Episode 6 | Transcript

Published: Thursday July 27, 2023

Invisible Disability | Joze Piranian

Championing Inclusion and Resilience with Joze Piranian: An Episode of Transformation

Episode Transcript: Joze Paranian

Alycia Anderson: Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia, a podcast that gives disability a voice. Each week we will explore topics like confidence, ambition, resilience and finding success against all odds. We are creating a collective community that believes that all things are possible for all people.

Open hearts, clear paths. Let’s go.

Welcome back to another episode of Pushing Forward with Alycia. I am Alycia and I am super excited that you are back with us today. I am so pumped about our guest today, he is turned into a really great friend, I do not want to say BFF, but we are pretty tight.

I have got Joze Piranian, he is a five-time TEDx speaker. He is the winner of the Inspirational Speaker of the Year in 2017, a Forbes featured stand-up comedian who has performed all over the World: North America, Europe, the Middle East and performs in every language under the Sun: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, you name it, it looks like he can speak it.

He talks about inclusion and resilience, and his talks on inclusion and resilience have gone viral online, with over 1,000,000 views.


He has spoken to organizations such as Boeing and Google and Tesla, Meta and TikTok and it must be said that his accomplishments have not come easy.

He has had to confront adversity in a form of an invisible disability, which we are going to talk about that.

Joze will share with us today’s personal journey of transformation and his hard-earned insights about conquering fears, healing through laughter, which I love, and being exposed to discomfort and fear as an impetus for action.

Joze is championing, if I can say that word…, inclusion and resilience one stutter at a time.

Thank you so much for being here Joze, welcome.

Joze Piranian: Thank you, and I will validate the fact that I do stutter, so if you are listening to this right now, your Internet it is working just fine.

Alycia Anderson: Like, do you want to share with our audience a little bit about your stutter? If you identify as disabled or not? Like all of that, and maybe give us a little bit of… paint us a beautiful picture of who you are.

Joze Piranian: Absolutely, I was born and raised in Lebanon with a stutter because of which I avoided speaking and people almost entirely out of the fear of being judged for sounding different.

I would say that the stuttering is a speaking disability. In some cases, I have heard of people referring to it as neurodivergent. So, it appears to be at the intersection of disability and neurodiversity.

Alycia Anderson: I was looking on, the web on some websites last night about if people that have stutters identified as disabled or not. It seemed like there was like a bit of a controversy there. If it is something you identify with or not. So, I think that whole conversation, especially because we are in the work of inclusion and like diversity and all that stuff, we are having the conversation today about invisible disability, which is a huge topic so…

Joze Piranian: Yeah, to add to that, if we just look at the word disability without the emotional connotation it might entail it simply refers to the…  a challenge with being able to do something, and of course, if I think about it through that lens and the fact that a stutter can impede one’s ability to speak. Then it would through that logic be considered a disability.

I think a lot of people might be concerned that adopting that term would imply potentially limiting one’s realm of opportunities and action, but I do not think that that is the case.

I find that acceptance is often a prerequisite for action, for change or transformation and the most meaningful shift for me has not been the elimination of an obstacle.

The most meaningful shift has been changing my relationship with the obstacle. So that I can view fear and action as co-existing.

Alycia Anderson: So powerful. Was there a pivotal moment? Like, how did you push through the fear like, do you want to share that story? Because I think that that is really interesting too. 

Joze Piranian: Well, first of all, I grew up in the Middle East and I found that being different in Lebanon was its own challenge due to a lack of awareness up to this day, about ways that people can be different.

So, at the time, and until my perhaps mid-20s, silence and avoidance emerged as heroes of some sort in my life because they almost guaranteed protection from the world, protection from reactions that I would find hurtful. And that would further convince me that I am better off, staying quiet or silent.

I hoped through avoidance… and this reminds me of my second year of undergrad I had moved to Montreal from Lebanon and I was expecting naively perhaps that this simple act of relocating to a new environment would automatically change everything for me.

I assumed that once I am in a different city or country, I will be able to be myself, I will be able to own what makes me different and it will no longer affect me.

I was, however, reminded of that quote that goes, “Wherever I go, there I am.”

I got to Montreal the same patterns of avoidance resurfaced. I went to beg my professors to exempt me from all of my presentations. So, I kept on avoiding, and then I took a few steps that gradually changed everything.

Alycia Anderson: And what were those? I mean, can you share? I am sure there are people out there that are like, wow, how do you push through this!?!

Joze Piranian: I do always say in my stand-up comedy shows. I start by telling the audience. I have a stutter. So, I hope you like suspense.

So, to continue with the theme of suspense the first step was, so, I had learned this breathing technique that helped me control the stutter to some extent, that being said, even though I had learned those tools, my lack of self-acceptance prevented me from actually implementing them because I was going to sound different no matter what, and if I was not willing to be openly different.

And this perhaps is a nuance with invisible disabilities.

In some cases, you can attempt to hide it, and for me, hiding meant not speaking, it meant not expressing myself with the world, because in my mind, the cost, or the consequence of showing my difference would not [be] worth the potential… the benefits… that came with interacting with other human beings.

So, after hiding my stutter through silence unless I absolutely had to speak. I decided to join Toastmasters the public speaking club to start challenging myself.

Alycia Anderson: Did you have aspirations to be a speaker at that point, or was that just solely to help you kind of like navigate this? 

Joze Piranian: Interestingly, it was solely a challenge I had given myself to stop avoiding speaking. You see, I figured if I managed to speak in a situation that is far more challenging, such as public speaking in the context of Toastmasters at the time.

I figured all of the other speaking situations would seem more accessible as a result.

So, I certainly did not have any aspirations to speak professionally, it merely was a strategy that emerged out of despair after avoiding speaking for so long.

So first came the Toastmasters after that my mother had mentioned the son of a family friend who was at the debating club at my alma mater, and I decided to go to the open house at the beginning of the term to see what it was about, and I recall noticing that everyone was speaking so quickly and at such an intimidating pace, and I recall thinking this is definitely not for me.

On the way out, I talked to one of the organizers. I say, hey. I was considering joining the debating club as a way of challenging myself and my stutter, but I am not so sure anymore the pace is quite intimidating for me. And then, I will never forget this moment, he looks at me and he says, “I think you should do it.”

Alycia Anderson: hmmm…

Joze Piranian: And I always get emotional when I tell this story because to me, that is a… that is a beautiful example of allyship.

Alycia Anderson: hmmm…

Joze Piranian: Because it is not… it should not be… only about accepting and being empathetic. That is, of course, one indispensable part of that equation.

What he had done, is empowering, and believing in myself, when I did not.

Alycia Anderson: The powerful thing about that too is. There are people in our lives, all of our lives, that. See things in us. That we are not able to see quite yet. It can be literally life changing, that is so powerful. It just gave me the chills. That is such a cool story. Wow!

Let’s take a quick break. You are listening to Pushing Forward with Alycia.


Alycia Anderson: I am so pumped about our guest today. I have got Joze Piranian.

So how do you become this like five-time TEDx speaker on comedy stages? You were just on Canadian’s Got Talent. Audience superstar here.

Like, how did you go… how do you go from… this person who is silent, you know, who is avoiding speaking, to now, like, give me that mic and give me a stage!

I am totally into it! 

Joze Piranian: Let’s go.

Alycia Anderson: Yeah, let’s go. 

Joze Piranian: There’s a quote and I love quotes… And I love quotes, because it would only make sense that someone who stutters loves an efficient way to express a lot of ideas in one sentence.

Alycia Anderson: Makes sense? 

Joze Piranian: So, there is a quote by the Sufi poet Rumi that goes, “Why do you stay in prison? When the door is so wide open?”

Alycia Anderson: Wow.

Joze Piranian: And I, of course I will recognize that some obstacles are indeed very prison like. There are however some obstacles that are internal. So, if I use the example of my own journey the biggest challenge for me was not, or is not, the stutter itself. It had been… It had been the reactions that I would get from other people, and how I interpreted and allowed those reactions to interfere and impede what I wanted to do.

And in that sense, I was stuck in a prison that did have a way out.

And by way out, I do not mean not stuttering I mean not allowing the stutter… the obstacle… the disability… to get in the way.

So, to answer your question more specifically though in terms of how does one go from point A, avoidance, to point B, action. The name of one of my TEDx talks is, “Your breakthrough is not coming.”

Quite often we expect that we will go from point A to point B through a singular breakthrough moment.

When something will just click as we go running under the rain with Katy Perry’s Fireworks shining it in the background.

I simply have not found that to be the case, but for me this change occurred through what I call millions of micro moments of bravery. And these are moments during which I expose myself to the source of my fears. Again and again, and again.

Without really focusing on the final outcome, I was merely engaging in one fear defying action at a time.

And things evolved in ways that my younger self or even myself from just a few years ago would have deemed absurdly impossible.

 Alycia Anderson: Amazing, your worst fear might be your greatest asset. 

Joze Piranian: It is a portal. It is a trampoline. It is a compass.

Alycia Anderson: And I feel like that the point to all of this, too, is finally having, I guess, a relationship with all of the layers of who you are, and being able to be in that space, you know.

And, I am finding that in my own life now, and it is taking me all these years too, to not try to hide.

You know, I would hide.

The only time I could hide my disability was when I am driving a car, you know, and I would drive that car and like look at guys and be like free.

You know, it is like… the only time I could be free for me with my disability is when I was driving my car, and I could, like, flirt… And I could do things that I could not… I could do as a disabled woman, but not really. but… not in that way.

Joze Piranian: Interesting…

Alycia Anderson: You know…, but fast forward to today we are both in the space of, “Yeah, this is who I am.”

And I know the more you chip away at that and open up and the more vulnerable you are… magic happens, it is just really beautiful to kind of step in or roll into your own self and be real. 

Joze Piranian: And this is a very… That is a very moving example that you just shared.

I can definitely relate. For me, it might have been texting or maybe sometimes if I were, for example, at a party and the music was loud, so I had to maybe yell, and you only say, like, a few key words in those conversations.

So, it is a lot of work when we have to hide who we are, and it never works out in the long run.

There is always a negative moment that is on its way.

It reminds me of once again a quote. It is a proverb that I had read once, “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

Alycia Anderson: Hmmm! Aah, third or fourth chill you just gave me. When… If you do not allow yourself to be who you are in every layer of who you are, you might miss out on being you.

Look at what you are doing right now, if you would have continued to hide away the path that you are on right now, it would not be there probably, and for me as well, it is so powerful… to lean in to your fear and the things that you think that you need to hide from others because it is a little bit different.

Joze Piranian: And it is… If we…, if we look at it as a graph. I find that hiding our differences, our obstacles we may potentially begin the interaction on a higher note, but that line on the graph is going down.

However, if we acknowledge and openly reveal these differences than even though the initial reaction might be… depending on who the other person is… the… I mean… the starting point might be a bit lower on that graph, but it is a line that goes up because as we show more and more of who we are, we end up having interactions that are far more fulfilling, and we end up having an impact that simply would not have happened in hiding.

Alycia Anderson: I love it.

Joze has powerful platforms on diversity and inclusion, and he has got a lot going on. So, you should watch his TEDx talks. I binge watched them all night. They are just like watching Netflix. Do that. 

Joze Piranian: Yeah, I mean after watching all of my TEDx talks our friendship has evolved even more now.

Alycia Anderson: When you were talking about the people… the person… out there that said just do it.

You took me under your wing and now I am in this completely different space.

So, I did not think I… and you were such a huge catalyst to that.

So, I am grateful for that part of our friendship as well. So, I am so grateful for you being that for me.

For saying like, “Just do it.”

And, you showed me how, and then I did… and I got it… and now I have my own business. So… dunt-dunt-da-da.

Joze Piranian: I absolutely love that. Thank you for sharing that with me. I agree it was an instant connection when we first met. Super grateful for our friendship, and I do look forward to actually sharing a stage then we would have gone full circle.

Alycia Anderson: Aaah, it is going to happen!

Joze Piranian: Remind others that, the way life is today does not have to dictate the way life is tomorrow.

When I was 19, I was supposed to go to this big family reunion with all my relatives from different countries, and I was just so afraid of having to go with my… to go, and to be asked questions, to stutter and to feel so small, so insignificant.

I remember after taking a shower I went outside and I hung out for half an hour, completely drenched with a towel hoping to get sick so that I would have an excuse to stay home and not go to that family reunion.

And when people meet me now, they see me on stage, it is tempting to assume that, ah this guy he may have been naturally confident in spite of having a stutter, but that could not be further from the truth.

And, I like to say this to remind people that drastic change is possible.

Alycia Anderson: That’s a great pushing forward moment. I love it. You are an amazing person. 

Joze Piranian: Absolutely loved having this conversation. The…, love and the… admiration are beyond mutual.

Alycia Anderson: All right. Well, that is a wrap, everyone.

Thank you so much for your time today.

This is Pushing Forward with Alycia, and that is how we roll.