by Steve Adubato, PhD

Every once in a while you meet someone who helps put things in perspective by communicating in a positive, upbeat and inspirational manner. Last week I wrote about the late Bob Ross, the PBS artist whose soft and soothing communication style continues to touch millions.

This week, as we celebrate the holidays, I can’t think of a better, more appropriate communication all star than Julia Spencer. You probably don’t know Julia’s name, but her book, “Looking Through A Keyhole”, is one you should go out and get between now and the New Year.

I had Julia in the studio for a public television interview recently, and even though I had read about her, actually meeting her was even more powerful. Julia is 78 years young and is a yoga instructor, which is impressive in and of itself. But consider the fact that at the age at 50, she began to lose her eyesight because of a degenerative genetic disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Her sister suffers from it and is totally blind. Other relatives also have it.

As Julia walked in to the studio with her seeing eye dog Irene, Julia was bright and cheery, with a smile on her face. When I finally shook her hand, she wanted me to know that while she couldn’t see my body or most of my face, she could see my eyes. She has no peripheral vision, but it seems to me that what Julia actually sees is a lot more than the rest of us.

We all have friends and business associates who consistently communicate in a negative and depressing fashion. They play the victim saying things like; “Why did I even go in to this stupid profession? I should have been a….” Or; “Why does Bob make that kind of money? I should have that job.” They are complainers and whiners. I, too, throw a pity party for myself more often than I’d like, but what continues to strike me is that the attitude we choose to have (regardless of our circumstance) dictates the way we communicate with others.

Julia Spencer has decided to have a positive attitude and her communication reflects it. Here’s just a sampling of some of the things she told me during our conversation.

“I use yoga to find peace. Peace is internal, not external.”

“Whenever I have bad times in my life, I write.”

“I went to New York City by myself to prove that I was independent. My husband wasn’t happy about it, however, I learned that you can be independent and still ask for help.”

“Don’t pity anyone, because people who are totally blind live meaningful and fulfilling lives.”

So here’s the deal. Over the holiday season, ask yourself; “What’s my attitude and how can I improve it?” As the late Randy Pausch (who wrote the terrific book “The Last Lecture”) said; “We can’t change what cards we’re dealt, but we can choose how we play them.” That’s the way Julia Spencer lives her life. Think about it. She is 78 and is a yoga instructor. She wrote a book to inspire others while others say things like; “I ought to write a book”. Well, Julia DID. While some people talk about it and complain, Julia has decided that she will live her life with a positive attitude and her communication reflects it. She inspires the rest of us to take a closer look at ourselves and the way we see the world. I couldn’t think of a better gift to give to others around the holidays than her book, “Looking Through A Keyhole.”

Do you know someone who has overcome great obstacles to have a positive, “can do” attitude and communicates it on a daily basis?