Fox Beyer and TEDxAsburyPark alumna Olive Persimmon talk about “Perspective As A Weapon”, which will be presented at TEDxAsburyPark on May 18, 2019.
Olive Persimmon: Hello, and welcome. This is Expert Open Radio, I am Olive Persimmon, a TEDxAsburyPark speaker alumna. I am here today with Fox Beyer, who is going to be a speaker at this year's TEDxAsburyPark conference on May 18th. Hi, Fox.
Fox Beyer: Hi, Olive. How are you?
Olive Persimmon: Living my best life. How are you?
Fox Beyer: Better than I deserve.
Olive Persimmon: I want to hear a little bit about your talk. What's the title, and how did you come up with this idea?
Fox Beyer: The title is "Win Anyway." It's just about my perspective as a man with Cerebral Palsy... that is, that I trip and fall every day. I'm using that to tell the audience, “Hey that's my chaos, and I know that you have chaos in your lives.” It may be in a different realm, but what's helped me get back up, literally and figuratively, is understanding there's always someone else out there who has it worse than you do. That really is what gives me the fuel to get back up. I hope through sharing some of my story, and the story of others, that it will help the people in the audience, in spite of their chaos, to win anyway.
Olive Persimmon: I love that. Will you define for the audience, just in case anyone doesn't know what CP is, will you just define that for us?
Fox Beyer: Cerebral Palsy, first, is caused by brain damage. A lack of oxygen to the brain before, during or after birth. It affects all muscle control, and from me, with what is called hypertensious Cerebral Palsy, I'm stiff and I'm prone to constant muscle spasms that make my body even more rigid. I sort of explain it like I'm a towel. If you've ever taken a towel and made it into a rat tail, that's kind of how my body feels. It's entangled.Even though it's entangled ... and if I were a towel, it would still dry you off and get the job done, but it takes a lot longer. It's a little bit more confused, and it's a lot more arduous.
Olive Persimmon: That's such a great description. I love the imagery there.
Fox Beyer: I try to paint a little picture. As they say,put a little furniture in the room.
Olive Persimmon: You're very good at that. I just heard your talk and I'm excited to see it live. I think the audience will be excited to see it because you do a really good job of storytelling and of “putting your furniture in the room.”
Fox Beyer: Thank you. I am honored to be able to do this. Very excited to share a little bit in May.
Olive Persimmon: Tell us a little bit about your background.
Fox Beyer: What do I do? I like calling myself a fulfillment specialist. I do a couple of things. I'm a high school Spanish teacher at Whippany Park High School, here in New Jersey. I've done that for the past 15 years.
Olive Persimmon: How exciting.
Fox Beyer: I love words. Spanish lends itself to my passion. I've been involved in baseball all my life. I was a pitcher on my high school baseball team. I went on to the University of South Carolina, spent five years there as both a manager on the baseball team and a student coach. Coached baseball and volleyball at the high school level. I have been involved with the Somerset Patriots, a professional team here in New Jersey, for the past 15 years. I’ve written a book of poetry, and I enjoy going out, speaking and sharing my story.
Olive Persimmon: Oh, that's so exciting. What's the name of your poetry book?
Fox Beyer: The book is 'Letter Kindling: Igniting, Inspiring, and Evoking the Fire Within'. If you want me to give you a little bit of background on the book, I can do that.
Olive Persimmon: Yes, please.
Fox Beyer: It was after a baseball game, a handful of years ago. The manager and I, one of my best friends, we're taking a ride after the game. He says to me, “Fox, we should write a song.” One of the things we do after games often is put on the tunes, listen to music. When he said that, I got to writing. These "songs," Olive, turned into poems. I just in sort of a stream-of-consciousness kind of way kept writing, kept writing, kept writing.
I started posting my poems on a site called yourpoetry.com. It's very interactive. You can comment on others and they comment on your material. Then, at some point, this is between July of 2014 and December of 2014, I get an e-mail from another member of yourpoetry.com. They said: "Fox, I want to publish a book, could you proofread some of my work?" I said I'd be honored. I'm new at this, but I'd be honored to do it. By the way, I asked this person, “How are you going about doing that? Because I'd like to get some of my work published if I could.”
She got me in touch with a publishing company. I made a phone call, I gave a couple of examples of my work, they wanted to see more. Luckily for me, by January of 2015, I had a published book. It was very humbling. From then on I went out to open mics. I would recite the poems and I developed whatever speaking skills that I have through reciting poetry at open mics, and at coffee stops, and such. That's the long, long version of what happened with my book.
Olive Persimmon: Congratulations! I love the long, long version, because it colors the picture of the person. Now we know that you're somebody who performs at open mics, and writes poetry. That's cool. I always appreciate the long version.
Fox Beyer: Yes. First we have furniture, now we have decorations on the walls.
Olive Persimmon: Very, very important.
Fox Beyer: Yes.
Olive Persimmon: Going back to your talk, what is your big idea that you want to communicate to your audience?
Fox Beyer: The big idea is "win anyway." I'll tell you where I got that phrase. In 2000, my first year as a student coach for the South Carolina baseball team, and we were in the middle of a great run. We started the season off with 20 straight wins, and we were ranked number one in the nation for about six weeks. But at some point, like game 25, as we know, things start to happen. One of our best players was badly injured. As a coaching staff, and as a team, and the city of Columbia, who follows the team, we got pretty nervous.
This young man was a great player and a catalyst for us. I was sitting in the coaches' office with our head coach, Coach Tanner. Were just talking and there was sort of a long silence. He turns to me and he goes: "You know what Foxy? We're gonna win anyway." In college, I had this habit of always writing things down that people, professors, teachers, mentors, and coaches said to me. I immediately wrote that down. When I saw that TEDxAsburyPark was doing something on chaos, this immediately popped into my head.
It's basically the concept of saying this...we all have chaos in our lives. I like to say the road to success is not paved. What are you gonna do about it? I simply say, in spite of all the things that could happen during the day... and basically anything can… in spite of that, we're going to find a way to win anyway. It might not be pretty, but we're going to get the job done, and finish on top.
Olive Persimmon: I love that. I love this idea of “win anyway.” Also, just in general, I love the message of your talk. It sounds like this is an inspirational talk. I'm curious, are there any people who have inspired you along the way?
Fox Beyer: Sure. I'd be remiss without mentioning my parents. They basically said "You are a normal, productive kid. The only thing you’re not going to be is a track star." They are the root of why I am the way that I am. Additionally, my siblings, for, to this day, being great friends and supporting me in all of my endeavors. My teachers growing up. I can share a story about an English teacher that I had, really inspired me.
His name was Mr. Foley, and he had this great reading voice. He would replace words like “surprise” with “surpretzel.” Picture this, I'm a senior in high school, I'm 18 years old. He's in front of a bunch of 18 year-old kids, young adults at the time, and he would read to us. We'd all be locked in on him. I can recall in class one time he's reading a book and I'm looking down. I see the word "ass." As an immature 18-year-old kid, I giggled. I was just waiting for him to say the word. He gets to it, and he says "arse." The entire class erupted in laughter, but it wasn't like we were messing around. We were totally focused and fixated on this man's words.
I idolized him. During my senior year, I had a nice season as a pitcher in high school. He always used to tell me “I'm gonna come down to the field and see you pitch.” He did one day. But, unfortunately, this is all on me. Not only did I pitch terribly in the first inning, I acted like an immature piece of garbage. I was hanging my head, I was yelling at our fielders. By the grace of God, our head coach, Coach Chambers, he sent me back out for the second inning. I threw the first two pitches, balls in the second inning and then I saw Mr. Foley standing behind home plate. I can tell you what he was wearing. He was wearing a pair of corduroy pants with a white collared shirt and yellow sweater. He gave me a look like, "Fox, I know that's not who you are so clean up your act." I've never forgotten that. Some five years later, in 2002, he passed away.
At the College World Series when I was there, I got word that he had passed away. I took my hat, I wrote the word “surpretzeled” under my hat. To this day, whenever I'm teaching, especially in front of a group of people, I always watch my actions and think to myself “are you acting like the person that you are?” I have a lot of people, and Mr. Foley, to thank for that.
Olive Persimmon: What a wonderful story, Fox. Going back to your talk, what are you the most excited about in terms of giving your talk at TEDxAsburyPark?
Fox Beyer: I'm excited to share a couple of stories so it may affect change in somebody's life. I'm excited to hear the other speakers, and hear their stories and interact with them when they're not speaking during that day. Again, I am just humbled and honored to have this opportunity. I think oftentimes I'm guilty of this - we look for an end in life. But, if we keep doing that, to me you're always thinking about what's next. I'm always one to be conscious of enjoying the process. In our interaction before, I hope you saw that I enjoyed this process. We're gonna be dead a long time, so why don't we enjoy our lives while we're here?
Olive Persimmon: That feels like a really good place to end.
Fox Beyer: Yes.
Olive Persimmon: Fox, if people want to connect with you, where could they find you? That can be social media or a website.
Fox Beyer: Sure, it's all ... I'm on Instagram, I'm on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. As Fox Beyer. I also have a website, it's FoxBeyer.com.
Olive Persimmon: Great. Fox, thank you so much for doing this interview with me. I am so excited to see you live on the stage on May 18th.
This is Expert Open Radio. I do want to do a plug. If you haven't gotten your ticket yet for one of the largest TEDx conferences on the east coast, TEDxAsburyPark is the place to be. Get your tickets at TEDxAsburyPark.com so you can see Fox and all of the other amazing speakers at Asbury Park. Thanks so much.
Read more about Fox Beyer here.