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

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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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A Reason to Celebrate

The hotel lobby was visible from the second floor, as was the loading and unloading zone outside.

As I got off the elevator, I stood there in awe as I watched a gentleman I’d met earlier in the day get on a small shuttle bus. He proudly stood on the wheelchair lift with the aid of a set of crutches with arm braces.

Leaning on the guard rail, I watched with admiration as he struggled to make his way onto and through the bus. To say it was a slow process is an understatement.

Why wouldn’t he just use a wheelchair? It would be less taxing, not to mention less time consuming. I can be lazy, so I know how I would’ve rolled.

This gentleman was challenged by the simplest of tasks that most of us often take for granted, yet instead of taking the easier way out, he faced his challenge head on and accomplished his mission.

It was quite inspiring to watch.

Patiently awaiting the return of the lift, a young lady in a wheelchair was fully engaged in conversation with the bus driver and displayed a beautiful smile in doing so.

She wasn’t sighing. She wasn’t rolling her eyes. She wasn’t looking at her watch. She was waiting, patiently.

You see, I was there to serve as the host of a celebration for the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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This was my second year emceeing the celebration, which is hosted by the Center for Independent Living Gulf Coast each year in Ft. Myers, Florida.

The event was attended by a wide range of people, including those with physical and mental disabilities. There was even an Alabama fan present.

The center’s mission is to empower people with disabilities. They help them acquire skills, find services, housing, transportation, employment and physical access to public and private facilities as a means to increase their quality of life.

Upon my arrival, many remembered me from last year, so handshakes and hugs were in order.

The event empowered me to do something that I never do. I left my comfort zone along the wall and stepped out onto the dance floor. It wasn’t Kool & the Gang or the Village People who inspired me to do so; it was the folks at the celebration who were there celebrating opportunity and life and encouraging others to do the same.

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There were many highlights for me throughout the day, but one of them stands out for obvious reasons.

A lady, who identified herself as a teacher, said she’d never thought of stuttering as a disability until hearing my presentation. I explained to her that for people like me, it’s not; however, for others it most certainly is.

I love having the opportunity to educate people on stuttering.

In my opinion, it depends on the severity. For example, does someone with a slight limp have a disability or does he or she just have a slight limp? At this point in my life, I only have a slight limp.

But I digress; there were other highlights.

The gentleman who set his walker aside in order to play the air guitar to the sweet sounds of AC/DC was a highlight, as was the federal judge who’s been in a wheelchair since 1989. He didn’t go to law school until after his accident.

My friend is in air guitar heaven. This is a must see.

Then there was the race car driver who lost his vision after an accident. He was such an interesting man. I know they don’t want pity, but, be that as it may, I sincerely felt pity for him, but not because of his visual impairment. Nope, it’s because he was a graduate of the University of Alabama.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with my new friends and can’t wait to celebrate with them again next year.

I’ll probably even do a little more dancing, because whether it’s activities, food, or people, life is much more interesting and rewarding when you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone, and for me, that’s reason to celebrate.

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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