By Paul Noor
As a child growing up in a small village north of Iran, just south of Russia, I struggled with a severe stutter and even considered not talking and learning sign language. Today I am a speaker and speak at businesses, clubs, schools, colleges, churches and correctional facilities.
When I was a young man, I made a promise to myself that one day I would overcome my stuttering and become a public speaker. It was a huge promise as I could not even say my own name, but I also made another promise to myself: not to give up or lose hope until I achieved my dream.
About 30 years ago after I graduated from the engineering school in my home country of Iran, I came to the United States to get my Ph.D. and find a cure for my severe stuttering. For the first 10 years, I tried different therapies—nothing worked—no cure. Actually when I moved to the United States, my stuttering got worse as stuttering and learning a new language do not go together very well.
I came across a story of how Michelangelo created the “Statue of David.” There was a piece of marble left on the side of the road. It was covered with dirt and trash, and no one was paying attention to it. One day as Michelangelo was walking on that street, he saw David in that marble. He took it to his shop, cleaned it up, and turned it into a piece of art. The story of David and how it was created from a leftover and unwanted piece of marble inspired me. I determined to uncover the masterpiece that I believed was hidden inside me. My goal was to overcome my stutter and become a speaker.
I enrolled in a four-week program by Successful Stuttering Management Program at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. After many failed therapies in the past, I took their program to heart. What I liked most was they did not promise fluency and heavily emphasized being open about stuttering and advertise it—something that even after 20 years I do. Without it, I could not break through the fear of stuttering and being a speaker.
Since my ultimate goal was to be a speaker, I immediately joined our local Toastmasters Club after graduating from that workshop. I visited the club as a guest five times and sat by the exit door to make sure I would be able to escape if needed. Finally I took the risk and joined the club. I became an active member and participated in many speech contests and won several public speaking awards. The positive, supportive and constructive environment of the club built my confidence, and I was able to push myself to a higher level. Joining the Toastmasters Club was the greatest investment I have done in my life.
Today, I feel my stuttering is a gift. It allows me to share my story with other people and inspire them. If we are committed, we can achieve almost anything. If I was able to do it, everyone can.
For more information, visit www.paulnoor.com
-From the Winter 2010 Newsletter