Yesterday we had our flu shot clinic at work and I decided to have some fun with it.

Shocking, right?

When it was time to get my shot, I took off my sweatshirt so the nurse could get at my arm and then, well, watch this (click the CC button to see the transcription):

I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous! Only because I didn’t want to offend Barbara or make her uncomfortable. She loved it, though. In fact, several of my nurse friends have told me that it gets pretty annoying hearing “I hate needles!” all day long, so getting a little something out of the norm is greatly appreciated.

Know what else I learned by pulling this little prank? Humor is a funny thing. Literally and figuratively. Trust me, I know my sense of humor isn’t for everyone. I have the emails to prove it. When I posted on Facebook, though, asking if I should do this (rhetorically, of course), it was awesome to see all the responses in favor of it. My favorite was from a life-long friend of mine who said, “I can’t believe this is even in question!”

You guys know me. And I love you for it.

I’m sure there are some deep-seated issues related to my desire to make people laugh, but it’s who I am and it’s not going to change. You have my word that I’ll keep doing everything in my power to bring you humor, hope and help however I can. And I encourage you to do the same for those in your sphere of influence! Make them smile. Give them hope. Help however you can.

Can you imagine how awesome the world would be if we all did that?

Whoa, that got a little deep.

Scroll up, watch that video again and then pass it on.

And for the love of Pete, keep smiling!

Buffy recently posted a picture of her French braid to the Living One-Handed Facebook page and the comments made it clear that people wanted to see how she did it! So, I reached out to Buffy and asked her to share a little of her story with us and she also made a video of how she does a French braid with one hand! Thanks, Buffy!

I’m Buffy and I’m a 33 year old photographer! I was born without my left hand just below the wrist. My parents always said doctors figured the umbilical cord wrapped around my wrist in the early stages of development.

Buffy

Buffy

I was raised to always at least try and if that didn’t work I was made to try harder until I figured it out. My parents took me to specialists of all kinds when I was very young where they suggested I be put in Special Education classes because they didn’t feel I’d ever cope the way NORMAL kids did! Thank god my parents let me figure it out for myself! They raised me to be unique! I wasn’t an honor student but I graduated with an academic diploma!

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Back in 1987 I was on the news.

They showed me doing several activities with my new myoelectric prosthetic arm. Watch this vintage video clip and then…I’m going to tell you a secret.

First of all, nice hair, right? Here’s the secret: Except for this clip, I never wore my arm to play with LEGO blocks.

I simply used my fingers and toes and teeth, all with more efficiency than my myo. Yes, I was reprimanded constantly about using my teeth, but they worked!

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My personal trainer told me I was boring.

Literally.

I was doing box step-ups for the first time and when I was about half way through he said it.

“Why am I boring?” I panted.

“Usually this is the best part because people are flopping all over the place! Your balance is unbelievable. Honestly, I thought you’d be falling to the right every time,” he told me.

This is essentially EXACTLY what I looked like.

This is essentially EXACTLY what I looked like.

Fast-forward a couple years and I’m on the phone with Gillian from the How To Do Everything podcast and she asks me, “Is there anything you have an advantage over because you have one hand?”

I had never been asked this question before and it stopped me in my tracks. I thought for a moment and then remembered that time with my trainer.

“I have incredible balance,” I told her.

And it’s true. As I’ve thought more about it, I’ve always had really good balance. My mom or dad would have to tell you about my balance as an infant, but it was probably AWESOME. My assumption is that my brain just automatically compensated for the weight imbalance as I grew-up. That said, I wore some form of prosthetic limb for much of my childhood, so that had to factor in somehow, too. I’ve never done any therapy because of my arm, but have always loved playing sports and have successfully accomplished the arduous daily task of showering and getting dressed all by myself. For a fun challenge, try putting your underwear, socks and pants on while standing up…with one hand. But, don’t sue me if you fall over and get hurt.

The other day I posted these questions on the Facebook page:

As I’m writing this, there are currently more than fifty responses. And every one of them is interesting.

It appears to me that this issue – How do I make sure my child has good balance? – is one that has a variety of answers.

The advice runs the gamut and my philosophy is, whatever decision you make for your child is the right one. As the parent who loves him/her and wants the best for him/her, you know best.

So, what are the options?

One of them is to obtain physical and/or occupational therapy. Jen from Born Just Right says about her daughter’s therapy, “Jordan started working with OT and PT services when she was four months old. She was doing just fine but after an expert watched her, Jordan’s body was curved and she hadn’t really paid attention to the left side of her body.

Fast forward to almost nine years later and we still check in with our OT and PT services. Why? Because as her PT says, Jordan is really good at ‘faking it.’ She appears incredibly balanced, but she’s faking her way. We noticed this after Jordan started complaining about how she couldn’t touch her toes. Jordan has maintained incredible core strength but after really looking at her, she wasn’t walking properly! Jordan was moving her long arm when she walked or ran. But she had stopped really freely moving her little arm. That was creating some hip and upper leg deficiencies. (The body is a wild creature. It expects even actions all the time or else it starts messing with you.) Since we started working on more focused running and walking, Jordan is much better at stretching and flexibility. This is a long-term process. Jordan does pilates and yoga each week to keep her body in check. She also dances twice a week and runs with a cross country team. It’s a lot. But it keeps her strong and very aware when her body isn’t feeling quite right.”

Personally, I’ve never had any therapy. Not because I chose not to, but simply because we were never told it was an option! And for some people, in addition to preference, therapy is just not feasible. Whether it be financial or time constraints, if you’re unable to or just don’t think it’s necessary, it’s my opinion that you have nothing to worry or feel bad about. One common theme I saw in the comments thread, though, was getting kids involved in sports or other active endeavors. Soccer, gymnastics, basketball, baseball…all sports require balance and provide a way for kids to work on theirs without consciously thinking about it.

Riding a bike takes mad balancing skills, yo.

Riding a bike takes mad balancing skills, yo.

Another thing to remember is that some people just seem to have solid, natural balance. And some…don’t. And no matter how many hands they have, all little kids fall down, so I’m pretty confident in saying not to worry about yours.

Obviously I’m not a doctor or a therapist, so please check with yours if you’re interested in finding out how their services might benefit your child. That said, it’s been my experience that therapy isn’t required to enjoy a life of SUPERIOR PHYSICAL BALANCE.

I’m going to start bragging about my balance all the time now.

Or…you know…probably not.

What has been your experience? Have you used therapy to improve your own or your child’s balance? How has it helped?

Recently I had the opportunity to try out a Segway for the first time.

And you guys…IT WAS INCREDIBLE.

ryan haack segway

WHAT UP, SEGWAY?!

I absolutely loved it.

To be honest, though, when my friend Cabell first suggested the idea, I was a little hesitant. Not because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but because it was unfamiliar and, frankly, I didn’t want to die. I had images of being spun uncontrollably and being launched into oncoming traffic lodged in my imagination for some reason. I’m all about reasonable expectations.

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If I were to identify a theme that presented itself at that 2014 STORY Conference, it’s this:

Those who are prepared to fail, succeed.

For a conference about dreaming and story-telling and creating, that seems like a fairly negative theme, but to me it was refreshing and encouraging. There were a litany of other lessons to be gleaned from this year’s experience to be sure, but that theme permeated several of the presentations in one form or another.

Jonah Lehrer bravely began the conference by sharing his story of success, complete and utter ruin, and what he’s learned for the experience. If you don’t know who Jonah is (like I didn’t before hearing his story), a quick Google search will bring you somewhat up to speed. Jonah is a NYT Best-Selling author and a brilliant mind in the area of neuroscience and had everything going for him as a young author and journalist. But then…scandal. The way I understand it, he stood accused of plagiarizing his own material – essentially regurgitating previous work and passing it off as new – as well as others’ and was fired/resigned from essentially every position he held.

Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer

Lehrer’s tale is still in process. He didn’t stand before us triumphantly, telling us how he rose from the ashes after flaming out. He told us he’s still figuring it out. Suddenly he had nothing but time on his hands and he said that enabled him to become a better husband and father. The fall reminded him of his true passion, writing, and kept him up at night lamenting how he’d lost that passion amidst the fame and popularity he was experiencing. So, now he’s working on a book about love, the only thing he had left after losing everything he thought was important. He dreads the day he has to explain to his kids what happened and wishes he could purge Google of the results that currently represent him (including one dude who has a strange obsession with hating on him), but has come to realize, “Say what you want about failure – it educates.”

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When I was in elementary school my friend Glenn and I spent nearly every recess period pretending.

For instance, I'd pretend I knew how to dress myself.

For instance, I’d pretend I knew how to dress myself.

We’d pretend we were in a rocket ship while climbing some of the playground equipment, planning what we were going to do when we landed on Mars. We’d also develop defense plans just in case aliens impeded our efforts. Spoiler alert: They usually did.

Other days we’d bring our stuffed animals and pretend we were in the jungle or at the North Pole, depending on which animals we brought that day, of course. Still other days we’d be soldiers on a mission to recapture the base, replete with hand grenades and machine guns. The noises we made with our mouths were second to none.

All of our quests were dangerous and exciting. Which is, I suppose, how a quest is supposed to be. At least that’s what Chris Guillebeau believes.

And I agree with him.

In Guillebeau’s newest book, The Happiness of Pursuit, he presents the idea that we can find meaning in our lives through adventure – through questing. We find that thing, that idea that just won’t let go of us and we go after it. Now, when I think of a quest, I think of medieval times. So, what actually is a quest? Chris says a quest has a clear goal and a specific end point, it presents a clear challenge, it requires sacrifice of some kind, it is often driven by a calling or sense of mission and it requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal. “To sum it up,” he says, “a quest is a journey toward something specific, with a number of challenges throughout.”

In the book, Chris relies heavily on his quest to visit all 193 countries in the world before the age of 35 to demonstrate how a quest gave his life meaning. He doesn’t get much into the nuts and bolts of how he did it (travel hacking), but rather, he shares the stories that came from it and how they relate to our quest. He also shares many other stories of people who have and are completing amazing quests; some of them purposely to bring change to the world and some of them just because they “had to.” Every story is unique, yet all of them share similarities, which is kind of Chris’s point. Whether we travel the world or not, we can (and Chris would propose should) all be a quester.

So, did I enjoy the book? I’m going to be brutally honest here: Not at first.

I took a break and reflected, though, and figured out why I wasn’t enjoying it. I wanted to say to the book, “It’s not you, it’s me.” I was the problem. I was nit-picking and not connecting and critiquing and making excuses…because I was jealous. And scared. All these people were doing awesome things and seemed to just pick-up and go and do them and…well, I can’t do that. I have a wife and three kids and a job and bills to pay and and and… The excuses piled up. I was afraid to connect.

Once I realized and acknowledged this mindset, everything changed. I was able to enjoy the stories that were told. Stories like that of my friend Alicia who, newly single, decided to go on a first date…in all fifty states. Now that’s a quest! I was able to see challenges to overcome rather than barriers that might stop my progress. I was able to be inspired to do more rather than feel like a failure for not having done more already. And that’s really what Chris is after here. He doesn’t give us a list of crazy things to choose from and say, “Choose one of these and go do it, you lazy piece o’ junk!” He encourages each one of us to find our own quest. To go on our own journey, whatever that means to us. And he gives us some ideas about how to do that. Ideas that he’s seen produce results in his own life and in others’.

I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Alicia Ostarello at the World Domination Summit in Portland earlier this year, She shares he story of going on 50 first dates in all 50 states in the book. And yes, she's fierce.

I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Alicia Ostarello at the World Domination Summit in Portland earlier this year. And yes, she’s fierce.

At some point I became too cool to hangout with Glenn. He maintained his imagination much longer than I did. I became consumed with tight-rolling my jeans and making everyone laugh and being popular. And I was pretty good at it. Looking back now, though, it makes me sad. Sad that I traded my imagination to become just like everybody else.

The Happiness of Pursuit has challenged me to get that imagination back.

To find my quest and slay the dragons in my way.

So…what’s your quest? Share your ideas below!

Enter to win an autographed copy of Chris’s new book here!

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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!