May 14, 2015 at 10:27 AM

YPO/WPO Dinner - Overcoming Mental Obstacles & Finding Energy

By Jos� Cofi�o

Physical Barriers - Mental Concerns 

I had to call to see if it was possible. It was the first time I was to go out to dinner with friends where Ben would not come with me, as he had another engagement. I had been invited by Dwayne Clark to join his YPO/WPO group. Though based in Seattle, they were in Santa Barbara for a retreat and I was to join in during their last dinner together. When I accepted weeks prior, I didn’t give logistics a second thought. Other than realizing Ben would have to drop me off, nothing crossed my mind. That is, until a few hours before I was to meet them at the Stonehouse Restaurant at San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, one of the best restaurants around, located, as the name implies, in an old stone house.


Out of the blue, the thought crossed my mind: can I actually get into the building and to our table? The questions then came in rapid-fire fashion: Are there steps? Is there an elevator? How close together are tables? Can I use my rollator to go from the car and navigate my way through the room? Is the wheelchair a better choice, but where can it be stored? Without Ben there, who would help with whichever device made sense to use? An event I was enthusiastically anticipating quickly became tainted by doubt and worry. I considered cancelling at the last moment, searching my brain for a plausible excuse for bowing out. And so, I called.

Mental Concerns - No Real Obstacles

The person at the restaurant could not have been nicer, explaining everything from where to park and assuring me access would be no problem. So, off we went. As we arrived, Ben went off to “scout” the situation: Where is the table? What are the path options? How far would I have to travel and what device would make it easiest for me to navigate my way. In the end, it was pretty simple. The table was outside, and there were paths leading to the patio that allowed be to avoid any steps, or other obstacles.

As it turned out, it was a good thing I went through with it. Dwayne insisted I sit at the center of the table, directly across from him. It was then he asked if I would be willing to share some words with the group. Now, you must understand that members of YPO/WPO are highly-successful business people. All are, or have been, presidents of companies from before they were 40 years of age – an impressive, dynamic gathering indeed.


Once we had ordered, dear friend Eddie Poplawski introduced me to the group and I was on. I began as I often do, with a synopsis of my life, sharing lessons I have learned along the way about life and living, about challenges and opportunities. Those gathered then turned to questions about my thoughts on deeper life topics all the way to questions of mortality. Some shared their own personal journeys. The incredibly kind words of support for me made me feel, as is always the case, at once motivated and a bit uncomfortable. The bulk of the evening became philosophical, with not an ounce of business discussion from accomplished business people.

Seizing the Opportunity - Going Beyond Mental Barriers

When Ben returned to pick me up, I was unbelievably energized. By sharing openly and honestly, I had received such a terrific gift back. With hugs all around, I parted ways with the group, knowing I would see some again, hoping to share time with all at some point, and satisfied with having had the experience. Certainly happy that I had mustered the will to go through with it, and wondering why I had worried at all in the first place.

José Cofiño is living with ALS, having been diagnosed in 2012. He and his partner, Ben Trust, founded BeyondALS to increase awareness about the disease and raise funds for research. He writes and speaks about overcoming adversity. He may be reached at [email protected] and followed on Facebook at BeyondALS

Posted in Living With ALS.