Motivational speaker John Kopka, sponsored by the Central Arkansas FCA, bent a steel bar with his teeth, bent a license plate with his hands and ripped a telephone book down the middle during an address to the Vilonia High School student body, this week.
He also exploded a can of Diet 7 up with his hand and shared stories of being in Africa so close to a lion that he could smell his breath. The only thing between him and death, he said, was metal bars.
His goal as a motivational speaker, he said, is not to be a “show off” but instead be an inspiration—inspiring others to do their best. He told students they have opportunities, on a daily basis, where they are faced with many choices. It is important to make good choices, he offered.
“Life is about choices,” he added. He encouraged the students to be committed to a goal. Also, to accept there are no short cuts to goals that are worth keeping.
“You were not born to be a winner or a loser but born to be a chooser,” he said.
He also talked with students about embarrassments in their lives. His most embarrassing event, he told the students, occurred when he was in the seventh grade and suddenly discovered girls. He mustered the courage to ask one girl out. She said yes. He was ecstatic and told all of his friends. Then, she turned around and said she was just kidding and basically told him that he was a loser. He said what he remembers most about the day is the rejection he felt. Also, that his friends, afterwards, made fun of him.
He encouraged students to be mindful regarding their peers. He said walking down the hallways, you may not know what is going on inside the head or heart of someone. He also touched on the subjects of suicide and cutting. Suicide, he said, is a “permanent decision for a temporary problem.” He shared a story about a 17-year-old boy that took his life. Words in a letter he wrote, Kopka said, remain etched in his mind. Those words were “I feel numb inside,” and “I feel lonely.”
He also shared his opinion on why a cutter mutilates their arms and legs. One cuts, Kopka said, because one has been hurt. Sometimes, so many times, he said, they cut to try to feel something.
“Tough times don’t last,” he said. “Tough people do.”
Kopka lives in Northwest Arkansas. He said he has talked to more than a million people, including many athletes, and visited 30 different countries.