I think my greatest frustration is when people make excuses about why they can’t do things.
Being of British stock, I’m pretty much genetically endowed by my ancestors with the idea that you are the only excuse why you can’t accomplish something in life. So stop convincing yourself you can’t do it and go out and do it.
But then there’s Desmond “DJ” Calvert, aka DJ the Lego Man. Born with no arms or legs, he nevertheless decided at a young age that he wanted a LEGO kit as a gift. His parents didn’t know what to say, but little did they realize they’d be starting him on a path that would lead him to inspire children and adults to accomplish things they didn’t think they could with the simple maxim of: “If I can do it, then so can you.”
It’s hardly a stroke of bad luck to be born this way. He may not have fully completed limbs, but DJ has become a local celebrity whose gifts distinguish him for his mindset rather than his body.
“There was no reason for it. I was just born this way,” DJ explains to me, regarding his disability. When people ask about it, he just shrugs and says, “It’s not like it makes a difference. I drive, I work. I live my life.”
As a Lego enthusiast myself, this is something that I definitely wanted to check out so I reached out to DJ and arranged an interview.
DJ hails from Northern Ireland. As a part-time driver (yeah, he’s also a professional driver, operating heavy farm equipment and transport trucks), he divides his time between demonstrating his Lego skills for school kids and charity events showcasing his skills to raise money for the local rescue services.
“I like to tell kids that if I can do it, so can they.”
I’m challenged by LEGO kits. I love doing them, particularly the Star Wars kits, but as the Mega Bloks company holds the Star Trek license, I can’t resist collecting them. I asked DJ if he’d ever consider doing those. He shook his head. “Nah, never was interested,” he tells me. I had to chastise him for his lack of good taste. Perhaps I’ll be able to change his mind. 🙂
Of course, the problem for me is storage. I never have enough room to display my finished products. DJ doesn’t have an issue with that. He has an entire shed devoted to the assembling, storage and display of his kits. When you get a look at some of the complicated and intricate kits he has in here, it’s not just a wonder, but you can see that this is a medium of expression for DJ.
Born without complete limbs, he has no manipulative fingers to pick up the various pieces of intimidatingly complex Lego kits. One would think that this would be enough to thwart him from trying to assemble a kit, but despite the difficulty factor, DJ somehow does it.
“I asked my parents for a Lego kit when I was a kid. They were worried at first, I mean, Lego is a lot of money! Would I actually do it, they asked? I said I would. It was one of the construction equipment ones.”
That desire turned into an expression of positivism. DJ now boasts over 135 unopened and 60 completed models in his shed. More than just trophies of his skill with Lego, these are expressions of that positivism. DJ can complete these kits, but moreover, he shows school children that he can complete something that no one would expect him to. In that demonstration, he communicates an idea that whatever challenges they face in their lives can be overcome. With just the simple desire to do so.
At present, DJ the LEGO Man has appeared on BBC Newsline, UTV, Radio Ulster and made multiple appearances at various schools around Northern Ireland inspiring kids with his contagious attitude and “can-do” spirit. If there’s anything that students need to learn in this day and age, it’s not what can set you back, but how can you rise to the occasion and overcome obstacles in your way?
Well, quite frankly, I don’t think that’s a message just for kids. There are problems in the world that require hope and a desire to see things through. The adults who blame external factors in their lives for holding them back are the ones who weren’t exposed to a person like DJ
If you watch the video, he doesn’t stop. He has a system in which he organizes his pieces in a rotating tray. He then carefully manipulates them and keeps going until the kit is assembled. It’s the sheer determination to see the task through that astounds me.
I can’t even do that with a set of fully formed limbs. I run out of patience and get tired of the project and wind up breaking it up into several nights. It took me over a month to build the Mega-Bloks Enterprise and that has over 3000 pieces. If you look carefully at the picture of DJ’s collection. You can see that there are complex construction vehicle kits with piece counts well into the thousands.
DJ the LEGO Man raises money with his talents for charity drives that support the emergency services in his community. Sometimes he races against the emergency personnel but it’s all in good fun and it’s a wonder to see him deftly collect and assemble the pieces into completion.
“There’s nothing different about me other than I’ve got no fingers!” he tells me with a laugh. “But in the end, I get the job done and it’s something that the kids can understand. It’s a great feeling to see their faces. It’s brilliant.”
Maybe it’s the fact that the kids see him offering no excuses. If you read some of the comments from the kids, you can see that they appreciate this sentiment but they also want to imitate it. For some, it’s just about the Lego, but for others, they see this guy who offers no excuses about his life, accepts situations and simply goes on his way to see a job done. I tell you, school kids could do with more of that idea in their lives.
Speaking as both a Lego enthusiast and a teacher, I think we could all learn a lot from DJ’s spirit.
…I’d still like to see more Star Wars kits in his shed though. 😉