June 3, 2013

No Excuses

At some point, all of us have some struggles in our lives. Some are major and require serious adjustments. Others are more in the category of  irritants or minor bumps in our journey toward a satisfying retirement. At the time we may be upset, but in retrospect we realize we have it pretty good compared to others.

This post is about a young man who is years from retirement. In fact he is in his early 20's. He is the son of a couple in our small group at church. His mom and dad keep us up to date on his life and how he is faring. Oh, I should mention he is autistic, though, you will see shortly that is not who he is nor does it limit him. Rather, I get the very real sense that he would think of autism as just one of  the "bumps" in the road that he has learned to navigate.

Matt is a cook, and a very good one. I know because he often prepares desserts for our small group meetings. He lives with mom and dad and creates his magic in their kitchen. Last year he was given an opportunity by a local organization, SeedSpot.org, that provides funds for early stage social entrepreneurs, to develop his own business.

Stuttering King Bakery is the result. Matt, with help from mom and dad, now supplies baked goods to several Phoenix area offices and coffee shops. For example, one place Matt delivers his seriously good pastries is the Beneficial Beans Cafe in the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. That cafe is run by the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center. His goal is to open a bakery in downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale to expand his operation, while hiring other autistic folks to help him with the work load.

Stuttering King Bakery? The name choice reveals a lot about this amazing young man. Matt says the name is in honor of England's King George VI, a man who overcame a serious disability to lead his country. The recent movie, The King's Speech, told his story. Matt faced his own major challenges in finding ways to accomplish his dream through an educational system that has problems properly serving autistic students.

Matt took private lessons for three years from a local pastry chef before serving at St. Mary's Food Bank kitchen to hone his skills. In his office space at Seedspot he and mom work on budgets, marketing, and all the issues involved in establishing a viable business.

Recently, The Downtown Devil, a newspaper for those attending the downtown campus of Arizona State University, wrote a glowing report on Matt and his determination to succeed. In that profile the co-founder of Seedspot, Courtney Klein Johnson, said "How can you not fall in love with his story, the dream and his dream for other autistic people? [Matt's] unique home-baked and delivered business model, attention to detail and dream to employ other autistic people make him a perfect member of the Seed Spot mantra."

The Phoenix Business Journal had a report on Matt's story, too. Seedspot sponsored a demonstration day at Phoenix Symphony Hall. Four young businesses pitched their concepts and products. Matt's baked goods stole the show and earned him a picture on the front page of the report.

So, besides knowing him personally, what is the connection between a 23 year old autistic man and this blog? It is the universal message that, regardless of age and circumstances, we always have a choice: to give in to our troubles and problems, or fight them and find out how to make them work for us.

I recently re-read Stephen Covey's mega-bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Several of his points fit Matt's story perfectly. Mr. Covey reminds us of Eleanor Roosevelt's words, "No one can hurt you without your consent." 

He also makes these point:

* Blaming everyone and everything for our problems chains us to those problems.

*The power to make and keep commitments to ourselves is the essence of developing the habit of effectiveness.

*It is not what happens to us, but our responses to what happens to us that hurts [or helps] us.

*Our behavior is a function of our decisions.

*If my life is not of my own design, but the result of my deferring to circumstances and other people, then I can change it.

Matt is autistic. He is also a creative, generous, giving young man with the gift of baking masterpieces and the will to succeed.

I doubt he spends much time thinking about the autistic part anymore. He is too busy building a dream. Do any of us need any more motivation than that?



18 comments:

  1. Hey Bob. Fine blog. However, I think that wonderful quote by Eleanor goes, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Which makes the blog topic all the more terrific. Thanks.

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    1. Mr. Covey apparently changed the quote to fit his mold since you are correct about the actual quote. But, the message is the same: when we allow ourselves to see ourselves as a victims we give up power over our own life.

      Thanks, Steve.

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  2. WHat a wondeorful story to start off the week,Bob! An inspiration! With some sweat and perseverance and a dream, life can be very good indeed!!

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  3. Awesome story about a remarkable young man with incredibly supportive parents! Goes to show that if we ever have a Pity Party we better expect no attendees as there are so many solutions to lives difficulties if we just try, and try again!
    I may just have to re-read Mr Covey's book...liked it the first time...but that was several years ago.
    I might add that you are an inspiration also...thanks!

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    1. I first read Stephen Covey's book 30 years ago, so it was like reading it for the first time. For this stage of my life I found the first half most enlightening. Since the book is really targeted at those in the working world, as he became more focused on building a business I found myself skimming more. But, overall, I found a lot to like again.

      Matt and his parents are great models of a caring, compassionate family that works together to accomplish their goals.

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  4. I continue to be amazed and inspired by those who are able to rise above adversity and do well in life. It always puts your own issues into perspective when you consider what other folks have as challenges in their lives.

    My mother has cancer and is going through a round of chemo over the next several months. She will be the first to say "it's all about me, me, me!" However every once in a while she meets someone or hears of a situation that reminds her that everyone has their own issues, many times more serious than her own. I see where it is helpful for her to focus less on herself. How we handle life challenges is a good measure of who we are as a person. It's easy to be pleasant when everything is going your way.

    For someone like Matt, he faces the challenges of autism EVERY day. May we all continue to learn and grow from others like Matt. I wonder if he realizes how much he has given to people who hear about his story?

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    1. I am so sorry to hear of your mom's struggles. She will be in my prayers. Her reaction is very understandable and quite human. I don't think any of us can know how we would react unless we were actually living the same experience.

      Matt is so focused on doing what he is committed to do everyday I doubt he spends much time thinking about what he is giving to others through his story. He has been raised to do his best, respect others, and bear witness to his God. His story is for others to notice and spread the word.

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  5. Love this story, Bob. I often see how those we may think have disabilities, really have a gift, and can hone in on that gift to make a great life. Maybe without all the clutter we 'normal' types have, we could take a lesson here.
    b

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    1. All of us have some type of disability...maybe not as obvious as Matt's, but we have something that we must overcome. It might be as simple as being shy around others, or not being empathetic to the less fortunate. It could be the habit of procrastination or rushing ahead without proper planning.

      The point is, a "disability" is anything that prevents us from living as well as we might. Perhaps those of us who don't see ourselves with a disability are the ones most in need of this type of story!

      Thanks, Barb.

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  6. Cari in North TexasMon Jun 03, 09:42:00 AM MST

    What an inspiring, uplifting story! Great way to start my week - thanks for sharing. I'm also reminded of Dr. Phil's saying - you teach people how to treat you. If we act like we are impaired, to be pitied, or some how less than others, that's how people will react to us. This young man shows that just because you have a disability (is there some less demeaning word?), it doesn't mean you have to lie down and give up.

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    1. Maybe "hindrance" is better than disability, since Matt and others like him don't see themselves as disabled.

      Matt has a "hindrance" to his goals than he must overcome. That certainly sounds less judgmental doesn't it!

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  7. Great story. I thought the very best part was the young man's resolve to hire others who are autistic as he develops his business. That's "giving back" at its finest.

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    1. Absolutely, Dick. That was more of the inspiring parts of his story.

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  8. Hi Bob. What a beautiful blog about Matt. He works so hard, and always has a bright cheerful attitude, it makes my job so easy. Thanks so much for your kind words and to all your commentors. As parents, we are very touched. We are praying for his future and that his business will take off. We have been contacted by other parents of autistic teens that are very concerned about their future as well they should be. 91% of autistic adults are unemployed. This is a travetsy. You can follow Matt on FaceBook at Stuttering king Bakery. We would love your prayers!! Thanks again Bob. Peg Cottle, Matt's mom.

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    1. So are so very welcome, Peg. Matt's story was very easy to write because it is so inspirational and important to share what he is doing. 91% unemployment among autistic teens? That is so unnecessary.

      You and Matt's dad, Dave, are a very vital part of this story. I'm glad Betty and I have you guys as friends.

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  9. Bob... thank you so much ! I enjoyed your blog today. Matt is truly an incredible young man and deserves success with his bakery. He works so hard and loves the interaction with the professionals he delivers his goodies to. May I say, "congratulations Matt, I am proud of you son"! dad

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    1. Hi, Dad! You are an important part of Matt's story. I'm glad you were pleased with this post. The comments show everyone is a fan of Matt, and all those people who don't let circumstances define them.

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