Ryan Haack is a writer, speaker, and blogger who was also born with one hand. Today’s episode is a re-run of episode 45, which is a Productive Flourishing favorite because it highlights that we’re each different, but it’s how we handle our differences that makes all the difference. Ryan uses what makes him different to inspire kids, parents, and teachers to explore how being different isn’t just something to cope with, but how being different is awesome.
[2:05] – Ryan started his website, Living One Handed, back in 2011. It goes back to him being born without one hand, but consciously, this fact didn’t make a difference in his life for a long time. After an encounter at a restaurant with a mom and her son who was also born without a hand, he decided to use his online presence to help reach others and make a difference.
[4:41] – Growing up, Ryan had an incredibly supportive family, school, and friends, and his physical handicap wasn’t a big deal to them because it wasn’t a big deal to Ryan. Starting the website challenged him to think about the fact that there are other people out there like him, and then figure out what kinds of struggles they face and how he could help.
[7:20] – When we have an aspect of ourselves that’s different from the majority, we often have a double veil: the way we see ourselves and the way other people see us. For Ryan, he didn’t really have the veil of how other people saw him.
[9:19] – Ryan’s left arm comes down just past his elbow, with the ability to bend it. He broke this arm and now has a steel plate and seven screws in it. Ryan has always been open about his limb difference. It really makes a difference in how people react and how they want to engage. Ryan embraces vulnerability and tries to be gracious, because he is in a position where he can also teach people.
[14:30] – Ryan shares an example of his job in the hardware store and instances where he used to refuse help. Once you get comfortable enough with yourself that you know you can do things independently, you start to realize you don’t really have anything to prove. It can be easier to accept help then – this is a lesson we can all learn.
[16:50] – In our society, there is a stigma attached to getting help from other people. We often view receiving help as being weak, and we don’t allow people who want to help us to give us that extra bit that we need. In the case of our differences, maybe it’s because we don’t want them to be on display.
[19:15] – In a community made of people who have a visible difference, words are huge. There is a dual nature of “I’m not any different than you” but also bringing awareness to the fact that they are different from you. With his book, Ryan wants to encourage people to claim their differences and celebrate that being different is awesome.
[21:38] – It is our differences that make us awesome and beautiful. They are not something that need to be hidden away. If we can’t talk about it, we can’t be seen.
[22:00] - Ryan did a Kickstarter for his book, Different Is Awesome. After some experiences at his younger brother’s school and meetings with some other authors, he realized the idea he wanted to bring to life. Kickstarter seemed like a good platform because the book had specific appeal, but a broad message that could reach a lot of people.
[25:18] - The Kickstarter project was a massive success. There was a lot of pre-launch work, and Ryan attributes a lot of the success to the short video they shot. The target amount they wanted to raise was $25,000, and he ended up with over 500 backers and made over $29,000.
[28:55] - The message of Different Is Awesome is that different is awesome, and it shares the story of a little boy who brings his brother to class so they can ask him questions, and all the kids who are asking questions have something that makes them different. In the end, it fosters the discussion that we’re all different somehow, and encourages people to recognize and respect each others’ differences.
[30:38] - Everyone is valuable just as they are. If we value ourselves, we will therefore value other people, and we’ll treat them that way. What Ryan stands for is helping other people believe that they are valuable, so it changes their lives and that of those around them.
[34:26] - Ryan hopes people will feel encouraged and valuable based on the work he’s doing, and that he can provide hope and courage to them.