In this podcast, I share with you an incredibly inspirational person that I am honored to work with, learn from, and call my friend – Mr. Rodney Flowers. Join us as we discuss Rodney’s own personal “pivots”, from star football player to paraplegic to his tenacious pursuit and achievement of walking again and living wheelchair-free.
Rodney is a dynamic, charismatic and sought after Transformational Speaker whose own personal story is the epitome of inspiration, courage, and faith. Rodney is also a three-time International Bestselling Author, including the book “Get Up! I Can’t. I Will. I Did…Here’s How!” in which he shares his success principles that will help you not only manage adversity, but also overcome it. Rodney is incredibly dedicated, tenacious, and fully committed to being a change agent for overcoming life’s adversities and maximizing individual achievement and success. You can learn more about Rodney at http://bit.ly/4PrinciplesofSuccess.
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Outperforming Challenges with Rodney Flowers
I’m loving my life especially in this moment because I’ve got an incredible guest that I get to introduce you to. You’ll get to hear for yourself just how magnificent this man is. I am blessed in at least two ways with respect to this gentleman. One is that I get to call him my friend and two, he’s somebody that I’ve gotten to work with and spend a lot of time getting to know in connection with his work as a transformational leader in the world. That’s why we’ve invited him to join us on this podcast so he can share a little bit about his story, which is pretty remarkable in many, many ways. I won’t even put it into one of those canned introductions. You know I don’t dig that, I don’t do that. I’m going to pass it over to him to share a little bit about himself and his story and how it is that he came to be in the position that he’s in as a thought leader and transformational leader in the world and just a hell of a great guy. Without further ado, Rodney Flowers, welcome to the Conscious PIVOT. How are you doing?
Adam, thank you very much. Great to be here, this is awesome. Before we start, I just want to send out some love and some gratitude to you for inviting me on your podcast. I really, really appreciate that. It’s an honor and a blessing to be associated with you, partnering with you, a friend to you, to be on your podcast. Thank you. My name is Rodney Flowers. I love my life. I love the world. I love people. I love my assignment. That’s clearly how I describe where I am in my life and the work that I am doing. It is an assignment. As Adam was mentioning, I am very engrossed of my work and have the heart to serve people as the result of what I’ve been through in my life.
At the age of fifteen, I suffered a spinal cord injury while playing football that left me paralyzed from the neck down. The doctor said I would never walk again and I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life. That clearly is not my story today. I have overcome that and overcome the constraints and the restrictions that are involved with having a spinal cord injury and limited mobility and the lack of independence. The illusion that you’re not going to be able to experience success and experience a type of life that would be conducive to a good life or a successful life. I’ve overcome those odds. More importantly, I’ve learned a unique set of skills that we’re going to talk about that I love to share with people about how to overcome the paralysis of life. I was physically paralyzed. We all know that you don’t have to suffer an accident to be paralyzed or stuck in life. I was clearly stuck physically, I was stuck emotionally. I’ve overcome that. I stand today walking, a three-time international bestselling author and a transformational speaker. I love my life. I love what I do. I am just grateful and happy to be here.
Why don’t we get into it? I want to find out a little bit about your recipe. I shouldn’t say I want to find out because I know quite a bit about it. What I really want to do is share it with our community. Let’s get into the origin of this whole thing. How old were you when you were playing football and had that accident?
I was fifteen years old. It was my sophomore year in high school. As a matter of fact, it was the very first game of that season, which was a very promising season. We’ve had scouts coming out to look at me during practice because I was so good. Not to toot my own horn here, but I was a great football player. At the age of fifteen, I suffered that accident.
How long were you laid up in the hospital?
I stayed in the hospital for four and a half months. I was released December 16, 1993. The accident happened on August 26, 1993. I was released to go home, but I had to go back and forth. I had a lot of appointments and several days of the week I had to go back for check-ups and visits and some of them were overnights so I wasn’t able to go home. A lot of this is back and forth to the hospital for an extended period of time, for about a year or so.
Tough on your family too?
You’re popular. I’m guessing you were a good football player. You must have had a lot of friends, a lot of guys, a lot of girls all around, just a lot of popularity and all that. Did you maintain all that popularity? Did people hang around you?
No. We all were young and we’re fifteen, just coming into our own. When I got hurt, it was like my life stopped. All the things that a typical fifteen-year-old would do, that wasn’t part of my life. My life was physical therapy, doctor’s visits. On my mindset, “How am I going to survive? What does the future look like for me?” My friends, they went along with life and doing all the things that a typical person that age, a high school student, would do. I was trying to figure out how to do those things and I was very, very limited. The popularity went out the door. I wasn’t known for the great football player anymore, I was the guy that got hurt on the field, the guy that got paralyzed. It wasn’t a life full of friends, it was more or so family and those people that were closest to me and church members that were close to me, religious leaders and members that were praying for me and wanted God or spirits to intervene.
You’ve got knocked down, literally, figuratively. Every way possible it was a knockdown event and paralysis physically. How were you doing mentally at that point?
Not so great. I was mad at the world and everybody in it. I was mad at the Creator of the world. If there was anyone to be mad at, I was pretty mad. I felt like I had been dealt a bad hand. I was very active not with just football, with just my body and doing things around the house with my mom and dad. That came to a screeching halt and it was devastating. I was a fit guy. I worked out all the time. I couldn’t do those things anymore. I couldn’t do anything anymore for myself. Imagine that at fifteen years old. You start gaining independence at that age. You start being able to do more and be a lot freer without the restrictions of mom and daddy. You have a little bit more liberty.
Then out of nowhere, that’s it. It’s changed. Maybe it’s not that extreme. I’ve said this before and I don’t remember where I heard it first. I say fairly often that Socrates said, “All learning is remembering.” When I say something that came from somewhere else, I often will give credit when I know where it comes from. When I don’t, I just say maybe it’s from wisdom of a past life of mine or someone else’s, I don’t know. It could come from some place. This thing that I heard was that pain is pain. Comparing pain, I think that’s what people sometimes do. They go, “I don’t have anything to be upset about. I have both my legs where I can walk.” Here’s a guy, not you, but somebody they might see who’s in a wheelchair or is paralyzed or maybe somebody’s had a devastating thing happened in their life or they had lost a child or someone. They say, “I didn’t have that happened. I’ve got nothing to complain about. I’ve got nothing to feel bad about.” That’s bullshit because pain is pain. It’s relative. When you feel pain, you feel pain. When you feel despair, despondency, you feel it. When you’re angry, when you’re resentful, when you feel sorry for yourself or when you feel like you’re confused why something is happening, don’t understand it in searching for the answers. That’s a feeling that transcends the reason why you feel it.
Some people feel it for some reason that may not seem like a big deal to you. Others, they feel it and you can identify with it. I think there are a lot of people listening to this who know what it feels like to have a rug pulled out from under. Maybe they didn’t get hit by a linebacker and get knocked down and be told by a doctor, “You’re not going to get up. You’re not going to walk again.” That’s not happening. Maybe they’ve lost a job or someone they love died or left them or they were abandoned when they were a child by a parent or they were abused. People have been blindsided from the beginning of time. I think what’s interesting is when you realized that pain is pain, the question is not about whose pain is greater but what is it that you did, what did you do to get up? What did you do to learn what you needed to learn to be able to move past that hit so that you can live into the vision of something greater and fulfill your life’s purpose? I know where you’re sitting right now, where you would stand right now, you’d say you’re on purpose. You are doing exactly what the Creator has wanted and would want you to be doing in this moment. I don’t think you have a doubt about that. I’m going to toss that to you to be the one to express it.
Everyone has something in life and mine just so happened to be a wheelchair and paralysis. We all have something that we have to deal with. We all have that things or proverbial wheelchair. That’s the defining moment. What do you do when it shows up? For me, it took a while but I had to look at my challenge a little bit differently. I had to change the perspective on my situation. It all started with just being grateful for being alive. I didn’t have my legs, I didn’t have my independence, but I was alive. That meant there was still something that I could do. There was still something that I’m meant to do here on this Earth. At least that’s how I looked at it. What I begin to do is just look at my life and what I wanted in life before my accident, which was success. I wanted to accomplish certain things. I wanted to be independent. What that led to was that now that it has happened, why did you feel like you can’t? You have all these challenges in front of you and it is paralysis but you still can be successful. You still have your mind. That was a lesson that my mother had taught me as a result of me boohoo and then crying one day. It just hit me. She said, “There’s really nothing wrong with you. You don’t have your legs but you still have your mind. If you have your mind, you can accomplish anything that you want.”
That was the pivoting moment for me because I had realized that I didn’t lose everything. I lost something, but I didn’t lose everything. As a matter of fact, one of the most important things I still have, one of the most important tools I still have. With my mind, I started to think about my life and what I wanted my life to look like in the future. I began to think about, “You have this disability but what if you overcame it. What if you were successful despite the disability, despite the paralysis? What if you could still make money? You don’t have your legs, but you don’t have to have your legs to make money. You can use your mind to make money. You can come up with systems and solutions to make money, to work, to earn your way.” That began to be fascinating to me. That began to change my mindset and it was so big that it actually changed my whole paradigm about my accident. At that point, I realized what I had was a gift because I can inspire people.
A lot of people are out there hurting. They may not have a spinal cord injury but they may have been abused. They may be discriminated against. They may have a disability. There are several things that they could have that are causing them to be stuck, paralyzed. What came over me was, “What if you are able to overcome this, the impact that your life would have?” I’m at a completely different place now. I went from this guy who felt worthless and didn’t have the ability to do anything or accomplish anything to contribute to the world. Now I have this great, big possibility to make a huge impact on the world and then I began to get encouraged. I began to be inspired and determined because that became what I wanted to do in my life. That’s where I am right now, still on purpose to accomplish that.
The first thing I heard you say was in that low point, let’s call it the inflection point, the turn-up, the pivot, was just to be grateful. For you, given the situation you’re in, you were just grateful to be alive. There were a lot of things that wasn’t right and a lot of places where you could just stay stuck in that dark hole but you just said, “The light is that I am alive.” The second thing you said is you posed a question. We talk a lot about the quality of our lives being very much driven by the quality of the questions we ask. The quality of question you asks is equal to the quality of the answer you receive. You asked the question, “What if?” Oftentimes when I hear people talk about “What if?” they’re talking about, “What if this goes wrong? What if that goes wrong?” They’re in a startup business. They’ve got to quit their job or whatever they’re going to do. It’s always like a road that leads to a cliff.
For you, the ‘what if’ was totally different. It was an opportunity. It was asking the question about the creative opportunity in a form of a ‘what if’ statement. I haven’t heard anybody do that before. I want to just point that out because, “What if I could succeed in spite of blah, blah, blah? What if I could succeed in spite of being discriminated against or being abused or being debilitated in some other way?” Then you said there are a lot of people who are stuck. Stuck is like being paralyzed. Those two things are very similar. Stuck equals paralysis. A lot of people who are stuck don’t think they’re paralyzed, don’t think they’ve got paralysis but they do. Sometimes we’ve heard that expression, “Analysis paralysis,” where you think things to the point where you don’t do anything, you don’t act. You don’t take a step. If you don’t take a step, what’s the difference between somebody who doesn’t take a step and somebody that can’t take a step? Two people didn’t take a step. Think about that. You made me think about that. Thank you for that, Rodney.
Let’s get to the point where you’re up on your feet because you are. I’ve seen you walk and with the assistance of some forearm crutches. Your tenacity, your will to live, your will to get up is something you’ve written books about, bestselling books, you speak about it, you train people, you coach and mentor people in this subject area because stuck is stuck. The thing about being stuck is you don’t often know how to get unstuck. That’s where it requires some outside force. It’s that physics law that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. What do you do with a body that’s at rest that would otherwise tend to stay at rest? It needs a force applied to it. Get it in motion. Maybe you can share with us, was it you that applied the force for yourself? Was it God? Was it other people? How did you get unstuck? I think you’ve given us the first two steps of it: being grateful, asking that, “What if I could succeed in spite of?” If there’s more to that, please let us know what that recipe is. How is it that you help people today? How do you get people unstuck?
Let me add to the recipe because there is another question that I ask. That question is, “So what?” That question is applied to the things that show up that prevent us from moving, that keeps us in the same place. Mine was paralysis. I thought for a while that because I was paralyzed, no one was going to want to hire me, that I wasn’t able to get a job. I wasn’t going to have a good life that no one wanted to be around the guy that’s disabled or paralyzed. Those were thoughts that are just stories that I would make up for myself because that’s what I believed that my situation created for me. I created that story and I believed that story. In order to stop believing that story, I had to start asking ‘so what’ questions, “So what you’re paralyzed?” That really jarred my mind because it’s like, “That doesn’t mean that I can’t do this. It doesn’t mean that I can’t do that. I am paralyzed. I have a disability, but so what? You still can move forward.” That’s another part of the question and that led to the ‘what if’ question. I would say, “So what you have these? What does that mean?” In the story that I had, it was basically a lie. It was something that I had to research and come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t mean that. For people that are listening that may not be paralyzed physically but has something in the way that prevents you, that fear, that thing that you feel is going to happen as a result. That thing that is there but you felt like you can’t get over it or go around it because it’s there in the stories that you’ve created around it. So what you’re black? So what you had a horrible past? That doesn’t dictate your future. You are the creator of your future.
You’re the creator of your future and you’re also the creator of your drama.
That’s an important note there as well. What got me from going forward is the desire to overcome. It was really knowing who I am. I’ve got to know Rodney. Rodney just was not satisfied with that diagnosis. He was not satisfied with staying in the same place. My purpose and the possibility of becoming more, doing more and serving more people was like fuel to me. It gave me a new reason to live and a reason to get out of the wheelchair, a reason to fight, a reason to move forward despite it, a reason to get up in the morning and put my feet on the floor and say, “This is what I’m going to do today.” It was so rewarding for me to step into that. I felt like my life was a vicious cycle. I was mad at the world. I wasn’t pleasant to be around because my attitude was bad. That wasn’t helping me. I wasn’t going anywhere but when I started working towards this goal, this vivid dream, and it wasn’t so much just getting out of the wheelchair, it was like, “What if you can accomplish this?” That is what I started working towards. That became so fulfilling to me that it didn’t matter. If I got out of the wheelchair, I wanted to accomplish that. That can be a part of it. Obviously, I wanted that but the joy came from the pursuit of something much bigger than me. That’s where my joy came from.
One of the things I teach people is when you have a challenge in life and if you are focused on overcoming the challenge, when you wake up, all you’re going to focus on is that challenge. That’s going to be your mindset for the day. That’s going to be your focal point. You’re going to get more of that challenge. I say focus on something much bigger than that. Focus beyond the challenge. When you focus beyond the challenge, the challenge has become the stepping stone. It’s just a portion of the journey that you have to overcome in order to get to the end goal, which is a lot bigger. Now, you feel much better and a lot more on purpose when you’re going about your journey. Stay focused on the challenge. You’re just in this, “I’ve got to get over this hump state.” That can get tiring. That can wear you out. When there’s this bigger goal that’s at hand, now we see the challenges and the obstacles of necessary processes that we have to go through in order to get to that place.
It’s interesting because succeeding in life or in business and things is often just a case of outperforming your challenges. You just outperform your challenges. That’s like you play ball and you have a winning season. You won more games than you lost. In baseball for example, you get more hits than make an out, you’re a hall of famer. Outperforming your challenges is a biggie. The recipe as I’ve got it just to recap is to first just be grateful. I think there’s no greater remedy for anything that ails anybody than to simply be grateful, to be in gratitude in the moment. For one thing, it alleviates fear. Everything that’s at the root of our misery is rooted in fear. One, be grateful. Two, ask an empowering question like, “What if I could succeed in spite of?” That is a creative question. Three, “So what?” Ask that question, “So what this happened or that happened?” You’re chuckling at your story. You’re chuckling at your self-created drama or the drama that you think someone else created. Four, pursuing a purpose, your bigger purpose, your vision, which is so much greater than the obstacle or the challenge that you could otherwise focus on. As you say, “By focusing on that challenge, you just attract more of the same.” You’ve written books, you’ve spoken to many, many people. I think there are a lot of people listening to this who are probably curious how it is that they could find out more about you, find out how they could get to experience one of those books of yours or otherwise just be able to learn from you in some other greater way. Will you share a little bit about that?
I have a website, www.RodneyFlowers.com. You can visit my website there. You can find the links to the books if you’re interested in the books right there on the website. You can find me on all social media platforms. Rodney Flowers is my Facebook fan page. I’m on Twitter @RodneyFlowers22. You can find me on Instagram @TheGetUpGuy.
Now, Get Up! Provide the synopsis if you will.
As you heard the story, I couldn’t get up on the field, once I suffered this accident. Get up came from my mom running out on the field when I got hurt. She was like, “Get up, Rodney. Get up, Rodney.” She wasn’t having it. Obviously, I didn’t get back up. I was in a wheelchair for eighteen years and then finally, I got up. I’m like, “Mom, I’m up. I’m walking around. I don’t need a wheelchair anymore.” I wrote the book called Get Up!: I Can’t. I Will. I Did… Here’s How! The subtitle is it is what is because I went through that phase of ‘I can’t’ because of that one time I thought that I couldn’t. I developed the will, and then I did it. I went through that process. That’s what Get Up! is all about, the process of going down and then rising back up again. We all have something that makes us feel like we can’t reach our dreams or we’re right there, but there’s something that’s preventing us from really rising to the level that we want to experience, or rising to a potential that we know that we have inside but we just can’t break through.
That’s what Get Up! is about. It’s about experiencing that as a process and understanding that there is some good in that. Even though these things show up, these challenges show up, let’s harvest the good, leave behind the weeds and rise to another level. Instead of complaining about the restriction, complaining about what’s showing up and bickering about it and being ungrateful because those things really do in my mind make us stronger, but you have to have the right mindset. That’s all about getting up from a mental standpoint so you can get up from an emotional and physical standpoint. That’s what Get Up! is all about.
Rodney is going to have an online program. I want you to definitely get on social media and follow Rodney. Get the book and all that, hit his website up so that you can get more information about the online program because I think it’s going to make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. I’m excited to be able to be one of the early affiliates, one of the early people that are going to support Rodney in that pursuit and rooting for him. Also, if you’re listening to this and also wanting to have an incredible, incredible speaker to attend a conference of yours, I know that Rodney’s got a very, I don’t want to say busy but just an active schedule. He’s not an easy guy to get a hold of for something like that but it always makes sense to ask. I can tell you that much. It’s one of those things that if you really do want to lift people up, help them to get up, provide them with some incredible content and a lot of inspiration. I think inspiration is more important than motivation. I know, Rodney, when you were a football player, that’s one of the things a football coach or any coach does. They motivate their team. There’s a place for motivation. I’m down for that on a ball field especially. I think as we grew up, as we’re adults, in our lives we need to be inspired because it lasts longer. The roots go deeper. You’re one of the most inspiring people I know personally. When I hear you speak and I watch you do it, you just inspire, you lift people up, you create a context in a room that’s just magnetic. It’s like hearts just burst wide open. That’s something that is an opportunity there. Please reach out to Rodney and let him know. You can let me know and I can get in touch with Rodney about that too. Rodney, any final thoughts before we close out this session of The Conscious PIVOT Podcast?
I would just like to end with a quote that I’ve been living by for years now. That is, “Success responds to the person that is consistent in his approach to overcome the demands of life.” For me, that’s just saying things are going to happen, things are going to show up. If you want to rise above that, just stay consistent. Don’t let them beat you down. Don’t let them beat you up. Just stay consistent. Realizing that if you stay consistent, your efforts and learning how to become a better you and living in excellence, you can overcome those demands and you can experience success.
Rodney Flowers, you’re amazing. You rock as do all of our Conscious Pivoters out there. This community is a joy. It’s a blessing. It’s a gift to the world. Come and join us on Facebook, Start My PIVOT Community and be surrounded by, supported by, giving to a community of likeminded, like-hearted people that really want to make a huge difference in the world. As Rodney said, “Have a huge purpose,” so that they are constantly moving beyond their obstacles saying, “So what?” to the things that show up that are challenges and are typically just happy, grateful, joyful pivoters in life. Let’s navigate this sucker together and do it with a big, wide open heart. We’ll see you on the next episode. Ciao for now.