Sean Stephenson: 3 ft. of Wisdom, Empathy, and Life

by Kenneth Rayman on December 29, 2018
The man’s picture was all I knew, not even, actually, his name, but I heard Vishen Lakhiani introduce his story, talking about 300 fractures before becoming a teenager and being “pretty much no more than 3 feet high.” As soon as he said “three feet high,” I knew I had the right person in my mind so I was eager to hear his keynote, though I didn’t know the topic, while stuck in Seattle traffic. What followed made me almost cry, thankfully just sitting in traffic not going full speed, with his story of chosen reality and how his example saved another person’s life.

He spoke of being in the moment as a child, even though he was super tired from traveling, and striking up a conversation with someone just to pass time on a hotel bus. After he and his family got to the hotel, the gentleman Sean talked to approached them and said that the life in Sean and the outlook he projected had changed him, in just that one interaction, to decide his life did still have purpose and he was no longer going to kill himself later that evening due to personal issues with estranged family and loneliness.

I had realized that Sean was talking about choosing our own reality. I had bought into the “sad disability” mentality all my life before starting personal growth, seeing his picture with the word’s “TED Speaker” next to it and saying, “someone with a disability made it and I can’t!” After two years of growth though, I heard this message at the right time and right place to be able to fully understand it. As someone with a debilitating illness that made physical activity difficult or even dangerous, he could have also chose the same path I was given, out of the doctors’ fear by proxy of my parents, but he didn’t. He saw his talent and chose to make the most of it no matter the size of the package. I wished for the chance to have had the courage to make moves myself at that age, but then I reminded myself as I sat there, “What have you done the last 1.5 years with your speaking and writing? You didn’t need Sean to tell you that! You are doing it, now you just have an example to move toward and emulate.”

So when he was announced as the main speaker at an event to benefit a charity I support, Front Row Foundation, I jumped at the chance. He added to the previous message by giving it a physical component. He said the words, “I believe we choose our bodies for a reason. If I had your body you couldn’t hear me,” and my narrative with my disability shifted. I’ve never recognized myself as “disabled,” personally, just that things were a little more difficult for me, but when more explanation was needed “disability” became the narrative whether consciously or unconsciously. Next, he elaborated on the message he shared in the A-Fest talk with Vishen; was it his container or was it his energy that connected with the environment and made it bloom? That again hit me, because of my still prevalent thought about my appearance in photos with a spastic draw of the left arm.

He used what caused me pain as a young child and teenager to show that had I been more involved in my own life, and advocated for my own interests, I’d have seen past my arm and been more successful at knowing my life’s mission instead of waiting until age 31. I’d always loved to write, and read about history and culture, seeing different scenarios mentally in the detail, for context; why couldn’t I write about that, publish, and study aboard? My creativity was a superpower and, through it, the ability to make connections that brought new thought into focus but fear dictated that my outward disability required grades to be good to get a higher paying traditional white collar job. My only option was dictated by a third party’s un-vested interest, that the environment of my childhood saw me go on to become the only college graduate in the family, and that was the metric of success that would automatically lead to more success.

He knew that it was his energy that created his environment and experience. He used the same example from A-Fest at the charity event, of being on the dance floor when his friend made a remark about how his image made people feel sorry for him so they spent time with him. Sean called him on this and showed how by changing his energy, the interactions changed as a result. It proved to his friend that by becoming sad and dejected no one saw him, but acting in the moment and alive with “life,” he was able to have the experience that his friend thought was just circumstance.

He used two other examples to illustrate problem solving and creative solution based thinking; one with wanting to meet the President, as an intern, by being the first to meet the President in the East Lawn as he returned home. With the doors not handicap accessible at the time, he remembered physics would allow his wheelchair to crash into the doors opening them; yet, he forgot that it would also trigger alarms and, as the President landed in Marine One, Sean was surrounded by the Secret Service. The President though, through his own talent of connection through his personality, backed the agents down by recognizing him and greeting Sean before offering to push his wheelchair back into the building. Next, some Capitol Hill elevator buttons were too high but also heat sensitive, so his assistive device (a handy-dandy back scratcher/elevator stick) wouldn’t work. Sean had the bright idea to warm it up by sitting on it, only to realize moments later, the security camera had caught him “grinding on his stick.” He used the humor in both stories to illustrate the question to reprogram your stress response, “What’s funny about this?”

I had never laughed so hard, nor been so moved, by his energy, his outlook, and the way he showed me that my body and my experience were chose for a reason. My mission of narrative change, whether culturally or internally, couldn’t have the same power if I were different than I am now. Though still holding deep scars from my childhood experiences, whether they are ego related or fear related, I do not know, my “why” had shifted. I had made my choice to stop fighting and become who I needed to be… me.
How to Create Powerful Connections with Anyone at Mindvalley A-Fest 2010
The Cure to Your Insecurities at Best Year Ever Blueprint 2018