Greg Smith Keynote Speaker

Leadership Expert on Resiliency and Inner Strength – Greg helps leaders and teams “Go Full-Strength!” for maximum productivity.

(228) 424-3896

Inner Strength insights from the world of sports, disability, entertainment, business, politics and everything else I’d like to share with you.

Category Archives: Youth

How to Completely Change the World with Your Ideas

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by Greg Smith

Hear Podcast Interview.

Begins at the 18:10 mark.


This changes everything!

I was in zombie mode last night, sitting back in my wheelchair, completely relaxed. The only voluntary muscles I was using were my eyeballs and my index finger scrolling up and down the newsfeed on Facebook.

How many hours and hours have I spent doing that over the years? And to what end? A business opportunity here or there. Getting suckered into a link to someone’s traffic building link trail?

And then I found it!

The most impactful link to a video I have ever seen! It was the story of 17-year-old Zachery Smith. He doesn’t know it yet, but this young man’s name will go down in history as a true change agent. He will kick Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space to the curb! (“Oh, the pain… the pain!” Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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Zach, like me, has muscular dystrophy. Like me, he has endured gradual weakening of all of the muscles in his body including his arms. Like me, doing every day tasks such as feeding himself, holding the phone up against his ear, turning on and off light switches, pointing the remote control toward the television, and a million other simple tasks are becoming more and more difficult.

When people like Zach, and me, lose the ability to do something, it is gone forever. For me, that includes putting a hat on top of my head, clapping my hands to make any noise at all, and everything else that requires me to lift my hands above chest level. Some tasks, like brushing my teeth, shaving and feeding myself, are done by supporting my elbows on a raised surface but if there’s nothing available for support, and I need to raise my hands higher than my chest, I can’t do it.

Zachery Smith has spent a lot of time scrolling in his young life. However instead of doing it mindlessly, he did it with the purpose of applying his idea… an exoskeletal arm that could assist his movements… to an already existing product.

And then he found it: Exoskeleton Arm!

Zach’s scrolling led him to the X-AR, an exoskeletal arm that had already been invented dating back to the ‘70s. Its original intent was to give videographers the ability to carry heavy cameras. The famous scene in Rocky, where Sylvester Stallone leaps up the stairs and the camera leaps with him, was a shot with a videographer wearing a primitive version of the X-AR.

The use of the X-AR expanded to industrial settings, enabling workers to lift heavier objects and to endure repetitive motions longer and perform better in various tasks.

The X-AR’s design consists of a cuff that cradles the arm, allowing a patented configuration of springs and tensioning hardware to provide the zero-gravity support necessary to reach farther and accomplish more.

I’ve had similar ideas since way before Sigourney Weaver stepped into her exoskeletal contraption in Aliens! But unlike me, Zach did his research and will go down in history as a spark that changed the world. He didn’t give up and accept the status quo. He found the solution and he is working with a company that will be developing and marketing the X-AR for use in healthcare!

This is a really big deal!

When I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 3, my parents were encouraged that a cure for the disease was 10 to 20 years away. 47 years later, we are more encouraged and excited about the development of this technology than anything happening in a biological laboratory today.

I predict Zach’s thinking has led to a breakthrough in rehabilitation technology! I predict that the X-AR will lead to a full body exoskeletal system that can support the entire body structure allowing individuals like myself to walk, lift, kneel, jump and do whatever we want.

It will take a combination of experience and expertise to make it happen. Technological minds need to collaborate with those of us are living the condition to effectively communicate the challenges and solutions.

I’ve often thought that the same technology used to guide my power wheelchair could also be used to interpret physical movements of exoskeletal limbs. For example, when I slightly press the joystick forward, my chair slightly moves forward. But when I push it all the way, the chair moves with full power and full speed.

Maybe in the future, the intent of muscle movements can be interpreted by a sensor that allows us to harness and control more physical force, increasing independence and allowing us to do what we’ve only dreamed of. That’s just one idea of millions that are in the minds of both people in need of this new technology and the people with the expertise to make it happen. Let’s work together!

Zach. I look forward to giving you a literal “HIGH FIVE!”

This message should inspire everyone. Feed your ideas. Find the right partners. What great ideas have you given up on that may have revolutionized the world? It’s not too late. An idea that can completely change the world is swimming around in your brain right now!  Start scrolling!

 

Disabled Can Be Givers Too!

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By Greg Smith

There is a perception in our society that having a severe disability is a fate worse than death. But I can think of many scenarios in life that would seem worse than my life with MD:

Living in extreme poverty, being hungry, being illiterate, being without a family, living in a loveless family, living in a household where there is domestic violence, having a terminal medical diagnosis like cancer, being incarcerated, being addicted to drugs or alcohol… I have respect and admiration for people in all of those categories, yet I would not trade places with them.

Heck, I’d rather have muscular dystrophy than be just plain ugly or stupid! My muscular disease is more of a pain in the butt that it is a suffering.

I’m just being real, with you but our culture continues to insist on placing us with disabilities in a ghetto of the least fortunate, deserving of urgent pity. And millions of dollars are raised to help us… to cure us, fix us, and eliminate the problem: eliminate disability.

Disability will never go away because it is a part of the natural diversity that is human life. I would rather focus my energies eliminating other problems that can be solved.

Help me inspire underprivileged youth by supporting my book drive.

That is why I am mounting a campaign that will benefit underprivileged youth, between the ages of 18 and 24. These young people have been through some very rough circumstances, yet have emerged with aspiration. I will be delivering a keynote address August 20 at the Gulfport Job Corps to inspire them even more, and through this campaign, my hope is to leave each student copies of my books.

If you support the concept of a disabled guy seeking donations to benefit non-disabled people, please donate towards my cause to put my books in the hands of underprivileged youth.

You can donate any amount. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to make a difference in the world in a way that is not related to my disability at all. It feels great! Click here to donate:

http://www.gofundme.com/Give-My-Books-to-Students

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Making Good Grades in the “University of Life”

It is not too late to get straight A’s!

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By Greg Smith

I always talk to my kids about the importance of their grades.  And they always ask me what kind of grades I got.  It’s one of those, “Don’t do as I do… do as I say” scenarios.  Parents feel me…

Do you ever wish you could go back and “re-do” your education?  If that possibility magically emerged, I would take on a whole new attitude about my grades.  I would be a 4.0 guy instead of 2.5 guy.

Life is filled with “If I knew then what I know now” impossibilities.  Unfortunately, we only get one shot at life’s experiences.  I was too busy worrying about my popularity, my level of “coolness,” my delight in seeking out a good time to be a 4.0 guy.  Most people can relate to sacrificing grades for other interests.

But what if I told you that it is not too late to change your grades?

Despite the fact that your formal education ended with your graduation (hopefully), as long as you’re living, you are still learning.  If you’re not learning, then you’ve begun the process of dying.  How’s that for a “stay in school” message?  You are enrolled as a full-time student in the “University of Life.”

You are majoring in whatever your goals and dreams are.  The classes you are taking are the categories of knowledge and skills that you need to master to reach those dreams.  Your daily activities in these categories and your level of success or lack thereof are your grades.  The more you master the material, the more likely you are to get good grades which will lead to the attainment of your goals.

For example, one of my dreams is to become a world-renowned, top-level motivational speaker, author and broadcaster.  The classes I’m taking in pursuit of that dream include the following:

  • Presentation Skills
  • Creative Writing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Broadcasting and New Media Concepts
  • Advanced Marketing and Promotion
  • Sales

That is a full schedule.  I need to master all of those skills to be successful.  I’ve decided to grade myself on a daily basis.  I’m keeping track of my performance.  What have I learned?  Did I apply that knowledge to my work day?

What about you?  What are you dreams?  What “classes” do you need to take in order to reach those dreams?  What areas do you need to master with A’s so you have the knowledge and insight to be successful?  I urge you to list your schedule of classes and to pay attention to your daily progress so that you can get all A’s, which will result your success.

Lesson Applied:

While preaching to my kids about grades, I was inspired to create the following graphic which illustrates my definition of each letter.

Grades

I posted it on Facebook and then looked at my wall.  First of all, I should have capitalized the word “mean” to be consistent with the rest of the headline.  Beyond that, after spending about an hour trying to figure out how to work my new graphics program, I decided that it was “good enough.”  I wasn’t thrilled with the layout.  The graphic came out a little “blurry” and I didn’t know why.  But what the heck, I thought.  And I posted it.

When I looked at it, I immediately decided that if I were to give it a grade, I would give it a B.  I rushed it.  I didn’t take the time to study the graphics program long enough.  The graphic is a classic B: “Because I didn’t study hard enough or long enough.”

But the beauty of the “University of Life” is that the professor will always allow you to take the test again if you’re not happy with your grade.  There will be no averaging of your first and second test results.  No penalty for turning it in late.  No limit to the number of times you get to take the test.  When you master it, you get an A.

I decided to spend more time and use more resources to improve my graphic.  I consulted with an expert and turned it in again.

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I think this time, I earned an A.  If you agree, feel free to copy it, share it and spread the word about the importance of getting good grades in the “University of Life.”

I’m excited about also sharing the graphic with students who are currently in school.  I’m looking forward to bringing my message to middle schools, high schools and college campuses in 2014.

 

As a man thinketh… a lesson in self determination.

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“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

By Greg Smith

My father hammered that quote into my skull my entire life.  It stuck.  I didn’t use the same terminology as a parent to my kids, but the main idea made the generational transition.  I told my kids to be the authors of their own self-definition.  “Don’t let anyone’s opinion of you change the way you feel about yourself and your abilities.”

My son Donovan thinketh he is a pretty darn good football player.  He has thought that since the day he putteth a helmet on as a child.

In middle school, he was the starting quarterback and led his team to the championship game.  In ninth grade, he was all district.  In tenth grade, he was the starting junior varsity quarterback and in the spring of that year, he started at quarterback on the varsity team.  He believeth he should have started his junior year but instead, was forced to stand on the sidelines, his talents not utilized at all until late in the season when he was put in at wide receiver.  Of course he shineth at that position.

As a senior in high school, he accounteth for over 1,000 yards receiving and rushing.  He was named to the Sun Herald All-Coast team and had a “highlight” touchdown reception in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Classic.  But the college scholarship offers didn’t flow as he had expected.  Out of high school, instead of accepting a Division II offer, he chose instead to play at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, improve his game and move on from there to a 4-year Division I school.

At Gulf Coast, his role on the team never really reached the level that he aspired.  He played sparingly as a freshman.  As a sophomore, he started and played in every game, but didn’t get the ball thrown to him much.  He finished the season with 12 catches for 105 yards.

After games, I would have to calm him down and remind him to keep believing in himself.  “What do I have to do?” he would ask me.

“Keep working hard in practice.  Keep a positive attitude and put ‘team’ first.  Keep blocking hard.  Don’t take plays ‘off.’  Stay enthusiastic.  You know who you are, and the truth will one day be revealed.”  It was my weekly, post-game on-the-field sermon.

After the season, only two Division II offers came in.  Should he have accepted one of them?  Perhaps, but Donovan believeth in himself.  In his mind, he is, without a doubt, a Division I talent.  So he called the coaches at the University of Southern Mississippi who told him to enroll in school and come on the team as a “preferred walk-on.”

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He’s not celebrating.  Donovan hasn’t played one down for the Golden Eagles.  He will probably “redshirt” this year and won’t see the field until the fall of 2015.  But for now, his name is on a locker at Southern Miss.  He is a Division I college football player!  And I admire his courage, determination and his belief in himself.

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”   I thinketh I’m a pretty proud poppa.

 

 

Makin’ it Rain a Quarter-Million

How I helped give 14 kids a quarter million dollars.

rain·mak·er  (rnmkr)   n. 

1. Informal  One who is known for achieving excellent results in a profession or field, such as business or politics.

 

If you’re reading this, you know me as a professional speaker or a radio host or an author. But there is another aspect of my identity that I’m especially proud of today: I make highlight videos for high school athletes that result in college scholarships. So far, 14 of my clients have received nearly a quarter million dollars in free education as a result of a their athletic abilities and proof of it on video.

I started doing videos out of necessity in 2011. My son was a high school football player and I wanted to find him a scholarship. I looked around online and found that the prices for highlight videos were incredibly high.  And if I used one of those services, I would not have as much control over the details of the video. Since I have pretty good chops on the computer, I decided to give it a try on my own.

My son’s video turned out so good that a teammate’s father called me and wanted one.  He was so satisfied that he referred me to three others.  And it just kind of blossomed from there.  Just this week, one of my clients, Emily Smith, received a full-ride basketball scholarship to the University of South Dakota. Here’s her highlight video 

The average cost of one of my videos is $250. The value of scholarships my clients received ranges from $7,000 to $43,000!

Each video is very time-consuming, but time I enjoy spending. I have to go through the entire game and mark the highlight possibilities.

I work out of my bedroom in my house.  I edit the plays together and then invite the kids and their parents to review it. Together we decide which plays to include or discard, and determine the order of the plays.  Absolutely nothing beats the thrill of looking into the eyes of one of my young athletes and watching their facial expression as they realize, “Wow, I’m pretty good.”

These kids earned the following scholarships based on their tremendous athletic abilities. The only thing I did was collect video proof and show it to the world online.  But the feeling that I get from having played that role is quite thrilling!

  1. Dillon Batia – Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  2. Lynsie Byrd, Birmingham Southern – $43,130
  3. Romario Cobb, Southwest Mississippi Community College – $10,040
  4. Tripp Clearman, Malone University – $34,352
  5. Matthew Hicks, East Central Community College – $7,270
  6. Alex Horn, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  7. David Howell, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  8. Ishmel Morrow, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  9. Kenneth Paxton, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  10. James Richards, University of South Alabama – $25,992
  11. Tyrin Spencer, Southwest Mississippi Community College 10,040
  12. Donovan Smith, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  13. Emily Smith, University of South Dakota – $15,129
  14. Antwon Wells, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College $9,852

The name of my business is Rainmaker Highlight Videos. You can view my entire body of work on my YouTube page.  If you need a video done for your athlete, please contact me.  Let’s make it rain!

Life is Chess, Not Checkers

My 13-year old cousin’s life lessons

Having left Mississippi at the age of three to finish growing up in upstate New York and the Chicago area, I have always felt somewhat disconnected from family roots. Yes, we would make the drive south every summer, but even today, I definitely benefit when great aunts and uncles and second cousins to wear their name tags at family reunions. My mother’s family consisted of 10 children. Heck, I have first cousins that I barely even know.

I met my second cousin Andre for the first time last summer when he was 11 years old. He flew in from California to spend some time with his father, my first cousin Andy. We immediately bonded and spent the next month fishing, going bowling, golfing, going to the movies and playing chess. He had never played before last summer. I taught him how to set up the board, the names of the pieces and how they moved. And slowly but surely, after dozens of games, he started to catch on.

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Andre at age 12, learning the game of chess.

His dad and I are very competitive chess players. When we move pieces, we slap them on the board with authority! When we capture pieces, we drop them on the table so they bounce around and make noise to irritate each other. When we have disagreements about the game or where a piece was before it was touched, we argue. And when we win, we gloat. Losing to Andy sucks, and I must admit I have felt the agony of defeat about as much as the thrill of winning when playing him.

Young Andre was just beginning his chess life. After every loss, I would always encourage him. “Keep playing,” I would say. “One day, you will begin to see the board in a different way and you will beat me.”

I don’t believe in letting people win to make them feel better. That detracts from the thrill of the actual victory. We probably played 100 games last summer and I won 99. Until the last game. The little kid beat me fair and square. As a reward, I gave him my chess set and encouraged him to continue to play.

This summer, he arrived a whole lot bigger at age 12. And when we set up the board, I took him lightly and immediately paid the price. I haphazardly began my opening without thinking and the next thing you know, I was in big trouble. He won that game rather easily. For the rematch, he had my full attention but he won that game too! I’ve since beaten him several times, but he now has my respect as a worthy opponent.

Andre turns 13 today. His chess career will be a blueprint for his success in life as he enters his teens. We can use it as our blueprint regardless of our age: Commit to becoming a winner. Learn the rules. Practice. Don’t play in fear of loss. Dislike losing. Feel the thrill of victory. Define yourself as a winner. Keep playing and learning until you become just that.

Happy birthday ‘lil cuz. It’s your day but you’ve given us the gift in your example.

 

“How to Succeed” in Schools

Success 101

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Yesterday, I had two meetings that stimulated deep thought.  One was with a superintendent of a public school district.  The other was with a recent graduate who is currently void of ambition, direction and confidence.

During the superintendent meeting, I was asked my thoughts about the school system and what could be improved.  I had no good answer at the time, but I found my inspiration to accurately answer that question after talking to the recent grad later in the day.

I believe there needs to be a class, or a series of classes every high schooler must take which teaches personal development, self esteem, inner strength and success strategies.  Some of us are lucky to have had a great set of parents who taught us those things, or had a teacher in high school that took an interest and wanted to see us succeed.

But for many kids, there is nobody in their lives who is there to teach them how to dream.  There is nobody who is there to teach them the concept of self-definition.  There is nobody to show them the possible paths to success.

When I was in high school, I got lucky because the band instructor was a man named Al Roselieb.  He decided to rewrite the rule that states that a member of the marching band must be able to march.  He allowed a kid in a wheelchair to become a part of the “Marching Mustangs,” and he engineered a way for me to roll my power chair and play the drums at the same time.  His invention, which involved moving the joystick of my power chair from the arm rest to the foot plate, has endured for 34 years!  I still drive my chair with my foot.

His example of using “outside the box” thinking inspired me to believe that there were no challenges I could not overcome. It was just a matter of applying my brain to the problem and I would find a way to be involved.  His actions led to the development of social skills that resulted in friendships that remain strong to this day.  His actions led to a determination to force my will and never allow anyone to exclude me because of my disability.  His actions led to the development of “The Strength Coach!”

But without his influence at that impressionable stage in my life, how would I have defined myself?  What kind of self image and esteem for myself would I have developed?  What would my social skills have been like had I not established those friendships with my band buddies?

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I believe every kid must get exposed to lessons in self development, positive thinking and how to succeed.  The curriculum for this new class could include self-help classics like “Think & Grow Rich,” or “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” combined with contemporary materials by experts like Anthony Robbins or Les Brown.  Guest speakers would include professionals who hail from the same neighborhoods and socio economic backgrounds as the kids in school.  Social media can be created as a source for students to encourage each other and share their dreams.  The final project could be a speech, or a column for publication about the kid’s dreams!

Today, especially in low-income communities, students don’t see a way to succeed if they can’t play ball or sing.  They feel trapped and have no motivation.  They see graduating from high school as a milestone but not a stepping stone.  Our education system needs to teach our kids how to dream!  How to become inspired!  How to succeed!  Today, I’m sharing this post with the superintendent.  And I’m giving the recent grad a self-help book that I’m currently reading.

Your thoughts on such a class?  What can be done to make this happen?

In the meantime, if you would like to inspire students at your school, consider inviting “The Strength Coach” to speak at a school assembly or to spend a day speaking to different classes.  Just fill out the form or call me at 228-424-3896.

 

Football Coach and Players React

“The kids got a lot out of it.”

I spoke to the D’Iberville Warriors football team on March 19 and delivered the keynote “Dumb Enough for the Lawnmower.”  Here are some comments from Coach Buddy Singleton and a few of his players.  (1-minute, 45 second video)

If you want to inspire young people with a compelling, exciting, memorable speaker, call me at 228-424-3896 or fill out the form and we can arrange something.  My messages to youth can be customized for any gathering of young people.  I love speaking to sports teams, or general school-wide assemblies.  I also have a more advanced presentation for college students.  If you’re planning something to inspire young people, call me.

 

How Football Forged my Future

Tuesday afternoon, I had the privilege of speaking to D’Iberville High School’s football team, and sharing with them the story of how I became aware that I had muscular dystrophy… and exactly what that meant.  It is a football story.  I hope you enjoy.

Realizing that I had muscular dystrophy and would never be an athlete made me modify my goals from athlete to announcer. And that led to my career in radio and eventually speaker and author.

“The Strength Coach” reminds you that sometimes you need to shift your goals in order to move forward and reach your destiny. The key is to have a dream and a goal and move forward towards a positive direction.