Motivational speaker John Foppe inspired the people of Chennai at a seminar
He was born without arms. Life for him, as one can imagine, was not easy. He had to depend on his siblings to dress up for school; his friends brought him food from the school cafeteria; his parents made sure his condition did not impede his everyday activities in any way. He often went into a “mental tailspin”, fearing failure, embarrassment, and rejection. But despite it all, John Foppe made it. The American motivational speaker, who travels across the globe inspiring thousands of people, shared his story at a seminar ‘No Excuses’ held in the city recently.
As a boy, John was making excuses as a result of his condition. But one day, his mother put an end to it. He was 10 years old then. “Mom called a meeting with all my seven brothers and my father one evening,” he recalled. As the woman who made all the rules in the family, John’s mother forbade anyone from helping him. John was shocked; but he says it was his mom’s “tough love” that changed him. “In the end, we realise that we make up all the excuses.”
John urged the audience to “be willing to let go of the old and grab the new”. For “change is all about taking risks,” he said. “Real change has to happen on the inside. Our real handicaps are the thoughts that bind us. If we change, the world changes around us.”
As he sipped water holding a wine glass firmly with his toes, John explained how the changes he made in his life made him what he is today. Gandhi and Mother Teresa were leaders who showed what the “power of commitment” can do, he said. John also answered questions from the audience — these ranged from “How do you shave?” and “What is the best stress-buster?” to “Do you cook?”
He concluded the session with an anecdote from his life. One evening when he was younger, John was stopped by a traffic policeman for over-speeding (he drives using his feet). It was too dark for the policeman to notice who was at the wheel. He whipped out his flashlight and realised that the driver did not have arms. “He said to me, ‘buddy, why don’t you go on ahead?’” This is the important thing in life, said John — to go on ahead. “The most important step you take is right in front of you.”