Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guest today, award-winning author and inspirational speaker Sourena Vasseghi.
Sourena suffers from severe cerebral palsy, has limited motor skills, is confined to a wheelchair, and has a severe speech impediment. These limitations, however, do not preclude him from living a full and successful life. He attended the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles where he lived on campus alongside his fellow students. He became an active, integral part of each and every class as well as the university itself.
After graduating from USC with a degree in business and marketing, Sourena sought employment through traditional channels. Although highly qualified and capable, the job market proved unwelcome, largely due to misconceptions about his abilities versus his disability. Countless interviews later, he recognized that he could not readily change the misconceptions of others about the “disabled” or “handicapped.” Undaunted, he paved his own path. In doing so, he gained the respect and admiration of his peers, and a renewed sense of self-worth that he wants to share with the world.
In addition to his corporate and university speaking appearances, Sourena has had the honor of being a TEDx speaker. He has been featured on NBC, ESPN, nationally syndicated talk shows, and in print venues such as the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Norm: Good day Sourena and
thanks for participating in our interview. How has modern day
technology helped you in your life, (communicating with others,
helping you get around, sharing your experiences)
Sourena: First off, I love my toys. I am a gadget geek. I use email almost everyday. However, technology is an interesting phenomenon. I really can't utilize a smart phone fully like sending email or snapping a picture and posting it to Facebook.
I witness really
successful people fully embrace technology and it's definitely a
setback. For me it's just another sacrifice, something that I have to
Norm: What role did higher education play in helping you in your life?
Sourena: I had a great time in college. I learned that I could speak through an interpreter. I learned that I love writing and learned about marketing. Ninety percent of being a speaker and writer is putting yourself out there.
Norm: How do you go about preparing for a speaking engagement and how do you communicate with your audience? How many speeches do you give a year and what topics do you cover? What has been the feedback?
Sourena: I use an onstage interpreter who understands me. I take the lessons that I learned from my disability and apply them to business, relationships, sports and life. I'm always thinking about life and how I could make my life better. Then, I look at how I can teach what I've learned. I'm hoping to give between 30-40 speeches a year.
It's hard for me because
going through TSA in a wheelchair made of metal is not that fun. The
number one word to describe my speaking and writing is inspirational.
In my presentation I hear a lot of laughter.
Norm; How many books have your written, what purpose do you believe they serve and what matters to you about your books?
Sourena: I published two books. My books come from a place where I love life. I don't love every single moment. In fact, being disabled absolutely sucks! But, the question I ask myself and the questions I explore in my books are how can my readers and I push beyond the everyday crap that gets in the way and live life. I challenge the reader and myself to find a way to live an amazing life.
Norm: What helps you focus when you write? Do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Sourena: I have unique way of writing. I am always in dialogue with myself. If my eyes are open, I'm thinking about something! I write in my head. Sometimes I write something 10 or 20 times in my head. Sometimes I have something in my house for 2 or 3 years before a word gets put on paper. I have an office manager who takes dictation and I just start talking and Linda types. Most of the time my work reminds me of what I believe in my core. There are so many times I feel like crap and then I read my own words and I say to myself, "I gotta do this."
Norm: Did you read any special books on how to write and do you work from an outline?
Sourena: I took no writing classes. I did not read any books about writing, I just write. I organize everything in my head, dictate it, read it back, make mental notes, then I make tweaks with my manager.
Norm: Could you tell our audience a little about your most recent book, Big Dreams: Take Small Sacrifices.
Sourena: Big Dreams Take Small Sacrifices explores what sacrifices you need to make for your dream to come to fruition. It's about the everyday activities that one needs to do to get to their big dreams.
Norm: As a follow up, how did you decide you were ready to write the book and did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?
Sourena: I was working on my autobiography last summer and it just didn't feel right. It did not fit in with what I was trying to do as a speaker.
I had started Big Dreams in the first quarter of 2010 and I took a hard look at both books and decided that I needed to publish Big Dreams instead and I learned that my sacrifices are unique as a disabled man and that I that I can't compare my sacrifices to anybody else's.
Everything in my life is a
little bit harder, takes a little bit more effort but in my mind, the
only thing that I care about is whether or not I want to sacrifice
for my dreams and the answer is absolutely!
Norm: What would
you like to say to writers with disabilities who are reading this
interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good
enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to
Sourena: If they want to reach the mass market, they have to write about people's issues and only use their disability as a point of reference. There are issues that I would love to write about but there is no way I can relate them to my audience.
Writing is a cathartic
process and here's a secret, editors make it sexy so if you have a
good idea but can't write, then just get simple idea on paper and
find a good editor and go from there.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Sourena: I am on all the social networks and I have a unique name. I have www.sourenav.com with all my social network links.
Norm: What is next for Sourena Vasseghi?
Sourena: I am writing my next book and I am getting out in the world with my speaking. Most important of all, I will play peek-a-boo with my one year old son, Andrew.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Sourena: Why do you work so hard?
The harder I work, the less I focus on my handicap. I also want to be an example for my son, Andrew.
once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors