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Turning a Liability into an Asset

October 10, 2014 by  
Filed under blog

Have you ever been in a room when someone walked in that totally dominated everyone’s attention?  Someone who stood out so much that you could only stop and direct all your attention to that person? That is exactly what you get when Mark Eaton walks into any room. Why would you take immediate notice of him? Well, for one, he’s hard to miss standing 7 foot 4 inches tall! But that’s not all. If you are fortunate enough to hear one of his lectures, he’s even more of a standout as a speaker with a great message.

If you followed basketball a few years ago you know Mark Eaton played for the Utah Jazz, ending up as an all American and breaking the all-time NBA record for the most blocked shots. You might assume he had an easy trip to the top, but that’s very far from the truth.

Recently I was privileged to hear him speak–his wonderful wife Teri talked me into it–and from the lecture he so eloquently delivered to the audience I learned some great lessons and concepts. His spoke primarily about corporate team building but the thing that hit me so very hard was his words about how a person can turn a liability in life into an asset.

You see, for all of his younger life his height was a huge liability–he was teased constantly and called names. Yes he was on his high school basketball team but he sat on the bench virtually the entire season as he watched the little speedster guys rip up and down the court. He actually really hated basketball.

So what did he do? He studied to be an auto mechanic. But thanks to a great mentor he met when he was in his 20’s he was directed, coached and shown how he could turn what he perceived and thought of as a huge liability into a gigantic asset. His mentor showed him what he needed to do to play great basketball and Mark worked hard and long before he got to where his mentor wanted him to be. He went on to set records in the NBA and helped the Utah Jazz move from the very bottom of the league to the top. Now he’s doing it again as an all-star lecturer, speaking from coast to coast.

After hearing his story, I couldn’t help but think of a very dear high school friend, Richard Harvey, who played with me on our basketball team in the faraway country of Turkey. About 12 years ago I got a phone call from Rich telling me his son Kyle who was just 14 years old had bone cancer. Wow, what a shocker.

Kyle had a very tough battle. He fought it with all he had and eventually defeated cancer. However, the cancer had left its mark, stunting Kyle’s growth. Today, at age 26, he’s just barely over 5 feet tall and he looks like a little kid. Big time liability, right? For most people it would be and it was for Kyle for a while as well. But Kyle eventually turned that perceived liability into a huge asset.

He made a move from the mid-west to Los Angeles and got a job as an intern at Paramount Studios. But that only lasted a short time. He floundered around the city, trying to find an affordable place to live and another job. He finally caught a break, auditioning at a comedy club with jokes about his short body and very young looks. They loved him and he’s gone on to do very well there. He even got big kudo’s and congratulations from big time comic and actor Sinbad. He bravely turned what had seemed to be a liability into a huge asset.

And that, my friends, is really the long and short of it all. I think we should all take a look at ourselves and those around us who we may be able to help and see if we can take what we think is a weakness or liability and come up with a way that we might be able to turn it into a big asset.

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