I’d like to talk about so-called professionals, self-determination, the “Lizard Brain”, and how they matter to me and you. I recently read the book Linchpin by Seth Godin. It’s a great book – it will inspire you. Linchpin talks about the “Lizard Brain,” that voice inside all of us that tells us we’re not good enough... we won’t succeed. It likes comfort, safety and routine; it fears change and the chance of success. It fears these because it fears the unknown.
A very good friend of mine last year told his personal story to a group of high school students for Disability Mentoring Day. I have heard the story before; it’s great, it’s inspiring and I enjoyed him telling it with such passion to these students. You see, he had a brain aneurism in the womb that has caused some learning differences. He was told by his high school guidance counselor that college was a waste of time for him. He was better off just talking some job out of high school and settling for what he could find, according to the counselor. He was told “No”, “you can’t” and “you’ll never be good enough,” by a so-called professional who should inspire the students they work with, not discourage them.
There are so many wonderful individuals in the education industry (and I am lucky to know some) who are doing great, inspiring things for students and especially students with disabilities. I hate that people like this guidance counselor had to sully their profession. This really goes across the spectrum of those I like to call “so-called professionals” who are in a position to do so much to inspire people to achieve, but for whatever reason, they think everyone needs their prescribed “dose of reality”. This includes teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, mentors, case workers, therapists, etc.
What if that counselor had said, “Hey, I know you want to do this and I think you should try it. I’m going to be honest with you, it won’t be easy and there’s a chance you may fail, stumble, or give up. If this is what you want, then reach for it and I’m here to support you.” What a difference! Luckily, my friend is a stubborn and hard headed guy. “No you can’t” fueled him for the nineteen years it took to get his degree. He now has his bachelors and is in a Masters’ program to be a teacher in special education.
The Lizard Brain tells him to stop, to quit. It says “That counselor was right; he’s a ‘so-called professional’ after all.” Peter is the Lizard Brain’s worst enemy. Not only does he know how to silence the voice, he works hard to silence it in other people too. He failed Algebra six times in college and I’m sure there were times when he wanted to give up, but he has good friends and family who cheered him on. Now I know that he will pay it forward as a teacher, because I know that his passion is teaching and coaching individuals to success. He said it best at Disability Mentoring Day 2010, “You have dreams? Pursue your dreams. People tell me I can't because of my disability… I'm in the business of proving them wrong.”