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Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants With Roy Huff

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“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” – Isaac Newton

Earlier this week, my wife was sick. So, I called out of work so I could take care of the kids.

My 3-year-old son had a 10:30 am swimming lesson, so we braced the polar vortex and made the 45 minute trip to the YMCA. Fortunately, my in-laws were there to help the helpless Dad that I can be at times.

Admittedly, I’m the guy still “getting used to having kids.”

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I get settled in on a bench and my father-in-law and mother-in-law are taking turns with my 1-year-old daughter. They walk her around the pool deck and keep her occupied.

That’s when I really noticed him. The man around my age in the wheelchair. Without legs. Both legs gone.

Yet, there he is watching his daughter’s swimming lesson. Just him. By himself.

But, it gets better. I changed my daughter’s dirty diaper in the changing room while my mother-in-law helped my son get changed in the women’s locker room.

I leave the changing room and minutes letter the man enters the changing room with his daughter. He gets her changed and waves off my father-in-law who offered to hold the door for him.

This guy is incredible.

We brought up his situation at lunch. I was completely amazed. My father-in-law said to me — something to the effect of — “When you think you have it bad, remember him.”

And I as I returned to my day yesterday — I tend to complain A LOT — this man came to mind. That’s why I’m writing about him today.

We always focus on the people who likely have it “better” than us. But, this guy — at least by society’s standards — has it “worse.”

Today, I want to be more like him. Not complaining. Just doing what he has to do. No matter the circumstances.

He’s a true hero. An every day hero. Nothing flashy. Just showing up how he needs to for his daughter.

Watching him taught me a valuable lesson. One I hope to carry with me.

Clearly, I need to be more grateful of the blessings in my life.

What about you? Send me an email at dave@herostory.org and let me know.


I later learned that this gentleman I was discussing is a Marine who lost his legs fighting for our country.

That, plus the fact that he’s doing an Iron Man and regularly runs marathons.

Seriously?  Damn.

Hero Challenge: Practicing Gratitude

At the suggestion of a reader, Megan S., I decided to institute a “Hero Challenge” to all of you each week. So, thanks Megan for coming up with that. I love it.

This week’s Hero Challenge is to list 3 things you’re grateful for — and tell one person about them. You can call, email, text, or share it on social media. Let people know you’re a person who exudes gratitude. It will attract people to you and people will want to share what they’re grateful for with you as well.

Let me know what happens — and what you’re grateful for of course!

Here are my 3:

  1. How my wife is as a mother. She’s second to none.
  2. When my children play together nicely. It may be only for a few minutes at a time, but it’s a beautiful thing.
  3. This newsletter. I’m really excited to see things taking shape and the responses from people.

Hero Feature: Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants With Roy Huff

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

This quote by Viktor Frankl sums up the journey of the gentleman who is the subject of today’s feature.

Roy Huff’s life has not been an easy one.

His parents were poor and struggled to take care of him and his sisters.

His father contracted HIV and eventually died of AIDS when Roy was 21.

His parents separated – and this put a tremendous strain on his family’s finances.

As Roy explained to me:

“My mother struggled to support us and relied on public assistance my entire childhood. For all but a few years, we received welfare, food stamps, and government housing to survive. When that wasn’t enough, we turned to our community for charity.”

On top of that, the family’s living conditions weren’t exactly the best. Before the age of 6, he and his family were living in a “run-down trailer park.”

His family’s trailer was “barely livable” and had a “large hole in the bathroom floor that made us freeze in the winter.” Not to mention the fact that the place caught fire once because of “shoddy wiring.”

Wrong side of the tracks

Things didn’t get better when Roy’s family relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina. Roy tells it best:

“I lived on the wrong side of the tracks in the wrong neighborhood. We dealt with pervasive crime, gunshots, and drug use. There were numerous occasions where drug dealers and police alike accosted and harassed me on my way home from school or while doing ordinary things. I also suffered from physical abuse from various individuals during my childhood.”

Let’s pause right here for a second.

By all accounts, Roy was in a situation where most people would give up. Many of us would succumb to our circumstances, dwell in self-pity, and throw up our hands thinking nothing will ever change.

But, that’s not Roy Huff. Not a chance.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Instead, Roy explains, “My plight encouraged me to focus on a way out.” While he says he succeeded in many ways, “[in] other ways, that narrow focus kept me from seeing better options. One example of that was forgetting I wasn’t alone. I often felt I had to do things independently.”

He continues:

“I learned later it’s okay to stand on the shoulders of giants. You don’t have to feel guilty about screwing up or not knowing the answer. We all make mistakes, and no one knows everything.”

standing on the shoulders of giants

As we all know, however, life is a journey. And as we discover who we are and what we’re about, things often get worse before they get better.

Roy’s story and his journey are no different. As he explained to me:

“Another mistake I made was letting arrogance keep me from implementing effective strategies that I knew worked. I often failed to act on what I knew because I thought I could succeed by cutting corners.”

These mistakes lead to three bankruptcies – and a failed marriage.

Further, Roy’s family dealt with a variety of mental illnesses, particularly his paternal grandfather and father. Roy’s grandfather fought in Korea and suffered from PTSD. A series of bad choices lead him to prison where he died in a riot the day he was to be released.

This, of course, all had a lasting impact on Roy’s father. He says, “My father’s mental illness led to periodic bouts of homeless, stints in mental institutions, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. This likely contributed to his HIV status and eventual death.”

While Roy escaped suffering from mental illness himself, these experiences within his own family certainly left their mark (or scar). “It was one of the reasons that I chose to improve my life both physically and mentally,” Roy explained. “I needed the energy and the wisdom to better cope with the situations I knew would eventually arise.”

Roy Huff 2.0: The New Edition

We covered all that to take you to the Roy Huff of today. To truly understand Roy 2.0, you need to comprehend what he went through. What you read is a summation, but Roy actually lived it.

These days, Roy is no longer roaming the mean streets of Charlotte. He traded that in for the sun and beaches of Hawaii. That’s where he works today as an author, teacher, and research scientist.

I asked Roy what he wanted others who are struggling to take away from his story of redemption. Here’s his message to all of you out there looking for ways to cope:

“My message is that you’re not alone, and regardless of your circumstance, it’s possible to design a life you want to live. It starts with forgiving others, yourself, and then taking responsibility for the choices you make. I believe embracing gratitude in the worst of times and developing a growth mindset allows you to move forward.”

Roy further expands on this powerful message in his book, Think Smart, Not Hard. Published in 2017, Roy calls the book “a comprehensive guide to designing one’s ideal life.” He continues:

“It starts with learning how to find what’s held you back, then designing a strategy to get there with all the nuts and bolts. What I believe is different about my book is the personal struggles I’ve included and the specific details of how I overcame them and how others can tailor those same strategies to fit their own needs.”

Aside from scores of glowing Amazon reviews, Think Smart, Not Hardhas received praise from Jim “The Rookie” Morris, Honoree Corder, and S.J. Scott. “It’s made several Amazon’s best sellers lists months at a time since release,” Roy told me. “In short, I’m honored for such a positive reception.”

A heroic teacher

However, Roy Huff didn’t write this book for the accolades. Nope. He wrote it for people like us who face every day struggles – some seemingly easier than others – but all very real to each of us.

Roy wrote this book for all of us – and his words reflect this:

“The biggest blessing though comes from readers who’ve told me how the book has transformed their lives. My hope is that it will continue to touch countless more.”

Sure, I could end Roy’s story right here.However, since he is a teacher, I leave you with one more of his lessons:

“Most people repeat simple patterns in their lives. When you pause to reflect on those patterns you see self-defeating actions you could avoid with a small amount of planning and forethought … Actions encourage other actions, so if you locate the root action that led you down the wrong path, you can leverage your effort and increase the likelihood you’ll succeed before you even start.”

Well said, Roy. Thank you so much for serving others and being heroic.

Please check out Roy’s book, Think Smart, Not Hard and connect with him at RoyHuff.net.

You can also check out the full text of my interview with Roy at HeroStory.org/Roy-Huff.

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