Nathan Todd is the founder of No Label Defines Me Coaching. Nathan’s work primarily focuses on loneliness, labels, and disabilities. Nathan states he is passionate about these topics because he was born with cerebral palsy. Nathan shares more about his story in an interview with AbleThrive below.
I remember it like it was yesterday, and it was eleven years ago...I was becoming very familiar with my mom’s couch. The year was 2009 and I had graduated from Charleston Southern University a year earlier. My day consisted of getting on the computer to apply for jobs and then back to my spot on the couch. The cycle repeated for a year with no success. It was a lonely and dark time in my life. I would go on all of these in-person interviews and I would walk away feeling like I was an afterthought. I thought I would never get my opportunity to show the world my capabilities.
You might be saying, “Nathan, what does this have to do with me?” I was born eight weeks premature and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. The label of disability has shaped my life experience. It’s an experience that is often shaped by a list of limitations instead of possibilities. A life filled with therapy, meetings at school, and figuring out how to navigate a world that wasn’t designed for me. Can you relate?
I was fortunate to have a mom who modeled what it meant to be an advocate for my rights. She made me attend anything that was about me and made me talk for myself starting back in elementary school. The advocacy skills learned then are still skills I use today.
Back on the couch in 2009, my mom got a call from my uncle saying there was a place called The disAbility Resource Center (AccessAbility) in my town. AccessAbility serves people with disabilities. I went to an appointment not knowing what to expect and left with a volunteer opportunity. I knew that I needed to practice patience, diligence, and have a never-quit attitude. Those values plus intentional action created nine years of employment. I coached people of all ages to increase their life skills to support their independence and empowerment. I co-facilitated a youth leadership academy. I spoke at a state-wide advocacy day, and I was a board member of a national disability rights organization.
What I knew was that I had my shot, and I was going to do the most I could to make the biggest impact possible. My personal experience and my work experience taught me that society’s expectations of being a person with disabilities were so low, that if it was a bar we were raising, the bar was on the ground. I knew I wanted to do my part to shift the perspective of how people viewed disability. For me, that started in the gym. I became The Muscle Motivator, a name that was bestowed upon me due to my ability to motivate and consistently take action. I knew that my presence in the gym offered an opportunity for people to see disability in a new light. As I started this fitness journey, I knew that I wanted to help people challenge their labels. Two dreams started to take shape during this journey. First, I started a Facebook Live show, “No Label Live”, as a platform for people to tell their stories of turning their adversity into their advantage. Second, I wrote a book, Empower Yourself: Awaken The B.E.A.S.T. Within. I wanted to give people a workbook they could use to redefine the labels impacting their lives. I designed the book to be a step-by-step guide to get you off the couch and into action.
So my journey started on a couch, and as I am writing this, I am the owner of a coaching business. If you are on your couch (literally or metaphorically) right now, know that your current circumstances aren’t your final destination. You must be patient, be diligent, and never quit.
What is “No Label Defines Me” Coaching?
When I started the “No Label Defines Me” movement I knew that labels impact all humans disabled or nondisabled. In fact, everyone I’ve ever coached with has identified that one of the labels that holds them back is the label of “not being good enough”. This is leaving 61% of Americans experiencing loneliness, and not knowing how to attack it. My core belief is that the feeling is created because we are trying to live up to someone else’s expectations and don’t know what we actually want.
I help people struggling with loneliness and feeling trapped by the expectation of others, to find freedom in connecting with their purpose. The beautiful thing is: the world is waiting for your voice. Sometimes it takes a new perspective to take action on your dreams and goals.
How do you deal with hard times?
78% percent of people I have polled in my work say being heard is more important than being seen during difficult times. I too have found this important in my personal life. When dealing with hard times, I focus on connection. First, I focus on connecting with myself and identifying the emotions I am feeling. I use the tools of writing and music to help me accomplish this. I also spend time in the gym moving my body. This releases my endorphins, gets the blood pumping, and leaves me feeling empowered. I listen to music that I call my power music. One of my go-to songs is, Whatever It Takes, by Imagine Dragons. You can do this too by creating a power playlist on your favorite music app. Second, I focus on connecting with people who make me feel listened to, not judged, and safe. It is also important to surround yourself with people (real life or virtual) that give you energy instead of drain you of it. Who could you connect with today?
What’s one of your favorite hobbies?
Weight training! It shows me how much I can transform over a period of time. It also shows me how strong I am. It is something that grew my confidence. Find something that gives you energy and pursue it.
What advice do you have for someone dealing with depression?
I want to acknowledge that your feelings are valid. One thing that supports me during times of depression is talking my feelings out with someone. It could be a therapist or a friend. The important thing is finding someone who makes you feel safe. Here are a couple of other things to do. Spend some time volunteering. Volunteering gives us the opportunity to be of service to others, and we use our skills to bring value to others. Finally, find some way to create movement in your day. This could be weight training like me, or going for a walk and spending time outside.
Thanks to Nathan for sharing his story with us! Do you want to be featured on AbleThrive.com? Share your story with us!