotary Club, community groups and more. I learned that life is a journey and you can overcome your struggles. I learned to share the knowledge and that you are the captain of your own ship leading your journey through life.
Because of my experiences with REIN, my self-confidence has increased dramatically. Not only have I been able to grow as a person, but learned to spread my knowledge on how to overcome challenges and reach out to others to in similar situations. Thanks to Don R. Campbell, Richard Dolan and REIN leadership team as well as all supportive members for this awesome journey. You have helped me realize that fear can be turned into freedom.