August 13, 2011

A Different Point of View

“It’s just a matter of perspective.” We often hear this phrase when we find ourselves trying to resolve differences in opinions or trying to appreciate something out of the ordinary. But for Todd Swank, this phrase could probably sum up a life philosophy that made him – in his attempts of trying to fit in – extraordinarily stand out. Robert Todd Swank from Prior Lake, Minnesota has become somewhat of a celebrity in his own right not necessarily because of how he looks but because of his overall outlook on life. 


You see, Todd Swank is someone who would typically catch your attention if you happen to pass by each other on the street or at a supermarket. He was born with rather oddly shaped arms. His left arm is a few inches shorter than his right arm and he only has four fingers on each of his hands. Although some people may see this as a physical disability, he never really let this hinder him from trying to do what other people regularly do. Growing up, he got into sports, learned how to drive, and even played several pranks just like any other kid. Although initial impressions towards him were awkward and at times rather insulting, he always found a way to get around these and show people that it wasn’t all just about his arms. 


Having such a positive outlook on life, even when he was very young, is probably why a lot of people took more notice of him (his arms aside). Taking light and sometimes even making fun of his situation, Todd manages to show people that it only takes a different way of looking at a situation in order to make the most out of it. In his case, his arms helped him chase away bullies, come up with hilarious jokes for his stints in stand-up comedy, and even get a few perks like a better parking slot in school. Despite his disability, it is rather clear that he was able to turn this into an advantage which allowed him to enjoy life to say the least. 


What’s better though is that Todd’s story isn’t an obscure one. He has found a way to turn the attention he gets initially from his short arms into a means of motivating and inspiring others, especially those with similar disabilities. Through his blog (www.shortarmguy.com), Todd shares his trials and tribulations to a world-wide audience in a manner that is interesting, funny, and at times provocative. More than just talking about how weird his arms look, he writes about opinions and daily happenings from his very own perspective. He also posts some of the emails he finds funny. What makes him such a successful blogger is that he is able to elicit numerous reactions from his daily posts, be they positive or negative. Todd knows that it’s impossible to please everyone and that what he writes (or the manner in how he writes) may offend the sensibilities of others who see his efforts as self exploitation. He takes everything in stride explaining that nothing he writes is meant to be offensive and it simply boils down to differences in how people perceive things. Rare as they come, Todd still makes it a point to respond to people who give his site disappointing nods. This just goes to show that he strives to make the best out of everything that comes his way. 


More than to simply entertain people, Todd also considers his blog as a way of inspiring and motivating others by looking at almost anything in a positive light. The overall message he wants to convey through his blog is that it’s only a matter of perspective and attitude whether you let yourself be weighed down by a situation. Although he jokes about being world famous as the main reason he started the blog, he modestly believes that there is no harm trying to change other people’s attitude towards their situation. 


 It’s interesting to note that Todd’s celebrity status and goal of inspiring and motivating people goes beyond cyberspace. Probably as a bonus to his goal of being famous, he was featured on the hit TV show MiamiInk on TLC in June 2007. During the show, he got the opportunity to get a tattoo done by renowned tattoo artist Chris Graver. Not skipping on the chance to share his philosophy to a different audience, his tattoo design reflected the trials he’s gone through and the hope he holds for getting past these obstacles. Throughout the segment, he also shares snippets of his life wherein he talks about how you should “deal with the hand that God dealt you.” 


Looking at the way Todd Swank presents himself, you somehow realize that his fame and reputation isn’t defined by the way he looks but rather the substance and wisdom behind his words and beliefs. If Todd Swank finally achieves the level of fame he jokingly aspires for, this will not be because of what he looks like but because of whom he is and how he lives his life.