The word “optimism” is derived from the Latin optimum, which means “best.” When a person is optimistic, it means they expect the best possible outcome from a given situation. According to statistics, optimists are sick less and live longer than pessimists. Their positive outlook on life strengthens the immune system, and they have fewer heart attacks than the average pessimist.
Steve Ferreira is a firm believer in the power of optimism. He asserts that positive thinking is the key to his achievements.
There are few limitations to what the human brain can do, and Steve Ferreira proves this on a daily basis.
The Inspiration of Challenge
Ferreira was born in Taipei, Taiwan in 1988. He was the second of twins to be born and, due to birth complications, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. At age 15, he felt a calling to be someone who had a positive impact on the lives of others. In an attempt to positively affect the lives of those around him — both with and without disabilities — he began a life of motivational speaking. He started speaking at local high schools about what it is like to live with a disability.
The genesis of Ferreira’s motivation to speak in public was inspired by participating in a program called Challenge Day. This is a program in which speakers come to schools to provide “empowering and transformational workshops for teens and adults.” Challenge Day leaders attempt to connect workshop participants in a fun and educational environment where they can realize they are not alone in life’s problems. Leaders provide empathy and hope and challenge participants to “be the change” they’d like to see in the world.
Most Inspirational Player
For some people, the average lifetime seems impossibly short for everything they want to accomplish. Ferreira is one of those guys. By the time he was finishing high school, a time when the vast majority of people are putting their athletic goals to rest, Ferreira was just beginning the most impressive period of his athletic life.
After being voted “Most Inspirational Player” by the Seattle Jr. Sonics Wheelchair Basketball team two years in a row, Ferreira set his sights on track and field. At the 2007 National Junior Disability Championships (NJDC) held in Spokane, Wash., he received a gold medal in club, discus and shot put, and he took silver in weightlifting and bench press. At the following year’s NJDC, he took gold in all five events. He continued to have success in track & field events around the world in the following years. One of his goals is to become a Paralympic athlete and represent the U.S. internationally.
Another lifelong goal of Ferreira’s is to bring awareness to the disabilities some people live with every day. His motivational speeches cover this topic, but so does a petition you can find (and sign) on his website. It is a “Petition to Broadcast Disabled Sports on Television and Other Media.” The title speaks for itself. As a society, the more awareness raised for a given topic, the more it is brought into the mainstream, and the less we can ignore it.
Ferreira believes that broadcasting competitions for disabled athletes legitimizes the hard work they put into their sport or event. Disabled athletes deserve exposure as much as able-bodied athletes, if not more, due to the extra obstacles they are often forced to overcome.
“Broadcasting sports on television allows the world to see the accomplishments that disabled athletes have had in overcoming their physical limitations and the diminished social expectations that accompany them,” the petition reads.
Speaking engagements have taken Ferreira across the country and the globe. He has spoken hundreds of times at schools, churches, graduations and clubs. The organization that sponsored his adoption invited him back to Taiwan to speak at a charity dinner, and he spoke at several high schools, as well as Dong Hwa University in Hualien, Taiwan.
Beyond Disabilities is the moniker under which Ferreira gives speeches. Its stated mission is “to inform individuals around the world that if you’re disabled, you are just like everyone else… just living life in a different way.”
Ferreira believes everyone has a disability of some kind. At first, this might sound incorrect, not to mention the opposite of optimistic. But Ferreira intends to show that “disability” is merely a label, and while society might be prone to labels, it is best not to get into the business of putting them on other people. He might have a disability called cerebral palsy that makes it difficult to walk, but other people have the disability that makes them mean to others.
In light of that, isn’t it much more appropriate and uplifting to use labels that affirm people’s abilities, rather than their disabilities?
Spreading the Word
Everyone wants to fit in and not be judged. When someone looks different and talks different from most, they can be judged harshly. Simply put, judging people based on how they look or talk is ignorant. It’s a basic lack of education. So that’s what
Ferreira does: he teaches people. The more inclusive we are as a society, the closer we will come to achieving our collective potential.
Everyone who talks about Ferreira mentions his positive, optimistic outlook on life. Throughout our lives we define ourselves by our words and actions. It’s easy to see why Ferreira believes in himself.
To believe in the future of society takes the strongest, most enlightened form of optimism. To this end, Steve Ferreira is among the most able. We are pleased to celebrate him as this month’s I Define Me winner.
Photo credit: http://www.beyond-disabilities.com/