Monday, October 26, 2009

I am the CEO of my own life!

Good evening my NSA teammates,

Today I opened up the newspaper and was reading the story of another person in the public eye who fell from grace and as a result, embarrassed not only himself, his employer, but most importantly, lost his reputation. Steve Phillips, the former general manager of the New York Mets and an ESPN analyst regarding baseball, was terminated along with a production assistant for carrying on an affair which caused great humiliation to the station. I couldn't help but compare his plight to those executives in the automotive industry who pleaded their case before Washington, crying for a bailout. What do these have in common? One word: accountability.

I decided to create a new phrase that I want to implement into my presentations not only when I speak to classes of SLP students, but in my seminars at the NSA as well. What is that phrase? "I am the CEO of my own life!" We've often heard the term "chief executive officer" or "chief operating officer" in regard to many Fortune 500 companies, as they are the face of the organization. To be a CEO in this kind of mode requires tact, patience, an ability to lead and guide those who depend on you. Sadly, these days that breed is disappearing. As I was writing this, I couldn't help but picture these people with a "Duuuuh" expression as they wondered why their companies were in the predicament they were in. Most likely, it's because they made poor decisions, or didn't even bother to take accountability for their actions.

Like many NSA teammates, I have taken my own personal journey of self-acceptance, and I feel that I am accountable to myself and the NSA in many ways. For starters, I own my stuttering and accept it as part of who I am. This was a painful and very trying task for me to undergo. The expression "The truth will set you free" was very pertinent for me in this case. I realized that in order to take accountability, I had to first stop denying the existence that I was not a person who stuttered. I would often say I spoke very slowly and deliberately, because to admit to myself that I stuttered was an admission of guilt for the longest time. That's not the case anymore.

Being not just a teammate, but a chapter leader, has also heightened my awareness when it comes to being accountable. I enjoy reading other chapter leaders discussions in their chapters, and one of the many things that makes the NSA so very special is that we demand the best from each other, and we get it. We challenge each other and push each other to not just become better teammates, but human beings as well. I have made many mistakes in my life, and learned the hard way that you do pay the consequences for your actions. One time when I was working full-time, I told my supervisor that I had done something when in reality I didn't, because I didn't want her to think I was incompetent. A few days later I got caught in a lie, and as a result, had a note go into my personnel file. That is a reflection on me, and no one else.

In the movie "Fifteen Minutes" with Robert De Niro and Edward Burns, there's a very sharp quote that makes you think: A foreigner says "I love America because no one is responsible for what they do." Does that seem to be the case sometimes? There are always stories on the news about passing the buck and blaming someone else. "It's not my fault, it's her fault," is a common refrain. Well, I can say this emphatically: "I am the CEO of my own life. The decisions I make are mine and mine alone, and I will accept whatever happens and make the best of it."

The day I said that, was the day I learned that any door can be opened.

My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

The NSA Nation is located at!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Have you sold the NSA today?

Good evening my teammates,

A few days ago I was making a delivery to a local car dealership which happens to be the biggest on Long Island, Huntington Honda. I remember walking into the customer service department to drop the food off, and as I was coming out, I couldn't help but notice a brand-spanking new Honda Civic Hybrid. As I was admiring it, a saleswoman smiled and came up to me. "As much as I wish that was my new car, maybe someday in the future," I said. She smiled and turned to another customer. I said charmingly, "The way these cars are, they sell themselves."

If you grew up in the 1980s, then you probably remember Honda ran a marketing campaign that was billing their cars as "The cars that sell themselves." At this year's National Stuttering Association conference in Arizona, a presentation was made to show the tremendous strides that we have made. We are now the biggest advocacy organization for teammates who stutter around the world. We have advertisements in some of the world's most well-known magazines. But my teammates and I are not complacent at all. As the line from "High School Musical 3" goes, "Get Your Head In The Game," and that's exactly what we are doing....but at the same time, the bar is continually being raised.

Advertising is everywhere. It's not just opening the magazines anymore or watching on television. We are bombarded 24/7/365. We go to bed and we dream of something we saw earlier. When I was in Washington, DC, getting together with some NSA teammates, we rode the Metro (Washington's subway) and you see one row of continuous advertisements, from everything schools to bladder issues and how to resolve them. (Don't ask, I won't reveal any more details. Some things must not be discussed in public, after all). But what, as teammates of the NSA, can we do?

Some wear conference T-shirts all the time. A good start, for sure. However, every teammate has a different starting point on their journey of self-accecptance. Some may not feel comfortable advertising they are a person who stutters. Others are more open and aggressive with promoting the NSA. When I meet someone for the first time, I give them a firm handshake and say "Hi, I'm Steven Kaufman, NSA Long Island Chapter Leader." This blog is advertising the NSA. When I speak at colleges, that's selling the NSA.

I have great respect for those who work in sales, as it's a difficult profession-the stress of having to make a certain amount of production in order to receive commission. But when it comes to the selling of the NSA, my rewards are never monetary, and I don't need them to be. The rewards I get come at the end of the conference, or after I speak to SLP students. There is no greater feeling (although tinged with sadness) when the conference closes and you see the first-timers (the special name given to new teammates) hugging everyone and saying this forever changed their life. The same exact thing happens when students ask me questions and tell them what a great experience it is to learn about my experience.

As teammates, let's sell the NSA Nation now and forever..with the ultimate goal being a world free from judgment, bullying, and respect for all teammates.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Good evening all my teammates! October 3rd was a very special day of excitement for me. Where I live on Long Island, we have many fans of the New York Islanders, Long Island's NHL team, and Opening Night is always a big deal. As I was wandering around the concourse before the game to check out the warmups, I came across two people who I assumed were season-ticket holders. I happened to be within earshot of their conversation, and it went a little something like this: "Hey, Johnny, how you doin?" "Looking forward to seeing our kids grow this year, especially this kid Taveras." This conversation ended with "This never gets old." That is the part I wanted to focus on, that one statement. "It never gets old," for me, refers to the honor, but more importantly, the duty I have as an NSA teammate to lecture at speech pathology classes to make sure our future SLP professionals know about the experiences of what it is like to stutter, and the birth of the NSA Nation. This past week I completed three speaking engagements in five days-first, to a graduate class at Saint Joseph's College in Patchogue, N.Y., a graduate class at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., and a third to undergraduate students at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, N.J. To me, public speaking never gets old. Throughout life, you may have heard the expression "The thrill is gone."-maybe you're tired of going to that restaurant, going into the city to check out the nightlige. But for me, speaking about the NSA Nation never gets old. Every time I get up in front of a class, I know the world is listening. Whenever I read tales of my fellow chapter leaders who speak to classes, that is another sign the NSA Nation is spreading. You don't need to be a chapter leader to speak to students. Just remember that we are all teachers of our experiences stuttering. That never gets old. My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The birth of a nation.....the NSA Nation!

Good evening teammates around the world,

I do apologize for the lack of new posts lately. It may seem like a week or so, but for me it felt like an eternity. The school year is now back in effect, and there's something very special to me about the fall, and change of seasons. This is my time when I come alive. I guess you might say that I am a rare bird, because many of us enjoy the long summer nights and sizzling temperatures. Yet I enjoy the raw winds, the chill permeating from all directions.

Sept. 26 marked another special celebration of all things stuttering. On that day, teammates from various NSA chapters got together in Washington DC for a great social occasion-taking in the Atlanta Braves-Washington Nationals game at Nationals Park, followed by dinner out at Buca di Beppo in Dupont Circle. I have truly enjoyed many amazing moments and breakthroughs in my life with stuttering, which have not just taken place locally, but anywhere and everywhere. Each conference and social gathering is as unique as the next. But when you think of Washington, DC, what comes to your mind? The monuments? The ideals? The oppressive humdity in July and August? (Try waiting for a hotel shuttle at Reagan National when it's 100 degrees with 90 percent humidity-as Paris Hilton might say, "That's hot.")

Washington is the center of our nation for all guidance how our lives are shaped, and lived. When a law is passed, the eyes of the world turn there. And on the bus ride back home to New York City to catch the LIRR out to the suburbs, I began to think. What if we could create a NATION about all things stuttering? The National Stuttering Association, my greatest love, has become the biggest and most dominant advocacy organization for teammates who stutter everywhere. And like a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky, I thought of the best way to describe all things stuttering: The NSA Nation. For teammates who stutter, by teammates who stutter.

Now while America's capital will always be Washington, the NSA Nation has no permanent location at all. Wherever you are, that is where the NSA Nation is. When you show off your sexy attitude that you will speak your mind and others are going to hear it, that's where the NSA Nation is. The NSA Nation is everywhere at all times.

If you want to be a teammate of the NSA Nation, here's all you have to know:

1. That YOU WILL speak loudly and confidently,
2. You WILL make others to hear and respect you,
3. You WILL reach out to other teammates to help them find their voices,
4. You WILL make sure SLP graduate students know the your story, and the story of the NSA Nation,
5. You WILL break the stranglehold of stuttering,
6. You WILL celebrate the NSA Nation every day.

Sept. 26 is the birth of my NSA Nation. I invite all teammates to join me.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.