Opportunity is just a knock away

“Do not wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” ~ Unknown

On January 23, I had the extreme honor of opening for Jeff Foxworthy on the first night of the two day Hudson Family Foundation benefit at Auburn Arena. Since then, I’ve been asked repeatedly how I became a part of the show.

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

When opportunity knocks, one must answer; however, we shouldn’t always wait on opportunity to knock. Sometimes we have to be the ones doing the knocking. We must be assertive, face our fears, and never give up.

The opportunity arose back in August when I was one of several opening acts for Uncle Si and Alan Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame, at Youth First’s Characters of Character event.

The Duck Dynasty beard conflicts with the uniform.

The Duck Dynasty beard conflicts with the uniform.

My comedy was well received by those in attendance, but it almost didn’t happen.

Last year, I wrote about the turbulent morning I experienced on the day of the Duck Dynasty event. I’d been at Ft Sill, Oklahoma, for the week and had missed my flight for Dallas that morning. Lawton-Ft. Sill has a very small airport, and every flight for the day was filled. I’d dropped my rental car keys in the drop box at the rental car company. I wanted to drive to Dallas to catch a flight to Atlanta, but it was a Saturday morning and none of the car rental companies opened until 9:30.

Many folks would’ve given up at that point but not me. I put on my thinking cap and said to myself, “What would MacGuyver do?” I then removed the wiring from my notebook so I could make a hook. I then used the hook to remove the car keys from the drop box. Three minutes later, I was in my car headed to Dallas.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

My motto in life is adapt and overcome.

Here is that article

Had I not executed that motto and used my skills that morning to retrieve my keys, I never would’ve opened for Jeff Foxworthy because Kim and Tim Hudson never would’ve seen my performance that night back in August.

In September, I saw a post on Facebook from Kim stating she’d just finished the promotional flier for their annual fundraising event in January. She’d mentioned that Jeff Foxworthy, one of the most successful comedians of all time, was performing at the benefit.

I was hesitant about sending her a message, because I was afraid of the answer. I decided not to message her, but I prayed that God would show me a sign one way or another.

Lunchtime had arrived, so I was going to meet my buddy at Kitchen 3810, our favorite lunch spot, for a quick bite to eat. When I sat down in my car, God showed me the sign I’d asked for as Tim Hudson was staring right back at me. His face was on a water bottle that I’d gotten at Lynch Toyota while having my car serviced the previous day.

When I saw Tim staring back at me, I knew it was a sign.

When I saw Tim staring back at me, I knew it was a sign.

When I got back from lunch, I sent Kim a message but didn’t immediately hear back from her. Several hours later, while traveling to a gig in Florida, Kim and Tim’s right hand man, Brent, called me to inform me of the good news.

The opportunity was there, but I did the knocking.

In July, I’ll be the keynote speaker at the National Stuttering Association’s (NSA) annual conference in Washington DC. I’m every bit as excited about this as I was opening for Foxworthy. Keynote speakers in the past have included professional athletes; Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons; David Seidler, Oscar winning writer of The King’s Speech; and Vice President Joe Biden.

I’ve been an active member of the NSA for years but was still hesitant to ask considering the heavyweights who have come before me, but I prayed for guidance and God showed me the way.

NSA 2014 keynote speaker info

NSA-LOGO.bmp_

Once again, the opportunity was there, but I did the knocking.

Always keep your eyes and ears open, for opportunity is just a knock away.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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“Misery is only temporary”

Near the Syrian border in Iraq in 2004. FYI, it does get cold there.

Near the Syrian border in Iraq in 2004. FYI, it does get cold there.

I have a love-hate relationship with cold weather. On one hand, I hate it. On the other hand, I love it, as long as that hand is wearing a glove.

Actually, I don’t mind cold weather as long as I don’t have to be stuck out in it. Unfortunately, I have a history of being stuck out in it.

My earliest memories of being stuck in the discomfort of the elements took place at the bus stop in the late seventies. On cold mornings, while other kids were sporting their Isotoner gloves, my brother and I stood there with tube socks on our hands. If it rained, we kept dry by wearing trash bags. Trendsetters we were not.

Waiting for the bus was the only time I was forced to endure cold weather during my childhood. It wasn’t until I joined the Army that I really learned to detest it.

When I first started basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, the dog days of summer were in full swing, but by the time I finished, it was colder than the proverbial well digger’s behind in Alaska.

One cold night, I was lying in the prone position on the ground while pulling guard duty on the perimeter of our bivouac site. I was extremely miserable, so I eventually closed my eyes trying to escape the misery. Apparently, I dozed off, which is not a good thing to do while pulling guard duty.

Sometime later, I heard heavy footsteps slowly approaching as they cracked their way through the fallen leaves. Once they stopped, I slowly opened my eyes fully expecting to see the spit shined combat boots of my drill sergeant but that was not the case. When I opened my eyes, there was a masked critter no more than 18 inches away staring right back at me. The cold weather didn’t seem to faze the raccoon at all, but the raccoon definitely fazed me. I’m sure I woke up half the camp…

My first day in Germany was one to remember, because it snowed. My buddy from Pittsburgh laughed at me when I told him “I don’t think it’s going to stick.” He laughed because he’d never heard accumulation referred to as “sticking.” Where he was from, it always stuck. Luckily, this Army medic was stationed at a hospital and never went to the field one time.

I wasn’t as fortunate on my next assignment at Ft. Sill where we seemingly spent half the year in the field. Perhaps it wasn’t that much, but it sure seemed that way.

I first went to the field there in February 1996, and between the low temperatures, the rain, and the wind, that was likely the coldest I’d ever been in my life. My feet were like blocks of ice. One of the old-timers introduced me to an old Army trick and told me how to keep my feet warm by wearing panty hose.

I was all about keeping my feet warm, so I had no problem donning the hose. The only problem was that he failed to tell me I was to wear them in conjunction with my regular socks, so there I was running around the woods in combat boots and panty hose. Not only were my feet colder, but they also had blisters and I had a run in my hose. That was not one of the highlights of my military career.

Shaving on cold mornings was pure torture. Oftentimes, I’d skip the shaving cream and water altogether and simply dry shave. Sometimes, it would become a bloody mess, but at least I didn’t have cold water running down my chest.

It even got cold in Iraq. Although it can reach 130 degrees in the summer, it can be extremely cold there in the winter. In fact, it snowed during each of my first two deployments, but I only experienced misery on the first one.

Our convoy trying to deliver supplies atop Sinjar Mountain in NW Iraq. We didn't make it.

Our convoy trying to deliver supplies atop Sinjar Mountain in NW Iraq. We didn’t make it.

Riding in a Humvee in the freezing rain and snow with no windows is enough to make anyone hate cold weather.

Riding in a windowless Humvee on a cold, wet, and snowy morning in Iraq in Feb 2004.

Riding in a windowless Humvee on a cold, wet, and snowy morning in Iraq in Feb 2004.

The good thing is that I know how blessed I am. While it’s a bit wet and chilly out this morning, I’m writing this article from the comfort and warmth of my home.

For most of us, whether it’s enduring the elements, a losing football season, or things that really matter, misery is only temporary. Life can be difficult for many this time of year, so even if you have to throw some tube socks on your hands, hang in there and hold your head high. It will get better.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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“Don’t ever give up”

Sunday, I was at one of my favorite lunch spots and had a brief conversation with one of the restaurant’s employees.

“What’s going on, brother?” I asked.

“Working! Working…working…working. Seven days a week. That’s all I ever do is work. I never get ahead,” he replied, while bussing a table and shaking his head in doing so.

“But you’re making it; you’re not giving up,” I said. “Don’t ever give up.”

One of my most popular stories about my stuttering is that of being the starting quarterback of my junior high school football team, but, in reality, I was not the starting quarterback. In fact, I was not a quarterback at all. Furthermore, my football career lasted all of eight days. To be honest, I saw the writing on the wall when I was beaten in wind sprints by a guy named “Beefy.” I called it a career shortly thereafter.

I gave up. I quit.

Speaking of football, last Saturday, as I was preparing for a speaking gig at Saugahatchee Country Club, I sent a text message to a friend asking for an update on the Auburn – LSU game.

Just before I started my set, he replied, “21-0 in the second quarter.”

Because they were playing in Death Valley, I didn’t have to ask who was winning. I just shook my head and hoped they wouldn’t give up, and, much to my delight, they didn’t. Auburn didn’t win the game but they fought valiantly until the end. By all accounts, they outplayed LSU in the second half but the 21 points were simply too much to overcome.

The Auburn family was very proud of our coaches and players, and rightfully so, because they never gave up.

I tried swiping this from the Auburn Arena but it proved to be too big. I finally gave up.

I tried swiping this from the Auburn Arena but it was too big. I finally gave up.

In 2006, the New Orleans Saints signed non-stuttering quarterback Drew Brees to a contract. Due to a contract dispute and shoulder injury, Brees was not resigned by his former team, the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers instead went with Philip Rivers who was selected in the first round of the previous year’s NFL draft.

Brees almost landed in Miami but the Dolphins, fearing his shoulder had not yet healed, opted for Daunte Culpepper instead. Brees eventually found a home in New Orleans and did the unthinkable; he won a Super Bowl with the Saints.

Culpepper’s career fizzled and Rivers’ career has been one of disappointment, whereas Drew Brees has gone on to be a surefire, first ballot hall of famer.

He never gave up.

drew brees

In 1995, professional wrestler, Stunning Steve Austin, was fired from his job at World Championship Wrestling while injured. To, add insult to injury, literally, he was fired over the phone. After a couple of more speed bumps in his career, he developed his signature character.

Today, Stone Cold Steve Austin is arguably the most popular superstar in the history of the World Wrestling Federation and continues to be a prominent figure in the entertainment industry.

Why? He didn’t quit.

steve-austin

My Aunt Carol, Uncle Glenn’s wife, was a sweet lady and cooked a mean pot of chili. Sadly, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1991, followed by breast cancer in 1997. Carol eventually succumbed to the disease in 2011, but she fought courageously for 20 years.

She never gave up.

On June 21, 2012, four year old Emma Grace Mitchell of Oxford was diagnosed with a Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor (PNET), which is a rare tumor that usually occurs in children and young adults. The next day, she underwent surgery to remove it. However, the tumor quickly returned, and, over the next several months, Emma underwent chemo, radiation and a stem cell transplant at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

In August of this year, after just a couple of months at home, Emma underwent a second brain surgery for a third tumor and is currently going through chemo. According to her mom and her almost 10,000 followers on her Team Emma Facebook page, the fabulous Emma is always positive and is always spreading happiness with her infectious smile.

Emma is an inspiration to all and is not giving up.

Emma Mitchell

 

We sent Emma a shirt a few months back. She continues to be an inspiration.

We sent Emma a shirt a few months back. She continues to be an inspiration.

I could ramble on and on about the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced throughout my life but will spare you the drama for now. I will say, however, that there have been some very dark days along the journey but not finishing that season with my junior high school football team is the only time I ever quit anything worthwhile.

I can’t change that, which is okay with me, because a valuable lesson was learned from that experience nearly three decades ago, and, today, I can unequivocally say that I am not a quitter.

I never give up.

There is, however, one thing I can change. I want a rematch with “Beefy.” I think I can take him.

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up,” said an emotional and cancer stricken Jim Valvano at the 1993 ESPY Awards on ESPN.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Make it happen

“Do not wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” ~ Unknown

My alarm went off at 5:15 a.m., but I was already awake. I had a plane to catch.

The flight was at 6:45, but I was only five minutes from Lawton / Ft. Sill Regional Airport. The size of the airport is comparable to the produce section at the Piggly Wiggly, so I had plenty of time.

I’d fly from Lawton to Dallas and then onto Atlanta from there. I was scheduled to arrive in Atlanta at 11:40 a.m., fast time, and would be home in plenty of time to perform at Auburn Arena for the Youth for Christ Characters of Character event featuring Si and Alan Robertson from Duck Dynasty.

YFC Event

At 6:00, I walked through the automatic doors at the far end of the building and dropped my rental car keys in the designated slot at the Enterprise counter. It was Saturday, so there’d be nobody there until 9:30.

I then walked toward the ticket counter to print off my boarding pass and to check my bag, but there was no one there.

Apparently that person also scans boarding passes at the gate, and likely cleans restrooms and maintains the airplanes, as well.

Figuring I could check my bag at the gate, I printed off a boarding pass from the kiosk and proceeded to security, but before I could even remove a flip flop, I was informed that I wasn’t allowed to check my bag at the gate.

I travel a lot and this was a first for me, as it was the other two would be travelers who were in the same predicament.

I wasn’t overly concerned because there were six other flights leaving Lawton that day, all for Dallas, and I was certain I’d be on the next flight out.

When that person, who turned out to be a she, returned to the counter, she informed us that the next available flight was at 6:55 p.m. Usually, there are plenty of vacant seats, but since there was a basic training graduation at Ft. Sill the previous day, all flights up to that final flight were booked.

I just had to get to Dallas. I knew there’d be a flight from there. Getting there would be the problem, but I wasn’t about to give up. I had a show to get to!

Since I couldn’t rent a car until 9:30, I decided to reacquire the key’s I’d turned in an hour earlier, which would be no easy task.

After inventorying my belongings, I removed the wire from my spiral notebook and made a hook out of it. Using the flashlight from my iPhone, I was able to “MacGuyver” my keys from the black hole and was Dallas bound within minutes with one passenger in tow.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

Sometimes, you’ve just go to make it happen.

Half way there, I called Enterprise to let them know my plans had changed. The guy, Pete, told me because of the changes, my rates would change. In addition to $300 more dollars, I’d also be charged $0.35 a mile.

That didn’t sound right, so at 9:30 I called the Enterprise agent in Lawton. She was very nice and said there’d only be a $50 drop-off fee. I was relieved.

When I turned in my rental at Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) International Airport, they waived the $50 drop-off fee altogether. I was ecstatic.

A previous version of me would’ve accepted the first option, but life has taught me to always explore other options, because there’s usually a better way.

My airplane departed DFW at 12:50, slow time, and I was in Atlanta by 4:00, fast time. By 4:30, I was headed south on Interstate 85, and by 5:00, slow time, I was home.

After a quick shower and shave, I put on my Army Service Uniform, my “dress blues,” and was rubbing elbows with Si and Alan Robertson by 5:30.

Si Robertson

Alan Robertson

Although I was just a small fish in a large duck pond, by 7:30 I’d performed in front of my largest crowd to date and left the stage on an on an all-time high.

Had I not been proactive, I would’ve been approaching Dallas about the time I was leaving the stage and would’ve missed out on an incredible opportunity.

There was a time in my life when I would’ve just sat at that airport on stand-by waiting patiently on the next available flight.

The expression “good things come to those who wait” is about patience, which is a wonderful virtue, but sometimes waiting is not in our best interest.

So don’t just sit there; get up, do something, and make it happen!

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Stuttering is Cool

I come from a long line of disabilities. I stutter, my father was blind, and my mother and brother are Alabama fans; however, since May 13-19 is National Stuttering Awareness week, I’ll st-st-stick to stuttering.

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When I was in the second grade, one of my classmates asked me why I stuttered. I told her that when I was a kid, I was eating a piece of meat and it got stuck in my throat, so whenever I tried to talk, it bounced up and down which caused me to stutter.

She bought it hook, line, and sinker.

I can’t recall whether she moved, transferred schools or what, but I didn’t see her again until we were in the seventh grade. After a brief conversation, she said, “Jody, it sounds like you still have that meat stuck in your throat.”

Indeed, I did.

Indeed, I do.

I’ve stuttered my entire life, although it was much more severe during my childhood.

There are varying degrees of stuttering, from mild to severe.

There are, perhaps, as many different patterns of stuttering as there are people who stutter. I’ve often said that a person’s stutter is as unique as fingerprints and snowflakes.

The exact cause of stuttering is not known.

Throughout history, some of the more laughable proposed “causes” of stuttering, per Wikipedia, have included tickling an infant too much, allowing an infant to look in the mirror, eating improperly during breastfeeding, cutting a child’s hair before the child spoke his or her first words, having too small a tongue, or, my favorite, the “work of the devil.”

People who stutter often experience physical tension and struggle in their speech muscles, as well as embarrassment, anxiety, and fear about speaking. Together, these symptoms can make it very difficult for people who stutter to say what they want to say and to communicate effectively with others.

I borrowed the previous paragraph from my friends at the National Stuttering Association.

The National Stuttering Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing hope and empowerment to children and adults who stutter, their families, and professionals through support, education, advocacy, and research.

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For centuries “cures” such as drinking water from a snail shell, hitting a stutterer in the face when the weather was cloudy, strengthening the tongue as a muscle, and various herbal remedies were used.

These “cures” are equally as laughable as the “causes.” There is no cure for stuttering. Some of us may outgrow it or control it better than others, but once a stutterer, always a stutterer, and that’s okay. It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it should be embraced.

Danny, one of my Canadian pals who also stutters, says stuttering is cool. I couldn’t agree more.

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(My Canadian pal, Danny, eh….at the 2011 NSA conference in Ft. Worth)

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.

During Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, I was told by an officer from another company that I couldn’t be an officer because of my stutter. I wish I’d caught his name because I would’ve looked him up and sent him a message by now letting him know that upon arrival at my first assignment at Ft. Lewis, my bosses had enough confidence in my abilities to appoint me as the platoon leader of the third largest platoon in the Army.

Clear and concise communication is important; however, it is not the be all end all.

Only 1% of the adult population stutters but 4% of children do, which means 96% do not. If I had a nickel for every time I was made fun of, I could have retired at 12.

We all have perceived flaws. Yes, all of us. You, too. None of us are perfect.

We’re all unique in our own way and all have the ability to shine, regardless of the perceived flaw. At the risk of sounding arrogant, there was a time in my life where people made fun of me for the way I spoke, yet, today, people pay to hear me speak.

Due to, in large part, to stuttering, there was also a time in my life when I wanted to be any but me, yet, today, there’s no one else I’d rather be.

My advice to anyone who stutters is to truly accept it. I know that can be hard for some of us, but if you don’t accept it yourself, then how can you truly expect it from others?

Accept it, embrace it, and let it shine, because loving yourself really is cool, no doubt about it.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

National Stuttering Awareness Week

National Stuttering Awareness Week is May 12-18, 2014.

This is my blog from last year. Hope you enjoy. Hope you learn something. Hope you become more aware. Thanks for reading.

May 13-19 is Stuttering Awareness Week and is intended to bring attention to the challenges of stuttering.

For the first decade or so of my life, my older brother and I were the only two kids I knew who suffered from the speech disorder known as stuttering. Miraculously, around the age of 12, my brother’s stutter ceased to exist. I was very happy for him and equally as excited for my future. I was thinking “two more years.” Thirty years later, my stutter is still going strong and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

We BOTH stuttered way back then…

We BOTH stuttered way back then…

If I had a nickel for every time I was made fun of, I could have potentially retired at 12. It’s not easy being a kid, and it’s especially difficult when you’re different. The biggest fear for most Americans is public speaking, so imagine being a stuttering child having to read aloud a paragraph from “Charlotte’s Web” as the whole class looks, listens, and laughs. It’s not easy. Imagine sitting at your desk with your palms sweating, pulse racing, and heart pounding like you’re about to testify against the mafia, when, in fact, you’re simply sitting there in anticipation of having to read a paragraph from “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Again, it’s not easy.

That all changed for me in the 8th grade when I decided to ease the anxiety by volunteering to read each and every time. My hand was always the first to go up and stayed up for most of the class. I chose to be in complete control of what and when to read. If kids laughed, they laughed. I’d usually have a witty one liner to shoot back at them which would ultimately shut them up. From that point on, I never again looked at my stuttering as a significant challenge.

Fast forward to 2012 and I’m a comic, a speaker, and a soldier with 3 tours of duty in Iraq. I currently hold the rank of Captain in the Alabama National Guard. (Update, I’m now a Major in the IRR/Reserves)

Somewhere above the Atlantic en route to Iraq…

Somewhere above the Atlantic en route to Iraq…

When I initially started out in comedy, my goal was to simply make the audience laugh and nothing else. After each show or online video, I’d get feedback on how my comedy helped educate them with respect to their family and friends who also suffered from this speech disorder. I was blown away by this. Until seeing my routine, they’d never considered the challenges a person who stutters faces on a daily basis. Imagine the fear of talking on a telephone. Imagine the fear of ordering food at a restaurant. Imagine the fear of not being able to say your child’s name.

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

I also get random messages from young men and women who aspire to serve in the military but feel they are disqualified due to their speech disorder. Being able to inspire them to follow their dreams might be the highlight of what I do. Stuttering is no joke but having the ability to inspire and bring awareness to stuttering through humor has truly been a gift from God.

Stuttering is still one of the great unknowns. I’ve been stuttering for 40 years and still can’t explain it. I can probably do a better job of explaining the Pythagorean Theorem. I do know, however, that 4 out of 5 people who stutter are male and that only around 1% of the world’s population will ever know what it’s like to get “stuck” on the simplest of sounds. I, just like any person who stutters, have my good days and bad days and everything in between. Additionally, we don’t always get hung up on the same sounds, words, or sentences. And finally, the number one pet peeve for most of us is having people finish our words or sentences. We have something to say, so let us say it.

I’ve had the great fortune of attending the last two National Stuttering Association (NSA) annual conventions. The convention is not a pity party. It’s a fun and inspiring celebration filled with education, awareness, acceptance & empowerment. Because of my upbringing and military service, I’ve always been and adapt and overcome kind of guy but attending the NSA convention has even opened up my eyes to the difficulty many of my fellow stutterers face each and every day. I’ve even met people who do indeed stutter when they sing.

(Update, I’ve now been to the last three conferences and even have the extreme honor of giving the keynote at this year’s conference.)

The NSA convention is a four day conference but would likely be a two day conference for any other group; however, since they are usually held in very nice locations such as Florida and Arizona, four days work out just fine. In 2011, we had the writer for the Academy Award winning film “The King’s Speech” as the keynote speaker. I may be the only person who stutters who has not seen the film. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of a 40 year old guy from the south not having seen “Smokey and the Bandit.” I understand it’s a great film. (Update: My wife bought be “The King’s Speech” on DVD just last week. I still haven’t watched it…but I will.)

Another great film featuring a person who stutters is “Star Wars.” James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, endured severe stuttering during his childhood but has gone on to have one of the greatest voices of our time. He truly beat the odds. Of course he did have one slight advantage; he was a Jedi.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Life isn’t Burger King…You don’t always get it your way.

When I was in junior high school, all my buddies had name brand BMX bicycles such as Haro, Mongoose, and Diamond Back. Many of these were purchased at The Bike Shop in Auburn.

I wanted nothing more than to get one of those “high dolla” bikes for Christmas.

When I walked into the living room on Christmas morning of 1984 and saw a red dirt bike from Sears next to the tree, I was less than enthused.

I was a good kid and deserved better, or so I thought.

I remember removing every Sears and Roebuck sticker I could find from the bicycle itself.

When school reconvened in early January, I proudly rode my bike to school and chained it up at the bike rack. I recall telling my buddies that it came from The Bike Shop in Auburn.

One of my more snobby acquaintances decided to inspect my ride, and in doing so, found an isolated Sears sticker that had somehow eluded me. I played it off and told them it indeed came from The Bike Shop, the bike shop at Sears in Auburn.

That dude moved a year or so later. No one liked him anyway.

Sometimes, we simply do not get what we want and that is a part of life. Life is not always fair. We have to adapt and overcome, which is oftentimes easier said than done.

A few weeks ago, I was passed over at my first look at being promoted to Major in the Alabama National Guard.

I'll have put this patrol cap away for another year...

I’ll have to put this patrol cap away for another year…

We’ve all had that feeling of getting kicked in the gut. Well, I felt as if I was kicked in my gut, head, shin, and hind side, followed by multiple slaps to the face and another kick to the gut.

I won’t go into detail because the last thing I want to do is burn any bridges. I’ve never been a bridge burner, but I always keep a can of kerosene in my garage just in case I need to do so at some point in the future.

During the War on Terror, our military was promoting soldiers, officer and enlisted, at unprecedented rates. In the National Guard, there were two officer promotion boards a year, but that was scaled back to just one a couple of years ago.

Unlike the Active and Reserve components of the US Army, there are only so many slots within the ranks of a state’s guard.

There were approximately 50 of us vying for less than a dozen of those slots, and I know that those selected were highly qualified and deserving.

Be that as it may, I’ll put my qualifications up against any of them. I was not a happy camper.

It appeared to me that most of those selected were able to do more push-ups and sit ups than me. They could run faster, too. Yes, that’s what I look for in a leader. Too bad there’s not a sarcasm font.

I contemplated transferring to the Reserves or to the Georgia National Guard. In a brief lapse of sanity, I even contemplated getting out. I didn’t feel they deserved me.

I speak to thousands of people a year and often talk about the great honor of serving in the Alabama National Guard. It doesn’t take a marketing major to see this as great marketing for the guard. By the way, I did major in marketing in college.

I was upset, disappointed, frustrated and hurt.

During many of my speeches, I harp on adapting to and overcoming the challenges we all face in life.

Many of us are very good at giving solid, sound advice to others but sometimes find it difficult to apply that advice to our own lives.

In the past couple of weeks, I have spoken to several high ranking officers, active and retired, who were also passed over at some point in their career but went on to get picked up at subsequent boards.

As we say in the Army, “This isn’t Burger King, so you don’t always get it your way.”

No matter how hard we work and no matter how deserving we may think we are, we don’t and won’t always get our way, but that doesn’t mean we should quit or give up. It means we keep fighting; we keep doing the right thing.

When Uniroyal was hiring in the late nineties, I put in my application. I was incredibly disappointed when they never called, but I didn’t give up on life because of that setback. I continued to work at Kroger and continued to go to school.

A few years later, Uniroyal was closed, while I was a college graduate and an officer in the United States Army.

I often thank God for unanswered prayers.

I’m not planning on leaving the Alabama National Guard anytime soon, because I take no greater pride than wearing our nation’s uniform and will continue to do so for the next three years, eight months, and nine days. But, who’s counting….

PS. Thank you for the bike, mama. I know how hard you worked to pay for it, and I can’t thank you enough.

UPDATE: Two months after writing this, I was picked up for Major by the Department of the Army, which opens the door to many opportunities, but for now, I’ll remain a Captain in the National Guard.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.