I Love Life: How High Can You Bounce?
Roger Crawford, author of the best selling book “How High Can You Bounce,” was born with severe disabilities. “Jerry, I was born with a physical challenge that affects all four of my limbs. The cause of it is unexplained. I have able-bodied parents and a younger brother. The physical handicap affects me from the elbows down and from the knees down. I have two fingers on my left hand and one finger on my right hand. My left leg was amputated when I was five years old because that leg was virtually useless. I was fitted with an artificial leg that enabled me to walk by the age of five. I have three toes on my right foot. People may be thinking this physical challenge was quite daunting. But, I was so fortunate that I had parents who were incredibly encouraging. They used to say to me, ‘Roger, don’t let what you cannot do get in the way of what you can do.’ Accepting that kind of attitude, I was able to view this challenge as an opportunity. In fact, people ask me, ‘if I could have surgery tomorrow that would give me normal hands and legs, would I do it?’ My answer is no! I wouldn’t.”
As a youngster, Roger was teased by his classmates. But the verbal putdowns didn’t stop the determined youngster from turning his dreams into reality. “Certainly as a young boy, my classmates were curious about my physical difference thinking of unique names and put downs for me. I always had dreams as a boy that I could take what I’ve been given and use it as the best of my ability. Athletics became my passion. It became something I could point to and say ‘I do that well.’ I wasn’t the only student who was the brunt of some bad jokes. All of us at one time or another have been picked on by someone. My mother used to say, ‘Roger, if somebody says a cruel word to you, that is often a weak person’s imitation of strength.’”
Against all odds, Roger, the boy who was told he would never be able to walk, became a celebrated tennis champion! “I started playing tennis when I was 12 years old. I’d hold onto the racket with two hands, lay the racket against my right arm and hold the grip to my right elbow with my left hand. I know there are people thinking, ‘how well does this guy play tennis. He’s got one leg and we’ve heard about his hands.’ Well, during my career I played John McEnroe. Before you’re too impressed, I realized then and there a positive attitude doesn’t work all the time! When I walk on the tennis court, I realize I’m not the most powerful or the fastest. But, if I can hit the ball over the net one more time than my opponent, I win the point.”
In his book, How High Can You Bounce?, Roger challenges us to see how reshaping our attitudes and actions can turn failure into success. “In my own life, I’d rather have one leg and a positive attitude than two legs and a negative attitude. How we think creates the window through which we see our life experiences. My hands and legs were out of my control. There was nothing I could do about it. For everybody reading this story, I want to tell them there are challenges they can’t change. But, the good news is we can change how we think. In other words, we are and will become what we think. We can change the quality and the content of our thoughts. I am convinced our thought process is the software that drives the hardware. It’s our thinking that drives our level of happiness and our level of performance.”
Roger, inducted into three distinguished Halls of Fame, knows what it takes to turn adversity into victory. “First and foremost, challenges in life are inevitable. But, defeat’s optional. That’s really our choice. I was so fortunate as a boy that I had people around me that didn’t let me feel sorry for myself. My dad used to tell me, ‘you don’t live in pity city.’ Number one —look at your challenges as opportunities. Number two, Jerry, is clarity. Once you have clarity, your vision has a cutting edge. Finally, oftentimes we underestimate ourselves and overestimate others. We should remember all of us have greatness and uniqueness within us.”