Momentum Podcast: 327

Embrace Your "Handicaps"

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

“Never show weakness” – “Don't let them see you sweat” 

How many times have you heard phrases just like these? We are conditioned to believe that you need to hide your weaknesses to be successful but in reality, when you stop hiding your “handicaps”, they can actually become your strengths. Let people know where you don't feel confident and competent. Let your team know where you feel weak so they can fill in the gaps around you. If you can do this you will build an infrastructure around the strengths you do have and you will make a massive impact on the world.

Full Audio Transcript

As entrepreneurs, we have a hard time admitting where we don't feel competent, where we don't feel strong, where we don't feel confident. In fact, society backs this up with statements like never let them see you sweat, or don't ever show weakness. What if the path to success as an entrepreneur, especially an entrepreneur with a multimillion dollar business, if exactly the opposite is true?

I'm 45 now, and I started running businesses with teams when I was actually in my teens, but the real one, the first one that I started that actually grew to something significant was in my 20s. So I was 21 years old when I started a consultancy, and it grew like crazy, and exploded.

And I will admit now that for the first half of my career not only did I not show my weaknesses, I did everything I could to hide them. In fact, I did everything I could to hide them with a level of paranoia that raised pressure and noise for me on a daily basis, to the point where in my 20s the business that I have drove me to high cortisol levels, being completely overweight, being absolutely unhealthy, and not even really having fun. In fact, when I met my wife, Cadey, even though I had a successful business where I was very well known, it was nine figures gross, I did everything I could to sell it and get out of it because I didn't want to do it anymore.

I had built this façade around who I was not just in my market, not just with the people around me, but with my team. I didn't even let them in when I was younger until the last few years of the business, where I've barely started sharing. And that created this atmosphere of me not being able to actually get the help I needed.

And today, I openly admit my weaknesses, my handicaps, if you will, because there are so many examples around us of people who have admitted their handicaps and are changing the world. In fact, I want to just share two. Two friends of mine, Sean and John.

So, Sean teaches people public speaking and he runs a million dollar plus company. He shows people how to go out and make a fortune in speaking, but also how to be more confident, how to rid themselves of insecurities around speaking, how to really go up and change people's lives from stage.

And John is a writer. He's an incredible writer. He has taught hundreds, maybe thousands of people, how to earn money writing online, how to create their own blogs, their own information that's out there that people want to consume.

Well, Sean Stevenson, who teaches people how to speak, is two and a half feet tall. When he was in his teens he used to break, literally break, when he sneezed his ribs would break, his arm would break. When he moves, or if he was jostled, or bumped, he would break bones because his body was in such agony and such pain.

John Morrow, the person who teaches people how to write, John navigates the entire world with his face, because other than that he's paralyzed. The only muscles that work are in his face, so he uses a wheelchair where he uses a straw to navigate, and then he has a computer where he uses a straw to navigate, and he uses his voice to dictate, and he's still an incredibly well known writer with a million dollar plus company and a team.

Both Sean and John don't have a choice. They have to show their weaknesses. They're out front and anyone can see them, anyone can see their, quote unquote, handicaps. But here's what's amazing about both of them, because they have to share their handicaps, because there's no way John could ever hide the fact that he is paralyzed, there's no way, other than a phone call, that Sean could hide the fact that he's two and a half feet tall and confined to a wheelchair.

There's just no way they can hide them, so what's happened for both of them, and this has been an incredible lesson for me to watch, what's happened for both of them is their weaknesses, their, quote unquote, handicaps, have actually become strengths not only for them, but inspirational strengths for other people.

Sean, being two and a half feet tall, uses that uniqueness about him to put himself out there in the world. He doesn't hide from anything. He gets up onstage at huge conferences and he owns the stage from a wheelchair, being the smallest person in the room, and I'm talking even if there's little kids around, he's still the smallest person in the room, but I can tell you, every time I've been around Sean, he leaves the biggest impression of any human being I've ever met from stage. He blows people away with who he is.

And yesterday my daughter Reagan was in my office and I pulled ... I was going through some old photos, we were looking for a picture that we needed for a website, and there was a picture of Sean, and Reagan said, “I love Sean Stevenson, he's a personal hero for me.” Reagan's 11. She said, “He's a personal hero for me,” and I said, “Yeah? Why, Reagan?” And she said, “Are you kidding? He's two and a half feet tall, and he's in a wheelchair, and he runs a million dollar business, and he inspires people to speak, and he helps people around the world. If Sean can do that, I can make pigs fly.” My daughter is pretty determined.

But I ... when I heard that from I realized because Sean can't hide his handicaps they've actually become strengths. John is the exact same thing. I remember sharing the story of John Morrow, sharing, actually, a podcast about John. I know he's been in a few of them, because he's such an inspiration to me, and I love having him as a friend. And we had gone out to lunch, and I shared the lunch that we had, and about how incredible it was that here is an individual who not only has to build a team around his business, but has to build a team around his existence.

He has ... Last time we met I think he was around 12 or 13 people, but four or five of them were just to take care of him, because he requires 24 hour a day, seven day a week care. And here's a person who can only use his face, and runs the entire world with his voice.

Well, I remember my client, Molly Kaiser, saying afterwards, she said, “You know, I heard the story of John Morrow, and I realized he runs a multimillion dollar business with his voice, and I asked, why can't I? Why can't I make my business that easy that I can run it with my voice? Why can't I only stay in my zone of genius and do what I'm good at?” Which is what John does. Out of necessity he writes while other people do everything around him. And so John, from a wheelchair, confined to only using his face, has inspired hundreds of thousands of people, and directly inspired Molly to simplify her business, to get out of the details, to get more help, to admit where she needed help.

See, when we admit our handicaps, when we admit our weaknesses, when we tell the people around us what's really going on for us, everything changes.

When I was younger I had everything. I didn't want people to see weakness. I didn't want to let them see me sweat. I didn't want anyone judging me for who I was. So I didn't tell anyone that I was dyslexic. I just looked like the guy who made mistakes all the time.

I would actually have people tell me, “Hey Alex, you know, you should proofread a little more carefully, you often send out emails that there's two or three misspelled words.” And I didn't have the guts to tell them it didn't matter how many times I proofread that email, I would never see the misspelled words. If I came back to it a year later, I might have seen the misspelled words, but I just didn't see it.

And I didn't admit to my team that I was completely calendar and scheduling phobic. When I turn ... open up a ... And these days it's a little better, but when I was younger I didn't really memorize the days, or the months of year until I was in my teens or 20s. And the days of the week, same thing, I had to always say them over and over again so that I would know what came after Wednesday. I didn't ... When I was younger I couldn't just say Thursday, I had to say Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, okay, Thursday.

And when I think ... You know, I grew up in Mexico, when I think in Spanish today I still have to go through the months to figure out what the next one is, and the days of the week, to figure out what the next one is. I didn't tell any of my team about that. I used to pretend like I understood everything that was going on.

You know, for me, I can build multimillion dollar businesses, in my spare time I actually have by accident sometimes, but when I get into a platform, or a program, or somebody else's system, I'm immediately overwhelmed. I used to try and hide this from my team. I wouldn't tell them. I mean, they knew, they could tell by watching me, but I would never tell my team, “Hey, I'm overwhelmed. Hey, I have a hard time with this, I need more help with calendaring. I'm not very good at writing and proofreading, I ...” I'm actually ... I've been told I'm very good at writing. I'm terrible at proofreading. I do a lot of dictation, which leaves a lot of mistakes.

And I never shared this with anybody in the first half of my career. It wasn't really until after I met Katy that I started being transparent with everyone around me and saying, like, hey, this is who I am. My wife gave me the confidence. Her belief in me gave me the confidence to start telling people, “Yeah, I misspelled that because I'm dyslexic, so I'm probably going to misspell that all the time.”

I remember when I first shared that with the team that I had at the time, they were like, “Oh, okay, well then let's have somebody proofread, and let's put a system in place so that whenever something important is going out, or when we need something to go out for the company, it's always proofread and there's no issues with it.” And when I told them I was overwhelmed by calendars, I remember the team that I had at the time saying, “Well then we need to get somebody to help you with calendaring so that you're not overwhelmed by it and you don't have to do it.”

And today, after over a decade of just putting this stuff out there, my entire team knows that when it comes to calendaring, I need help. When it comes to programs and platforms, it's going to have to be explained to me, you probably shouldn't take me in there because I'm almost immediately overwhelmed. When it comes to writing, I can get concepts out, and I can give them gold, but please don't ever expect them to be perfect because it just won't be, there is going to be a ton of mistakes that I don't even see.

See, by admitting these handicaps I've actually had the ... handicaps, or weaknesses, and I put handicaps in quotes because here's what's happened, by telling people where I have challenges, I've actually grown strengths in other areas. My leadership ability has grown like crazy. My ability to coach people to grow teams and businesses has exploded. The systems that we use in our organization, the cadence, and the forward planning system, and the infrastructure to find the right people not only that we use, but that our clients use, have developed like crazy because I'm no longer trying to pretend like I can do things I'm not good at doing.

Can I? Sure, I can schedule an appointment, but where it takes Hailey, my assistant, a couple of minutes, it might take me 20 or 30 to get a grasp on space and time, and understand if I'm going to screw up the appointment. Can I write, and try and proofread? Of course, but if I can dictate something, dictate an email to our list, or dictate a article, we can have that article done. By the time I'm done with dictation, my team can transcribe it, correct it, and it's done. If I'm doing it by myself it might take me a half a day, no joke.

And if I'm the person in charge of working with the platforms and working with the programs in our business, we better only have one or two, because that's about what I'm capable of carrying around and understanding. But when it comes to growing a team, leading people, putting the right systems in place so that we grow, and then coaching people to grow businesses, that is where my strengths are now because I've gotten out of the stuff that I'm not good at. My team understands where they need to support me. I'm no longer trying to pretend like I'm good at things that I'm terrible at, and I'm no longer swimming uphill, feeling like a failure, and hiding.

Because I remember, when I was a consultant and had a team, how embarrassing it was when somebody would say, “Well, today is Wednesday, we'll just do it tomorrow,” and I would say, “Oh, great, it's Friday,” and I wouldn't even have realized that it wasn't the right day. It was embarrassing when people would say, “It's in the third quarter,” and then they would see me saying, “January, February, March, April, May, June, oh, you mean July, August, and September?” Because I didn't really know that right off the top of my head, because I didn't relate to calendars or time at all.

It was embarrassing, and I felt like I was always hiding who I was. I felt like I was always holding a part of me back. I knew that I was always trying to make it so that people couldn't see who I really was, and as a result I didn't create the connection with people around me I actually could.

You know Sean and John, they can't hide their handicap. They can't hide their weakness. But here's the amazing thing about both of them, they're handicap, if you want to call it that, has become the source of their strength. It's become the source of their momentum. It's become the source of inspiration for hundreds of thousands, and let's be real, millions of people, from both of them, are inspired because they're doing what they're doing and we can see that they shouldn't be able to do it. We can see that there's all kinds of stuff stacked against them.

We can see that they have weaknesses and what we call handicaps, but the reality is they've flipped that entire coin by turning them into strengths, by just putting themselves out there. They can't hide who they are, so my question is, why should you?

I wish someone had given me license, someone had given me permission, someone had given me the encouragement to just tell the people around me who I was when I was in my 20s. I wouldn't have spent over a decade pretending like I was okay when I wasn't. I wouldn't have been sitting in a chair, sweating so much that everyone in the room could absolutely see it, because when we used to do scheduling, or when we'd all pull calendars out to try and set up meetings or do logistics, I literally would have heart palpitations and panic attacks, and I thought I was the only one who didn't do ... or I thought no one around me knew, and I was hiding it.

I now have the absolute understanding that I wasn't hiding anything, I just looked silly at those times. And the people around me, had they known what was really going on, they probably would have supported and helped me. And had I said, “This is what's really happening,” I would have gotten the right help in exactly where I needed it instead of trying to hide and pretend like I was something that I wasn't.

If you're ready for momentum, if you're ready to change the way that you run your life and your business, if you're ready to create more success than you ever thought possible, one of the fastest ways to do that is to admit where you need help. Embrace the things that the world calls handicaps. Let people know where you don't feel confident or competent, and where you feel weak.

Allow your team to fill in around you, and what will happen is you will build an infrastructure around the strengths you have where you will go out and make a massive impact. Because throughout history, the people who have had to show their weaknesses, the people who have had to admit where they aren't strong ... Helen Keller, who was blind, deaf, and couldn't speak, changed the world for handicap people and there was no way she could have hidden any of that.

Throughout history, it's the people who have admitted where they need help, who have been real about who they are, and who have shown the world that they still can overcome that, those are exactly the people that matter to be remembered, the people that we remember, the people who inspire us to do more, to be more, and any one of us can put ourselves in that situation.

So if you're ready to move forward in a way you never thought possible, let the people around you know who you really are, and embrace your handicaps. If you're ready to create more momentum than you ever thought possible, and you want to get clear on where you are as a person, where you need help, where the pressure and noise is coming from, and where you can create more momentum than you ever thought possible, go to

It's a program written exactly for people like us to create more momentum than you ever thought you could. Let me show you how to find exactly where you should be focused, the systems and structures so that you can get more done than you ever thought you could, and let me help you get into momentum right now, like hundreds of people around the world already have.

I look forward to helping you embrace your, quote unquote, handicaps, and create massive momentum.

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