How Do You Leverage Your Disability?
This Post is all about HOW you can gain leverage and become a successful entrepreneur by exploiting skills you already have, precisely because you have an impairment or Disability. If you learn what I am going to share with you, you will be ahead of your competitors because they are not implementing what I am about to share with you.
You need to have an insight into what Tony Robins calls The Six Human Needs. Let me explain. Some of you will be reading this because you need Certainty/Comfort, Uncertainty/Variety, Significance, Connection/Love, Growth or Contribution. Now those of you who are well versed with personal development theory will recognise these from Maslow’s earlier work, his Hierachy of Needs. I will briefly recap for those of you who need only a snapshot to get the point however, of Tony’s model. Certainty and Uncertainty are a dichotomy. Those who seek Certainty often use phrases such as “I just need to know, why can’t things just satay as they are”. Uncertainty suits those who seek out variety in the things that they do. Significance is about needing to stand for something, standing out from the crowd. Next, we have Connection, which Tony explains is the need for human relationships. Growth is about personal development and finally Contribution. This is about a need to belong to something. Both approaches argue that once basic needs are met, we move upwards eventually to needs of human fulfilment.
So many of you reading this Post will already be running businesses of your own or have dreams about doing this and ‘Breaking Free’ to a better life with more freedom, choice and a purpose or hunger to make a difference. So let’s look a little deeper into Uncertainty. Because would you agree that run to a business or escape the 9-5, change is something that must happen? You need to become Comfortable being Uncertain. But if you read my previous Post about changing your mindset, I go much deeper in how you can learn to do this. A need for Certainty in all that we do may make us feel comfortable with where we are, but it will never provide something that you also need, Significance. The need to stand out and have an entrepreneurial mindset creates the stepping stones you need to get from Certainty to Uncertainty as your new ‘Comfort Zone’.
I maybe being controversial for some in what I am about to say.
Many People with Disabilities have learned that happiness will only be achieved if they accept their impairment and learn to blame everything else on social inequalities that society deliberately puts in your way to make life necessarily hard – the Social Model of Disability. It’s not that simple. If enough of you comment towards the end of this Post, I would be happy to share more of my views around my reasons for stating this. It is argued that acceptance leads to tolerance and conversely, comfort or Certainty with what we have. I would argue that acceptance is not the same thing as learning to live with our impairments. Adapting by learning to live with is much more appropriate in my opinion.
How Do You Leverage Your Disability?
Tony Robins makes it clear that we can meet more than one need simultaneously. Now this is crucial if we are to learn how to leverage our disability so that we are more successful as entrepreneurial business owners. It should be obvious that you need to embrace change or Uncertainty and that you crave Significance. It also goes without saying that mixing in the right circles – who are the Connections we need to nurture whilst also serving others though our Contribution is how we become Significant. However, it is my belief that the very thing that sets us apart from others is our impairment. What we have to do is flip all that we think on its head. Who is best placed to undertake a full Access Audit of a public building – the Professional with no ‘lived experience of disability’ or the unequalled person with a disability? Most people feel much more comfortable (think of the need for Certainty) in getting a Professional in, but this is likely to lead to ineffective and much more costly solutions.
Let me explain with one of my own stories.
A few years ago I was undertaking a full workstation audit for a totally blind person in a seaside resort near Bristol. We had just finished and the manager proudly announced that they had addressed all the access issues and were extremely pleased with the Architects recommendations. I think from memory, we were talking abut £20 thousand. This included a complete rebuild of the company’s front entrance and reception lobby. They also showed me the new route to avoid any tripping hazards on the steps at the front, which passed through their loading bays into a back door in the reception lobby. Now I could not help myself at this point and just wanted them to realise that my ‘lived experience of disability’ would have saved them a great deal of time and money. First, I asked them to follow me and their new employee outside. We approached the steps and successfully navigated the revolving doors. Next I used the table and chairs in the reception lobby as datums, so he could find his office. I then explained my rationale and how I could save them thousands; in fact it would only take a few minutes to resolve. First, the hazzard that the manager assumed would be caused by the steps and the revolving door, was in their mind not the employees. He promptly demonstrated this. Second, I rearranged the furniture so the employee could independently navigate his way to his office – turn 90% at the end of the leather sofa and walk straight to the office door. I gather the Architects recommendations were rejected by management.
So the manager’s desire to seek Certainty because he was Uncertain was changed by me demonstrating how he could use my Significance as a way of gaining a cost effective solution. Don’t worry, i’m not advocating that People with Disabilities should run Access Audit Businesses, but it just helps those of you who are procrastinators to have little arguement as to why you cannot do more for yourself by serving others better than they are currently being served.
Next time I am going to share with you how you can learn to get the right support from Access to Work as enABLED Entrepreneurs.
In life, people tend to treat you how you allow them to treat you.