Posted by: altmike | February 24, 2015

Dating with a Limb Difference

Can't is not an excuse valentines day

By far the hardest part about growing up with a limb difference is not the stares or the snide remarks, not the learning curve that comes with going about your daily routine, or even the haters that are out there…the hardest part by far is dating and becoming comfortable with yourself in the dating realm.  This is the blog post that has haunted me for the past two years but I knew at some point I had to talk about it and be vulnerable because it is very important to talk about.

Think back to elementary school, middle school and high school, think about how big dating was and having crushes and puppy love and all of the emotions that coincide with it. Now throw a curveball in there…You are missing half of each hand, you barely take your hands out of your pockets as it is, unless you are playing sports. You feel like it is an elephant in the room every time a girl simply glances your way…

That was me for about 90% of my K-12 career.  Don’t get me wrong, I was and still am a very outgoing person. I will never turn down an opportunity to act like an idiot to make someone laugh and I never feared letting my voice be heard, but what I did fear was the unknown when it came to girls. I would think to myself,” is this girl just talking to me because she feels sorry for me? Does this girl really like me for who I am and all that I am? What do her friends think of me?” A lot of these thoughts were precluded by words said and actions made. I can recall asking probably 2 dozen girls out between middle school and my junior year of high school and they all denied me.

During my sophomore year of high school I was at a friend’s house after practice and he was on the phone talking to a girl that I liked at the time (pre texting era) and I asked him to ask her if she knew who I was.

He proceeded to ask her, “Hey do you know who Mike Alt is?”

She responded, “You mean no hands?”

…I was crushed. I was known for something that I couldn’t control. I let my hands define me.

Eventually I got over it and it added a layer to my skin. I eventually got to the point around my senior year that enough was enough and that I had to thicken my skin even more and stop thinking and caring about everyone’s perception of me. It was tough, but I realized that my perception of myself was directly reflected in others perception of me. If I went up to a girl with complete confidence and owned my hands then the outcome usually had much better odds than when I approached a girl subdued and worrisome of judgment that didn’t exist.

I took this new found confidence and went to every dance my senior year. I took my outgoingness to a new level and met my prom date at one of the dances I went to earlier in the year. When I graduated from high school I dated a lot because I had a new swagger about me. I saw the benefits of having confidence and that led to girls being interested in me, it was a good feeling. However something was still missing… I went on numerous dates between age 18 and 24 and yet nothing stuck. My hands were still at the forefront in my mind at every date. I would think, “I wonder if she knows about my hands? I haven’t talked to her about my hands, I wonder if she cares?” That elephant in the room creeped out of the shadows yet again to remind me that this new found swagger wasn’t the solution, but merely a stepping stone in the process.

The next step I had to take was by far the hardest. It was openly talking about my hands from day one of meeting them, letting everything out on the table and then being ok with what came next. With some girls I went on a date with I could tell that it wasn’t something they felt completely comfortable with and others it opened up a whole new avenue of dialogue.

Looking back now I know that I put way too much pressure on myself to find the perfect girl that was going to accept me and be everything I ever dreamed of and when dates failed, I was crushed.  I didn’t realize that it was all a learning process, but more importantly a growing process. Trust me; I am no expert on dating. I have gone on many dates but never had a lot of experience with relationships. I have had three girlfriends in my 25 years and the common denominator with all of them was that they accepted me for who I am.

The first two that I dated were not for a very extensive period of time for one reason or another, but I am proud to say that I did find the women last year that completely accepts me for all my quirks and loves me for who I am. That girl that I searched for, for all those years was there, but it just took time to find each other and I can say that I am the happiest I have been in all of my life and she is amazing in every way…  Alright enough with all of the cute gooshy stuff! :)

The best advice I can give to all of the kids and teens stepping into the dating world or those who are already there, is to accept and love yourself for who you are. As cliché as that sounds, it’s true. No person will ever be able to accept and love you if you haven’t taken the time to appreciate yourself and be able to communicate that to them. Talking about it from the first time I met someone or the first date was honestly the best course of action because I could read their body language right away. To get to that point you have to be comfortable enough in your own skin and your story to talk freely about it to anyone and everyone.  Understand that there might be some people out there who aren’t comfortable with dating someone with a limb difference and you might get turned down. You might get turned down for another trait that you have, it’s all a part of life and the trials and tribulations that people go through in the dating realm; Don’t overthink everything!

Always, always, always own it! You are beautiful and as long as you know that, others will see it too!

Can’t is Not an Excuse

Posted by: altmike | February 18, 2015

5 Things Every Limb Difference Family Should Know

Limb defiance 1

Growing up with a limb difference has taught me many things about the world, some ugly but some very beautiful. It hasn’t always been easy, but in all honesty what in life is easy that’s worth having at the end of the day; not very much. So I thought that I would compile a list of a few things that all limb difference kids and families should know growing up. You know the old saying “I wish I knew then, what I know now”…Hopefully this helps the learning curve a little. Enjoy!

1. Being Different is a Gift, Not a Curse.

At times its hard to see the good in all situations, I know that. However, at the end of the day embracing the fact that you are different is the best way to handle it. I am a strong believer in things happening for a reason and I truly believe that children blessed with a limb difference were given a little extra strength than most to handle it as they grow up. Those with a limb difference can sympathize easier with others who are different and they often have a better outlook on life because they have had to accomplish and overcome more obstacles at an earlier age. It’s our version of a sixth sense, we can see and foresee awkward situations before they happen, we can tell how our reaction to someone else’s question is going. When you talk, people listen. People want to know your story if you are comfortable with sharing it, which is a very powerful tool.

  1. You are not alone.

The great thing about the time that we live in today is that resources are not far away. They are there at any given moment under a google search bar. When I was growing up, the internet wasn’t as prominent as it is today, so I had no idea that their were other kids out there like me. It shocked me when I found out about all of these other families and children that had hands just like me. It was extremely relieving to me to know that I wasn’t alone. Finding pages like the Lucky Fin Project, Born Just Right and I Am Adaptive showed me that people are powerful beyond measure!

  1. You are going to get teased.

Unfortunately it is a way of life that there will be bullies out there and some unfortunate words uttered that are directed towards you. The best way to handle it is to just brush it off or be able to laugh at yourself….thats right, be able to laugh at yourself. Life should never be taken so seriously that you cant crack a joke at your own expense to lighten the mood a little bit. I found that when I made a joke about my hands first, that it did two things. One, it took the punch line away from someone else and secondly it empowered me to control the direction of the conversation.

  1. Quality is better than quantity.

Keep the friends and the people in your life that are going to be there for you through the thick and thin. I would rather have two or three really good friends, than be the most popular person around. My best friend is a guy who stood up for me against a bully in high school and I realized from that moment forward that he was someone that I could trust and rely on. He saw me for who I am and we became friends from that moment on. Kids today get caught up in being surrounded by people and more people is supposed to equate to more happiness; that isn’t always the case. Embrace those true friends and lean on them because they will have your back and stand up to any nay sayers much quicker than the numerous acquaintances we have in our lives.

  1. You matter!

People might not always say something and go out of their way to talk to you but know that 99% of what you do is considered amazing in somebodies eyes. Its undeniable that every person with a limb difference is inspirational in some way. People usually feel awkward about telling someone that, but the fact remains. I get inspired when I see other adults or kids with a limb difference. The key is to never get down on yourself, you are most likely making a difference in somebodies life just by going through your daily routine and you don’t even know it!

Can’t is Not an Excuse

Posted by: altmike | October 23, 2014

Don’t Let the Couch Kill your Dreams

c not e couch

Let’s be honest…most of us are inherently lazy creatures that derive our motivation from glimpses of seeked out inspiration from outside sources. This may hurt some of us to accept but the fact is true. Every desire, aspiration and goal takes a backseat to what benefits us in the moment. If what we can do in the moment takes less effort than what we should be doing to attain our goal than we choose the road most traveled.

So how in the heck do we combat these urges to stay on the couch and fill our head with excuses that make our lives “easier”. We first have to understand that we can and will be lazy at times. Even yours truly falls into the lazy coma every so often to where I would rather use my current circumstance as an excuse than use it as motivation.

The couch is responsible for more killed dreams than any other piece of furniture in your home. It promises relaxation and ease of mind by just resting upon it for a few moments. However, as it sucks you into this passive and free state of mind, you slowly lose grasp of those minutes, hours…days, that could have been used to propel you further in life. The couch does not allow for opportunities, it kills them. Go to a junk yard and look at a couch…behind the tattered cushions and tears, you will see a cemetery of goals that never came to fruition, million dollar ideas that were worth no more than the penny that slipped through the lining.

The way to get around it?…Think about the you in 10 years…think about your perception of yourself if you were to continue on your path and not take risks, not get your act together and live in complacency. Your own opinion and perception of yourself is going to way heaviest on your conscious of what could have been; what should have been. The influence on others that could have happened, had you got your act together in just one of those 365 days that you were given per year.

Can’t is Not an Excuse

Posted by: altmike | July 22, 2014

Advice for Limb Difference Families: Part 2

Can't is not an excuse hand

What is the biggest thing that people in general fear more than anything…failure. What do kids with limb differences fear…failure in front of other people. I can speak from personal experience that one of the hardest things to overcome is judgment from others. Peoples stares, people remarks, the way they can make you feel like you are the size of a pea with one look.  I remember trying to do everything perfect in front of other people so that I would not look weak or inadequate in front of others. I can recall one action that I had to do often in front of others that would send a chill down my back, make my face flush and make my heart beat twice as fast within a matter of seconds…Picking up change off the ground. As miniscule and as mindless as that action may seem to most, to me it was the moment of truth. With only a nail on my thumb and my pinky, trying to perfectly swoop up an object that has less than two millimeters of thickness was a scary thing to me.

It was scary in the fact that I hated being looked at and judged based on my hands, so if by chance I wasn’t able to pick it up on the first try, then I began to feel like all eyes were on me. That a pity party was taking place around me without a single word being uttered. Thus, I would start to panic in my own head and try to pick it up as swiftly and nonchalantly as I could. This was the same when I dropped my driver’s license, business cards, etc. So the question is, how did I overcome this?…By failing.

It required me to fail more times than I could count, to learn the easiest way for me to pick up that damn quarter. It took me fumbling with it and having people stare at me for a good thirty seconds for me to figure out how to make it more seamless the next time.  It took frustration, it took humility and above all it took me not giving up…not letting someone else do it for me, not relying on others to be there to save me every time I fell.  

Now if this happens in my life today (and trust me it happens all the time) I simply bend down and pick it up. I’m not worried about what others think and I’m not trying to figure out if they feel sorry for me because when I do grasp it, it just proved that I could do it.

Here is my advice to limb difference families with this scenario. As a parent, you will see that your child struggles with certain tasks more than others and that is perfectly fine. The key is to not try to do everything for them because you feel sorry for their struggles. The only way they can learn is by doing, is by failing a few times, learning how not to do it and then inevitably successfully doing it. It’s not your job to make life easier for them every time they struggle, it’s your job to support them and help them find easier ways that fit their personal needs and then letting them take it from there. Trust me, they will find a way!

My advice to people in general; failure is ok. We often look at the word failure as this end all be all, it’s not. Failure is just another word for learning. You haven’t failed; you just haven’t done it correctly yet. The key is to not quit. You have only failed if you quit, because once you quit, you no longer have the opportunity to do it right the next time.

Can’t is Not an Excuse

Posted by: altmike | July 8, 2014

Back At It!

Can't excuse dust-off

Is this thing on?!…After a long stint of no posts, not being inspirational and not giving my followers anything to push them towards their goals, it’s time to blow off the dust and fulfill my promise!

My goal all along has been to connect with families of limb difference individuals and those without…so basically everyone. I have always believed that my story of perseverance could translate to every individual out there because if one thing is true, it is that we all battle challenges. Whether that’s a limb difference or just putting food on the table, our struggle is real and it is unique to every single person. Over the past few months, I have had much time to think about this and I never lost sight of it. However what I did do was lose sight of the reason why I do what I do in the first place and like many of us used the “well I will get to it tomorrow” statement. I did what I preached against and I slightly lost that fire…But…the fire never got put out and I am here now to prove that!

I thought about this first post for a while and I kept thinking that it had to be perfect but I forgot about my own first rule…Show Up. Before I can do anything perfect I have to show up. I have to get the message out there again. It’s not the fact that we fall off the horse, it’s about getting back up and going again. There are many who never get going again though…They let their dreams essentially die, all it takes is that first step to get going again. It is certainly the hardest step but the one that you will look back on and be grateful you did it when you did.

So in two words…I’m Back! And now more than ever it is time to dig in and change the world! It’s all about making a difference and hopefully motivating anyone and everyone who utters the words “Can’t is not an Excuse.” So…what goal have you lost sight of? Think about your own personal life and your dream! The fire is still there, the dream is still there and now I’ts time to put it back into motion again!

Can’t is Not an Excuse

Posted by: altmike | October 22, 2013

Advice for limb difference families

Mike Alt baby photo

First and foremost, if you or one of your family members has been born with a limb difference…Congratulations! That person has been born with a gift and from this moment on don’t ever stop reminding that person of that simple fact. They have been given a perspective that is unlike any other person on this planet. No one will ever experience exactly what they have gone through, but I guarantee you that there are others who have experienced things similar like myself.

The first piece of advice that I want to share is to always be supportive and as cliché as that sounds it is honestly the most important thing in a limb difference person’s life. That support has to come early and often in their life because it builds the platform for their level of confidence. From the time I can remember talking, I remember my parents always reminding me that if anyone asked me about my hands to tell them that “I was born that way,” and that’s that. Also, that no matter what, I could do anything I set my mind to, I might have to do it a little differently but I could do it!

If you are the parent of a teen or a sibling of a teen, remember that being supportive does not mean prying into their every conversation to find out if they have been bullied. It also doesn’t mean that you as a parent take every word that is uttered to your son or daughter as an insult to yourself. If every time you child comes to you about an incident that happened and all you do is get emotional and tell them about how much that “breaks your heart to hear” then I hate to say it but that child will stop coming to tell you about things because they are already hurt and the last thing they want to do is to make you upset as well. So how do you overcome this as a parent? Simple, just listen and offer simple and rational solutions to the problem. Encourage your kids not to hide their head every time something negative is said about them, instead reassure them that unless they have proven somebody wrong then that bully has every reason in their negative mind to say something like that.

For example, kids would come up and bully me saying things like “You probably have your mommy tie your shoes for you every day, don’t you two fingers!”….

At that moment I had two options. One, run from the situation crying, go tell my parents and hide from any type of adversity that ever stood in front of my face be depressed for the rest of my life.

Or…I could have taken the second option which I always did. I would reply “Oh you think that pretty funny, well check this out.” then I would tie my shoes right in front of them and leave them speechless. This was my way of proving people wrong in a non-confrontational way that got my point across clearly. This is what I feel we need to encourage our children, siblings and friends to do in situations like this.

Last piece of advice; never put any limits on anyone with a limb difference. If they hear that they can do something from others, than more times than not they will attempt it and succeed. The alternative is true as well, if all they hear from their friends and family is that they shouldn’t try something because they might not be good at it or that it might be dangerous for someone with a limb difference to attempt, then all you’re doing is killing their self-esteem even more. If we put them in a box with suggested limitations and tell them what they can/can’t or should/shouldn’t do then they are going to be in that box for the rest of their lives.

I can’t say it enough, encourage, encourage, encourage! Most limb difference families will tell you that their child did something that they never thought in a million years they could ever do and that’s because we are very unique and special people when we have a positive atmosphere around us!

Can’t is Not an Excuse

Posted by: altmike | September 23, 2013

Make your A Game the only option

key_art_bring_your_a_game

A few days ago one of my managers at worked called me and asked me about my schedule and told me that my next shift was an important one and that I need to bring my “A Game.” The first thing I thought of was that, “I only have an A game.” I watched a video from Eric Thomas a couple months ago and he talked about this idea of the “A Game.” He said it perfectly, in essence, those who say this must come from a different mindset, where it is ok to have a B game and a C game but for people who have had to push through adversity they only have an A Game.

It got me to thinking though, how many of us think that we are putting in all 110% of our effort and how many just say that we are to reassure ourselves. I know personally that there are times when I’ll tell myself that I’m giving it all I have but the proof isn’t in the pudding. That’s when I think back to this idea; If you are going to put effort into something then you better give it everything you have. What’s the point of putting in some work and then the end result is anything less than amazing. We don’t do extraordinary things when we are giving our C game, no, its when we are ion our A game that we have to take a step back and realize what amazing things we are constructing and before we let that set in, we get right back to what it is that we were doing and don’t stop until its everything we expected plus some.

I can think of a perfect example of myself. I love to work out and to lift weights and I always set a goal that I am going to gain about 15 pounds of muscle and that I am going to get stronger. So I work out hard and build a regiment and stick to it for about a week or two. Then after that I let distractions set in, I lose focus, I get discouraged and I let that C game set in. I lose my regiment and two weeks later I realize that I haven’t moved towards my goal and have to restart. Instead of repeating the process over and over again with my C game, why don’t I just give it everything I have with my A Game and don’t stop until my goal is reached? That’s when I refocus, dig in and don’t look back. That’s when I’m officially in my A game.

We do this all the time in our daily lives and don’t realize why we haven’t got what we want out of life. It’s because we are stuck in our C Game. Commit to your goal starting today. If the goal is graduating, then dig in, grind it out and don’t let distractions get in the way. If it’s getting the job that you want, then you do everything humanly possible to earn it, go out of your comfort zone. If you are trying to make a team, then you practice every single day like you are competing against the world.

one hundred images

Stay hungry for your goals and don’t lose sight of them. Throw your B and C game in the trash and make you’re A game your only option. Go get what you want in life because you are the only thing standing in the way of where you are and where you want to be!

Can’t is not an Excuse

What if?…

What if the word can’t, really did not exist in our everyday language? When put in a situation where we had to tell someone that we were unable to complete a task, instead of saying “I can’t” you say, “I’m not able to at this time” or “I’m not that good at it, but I’ll try”

You see, when we say “Can’t” we really mean, “I don’t want to discuss this topic and I really don’t want to put forth any effort whatsoever, so I will say that I can’t do it to deflect attention away from me.” Instead of using this excuse every time an activity or subject comes up that we are uneasy about, why don’t we say “I will try it” or “I’m not able to do it just yet, but give me some time to practice and I will be able do it.”

cant

The word Can’t is not just a word, it’s much more than that. It carries meaning, it provides insight on character and in every case, it is followed up by closed mindedness and a sense of self-doubt. If by just saying a simple word, you could get off the hook, how amazing would that be? But the word can’t is not that miracle word, it is merely a veil that you throw over other people’s faces in hopes that they will not see you for your weaknesses and only how you want to be seen. On the other end, the message is just the opposite…

When you hear the word cant, subconsciously you lose a little respect for the other person, or at least you should. The word Can’t carries a negative connotation that never helps the sender nor the receiver, it is just a filler. When I hear others say it, I truly question their motives, I question their heart. If there was a .0001% chance that they could do what they say they can’t and they truly had heart then the word “Can’t” would never even cross their mind.

Often times we think that with the murmur of this word and a slight shrug of the shoulders that we are set free from ever facing that question again, but we aren’t. Think to yourself, when you use the word can’t; CAN you really do what is being asked of you or are you just taking the easy road? Are you fully incapable of ever doing what is being suggested to you, not now nor in the future…or are you just making an excuse?

Can’t is not a life sentence

Can’t is a challenge

Can’t is an opportunity for success

Can’t is Not an Excuse

Posted by: altmike | June 5, 2013

Put in the Work

beautiful_sunrise_on_green_meadow

My newest challenge for myself is training for a duathlon coming up on July 7th. I have just gotten into biking and making the transition from running to biking has definitely helped me get into better shape. To train, I do a road rage bike class at my gym every Monday and Wednesday at 5:30am. If you know me, then you know I’m not a big fan of waking up early and when it comes to being places on time, it usually a stretch. If I can show up 5 minutes late to a function, people are usually impressed. However for some reason when it comes to these early classes I can always get there right on time and I’m ready to work.

Today was no different, I showed up and was ready to get something out of the hard work that I was about to put in. About half way through the class I started to realize something. As I was literally creating a lake of sweat under my bike (No exaggeration, I’m surprised they didn’t call a custodian for “clean up on isle Mike”). I began to look around at the other people in the class. Mind you there was about seven other sleep deprived crazy people in the class with me. I glanced to my right and see one guy yawning going about half speed of what he should be. Then I look in the mirror to see that the person behind me is sitting straight up on their stationary bike texting. Mind you, we are about half way through the class with the overly excited instructor yelling at us to “Push it!!!”

This is what I came to realize, that if I am going to wake up that early to go to a voluntarily class, you better believe that I am going to work my ass off to get something out of it. What is the point of doing something half ass? When was the last time you heard someone say, “so I just invented the greatest thing since sliced bread and I was only putting in a fraction of the effort I could have been”…no one says that. I hear more people say this, “Ya I really wasn’t even trying, and that’s why I didn’t do so well. But had I given it my full effort, then I would have done a lot better.”

road rage can'tThe difference between these two statements is the effort that you put in to something. Showing up isn’t enough. Just going to the gym and walking in the door does not count as you actually putting in the work and having a good workout. Whatever you do, you have to take something away from it to better yourself, which is the only way that you excel.  This is the same thing in life and in the work place. If I were to go to a business meeting and completely tune out the boss and not listen to a thing he or she has to say, then at the end of the meeting say to myself “Well that was a waste of time, I’m glad that’s over.” By doing that I am not bettering myself, however the guy next to me who was engaged in the meeting and took notes and left the meeting gaining new insight is going to be one step closer to a promotion than I am because he is willing to be engaged and put in the work. It’s really as simple as that.

Moral of the story, if you are going to do something, then give it your all. Don’t only go half speed because it’s uncomfortable or because “You just don’t feel like it today.” Give every activity, every meeting, and every project 110% because you never know who is watching and who you may inspire to not give up.

Can’t is not an Excuse

Posted by: altmike | June 4, 2013

Lucky Fin Project Rocks

LFPLOGO

It is amazing what you can find on the internet these days and how connected people have become. I am so glad I stumbled upon this website a couple weeks back because I found one of the best organizations to date. I was doing a search for website that deals with people who have missing hands or limbs and I found the Lucky Fin Project.

tumblr_m7koy80n9n1qdx2cyo1_400About three years ago Molly Stapelman started the lucky fin project for her daughter Ryan who was born with Symbrachydactyly. This left Ryan with a perfectly normal left hand and a “Lucky fin” on her right hand. Her right hand has one full finger which is her thumb and four nubs similar to mine.  The name “Lucky Fin” came from the movie Finding Nemo, where Nemo had one fin that was just a little different from all the rest but could still accomplish anything he set out to do.  In 2010, Molly began to make bracelets to celebrate her daughter and other kids and adults who have limb differences. From there, the sky was the limit. To date they have made over four thousand bracelets and have connected with people all over the world.

They are a non-profit organization that is out there to help raise awareness for children and parents who suffer from a limb difference. I am so proud of what they are doing because I know that had an organization like this been around when I was younger, it would have made all the difference for me and my family. They are reaching out to families all across the world to offer support and hope for those dealing with a limb difference.

A quote from their website, “A child being born with a limb difference is not tragic. It’s extremely important to show our children how capable & wonderfully made they are. If we treat them as flawed or limited that is who they will believe themselves to be- and that would be the tragedy.”…..I couldn’t have said it better myself!

385927_617863954897146_1075985849_nI want all of my followers to go check out their website to learn more about this great organization and family. They also have created one of my favorite shirts that I have seen. It says, “Ten fingers are overrated,” you have to go check it out for yourself by clicking this link here! Lucky Fin Project Rocks!

Can’t Is Not An Excuse

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