“If you’re willing to live life on the edge, strive and overcome and be open to being criticized, people will respect you.”
Imagine waking up one day to find your words trapped inside your head, unable to say what you feel, think, want, or need with ease.
That’s exactly what happened to Katherine Preston when, at the age of seven, she developed a severe stutter. Seventeen years later, determined to get some answers, Katherine left her life behind and set out on a yearlong quest to find a cure.
What started as a search for a cure, though, turned into a journey of transformation. A journey that led her across the United States and deep into conversation with people like legendary GE CEO Jack Welch, actress Emily Blunt, and so many others.
Along the way, she discovered something that would surprise and, inevitably, release her. Something that would lead her to embrace her stutter as, in her words, “the best part of me.”
More than anything, she learned that when people see others who stand in their stutter, they see courage. And who they really are is revealed.
In this week’s episode of Good Life Project, we explore this incredible journey. And, just as she’d share, I was blown away by her courage. While this episode was in postproduction, though, a question that had been on my mind but I’d forgotten to ask came back to me.
Whenever Katherine would really struggle to get a word out, this quirky smile would appear on her face. You’ll see it when you watch the episode. I wanted to know what was going on in her head when that happened. So I asked. And, here’s what she said:
So, the smile…
I think it’s a compassion thing—for myself and for my listener. I do it subconsciously, but it stems from a desire to remind myself that I don’t need to be scared of stuttering. Beyond that, I do it to put my listener at ease, to let them know that nothing terrible is going on, that stuttering doesn’t need to frighten them or make them feel awkward.
In general, I believe in laughing at my stutter, in addressing it, and in treating it with as much common sense as possible.
How extraordinary that in the midst of her working to get her words into the world, she has the compassion and presence to be thinking about others and the desire to put whoever is on the other side of the conversation at ease.
Watch Katherine’s Extraordinary Conversation
Jonathan Fields is a dad, husband, author, speaker, lifestyle innovator, and entrepreneur who produces the acclaimed Good Life Project web show, blogs at JonathanFields.com, and runs book marketing educational venture TribalAuthor.com. His latest book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance was named #1 personal development book of 2011 by 800-CEO-READ. He has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, FastCompany, Inc., Entrepreneur, USA Today, People, CNBC, CNN.com, PBS Nightly Report, O Magazine, Elle, Vogue, Self, Fitness, Yoga Journal, and thousands of other places that sound cool, but don’t impress his daughter all that much. You can also check him out on Facebook and Twitter.
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