Michael Kutcher: The Mission to Succeed
Film producer and director Michael Kutcher has never let the challenges of cerebral palsy stop him from succeeding in life. Twin brother of actor Ashton Kutcher, Michael believes in turning challenges into opportunities. The 44-year-old has forged a successful Hollywood career, after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy at three years old and needing a life-saving heart transplant at 13. His condition causes limited mobility on his right side and other challenges with his hearing, speech and eyesight. However, growing up, he was treated in just the same way as his twin brother and their sister, Tausha. Michael’s family created a sense of inclusion and unity, encouraging him to meet all the challenges. He credits them with giving him the “driving power” to overcome any obstacles life put his way. What is cerebral palsy? Around two in every 1,000 children in the UK are born with cerebral palsy, which is a motor disability. As the most common physical disability in the world, it affects coordination, muscle control and motor skills. As well as having physical disabilities, people with cerebral palsy often report feeling isolated and excluded from activities. This impacts their self-belief and mental well-being. Although there currently isn’t a cure, various treatments help people to be as independent and active as possible. Rising to the challenges Michael has shared the story of how he has used his abilities to make a positive impact in his memoir, My Yellow Brick Road, written during the Covid-19 pandemic. He hopes it will give other people a new perspective on how positivity can help them to succeed and overcome obstacles. He wants to inspire others to believe they can still be optimistic and enjoy life, no matter what challenges stand in their way. It would have been easy for Michael to become depressed and feel like a victim after experiencing life-changing events as a child. Instead, he has decided to be a victor and an inspiration to people to live their life to the full. Michael’s achievements Michael hopes that by educating people, he is encouraging them to reach their potential and share their own stories with others. While his brother Ashton became an actor, Michael forged a successful film career on the other side of the camera instead, becoming a highly respected film producer and director; famous for movies such as Walnut in 2008; Kung Fu Joe in 2009; and Bulletface in 2010. Initially, he didn’t reveal his disability publicly, preferring to keep his challenges secret. As well as his family giving him the drive to overcome challenges, he also interacted with a lot of different people outside his family. He believed people with disabilities were viewed differently in society. In 2003, in an interview, Ashton spoke proudly about the way Michael didn’t let his condition affect his life. Michael admitted he was angry initially that the public had found out. He said he “didn’t want to be the face of cerebral palsy” and never spoke of it. However, he then realised Ashton’s revelation was a “blessing”. It enabled him to be himself and to become a champion for other people with cerebral palsy who needed help and support. He has trademarked the word “diffabilities” as he believes the word “disabilities” has a negative feel. Instead, he prefers to focus on the way everyone has positive abilities that differ from person to person – hence “diffabilities” is a blend of both words with a positive connotation. Michael’s ambitions for the future Since his youth, Michael has never allowed his disability to dominate his day-to-day life. He made a positive effort to view life as an opportunity. He started working with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation to help others with the condition. He also began speaking at engagements to share his story and encourage others. He plans to continue working with the charity and to become its public face. Michael has become a keynote speaker, describing himself as “offering a powerful message of hope”, with his talks describing to listeners how to overcome obstacles and succeed against the odds. He says his goal is to “inspire and impact lives and invoke change”.
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