This past weekend someone with a red can of spray paint made their way down Pico Blvd tagging buildings with their “art.” Most of us would call it graffiti, the police if they noticed, would call it a crime.
I have no idea who this tagger is, but statistically, it is a young man with too many bad influences and not enough good ones in his life. Typically raised by a single mother, without the stabilizing force of a father figure, the young tagger is desperately trying to make a name for themselves, trying to achieve some level of notoriety and increase their social standing.
Until they are arrested and begin their career in the judicial system, these young people run free and feel invincible. They are acting out a psychic pain that is rooted deep within them and will drive their actions for most of their lifetimes if they don’t confront it and resolve the issues.
I know a former tagger. He’s quite a leader. He’s turned his life around and gone from gang member, and drug addict, to world champion athlete, professional speaker, and father. His name is Chris Luera and I produced his biography, Beyond the Bars – From Prison to the Podium, co-authored with Michael Oropollo.
For the past three years, I’ve worked with Chris to help him grow from successful athlete to professional speaker and author. It’s been a very rewarding experience to see him blossom and develop into a remarkable public speaker.
When we first walked into the Westside Toastmasters club, which meets on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in the Ken Edwards Center, this muscled, tatted up, shaved head young man was a nervous ball of anxiety. A few weeks later he was ready to do his first speech, the Icebreaker speech, a 4-6 minute speech on who you are. I had to kick him up on stage, and haven’t been able to get him off it since.
Professional speaking is a passion of mine. For most people though it is their greatest fear, but for those of us who love the stage, who have something to say, and know how to say it in an engaging and insightful way, the stage is our playground. Last month I was at the National Speaker’s Association annual conference in Dallas Texas, along with 1,400 professional speakers, and had the best time. Think of the most fun cocktail party you’ve been to, and then grow it 1,500 people from around the world – that’s what this was.
I met keynote speakers, trainers, spokespeople and salespeople. Over the past year, I’ve developed friendships with speakers across the globe thanks to my involvement in the speaker community. One of the many benefits is being able to make connections and see the world through different lenses. The sense of perspective that comes from a more global mature place allows me to step back and consider things in a more respectful way.
When I first noticed all the tagging, I was upset with the young tagger who spent this weekend doing property damage to people they likely don’t know or care about. But I thought about it, and I recalled Chris’ story of being a young rebellious angry boy, who dealt with his pain by acting out. He paid a heavy price for that. Years in prison, and a lost youth, but today he’s on a better path. He’s making a difference in the lives of others by his personal coaching, his professional speaking and when he works with people who want to become calisthenics athletes like him. He spends hours each Sunday on the green space below the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel teaching people what he knows.
I’m not happy with the young tagger who is marking our city up, but I realize that they are likely in a lot of emotional pain, they’re probably lonely and hurting, trying to fit in and “be somebody” to a crowd or gang that doesn’t really care. I hope that the young tagger grows up and out of this anti-social phase, and becomes someone like Chris Luera, a leader, a role model and someone who turned his life around.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra