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June 22, 2010 / Dion

Play To Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

One of the things that I’ve come to learn over the years is that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I’ve personally known some very smart, very attractive able-bodied people who have been absolutely crippled inside for one reason or another—their weaknesses weren’t physical; they were emotional.

In truth, no one is without a disability of some kind.

If you focus on your weaknesses, you’ll be needlessly limiting your own potential by several orders of magnitude.

If, on the other hand, you focus on your strengths, your whole world will open up. This is the true secret to defeating disability.

It’s a cliche to talk about people being “differently abled”, but I really think there’s some truth to this. Maybe you can’t run a marathon or play football, but you’ve got something somewhere that many others don’t. What that thing is, only you will know.

I was reminded of this point last weekend when I saw bodybuilder and actor Lou Ferrigno give a talk in Sydney. Lou is most famous for playing the Incredible Hulk in the TV show and voicing the character in the last Hulk movie, but what many people don’t realise is that he has had a 75% hearing loss since childhood.

Lou could have chosen to fixate on his hearing loss, but instead he chose to maximise his potential and focus on his strengths. Now he’s probably the most famous bodybuilder after Arnold Schwarzenegger, and is associated with playing one of the most iconic characters of all time.

So if you want to maximise your own potential, I’ve got an exercise for you.

I want you to list your top five talents and strengths.

What are you good at? Ask people around you if it helps, but make sure you list at least five.

Once you’ve made your list, save it somewhere. These will come in handy later.

Then, if you haven’t already, respond to the survey I posted. It’ll help me out a lot, so I’d really appreciate it.

Talk to you again soon.

June 19, 2010 / Dion

Family Matters

In this blog, I’m going to talk a lot about mental barriers. These are the barriers that stop you from reaching your full potential, and if you don’t address each and every one of them, you’ll only be experiencing maybe 1/100th of what life has to offer… if that.

One barrier is how you view your relationship with your family. As I’m sure you’re aware, your disability doesn’t just affect you—it affects your whole family as well.

In particular, the thought of being a burden is something that haunts many, many people who have a disability of one form or another. Sure, maybe you’ve made peace with not being able to go skiing each winter, but how about having to ask a family member to please pick up that fork you just dropped?

It gets old. Fast.

But how do your family members really feel about it? I’m not asking you how you think they feel—I’m asking you how they really feel.

It’s important to give ourselves reality checks every so often. Negative thoughts are fine when they’re reality-based, but when they aren’t, that’s when we need to watch out. Thoughts based on distortions of reality are a big form of mental barrier, and we need to guard against these.

Now it’s easy enough for me to say that all you need to do is take note that your family is still here. I honestly believe that actions speak louder than words and that we can make things bigger in our heads than what they really are.

That’s probably not enough to convince you, though.

So here’s what I want you to do:

Tell a family member how you feel about having to rely on them. And then actually listen to their response.

Let me repeat that last part:

Actually listen to your family member’s response.

And then let that sink in.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below. I really want your feedback.

Also, answer the survey if you get a chance.

June 18, 2010 / Dion

Blog Survey

In my last post, I told you my story. I’ve had an amazing journey, but now it’s time to give something back.

I want this blog to give you a head-start on the life you want to lead. That’s not my journey, that’s your journey.

And then, down the line, we can talk about long-term strategies for building something long-lasting, fulfilling, and totally sustainable.

But in order to really help you, I need to know a few things first. So let me hear your thoughts either in the comments section of this post or by contacting me directly. (There’s a “Contact” link above, if you’d prefer to go that route.)

Here are the questions. Remember, I can’t help you with this blog if I don’t know what you want out of it.

1. How long have you had your disability?

2. Does disability adversely affect your life?

3. What is your biggest frustration with having a disability?

4. What have you tried so far that hasn’t worked for you?

5. What is your biggest fear when it comes to having a disability?

6. What worries you? What are you afraid will happen if you don’t do something immediately?

7. What would you be willing to do to overcome your disability?

8. If you could have one question answered about living with disability, what would it be?

I’d really love to hear your answers. Post a comment or contact me directly and let’s start this adventure together!

June 18, 2010 / Dion

Introduction

Hi there!

Seeing as how this is my first post on this blog, I should probably introduce myself. Well, here goes.

My name is Dion Detterer, and I’m a 31-year-old man living in New South Wales, Australia. I’m also disabled.

I was born in 1978 with congenital muscular dystrophy, which meant that, while I could never walk, I had a pretty normal childhood otherwise. Despite occasional setbacks (such as two respiratory arrests and getting a tracheostomy in 1986), I really just went along with life, riding the ups and downs as they passed by.

I was studying at university in my early twenties, and by that time, I thought I had a nice little life carved out for myself. I didn’t socialise much, but I did reasonably well in my studies and passed the time by chatting online or playing computer games.

Then, in 2003… BAM!

Brain haemorrhage.

“You have got to be kidding me!” I thought. I mean, sure, my life was modest, but at least it was a life!

I spent three months in ICU and another three-and-a-half years bedridden at home. I’m not kidding.

Anyway, during that period I had a lot of time to think. The bad news is that I often felt like my life was really over, and now I was just biding my time, waiting for the Grim Reaper to finish what he started.

Time to think can be a dangerous thing.

But then something changed. One day I chose to live my life as if it was really just beginning—as if the best was yet to come. I created a set of principles for myself and devised a new plan of attack. Disability wasn’t going to stop me.

When I finally got my wheelchair in 2007, it was time to put my ideas to the test.

And you know what? They worked! They really worked!

Things have only gotten better since. My world has expanded dramatically: I’ve given talks and conducted Q&A’s, met celebrities and spoken to important people, and just generally enjoyed life.

Oh, and I completed my degree (Bachelor of Computer Science) and I’m now doing my Honours with an eye towards a PhD after that.

Me with Stevie Nicks

I spent time with Stevie Nicks during the last Fleetwood Mac tour

In terms of quality-of-life, I’m not disabled at all. I can’t play football, but I’ve probably had more exciting, interesting and enriching experiences than most 40 or 50-year-olds have had, able-bodied or not.

In short, I’ve defeated disability. I hope to use this blog to share some of the things I’ve learnt over the years as well as to get feedback and hear your stories, too.

Do you have a disability? Do you know someone who does?

Don’t forget to leave a comment below.