76: Fantastic Frank

76: Fantastic Frank

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries

Fantastic Frank

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.

~Lou Holtz

I walked Fantastic Frank to my front door, and resisted the urge to help him put on his jacket and shoes. Whenever he does something that requires coordination, it always looks to me like he is about to fall over, but he never does. We smiled, and he said “Michele, why did we get together today?” I was dumbstruck. “Frank, we just spent four hours together. You really don’t remember what we worked on?”

His nervous laugh and flushed cheeks said it all. For the thousandth time I told myself “You must remember he has a traumatic brain injury. Where’s your compassion?” To spare him from having to answer, I reminded him that we just had a detailed strategy session about his passion to “Inspire Millions.” We reviewed his TV appearances, speaking engagements, website, videos, radio shows, testimonials, and book projects. We looked back at his breakthroughs from the past year, and looked forward to what he wants to accomplish next.

Oh, yes. Now he remembered. He just needed a little nudge and it all came back. All smiles again. “Michele, I am so blessed to work with you. I love you.” That always kills me. I get impatient with him, and he says something nice back. I held my son up to say goodbye to Fantastic Frank, closed the door, and sat down.

I was upset. How could I be of service to him if he didn’t remember what we worked on? How could he live like that? What kept him going, week after week, always trying to be bigger and reach more people?

Helping Fantastic Frank requires that I move beyond my frustration about his quirks. It requires patience, listening carefully, and love. This is my challenge, and it is what I like best about working with him. It helps me grow as a person.

How can I put myself in his shoes, to better understand him? What is it like having a traumatic brain injury? Sometimes I run upstairs to get something, and in the five or ten seconds it takes to get to the top of the steps, I’ve forgotten what it was. Is it like that, which is merely annoying, but magnified to every area of your life, all day long, each and every day?

I remember when I met Fantastic Frank for the first time. I was standing in a very long, very slow, line at the department of motor vehicles. Most people looked rather dull, gray, bored, or annoyed. My smiles of happy expectant motherhood met blank faces, and I took to considering baby names while shifting my weight from one foot to the next.

Behind me, standing in the wrong line at the wrong office location, was a gentleman about twenty years my senior, one of the only bright, cheerful faces in the place. He got my attention and introduced himself as “Fantastic Frank.” He said he was a motivational speaker, and wanted to talk to me because he was “attracted to my energy.”

My curiosity was piqued. What did he say to people to motivate them? I told him that I was an engineer and he said, “So am I!” I said my degree was in chemical engineering and he said, “So is mine!” I said I went to Clarkson University and he said, “So did I!” This was starting to sound suspicious. If his aide hadn’t been by his side, validating his story with “yes” nods, I might have turned back around.

We exchanged business cards, and that evening I checked out his website, which verified his story, and put my mind at ease that he was authentic. I called up Fantastic Frank to get together for a networking meeting. Why not? He was a lot more fun to talk to than most people I was meeting in my career search. I had no expectation that this would lead to anything work-wise; I just thought he was interesting.

Like everyone else, I used the back entrance of Fantastic Frank’s Tudor style house. The door immediately opened to a few stairs, which put me face to face with a large black dog eagerly greeting me from the kitchen, at the top step. A tour quickly revealed Frank’s love of Jack Kirby comic art, with framed pieces and collectible toys displayed throughout the house.

When he mentioned a project he was stuck on, which required transcribing, I blurted out, “I can help with that!”

“I’ll even pay you!” he said.

“Even better!” I replied. That’s how our work together began: a six-week assignment that became years of one project after the next.

Fantastic Frank is highly intelligent, so sometimes I forget that he has a traumatic brain injury. One of the ways it shows up is that he has a challenge compartmentalizing things. He often makes a voice recording of his ideas for articles, blogs, books, and speeches. Even though he knows the material because he spoke it, it is very challenging for him to edit the content by himself.

Like anyone’s brainstorming session, the transcripts are full of incomplete thoughts; they jump from topic to topic, don’t have a logical sequence, and repeat content. Fantastic Frank’s challenge, having a TBI, is that when he reviews a transcript, the way it jumps around sounds good to him; that’s how his brain functions. He’s unable to compartmentalize information, and he knows this. With this awareness, he seeks out people with the right skills to compensate for whatever he feels is his weakness.

Another project was to attend his phone-coaching sessions and assist him in completing the assignments, which could be anything from setting up a website to preparing a speech. The problem that Fantastic Frank would run into is that, because of his TBI, he would often get off a coaching call and forget what he was supposed to do or how to go about it. He’s been to many high-level workshops all over the country, and it is always a challenge for him, when he returns from a trip, to remember what he learned and put it into action.

Even though he had a highly skilled mentor, and even though he is a highly intelligent and motivated student, they were both disappointed at his lack of progress in achieving his goals. This is where I came in and now, with a team, Fantastic Frank is able to make exponential progress. He even branded me “Marvelous Michele”, and it stuck.

Since then, Fantastic Frank has appeared, in his superhero suit, on television sets across the country, inspiring all who see him. If he can, why can’t you?

~Michele Camacho

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners