I think most of us have people in our lives that inspire us. They lead by example. They walk their talk. One such person in my life is John Carter.
John was born in 1943 although he’ll tell you he doesn’t think he’s that old. He has lived in Santa Clarita, a suburb just outside of Los Angeles, since 1980. He joined Toastmasters in 1998 and is how I met John. A Navy vet, John has been self-employed most of his life except for a small stint in the studios as a sound man for which he won Academy Awards. He’s been married 50 years, has two children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
He’s a very happy man. Which is the miracle of his life.
John’s mother was mentally ill and a very abusive woman. She thought it was cute to put her cigarettes out on her kids and then kiss them to show what a good mother she was. John and his two sisters were scared to death of their mother. They never told their father of her abuse. John and his siblings were placed put in and out of boarding schools throughout their childhood, John graduated from his last boarding school when 16. The boarding school experiences were miserable, too.
When just seven years old, John tried to take his life. In his words from his radio show interview with me back in 2012:
I drank a bottle of rat poison, and I had a near death experience. I went to the light, and I realized that everything would be alright in my life.
As a result of his early life experience, John recognized that his mother, the boarding schools, all those things were training, an education so that he would have the references to help other people. He feels he is the lucky one realizing that life is fanastic. That realization never came to his two sisters:
My older sister weighed almost 400 pounds when she died. She ate herself to death. My younger sister never handled the abuse, and she turned to drugs. She was a drug-induced paranoid schizophrenic. She was a bag lady. I would find her every once in a while bring her home. But the voices told her to leave. She was found dead in a carport a few years ago. Both sisters were very, very sad.
John is a talented speaker – winning many awards in Toastmaster competitions. It is hard to imagine he was ever shy. But shy he ways. Says John:
I was so shy if I saw you coming down the street I would crossover, so I wouldn’t have to talk to you. I didn’t know what to say. I took a Dale Carnegie course on human relations. It changed my life to such an extent I vowed I would take at least one self-improvement course every year for the rest of my life.
One of the most significant learnings that John undertook was a branch of psychology that studies why people behave the way they do – Neuro-linguistic Programming, NLP. This was before he ever heard of Tony Robbins – a master at NLP. Once he discovered Tony he studied at the Tony Robbins Mastery University.
Working with Teens
John is absolutely passionate about sharing what he has learned with young people who feel hopeless and find themselves in the same situation that he did. John brings to the table empathy and credibility:
I have teenagers come, and they say ‘You know I’m abused, and you have no idea what it’s like.’ I’ll say ‘Well I’ll show you the cigarette burns on my rear end.’ I’ve never been taken up on it.
John says of teens:
I love working with teens because they’re so simple. People think they can’t understand the teenager. They’re the most simple people in the world. They want to be successful. They want to succeed. But there’s there are no mentors that teach them how to how to do that.
Teens coached by John are asked to do two important things. One is the “I am” list. They are asked to answer the question, “If you really knew me, you would know that I…”, and then write down whatever comes into their mind without analyzing it.
Also, he has them keep a gratitude journal:
Every night they have to list five things that were good for that day. At the end of a week, 35 things were good. It causes them to focus on what’s good in their life instead of what is bad in their life.
John provides help for the parents of teens as well. On his site, Bond with your Teen, parents can download his free ebook titled, Why Do They Act Like That? The book contains strategies to regain a teenagers’ attention and respect without fighting, arguing or getting angry.
My friendship with John has taught me that it’s not the events in your life that cause you problems. It’s the meanings that you attach to those events that cause you problems. John has helped me to understand that the unconscious mind always looks for reasons to answer your question. So asking “why” you have a particular problem isn’t helpful. Says John:
The secret is to change your primary question. I change my primary question ‘What can I learn from this that will help me now and others in the future? ‘ I always get a better answer than that I’m a loser.
Every year for over ten years, members of the Toastmaster clubs in Santa Clarita gather the first Monday in December to kick off the holidays. Each club puts forth one speaker. In 2016, John Carter delivered a talk titled,“Two Hundred and Twelve Degrees.” It is available to view here.
John is an example of living life with passion. For him, passion comes from helping people change their lives by sharing what you know with them. I am grateful to John for sharing what he knows with me. He is indeed a person I admire.