Gabe Murfitt, motivational speaker, teaches students the importance of overcoming adversity to reach lifelong goals

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Woodland Public Schools students learned about the importance of overcoming adversity during presentations by motivational speaker Gabe Murfitt, a 26 year-old who overcomes his significant disabilities to succeed in his life.

Gabe Murfitt, motivational speaker, was born with a disease which stunted the growth of his joints and left him with only 45% of his hearing.
Gabe Murfitt, motivational speaker, was born with a disease which stunted the growth of his joints and left him with only 45% of his hearing.

Murfitt was born with a disease that stunted his growth resulting in him having arms only three inches long and standing a little over three-feet high. "For whatever reason, many of my joints didn't develop properly," he explained. "My legs are singular solid bones fused together, and, in addition, I'm 45% deaf so I need to use a hearing aid to achieve 100% hearing." Murfitt travels the country inspiring thousands of students with stories of overcoming adversity and being aware of people with disabilities.

While in Woodland, Murfitt gave presentations at all of the district's schools during special assemblies accompanied by his nine-year-old service dog, Ruthie, a specially-trained Labrador Retriever who Murfitt also trained to solve math problems by barking the solutions. The presentations carry the strong message that students should embrace their individuality and resist the urge to compare themselves to one another. "We're all different from each other, but the only difference between you and me is that I'm a little shorter and my arms and legs don't work that well," Murfitt told the audience. "Now that we know that - get over it! Don't worry about being the same as somebody else, just be you."

Murfitt learned to play basketball by joining his Junior High School's basketball team while growing up.
Murfitt learned to play basketball by joining his Junior High School's basketball team while growing up. 

Murfitt told stories from his time growing up, giving anecdotes about how he refused his parents help so he could learn how to take care of himself. He grew up in a three-story house with his family where he learned how to develop his mobility by making himself meals. He told a story of having to figure out how to get a bag of chips from the top shelf in the kitchen pantry. While using chairs, stools, and other furniture to retrieve the chips, he asked himself if it was worth it, determined that it was, and eventually retrieved the bag of chips. "I've always been very goal-oriented and like to set goals for myself," said Murfitt. "So, I have a metaphor - the bottom shelf is filled with the easiest things that we can do everyday; the middle shelf holds your weekly and monthly goals; and the top shelf is filled with your lifetime goals – you should always strive to achieve all of your goals."

In addition to emphasizing the importance of self-independence, Murfitt also taught students the value of asking others for help. "I don't like people helping me, however, I learned that it's okay to ask for help because getting help will lift you to achieve your goals," he explained. "You are not weak if you ask for help, you are actually stronger because you are humbling yourself in front of others."

Murfitt taught students, "You can't change the world lying on your back."
Murfitt taught students, "You can't change the world lying on your back." 

Students rallied around Murfitt's messages, especially when he talked about setting lifelong goals that carry an impact. "You can't change the world by lying on your back; you can't see the world on your back; and I've spent a lot of time lying on my back so I know first-hand," he said. "Some of you sitting here right now are lying on your back giving up, but every single person in here is worth it - you are worth fighting for. Don't give up. Don't let life dictate you. You dictate your life."

Murfitt closed his presentations by encouraging the students to reach out to him using email or social networking. "I'm not your typical motivational speaker because I truly and legitimately care about you," he told the students. "If you talk to me today or message me, I will talk to you and I will be there for you because I know what it's like to struggle and I don't want you to give up." Following the presentation, Murfitt and Ruthie posed for photos with students while students asked questions and spoke with him about their own challenges faced throughout their lives.

Following his presentations, Murfitt spoke with students about the challenges facing them in their own lives.
Following his presentations, Murfitt spoke with students about the challenges facing them in their own lives. 

The presentations carried a big impact at all of the schools throughout. "The staff and students were amazed by his inspiring messages," said Woodland Middle School Principal Jake Hall. Woodland High School Principal John Shoup agreed, "He had great command of the audience and kept our students actively listening for over 45 minutes, and his message of 'You Matter' was excellent." Woodland Intermediate School Principal Steve Carney shared similar reactions from his school, "Students shared that they learned a lot and the presentations helped them think differently about how they think of others who are different than they are."

One of Murfitt's lifetime goals is to speak at every single high school in the United States. One of his friends, also a motivational speaker, told him he was crazy. "I told him, 'Here's the thing, if my goals aren't crazy, I mustn't be doing something right'," explained Murfitt. "If I'm not told my goals are crazy, then I know my goals aren't big enough to have an impact." In just the past four years, Murfitt has spoken at more than 250 schools. To learn more about Gabe Murfitt, you can visit his website at www.gabemurfitt.com.

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