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  • ben26023

Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk

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 through technology. 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 engineering? 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 smithereens. 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. If you haven’t already, give us a like or a follow on social media! Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Instagram YouTube If you really like us, why not share our blogs with your friends and family. Even better, tell us which blogs you like or suggest a topic you’d like to know more about – we’d love to hear from you!

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