Shaping Oneself from the Inside

by Glen Fahs, PhD

Steve Hanamura was born blind but that didn't stop him from envisioning an ambitious future. He expected greatness and against, all odds, achieved it.

I recruited Steve first to be Program Chair and then to be President of the Oregon chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD — recently re-titled the Association for Talent Development). The latter volunteer job demanded at least four out-of-state council meetings. He wasn't sure he wanted to travel that much or was ready to lead a thriving chapter. He went back and forth three times before taking the risk to do it.

Just prior, he had let go of a comfortable job at the Oregon Commission for the Blind to work for a bank and had been let go after six months. Determined not to accept welfare, he called me for advice on becoming a consultant. I advised to avoid the common training topics and become known for something unique. In 1986, he founded Hanamura Consulting with emphasis on diversity.

Since as chapter President he was already going to the ASTD national conference, he offered to give a presentation on multi-cultural interaction. After his session to 250 training and development professionals (of several thousand attending the conference), he shared enthusiastically, "I had them in the palm of my hand, Glen!" "How could you tell?" I asked, but didn't doubt that he knew.

Business came slow and his wife left him and the kids behind. I don't know how he survived but he still refused welfare. Then when the next ASTD national conference came along, his proposal was rejected. He protested to the decision-maker's superior, arguing, "I bet it was one of the top 10 rated sessions of the whole conference." They checked. It was. He was back on the program, but to a much smaller group.

He told me the session wasn't as electric as the first time, but afterwards, two representatives from Digital Electronics said their boss had attended last time and wanted to train Steve as one of their regular consultants. Every employee at Digital would be receiving diversity training. Part of his contract would be to devote two days of training per month. That was enough to help him back on his feet, but it also opened doors to Shearson/AmericanExpress, Chevron and other major employers. The man who hesitated to travel was soon a prominent national consultant making a six-figure income. And most years, that has continued.

Since then Steve has earned a Meritorious Service Award for the Presidents' Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and the Multi-Cultural Network Trainer of the Year by the American Society for Training and Development. He served as Board Chair for the Oregon Commission for the Blind.

Long an avid runner, Steve was honored as a Torchbearer for the 1996 Olympics and has participated in marathons. He even has his own "Hood to Coast" team, a two-day relay of nearly 200 miles from Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon.

He found a loving woman to be his wife and is now the father of three with grandchildren, too.

Steve didn't envision all the traumatic situations he would face, but he believed in himself and he found ways to make a lasting difference with his work and his life.

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Glen Fahs, PhD, has been a coach and leader for decades in the fields of training, resiliency, continuing education, change and transition. He has high-level training experience in government, nonprofit and the private sector and has taught for 12 colleges and universities. He has served on several boards, including currently on the Al Siebert Resiliency Center board. © Al Siebert Resiliency Center
PO Box 505
Portland, Oregon 97207 USA

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