Stevland Hardaway Judkins was born blind – the third of six children in a poor family living in Saginaw, Michigan. Suffering from retinopathy of prematurity, he never gained eyesight, but this disability didn’t stop him. Rather, it served as his inspiration. “Little Stevie” developed his passion for music as a young child. He taught himself piano, harmonica, bass, drums, and sung in the church choir. No, he couldn’t see, but he could make music, and that’s what he did!
In 1961, he was introduced to Motown CEO Berry Gordy, was quickly signed, and given his now famous name Stevie Wonder by producer Clarence Paul who said, “We can’t keep calling him the eighth wonder of the world!” At the age of 12, he released his first two albums, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie and Tribute to Uncle Ray.
Fast forward 50 years – Stevie Wonder has recorded more than 30 U.S. top ten hits and won 22 Grammy Awards. He has won an Academy Award, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was named Rolling Stone’s ninth greatest singer of all time.
None of this could have been possible if he dwelled on his disability. Stevie Wonder may not have been able to see with his eyes, but he was truly a visionary. He saw his potential and what he could offer the world. When you listen to Stevie Wonder, you don’t think about his blindness, you simply appreciate his music.
What is there to be learned from the story of Stevland Judkins, a.k.a. Stevie Wonder?
Don’t make excuses for yourself
Yes, things can be difficult, and there are always obstacles for EVERYONE! But you, and only you, can either choose to make them an excuse for failure or a challenge that you will overcome.
There is always a way to rise above any current situation and excel. The economic climate has been horrible for many over the last few years, yet there are many businesses and business owners in all industries that have found a way to hang on, and yes, even prosper despite the situation. Like Stevie Wonder, you can choose to make lemonade out of the lemons if you set your mind to it!
Stop Complaining and Work Hard
No one wants to hear your bad “situation.” Stevie excelled in a tough industry where failure runs rampant. Why? He was dedicated, hard working, and talented. He didn’t want others to feel sorry for him. He wanted to blow people away with his music. …And, that he did!
Get a Mentor
Berry Gordie was Stevie’s early mentor, who took him under his wing and helped to propel his career. Should you, could you find a mentor or someone who can help you plot your path? It might be well worth your effort.
Personal Note from Julie: I have every Stevie Wonder album, and when I want inspiration to run, write, cook, I often listen to him. I made sure that several Stevie Wonder songs were played at my wedding. I’ve taught my boys about his music, and truly consider him one of the greatest musicians of all time. Thank you Stevie! Now, here’s one of my favorites that always make me dance and sing!