Almost all of us have in our lives some type of personal challenge and we try to work past them. Our December 6 breakfast speaker Thomas Iland was challenged by being diagnosed with autism at age 13. With highly supportive and caring parents, instead of this being an ending, Thomas and his family made this a beginning of a new path. Being especially motivated both to be himself as someone with autism, and to lead an active and vibrant life, Thomas worked hard to pursue professional goals. He attended and graduated from California State Northridge, become a Certified Public Accountant, and obtained full-time employment at a major accounting firm. He also achieved personal goals many of us may take for granted such as driving a car, living in his own apartment, and having a girlfriend.
At one point he realized that the life of a CPA was not fulfilling and he took the bold step of quitting this position to become a motivational speaker. To help him do this he joined Toastmasters and became one of a few thousand Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM) in the world, and ultimately addressing the United Nations!
His message for those he speaks to - with or without challenges - is that we can achieve our desires, with hard work and support but also by going out to meet the world rather than waiting for it to come to us. On that theme, he also write a book Come to Life: Your Guide to Self-Discovery, sharing practical experience based suggestions to help youth and their parents, educators and other advocates find the motivation in themselves to embrace adulthood.
He told us he developed a mantra over the years, “Know Yourself, Love (accept) Yourself, Be Yourself.” He said this is targeted to help all of us live a fully authentic life as who we are, not to change someone but for each of us to find our best selves.
He also pointed out that he and others with any type of disability are not their diagnoses but full people with a range of abilities. To that end, Thomas engages in meditation to focus his mind and spirit, does martial arts and now doing Ironman competitions to expand his physical capabilities.
He also salutes Rotary and speaks to clubs as an organization where doing something bigger than ourselves is another way that “Know Yourself, Love Yourself, Be Yourself” helps us all be our best selves.
This inspirational meeting ended with President Rick naming Maureen Tepedino LA5 Rotarian of the Month. He noted how much she has put forth to growing membership, as well as her friendly welcome to members at our events, and gave her a prized caricature! Congrats Maureen!