Rising Through Resilience: Elijah Stacy of Destroy Duchenne On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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Realize that adversity is just an opportunity to strengthen your character. This will change you viewing adversity as a negative to a positive situation and that will make a big difference.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elijah Stacy.

Elijah Stacy founded the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Destroy Duchenne at age 15 to advance gene editing and gene therapy to save his life, his brother’s life and the lives of thousands of people around the globe who have been diagnosed with terminal Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In his new book, A Small If, he shares 13 lessons he has learned to overcome extreme suffering by developing an adapter’s mindset, understanding what it means to control something rather than influencing it and using other people’s negative energy as the ultimate motivation. Believing that his purpose is to “minimize human suffering and propel human prosperity,” he regularly gives media interviews and accepts public speaking engagements, sharing his story with companies, religious groups, support groups and students worldwide.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

When I was 6 years old, I was diagnosed with a fatal muscle wasting disease which has taken the life of one of my brothers and left me in a wheelchair since age 11 and also affects another brother. Wanting to use our situation to put an end to this disease, I started a nonprofit as a teenager — doing everything from creating the logo, naming the company, building the website, starting a GoFundMe on day 1 that initially raised $1,000 to pay for the legal paperwork to make Destroy Duchenne a registered tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Since then, I’ve built up our social media following, started the first ever Duchenne podcast, started the Destroy Duchenne Ice Cup Challenge, and written a book with proceeds supporting the nonprofit

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

There’s a lot of interesting stories from my short career, but I would point to meeting Jeff Bezos. My biggest take away is that the most successful people are always students who sincerely believe they can learn something from everybody.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes Destroy Duchenne stand out is that the organization is founded by someone who has the disease and that the disease is starting to have face to it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My parents have been incredible towards me and have always supported me and my wildest ambitions. I know I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for them and I am super grateful I ended up being their child.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is to overcome any type of obstacle in your way. I think a resilient person is someone who can calm their emotions, think logically and find the will to overcome however great the adversity is in their way.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

To face your adversity head on is an act of courage, so it’s similar in that regard. Now I don’t necessarily believe it’s different because in order to be resilient you have to be courageous. I don’t believe someone is really resilient if they’re not courageous. Courage is a part of resilience.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I would say my mom as she kept going after facing so much hardship in her life, specifically after the passing of my 14-year-old brother. She didn’t just stop her life, but she kept going and caring for her family and that is pretty resilient to me.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

A Small If: my doctor told me I would need a metal rod inserted into my back to correct my curved spine. I went back and forth with him and he said reversing the state of my spine would be nearly impossible and that he’s never seen anyone be able to do it. However, he gave me “A Small If”, that is if I’m able to do it then I don’t have to have the surgery. After three months of intense physical therapy and other things, I went back to my doctor and my spine was straighter. I avoided the surgery with only A Small If chance.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I think going through rejection or being doubted by others have been some of the setbacks I’ve faced throughout my life, but I have always used those as what I call “Rocket Fuel” to push me towards accomplishing great things/improving myself.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I believe my whole life is a story of resilience since I have been battling with Duchenne since I was born. Having weak legs made me fall to the floor frequently, but I always got back up and kept going, every single day.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Realize that adversity is just an opportunity to strengthen your character. This will change you viewing adversity as a negative to a positive situation and that will make a big difference.
  2. Find the possibility to whatever obstacle you’re trying to overcome.
  3. Visualize yourself overcoming the challenge. Run through all the feelings and situations in your head — the pain, excitement, frustration, etc
  4. Develop a plan to overcome the obstacle. Considering how big the adversity is the plan may be very short or very long.
  5. Execute the plan.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would inspire people to live more intentional and meaningful lives. I believe that if people were more focused on serving others they would find more meaning in their lives and there would be more positive impact throughout society.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

I would love to sit down with Steve Ballmer and talk Clippers basketball and his business experience.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights.
We wish you continued fulfillment and success with your writing!

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor