YOP076: What’s Your Stutter with Juan V Lopez

By December 22, 2015 Podcast Episode No Comments

Bio: Juan is an entrepreneur digital marketer, motivational specialist, empowerment speaker, and MBA student at the University of Nevada. As an avid marketer who’s worked with some of the top wealth builders in the world and driven empowerment speaker who thrives on changing lives, Juan’s sole purpose in life is to help others identify theirs.
His ultimate dream is to create an academy for young-to-middle-age men that helps them continue their personal development, learn what factors to consider when making choices, and become better men overall.


Zephan: What’s going on, everyone? This is Zephan Blaxberg with another episode of the Year Of Purpose podcast. Today, I’m joined by my buddy, Juan. Juan is an entrepreneur digital marketer, motivational specialist, empowerment speaker and MBA student at the University of Nevada. As an avid marketer who’s worked with some of the top wealth builders in the world and driven empowerment speaker who thrives on changing lives, Juan’s sole purpose in life is to help others identify theirs. His ultimate dream is to create an academy for young to middle-aged men that helps them continue their personal development, learn what factors to consider when making choices and become better man overall.

Today, he’s hanging out with me. How are you doing today?

Juan: I’m doing great, Zephan. How are you doing, buddy?

Zephan: I’m doing good. I just watched before we jump on the call, your TED Talk. I believe that you’re an inspiration because being able to get up in front of a crowd alone is a huge deal, being able to speak once you get up in front of the crowd is an even bigger deal, and being able to overcome some of the things that you have overcome is the biggest deal. I was hoping maybe if you’d be willing to share with everyone a little piece of your story and how you’ve gotten to this point and in a sense, how you found your voice.

Juan: Yeah, absolutely. In my TED Talk earlier this year, I presented the idea that I have a problem with my speech, I have a stutter, and I’ve had it on my life. I have it since I can remember. Always had it. It’s always been this obstacle in my mind, something that I felt held me back from a lot in life. As I grew up, I would shut myself off from the world. I wouldn’t like to speak out loud in class or with my friends or whatever. It’s hard as a youth because if you sound out or if you look out or anything is odd about you, you’re immediately an outcast.

How I spoke, and sometimes I had issues like saying certain sounds, then I would get all anxious and a whole bunch of stuff happening. It’d be a mess. I was always under the mindset that there was something inherently wrong with me. If you have a mindset like that every single day of your life, it’s a drain because you feel like “I’m inferior. Here I go again, another day in hell.” You know what I’m saying? It was hard. It was hard because I didn’t accept who I was and I would always ask myself how come I talk this way? Why me?

As I got older, I moved off into college, with University of Nevada. I began to find who I was and how to communicate. I began to find that through how I wrote. I became a journalist back when I got here at the university. I began to write, I began to form ideas and I found who I was through the written word. It was awesome because I—because in my mind, I felt like “I don’t have to speak anymore, I can just write and people will love it.” I will get amazing feedback from it from some of the articles I wrote and other stuff like that. I felt like I wasn’t being who I was in a sense. I kept on this whole progression trail because I’ve always had this thought in my mind that I’m should need to keep it pushing, I’m going to keep it pushing regardless of the obstacles I have because aside from how I speak, I’ve had tons of other stuff that’s been—has 100% in my life, as all of us have, but this was like it was the most obvious and evident.

I grew older, I’m not sure—it just all happened with a click, like, hey, this is who I am. I have stuttering problem, this is who I am, this is who I’ll always be. I don’t know how I ended up like this, but since I am like this, I might as well love it because it’s harder to approach something in life if you hate it. As simple as that sounds, it’s harder to act as you are, if you don’t like who you are. As I’m older now, I’ve learned to accept my stutter. I embrace it and I understand it. I have it for some reason. I don’t know why exactly, but I have it. I shared a message that even though I have this, I’m going to love it or else it’s going to pull me back.

In my TED Talk earlier in the year, I shared a message that hey, all of us have something like this. We all have some form of—have a problem like this. Even though it might not sound like mine or looks like mine, we all have something in our lives that’s like holding back, something that has always made us feel small, something that has always been an obstacle or whatnot. In actuality, it’s not what it seems. It’s not this huge overarching balloon in your life. It’s exactly how you make it out to be.

I think as a society, sometimes we accept the outward opinions of other people as a fact. If someone says, hey, there’s something wrong with you. Hey, you’re slow. Hey, you’re behind in reading. You don’t speak fluently. You this, you that, you’re poor, all the stuff, we accept that as a fact and what all they, man, I’m always going to be in the spot. It’s all a mindset thing. I know it sounds super simplistic and it’s an easy approach to everything, but in all honestly, that’s all it is.

If I have an apple, and I’m looking at an apple from—here in the front, but then I switched the apple in the back, it’s the exact same apple, exact same problem, but I’m looking at it in a whole another way, man. I’ve been very blessed to have what I have because I think in anybody who I speak with, it’s an example that I’d use as something which I have that—even though I have it, I’m not going to let it hold me back from these all raw hopes and decisions and anything else I have in life. I use it as an example of “Hey, I have this. I shouldn’t be speaking right now because I have this problem.” You probably don’t have any excuse either, in anything you want to do. That’s how it went.

Zephan: I think it’s really cool that you can honor it and accept it. Most people want to put Band Aids on stuff. They want to cover it up or hide it away. I think it’s really cool that you can honor it that this is just a part of who you are. Something that comes to mind for me, and I’m just curious, for my own education, for people listening in, I think back to my youth group that I volunteer with. One of our kids has Tourette’s. Being in high school, that’s a really tough time for someone who can shout obscenities and shout things that have—just aren’t relevant to any conversation at any point in time. It’s tough on him because a lot of the other kids don’t understand. I think a lot of this tension comes out of people just not understanding.

I’m curious something that he did was he actually has printed out almost like these business cards that explain like “I have Tourette’s. This is something that I have no control over and here’s some of the things that might happen when I speak.” He actually gives it to them when they make fun of him, and he educates them. I’m just curious to hear from you only because I don’t know a lot about stuttering. Have you done any research? Or do you have an understanding of what causes it to happen? Or obviously, you said you’ve had it your whole life, but I’m just curious is this a function in the brain or is this a psychological thing of nervousness or anxiety? Where does it actually come from?

Juan: I think that’s an awesome approach, I just want to say. I wish I would have that idea, like 2, 3 years ago. That’s awesome. In all honesty with this thing that I have, I looked into it a bit and I’ve seen that, that a lot of it is in the brain and neurological. I’m not sure exactly what it is though because I’ve—any other individual who also have a similar problem, I’ve looked into how to fix it and how to get—how to speak like elegant, like…a normal human being, right. I’ve searched for all that stuff. I’ve seen some of that is—it seems flaky, mushy.

For example, something I saw was that there was this ear piece that it would have in your ear, and before you spoke, it would send an echo in your ear, so as if you heard somebody saying the word. Now, here’s something unbelievable about how I speak and how other people speak that I don’t know how to explain, but if I were to say the Pledge of Allegiance with 2 other people, I wouldn’t have a problem at all, I would not have a problem at all. If I were to sing a song that I’m hearing on my earphone right now, I would not stutter for half a millisecond. It’s interesting I’ve put this whole—I’ve put it all to the—I’ve actually tried to emulate this in my life as well. Sometimes if I record a video I’m doing or something like that, I’ll prerecord the audio on my cell phone, and then I’ll play it in my ear at the same time as I say it, as I speak it, and I speak it fluently.

Zephan: Wow.

Juan: It’s crazy. It’s almost as if the echo helps settle something in my brain. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what it is, but it helps me bring me to equilibrium. It’s not an anxiety thing. It’s a nervousness. After—say, I’m in front of 100 people and I begin to have a problem after the first few—after that, then some of the anxiety begins to set in, I get nervous or whatever. At the very beginning, it’s nothing that I know of. I may be very small. I haven’t done a lot of research into it, but the message that I get, that I keep on coming back to it, it said that it’s also free to understand yourself, then in that same light, we do have to understand others. Even though we don’t understand what’s happening with people or whatnot, it’s important that we accept people for who they are or else stuff can happen. That’s really horrible. Again, I don’t know how it happens, man, but if I hear something in my ear, I can say things 100% clearly good.

Zephan: That’s crazy. I wonder if you just walk around all day with classical music or something playing, it’s like soundtrack to you talking if—there’s something interesting that has come up here that I have had in my life, too. I went through a severe depression and anxiety stage when I was a teenager. I think part of what you do is you now identify with that. You say I am bipolar, I am this, I am that. How have you been able to separate yourself from that because it’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy when you’re like I am bipolar, so okay, I’m going to be angry today, sad tomorrow and happy the next day. It’s like you’re setting yourself up for failure from the get go when you accept that is your label.

To that same point, you were saying you do accept that it’s a part of who you are, which is an amazing thing because it allows you to understand yourself and where you stand. I’m just curious to hear your thoughts on how do you separate yourself from what I would call a diagnosis instead of just assuming that, that’s your fate but still love and accept every part of it.

Juan: Yeah. I don’t necessarily see it as you removing yourself from it. If anything, I see it as you immersing yourself in it and you just absorbing 100% of what it is. I think a big reason why so many of us have personal underlying issues, even as we’re older, even as we’re older than, and I am right now, well, then you are, Zephan, is because we still try to hold it out. We still try to have a wall. If I had this issue, and I still hadn’t accepted who I was, I wouldn’t be here with you right now. I would have a job somewhere, where I don’t have to speak that much. I would still allow it to have a control over my life.

It’s almost like as I have this stuff, I almost saw it as a higher calling because I’m into the Bible as well. There’s a story in there about Moses. He was given our commandments by God himself. It was said in the Bible that he had a speech impediment. I was like—that stuff like he was—it said he was a slow of mouth or something like that. I was like “Hey, that’s me.” There’s something to be said about our kinds of people. I almost saw it and I looked at it as higher calling because I removed myself from the selfish mindset I had.

I was always looking at it, I was like “Man, I’m this. Man, I’m that. Man, I wish I can speak this. Man, I wish”—there’s tons of other people who have the exact same problem that I have who probably don’t have a support system like I do. I need to do something about it. I need to accept who I am. I need to show people that “Hey, I’m cool with anything that erupts out of my mouth.” I’m completely okay with it even though I might sound off because there’s other individuals out there—you never know who you’re going to speak to. You’ll never know who you’re going to share something with that will just light a fire in your mind. I removed myself from the whole mini-me mindset. I accepted who I am. I openly share anything I have a problem with.

I openly share that because I know that as human beings, we share in our pains. That’s what’s always be our common callings between each other. It’d be social classes all over board, but we always share what we have a problem with. If there’s anything that I may be able to share with people that will make them feel a bit more optimistic, then I’ll gladly do it. I’m talking about it anything. If I have a struggle with anything, I don’t mind telling people, and I’m open about it because I see the greater good in it.

Zephan: That’s awesome. I think sharing is really the best way that we’re going to combat younger-aged people running into issues with anything whether it’s depression, suicide, a stutter, ADD, ADHD. I can rattle off a whole long list. I think that we as a society have really made it tough to talk about these things. That causes trouble when you’re trying to educate other people on what’s out there and what’s possible, where to find help, how to overcome things. I believe that we’ve failed as a society on that front. I’m a little upset with how we’ve built that stuff.

To just shift gears a little bit, I’d be interested just in hearing what your life is like now, and kind of separate from any obstacles that you’ve had, how are you living your days to the fullest? We were talking before we got on the call, it’s gross weather outside for both of us right now. For me, that means I wake up really sore, cranky, want to sleep in a little bit, have trouble getting to the gym. I’m supposed to go rowing tonight with my team, and it’s gross outside, so I’m a little bit demotivated. How are you going about your days? Is there anything that you do to improve? Do you have any daily routines or to meditate or anything like that? What does a day in the life look like for you if you were having your best day?

Juan: I am up early. I’ve learned that some of the most amazing stuff in our minds happens as we’re sleeping because if you’re up half an hour before you’re going to be at work, then you’re in rush. Everything else is a [inaudible 00:21:36]. I’m up early now. I do meditate. I picked up the habit about one year ago, and it’s been amazing. If anybody out there hasn’t meditated before, you have to start because it helps you clear, literally, clear things in your mind. Everything will be there still, but it will be organized. It’s hot.

I’m actually I’m very blessed to have the opportunity that I also serve on the association boards of a fraternity that I’m in. I’m on the alumni association board, meaning that I still get to interact every day with our active undergraduate college members. I have a perfect group of individuals who I can supply mentorship to, who I can mentor on everyday basis. I’m very blessed with this platform to give my energy onto something, which I feel has a bigger purpose. Every day, I always have that of an outlook. Every day is a fresh start. Every day is an opportunity for you to—if you email somebody or if you call somebody or if you message somebody, if you see somebody on the street, if you order a coffee from somewhere, it’s an opportunity for you to interact with people, for you to smile, for you to be happy, for you to be optimistic about things because there’s some individuals out there who are going through stuff, and we don’t have any idea what they’re going through. It can be something at home, something in their health, with the relationships or whatnot.

I always look at it as if how would I behave if it were his or her final day on the earth. You know what I’m saying? Because I think there’s something I saw the other day was like, you should live your life as if it was your final day every day. Again I removed myself from that whole mini-me mentality and I live now with you should try to live your life as if it was his or her last day. It shifts how you talk to people, how you respect people, how you smile at people. It’s a very philosophical, kind of aloof-y way of approaching interactions, but I honestly I believe it. I believe it because I think if all of us had some kind of a mindset similar to that, then our world would be completely different. It wouldn’t be so selfish. We’d be more open with our giving. We would be more helping. We would be more united.

Any interaction I have in the day, if it’s a meeting, if it’s an email, if it’s a Facebook message and Instagram comment, anything honestly, I just—I want to be a happy individual who shows people that “Hey, I’m showing you by example. I’m sharing all these things with you about how to live a happier life, about how to be happier individual, about how to be more successful individual, but I’m also doing it.” I think the best example that we always have it ourselves and how to do it every day. Obviously, I have my bad days also, but it’s—it doesn’t hold onto me for that long. I’m very appreciative of the outlook, which I have. If there’s anybody who will have an opportunity to share with me, I’m in their ear. I’m in their ear like no other, yeah.

Zephan: That’s awesome. It’s cool to see somebody who is around my age doing really good things with what they were given because we’re all at different places and we’re all given different obstacles and challenges. Sometimes, we give ourselves more obstacles that we needed to. I’m definitely in that boat. I always bite off more than I can chew unfortunately.

You’ve really answered a lot of the questions I wanted to ask, which is awesome. I think the only other thing I would want to say is what advice do you have for people regardless of what they’re going through? How can they make the most out of what they have no matter what it is.

Juan: I’ve learned that it’s hard to change people. It’s incredibly hard to try to—to have that buddy. The hardest individuals to get it to happen with is always yourself because we always know exactly what someone else should be doing. We’re always the perfect hypocrite and the perfect judge to other people’s actions except our own. If there’s anybody out there who has something off in their life, who just wants to be happier or wants to feel something else, who’s at a place in their life and were like “Man, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life right now. I don’t know what’s going on.” I want to say that it’s completely okay. It is totally fine for you to feel like that.

I think the problem in our society is that if we are bipolar or if we have a stuttering problem, or we have this or we have that, it’s seen as a problem, and you have to fix that problem now. You have to fix it now. If you feel you to have to fix something now, you’re always be in the negative. If anybody out there hears this man it is okay to feel that way. It is okay for you to be off. It’s completely fine. That’s how you were born, that’s what makes you unique. I think our uniquenesses are sometimes seen as our flaws and our—what we lack. I’ll go back to it again, Zephan, this whole thing on your perspective and your outlook and how you look at things, how you look at yourself, how you view who you are.

I had somebody approached me the other day and said “I don’t want to be fake with myself. I don’t want a whole about this a fake thing in my life because after a while, it will get to be too much.” I was very honest with her. I said “I’m not being fake at all. This is not fake.” This is not a front that I—a mask that I put on every morning and “Ok, let’s go inspire people!” The other day, we’re going to pull it off and be exhausted. No, this is something that you have to actively work on. Happiness is a feeling that you have to actively work on for you to achieve. It’s not something that you can just sit back and expect to show up in your life. You got to actively want happiness and wanted for your own life.

For all the people who out there who have something similar as I do, I would say that I understand you, I feel you, and it’s completely okay, but I would challenge you to do something about it, to stop being the victim, stop acting as if somebody owes you anything. The only person owes you something is yourself. That was going to be you. If you put it in the hands of other people, you’re always be at their mercy. You’ll always be at their mercy for how they feel that day. If you take control of it, if you take perspective on it, man, it’s always going to be in your hands. There’s no one that can take it from you.

Zephan: That’s awesome.

Juan: Yeah.

Zephan: I really like that. The only person that owes you something is yourself. You owe yourself a lot more respect, a lot more courage, a lot more everything.

Juan: Oh, yeah, brother.

Zephan: Man, I think that’s the best way to round off this episode. What is the best place? You’ve got a TED Talk that’s out there, maybe share with people what’s that called or where they could they find that and how they can keep track of what you’re up to?

Juan: Yeah, absolutely. If anybody wants to have a look at it, it’s called What’s Your Stutter? I’m also on all the social media accounts. It’s @juanvL-O-P-E-Z. If there’s anybody out there who just needs an uplift or anything, shoot me a message or whatever. I love interacting with other people. Yeah, have a look at it if you want. I think it’s cool because personally, I did it. If anybody interested hooking up with me, it would be that way.

Zephan: Cool, man. Thanks for getting up early for me. I know that you’re a few hours behind me, so you got a little extra day left in your day for the rest of the day.

Juan: Yeah.

Zephan: Thanks for being here and thanks for sharing your message.

Juan: Yeah, for sure, Zephan. I appreciate having me on, buddy.