The hardest thing to overcome was the little voice in my head that said I couldn’t do something because I have cerebral palsy…
As a child I didn't have that little voice. I didn’t know I was any different. I had big dreams and there was no question that I could achieve them.
As a teenager I started to lose that confidence. I thought I would never have a beautiful wife or an awesome house or a car that went fast because I had cerebral palsy. I went into a period of depression – I put my life at risk and was working with counselors.
Living in New Zealand, I was a big fan of a local TV personality called ‘Newsboy’ who was on an MTV show called Havoc. He was the one guy who made me smile. Unbeknownst to me, my mother wrote him a letter. I don’t know exactly what she wrote. I don’t know how deep she got. But a few weeks later I got a two-page hand-written note from Newsboy.
In the letter he wrote: “Difference is a good thing – the people that count in this world look for those who are different.” He said that even though he was only 21, and already a TV personality, there were times when he still didn’t feel different enough. The letter was a turning point in my life – from then on I realized it was okay to be different.
At school there was a sign-up sheet to join the track team. I really wanted to put my name down but the little voice of doubt popped up again. My friend finally convinced me to sign up for the 100 meter dash. A year later I was representing my country in a 100 meter race in South Korea. I ultimately became a gold medalist in the 100 and 200 meter dash and in 2007 I made it into the top 10 in the world of the T36 classification of athletes with Cerebral Palsy.
But in order to compete on a global stage I needed to raise money. So I started to give speeches to sponsors. When I told people my story they really connected to the message. I was asked to deliver my speech at schools and corporations.
At the time I didn’t even know you could get paid for giving speeches. That all changed when I met Billy Graham (a New Zealand boxer and motivational speaker) at a fund raising event. He was about to fly to Australia to speak to 2,000 people. He told me there was a whole industry around motivational speaking.
“Cam – if you can do what you did here, you can do it anywhere.”
Over the next few days I reached out to various New Zealand speaker bureaus (agents) and asked if they would represent me. They all turned me down.
But I liked the challenge. I decided to book an 18 hour flight to New York City because I remembered Frank Sinatra saying, ‘If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.’ When I landed in NYC I didn’t know anyone. But I reached out to my network and someone was able to get me in front of 20 NBC executives.
Once I got back to New Zealand I used that experience as leverage. Before I was only being asked to speak once every five or six weeks, but after I had spoken to the NBC executives in New York City people were lining up at the table. All of the speaker bureaus that had rejected me before agreed to represent me.
As a full-time motivational speaker speaking 4 – 6 times per week I inspire everyone from first graders to the CEOs of multinational corporations through the act of storytelling. I use simple words to inspire big actions. I inspire people to turn their dreams into reality. I remind them that if something isn't difficult to achieve it's not worth doing in the first place.
Cerebral palsy can affect people in different ways. I was told that my biggest challenges would be the way I walk and the way I talk. But instead of worrying about the way I walk, I decided to copy the actions of the greatest athletes to become an athlete on the world stage. Instead of worrying about the way I talk, I decided to view it as an accent and echo the inspiration of the greatest speakers. Instead of worrying about what people think about me, I decided to give them something to think about.
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“Does Newsboy know what a prominent role he played in your life?”
“I tell that story to a lot of people so I get that question a lot. After one speaking engagement I went home on Facebook and asked if anyone knew Newsboy. 48 hours later I was at an Asian food court with him talking about the experience.”
“Do you remember writing the letter?” I asked him.
“Yeah – absolutely.”
“What inspired you to respond?”
“I thought it was so cool a mom would take the time out to write that letter. How could I not respond?”
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