Alex Minsky is embracing his new life.

Which includes some of this:

Yeah...I got nothin'.

Yeah…I got nothin’.

And this:

Can you say Mockingjay?

Can you say Mockingjay?

In this episode we talk about:

  • How he got blown-up in Afghanistan
  • His recovery process and subsequent spiral into alcoholism
  • His forced sobriety and the new life he’s enjoying and protecting
  • How saying “Yes” can lead to amazing opportunities
  • How to stay motivated to create a healthy lifestyle
  • Some of Ryan’s Random Questions
  • And more!

You don’t want to miss this episode. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to be inspired.

And you’re going to laugh a lot.

If you’re on iTunes, I’d love if you subscribed and left a review here!

Please leave comments below about how Alex inspired you!

Let’s start here: The new Apple Watch looks cool as heck.

That said, I will not be purchasing said watch.

And it’s not that I don’t want one.

See, watches have always been hit or miss for me. As you might imagine, it’s a bit tricky when you only have one hand. I’ve had several over the years, but they’ve never been high on my list of priorities. Well, except for this one:

The Calculator Watch!

The Calculator Watch!

So, why won’t my wrist be home to this new-fangled fancy-schmancy gadget from Apple? For several of the same reasons I never got the calculator watch.

First of all, there’s really no practical way for me to take advantage of the touch functions on the screen. It’s been suggested I wear a watch on my left arm, but to that I say – you try wearing a watch above the crook of your elbow next to your bicep. Yeah, not gonna happen. I’ve also been told that the watch has Siri. I’d like to talk to my watch on occasion, but not on every occasion. The screen technology looks amazing, but isn’t accessible for me.

"Touch me!" said the screen.

“Touch me!” said the screen.

Second of all, that sweet looking digital crown dealio. Looks totally rad, right? Well, I’d never be able to use it. This has always been an issue with cool watches I’ve wanted. They have buttons and knobs all over the dang place, which is just not practical for me. Buttons for lights and timers and modes and laps and whatever the dang heck else they can fit on there! So, enjoy pressing and playing with that button with your other hand. Seriously. Enjoy it.

Look at that thing. Just teasing me.

Look at that thing. Just teasing me.

And thirdly, most of the straps are ill-suited for folks with one hand. Now, I will say that a couple of them, what with their magnetic features, look decently usable. But, most of them are not. You can see my current watch and the type of closure it has in the following video:

Now, truth be told, I pulled that watch out of my dresser drawer to make this video. I haven’t worn it in months. Why?

BECAUSE I HAVE A PHONE THAT HAS, LIKE, SEVEN MILLION CLOCKS ON IT.

Seriously, the most brilliant part of this whole deal is that Apple has convinced us all that WE MUST HAVE WATCHES. Let’s be honest, nobody needs a watch. Nobody. And our phones already do virtually everything this new watch does. But, man oh man, is it cool! It looks amazing and the technology seems incredible and I don’t fault a single person on Earth for wanting one, but it certainly isn’t a necessity.

Which, in a round about way, brings me to my last point: Not everything is for everybody. I could throw a fit about how this watch is not limb-different friendly and lambaste Apple for not thinking of ME, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of Apple’s customers will be able to use it flawlessly. And their job, as a business, is to focus on those who are going to buy and use their product. So, while it’s a bummer that it’s not going to work for me, it’s not like they’re infringing on my rights. They’ve made an incredible product that is going to be awesome for tons of people.

Just not me.

And that’s totally fine. They don’t owe me anything. I’ll just play with one of my friends’ when they get one.

Unless, you know, Apple wants to send me one to test.

I wore a prosthetic arm until my early teens.

I had a basic “mitten arm” when I was a baby and then a hook arm and then a myoelectric arm. See some sweet pictures and video of my arms in this post. They all served their purpose during the times I wore them, but then, like many of us (congenital amputees), I stopped wearing it. For me it was a combination of things. It was heavy, cumbersome, and honestly not very useful in most situations. I was never uncomfortable with my appearance, so I didn’t need one for that, either.

In fact, it’s been over 20 years since I’ve worn a prosthetic arm and while the technology I’ve seen on TV from time to time is exciting, it’s never grabbed me enough to try it for myself. That said, something else has caught my attention lately and I think it’s the future of prosthetics.

I’m talking about 3D printed prosthetics.

This blows my mind on so many levels.

In particular, I see three reasons 3D printed prosthetics are the future:

Cost. Availability. Durability.

First of all, the cost. $50. FIFTY FREAKING DOLLARS. They reference the cost of $40,000 on average for a myoelectric arm, but that’s pretty low from what I’ve seen. And if you’re talking about the i-Limb and arms like it, you’re talking into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, from a cost perspective alone, these hands and arms are a dream come true.

Secondly, there’s the fact that these prosthetics are available to anybody. As she says in the video above, “Anybody that can get access a three-dimensional printer can have a hand.” I’ve worked for a health insurance company for nearly a decade, so I know first-hand (so to speak) the challenges of getting them to pay for a prosthetic device. Sure, you’ll hear a good story every now and then, but for the most part parents and amputees have to fight just to get basic limbs. The problem, in my opinion, is that the people making the laws simply don’t understand how prosthetics work, especially for growing children. Covering one prosthetic device for the lifetime of the patient would be laughable if it wasn’t such a devastating circumstance.

Lastly, the durability of these devices is spectacular. Let me explain. They’re made out of hard plastic and wires and screws you can buy at a hardware store. So, if something breaks, you print the part and repair it! No visit to the prosthetist. No costly repairs to any electronic components. And you can use them anywhere! Miles O’Brien shared his first-hand experience with the high-tech, expensive arms that he’s been looking at and the limitations they have, especially when it comes to harsh conditions (Listen here). One simple example is if you encounter wet conditions. The high-tech arms are highly susceptible to water damage, whereas the 3D printed devices are not.

None of this is very good news, I assume, for companies that produce and sell high-end electronic prosthetic devices. And please don’t hear me saying that there isn’t a place for them. There is. I’m simply saying that the 3D devices provide an option for the many millions who don’t have access to the high-end devices. I can’t say enough about the folks involved with e-NABLE and their efforts in this endeavor!

So, are the 3D printed devices as aesthetically pleasing? Depends on your taste. Are they as advanced? Not really. But, due to their cost, availability and durability, I believe they are the future of prosthetic devices. And I firmly believe, due to the open nature of their creation, that the quality of these devices will continue to improve.

And ultimately, when I see my friends affected positively – like Sam, pictured below – I know we’re onto something good.

My buddy Sam from Facebook.com/MySpecialHand

My buddy Sam from Facebook.com/MySpecialHand

What do you think? Have you had experience with either of these options? Share it below!

Sometimes when someone’s getting to know me, I do this thing.

It goes like this: A group of us are hanging around and we start joking about random stuff. I’ll say something dumb to try to setup the new guy, like, “Hey, let’s give so-and-so a hand!” and the new guy bites and says something like, “Not you, though!” He’ll have this very satisfied look on his face, like he’s one of us now. Then, I’ll scowl and look right into his eyes and say, “Dude…not ok. I’ll let you know when it’s ok for you to joke about my arm. That’s my decision to make.”

The room is quiet.

He’ll swallow hard, start to sweat and apologize profusely.

Then I’ll crack and say, “Totally kidding, dude! It’s cool!”

We all throw our heads back in laughter and the frame freezes and the music plays.

It’s wonderful.

Now, dear reader, you are in one of two camps: You’re either laughing…or you think I’m a total jerk.

That’s the thing with humor; it’s completely subjective.

I mean, my wife says she married me because I make her laugh, but I would wager she only thinks about 70% of the stuff I think is funny is actually funny. Sophomoric humor is not beneath me. Puns are fantastic. Reading websites devoted to cataloging all of the characters who lost arms in the Star Wars series is good fun. And then there’s…

Buster.

Buster Bluth. Monster.

Buster Bluth. Monster.

If you’re not a fan, Buster Bluth is a character in the TV show Arrested Development. In season two, Buster loses his hand when it’s bitten off by a loose seal. He then obtains a hook arm and essentially overdramatizes everything in relation to it. Now, some people would find this offensive on many levels. I, on the other hand – HA! – get that they are purposely taking Buster’s actions to the extreme for comedic effect. And gosh dang it…it’s funny!

But that’s the trouble with humor, right? It can be unfunny or even offensive to one person, yet hilarious to another.

I’ve written before about the idea of having a laugh about your “disability,” and I know it rubs some people the wrong way, but it’s a concept I fully believe in. It’s a drag to take ourselves so seriously all the time!

As someone who tries to be funny, especially in the public arena, I understand that not everyone will appreciate what I think is funny. It stinks, but I get it. If you even dabble in the field of humor and can’t accept this fact, you’re doomed.

For instance, I came-up with these ideas for some t-shirts a while back (which you can now purchase here).

I'm all about being helpful.

I’m all about being helpful.

Ultimately, if I wear a shirt that I think is funny and somebody else doesn’t think it is…that’s ok. My focus is on the ones who do.

So, this is what I think: I think it behooves us all to give each other some slack when it comes to humor. By all means, if it’s mean-spirited or demeaning and you’re upset by it, discuss it with the person. And those of us who try to be funny need to be aware that this could happen, even if it’s not our intent. When that happens – own it. Explain, apologize if you need to and move on.

Ultimately – for me at least – I’m going to keep being a goofball. I’ll keep trying to get people to smile and laugh.

That’s just how I roll.

How do YOU roll? What are your thoughts on incorporating and even basing some of your humor around your “disability”?

 

Miles O’Brien has been a journalist for over 30 years and has won every award you can name. Countless assignments of his have put him in harm’s way and yet, as Miles says, “Life has a way of surprising you.”

Sadly, Miles hasn't been able to maintain his sense of humor since the accident.

Sadly, Miles hasn’t been able to maintain his sense of humor since the accident.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The unlikely accident that led to the amputation of his left arm just above the elbow
  • The long road to recovery and what that looks like in his daily life
  • The emotional and social effects of the amputation
  • Being a one-handed MacGyver
  • Re-learning to ride a bike and setting ambitious goals (LessCancer.org Bike Ride)
  • The current state and future of prosthetic devices (e-NABLE)
  • Miles’s desire and plan to get back into the cockpit and fly a plane (Able Flight)
  • And more!
"Every day I learn something new."

“Every day I learn something new.”

Follow Miles on Twitter @milesobrien.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

Originally I was only going to review the Synapse 25, but then we thought it would be cool to do a comparison review of the 25 and the 19. Make sure you watch the video below to see the comparison and enter for your chance to win the Synapse 25 for FREE!

Getting my Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack and accessories was an adventure in and of itself.

I was notified that the shipping process had started on July 2nd, which seemed like plenty of time to receive it before I left for Portland, OR on July 9th. But darn it all if that pesky July 4th holiday got in the way. I waited and waited until I finally got the update saying it would be delivered by the end of the day…on July 9th. NOOOOOOOO! My brain went into overdrive since I was leaving at 145pm on the 9th. That morning I got an update saying it was “out for delivery.” Maybe I could catch the driver somewhere! I then realized that I work less than five minutes from the distribution center it was likely being delivered from. I tried to find their local number but kept landing on the 800 number, which was of no use. Finally, I found the good ol’ 608 number! I dialed and the lady on the other end said she’d see if she could find it. Yes, I prayed she would return with good news. “I found it. We’ll just hold it for you at the front counter,” she told me. I thanked her profusely and then went to pick it up shortly thereafter. I felt like Indiana Jones as I walked out of that FedEx distribution center.

Then the real fun began. I unboxed the bag.

I’ll jump into the present tense now to describe the bag. It’s beautiful. The material is sturdy, built to last. One of my main concerns with a backpack is that the zippers are easy to use with one hand. The Synapse 25 has six, seven if you count both for the main compartment. I’m happy to report that they are secure, yet simple to zip and unzip with one hand. The handle at the top of the bag is a perfect size for my little arm to fit through, giving me some leverage for using the bag with my right hand.

The compartments in this bag are…cavernous. I honestly kind of wish I had gone with the Synapse 19 because I overestimated how much space I actually need. Here’s a shot of all the stuff I was lugging around with me in Portland.

Tom Bihn Synapse 25

Yeah, so, I probably didn’t need to carry all of that stuff around with me the whole time. I had plenty of room for more, though!

The temperature was in the 90s when I was there, so my back did get pretty hot, but I don’t blame the bag for that. I blame all the stuff I was carrying around. Even so, I was never uncomfortable, though I did wish at times there was a bit more padding on the shoulder straps. I can imagine filling this backpack to the brim for a camping weekend and having more than plenty to survive for quite some time.

The accessories are fantastic, too. The sleeve for my 11″ MacBook Air is REALLY nice, though it was a bit difficult to get my laptop in and out of with one hand at first. It’s loosened up a bit, but can still be somewhat of a one-handed challenge. The 3D Mesh Organizer Cube was perfect for my phone charger and other cords. The 3D Clear Organizer Cube kept my toiletries together and visible for security. The Mesh Ballistic Organizer Pouch worked great for my computer cord. And the 16-inch Key Strap kept my keys safe and secure until I got home. Again, all of the zippers were of high quality and easy to use with one hand.

Ultimately, the Synapse 25 is an incredible backpack. The materials and craftsmanship are second to none. The design is well thought out, with each pocket and zipper in its rightful place. I’m proud and excited to carry around my Tom Bihn backpack and plan to do so for years and years to come.

Checkout the comparison review video below and enter to win your FREE Synapse 25 below that! You’ll get the Olive Green Synapse 25 in the video – a $200 value!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank to Darcy and the amazing folks at TomBihn.com for providing the bags and accessories to review!

So, I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge thing today.

And it was awesome.

Know what I love most about this challenge that has taken over Facebook? It’s pushed people outside their comfort zone. Hundreds of thousands of people are DUMPING ICE WATER OVER THEIR HEADS to bring awareness to a disease that affects tons of people in a devastating way. And the numbers prove it’s working. The ALSA has raised something like $15 MILLION more dollars than they did a year ago. That’s a lot of money any way you slice it.

It’s been interesting to watch this phenomenon progress. It started small and didn’t quite know what it was trying to do. Initially the challenge was presented as a way to avoid giving money to the ALSA. A valiant, though somewhat misguided effort. Then people started doing the challenge AND donating. That’s when it really took off, at least in terms of effectiveness. And as it got more popular, you guessed it…haters.

Suddenly you find out there are several people in your life who are hardcore water conservationists. “There are people in the world who don’t have water to drink!” That’s true. And that’s not what this is about AT ALL. “Let me get this straight – you dump water over your head to not give money? Sure. Makes sense.” Yeah, that’s why it changed. That’s why people who aren’t looking for an excuse to complain use their brain and say, “Oh, wait, I could do this fun and crazy thing to bring attention to ALS AND I can donate! And I can invite OTHERS to participate as well!”

“Most of these idiots don’t even know what ALS is.” I actually saw that posted. And here’s the thing: THAT’S THE POINT. I’ve seen more people research to find out what ALS is than ever before. “Why ALS?” Why NOT ALS? Are there countless other charities that need support? Of course. But that doesn’t negate the good that is coming from this. Nor should it deter you from joining-in to support a good cause.

Will this eventually peter out? Absolutely. Fame usually does. And there will be tons of people who say, “Told you it wouldn’t last.” And again, those people have completely missed the point. Of course it will end and Facebook will go back to pictures of kids and cats and stupid memes. You know, pretty useless fare.

But at least our timelines won’t be clogged with people doing good.

So, my challenge is for any of you who might have taken a stance against this viral phenomenon…for whatever reason…is to stop nit-picking and get out of your comfort zone and join in. Do something good. If you really don’t want to do the water thing, get creative! Think of another unique way to bring attention ad support to ALS. Do some research if you don’t know what it is. And if there’s a different cause you’d like to champion – do that, too!

It’s been refreshing to see so many people smiling and laughing and doing what they can to help people whose lives are often incredibly difficult and painful.

Keep up the good work, friends!

Donate to the ALSA here!

If you’ve been married for any amount of time, you know how this goes. You have an incredible weekend away, with no distractions, and you feel as connected as you’ve ever been. You hold hands and gaze into each others’ eyes to pass the time. As you go to sleep, the stars shine brighter. And as you wake, the sunrise is more beautiful and birds are chirping…and they’re not even annoying you! Your marriage is everything you ever wanted it to be. You feel strong and in love and on target.

Gross.

Gross.

Then you get home and it’s back to real life.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, just realistic. Those weekends away are absolutely vital to the health of a long-term relationship, but they’re definitely more fantasy than reality. You don’t need to worry about paying bills or going to work or cleaning-up your kid’s puke on your weekend away. It’s all about each other. When you get home, though, your love is tested. Things aren’t perfect and life happens and your resolve and loyalty to one another is challenged.

That’s what I’m speaking to right now. That time where things are ok, but not “weekend getaway” perfect.

And here’s the thing: Most of the time you don’t need a seminar to get back on track; you just need a reminder.

I asked my wife, “What’s good about our marriage?” The look on her face was my queue to rephrase the question. “No, I mean, our marriage rules! But why? What makes it so good? That’s what I meant!” I stammered. We talked for a little while and I decided that while that’s a good question and something we should continue to think about, it wasn’t what I was really after. I just wanted that little jolt of energy for us. Something that would punch us in the gut real quick and remind us of how good we are together. Something to get us through the “we’re ok, but not great” time. These were the two questions that did the trick; the ones that served as the reminder for us.

What always makes us laugh? This question is so fun to answer. It could be anything! For us, one of the things that always makes us laugh is coming up with titles of books we will someday write as the powerful marriage advice duo, Drs. Ryan and Julie Haack. Usually we come up with these right after having a fight. Just being honest. Fighting Fair Is For Losers by Drs. Ryan and Julie Haack. When Husbands Cry by Drs. Ryan and Julie Haack. Making-Up Is NOT Overrated by Drs. Ryan and Julie Haack. This is only funny to us, most likely, but that’s the point. What makes you and your spouse laugh without fail? We love watching Modern Family and Parks and Rec, too. Always funny to us. What are your shows?

So, think about it: what always makes the two of you laugh? A friend of mine said, “Farting!” Perfect. I guarantee you’ll laugh just answering the question.

What do we always like to do together? One of the things I thought of while answering this question is not something we do very often, but we always love when we get to. Not that, though it’s a good answer. We’re big Milwaukee Brewers fans and we’re lucky to have one of the best radio broadcasters in the history of the game. Whenever the two of us get to listen to Bob Uecker call a game, we’re happy. It’s comforting and fun and hilarious and makes for a relaxing car-ride for sure. We also love to go to Brewer games together and tailgate. We love to go to movies together. We’re huge documentary fans, too, and are always on the lookout for good ones.

What about you? What kinds of things do you and your spouse like to do together? Maybe you like to camp or hike or bike or run or sing together or perform on stage together or paint or build things or volunteer…seriously, the list could go on forever. What I love about this question is remembering all the fun times you’ve had together already, while simultaneously looking forward to doing even more fun things together!

While these two questions may not fix a broken relationship, they certainly can inject some much needed life into one that’s stagnant. So stop being roommates and remember what makes you an awesome couple.

Then fart in the movie theater and laugh about it together.

I LOVE to hear what makes other people laugh! Share what makes you and your spouse laugh every time and some things you like to do together!

Kary Oberbrunner helps people.

He helps people discover their identity, uncover their purpose and then he helps develop a plan to carry out that mission.

And he’s really good at it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kary at the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR earlier this month and I’m so glad I did. I’m a fan of good dudes and Kary definitely fits the bill.

wds2014

Kary and me and that lady at WDS2014

In this episode we talk about:

  • How Kary discovered his passion for helping people
  • His experience growing up with a stutter and then struggling with an addition to cutting
  • How he gained freedom!
  • Kary’s own journey moving from his day job to his dream job
  • Recognizing and dealing with a negative, self-limiting mindset

I’m so excited for you to hear this episode and I know you’re going to be impacted in a positive way.

If you’re on iTunes, I’d love if you subscribed and left a review here!

Make sure you checkout the projects Kary talked about in this episode (DayJobToDreamJob.com, DeeperPathBook.com, YourSecretName.com) and enter below to win YOUR FREE copy of his new book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This one time a stranger helped me put on my belt.

I had just gone through security in the Portland airport and was struggling a bit to get my belt back on when suddenly I felt a tug. I whipped my head around and a lady sitting on the bench near me had grabbed the end of my belt and tucked it through the next loop for me. I was surprised, but thanked her. She smiled back and then continued to wait for her flying buddy.

I had a choice about how to react in this situation.

I could have been offended. Talk about invading my personal space! She didn’t even ask if I needed help! And did she not think I could handle it? That’s a bit presumptuous. I’ve put my belt on thousands of times all by myself. Just because I have one hand and look to be struggling with a task does NOT mean I need your help! *stomps feet*

Or…

I could recognize her intent and thank her for helping. I could stop assuming that she’s having pity on me because of my hand and understand that she just saw someone who could use a hand (rim shot) and literally reached out to help.

Honestly, the first option never crossed my mind. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized just how hurtful that line of thinking can be. It hurts me because it puts me in a negative frame of mind. It puts me in an angry place. It means I’m focusing on my disability and assuming the worst of others. And it’s not fair to those who are trying to help. If I got the door for someone using crutches and they got mad at me and told me they could do it themselves, that would leave a bad taste in my mouth. Why not assume the best and allow people to help? Lord knows we need more of that in our world today!

And listen, I get it. Accepting help is inherently difficult for most people, physically different or not. We perceive it to be a sign of weakness. Of vulnerability. Especially for those of us with “something to prove” (hint: we DON’T have anything to prove), accepting help can be a real blow to our ego. Honestly, that’s probably a good thing. There’s something to be said for humility and realizing we aren’t an island. I’d much prefer a community of helpers than one filled with people who are afraid to help because they might offend someone.

I worked at a hardware store when I was younger and the owners were constantly asking if they could help me carry things. It always bothered me and I never let them help me. Looking back, I realize they were just trying to help. And believe me, I know there are times when it’s appropriate to have a calm conversation with someone, especially if you have a relationship with them. My default with strangers, though, is to allow them to help.

Some might say I’m just perpetuating the stereotype that people with physical differences need help more than others. I prefer to believe that I’m reinforcing the instinct to do good unto others.

Ultimately, we’re all just trying to do our best, right?

Let’s give those who are willing to help the benefit of the doubt.