What It Takes To Succeed: A Dream, Motivation, and a Winning Attitude
By Paul Stuart Wichansky
My name is Paul. I am 26 years old. I am one of the honored and privileged to be born with cerebral palsy. There are many unforeseen benefits to having such a physical challenge as cerebral palsy. Because I have this handicap, I must work harder to meet the daily challenges that regular people often take for granted. Meeting these challenges requires Ambition. Determination. Dedication. The willpower to succeed, personally and academically. And you know what? I think I have made it! Using these qualities, I have overcome the biggest challenge of all: I have conquered cerebral palsy itself!
It is true that people don’t seem to care about one another anymore, that we have seemed to have lost our compassion for the fellow man. In light of this, those who have a physical challenge must show to others their capabilities so that others can witness our desire to be considered “normal.” A positive attitude helps a person realize that they should always focus upon their own capabilities, rather than dwell upon their personal challenges. Many physically-challenged people I have encountered often have bright, bubbly personalities because they want others to recognize them for who they are. Many of their personalities are very much stronger, their voices all the more dominating, and their enthusiasm for life all the more contagious.
Accepting a physical challenge requires a friendly personality, which often develops early in childhood. With this friendly personality comes an uplifting attitude that motivates anyone’s spirit. To motivate others, first consider if the following applies to you: “I just want to be a good friend, that’s all. You can call me a leader, but please do not call me a follower. I have been on that trail; it’s so worn down that it’s not useful to follow anymore. I’m forging a new one. So be willing to hold my hand, I will show you the way. It’s a long journey, and it will take some time, but it can only begin through small steps.”
So let’s start with this: you have a physical challenge. Big deal! A disability is only apparent if the person allows it to be! You are not going to be a bodybuilder anytime soon. You are not going to be called a “stud” by any of your friends. You are not going to be able to walk normally. You are not going to get that dream job of yours. Well, let me tell you that there is one problem with you if you agree with these statements. It’s your attitude about life, it’s just too negative! Buddy, if you want to succeed in today’s rough-and-tough world, a positive attitude is not only important, it’s critical! A smile is what you will find on my face not just today, but all year long. A smile symbolizes a positive attitude. So let me see that smile of yours, it’s an important first step on this journey.
Once you have that smile, you start to feel better about yourself! Wow! But the smile’s presence seems to fall short of your expectations. Let me see if I can help you out here … ahhh. Here is your problem! It’s with your heart, it’s not big enough! You know for sure that you would fail yourself personally if you don’t open your heart. Open your eyes to the world and witness all the different cultures. The different people. The different lifestyles. The different clothes. And believe me, you will discover all these treasures wherever you go. All sorts of people have different treasures. All of them! Did you discover yours? Perhaps not. Perhaps not yet! And it all starts with you. No one can open your heart for you … you must do it yourself. And if you cannot open your heart, I must leave you behind. If you do, then we can succeed. And we can do it together.
So what’s the next step on this journey? Well, do you have a dream? The fulfillment of dreams is only possible if you happen to be an overachiever. I do not think you are ready for that, at least not yet! Dreams are not realized without effort. Ambition. Drive. And we must transform these words into action. Roll up your sleeves. Be prepared to sweat. I am, and have been sweating for quite some time. It’s not the physical kind of sweat, but it’s more of a mental kind. You see, I am still continuing my education. And it’s challenging for me. And I enjoy the challenge. So that would be your next step on this journey: you must accept the challenge to realize that dream of yours. And be willing to work hard to reach it.
My dream is to walk normally, like other people take for granted. Not too much to ask, is it? It takes not only effort to realize your dream, but it also takes time. While you are often working hard to achieve your long-range goals, you will have to consider that you will face frustrations along the way. But the key here is not to let these frustrations get to you; otherwise, you have failed in your efforts. As far as my own dream goes, my many earlier attempts to walk normally were met by numerous falls. But even if I bruised my knee each time, I did not let that stop me from learning to walk normally. Even today, in my quest for reaching this goal, I sometimes fall to the ground. But I never let this stop me! I just get right up and keep on walking towards my dreams!
— Paul Stuart Wichansky
January 29, 1997
The only real handicaps we have are those we create for ourselves.
Visit Paul’s website at http://www.eden.rutgers.edu/~pstuart
This article cannot be re-published without permission.