In ‘Rise Above,’ Braun Offers Challenge to Readers
- By Elisha Bury
- Mar 01, 2012
When I started reading “Rise Above: How One Man’s Search for Mobility Helped the World Get Moving” by Ralph W. Braun, I was reminded of the idea of trying to separate the man from the myth. In this case, the myth is The Braun Corporation, which has undoubtedly touched the lives of many with mobility challenges. The man, on the other hand, is someone who might not be as well known. Yet “Rise Above” is as much a story of Ralph Braun as it is a story of The Braun Corporation, and separating the two is not easy work.
“Rise Above” begins as an autobiography of Braun, a man who built his own motorized scooter and van lift in his parents’ garage without any formal training. The book quickly turns into a profile of The Braun Corporation, chronically milestones from the company’s infancy to its current place as a mobility giant. The story is grounded with references to historical events and how those events helped shape the company and Braun. But instead of a boring company profile, the reader gets the inside story from Braun’s point of view.
That inside view ultimately carries the story. The straightforward narrative packed with “homespun wisdom” helps the reader feel what Braun felt as he set about making himself mobile and then helping his fellow citizens along the way. He infuses the story with tales of his determination and headstrong actions. The reader feels Braun’s exhaustion as he works full time, cares for his family and launches a company in his spare time; the reader also experiences his joy and triumphs. I began to wonder, is there anything Braun can’t do?
And indeed that’s Braun’s point. The Braun Corporation is merely the vehicle for that larger message: Anyone, no matter the circumstances, can climb the ladder of success and overcome any obstacle. Indeed, Braun delivers a motivational book that shows how he “rises above” everything that stands in his way: a death sentence at the age of 6, his poor upbringing, his loss of mobility, his lack of technology, his remote location, the attitude toward people with disabilities during that time, his inability to get a formal education, his lack of access to public buildings—and that’s just for starters. In the prologue, where Braun credits his heroes, his parents, for giving him the determination to succeed, he offers a sly challenge to readers: “See you at the top.”
The metaphor of climbing a ladder to success is a strange one coming from a man who uses a wheelchair, but when you read about Braun’s life and the challenges that he overcame to make sure he was “mainstream,” you see that it is an apt one.
Braun was born with a disability, muscular dystrophy, that put him far away from this metaphorical ladder. But rather than succumb to his immobility, he built the technology to reach the ladder and then to climb it. Next Braun decided he should help others climb that ladder by offering his tools to everyone, worldwide, faced with the same challenges.
“One of my father’s philosophies was that life is a ladder that you always want to be climbing—up,” Braun says. “He says if you’re not climbing up, you’re not going anywhere.”
What can a reader do but embrace that challenge and rise above?
If you’re looking for a motivational story with an entrepreneurial spirit in a quick-read format, grab a copy of Braun’s “Rise Above” today.
“Rise Above” was published by The Braun Corporation in 2010. Order a copy on Amazon or from BraunAbility.
Elisha Bury is the editor of The Mobility Project. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.