LISTEN TO EP.58
Develop an Adapter’s Mindset and Overcome Anything
This unbelievable story of perseverance will give you the tools to overcome anything. Elijah Stacey is 19 years old and suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal muscle-wasting disease, but he has defied the odds and made progress never before seen in the medical field. Given less than ten years to live, Elijah reveals how he is living a life of extreme purpose and teaches us how to develop the mindset to overcome whatever obstacles we might be facing as well.
How to Develop an Adapter’s Mindset and Overcome Anything
Hey, welcome to the influencers podcast. And I am so delighted to be together with our guest, Elijah Stacy (https://www.elijahjstacy.com), let me just say, if you receive some of the information and news that he’d received, you may give up, but he is an eternal optimist. He’s 19 years old. He suffers with a genetic muscular disease Deshawn muscular dystrophy. It’s taken away his ability to walk when he was 11 years old. And yet he carries an unbridled optimism. We’re going to see that today. He has a passion to help other people. He formed a nonprofit when he was 15 years old called destroy the Sean. We’re going to hear a little bit about that. And he’s written a wonderful book called a small. If he encourages people, no matter how big or small the suffering is that they’re going through to use it, not lose it, but to use it, to empower others, to help minimize the suffering that they’re going through and to help future generations. He was chosen when he was just in high school to be an intern for the river side county district attorney. He used his influence to bring justice to those who inflict suffering on others. His book, A Small “If” is a fascinating story, a fascinating journey. We’re just so glad that you’ve joined us today. Your story is amazing and we’re looking forward to hearing it. Thanks for being part of the influencers podcasts.
Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s really great to be here with you, and I’m just excited to be able to have the opportunity to share my message with rest of the world.
What is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy?
Yeah. Maybe you can just unpack and share about the disease that you have. Tell people, explain what it is. So people are listening and catch up.
Yeah. So I’m working with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. And what it does is it’s a muscle wasting disease that eats way a person’s muscles as time goes on. So when I was a little kid, about six years old, we started to notice you and I was walking on my tippy toes. I was falling to the floor frequently, not able to keep up with my peers, the playground, and able to go upstairs, easily, all these things that were abnormal for my age. And we realized, okay, there’s definitely something there. So I was officially diagnosed when I was six. And then when I was 11 years old, I became completely dependent on a wheelchair as my legs became too weak to bear any weight. So I became completely dependent on a power wheelchair and how to adapt to all the challenges that that’s going to bring you to go into the bathroom is going to be different than, and out of your bed’s going to be different.
Putting on clothes is going to be different, right? You can’t just stand up and put clothes on. Now you gotta figure out how to put your shorts on sitting down, right? Very you know, a lot of different obstacles that are going to come your way because you have to make that adaptation. And then later in my teenage years, I started to lose mobility in my arms. So, you know, not able to raise my arms above my head and do things like that. That’s very challenging. And honestly it could really get to you, right? You gotta have a lot of strings. You got to have a lot of courage and you know, you got to do things that to keep, to keep going, because I mean, that’s just taken away. Everything that you have worst part about the disease is it is a fatal disease.
Most patients pass away when they’re 25 years old and that’s because it’s a muscle wasting disease and the heart and diaphragm are muscles too. So those are going to be attacked as well. So this disease will really, really shake you up. If you let it, you got to be very strong and honestly you got to appeal to something that’s greater than yourself and that’s gone. And so that’s that’s a little bit about the disease and and that’s why I’m doing everything I can to raise funds and awareness around it so that we can try and complete the cure for the disease.
Responding vs Reacting
So most people live 70, 80, 90, maybe a hundred years. And you received information in your life that you would go into your twenties, maybe into your thirties when you got that message, what did it do to you? And how did you respond to that?
Well, so when I, so when I got that message, I was 15 years old and I took it as a challenge that, okay, they said, you know, the disease incurable. And I just, you know, I was really into business at the time. I still am, but you know, I was really getting into business and I wanted to do something good for the world. And I felt like that is my calling because I, I, I knew, okay, I want to do something great. Now what I have to be 2030, but I know exactly what it was. And then when I ran that, you know, it was in I was reading it in a booklet and want, as soon as I read that, I thought I’m going to do a business. And I’m going to do something about this disease. Like they say, it can’t be done.
I’m going to, I’m going to prove it. I’m going to prove that it can’t be done. And so that’s, that’s where it happened. But I would also touch on too, that, you know, when you realize that you may die soon, right now, your time becomes extremely valuable. So you’re not going to take your time for granted and where you’re going to really use every single minute that you have. And so you become a lot more serious about life. You start thinking about things, you start to seek truth more because you’re not, you know, you, you want to know what, what is it about life? Like, what really matters, what it, you know, what really matters about life. And so you start thinking about things. At least I did on a lot deeper scale.
So it’s not just you and your family. You have two other brothers.
That’s correct. I have, well, I have three other brothers, but I have two other brothers that also have the disease. I have my brother, Kai, who he’s 14 years old. And then my brother max, he was 14. He had other health complications, but unfortunately he passed away when he was 14 in 2019. Wow.
The Meaning of Real Success
But what a family, what a family that, you’re a part of? What holds you guys together? What makes you a success as a family?
Yeah. I mean, we’re real big on being positive and focus on what we can do. We never, my parents never let us use the wheelchair as an excuse or anything, but honestly, if you were to ask my parents and this is something that, you know, you have to learn it just as hard to explain, but they would just say, it’s God that keeps us together. You know, that there’s this supernatural influence in our life. That that gives us our strength and joy and, you know, biblically that’s supported. We see that all over scripture. So that’s what they would say. They would say, it’s God, that really does keep us together. That that’s who we have to go to when we’re in times of need.
So in the midst of receiving news that some people would fall apart at you’re 15 years old, you’ve experienced grief in your own family, but in the midst of all that, you’ve been able to find a sense of joy and peace to amazing. Really amazing. Definitely.
No, no. Well, I was just going to add that, you know, it just like seriously, it’s hard to explain to people who, you know, may not get it, but you know, the, the Bible says that, you know, Jesus can give us peace that transcends human understanding. Right. And that’s it. Right. It transcends human understanding. We can’t understand that we can’t rationalize it. It’s just something that God gives you by trusting in him. And I, and I honestly, I don’t know what else to tell people. Cause I look at our family with all the suffering and all the archery we go through. And I just have to say it’s, it’s that?
A Small “If”
So, so you’ve written the book a small “if” and you, you heard those words was it in a doctor’s consultation or you talked with a doctor and you heard the words, a small “if” and what did it mean when you heard those words?
Yeah, so I was going to my, my doctors to evaluate my back because my spine was starting to come more and more curved, which is normal with, with Duchenne. And you started to have a, for the surgery said, okay, you know, today, like I’m going to put my foot down and you’re going to need to get the surgery now. Yeah. And he starts naming all the doctors. And then we’ll do your, during the summer time too, where the flu season, you know, in very specific. So I know he’s serious. Right. And so I look over to my left, my mom’s crying, my dad’s got his head down. That’s what he does when he’s sad. And I’m sitting there smiling because I’m not going to have the surgery. I’m not accepting that. Right. And so I go, you know, okay. I asked my doctor, well, what if I just strip style all, you know, I’m not going to have the, he said, well, you could do that.
But as your doctor, I have to really put my foot down and advocate for you to have the surgery. And so we’re going back and forth. And they said, I asked them, I said, okay, let’s just say, if I was able to reverse the current state of my spine, could I avoid having to get the surgery? Then he says, well, I don’t want to give you any false hope again. I have to really push for you to have the surgery. I’ve never seen anybody do this, basically medically impossible. But because I know you, I will give you a small if, wow. So from that day forward, I went to intense physical therapy. I worked out every day, I’m on my own time. I even taught myself how to cook so I can eat healthier. So I wanted to lose some weight because I thought maybe that would help with spine. I hung a picture of my spine on my wall. So I could be reminded of what I need to do every single day. And three months later, I go back to the doctors and my spine is straighter, right? I spine the straighter. So all you need is a small “if”, right? You just need that possibility and you can make things happen.
How We Too Can Defy the Odds
Well, there’s somebody watching that just needs to hear that today, that they’re facing what they think is insurmountable odds. And just that attitude of, if this could change, my life will be better. And how your doctor responded to it in the, and it just the choice that you made now, how do you wrap that into the book as you write the book, A Small “If”, how does that message come to people that may be today facing incredible hardship?
Yeah. Well, it’s, it’s chapter one of the book. And I talk about, you know the first lesson is to defeat, defeat the odds, right? When you have these massive odds against you. But really what I realized after writing the book, my whole life has been a A Small “If”. I mean, there’s so many times where I’m not supposed to do something in the sense that the odds are against me and I still pull it off, you know, I get great motivation. When people told me you can do this or that. And I say, okay, you know what? I believe I can you believe I can’t, let’s see, let’s find out. Do you need, that’s a great motivator. And I, and I go and do, as I can with this. Yeah, I can. So that’s kind of, you know, that, that’s what I would say to that.
Antidote to Giving Up
That people can find hope in the bleakest of circumstances and probably this year, all that the nation is going through your book is so well timed for what people are facing now that sometimes people throw in the towel way too early, when they should pick up the towel and find a place to serve. And that seems to be what you’ve done. You’ve picked up a towel and you’ve said, okay, how can I make other people’s lives better? And you’re fighting this disease. Like you are a warrior and you’re fighting. Tell us about your efforts to kind of destroy addition disease.
Yeah. Let me tell you about that. But I just want to say, well, you just said it makes me incredibly happy. That’s, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do is just to show people to keep fighting no matter what comes out, you, you know, the world will break you down. Things are gonna come against you, but you gotta keep fighting the way you have to fight. There’s no, there’s no alternative. It’s not, there’s no quitting, right? You have to keep going. And when you keep going, things will get better. Things will maybe, maybe it won’t necessarily be solved. You know, I’m not going to get up and walk anytime soon, unless God, you know, just miraculously heals me, but, but you know what, I’m learning how to deal with it, right? So things will get better. And, and the nation, the world is facing a lot of adversity right now with all the things going on and things will get better. You’ll learn how to adapt to it. So I, I appreciate you saying that.
Listening to you, Elijah, it’s like lifting my spirit. We’re separated by a lot of miles right now, but man, my spirit just it soars to hear your tenacity and your perseverance and faith and your optimism. And you, you really want to use your time that you have every day, you know, it’s limited. You want to use it to make a difference and really help other people that are going through things just like you.
Definitely. I believe that serving other people is how you get fulfillment, right? Happiness is getting a new phone or eating some cake or whatever. You have to keep doing things like that. Bill may is long lasting and you know, Jesus, Jesus said that he came here not to be served, but to serve others. Right. Yeah. And I thought, well, that’s really interesting, right? Like, you know, greatness is serving others. And so I look at that and I think, yeah, you know, I get great fulfillment serving other people, you know, if I can help them minimize their suffering, if I could just listen to them, help them not be as depressed or be as anxious or find purpose and meaning in their life. I feel very fulfilled that day. That’s what I, that’s what I love to do. And, and there’s so many ways to go about that. But really when you stop focusing about yourself and you focus about other people, you honestly, you kind of help yourself because you get more fulfilled. So it’s just, it’s just a great thing, but that’s yeah. That’s how I want to spend my time.
Control vs Influence
Well, I think that the truth is, as you give, it’s given to you, and I think that’s reflected just in the, in the power of your voice and how your life is being used. You talk about the difference between trying to control something or trying to influence something. Just, just explain that to us, which is better and why you kind of addressed that.
Yeah. So it’s really not necessarily one’s better or the other, it’s just like be conscious of this. So controlling something, that’s being able to determine the outcome of it completely. Right. You can determine the outcome of that influencing. It is you can try and affect it, but you cannot determine the outcomes. So for an example, because this goes to that dichotomy of control, that’s one of the lessons in my book. And basically you got to realize that you can’t control a majority of things, but you can influence them. But when you do that, you stop trying to be as wrapped up in your mind about it. You know, it really frees you from a lot of the emotional to them. So, okay. For example, people. Yep. I want someone to like me. Okay. Yeah. I can influence that. I can be polite to them.
I can listen to them. I can take an interest in them. I can respect them, all these good things to influence them. But at the end of the day, they may not like anybody. And therefore I cannot control that. They made us not like me because they don’t like anyone. Right. And you know, so you realize, okay, that’s out of my control. I can only do what’s in my control. And that would be in this case, it would be, I can only influence them. And so that would be the difference between the two. And I think it’s a really, really powerful thing because you really have to focus on what you can control and disregard what you can not control. And honestly, what I would add to that is, you know leave it up to God, right? So the things that you cannot control this, leave it up to y’all pray about it. We even have to go out and see what God does with it.
Th the dichotomy of control. I love that. And I just, I just think that so much stress people live under is because they’re trying to control the uncontrollable. Just reading that the Greek Stoics came to a place where they said, okay, there’s just certain things we can’t control. And we’re just going to surrender them. You talked about surrendering them to God. And it just, it’s such a powerful message. When so much of the world is out of control right now, if we could listen to your voice, get your book, read about the dichotomy of control. I just think it would help people to go, okay, I can’t control the weather. I can’t control. I can’t control how fast the person is driving in front of me on the highway. I can get mad about it or I can surrender it. And wow, what a great lesson really appreciate you sharing that. Now you also, even in the midst of your physical conditions, some people have bullied you, which is super unfortunate. Some people have criticized you. And how do you turn that negativity that other people may have around you into the negative energy that other people may bring? How do you turn it into like a rocket fuel to go forward?
Turning Negativity and Bullying into “Rocket fuel”
Yeah. So I have two things to say on that. Number one, you have to really change your mindset on it. If someone’s making fun of you. Right. I feel bad for them. I, I do. I think that they probably are insecure about something, because if you really think about the most confident people, the most successful people, they don’t need to go out of their way to make fun of someone. And you never see them do it, right? So it’s when someone needs to go out of their way to make fun of you or to pick on you. There’s something about you that makes them insecure and they don’t feel good about themselves inside. So that’s how I view it. That’s number one, number two, if they say I can’t do something or they challenge me all, you know, you’re not as smart as me because you can’t get straight A’s, which is what happened.
And that’s what I talked about in the book with my friend Shane. I believe not, no, it’s not that you’re smarter than me. It’s I’m not trying as hard. So let me go ahead and try it and prove to myself and to you that I can get your eyes. And that’s what I did. And so really it’s like when someone challenges you, they’re giving you an opportunity to show that no, my beliefs about myself are correct. Your projections onto me are not true. I’m not going to buy them. I’m going to tune them out. I know myself, I’m confident in myself. I can get straight A’s. I can do what you say I cannot do. Right. And that’s just great motivation to me. I call it rocket fuel and, you know, with enough rocket fuel and you can, you know, you can overcome anything even gravity. Right. You know, so you can it’s just a great thing that I use over and over again throughout my whole life, because there’s a lot of things that people think I can’t do because I’m in a wheelchair and it’s ridiculous, but it’s awesome for me because it’s great motivation to go and do, you know, whatever it is they say I can.
God Uses Everything
Yeah. And you turn there impossibility thinking into your possibility thinking, and you really are a mountain mover. Even Christ set it just a little bit of faith can move mountains and you just face opposition and go, there’s a mountain. I’m going to, I’m going to rocket fuel over it. I’m going to move it out of the way I’m going to tunnel under it. But that determination is so incredibly powerful. Love to ask you about so you’ve had suffering physical suffering because of your condition. There’s a verse in the Bible that says that we would know Christ in the, in the power of his resurrection. Everybody wants the power of his resurrection. Then it says to know him in the fellowship of his suffering. I don’t think it’s really a widely talked about, or maybe even embrace subject. But I think you would bring a unique perspective to the fellowship of suffering and you’ve been through it. You’re going through it. Talk about that.
Well, yeah, no, it’s, I can talk about it forever. It’s such a great thing. The Bible, you know, it’s, so everyone can find themselves as someone in the Bible. I believe that at some point in their life, when I read the works of Paul, okay. He talks about how he pleaded with the Lord three times, he had a thorn in his flesh and he says that the Lord responded. He said that you know, my grace is sufficient enough for you. You know, my power works best in weakness. Now I’m paraphrasing. And anyways, my power works best in weakness thinking, why did God create me the way I am? Because he, obviously he allowed this to happen by me to have this disease and allow me to be, you know, a confident individual an intelligent individual, someone that you know, is not afraid to speak out and all those things and someone that’s very intrigued with with him, God. And what I realized is my wheelchair draws a lot of attention to me. It does. It sticks out. I stick out in a crowd. Okay. And it’s very memorable. You’re going to remember me. You know, you like, oh, the guy in the wheelchair, your header, let’s just be honest. That’s how it is. Okay. But what I realized is if I’m living as Christ lived, and if I am, you know, preaching the gospel to people and going out of my way to tell people about Christ, that is going to be very, very powerful and memorable because you’re not going to forget what I said, because you remember the wheelchair and you’re going to see that I’m coming from a place of credibility that I do suffer on a daily basis.
And so when I tell people that Christ gives me joy, right. That it’s a supernatural thing. And they say, well, why is he so positive when he has such a terrible disease? He may, you, when I tell people I’m not afraid to die, truly, I’m not afraid to die when they, when they see that I am at peace with death. And I tell them it’s because of God. Yeah. What can they say to me? Nothing. So it’s a very powerful message. And I think that’s exactly it it’s that God allow that time. And so when, when you’re talking about, you know, suffering with Christ, it’s very comforting to know that God would come down in the form of a human being so that he could suffer amongst us. It’s. And it’s interesting to me, because I believe that suffering is something that makes us human, right?
It’s something that is uniquely human, that we know that we don’t want this thing, but it happens. And, and it, and it really, it gets really deep because it’s like we weren’t created to, to suffer initially, right? God created us to dwell with him in the garden of Eden, but it’s when we fell away from God. And by the way, this is a key lesson here. This is a very key lesson. When we fall away from God, we suffer. And that matters today too. When I’m walking close with God, I honestly, I have a lot of peace and I’m not suffering as much. Maybe you have some pain here and there, but it’s not the same, but when I’m walking further away from God, that’s when I suffered. So there, that lesson is, it’s a lot deeper than I think people realize. So that’s what I’ll say on that. I could talk about.
Just let me just so you’re talking about even in the wheelchair, even with the slow didn’t generation of muscles that you found that as you consciously walked closer to God, it brings more peace and more joy in the midst of your condition. And you literally, whatever your physical is going on, you still have a spiritual side of your life. If you draw away from God spiritually, it actually increases the suffering of your life. Is that what you just unpacked for us?
Basically, I’m saying that, you know, you suffer less when you do all those God, when you focus on the spiritual side of things, you know, God will satisfy your soul. When you focus on the material, things, you know things of this world, you know, you, you, because you’re focusing more on that, you feel more of the paint, you know, it’s like, I can’t walk. I can’t do these things that sucks, but that’s not where I get my satisfaction from. That’s not what I’m my purpose is. My purpose is to, you know, just serve God and to be satisfied in fulfill from God, you know, the, the, it’s, it’s common to say amongst Christians, you know that there’s a God hole in your heart that only God can fill. Right. And it’s really true though, because you know, you can talk to people who they go after all the things of the world, they party, they get very successful. They’re very famous to have all the money in the world. They have the gall and they’re still empty and searching. Why is that? Well, you take a person that’s super poor. They have absolutely nothing. But they have gotten to their most fulfilled person on this earth. Why is that? Is because the Bible is true. That’s why. Yeah.
No Fear in Death
And, and you like me, we have limited days. You said a moment ago that you don’t fear death. And there’s probably somebody listening to us right now that they do fear death. It, it gives them great anxiety. Just hearing your bold statement from the position that you are in, in your life. What would you say to someone who’s listening that says, you know, I’m, I’m overwhelmed. When I think about death, it overwhelms me. I’m so afraid of,
Yeah. It’s interesting. You say that I have some friends right now. Two, when they came out of nowhere, they asked me about death. They, one of them, unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer. And so he’s, you know, now thinking about my age too I love that man. But I tell them, you know, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. And the one thing is you first got to figure out your thoughts about God. That’s what I tell people. What do you believe about God? What do you believe about life? Very deep introspection, right? You have to really think about it. And so for me, I’m the type of guy who likes to just for me personally, I approach God from an intellectual side. So I’m very into apologetics and the reasoning behind God. And so I really went through that for a long time.
I explored all the different, you know, counterpoints and whatever. And I concluded, no, it is, this is true. Like this is the truth. And so when I have that, and I have tons of confidence that God is real, that heaven is for real. Now this is a real thing that it’s not something that is just made up, but it’s something that is actually real, you know, that I don’t have any worries. I know that, okay, this is real. And this is what’s going to happen when I die. That’s number one, number two is I focus on what I can control. I can’t control that I die. God’s going to take me when he wants me. If God wants me to live when I’m 50. And he, you know, he will, if he wants me to die tomorrow or later today, he will. Right. He wants me to be on this earth to accomplish his purposes.
So when he’s done using me, then I’ll be done. And and, and praise God for that. Right. You know, the, the verse in the Bible, it says to live as Christ to die is gain. I live by that. I live by that. Right. And so I don’t really worry about that. But the third point I would say on death is that because of death, it’s a great thing to think about, right? We think, no, no, no. I don’t wanna think about death. Let’s just put it off. I don’t agree with that. I think that you need to think about death, not obsessive, right? We need to think about death from time to time, because it makes your time valuable and makes you realize what is important in life. You know, someone cutting you off on the freeway, isn’t really that big of a deal.
When you realize that you’re going to die one day, it’s not worth spending, the 30 seconds you angry about, or the minute getting angry about, or the 30 minutes getting angry about, instead, you could use that 30 minutes to call a loved one. Something that actually matters and tell them, I love you. How are you doing? I want to check in on you. I haven’t to talk to you in a while. That’s a better use of your time, right? So when you have a perspective about debt, that you actually are going to die, not that, oh, it just happens to everybody, but it’s not really going to happen to me now, when you think, no, I’m actually going to die one day, this is for real, you’re going to value your time a lot more. And you’re going to take things a lot more seriously and do things that I think are more meaningful and impactful to other people.
So those are the three things. I’d say one figure on God, what your beliefs are on God, come up with a serious face, get serious in it. You know, explore, read the Bible, pray, get connected to God, draw near to him. He’ll draw near to you, right? Number two, focus on what you can control. You can’t control when you’re going to die. All right. So don’t worry about it. And number three realize that thinking about death is actually a good thing. That’s gonna make your life more meaningful and better. With the time that you have, those are the three things I would say about that.
Connecting with Elijah
Wow. And let me just, thank you, Elijah. You are perfect for our audience, which are people that want to increase the influence of their lives. You are using your life, using the platform that God has given you, but you’ve also worked hard for, to bring your voice, your message to this world. Thank you so much. If people want to connect with it, if they want to get this powerful book, a small”if”how do they do that? How do they connect with, how do they connect with you a website, your, your, the struggle at trend? How can we connect with you?
Yeah. So you needed the book on Amazon. It’s a small, if you can go on Amazon, you can get it on Barnes and noble target all online. But you know, you can get the book there and then you can also follow me on social media at Elijah, J Stacey, Instagram, Twitter or wherever, right. You can find me on social media and we can connect there. Or if you want to, you know, email me or whatever, you can go to my website and you can find my contact information there. And my website is a YJ stacy.com. And you can read all about me, you know, the speaking stuff I do. You know, you can ask me a question on there. You can email me directly if you want. There’s all kinds of cool things about what I do and what I’m trying to do for the world on my website. So you can connect with me LIJ, stacey.com.
So good. I hope they put that into the program notes so people can connect with you. I want to thank you for spending this time and sharing your voice, your spirit. It has been an honor to meet you this way, and I look forward to meeting you someday. Face-To-Face.
Thank, thank you. It’s been great being here and just Thank you so much glory to God.