By Melissa Lindley
Life is what you make of it and happiness is as much a choice as it is a state of mind, according to motivational speaker and entrepreneur Matt Glowacki. Glowacki spoke to students in Sweigart Auditorium on Feb. 25 to share his story and pass his experiences on to the audience.
Born in Janesville, Wis., Glowacki first gained the attention of doctors when he was born without legs, despite having no genetic abnormalities in his family history.
Rising above the emotional challenges of his disability, Glowacki has gone on to create a successful career for himself as a motivational speaker and businessman. He currently owns three businesses: Mogo Wheelchairs, a line of custom-made wheelchairs; Glow Music, a DJ and entertainment service and Myriad Communications, a speaking and consulting company.
During his speech he revealed that he has received numerous awards and nominations for his public speaking and is the most booked college speaker in the nation. He also won an award for Best Diversity Artist in 2010 from Campus Activities Magazine.
Glowacki started his career while working for a company that sold wheelchairs and medical supplies. When the company went out of business, he became a salesperson for AT&T. His new job required him to travel a lot, and he eventually needed a way to find a secondary source of income. He ultimately decided to become a speaker and contacted local middle schools; 10% percent of the schools hired him. He jumped at the opportunity to make this a new career.
“It’s like taking a snowball and rolling it down a hill,” Glowacki said. “And it gets bigger and bigger every year, and more and more fun.”
Glowacki started the night off with jokes and icebreakers to make students feel comfortable.
“I’m going to talk about some really cool things you can do to maximize your happiness with other people today,” he said.
He discussed the struggles and successes that resulted from his disability. His first business, Glow Music, stemmed from romantic rejection in high school; being stood up at a high school dance led him to be inspired by the DJ who was having a great time playing for the students. Additionally, after becoming frustrated with owning a wheelchair that didn’t accommodate his disability while playing basketball in college, he decided to alter his own wheelchair and eventually started his own company of custom-made wheelchairs for disabled Olympic athletes.
Humor has played a large role in Glowacki’s approach to his talks, putting a positive spin on everything he does, even if it’s difficult or embarrassing. One of the stories he shared was about an incident involving a broken toilet in a middle school locker room and the entire gym class laughing at him. Despite the uncomfortable situation, he is now able to look back and laugh rather than focusing on the event.
Glowacki also led students in a series of motivational exercises to help show how easy it can be to brighten someone’s day.
One particularly memorable exercise involved having students hug a person standing next to them. Glowacki explained that six seconds of hugging produces a chemical reaction of dopamine in the brain and improves one’s mood. Students introduced themselves and counted to six as they hugged each other, leading to a few moments of giggles and conversation.
“I loved the hugging section,” freshman biochemistry major Justin Chilicki said. “It made me happier and made my day feel better.”
He also encouraged students to be aware of whom and what they surround themselves with. However, Glowacki’s prime focus was that how you portray yourself, interpret other people and approach every day will affect your outlook on life. He said going into every experience with a positive approach will make life more enjoyable.
Junior public relations major Lorelei Colbert thought highly of the presentation.
“I thought it was great,” she said. “It brought great energy to show how you can make your day happier.”
Glowacki believes that a negative attitude only hurts the person exuding it.
“I’ve realized over the course of my life that there are a lot of angry crippled people out there, and that’s not much fun,” Glowacki said. “It’s not much of a life. So why not look at the positive side? If you want to be a positive person, you have to go into it with curiosity instead of, ‘Wow, this is going to suck.’ It’s just a matter of defaulting to a right way of thinking. Always default to the decision that will give you the best story out of whatever you’re going to do.”
Printed in the 3/1/13 edition