Tuesday, August 13th, 2002

Michael Aronin – success handicap

Filed under: disability,motivational — alison @ 19:13

Okay, so it’s mushy, so you can’t help thinking about Dr. Johnson’s comment on women preaching. But I will defend to the death anyone who tells me to embrace my limitations.


My name is Michael Aronin, and I have been a professional speaker for five years. Prior to speaking, I spent six years as a professional comedian. Somehow trying to make people laugh while ducking beer bottles helped me develop my stage presence (at least the Blues Brothers had chicken wire in front of them!)

Being born with Cerebral Palsy has been a challenge, but becoming a professional speaker has been more challenging.

The way I walk and talk makes some people uncomfortable. When I walk on the platform, I can sense the tension in the room. Once they realize that first of all, I’m not going to fall, and secondly that they will be able to understand my slightly over-enunciated diction, they begin to relax.

One way I try to help this process along is through humor. Sometimes I say something like, “Gee, by the time I get up here, my time’s done. Thank you for coming!” My humor helps to break the tension when I hit the platform. I love feeling the transition from my audience laughing out of nervousness to laughing with me and seeing me for me, not my disability. And it happens every single time.

Having a physical handicap is not a laughing matter. But there is a big difference between a laughing matter and being funny. Humor is the highest form of social interaction and can relieve tension from the most uncomfortable situations. I am not comfortable to look at or listen to until my humor starts to flow. At that point my handicap becomes my greatest asset.

What kind of handicap can you turn into your biggest asset? C’mon, you have lots of handicaps. If you can’t list them quickly I’ll just call your spouse. He or she knows them all.

I deliver a two-pronged message. First, that people who face challenges can move forward and succeed. I use myself and my humor as an example. And second, that everyone – yes everyone – has a disability. Mine just happens to be physical. Yours might be physical too, or it might be something you try to hide within.

Handicaps are everywhere. From parking spaces to people who get on the airplane first. I didn’t choose to have a handicap, but I did choose to do my best to deal with it in a manner that fulfills me. Interestingly, as I seek my fulfillment, it also encourages others to seek theirs.

When I speak, I show and tell people that they have the choice whether they are going to let their disabilities drag them down, or help them to push on and become better people. I had the same choices. And somehow when people see me wiggling around on the stage almost falling with every step, but howling with laughter after I say something funny, it makes them feel as good as it makes me feel.

Handicapped people also have goals. One of mine is walking for two straight days without falling (just kidding). When I achieve a goal I set for myself, I give myself extra credit (my mother was a teacher!) by recognizing the extra challenge I faced in achieving my goal. This extra credit makes the achievement even sweeter. How much credit do you give yourself after you achieve a goal? How much do you celebrate? How much should you celebrate?

Isn’t it interesting that the words handicapped and celebration can appear in the same thought and the same sentence? One of life’s blessings is to take your best asset and share it with people so that they can realize their own gifts, which may be disguised as a handicap.

If you’re ever in an airport and you see someone walking down the aisle that looks like a drunken pilot, that would be me, and I’ll look forward to shaking your hand.

Michael Aronin is a nationally acclaimed speaker who teaches his audiences how to get past personal shortcomings and move forward productively in their careers.

For more information contact Michelle Joyce at 800-242-5388 or go to his website at

[Originally transmitted by e-mail August 13, 2002]

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