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People who became famous in spite of their disability


Elders say “health is wealth,” which I think is a profound statement because if you have your health you have the world at your feet. You can achieve anything you want.

What if you were born with a disability? Just the thought scares you right? You don’t need to be born with a disability (or differently able, as it is polite to say) you can also contract a disability while you are a kid. Some of us even become differently abled after we grow up.

It is hard to imagine, isn’t it? I for one get very scared to think of growing up with a disability. Life isn't the same. Or so we think? I wasn't sure. That’s when I thought, let me try and figure out the top five people in the world who have lived with a health disability and yet proved to the World that they can kick some mighty ass.

Here goes my list of people who proved willpower is more important than health. People who proved to the rest of the world that it would take a lot more than a missing limb or some chemical imbalance (chemical locha) in the brain to hold them down. People who became famous in spite of their disability.

Hellen Keller, Disability: Deaf-Blind, (1880-1968)

Hellen Keller had contracted a disability by her second birthday - she had become a deaf-blind. Imagine not being able to hear sounds and not being able to see things and being only two years old. The very thought scares the shit out of me.

In spite of this disability, Hellen Keller learned to read and write and guess what became the first deaf blind person to get a bachelor degree. Hellen Keller could have been happy with the bachelor degree but no. She then started working for disability rights, social welfare, women rights. She had such a strong personality that nobody could say a “No” to Hellen Keller. Today she is the most famous disable person ever.

Ludwig Van Beethoven, Disability: Deafness, (1770-1827)

Imagine being a World-renowned musician and losing your ability to hear sounds when at the age of 30. This is exactly what happened with Ludwig Van Beethoven – he contracted the disability at 30 and by the time he was 40 he lost his hearing completely. Not the right ability to lose for a musician.

For a normal musician, that would have been the end of the road but not for Ludwig Van Beethoven. He kept going and came up with his best work after 40 – and became famous in spite of his disability.

It is believed that Ludwig Van Beethoven had some special powers, which helped him create music at the speed and quality at which he did. His compositions have enthralled generations of music lovers and continue to inspire musicians of all age and genre. He is perhaps the most famous musician today and many don't believe when told that he had a disability - that of hearing.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Disability: Polio, (1882-1945)

Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the most inspirational politicians to have lived. He was the President of US at the most difficult time possible – the time of the great depression and World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt led the country out of it on both the occasions.

When he was 39 years old he was stricken with polio and was paralyzed waist down. Not a disability one can live with easily, especially if you have to lead the active life of a politician. Any normal person would have given up but not Roosevelt. He went on to be the President of United States of America from March 1933 to his death in April 1945 – for a record four terms. Sometimes he is also referred to as the wheelchair President.

Franklin D. Roosevelt is regarded as as one of the top three U.S. Presidents, in the company of the slavery abolisher Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Surely, disability didn't stop him from becoming famous.

Stephen Hawking, Disability: Lou Gehrig's disease, (1942-Now)

Stephen Hawking was a regular 21-year science student at Cambridge when he was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease called Lou Gehrig's disease. Lou Gehrig's disease has gradually paralyzed Stephen Hawking and today the only muscle he can move in his body is his cheek muscle. He has a speech-generating device using which he communicates with rest of the World. This is perhaps the most dooming disability.

A normal man would have given up but Stephen Hawking was made of sterner stuff. In spite of his disability he went on and proved to the world that he can lead a life of his own. His books on various topics (such as A Brief History of Time, On the Shoulders of Giants, The Universe in a Nutshell etc) have made him a famous man. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and today teaches at University of Cambridge.

John Nash, Disability: Schizophrenia, (1928-Now)

John Nash is an American mathematician, who has struggled with Schizophrenia for a good part of his life and yet gone on to win a Nobel Prize for mathematics. John Nash is know for what he called “Nash Equilibrium” which has made Economics and Economic predictions easier.

Around the time he turned 30 he started behaving abnormally and complained that there were people following him around. He was diagnosed and sent to hospital for paranoid schizophrenia. As treatment he was administered insulin shock therapy as well. Thanks to schizophrenia, John Nash was no longer the brilliant mathematician he used to be. Instead, he became delusional and an irritant to people around him. In other words now he had a disability and he was yet to learn to deal with his disability.

Any normal man would have given up mathematics and gone and lived in a dark room in the basement, but John Nash was a lot tougher than that. With support from his wife, his friends, his colleagues and his own will to lead an exemplary life he overcame Schizophrenia and eventually won the Nobel price in 1994.

John Nash’s life was made into a movie titled A Beautiful Mind, a real tribute to a man who became famous in spite of his disability.

How to fight and manage fear

Managing Fear

How do I manage or fight my fear is a natural question to ask so you don’t need to be ashamed that you are reading this article.

Fear is an interesting emotion. It is one of those imagined emotions actually because fear almost always ends up being irrational. That is to say, fear almost always ends up being something imagined in our minds and hence fighting or managing fear is an easy task.

Manage Fear
Fighting Fear is Easy. Just Try.
We face all kinds of fear in life – fear of failure at work, in relationships, in public. The list is endless. Before we proceed on how to manage and fight fear let us understand that fear was given to us so that we can survive from the elements that made up rest of the World. Just that in recent past, being thinking animals we have created our own fears, and stopped enjoying life. For example, my daughter runs away from a dog because of fear and hence isn’t bitten by the it.

Fear as an emotion was given to all living beings to ensure they stayed safe. Since human beings can think, we have started making irrational response to challenges we face. In humans alone, fear constricts our brain from thinking straight, confuses us and fear also makes us negative individuals.

As individuals and as groups of people we panic when in fear. In non-threatening scenarios when in fear our first reaction is to make sure our egos aren’t hurt and our image isn’t tarnished – like a bunch of losing footballers, who start playing aggressively to save face.

Fear also cripples our enjoyment of life because fear starts controlling us, not allowing us to reach our full potential in life. For example, fear of flying can result in you not attending meetings outside your city, or fear of public speaking will never allow you to present that perfect pitch to your board members and gain that promotion you so badly want.

If you know how to manage and fight this fear, sky becomes the limit for you.

Here are a few tips and tricks to fight fear. Even if you aren’t able to fight your fear, these tips will help you keep the fear inside of you and yet manage to live your life around it. So here is how to fight and manage fear:

Take your mind off fear

It is impossible to handle fear if you can’t take your mind off fear. When you are thinking of your fear, your hands are sweaty and you have your hair standing on your neck, your mind is all confused and doesn’t know how to react to the emotion called fear. So take some time off to strategize and think how you will fight it. Calm down, and relax. Distract yourself from fear and get into a better emotion – happiness perhaps. How does one get away from fear? If you love reading books, pick one up. If you love coffee, just sit on the porch with a coffee and a cookie. Whatever works for you – but get out of the emotion called fear so you can strategize on how you can fight it.

What's the worst this fear can do to you?

Now that your mind is clear and you are off that emotion called fear, imagine the worst. Let us say your current fear was a public speaking you had to do in a week’s time….imagine what is the worst that can happen. You may forget your speech? The audience may sleep off? The audience may jeer you? Think of your fear and all that can go wrong. Now try to answer this question: “Will you be alive the day after your public speaking?”

If your answer to the above question is “Yes” then your fear is something that can be fought or managed. If you are going to be alive, the only other thing you should be worried about is a panic attack, which you need to learn to manage. There is enough information on the web to help you overcome panic attacks…lets focus on fear for this article.

Face your fear and get used to it

If you keep on avoiding your fears, you will find fear growing all around you. Face your fears, and get used to them little by little. For example, if public speaking is your fear…it makes great sense to join a public speaking club so that you get exposed to your fear on a weekly basis. If you get exposed to your fear that often, you will soon stop fearing it. If your fear is heights, start with small heights and get used to manage your fear. If your fear is speaking to girls, start with speaking to women colleagues, then move on to total strangers.

Don’t fear lack of perfection

Many of our fears are because we think we aren’t perfect. For example, even if I am a moderate public speaker because I don’t think I am perfect I will fear going out on the stage. This fear of not being perfect affects all situations so understanding that you can’t be perfect every time is a huge step forward in your fight against fear. Learn to live with 80% perfection and half of your fears will vanish. Remember life is already messy and there is no need to make it messier by introducing fear into it.

Talk about your fears to people you trust

Talk about your fears with your friends. In our experience friends and relatives are very useful in overcoming fear because most of the time they are with us when we are shivering in our pants. Sharing fears takes away the scariness of it. If you don’t have friends or relatives to share your fear with you can always call a local helpline which I am sure is available in your city.

Note: Never ever resort to alcohol or drugs to get over fear. Fear gets aggravated in such situations.

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