Imagine being born eight weeks premature. How well do you think you’ll fare in the outside world? Now add cerebral palsy to the mix. Will you resign to the fate dictated by society, and simply give up on your dreams? Or will you wipe away the tears, scrape off the dust on your knees, and awaken the beast within? Nathan Todd lived this life exactly as described. As an individual with cerebral palsy, life has been a journey away from things that people take for granted, from learning how to walk. Even knowing what school would look like is very unique when you have a disability. Luckily, Nathan had a great support system in his corner who fought for him to be treated like everyone else and did not put labels on him. He graduated from high school and went on to get a college degree. Now he’s a coach and an author. If that’s not awe-inspiring, I don’t know what is! Also known as the Muscle Motivator, Nathan doesn’t only motivate in the gym and for your physical muscles, he’s also motivating onstage as a speaker and helping you to create that muscle in your mind. He’s got an upcoming book called “Awaken the B.E.A.S.T. Within” which is going to tell us about the steps to take and the tools to use for success.
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Awaken The B.E.A.S.T. Within With Muscle Motivator Nathan Todd
I have Nathan Todd who is The Muscle Motivator. We’re going to be talking about a specific aspect of how we manage our time and our energy. We’re going to relate that into how you can take back time in the way that you think, and we’re going to look specifically around labels. Nathan Todd, just a few words about The Muscle Motivator, you’ll see some amazing videos about what he’s doing. He doesn’t only motivate in the gym and for your physical muscles, he’s also motivating on stage as a speaker and helping you to create that muscle in your mind. He’s a coach, he’s an author, and he’s got an upcoming book which is going to tell us some more about. I’m sure that it’s going to be a best seller. Nathan, it is great to have you here today.
Thanks for having me on the show, Penny. You’re right, labels take up so much of our time. For the past nine years I’ve been coaching people with disabilities, and the biggest thing that impacts success is the label that they believe that is true for themselves as it is for all of us. We put these labels on our chest and where we would most like them to be Superman, Wonder Woman, things like that, it doesn’t always stick that way.
Tell us about your background and your journey and what led you to write this book that you’ve got coming up.
I was born eight weeks premature. I’m an individual who has cerebral palsy. Life has been a journey away from things that people take for granted from learning to walk. Even knowing what school would look like is very unique when you have a disability. Luckily, I had a great support system in my corner who fought for me to be treated like everyone else and did not put labels on me. They did not expect anything less from me. I graduated from high school and went on to college and got my degree there.
What’s the name of the book?
Awaken the B.E.A.S.T. Within. I was thinking what are steps that I took and tools I used that helped me become successful. It started with that belief. I had to have belief that something was going to happen. As I understood what I believe, I started to explore that and see how I turn that into reality. The big thing about success is you have to have the belief, but unless you take action on it, then the belief is just sitting there as something you wish for. You have to learn to celebrate your success. The greatest thing is being able to teach it to someone else, to spread that knowledge and to help someone who’s not at the point you are just start believing that they can do something.
I’ve had a special preview of the book and I’ve been through it. It’s also a workbook which is what I loved about it. People can really not just play with concepts but put it into practice for themselves. I’m excited for this best seller to come to the market and get that. Let’s go back to the label aspect. You’re born with a disability and you said people held you to normal expectations, if you want to call it, to regular every day expectations. If it wasn’t your mom or your parents, did you find that others were labeling you and how did that impact you?
Absolutely, other people would label me. Going back to the support system, even though it was happening from other people, I didn’t see that necessarily at the time because I had all these other people telling me, “That’s not true.” An example would be in sixth grade. I moved and had to go to a brand-new school, also entering middle school, which was crazy. They wanted to put me in special ed. I can only imagine if that were to happen, all the things that I’d been told and believed up until that point would’ve just been down the toilet. Was any of what I went through actually true? Are these newer standards true for me?
I wanted to highlight that because you are very fortunate that you had a great support system and that you were strong to believe in the labels that you we’re given. We all do have labels, whether it’s Superman or whether it’s something else. There are a lot of people out there that are held back. They’re limited by the labels that they’ve heard around them. It doesn’t have to be a disability. People in school are told that they’re stupid. All of a sudden they take that on as though, “Maybe it is true,” and then they believe it. It really holds back and limits their potential. I want people to really recognize if they have any labels. If you’re listening to this, do you have any labels that others have given you or that you accepted that are limiting your potential? Because that’s a waste of energy. That runs in the background that keeps you from progressing and actually achieving the very things that you want. Have you seen that? What do you have to say about that?
Through my experience as a coach, I would see people come in every day. They would be like, “I can’t do that.” Where my parents would push me the other way, you have some parents who don’t believe that it’s possible for their kids. It’s getting reinforced that way. It’s really easy to rise to low expectations or no expectations. It’s really how you’re going to spend your time because it’s the easy story to play out. You have a lot of people who just based on their mindset are just sitting on the couch. They’re way smarter than people have given them credit for. They can do a whole lot more than people have given them credit for. Until somebody comes along and says, “I believe in you,” they don’t start to believe it for themselves.
How do you help them to believe it for themselves when they don’t have a supportive system or structure around them?
What I’ve found to be successful is to relate it to real life situations that I’ve seen with other people that they know about, or maybe it’s something where I am able to use my own story and my own experience. Your way might look a little different but if I can do it, you for sure can do it.
People ask me how did I start my own company and what motivated me. I was working at a company full time as a regular employee. Across from me sat a contractor who was making $250 an hour. I guess if you calculated what I was making, maybe it was $25 or $30 an hour. I thought this guy was no smarter than I was. He was no more educated than I was. I thought, “I can do this. If he can do this, I can do it too.” There was some motivation for me to know that someone else was doing it. I should take the opportunity and do it too, at least not complain about it and say that I should be there. That’s what really motivated me to do it, because there is someone out there who’s doing it. We can create what we want in our lives, as long as we know that someone else has done it, we can do it. There are always those people who were the first to run the four-minute mile or the first to make the impossible possible.
The great thing is if somebody was working with me, I’m not that far ahead of where you can be. It makes it more of a realistic vision right there in front of you. I’m not making millions of dollars. I’m just some guy who lives in your community. At the point when I was doing the coaching I was, you can see me around town. It’s not an unrealistic vision to be able to say, “You can do this too.”
You were talking about how to be smarter about the way that we do things. What are some of the costs that people have from your opinion or that you’ve seen, when people label themselves or even when they label other people?
I think when you label yourself and it’s a negative label, the cost is you’re ultimately not happy. The cost is you don’t bring to life things that only you can make happen based on your experience. I think when other people put labels on people, they miss out on great opportunities of meeting an awesome human being. They miss out on people who have skills that they assume the people do not have, just based on physical appearance. From my experience, a lot of times people automatically assume that I have an intellectual disability just from the way that I’ll walk up to them and that’s absolutely not true.
Then they lose the ability to connect with you and to see the gifts that you have and to utilize them. I can imagine in an organization. I think this goes for disabilities or not. Any labels that we put on people that keep us from seeing the gifts that they have in any type of organization, it hampers teamwork because you could be really bringing a lot more to the table, but if people aren’t giving you that opportunity because they’re limiting the potential of that interaction.
There was a group of individuals that I worked with at one point and they don’t want to be considered severely disabled and talked about the greatest teachers of how we should live life and how we should spend our time. They were able to connect with one another. They cared for one another. People would say that technically they’re not as valuable or they can’t do as many things as other people, but I learned so much from just taking the time to get to know the person and not look at what society was saying about them.
How do you help people who may be listening and they may think, “I’m judgmental, I do that, I put labels on people?” We all do to some extent. There’s a psychology that within the first few minutes that we meet somebody and we’ve decided whether we like them, what we think about their energy, and so forth. How do you help people to stay open? What are some suggestions that you have so that people can really embrace each other for who they are?
The first thing is you have to notice that you’re having that conversation with yourself. What you said happens is we put labels on automatically without thinking. To me, when I think about that, I think about if I was looking in a mirror and talking to myself and be able to think that I am these negative labels that I’m placing on this person in front of me. Thinking about every conversation as a reflection of what’s coming from you, reflecting the energy and the golden rule, treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated, I think it’s the first step. It’s noticing and thinking, “This could be me on this other side of this conversation.”
We can’t make change in our life without that awareness. Just being more conscious and paying attention to what’s going on in our head is absolutely critical. What would you think is the second thing after they’ve noticed? What could they do next?
It’s taking the action of actually talking to people, not just doing the normal walking down the street or being around people and doing the head nod, and the simple acknowledgment that we always get. We always say, “How are you doing?” “I’m fine,” but actually saying, “I want to get to know that person,” and stopping to talk to them. Introduce yourself because once you start talking to people, there’s more of a connection and you realize a lot of times what you thought wasn’t true.
When we’re curious, then we can be into questions and push away any assumptions or judgments or whatever. It’s just to get curious to get to know the person and ask questions and interact and listen. When we’re curious, we’re actually listening versus that superficial conversation that isn’t really looking to get to know somebody or really listening to who they are.
Kids are the best teachers for that concept. They will come up and they will ask all kinds of questions. They will just say, “Why do you walk the way you walk? What do you do for work?” They just ask. Whatever is on their mind, it’s coming out. From that aspect, what I’ve experienced is if you’re a parent of that kid to let that interaction happen, if it’s someone that they’re speaking with the disability, let it happen and then see what you can learn from your kid having that interaction. If you’re someone like me with the disability, actually realize that if you were able to talk to this kid, you are changing the perception of what it means to have a disability.
It is important to be interactive so that you can help to change what other people’s perceptions are. You and I both went through the next level leadership program. It’s being the source, that the energy that we create and that we provide in ourselves is also what we generate in others. We get to be responsible for that and be the source of it.
That taught me a valuable lesson about labels because the thing I kept hearing was, “Why are you hiding?” I kept thinking, “That’s not how I want to show up in the world,” but I keep hearing it over and over. It’s something I need to listen to and I need to reflect on.
You’ve got this motto, “No label defines me.” Tell me where that came from and how you’re using that.
It started as a brainstorm, sitting at a whiteboard and thinking about the great thing about labels is whether it’s clothes, whether it’s the food we eat. Say I’m drinking a Coke or something, I can pull that right off, because that’s not what I want to be, I just to put away the label and I’m able to replace it with something that is more empowering to me because we are all creating our own story that we’re all the hero of with no labels. It’s not the fact that we won’t be defined by labels. It’s the fact that we get to choose how we define ourselves and that’s what we should strive to bring into the world.
That’s where our real power is, that we get to define who we are and how we show up. It’s in other words that people use are labels that we make for ourselves and live by would be considered our identity. That’s everything that comes after, “I am.” That’s how we define ourselves. We were either going to open up potential for ourselves or we’re going to limit ourselves. What I heard you say that I think is important is to understand that your behavior is not an identity, it’s a behavior. You can change it in a second. You can change behavior as we see that it’s not suiting us, but we don’t have to take any particular behavior as a definition of who we are.
There are circumstances that are placed in our life that we don’t have control over, but we’re 100% responsible for how we react to those circumstances placed in front of us. Do we want to be a source of “I can do this or this is way too hard, I can’t believe that this is happening to me?”
When I heard that statement, “No label defines me,” it sounds like a really awesome community statement. I’d love to see people reporting in how they feel when they step into that space that no label defines me. It can be life changing to shift from all those labels that define us to no labels define us.
With my Instagram and stuff, that’s what I hope to start building as people get the t-shirt and everything, I want to see the stories of how other people connect to ‘No label defines me,’ because the way that empowers me is going to be different than the way it empowers you or someone else. The great thing is there’s a connecting thread that we are all living a life that we are choosing moment to moment and we are choosing to be about.
Let’s come back to the theme, take back time. How does this save us time and energy when we remove those labels? When no label defines us, how are we taking back time in your opinion?
When I reflect on that, when I choose the label of being an author or speaker, I’m able to prioritize. “If I am these things, how do I need to spend my time?” If I’m on the opposite end and I have a negative label placed on me, I’m just sitting around not really feeling like doing anything, my time is wasted. It’s only wasted because I don’t believe anything else is possible for me throughout my day, so I don’t plan accordingly.
What you just said is based on how we define ourselves is how and where we’re going to spend our time. If you define yourself as, “I am a procrastinator,” or “I am disabled,” or any of those types of labels that are unproductive are going to define how you’re going to spend your time and where are you going to spend it. If you define yourself as, “I am an entrepreneur, I am a game changer,” you’re going to be looking at things differently. “I’m a teacher,” then you’re going to be looking to teach and educate others completely different than those other types of definition. It’s really, really powerful. We’re either making the best use of our time and investing in our future and other people’s future, or we’re wasting it.
Look at all the stories of people like LeBron and Michael Jordan, they knew exactly what they were doing from the time they woke up to the time that they went to bed. It was all based on the label that they had given themselves, and then people bought into. They are some of the greatest to do what they’re doing. To be the greatest, you have to put your action to what your belief is.
You got to work at it. It’s not coming for free. The context of it doesn’t matter what kind of natural skill that we have, and it might define ourselves as a musician or as an athlete. At the same time, you’ve got to work at it to build those skills. Anything else that you’d like to share with the audience? I definitely want to get your website information and where they can find out more information about your book.
The website is the TheMuscleMotivator.com. I have pages on both Facebook and Instagram under the same name. The book will be on Amazon. Then I think final words, something that you just touched on is the importance of “I am.” I’ve really been focusing on that about creating some affirmation for myself. Every morning I wake up, and I actually post this on social media and I’m saying, “I am unique. I am seen. I am empowered. I create my future. No label defines me.” I think that’s something that you can put into action today. You can make up your own affirmation to create who you want to become if you’re not that person already. Just start with one practice and build the compound effect. Start with one thing and start to build on that one thing and it becomes massive.
For people who aren’t familiar with that, how can an affirmation support me in that? Let’s say they’re like, “I want to be that, but I don’t really believe it.” How’s an affirmation going to help me?
When I created that affirmation just because it’s a repetitive pattern, it’s like being in the gym and being the muscle motivator. The first time you walk into a gym and do something, you’re not going to be able to lift 135 pounds. It takes time. I think it’s again the pattern. When I say “I am,” my brain starts going, “I didn’t think that but now I said it. This is true for me.” I don’t know what is true for you, the audience, but if you find out what you think you want to become and you start repping that every day, just saying it, writing it down, doing a video like I do, it becomes something that you see and you hear and it just becomes reality.
Thank you so much for being here, Nathan. This was a great interview. I really enjoyed it, and I know that the audience is also taking away some key pieces. I want to also just say that with that last point to reinforce what we’re talking about is that our words have tremendous energy and the tremendous impact. Whether it’s an affirmation and it comes across, the more that we say it, the more that we feel it, we hear it, we see it, we feel it, it becomes a part of who you are because we’re getting completely associated with it. The more we say it, the more it becomes part of who we are. We need to recognize that. We need to recognize the labels that we’re giving ourselves and the labels that were giving others. The true fact is, as Nathan said, really clearly no label defines us. We are far bigger and more powerful than any label can actually put into words. With that, I want you to open up your possibilities and use your time wisely in what you say and then the actions that you take, because what you say, those words and how you define yourself is going to determine what actions you take. That is how you are going to take back your time. Thank you everybody for being here. My name is Penny Zenker, and I’ll see you in the next episode.
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About Nathan Todd
Nathan Todd, “The Muscle Motivator”, is a speaker, author, and coach. He is passionate about helping people create empowering stories for their lives. He believes this is possible when people “Awaken the B.E.A.S.T. Within”. Nathan helps people clarify their beliefs, explore the deeper meanings behind them, and take action. Nathan’s experience includes nine years coaching people with disabilities, being an ambassador for the March of Dimes, and thirty-two years living life with Cerebral Palsy, proving he creates his own label. Nathan will reveal the ways to unleash your power, commit to your goal, and live your “No Label Defines Me” life.