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It’s not what happens to you

It’s not what happens to you

Naked Leader Week 845 – 28 October 2019

Time to Read: 3 minutes 



For this month’s Leader Feature Clive speaks with David Festenstein, David is a survivor with a passion for helping others in similar straits. Read on for a heartwarming story of persistence and inspiration.

‘WORDS don’t come easy’ sang F R David in 1981 with a track that later became a worldwide hit.

Well, for another David, words and the art of communication came very easily indeed and were instrumental in helping him recover from a devastating stroke back in 2008.

David Festenstein had a brain haemorrhage which not only left him paralysed down his right side, it initially made him understandably scared and worried about his future.

However, as a Master Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) – which in effect is learning the language of your own mind – the amiable communication specialist, motivational coach and professional speaker tackled his situation with a healthy dose of positivity as his main motivational tool.

Such was his recovery that his consultant hailed it as “astonishing”.

Unable to do the simple things at first, David’s ‘can do’ attitude proved critical.

‘I had an overwhelming feeling of helplessness laying in the hospital bed with beeping machines around me,’ he recalls. ‘So I appealed to my subconscious and wrote on a pad, “when I wake up I will feel my right side’’ many times like a child writing lines. My right foot began to twitch in the night so it made me feel a whole lot better. I woke up with a different perspective and looked around at fellow patients and realised how lucky I was.

‘I am left-handed so I could write, I could still speak and cognitively I was unaffected so had no memory loss or feeling of disorientation.’

David was reminded of what W Mitchell (an inspiration in his recovery) had said at a conference a year earlier in San Diego – “it’s not what happens to you it’s how you deal with it”.

From that moment he began to focus on what he still had rather than what he had lost.

His goal, then and now, is to help others in a similar position.

‘How you approach the recovery process is critical,’ he says. ‘Choose positive words with specific outcomes in mind. That way your feelings will be influenced, hence your energy and strength.’

Learning to be grateful for the abilities he was left with has helped him.

Being asked by his medical team to give an insight into his knowledge to aid patients with other conditions prompted David to call his experience his ‘stroke of luck’ as he developed a structured teaching approach.

Twelve years on he reflects: “I made a diary, it was my survival manual.

‘I read it now and I often wonder, “what if it didn’t work?” as I was so determined and I didn’t have a Plan B. I thought “I’m going to get better”.’ Thankfully he did.

‘I reflect on it with immense gratitude. I keep a journal to this day, it’s my gratitude journal. It’s where I note down powerful affirmations every morning.

‘I’m grateful to be alive, to be able to talk, hear, to walk. Like anybody I have my days when I get grumpy, fed-up and frustrated. In the main my overriding philosophy is to enjoy life. Because life is a precious gift.’

David sees Naked Leader founder David Taylor as a kindred spirit and adds: ‘The way I see David is that’s he’s a lovely, authentic guy who has simplified NLP. He is our Tony Robbins (American author, philanthropist, and life coach) although in a quiet, eloquent, gentle way.

‘He advocates change with words, eloquence and simplicity. It’s simple and impactful.’

David is constantly reflecting on his remarkable recovery and is currently working on how to help others face similar setbacks and to make a difference to their lives.

Just as he overcame his illness, he will make it happen.

And, yes, words and his mastery of them will be his trusted tool.

David (Taylor) adds: ‘David’s personal journey is an extraordinary one, and to dedicate his experiences, learnings and life to helping others makes him a true inspiration to us all.’

My thanks to David and Clive for sharing this personal story.

With my love and best wishes



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