Today’s guest is Tom Ufert, author of ADVERSITY BUILDS CHARACTER:
Adversity builds character is the story of a young man’s life struggles to find his way through the trials and tribulations, family turmoil, self-determination and personal judgment.
This transformational life experience, like so many, demonstrates the triumph of the human spirit over the pitfalls in our modern world. From a divorce wrecked family life brought on by that by a disease ridden single mom, he is blessed with the first of many second chances. His godmother and her family, which becomes his stepparents, cause him to overcome personal character flaws. This new home life radically averts potential disaster and leads him to greater heights by redirecting the God-given talents of his character leading to never before realized academic and social achievements. At the height of his newfound career, his world is shattered yet again by the sudden tragic loss of his mother in a bizarre event of a mercy killing and suicide. While attempting to put this catastrophe behind him, drinking and sexual experimentation almost ruin his future hopes of a promising political career. He decides to study abroad and finds the first real love of his life. Yet short-lived and having to return, divorce of his stepparents again forces a change of direction, ultimately pointing the way to his true self. While postponing his career, he relocates and discovers a world where he finally feels at home and accepted without ridicule. As is so often the case where comfort and overconfidence leads to weakness and self-destruction, it is at this moment that one either succumbs to the burden of outside influence or gathers up all his strength to rise above like a phoenix.
Tricia: Thanks for joining us, Tom. Please tell us a little about yourself.
Tom: I am a 47year old physically challenged individual that has lived/survived the last 20 years with 3 disabilities – an incomplete spinal fracture, multiple sclerosis, and HIV. I’ve served/volunteered on 11 political campaigns on both sides of the aisle, been an LBJ Congressional Intern, a White House Fellow nominee, a Rotary International Fellow at Australian National University (ANU) in graduate East Asian Political Affairs, received my double BA in Pol.Scie & Hist from Centenary College of Louisiana
Tricia: When did you begin writing?
Tom: I actually began writing at Centenary College where I was honored to have been the editor-in-chief of the Centenary Conglomerate college newspaper. While at ANU I wrote a 48 page graduate level thesis on the Chinese influences on Samurai education in pre-Tokugawa Japan. After my near fatal car accident in 1992, I began formulating the outline for my book ADVERSITY BUILDS CHARACTER. Due to numerous personal difficulties it wasn’t until 2002 that I began to write it and nearly 10 years to complete.
Tricia: Tell us about your most recent publication.
Tom: ADVERSITY BUILDS CHARACTER; An Inspirational True Life Story of Disability, Addiction and Acceptance tells my tale of trials and tribulations which include a broken home, a disabled mother, attempted suicide, alcohol/drug/sex addictions, adoption, 5 divorces, and a mercy killing/suicide just to name a few.
Tricia: How did you get the idea for the book?
Tom: My godmother/adopted grandmother planted the seed of the title and was the driving force behind writing it – she knew my story could help others facing adversity and perhaps be an inspiration.
Tricia: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
Tom: Being physically challenged, I have limited use of only 4 of my 10 fingers. Until being given a Dragon voice activated writing program, the actual writing & typing of the manuscript was the most challenging aspect.
Tricia: Of all your characters, which is your favorite and why?
Tom: I would have to say my favorite character in my writing is a tie between my mom and godmother/grandmother. They were my inspiration and to whom I’ve dedicated the book. My mom sacrificed so much for me to have a better life, and my godmother gave me the unconditional love and strong character foundations that have made me the man I am today.
Tricia: Which character was the most challenging to write?
Tom: My character was probably the most challenging to write. Like most people, honest self-reflection and genuine character portrayal is difficult at best. Furthermore, my past has not always been something I am proud of and being sincerely honest took great effort to admit and describe on paper. Writing this book was extremely cathartic.
Tricia: Which authors have inspired your writing?
Tom: The authors that most inspired me or at least greatly influenced me were F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winston Churchill, John Grisham, Charles Dickens and Robert Frost.
Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?
Tom: Presently I am concentrating on self-promoting ADVERSITY BUILDS CHARACTER. However, I am planning 2 additional books…1 a sequel to my 1st book and another that is a travelogue style book of my year in Australia.
Tricia: If your book was ever made into a movie, which actors/ actresses would you cast?
Tom: This question has been asked before…Michael J. Fox, Sally Field, John Goodman, Julia Roberts, and many of the leading cast from Steel Magnolias.
Tricia: How do you handle unfavorable reviews?
Tom: So far I’ve received no bad reviews. However, I was brought up to appreciate constructive criticism and learn from it. Therefore, when I do receive some my hope is that it makes me a better writer.
Tricia: If you were stranded on a desert island, which five books would you take with you if you were allowed to choose?
Tom: If I was stranded on desert island the 5 books I’d prefer to have would be: A Tale of Two Cities, The Great Gatsby, Why The Caged Bird Sings, any of The Chronicles of Narnia, To Kill A Mockingbird
Tricia: What songs or artist are on the play list for your book?
Tom: The songs on a playlist for my book are Never Surrender, A Man In Motion, I’m On The Edge of Glory, I Was Born This Way, Chariots of Fire, Testify, and You Lift Me Up.
Tricia: Do you have any special skills, education, or hobbies that enhance your writing abilities?
Tom: My special skills, education or hobbies that enhance my writing would have to include my love of history, my extensive experiences in politics, my adopted parents background in medicine, and my life-long love of music & the arts.
Tricia: What advice would you give to new or aspiring writers?
Tom: My advice to aspiring authors would have to include…write what you know, never give up, start with an outline that you must realize will constantly need revisions, and be confident that your story is worth telling to possibly help others.
To learn more about Tom Ufert’s inspirational book, please click on the following links:
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Please enjoy an sample of ADVERSITY BUILDS CHARACTER:
Over the last several years many friends and acquaintances have suggested that I should write a book. Though I have considered my experiences to be merely the regular trials and tribulations of everyday life, many people insisted that my outlook and positive attitude could truly help and inspire others dealing with rough times. It is my sincerest hope that this book might indeed help in some small way.
My views and opinions are the result of experiences and encounters that I have been blessed with through my short life. I have said many times that if it were within my power to change a single moment in my life, I would not do so. Every single micro-second of my life has made me the man I am today, and of that I am proud. Like all human beings there are things I have said or done that I am not proud of. However, in hindsight they have made me who I am today. Without them my life would be incomplete. Sharon Duhon Smith, my high school senior English teacher, had a poster that still lives with me today: “We only fail when we fail to try!” There are no failures or mistakes in life unless we fail to learn from them. I can only hope that the lessons I have learned may be of help to others: the intended beneficiaries of my thoughts.
It must be noted here that everything I have written is from my own interpretation; others that may have been present or privy to additional facts might see things differently. That is okay, this is my story not theirs. I only pray that my version is close to the actual truth and that it doesn’t harm anyone in the process. I believe there are always at least three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth: sometimes two of these are the same. Regardless of personal opinions, my sole intention in writing Adversity Builds Character is to help other people as others have helped me. By the grace of God, I hope that I succeed.
You have already read my dedication but now I must also make a few acknowledgements. I owe the title, among other things, to Joy Campbell (my Godmother/Grandmother). She stressed for many years that “adversity builds character,” and she was so right. I would not be half the person I am today were it not for the adversities I have endured. Therein also lays my deepest gratitude to God Himself; without knowing suffering in life, how could I possibly appreciate the magnificent awe and wonder of all creation or of my fellow man. That, I believe, is the true lesson of Christ’s life.
In addition I owe endless gratitude to my “adopted” parents Chuck and Karen Campbell. My original subtitle, A SECOND CHANCE, partly reflected the awesome gift they bestowed by offering me a “second chance” at life. I have learned however, life itself is full of “second chances” if one is gifted with the insight to recognize them. My life story is full of them! Before Chuck and Karen took me into their home my path was certainly clouded and troublesome. Not only did they provide a good stable home of love and structure, but they nurtured an appreciation for education and some of the finer things life has to offer — a gift I can never repay. They are the type of people who do not require recognition for their efforts; rather the satisfaction of achievement alone will suffice. My love for them can never be surpassed, though time, circumstance, and geography may separate us.
There are an endless number of truly magnificent people I have had the great honor of knowing and sharing but brief moments in time with. There are far too many for me to name here, but I will make every effort throughout my tale to give them the love and credit they so rightly deserve. Over time I have decided to alter some names and details of events for the dignity and discretion of those still living. For those individuals they will surely recognize my recollections and know in their hearts the truth of what I write; I can only hope and pray they fully understand “the method to my madness.” Regardless, to each of them I say, thank God for being in my life!
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice then prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. And he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Then He said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17: 13-19
I wanted to write this book for a number of reasons, but none could compare with the unquenchable need to shout to all creation the praises of God; not just for being alive but perhaps more importantly for being more human. In that one defining phrase I discovered what I think we all strive to comprehend — only in being more human do we “get it!” When we accept who we are, for all our faults and graces, only then do we begin to understand our true nature and therein our relationship to each other, all creation, and God Himself. How can we possibly be close to God and our fellow men if we are trying so hard to conquer both?
I remember as a small boy, don’t ask me when or where, but that the “old” people were talking over coffee. Children were supposed to be outside playing or inside sitting quietly (no small task for a brat such as yours truly). It was just such a setting and one of those rare occasions when I was tame enough to be regarded as a human child, that I must have heard ABCfor the first time. If my memory serves correctly, the subject involved the unfortunate fate of a family friend troubled by ill health. I distinctly remember Grandma Campbell saying “Adversity Builds Character” and implying that some good would inevitably come from the hardship. Unfamiliar with the word adversity, and I guess wanting to obtain some of the room’s captivated attention for myself; I asked what the word meant. Past experience should have foretold the obvious reply; “Thomas if you don’t know what a word means, go look it up in the dictionary.” For some reason, of all the similar childhood experiences I had, this one has stood out. It wasn’t until some twenty years later that I penned “Adversity Builds Character” into my title.
For me “ABC” is a multifaceted concept and one that I hope can help other people deal with the struggles of everyday life. The ideas are so powerful and yet so simplistic that like sub-atomic particles, they can be lost from sight all too easily. From the moment of conception the body begins to die and the spirit begins to whither. Yet preoccupation with that fact is one of the most driving impulses in the human psyche. We spend our whole lives trying to put off the undeniable and inevitable conclusion of our existence as we know it. Yet knowing our life clock is ticking doesn’t seem to empower us to utilize that which we have. Adversity Builds Character was written with three major ideas in mind; first, life is a bed of roses, but not without thorns. Second, no matter how bad your life is, just take a look around and you’ll find someone who has it worse. Finally, like the poem “Footsteps in the Sand” God is always with you and He never gives you more than you can really handle. For me all of this comes full circle in Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Less Taken,”
Somewhere ages and ages hence I shall be telling this,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I am NOT perfect!!! Nor does this book seek to diminish the reader’s own trials and tribulations. Rather it was written to help espouse the mental breakthrough that while unique in every detail, we are commonly linked to each other and therein lay the key to our future. Only when a man can set aside his own selfish, almost animalistic desires for self-preservation in the wake of another’s needs, does he find that divine essence in humanity and himself. For only then can we see that forgiveness is divine and since we are all sinners, a purely human condition, we come closest to God when we accept our true humanity for all that it is.
I sought, in writing this book, to use my life experiences, good and bad, to help others. So often through my life people have said how tough I’ve had it. Yet upon reflection it’s been a wonderful life and if I could go back to change any millisecond of it, I would not! Everything that has happened has made me the man I am today, and of that fact, I am proud. Life is as life is — either accept it or change it! I only need to reflect upon the poor souls who have suffered through Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Krakow, the Sudan, 9/11, Katrina, Fukoshima, the Sandusky scandal, etc… to fully appreciate how blessed I am. I have food in my gut, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, a little money to get by on, friends who care about me, and those who love me – REALLY, WHAT ELSE MATTERS? It gives one pause when we want to whine and complain about how bad our lives are!