I’ve stumbled across a term recently which I feel perfectly summarises what I try to do every
day, as both a professional speaker and inclusion advocate. It explains the language that
I often use, the certain clothes that I wear, and yes – it even explains the moustache. It’s
called Social Engineering.
Social engineering is the act of ‘tricking’ someone into divulging information or taking action, usually
It’s a phrase commonly associated with the world of ‘hackers’ – individuals who manipulate people into
handing over their personal information so they can empty their bank accounts, steal their identity, or any
other kind of low-life act.
Ok sure, on the surface it has quite a negative connotation. So why would I associate what I do to social
When you take it away from its origins, social engineering is simply a way of taking advantage of people’s
natural tendencies and emotional reactions. My whole life is about changing people’s expectations of me:
a guy in a wheelchair.
Society has long held the notion that having a disability is a negative thing. That people living with a
disability are somewhat inferior or lesser-than those with ability. We’re not as smart. We can’t have a job
or earn our own money. We can’t have a family. Essentially, we can’t have a fulfilling life.
So I wear the loud clothes, I grow an impeccable moustache and I live a largely independent life. I do
these things on purpose because I want to challenge people’s preconceived notions about what disability
should look and act like.
I want people to look at me and think “huh, I wasn’t expecting that”. To me, that’s social engineering:
I’m constructing a narrative by narrowing in on what my audience is looking for and then blowing it to
It’s something I’m quite passionate about, particularly as a professional speaker. I believe that if you are
fortunate enough to be asked – heck, paid! – to stand in front of an audience and speak to them on a topic
of your expertise, then you owe it to yourself to do it properly.
Authenticity is essential in my line of work; people can smell bullsh!t from a mile away. Forgetting this
is the worst thing you can do as a professional speaker and yet, it’s such a common mistake. To me,
authenticity means walking the walk (if you excuse the pun). Talking about a topic isn’t enough, you need
to socially engineer a way to amplify the message through all your actions to get it across properly.
I didn’t start off my journey trying to socially construct a new narrative for people living with a disability.
I was one of the millions who believed the silly notion that living in with a disability meant you lived a life
less full. I’m happy to admit I was SO WRONG.
Now, I take it upon myself to help change that narrative. For others to learn from my mistake. Because I
tell you, my life is far better now than before my accident. I’m happy, healthy, I have a great wife and kid.
Life is really, really good.
And I make sure to bring that energy into every public speaking event I’m privileged to be invited to, to
challenge people’s preconceived notions and hopefully begin a new narrative.
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