Being a stutterer is a weird phenomenon. My father and other well-meaning people kept telling me to think about what I wanted to say before I started talking. I always knew what I wanted to say. I just couldn’t get the darn words out of my mouth.

Tough situations for a child stutterer: quarterbacking a team without receiving a delay of game penalty; trying to smile at stuttering jokes; attempting to twirl those mellifluous r’s in Spanish class; being next to speak in any social situation; calling the popular Lana Thorpe to ask her to the school dance.

Then a college professor, Frank Tate, encouraged me to stutter on purpose. This simple tip turned the tables. I had power over my impediment. I became responsible and in charge of my behavior. Delightfully, I chose my “payback” to former tormentors by purposefully injecting a stammer or two and watching their impatience fester.

In retrospect, my stutter is a lifetime benefit. It taught me to be sensitive to the challenges facing others. I found a love of reading and writing, in part, because it became my comfort zone. I talked less and listened more, although I’m still working on that one.

There is a broader lesson to be considered. When you encounter circumstances that appear to be disastrous or insurmountable, pay attention to your ongoing “self-talk.” Allow this inner voice to determine the key issue and provide you various options. Chances are one of them will make you the “owner” of the circumstance and in charge of the outcome.

I’m not talking about putting on a pair of rose-colored glasses. The answer begins with an acceptance of the truth. At this juncture, one person’s self-talk is about being a defeated victim, while another uses the negative circumstances as a springboard for emotional development and new possibilities.

Often, success is derived from taking ownership of a personal challenge or problem and then making courageous, tiny decisions each day.

I c-could never have ta-taken Lana Thorpe to the dance if I hadn’t picked up the phone.