On Beating The Odds, An Iron Lung, And A 40-Year Old Virgin

Justin Cooke Updated on February 29, 2020

Disabled Entrepreneurs(Courtesy of the Wounded Warrior Project)

“There’s no way I can write copy as well as Gary Halpern, so why even bother?”

“All the good niches are taken. How can I compete?”

“I’ve failed so many times… How could I ever succeed?”

If you’re like me, at least one of these questions have held you back from doing something amazing.

You’re not alone. These excuses — ”the resistance” — can make us feel sorry for ourselves, keeping us from achieving great things.

These psychological barriers are real, often self-imposed, and can be paralyzing for entrepreneurs.

Writing is usually my biggest subconscious struggle. I worry about things like:

  • Steering our readers down the wrong path.
  • Being made fun of for my honesty and transparency.
  • Writing posts that don’t resonate and aren’t read.

But how do fears like mine and yours compare to physical disabilities? Whenever I’m struggling with mental blocks, I like to hear inspirational stories from those who have overcome even greater obstacles than I’m faced with.

This has been on my mind recently — It’s hard enough staying motivated while healthy, but what happens when you’re physically handicapped?

Do you just throw in the towel? Do you tap out before you’ve had a chance to start?

I wanted to share with you some incredible stories of those who were able to overcome their difficulties and challenges to succeed at the highest level.

Example #1: Jon, Let’s Be Realistic…

I first read Jon Morrow’s story a couple of years ago and found it incredibly inspiring. If you’ve never heard his story, stop reading this and go check out his guest post on ProBlogger here.

Seriously… Go read it and come back.

Jon Morrow ProfileJon was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA,) an incurable neuromuscular disorder that has been with him his entire life. People with the disorder grow weaker and soon lose their ability to move. As a child, his parents worried he’d never be able to find success, have a normal life…be happy.

Despite all this, he’s inspired hundreds of thousands with his words, built multiple profitable companies, is the editor of one of the largest and most powerful blogs in the world, and relocated to Central America…all while not being able to move from the neck down.

Holy shit.

As a writer, nothing has said “stop being a pussy” more than Jon’s powerful words in that blog post.

What’s striking about Jon’s story is that he not only fought through others’ low expectations but was able surpass many other writers who haven’t had to deal with the extra burden of a serious physical handicap. Couldn’t we all benefit from having just a bit of the same drive to do amazing things, regardless of what others think?

The next time someone tells me they can’t move to SE Asia because of X, or they can’t start Y because of Z, I’m sending them to Jon’s post to get some perspective.

Example #2: The (Horny) Elephant In The Room

Most of us have had our first sexual experience sometime between our teens or in our 20’s, but even in his 40’s, Mark O’Brien found this a difficult subject to cover as a writer.

For starters, he was a virgin.

Not just any old virgin… He lived in an iron lung.

Mark Obrien Iron Lung

He set off to write about sex and the disabled, but ended up on an incredible path of discovery about his own sexuality and what intimacy means for us all.

If you’ve never read his article on seeing a sex surrogate, I highly recommend checking it out.

It’s funny, sad, and cringeworthy, but he shares a valuable behind the scenes look at his personal struggles with sex. What makes it interesting is that it’s on a subject that would seem to be taboo for most of us — sexual intimacy for the physically handicapped. They recently made a movie worth watching, The Surrogate, based on his article.

The fact that this incredible man was able to share so many amazing ideas while writing on a typewriter with a stick in his mouth just blows my mind.

We talk about the value of being open and transparent when it comes to business, but I can’t imagine the courage it took Mark to discuss something so personal…so unexpected.

We fear transparency so much that we sometimes struggle to talk about what we did over the weekend. How much further could we progress if we were able to let go of that fear with even half of Mark’s courage?

Example #3: From Certain Death at 25 to Business Empire at 27

Shane BratbyDiagnosed at 10 years old with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a degenerated and rare neurological condition, Shane Bratby was told he wouldn’t live past the age of 25.

He lived in constant fear throughout his teen years but in his twenties decided to take control of his life and build a value-based business that could help other disabled entrepreneurs.

Now he’s 27. He has a wife, four children, and is a founder of both:

MobilityBuy.com – An eCommerce website designed to help other disabled persons lead more independent lives.

DisabledEntrepreneurs.co.uk – An amazing platform and community built to encourage, enable, and inspire other disabled entrepreneurs throughout the UK.

We have philanthropists like Bill Gates who is giving away billions to improve the world. Although Shane isn’t as wealthy, he’s contributing by showing people in the same position as him that they’re not alone and they too can become entrepreneurs. How cool is that?

Being told you’re going to die early must have been hard to hear. Instead of lying down and taking it, he went the other way and has built amazing companies that will likely outlive him.

We don’t have near as much pressure on ourselves as entrepreneurs. What are we allowing to hold us back from greatness that’s worse than Shane expecting to die at 25?

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Get Over Yourself By Doing Something Meaningful

Setbacks are inevitable. As entrepreneurs, all of us will go through periods of self-doubt where “the resistance” creeps in and keeps us from achieving our very best.

Fight through that shit.

Realizing there are people in much more difficult situations who have achieved amazing things has always inspired me. Reading Jon’s story, for example, helps me realize just how ridiculous some of my excuses are when they’re laid bare.

What are the demons or fears currently holding you back and how can we help you fight through them? What are YOU going to do to make shit happen after reading this post? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Crystal Foth says:

    Loved this message… when feeling challenged we all need to take some perspective and really think… how tough do I REALLY have it…. and like you said – Get over ourselves and get something done!!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Glad you dug it, Crystal!

      Yeah, I like to go and read stories like this when I’m feeling sorry for myself. It really helps me put in perspective the problems and challenges I’m facing.

  • Gunnar Bengtsson says:

    Good to see a blog post again guys, looking forward to a regular posting schedule.

    And yes, this does put my run of the mill procrastination into serious perspective. If these guys can overcome real obstacles like this, I’ve just got to get over myself and get things done!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Gunnar!

      Yeah, man…we’re back at it!

      No worries…we ALL have to get over ourselves to get stuff done, hehe.

  • Vishaun Kistan says:

    Great and comprehensive content!

  • I don’t even like to imagine what it must be like to go on with life having disabilities like some of these guys – let alone doing the amazing things they are doing! It would be SO frustrating to be a writer without the use of my hands, or typing with a stick in my mouth! Are you kidding me?! Definitely something I’ll think about now if I ever feel like giving up.

  • Chris Florence says:

    Yeah, I’ve been hitting block walls lately myself in my business but this article put some crap in perspective for me. I could be trying to run my business from an IRON LUNG!! Ridiculous, I’m such a cry baby. 😀

  • Holy Shit an article on your site!

    Great work mate, love it…

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Can you believe it?!? 🙂 Back in the saddle, man.

      Going to a more “regular” posting schedule with the new apprentice here. That’s good…I’m WAY behind on posts and have a ton of ideas/tips/tricks we need to share…

  • Sebastian says:

    love the quote – “Fight through that shit”

  • Bradley Evans says:

    Great article Justin! Just what I needed to hear!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Bradley! It was fun researching these guys to put the post together. It really puts my business frustrations and “pity parties” in perspective, for sure…

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