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Monthly Archives: August 2013

“Ready, Break!”

Borrowing a football chant of unity and inspiration for the real world.

By Greg Smith

As we kick off the 2013 football season, I am throwing some appreciative love back in time over 100 years to men named Paul Hubbard and Amos Alonzo Stagg. Hubbard was a deaf quarterback at Gallaudet University. Stagg was a visionary player and coach who is credited for innovations such as the padded goalpost, hip pads, the position of linebacker, the forward pass, the lateral pass and many others. But in my opinion, players today can be most appreciative to Hubbard and Stagg for one of the most important developments in the game: The Huddle:

Some say Stagg invented the huddle. But don’t let that be read off your lips by anybody in the Gallaudet family or you will have a fight on your hands! They say Hubbard realized that sign language signals could be intercepted by the opposing team, so they gathered in a tight circle to block the signs from view.

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You don’t have to be a football fan to recognize a huddle. It’s when players get together for communication about the next play, and to hear words of inspiration before the next snap of the football. The huddle started in football but has spread to every sport. At the end of the huddle, after instructions have been given, teams will “break the huddle” by shouting something useful in loud unison.

“Ready, team!” Or “Ready, teamwork!”

Or maybe it’s a simple team motto like like “Ready, All In!” And sometimes, teams take it all the way old-school and say what Stagg’s teams used to say: “Ready, break!”

Last Thursday, I was on the phone with my friend and associate Dr. JR Harding. We had scheduled this meeting to share resources and to support each other in the pursuit of our career goals. Dr. Harding is seeking to further his speaking and consulting career. And I wanted to tap into his vast contact database for possible speaking engagements.

The meeting was productive and inspirational. I gave him some great feedback and introduced him to some people that can help immediately. And he gave me introductions to contacts that are very likely to become new clients.

Not only did we share resources, but we also got each other fired up! Both of us filled our role to inspire the other and make each other visualize successful outcomes of what we had planned. We scheduled a follow-up meeting and then it was time to get off the phone.

“As soon as we hang up the phone, I’m going to do this…”

“Okay, man and I am going to do this…”

“Alright dude, let’s push each other. Let’s make sure we see this stuff happen for real!”

“I’m with you brother!”

Then the words jumped right out of my mouth without any planning: “Ready, Break!” And before I could finish saying the second word, JR spontaneously responded on cue: “Break!” And we just hung up the phone!

I was so fired up after that conversation that I went on to have one of the most productive days in recent memory. I kept all of my commitments to JR, and he kept all of his to me.

Dr. JR Harding – My Teammate!

I think Dr. Harding understood exactly where I was coming from because before he was quadriplegic, he was offensive lineman. His neck was broken when he turned to walk away from a fight and a young man attacked him from behind, throwing his head into the ground. 15 years later, he broke his neck again in a vehicle accident. But since then, he has enjoyed a successful career, earned his doctorate degree, and found the love of his life. His complete story is told in his autobiography, “Now What?” You will learn more about JR in his guest blog on this site coming soon. JR is one member of a tight network of people that I consider to be my teammates. They care about me. They push me. I care about them, I push them back. And we all have enjoyed success.

From now on, every time I get off the phone with a teammate, I’m going to end the conversation the same way I’m going to end this article. We’ll see if it catches on. If it becomes a national trend, just remember where you learned it.

“Now get out there and give it 110%!”

“Ready, Break!”

New friends, clients, revenue from LinkedIn.

About a month ago, I got a message on LinkedIn about a networking luncheon in Biloxi. I’m lucky to have read that message because back then, I was rarely checking my LinkedIn account.

The luncheon, sponsored by “The Legacy Group,” consisted of about 90 African-American business men and women. The keynote speaker was Dr. Samuel Jones, Dean of Student Affairs at Jones County Junior College (JCJC).

Before Dr. Jones spoke, we were all asked to rise and give a 10 second self-introduction. I elevated my chair, and boldly declared, “I am Greg Smith, the greatest keynote speaker on the planet!”

That must’ve struck a competitive nerve in Dr. Sam, a former professional basketball player! He stood in front of a crowded restaurant room and, without a mic, delivered a very inspiring presentation that held everyone’s attention throughout. He was marvelous!

After the speech, I made my way to his table and in a matter of minutes, gained a new friend, a new client, and a new colleague all in one person! We had an instant connection. We exchanged books, business cards, and took some photos.

One month later (last Thursday) I had dinner with Dr. Sam and his family. On Friday, I gave a keynote speech to his faculty at JCJC. On Saturday, I turned him on to his first National Speakers Association (NSA) meeting in New Orleans.

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I had planned to go to New Orleans with Sam, but I made a decision to instead go on Sunday for a full day workshop on keynote structure. That workshop, presented by Steve Lowell, forever changed and improved my presentation style.

While there, I met folks who had met Sam the day before. Among them was another instant new friend and colleague, Mildred Dillon “The Money Doctor®” Her mission to bring personal finance into the classrooms of post, secondary and college classrooms is one that I applaud and support. Both speakers and radio hosts, we had a lot to discuss over a post session brunch.

These connections came from cyberspace. I believe that the key to success in social media is to take the activity from the computer screen and apply it to real life interactions with real people.

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Is social media a waste of time? Does it really deliver business results?

Had I not read that one LinkedIn message, buried among hundreds, I would be thousands of dollars poorer, and without two great new connections.

Would I have met Sam without the social media message? No chance. Would I have attended the NSA workshop and met Mildred had I not met Sam and made the recommendation to him? Probably not. I would also be without the momentum and excitement that comes with new relationships. I predict this momentum will build upon itself and lead to more success! My suggestion to you: Link yourself In!

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Friday Funny: The Lawnmower Story!

Happy 50th Birthday, Ron Pope!

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This Sunday, my cousin Ron Pope celebrates his 50th birthday.  As we were growing up as brothers in Chicagoland, we had a lot of time to do stupid stuff.  This is the story of  the time he tried to kill me when we were kids using a riding lawnmower!  It is literally torn from the pages of my autobiography, “On A Roll: Reflections from America’s Wheelchair Dude with the Winning Attitude!”

You can get your copy here.  You can click on each page to view it full-screen.  Enjoy and comment by clicking the yellow button below!

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Best Buddies Motivate Each Other

Best Friends Support Builds Inner Strength for Both

By Greg Smith

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My best friend is Murv Seymour. Murv and I go way back to our glorious Tampa days when I was doing great as a columnist and editor for Accesslife.com, a website devoted to people with disabilities. When we first met, Murv was a television news reporter in Tampa. We were two black young men, both at the top of our game on the Tampa professional and social scene.

Murv’s dream was to become a standup comedian. In 2001, he made the dramatic decision to retire as a reporter and spend his energy full-time in the pursuit of his comedy career. Around that same time, Accesslife.com, one of thousands of venture capitalist funded websites during the dot-com boom, went out of business. This forced me out of the Tampa luxury life and into my parents new home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Ever since then, life is been a struggle for both of us. We’ve had many victories but we have suffered many defeats over the past decade plus. Murv is a talented comedian. He is done just about everything you can do in comedy except get his big break. The guy is a comedic genius.  He is also a talented writer, and an excellent storyteller.  He is very skilled in the art of video production.  For many years, he has been working on a documentary film about the legendary Hammond B3 organ.  Between working on the comedy and working on the documentary, Murv has had his challenges over the years.

You know about my struggles. I have had a tough time dealing with congestive heart failure, gradually losing abilities due to muscular dystrophy and aging, and rebuilding my life after Hurricane Katrina. It has been a tough road. There were times when we were both so down that encouragement was impossible. Sometimes our phone conversations were reports of mutual misery.  This negativity put a strain on our relationship and for a long time, we stopped talking.

“The Reset”

I think we needed to “reset.”  We set out on our own paths for several months.  Of course, our strong bond made us reconnect and this time, we really started to encourage each other. If one of us needed to hear something, the other would not hold back and make him face the truth.  There was a very successful mixture of “tough love” and encouragement in our conversations. Since the “reset,” things are really looking up for both of us!  So far in 2013, I have resurrected my speaking career, and I am making steadfast progress on the publication of a new book.  And for Murv, finally, the completion of the documentary, “Killer B3!”

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Greg Smith proudly sporting his new “Killer B3″ T-shirt, promoting the successful completion of Murv Seymour’s documentary film.

A successful “Kickstarter” campaign gave him and his partner, Joe Bamford, the funds to complete the film. Yesterday I received my Kickstarter package which included a DVD of the film and this T-shirt that I am wearing with pride! The documentary is a masterpiece. You can check out clips on his website at www.killerB3.com.

I urge you to think about your best friend and offer that person steadfast encouragement. They will do it in return and you will probably realize that both of you will start to succeed.  Inner strength is contagious and rubs off immediately on those close to us.

 

 

Check out the trailer

New documentary explores disability in film.

Jamie Foxx headlines all-star cast.

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Jamie Foxx with “Cinemability” filmmaker Jenni Gold

Recently, I blogged about the new NBC television show “Ironside,” which will debut this fall. The show’s main character is a paraplegic, but the actor that portrays him is the non disabled actor Blair Underwood.  I am used to nondisabled people pretending to be disabled for the big screen.  But a character on what could probably be a hit TV series that airs weekly crosses a different line. Unfortunately, it is just one of many lines that are constantly crossed in Hollywood when it comes to the portrayal and presentation of my brothers and sisters with disabilities.

A new documentary film, “Cinemability” explores the history of film’s questionable presentation of disability.  It started with the old silent films and continues to this day.  The most recent example is the evil antagonist in the movie “The Lone Ranger.”

In “Cinemability,” Jenni Gold, a disabled filmmaker, uses clips from movies, combined with commentary about the issue from Hollywood heavyweights, to weave a detailed thorough examination of the subject of disability representation in film.  Among the names of the people featured: Jamie Fox, Ben Affleck, Jane Seymour, William H. Macy.

It is very important that you see this film! Go to the film’s website and find a screening near you. If you can’t find one, think about hosting one!  http://www.cinemability.com

What do you think about Hollywood’s representation of people with disabilities? Do you think movies document society’s perception of us? Or do they shape society’s perception of us?  Leave your comments by clicking the yellow button below.

Never before seen photos of you!

Old photos are the greatest gift you can give!

By Greg Smith

I was messing around, thumbing through Facebook late one night last week when all of a sudden my phone alerted me that I had a new text message. The message came from my friend and fraternity brother Sterling who lives in Phoenix.

It was a picture of me and our brother James Scott from about 26 years ago! I cannot begin to describe the thrill and excitement I got from looking at that picture. I had no idea that picture even existed!

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Looking at the photo was an emotional experience. First there was a lot of joy as I reminisced about the times we shared. And then a sadness overcame me because James lost his life to complications from multiple sclerosis several years ago.

The fond memories were more abundant. Like the time when I first met James and was expressing interest in joining the fraternity. To intimidate me, he suddenly power lifted me and my manual wheelchair up into the air to the point where my head was pressing against the ceiling! He threatened to slam me, but slowly and gently lowered me to the ground.

“Ha ha ha! That boy’s eyes got so big!”

He and the rest of the room started cracking up. Scared the hell out of me!

James was a mountain of a man. Incredible physical strength. Chiseled like Adonis. The girls all loved him. He was the shark. We were the pilot fish that tagged along.

Sterling sent me another photo. This one of my brothers Terrence Kennell, James and me. Terrence was my roommate and the photo was in our apartment, a place where we shared a lot of uncontrollable laughter.

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The next day, I called Terrence, and we were on the phone for well over an hour catching up with each other. I had not heard from him in over a decade. I was excited when I discovered that his phone number still works. Terrence is now completely blind, the result of an abscess in his brain. He has had three brain surgeries and is scheduling his fourth this month. But he is happily married, and is a minister in his church. HIs warm voice and rhythmic laughter have not changed.

We were so young looking. There were no lines on our faces. We had hair!

I don’t know if Sterling realized how much of a gift those pictures were to me. If you want to make somebody you care about very happy, go through that old photo album or dig through that shoe box and find pictures of them that they did not know existed.

If you want somebody to do the same for you, forward them a link to this blog. There’s nothing like “old school” photos of yourself and close friends that you see for the first time years later. If anybody has any more pictures of me, please send them along!

Making LIFE Better

Community Responds to Need

Remember back in June when I reported to you the theft of over $3,000 worth of computer equipment from the Biloxi Independent living Center, LIFE?  If you will remember, the thief or thieves cut a hole in the ceiling tile and dropped in to the offices to make their heist.

Not only did I report it to you.  It made me so mad that I also reported it to my friends at WLOX-TV who aired a segment about the theft on the news.  Now, things are looking much better at LIFE!  New computer equipment and financial contributions have put the important non-profit in a better place.

“We have been greatly blessed,” says Cindy Singletary, LIFE’s Independent Living Specialist.  “We have had donations of a few computers and monetary donations from generous companies and individuals.  We also have a few donations in the works that would allow us to be fully recovered.  The generosity has been amazing, and we cannot fully express our gratitude.  It is amazing how a select individual/group’s selfish act can spur the community’s nature of giving and support.”

Huntington Ingalls Industries, Gulf Coast Yellow Cab and multiple private donors have come to LIFE’s aid.  If you meant to give but haven’t gotten around to it, mail or take a check, money order or cash to LIFE of Mississippi, 2030 Pass Road, Suite C, Biloxi, MS 39531.

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Greg, an AmeriCorp Member whose personal laptop was stolen in the incident is back at work on his new computer.