Sometimes you come across a person who seems almost superhuman. A person who overcomes every obstacle thrown their way and constantly breaks new ground. Today’s guest is such a person. Jim Stovall, who lost his sight before age 30 is founder of the Emmy Award winning Narrative Television Network, author of 51 books, many of which have been made into major motion pictures, including “The Ultimate Gift.”
Jim is also a voracious reader, reading one book a day for the past 25 years.
Jim is a gifted and inspiring speaker, who is respected by people around the world.
It is with great pride we welcome Jim Stovall as our guest on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Narrative Television Network – https://www.narrativetv.com
Email Jim at: Jim@Jimstovall.com
Or call him at: (918) 627-1000
Tom Couch: Special, thanks to horizon therapeutics for sponsoring today’s special father’s network, dad to dad podcast, working tirelessly to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about horizon therapeutics, mission horizontherapeutics.com.
Jim Stovall: One of the most powerful impacts in my life was a four year old kid that came into my life. For three years to teach me the unadulterated wisdom of the ages, which is quite simply when it comes to that big dream, that calling that, that thing in your life, the answer is always, yes, you can. The dream would not have been.
If you and I didn’t have the capacity to achieve it. So the question is never, can we, the question is, will we, and that is Christopher’s enduring legacy to me.
Tom Couch: Sometimes you come across a person who seems almost superhuman, a person who overcomes every obstacle, thrown their way and constantly breaks new ground today’s guest is such.
Jim Stovall who was blind is a prolific author having written 51 books and the founder of the narrative television network. He’s also a public speaker and written numerous movies, including the ultimate gift. And he’s our guest on this special father’s network. Dad to dad podcast say hello to hosts David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: and thanks for listening to the dad to dad, podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special. Presented by the special fathers network.
Tom Couch: This special father’s network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation.
It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21st century dads.org.
David Hirsch: And if your dad looking for help. We’d like to offer help. We’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad
Tom Couch: and now let’s hear this fascinating conversation between Jim Stovall and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Jim Stovall of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who’s the founder and president of the Emmy award winning narrative television network, a world renowned author and speaker the author of the bestselling book, the ultimate gift, which was also made into a major motion picture by 20th century Fox in your youth, you were a national Olympic weightlifting champion.
And for those unfamiliar, with your story, you started losing your sight at 17 and had been completely blind for more than 30 years. Jim, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for this special father’s network.
Jim Stovall: It’s an honor to be with you, and I appreciate it. You and your wife,
David Hirsch: crystal been married for 40 years and reside in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
While you have no biological children, you and crystal became guardians to Jessica. A teenager when her mom who used to work for you, passed away. Jessica is now in her mid thirties and a mother herself. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about yourself.
Jim Stovall: Well, I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I still make my home today.
I am my parents’ third child. The first two died. I had a brother who died of a lung disorder and my sister died of leukemia. And for those who have read my book or more particularly seen. My first movie, the ultimate gift, the little girl in there, Emily played by Abigail Breslin was kind of based on my sister and I’m my parents’ third child.
And then I have a younger brother who lives north of here in Missouri, runs a very large and successful construction company, commercial construction. So that’s our family. I, I was very blessed to have amazing parents. We lost my mother just over a year ago. My father will be 90 later.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s fabulous.
And I’m so sorry to hear about your older siblings passing away. And if you don’t mind me asking, um, what age were they when they passed away relative to your age?
Jim Stovall: Um, my sister was four and I was a year or so younger and my brother died. He only lived a few days. Oh my,
David Hirsch: yeah. So you never knew your brother and maybe don’t have firsthand memories, but maybe photographic images of when your sister was still
Jim Stovall: alive.
Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting. I recently been speaking to my father. We talk every day and when I was talking about my sister and, you know, he told me that after she died, I was a little guy running around the house. I was always looking for her and asking where sister and all that. And a lot of it, I is like so much of our early memories.
I don’t know what I remember or what I’ve been told that I now projected.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Very, uh, very well-spoken well, thanks for sharing. It’s a blessing that your dad is still alive and he’s going to be 90. And I’m wondering how would you describe or characterize your relationship with your dad?
Jim Stovall: Well, my father is quite simply the best guy.
I know. I have to tell you that, uh, I’ve gotten far more wealth in a claim and notarized. For writing books, making speeches and creating movies that are just simply the way I was raised. If everybody had been raised by my parents, I’d have to find a way to make an honest living instead of doing what I do now, which is telling everybody the lessons I learned as a child, uh, my father served in the United States Navy and then, uh, came to Tulsa.
The to work with, uh, oral Roberts at oral Roberts university, he worked there almost 63 years, retired in his eighties and still active today.
David Hirsch: Well, like I said, what a blessing and what a great role model he’s been. I’m wondering if there’s any important takeaways. When you think about your dad, a story or two, that sort of emphasize the role model that he was.
Jim Stovall: Well, certainly at the most critical point in my early life, I thought I was going to be an all American football player and head on into the NFL and make my living doing that. And then as a young man during a routine, physical to go play another season of football, I was diagnosed with this condition that would cause me to lose my.
And my parents after already losing two children, they took me all over the country to experts and specialists, to check into my condition. And I remember we ended up down in Florida, Florida state university, the great eye clinic there, and they spent the better part of a day checking me out. And then the doctor took me aside and said, well, you’re never going to be normal.
You’re going to be blind. And you’re just, you’re not going to have a normal life. And I remember going out, I was quite emotional and I told my dad, you know, they tell me I’m not going to be normal. And I’ll always remember. He said, being normal is nothing worth aspiring to,
you know, he thought, okay, I can’t be normal. Well, we didn’t want to be normal anyways. That is one of my enduring memories of my father and just the consistency. The life becomes very much a matter of what you do every day. I remember statements like, you know, if you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late.
That’s something it’s so funny now in our family, when we get together, If something starts, if dinner’s at six o’clock everybody’s at the table at a quarter till it just a normal thing in our family, things people are used to. And, you know, and then when my mother passed and you know, a lot of people to funeral who had known my father since, before I was born and to hear people’s speak of him.
And who had had very similar experiences to mine. So it’s, uh, he is, uh, quite simply that perfect role model. He, uh, not a terribly verbal or express suit guy. He, you know, the, the world is that we live in is such that when it’s all said and done, there was an awful lot said and very little done. And my dad is the kind of guy you just watch him.
And he does it, you know? So life with him was very much followed the leader.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. Well, I’ve never met him. I feel like he’s the type of person that you want to be more like, right. We have role models in our lives. And I always say that you want to emulate the good ones, right.
Following their footsteps, which I heard you talking about. And then to the extent that you can, you want to live vicariously through those. Maybe aren’t the best role models. Right. And try to avoid some of the mistakes they’ve made. Right. He sounds like one of those guys that you want to be more like, so I’m thinking about your formal education after high school, where did you go to school and what were you thinking as far as where a career was going to tell you.
Jim Stovall: I was a horrible student in high school. And I graduated from high school, 1976. And it was a time particularly here in Oklahoma when, um, football was, and probably still is way out of proportion. And I was very, very good at that. And wow, the minute I played football, I realized. This is like putting my foot in my shoe.
It just fits. And this is where I needed to be. I had been recruited to go to play at the university of Oklahoma, uh, for very sweatshirt on the national championship team. But then during the physical to go play, I was diagnosed with this condition, but you know, even that much football gave me an opportunity to.
Meet some amazing coaches and mentors because they have some specific rules or how many schools you’ve been visited and what you can do it. I knew I wanted to go to university of Oklahoma, but I had a certain number of visits I could take. And coach bear Bryant was coaching his last season at the university of Alabama.
And I decided I’m going there to on a recruiting trip. I wanted to meet him. And I remember going in and here’s this legendary figure. And he said, son, what are you doing here? And I said, well, um, what do you mean? And he said, well, you and I both know you’re going to go to the university of Oklahoma. And then I said, to be honest, I, I wanted to meet.
And he said, well, let’s go for a walk. So it won’t be a total waste. And we walked out on the field in this completely empty stadium and we ended up down on the two yard line where you go for a two point conversion and he said, try to remember this. There’s only two kinds of people in the world. There’s the people.
If I give them this ball, they’re going to get it now to end zone right there. And there’s people that won’t. And the people that do aren’t faster or stronger or more talented in many cases, and the people who don’t always have a reason or an excuse or justification why they did, but there’s two kinds of people, those that do.
And those that don’t and try to hang around with people that do. And he said, make sure you’re one of them. And that was my whole lesson. And that’s been 40 some odd years ago. And I still try to live up to that on a regular basis. And, you know, shortly after that, I realized I’m never going to play football and, you know, and then I thought it was going to lose my sight.
And I came back to my hometown here in Tulsa. And then I had one of those pivotal days that teaches you all a lot of. And I think maybe they’re all that way. And now we’re just paying attention on certain days. But, um, the state fair comes to my hometown every fall and I’d always been playing football.
So I hadn’t gone since I’d been a little kid and I remember waking up one morning in, in my quiet time there laying in bed. I told God, if you’re real, I need to know today. That, uh, there’s still something I can do. And you got a plan for my life. I needed old blind guy could do shopping if that’s what I’m going to be.
And I went to the fair, I could still see to get around pretty good. And then I walked on down the midway and they had the pavilion, the big arena there, and it big sign said free concert had to be a big sign cause I could still read it. It said free concert. Well, I had no idea who was. Or when it started or anything, but free really kind of fit in my budget at the time.
So I wouldn’t, and there was nobody there. I wandered all the way down to the first row and I sat down and, and I reminded God that it shades it’s getting to be in the evening. And you’ve got until the end of the day to convince me there’s something I can do and a blind guy can make it. And I thought about that.
I thought about, I’m never going to play football again. I thought, and I contemplated, I probably cried a little bit and I was really not conscious of the fact that the arena filled up around me and then a voice I will never forget. So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the Tulsa state fair. The one, the only the legend Ray Charles, and they brought Ray out and he was about 10 feet away from me and Ray, Charles was absolutely mad.
I said, okay, I get it. A blind guy can do something less and learned message received. And that changed my life. And it, it wouldn’t 12 years later, I’m 29 years old. My business is successful. I’m starting to speak. And I, I was booked to give a speech at Madison square garden. And, uh, entrepreneurship around the world they brought in and the promoter hugged me when I came off stage.
That was great. He said, I have another group coming in the end of the week. I’d like to hold you over. Um, can I book you again? And the, well, our people checked the schedule. I said, sure. And he said, well, do you want to stay here in New York? Do you want to go back to Oklahoma and then come back again? I said, well, I, I have some TV business to do here.
So I’ll just stay in New York and then do your other event. And he said, well, since you’re going to be here, I have another act. I booked here in town and you’re welcome to come. And I was trying to think of a way to tell this man who was paying you more than anybody should get it for an hour or two.
They loved, I’m trying to think of a way to do it. Respectfully, I don’t want to get out in public. I’m not comfortable and I don’t want to go to your event. And I said, who do you have coming? And he’s tomorrow night. Well, Ray, Charles. And that was an amazing experience. I sat on the front row again and there was Ray Charles, and afterwards they took me backstage and he became a friend and mentor to me in.
An important person in my life until the day he passed.
David Hirsch: Wow. That is an amazing story. I guess God does talk to some people it’s very clear from the story that you just recounted that these experiences have had a profound impact on your life, right?
Jim Stovall: Yeah. I mean, in amazing ways. I mean, Ray taught me how to write my name.
I, you know, I’d been blind for quite a time when I met Ray a couple years and they took me backstage and they said, uh, just wait a minute. He’s got to sign a few more autographs and then he’ll talk to you. And I said, well, how does he, right. I didn’t know, blind people could write. And he said, who should that?
And I said, my name is Jim stole wallet. I’m blind too. And I didn’t know, blind people could write. And he said, son, if anybody in your life everything’s enough. To want your autograph. The least you can do is learn how to write your name. And he kind of ticked me off. I said, well, you’re going to have to show me.
And he said, well, sit down here. And I did. And he traced it out and showed me how to write Jim Stovall. He showed me how he writes Ray Charles and I worked on it with, if I knew it was, it was four or five years. All I could write was Jim Stovall or Ray, Charles. That’s all I knew how to write. As long as you want me to write gemstone or Ray Charles.
And, uh, and we stayed in contact and his next to the last concert he did before he passed, was in my hometown here at the performing arts center with our Philharmonic. And I went down and I was sitting backstage and we both knew he wasn’t going to be around much longer in. He said, uh, he said, do you think when we get to heaven, you and I will be able to see, I said, yeah, I think so.
And he said, what do you think an angel looks like? You know? And I thought, well, angels are people that show up and they’re there when we need them. And I said, I said, as far as I’m concerned, angels look like Ray Charles, because, you know, men who were there in a way that I needed you to be, and, you know, and he was that way to me.
But then I realized we all have. And the means and the wherewithal to be that for other people.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, beautiful insight. And, uh, the first thought that came to mind is that, uh, one of the angels in your life is your wife crystal.
Jim Stovall: Absolutely. The most amazing we met when I was a college, they had never had a student with a disability at that time.
So they got various students to read my textbooks to me. And she was one of those. And the minute I met her, I went to the Dean and I said, look, we’re not going to need any of these other people. She’s all we’re going to need. And we’ll either get through this together or I won’t make it one or the other.
And we did it through college, through everything. And I told you before I was a horrible student, but with her help, I graduated second in our class, but she graduated first and I’m a competitive guy. I mean, second place. Hey, unless you have to live with number one, you know, that’s brutal. But over the last couple of years, I’ve kind of developed a theory on.
You see, I’m not a hundred percent sure. She read me the whole textbook. It’s possible. She left out enough so that she could beat me in the class rankings. I have no, no evidence to support that, but it makes me feel better.
David Hirsch: and not to focus on the negative, but what were some of the biggest fears you had or some of the biggest obstacles that you had to overcome early, earlier in the journey?
Jim Stovall: Well, I, I, you know, I was going blind. I’d never met a blind person, uh, other than Ray, Charles, and, uh, you know, Yeah, I couldn’t sing or play like Ray, so I didn’t know what I was going to do and I didn’t have any specific role models.
So I, I really floundered around trying to figure out what I was going to do. I worked in the financial services industry for a while. I had my own office and, and had some great successes. Then I was losing my sight and I didn’t know how to function in that world when I couldn’t see. And then, uh, I had the morning, you know, age 29, I, I woke up and I realized that the remainder of my side was gone and I knew I would live the rest of my life as a blind person.
And, you know, I moved into this little room in the back of my house. We had a little nine by 12 room and. I had my radio, my telephone, my tape recorder. And that was my whole world. I really thought I’ll never leave here again before I’d lost my side crystal and I used that room as our television room.
And so I knew across the room, there was a TV and a video player in my collection of movies. And I love classic movies and Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart. And then one day out of just sheer bored. I put on an old Humphrey Bogart movie. And I thought I’ve seen this so many times. I’ll just be able to listen to it and follow along.
And it worked for a while, but then somebody shot somebody in the car sped away and somebody screamed and I got really frustrated. And I said, the magic words, I said, you know, somebody ought to do something about it. And the next time you get frustrated and you say somebody ought to do something about it.
You just had a great idea, you know, the whole world’s praying for a great idea and they tripped over one, about three times a week. The only thing to be able to do to have a great idea is go through your daily routine we’d for something bad to happen and ask yourself, how could I have avoided that? And the answer to that question is a great idea.
And the only thing you got. To take it one step further and have a great business is ask yourself, how could I help other people avoid that? You know, and opportunities come disguised as problems and the world will give you fame and fortune and everything you’ve ever wanted. If you’ll just care about them and solve their problems.
So like most things in life. It’s not about you and it’s not about me, it’s about them. And if we care about them and solving their problems, the world changes well. When I realized that if somebody would add an extra soundtrack to movies and television educational programming, that it would become accessible to 13 million blind, visually impaired people in the United States and many millions more around the world, that was the beginning of the narrative television network.
And. That has brought me everything I wanted in my life, plus the platform to do books and movies and speeches and columns and get to talk to people like you. But it all started during that transition of, I can’t do anything to, I can change the world for an awful lot of people just like me. And that’s what we did.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well that was the turning point. If I can call it that, what was the original. When you had thought about this narrative television network, because I don’t think most of our listeners are going to be familiar with it. Uh, but what was the, what was the original vision? What did you think this was?
Jim Stovall: Yeah, it started in 1988 in television and moves. Everything was analog. Then a home video was VHS and, you know, my. First colleague and I were working in a basement of a condominium in downtown Tulsa, which, you know, you and your listeners know is the entertainment capital of the world here in Oklahoma, but w where we started.
And, uh, and we started adding these soundtracks in, we thought we would deliver our product on cassette tapes or video cassettes. And we’ve gone from splicing reel to reel cassettes. Video to VHS, to DVD, to broadcast, to cable, to these digital formats. And now our programming is available, um, all around the world.
Uh, all prime time programming is narrated. Um, you or your audience can get it in your home. Um, you know, whether you watch NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, Turner, or any of the major programmers during a prime time, you can go on. There’s a button on your TV or your remote. You’ve probably never used cold languages or second audio channel.
And you push that and you hear this extra voice, or you go to Netflix and you look for described movies or described videos. And there are hundreds and hundreds of movies that have this soundtrack that we’ve created. And all it is is in between the dialogue of the character. You hear one more. And it’s a David piers out the window, walks across the room and, you know, she turns and looks at him and the plane crashes into the mountain, or whatever happens in this story.
And that’s all it is, is just helping millions of people hear what they can’t see. And it has changed the world for people, you know, sighted people who are a part of our conversation right now. Can’t realize that, uh, how important this is, television and movies are the number one activity, a recreational activity in our society today, whether that’s a good thing or not.
So probably a whole nother program, but that’s the reality of it. And it separates visually impaired people from the mainstream. And then there are, you know, over a million blind, visually impaired children trying to get through school in America. And it’s more and more of the programming or the teaching tools are videos and they’re not accessible to them.
Well, our company makes them accessible. And so it’s really changed the world for, for a lot, a lot of people. And you know, I have a foundation now we give, uh, tons of money away, but rarely do we do anything in the nonprofit or. That’s any more significant than we do a narrative television as a for-profit enterprise.
And, uh, I’m very, very proud of that. I mean, it’s, it’s always good to make a profit, but doing good while you’re doing well, is it is a privilege. And, uh, when you put your head on the pillow at night to realize, ah, we made it a little better for people who need some help, um, that matters.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, very impressive.
Um, and I think I remember reading something about you doing like a talk interviews, right? You had individuals come on your show with the narrative television network. Uh, why don’t you share with our listeners, what that was all about and some of the names of people that you had an opportunity interview?
Jim Stovall: Well, we, we came up with the system to do that and we were getting ready to go on cable TV. And it was in the analog world and we were about eight weeks from going on national television with this new kind of programming. And we had a guy used to work for me. And he’s one of these guys that loves to find problems and run around and throw up on everybody.
And shortly after that, I had to release him to go find an opportunity somewhere else. I told him I have enough problems with my competition. I don’t need people to bring me problems, but he came into my office about two months before we’re on national television. And he said, Jim, we’re not going to make it.
We should just shut down. Now we’re going to. And I said, what do you mean we’re going to fail? I have hundreds of stations that are going to carry us via satellite. And he said, that’s your problem, Jim, you have almost a thousand stations that are going to carry us via satellite in two months. And our movies are too short.
And I said, what do you mean we’ve licensed some of the best movies ever made. He said, Jim, our movies are average 90 minutes long. And you have guaranteed to deliver two hour blocks programming around the clock to these various stations. And what are you going to do with that extra half hour of dead air on national television?
Well, I said the first thing came to my mind. I said, well, I’m going to host a talk show and I’m going to interview with stars that are in these movies right here. You know? So one of my colleagues and I, we went to the public library. And found a book I promise was called addresses of the stars, addresses of the star.
You know, she read me some of these names and here’s like, Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Michael Douglas. I said, yeah, they sound good. I’ll, I’ll let them be on my show. And we came back to the office and I wrote a, one-page a letter to some of the greatest names in Hollywood. And I told him what a great career opportunity I was going to give them.
For no money to come on my non-existent show. And would you please hurry up and let us know because I’m on national TV and about seven weeks now. And we had a moment of silence and send out these letters and it was about 10 days later, the phone rang and young lady on the front desk screen. And she was really excited.
She said, we’ve got a, a call here. Somebody saying that he, if you can call this number, you can discuss an interview with Catherine Hubbard. Well, Hepburn had just won her fourth academy award and she had turned down Letterman and Leno and she wasn’t doing it. And she had done the on golden pond thing with Henry fondant.
And so I dial the number I’m ready to talk to her agent or her manager or whoever. And she answers the phone herself in that Katherine Hepburn voice that she has. I’m trying not to pass out on the floor, this blind guy from Oklahoma. And I realize I’m talking to Catherine Hubbard and I see their pepper.
And I’m, I’m surprised you answer your phone. And she said, Jim, don’t you answer your phone? She’s too. I’ve always felt when one’s phone rings. One should answer it tonight. I said, yes. Ma’am of course they should. I wish I hadn’t brought that up, but. She was my first big interview. And she allowed me to, or gave me the wherewithal to leverage into everybody else because when you’re an unknown cable thing and we’re doing TV for the blind and who wants to be on your show, but when you tell them Katharine Hepburn was on last week, we can put you on this week.
So I followed up with Jimmy Stewart and then Frank Sinatra was an amazing. Hundreds and hundreds of those. And then I’ve gone on to interview a lot of, uh, people from sports and politics and things that appear in my book, success secrets, or super achievers or ultimate hindsight, or some of those compilation books.
I’ve written that, that have a lot of insight from people from all walks of life that are just simply the bachelors ever been at what the.
David Hirsch: That is an amazing story and it does help, but to get a big name at the beginning, like you were saying, and probably back then, there probably was no bigger name than Katherine Hepburn.
So it’s just God shining down on you. Again, opening up a door with. You know, just amazing things have transpired since then. So totally inspirational.
so I remember early on did an interview, maybe it was a talk I saw of yours. And you were in denial about losing your. That was your first reaction. And I remember something about going to teach at a school where there was a bunch of blind kids. W what was that story? What’s the backstory there.
Jim Stovall: I was going to college and near where I went to college.
There was a school for blind kids, and I went over there. I don’t know what I was thinking. Yeah. I don’t know whether I was trying to learn more about it or help out or make some kind of bargain with God. But I went over and I met the principal and I said, I have no background training or experience working with blind children, but I’d like to teach here and you can, of course, imagine how excited she was to see me.
But she said, uh, you know, Jim, if you really want to do this, we, we do have one kid you could work with kind of one-on-one. And I said, well, I was kind of thinking of having my own class. Actually. She said, will you either work with this one kid or you get out of here? And, you know, I have found through the years that when you don’t have any choice, it’s not that hard to make a decision.
Like when you like door number one or door number one. So I said, okay, tell me about this kid. And what do I teach you? And she said, Jim, Christopher is four years old. He’s totally blind. He has a lot of other physical problems and we have determined. We are determined here at the school that he’s never going to grow or learn or advance or develop any more than he already has.
So all we want you to do is keeping quiet and keep him away from the other kids so they can learn their lessons because Christopher not going to learn anymore. He’s at the end of his rope. And the only training they gave me to work with this poor kid was two things. They said, Jimmy, you got to keep his shoes tied.
He never learned how to tie your shoes. We’re afraid he’s going to trip on a shoelace and fall and hurt himself. And you got to keep him away from the stairs. He doesn’t know how to climb the stairs and we’re afraid he could fall and be injured. And that was my whole training. And so the first day I went out to meet Christopher.
He was indeed a totally blind, a very small child and had a lot of other physical problems. And that first day he and I sat down, we had a serious conversation and I said, yo man, before I leave here, no matter how many weeks or months or years it takes, you are at least going to learn how to tie your shoes and climb the stairs.
And he said, no, I can’t. Yes, you can. And he said, no, I can’t. I said, yes, you can. And he said, no, I can’t. Then if you’ve ever spent any time with the. You know, they can do this all day tomorrow. I never experienced anything quite like that. Well, we begin working everyday. Boy. We were learning how to tie our shoes and climb the stairs.
Meanwhile, uh, I, in the afternoons, I’m going to the university and I finally hit that wall and I couldn’t get around on my own anymore. I didn’t know what else to do. So I’m preparing to drop out of college. So I come over to the school for blind kids and, uh, got there early one morning and I met with depression.
And I said, look, I, I’m not going to be able to keep coming here anymore because now I’m going blind myself and I can’t stay in college. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but today’s going to have to be my last day. Cause I can’t make it. Well, I didn’t know. They dropped Christopher off early and he was standing outside the open door to the principal’s office here and this whole conversation.
So as I went out to tell him goodbye and tell him, I loved him and tell him, I hope somebody else someday will show up and spend some time. He turns to me and said, well, yes, you can. I said, no, I can’t. And he said, yes, you can. I said, no, I can’t. And he said, yes, she can. And it’s I was preparing to explain to this ignorant, obnoxious, precocious four year old little person that this is not like tying your shoes, kid.
This is like going to a major university. As I was preparing to explain my own failure to him, it hit me like a ton of bricks Stovall, either get up and do something with your life. Or quit lying to this kid. And three years later, I graduated from that university with honors. Thanks to Ms. Crystal. And that same week I had the privilege of my life with what little vision I had laughed.
In fact, one of the last things I ever really remember seeing was then seven-year-old Christopher climb, three flights of stairs. Turn and sit on that top step and tie both of these shoes. And you know, I’ve, as you pointed out, I’ve had the privilege of meeting athletes and politicians and millionaires and billionaires and presidents and Kings.
But the, one of the most powerful impacts in my life was a four year old kid that came into my life for three years to teach me. The unadulterated wisdom of the ages, which is quite simply when it comes to that big dream, that calling that, that thing in your life, the answer is always, yes, you can. The dream would not have been put there if you and I didn’t have the capacity to achieve it.
So the question is never, can we, the question is, will we, and that is Christopher’s enduring legacy.
David Hirsch: First of all wiping the tears from my eyes, as you recall that story, which is extraordinary and what a transition. And I think that he must’ve been one of those angels that you were talking about earlier that comes into your life unexpectedly and helps with the transformation.
So I’d like to talk about. Uh, you as an author for a moment. Um, one of the first books that I read of yours, very provocative title is you don’t have to be blind to see. And I’m wondering where that fits into the repertoire of books that you wrote. And what was the inspiration behind that?
Jim Stovall: That was the first book I ever wrote.
I, I started narrative television. We went onto national TV with the talk show in the movies. And we won an Emmy award for our first season on national television. Well, I’m trying to get more and more stations and cable systems and producers to pick up our narrating programming. And then we win this Emmy award.
And I was asked to be the speaker at the national association of broadcast. I was the keynote speaker that a year. Well, I went and gave a speech because I had no thought of being a speaker. I think. You know, all the people I’m trying to sell our company to, or sell our products. They’re going to be in one auditorium all at the same time.
So I thought it was just a great sales pitch. So I went and I gave a speech and afterward three separate people ask me to come to their convention or their corporate meeting and make a speech. And I had no idea. The next thing I know. I’m booked everywhere. And I was on a west coast arena tour on a program.
There were three of us, me and Dr. Dennis Waitley and Robert Schuller. The three of us are doing these, these events. And one day I’m sitting backstage and Dr. Schuller comes up to me with. Schuler voice. He had something like the voice of God or something. And he said, my friend, I believe you should write a book.
And I said, man, I can’t read a book quite, should I write a book? I mean, you gotta be kidding me. And he said, this is something I feel quite strongly about. Well, thankfully about that time, the MC introduced me. So I went out in the arena, did my out. And when I came off stage Dr. Waitley standing there and he said, Hey, while you were out there, we got it all worked out.
And I thought he meant the ground transportation to the plane. I didn’t know what he started. He said, well, while you were speaking, Dr. Schuller called his publisher, Thomas Nelson in Nashville and worked out the details. And I agreed to write the foreword to your book, and we need your manuscript in about 90 days.
And that’s how I became a writer. I came back to Tulsa and I wrote down my experience losing my sight and starting narrative television, you know, all the things you and I have been talking about. And I put it in a book called you don’t have to be blind to see. And that was my very first book, never planned on being an author and, and everything started there.
And, and it w it didn’t take long. Uh, you know, the, a year after that came out, the publisher called me. He said, you know, Jim, this book selling. And I said, well, that’s supposed to, and I didn’t know. And he said, well, we’re nearly ready for your follow-up book. And I said, well, what is a followup book? And he said, well, that’s the book you come out with now to capitalize on the success of this first book.
And I said, I wish you’d have told me that sooner. I wouldn’t have written everything I knew in the first book, you know, so I wrote, you know, success, secrets, and, uh, people I’d interviewed with. And then Steve Forbes and Trump, and I wrote a book called great American success stories before he got into politics.
And, uh, you know, I’d written everything I knew and a few things. I only suspected. And then after seven books, when they called me back and they said that we need another book, I said, no. And I finally realized, okay, if they want another book, I’m going to have to make up a story. So over the next five days in my office, between my meetings and phone calls, I dictated a book that became the ultimate gift and it became a sold millions of copies and was the first of the eight films so far based on books I’ve written.
And that changed my life, that book. And that was now. My 51st book. They haven’t all come out yet. Um, a year ago when the pandemic hit or more than a year ago now, I, I just, okay. I’m not going to be able to travel and do arena events or anything for awhile, and we can’t make any movies right now. So I’m just going to write some books.
So I wrote four books during the shutdown. I never saw myself as a writer. Or is a movie maker. You know, I understand the absurdity of being a blind guy that I read books. I can’t read that are turned into movies. I can’t watch, but I am absolutely convinced that if you know, William Shakespeare or mark Twain or the apostle Paul or anybody else that wrote if they were alive and among us today, in addition to writing books, they would be making movies because.
I have 10 million books in print and that pales in comparison to the number of people that are seeing our movies. And it is fun to create characters that are brought to light by, you know, James Garner or Brian Dooney or Peter Fondo or Raquel Welch or Louis Gossett Jr, or just amazing towering talent.
It’s it’s it’s fast.
David Hirsch: Well, I must say that my favorite of the books, which were turned into movies is the ultimate gift. Um, which I remember James Gardner start in, uh, as read the billionaire figure, who was a dad, as well as a grandfather who saved his grandson Jason’s life and made something of it, uh, because he wasn’t able to reach the other members of his family in the same way.
I thought it was brilliant. Right. The setup for after his death, right. That he had recorded these messages that were played through his attorney to his grand son. Jason, I’m not just saying that to make you feel good, Jim. That it was my favorite, but I probably watched that movie a dozen or more times. I remember at one point I had purchased.
A block of these, off of the internet, I’ve shared this message and it’s made a profound impact on people’s lives. So it’s not just that it was a creative story, which was well told and well-produced, but there’s a wholesome message. A positive message there. And I just want to say publicly. Uh, I just want to thank you for the gift that you have, and that you’ve shared with so many others and the world is definitely a better place as a result of Jim Stovall.
Jim Stovall: Well, thank you. That movie has been a gift to me and it opened up so many things for me. So they call James Garner and I had a meeting with him and, uh, I loved him and, you know, I felt embarrassed. I hadn’t thought of it. He’s a fellow Oklahoman and he was just amazed. And I said, well, Mr. Garner, I want to be candid with you.
You, you may have heard out in Hollywood, if you haven’t, you probably already will. That my first choice was, was Paul Newman. And, uh, and I don’t want that to be a hardship between us. And he said, son, I’ve gotten rich and famous making movies that Newman didn’t want to make. He said, let’s make the movie.
And I will never forget. He said, how much money you got to make this. I some are financial partners who’ve come through and Fox and everybody, and we have $17 million. I felt really good about that know. And he said, wow, 17 million. Now he said, that’s not a lot of money. I never thought I’d hear 17 million and not a lot of money in the same sentence.
And he said, so you don’t need to hire me. You need a partner. And I said, tell me about that. He said, I’ll make the movie for nothing. And if it makes any money, we’ll divide it up. And that enabled us to go out and get a cast and including, you know, Brian dinner, he and Abigail Breslin and Lee Merryweather.
And then it allowed me to put together a soundtrack with Bob Dylan, the BB king and Aaron Copeland and Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline. And he made all that possible. And I remember asking him, I said, why’d you do that, man? You didn’t do this. He said, I’ve been making movies 50 years. He said, this is going to be my last movie.
And he said, this kind of says what I want to say as I leave the stage. This is, this is, he said, I know red Stevens is yours, but this kind of says what I want to say. Money has always been available to you. Like the air you breathe. I want to give you a series of guests. Are you failing any way you get nothing?
If you do succeed, you’ll be one step closer to all I have for you. The ultimate gift. He was an amazing, amazing man. But then I was exceedingly pleased when, uh, the movie took off and became a sensation around the world and that movie. The two sequels and the books have grossed over a hundred million dollars is his share.
That was certainly a whole lot more than we would have ever paid him. I, I, I think he may have made more money making our movie than anything he ever did, and I’m very grateful to have met him and gotten to work with him. So sometimes we don’t get what we want, but. The rolling stones said, we get what we need.
David Hirsch: that is an amazing story. Thank you for sharing, sort of in closing, I’m thinking about advice and remember that our listening audience is primarily made up of families, specifically fathers raising children with special needs, which could be all types of special needs. So I’m wondering if there’s any advice you can offer a dad.
Raising a child with differences or special abilities.
Jim Stovall: Turn your life into a masterpiece. Don’t talk at them or talk to them, turn your life into a movie and let them watch it. Every day we live in a world, as I said earlier, when it’s all said and done there’s way too much said and not enough done. And they won’t listen to what you say as much as they’ll watch what you say.
And, uh, that’s how they will grow and learn that those enduring lessons from my father and my grandfather and the mentors in my life are not what they told me. It’s what they showed me, what they did. Their words would be hollow if they had done it. As I always tell people in life and business, never take advice from anybody that doesn’t already have, what you want.
And, you know, dads need to be that way. You are positioned to be the most special person in those kids’ life, but biology don’t make it happen. You have to be worthy of that role and then walk it out every day.
David Hirsch: Well-spoken so I’m wondering if there’s anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Jim Stovall: I always tell my audiences, whether you read my books, watch my movies, see me on stage that anytime you don’t think there’s works anytime.
You think you have a unique problem? That’s different. Anytime your dreams aren’t coming true, or you just need somebody to believe in you. You can email Jim at Jim Stovall, S T O V a L L firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can dial 9 1 8 6 2 7 1000. That’s 9 1 8 6 2 7 1000. I have real life people around the clock that answered the phone and they know there’s one kind of call.
I’ll always read. You, you just say, Jim, I, I, I saw him on this podcast and uh, he told me my dreams could come true. And right now I’m not sure. And I will call you back every time. Cause I want everybody to know that the worst day you ever had the hardest, it ever seems the most difficult. It feels you got one guy believes in you and believes in your dream.
And if you don’t think so, you pick up the phone call. And, uh, because I believe in that, and that’s the greatest gift you can ever give anybody. And you talk about being a dad, whether he was or not. My dad believed in everything. I told him and he, he, uh, never acted surprised he never did anything. I, he was always there for me and.
And believed in me. And that is a powerful gift. You can give those kids
David Hirsch: well, that’s a very generous offer. Thank you for sharing your email as well as phone number. We’ll be sure to include that in the show notes. So make it as easy as possible for people to reach out to you and cheers to George. Thank you on an upcoming 90th birthday.
Yeah. Thank you, Jim. Thank you for taking the time in many insights. As a reminder, Jim is just one of the individuals. Who’s part of the special fathers network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21st century dads dot.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the special father’s network, dad to dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know. The 21st century dad’s foundation is a 5 0 1 C3 not-for-profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free, to all concerned.
Would you please consider making a text honorable contribution? I would really appreciate your support, Jim banks. Again.
Jim Stovall: Thanks.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the special father’s network. The special father’s network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation.
It’s a great way for fathers to support. Go to 21st century dads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or we’d like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad also, please be sure to register for the special father’s network biweekly zoom calls held on the first and third Tuesdays of every month.
Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story or know of a compelling story, please send an email to David @ 21st century dads.org. The
Tom Couch: dad to dad podcast was produced by couch audio for the special father’s net. Thanks again to horizon therapeutics who believe that science and compassion must work together to transform lives.
That’s why they work tirelessly to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about horizon therapeutics at horizontherapeutics.com.