John Foppe Profile

John Foppe has shown millions of people that the only handicaps we have are the mental and emotional ones that prevent us from participating fully in life. With three decades of speaking experience that have seen him present to sports teams, corporate executives, and the Pentagon, John not only inspires people to dream, but shows them how to execute plans to turn visions into outcomes.

Born without arms, John made the choice at a young age to make the most of what he had. He mastered completing daily tasks like getting dressed, eating, and writing with his feet. His compelling story attracted the attention of author and speaker, Zig Zagler, who took him under his wing, making John the only individual to ever be personally hired and trained by Zagler as a speaker. Not wanting to be boxed into a cliché, John transformed his career from being “an armless man teaching people to reach for their dreams” to an accomplished researcher and authority on taking action to get results.

Aside from inspiring people at seminars around the world, John holds a Master in Social Work and an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities and Public Service, both from St. Louis University. He has served as the Executive Director of Community Link, a community-based non-profit that serves over 500 people with developmental disabilities through 10 programs. Currently he is the Executive Director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louis Council, the regional resource center of a larger international Catholic faith-based organization that offers person-to-person help to the poor.

  • View Extended/Alternate Bio
      • Born without arms, John Foppe has had to break down and re-think every aspect of day-to-day life. He learned that the inability to do something didn’t rest on the lack of resources or vision. Instead, it has more to do with one’s subconscious perception to meeting a challenge head on.

    In the field as part of his master’s degree in social work, John saw this scenario play out repeatedly. To his surprise, he discovered that many people subconsciously substitute personal improvement with systems to support their perceived limitations. As a speaker, John also witnessed this resistant mindset operate in all sort of companies. He repeatedly heard leaders complain about how difficult is to motivate their people.

    John has addressed this common performance challenge through years of research, clinical study and field testing, which ultimately led to the discovery of the primary cause of failed vision execution. In light of this important, personally-significant discovery, he has developed a variety of solutions to help individuals and leaders overcome their exasperation and translate their visions into outcomes.

    His compelling story and methods caught the attention of the legendary Zig Ziglar, who broke his long-standing rule of promoting from within and recruited and mentored John. He is the author of What’s Your Excuse?, which has been translated into six foreign languages. John is a contributing editor for U.S. Business Review. In 2007, he wrote a bimonthly column entitled, “The Vision Thing,” focusing on how to maintain momentum when translating visions into outcomes.

    John’s insights on how the biggest vision can be derailed by the smallest bit of reticence are now being used to orchestrate the missions of visionaries and change agents around the world. Since 1995, John’s work has taken him to 15 different countries, pro-football organizations like the Miami Dolphins, and to Fortune 500 clients such as Boeing, GE, and State Farm. Moreover, he has worked with international companies such as Fortis, ST Microelectronics, and UniCredit.

    Recently, John put his feet where his heart is by taking on the role of Executive Director for Community Link, a non-for-profit organization, headquartered in Breese, Illinois, that helps adults and children with developmental disabilities. John oversees a six million dollar operating budget and manages more than 130 employees who provide a full array of services, including employment, job training, and housing, to more than 400 individuals. He will continue to speak to other companies on a limited and selected basis.

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John Foppe's Speech Descriptions

“All things are within reach when you reach within.” John Foppe dispels common myths and beliefs regarding motivation and taking action. Using his own unique experiences discovering what he could do and what he couldn’t do, John helps audiences analyze their inner critic and make things happen. While the sight of how John handles life with his feet will amaze you, once you hear his message, you won’t be looking at him; you’ll be looking at yourself.

Within Reach
John Foppe’s Signature Speech

John Foppe was born without arms, but he believes all things are within reach. As a child, he had difficulty doing the simple things most of us take for granted, and he led a life marked by dependency. At ten-years-old, John couldn’t put his own pants on. Today, he travels the world as an author and owner of a successful international training company.

In this fascinating, poignant, but ultimately inspirational speech, John recounts his transformation from victim to victor. But, more importantly, he helps you discover your own place in the world. Applying his own experiences and the special insights he’s developed as a trained counselor, John dispels these common motivational myths:

  • I can do anything.
    • You can’t do everything, but you can do something meaningful.

  • I must stop feeling sorry for myself.
    • It’s okay to be down. It’s not okay to stay down.

  • I must change my attitude.
    • Your attitude constantly changes—good today, bad tomorrow—that’s the problem. You must change your being.

  • I must overcome obstacles.
    • You can live around them.

  • If it is to be, it is up to me.
    • You will need help.

  • I was born to win.
    • You were born; the rest is your choice.

  • If John can do it without arms, then I can do it.
    • You can do more.

In addition, John reveals how to silence your internal self-critic, do more with less, and stay motivated. “All things are within reach, when you reach within.”

Getting It Done or Making It Happen?
Encoding Excellence into Execution

In "Get It Done" organizations, people show up and do their jobs. Work is fine, but not fantastic. In "Make It Happen" companies, employees don’t just do their work - they love their work. Employees don’t just meet their goals - they exceed them. Customers are not simply satisfied - they’re elated.

In this inspiring presentation, John Foppe, a veteran author, trainer, and adviser to executives, reveals how a "Code of Exasperation" can unwittingly exist within an organization defining the difference between "getting it done" and "making it happen". It’s no secret employees can become burnt out, fearful, and complacent. Instead, the secret is how these reactions kill vital initiatives.

John was born without arms, and he once led a life of dependency. He created his disability through exasperated perceptions, reactions and practices. Likewise, John reveals how employees create an organizational reality that either makes or breaks the company’s vision.

The "Code of Exasperation" can’t be purged, but it can be re-written into a "Code of Execution". John teaches how to encode a new reality and healthier roles where people execute in their own way. As employees understand the part they play in the big picture, they naturally embrace the vision. Rather than trying to transmit the vision to people, now people realize the vision through their own initiative. Instead of simply getting it done employees make it happen!

As a result of this presentation, participants will:

  • Learn how to fill the gaps between the company’s vision and desired outcomes resulting in higher productivity, better image and greater profits.
  • Experience how people take on a way of being that encodes itself into an organization’s culture, either making or breaking a vision. Inspiring employees to be the vision improves performance, increases morale, and develops superior service.
  • Identify their “set” perceptions and learn how these viewpoints close off their minds inhibiting creativity and spawning resignation.
  • Stop excuse-building behavior and challenge people to set higher goals.
  • Recognize the four types of exasperated employees and their predominant perceptions, reactions and practices, which increases attrition, angers customers and kills vital initiatives.
  • Identify the “Subconscious Conspiracy” - An unspoken relationship dynamic affecting the norms, values, assumptions, and rituals of an organization that perpetuates blame and kills initiative. Stopping the conspiracy eases conflict, alleviates stress and lowers turnover.
  • Recognize the four types of executor employees and their predominant perceptions, reactions and practices, which creates excitement, prevents costly mistakes and makes things happen.
  • Identify and ignite the “Conscious Covenant” - A transparent relationship dynamic where each person’s strength holds each other accountable creating camaraderie and a willingness to listen and learn.
  • Spot the “Have Trap” - A common motivational mistake of confusing incentives for the goal itself. Avoiding the trap empowers people to think creatively and do more with less.
  • Learn the “Path of the Executor” - An alternative paradigm of self-motivation and self-management where employees consciously internalize a vision and commit to executing outcomes enabling people to solve their problems.

Being an Executor, Not an Executioner
How to Get Everything Done Without Destroying Anything

Have you ever felt like a hamster on a wheel? The faster you go, the better you get, but better probably isn′t enough, so you have to go even faster - an exhausting cycle.

Eventually, work falters. Enter the executioner! Managers crack down with tighter controls. When controlled workers feel they have no choice, they stop taking initiative. Workers also become executioners - slowly killing initiatives with inaction.

John explains how to break the cycle by showing people they can choose to be Executors. Making things happen becomes a way of life. Employees will learn how to be executors through:

  • Realizing three ways of:
    • paying attention
    • stating intentions
    • applying efforts.

  • Walking the "Ellipse," a specific set of practices which mobilize one to navigate problems and maintain the vision.
  • Understanding how 90% of making something happen involves making oneself available. John details five benchmarks for employees to measure their own availability for making things happen.

No more painstaking efforts to get people involved. Now, people get involved! When people choose to be Executors, turnover drops, innovation abounds, targets get hit.

You Reap What You Sow
Harvesting Strong Business Execution Practices

When it comes to creating a culture of business execution, leading thinkers and visionary executives realize that employees need to make every practice an execution practice.

In this presentation, John defines execution practices and reveals how cultivating these practices positively impacts an organization’s culture.

John highlights the four root purposes of an execution practice and presents how our daily mindset influences the way we fulfill these purposes. He emphasizes the value of a "holistic" approach including every aspect of ourselves in the cultivation of execution practices. Moreover, he outlines how to integrate this holistic approach into our daily work.

In addition, John identifies the four basic functions of an execution practice. He explains how to design our daily practices to support the successful outcome of these functions and create a culture of execution. He reveals the 12 success factors that emerge when employees make every one of their daily practices into an execution practice.

Finally, John describes the productive affect strong execution practices have on the culture of the organization, and he explains how the presence of execution practices ultimately determines whether there is feast or famine.

  • When we approach our daily practices with a mindset of execution, we are more fulfilled.
  • When we design our daily practices so that they strategically achieve successful execution, we are more productive.
  • When we integrate execution success factors into our daily practices, the organization prospers.
  • When every practice is an execution practice, the entire organization harvests a culture of execution.

What People are Saying about Seeing John Speak

Rating Entries

    “John was GREAT!! He was the ′talk′ of the conference – from the time he was introduced, he had the audience engaged and was just everything and more than I expected!! I really think people could′ve listened to him speak ALL day!!”

    American Samoa Government

    (Event booked by Speakers Platform)

    “John was very personable and our audience loved him. He received all perfect scores on the evaluation!”
    Regional Access & Mobilization Project, Inc. (RAMP)
    (Event booked by Speakers Platform)

    “John spent close to a day with our 100 UniQuest participants. He connected with them, encouraged them, and stirred their thoughts and emotions…He is in the best sense of the word: authentic. Listening to him, you simply have to relate to him. There is no escape, no place to hide…”

    Markus Vorbeck
    Project Manager UniQuest
    Corporate Learning & Management Development
    UniCredit Group, Italy

    “John has the ability to put a person in contact with the deeper part of oneself, creating the possibility of starting the beautiful voyage of change.”

    Elisa Conti
    Training Manager
    ST Microelectronics

    “It is now several weeks later, and your keynote message is still the “buzz” of industry.”

    Sheri Hamilton
    Conference Manager
    VISION Hi-Tech Training & Expo

    “The way you took that attitude about life and tied it specifically to Westway′s business was impressive and meaningful to all of us. I appreciate you taking the time to visit with me and some of our other employees so that you could target your presentation to us and our business. This shows that you are truly concerned with providing value to your customer, and you do!”

    Jerry Stephenson
    General Manager Southern/Southeast Division
    Westway Trading

    “CMA encourages employees to “choose your attitude” as one of the philosophies of our business. John dramatically demonstrates that he chooses not to view his condition as a disability. His positive attitude has enabled him to overcome his personal challenges and achieve outstanding personal and professional goals. It’s inspirational to be reminded that regardless of the unique challenges each person faces, choosing our attitude makes all the difference between failure and success.”

    Judi Phares
    RTI/Community Management Associates, Inc., “CMA”
    2006 Winner of the American Business Ethics Award

    “People are still commenting on [your seminar]. You shattered the attendance record for an in-house Passport to Leadership session.”

    Casey Casort / Tim Violette
    Passport to Leadership Administrator
    / Director, P&C
    Space Systems
    Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power

    “Your message and delivery was poignant… Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise with our group. I know it will help them to reach their personal and professional goals.”

    Chris Brock
    Director of Advertising and Promotions
    REMAX Mid-States & Dixie Regions

    “John was able to correlate his handicap to Total Quality and team building in a way which encourages individuals to work with what they have and to do their best.”

    Oliver C. Boileau
    President and General Manager
    Northrop Corporation, B-2 Division

    “…the seminar you gave for the Central European Division of Kirby was truly something special. Never before have we experienced anything like this. Your message meant a lot to us and definitely will to others as well.”

    Wolfgang Mahling
    Supervisor Central European Division
    Kirby Gmbh & Co. KG

    “I have been the Educational Chairperson for the past four conferences; your presentation by far was the best received presentation during my tenure. The conference attendees talked for two days about your simple and realistic ideas…and renewed enthusiasm they felt.”

    Tom Walker
    Educational Chairperson
    Missouri Assisted Living Association

    “We had a mission, namely to help the Filipino people be all that they can be and more…John, without you being on the podium at both events the impact of the message we are striving to put across would not have been as strong. In fact, I believe that your message and presentation went a long way to contributing to the success of both the programs. Thanks!”

    Trevor A. Roberts
    Asia Pacific Seminars, Inc.

    “Your address served as a vivid tribute of how an individual′s will and determination can translate into the ultimate in human achievement. Your message was not only inspirational, but thought provoking as well.”

    Tim Garvey
    Executive Director
    Southern Illinois Builders Association

    “I′ve heard nothing but positive comments regarding your presentation. What you did for our organization will have long-lasting effects.”

    Art Chaparro
    Manager – Sales Support
    Dunn-Edwards Paints

    “John Foppe delivers a message of promise with jarring impact. The audience is immersed in his study of the human will.”

    Paul Horgen
    President and CEO
    IBM Mid-America Employees Federal Credit Union

    “Mr. Foppe is a big leader who taught us the main rules in order to be able to achieve our objectives.”

    Luis Eduardo Pérez Mata, MCE
    Chief Executive Officer
    The Cimex Group – México

    “Your presentation was right on target for the audience. The real life experiences you were able to relay and your personalization to their accomplishments as national award winners brought the message home on a very personal level.”

    Nancy J. Krull
    Marketing Services Manager
    Lester Building Systems

    “I want to thank you for your wonderfully poignant speech. My team is still talking about it.”

    Leighanne Roman
    Chief Operating Officer
    Speed Lube

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Books by John Foppe:

    What′s Your Excuse?: Making the Most of What You Have

    John Foppe, born without arms, has faced obstacles-both physical and emotional-his entire life. While some see his condition as a debilitating handicap, John disagrees. “Our only handicaps are those mental and emotional ones that prevent us from participating fully in life.”

    John is a creative problem solver, and his inspiring story will enable you to see that the only things preventing you from accomplishing your goals are self-imposed limitations. His education in clinical social work and his experience as a professional speaker give him unique insight on overcoming adversity. Here he reveals how to break through negative thinking and allow God to empower you to do great things.

    Order Here

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