- What is Junior Chamber International and how did you get involved with them?
Junior Chamber International (JCI) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to develop opportunities to empower young people aged 18 to 40 to create positive change. Since 1920, millions of men and women have joined JCI and gone on to become successful in business, community and many other walks of life. JCI USA currently has approximately 400 chapters with more than 10,000 members and, internationally, JCI has more than 150,000 members in nearly 120 countries!
Every year in JCI Santa Clarita, California, 40 individuals are chosen as leaders in their business or volunteer work and are recognized in the chapter’s annual “40 Under Forty” celebration. I was selected to receive this award in 2012 and, by winning the award, I received a one-year membership in JCI Santa Clarita. I began to attend and participate in JCI Santa Clarita events and saw how happy the members were, how much they made a difference in their community, and why they believed putting service above self was important. Shortly thereafter, I became an officer on the chapter’s board of directors and began contributing in my own ways for the years to come. I remain a member of this chapter today.
2. What is the ‘Ten Outstanding Young Americans’ program and why are you receiving an award from them?
The ‘Ten Outstanding Young Americans’ (TOYA) program is a prestigious program that began in the United States in 1938 which showcases and honors young men and women under 40 who best exemplify the finest attributes of America’s youthful achievers. Past TOYA award recipients have included U.S. presidents like John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, politicians like Joe Biden and Tulsi Gabbard, entertainers like Elvis Presley and Wayne Newton, and humanitarians like Al Gore and Tony Robbins.
Earlier this year, having just become one of only 87 Toastmasters International Accredited Speakers in the world, having delivered a TEDx Talk titled “How To Come To Life,” and having spoken at the United Nations twice in eight months…ALL IN 2019 ALONE,…I certified as a Human Potential Coach in order to help people discover and use their own power to make the world a better place. My efforts caught the attention of JCI California leadership and I was subsequently nominated for the award. The TOYA committee was most impressed by my personal improvement and/or accomplishments, my work with children and/or the autism community, and humanitarian and/or voluntary leadership.
3. What does receiving the TOYA award mean to you?
Receiving a TOYA award to me means that believing in and dedicating myself to making the world a better place for everyone is really what life is about. Obstacles and difficulties are going to be part of our life’s journey and not just how, but WHY, we overcome those obstacles and difficulties make us who we are. I want the world to see that your circumstances do NOT have to limit you or hold you back.
Being honored as a TOYA recipient to me affirms that I made the right decision in leaving my accounting career behind (I’m a Certified Public Accountant, too!) five years ago in order to help people on a personal level. I overcame the obstacles and difficulties of a social-communication disorder and mastered the art of public speaking, which is essentially socializing and communicating. By telling my story, I begin to bring out the full and true potential in both myself and others. This TOYA award is by no means the end for me…it is only THE BEGINNING!!!
4. What have been some positive changes you’ve made in your life that you feel helped you win TOYA?
I feel that by putting myself and my well-being first have played a significant part in improving my outcomes in life and had a direct role in helping me secure the TOYA award. For instance, earlier this year, I let go of and walked away from doing my mother’s bookkeeping after 15 years in order to fully welcome and embrace the new life I’m meant to live. After showing my parents how to do online bookkeeping, my relationship with them actually improved for the better and I could breathe easier and feel better about myself knowing that I was moving forward with what I wanted to do as opposed to what they wanted me to do. It was up to me to not only establish but enforce healthy boundaries and be able to say “NO” and mean it. If I kept giving in to what others wanted in order to please them or avoid ‘rocking the boat,’ then I’d be going against my mantra: “Know yourself. Love yourself. Be yourself.”
Thomas Iland (pronounced like “island”) was diagnosed with autism at 13 years old. Since accepting his diagnosis, Thomas has been recognized as an author, speaker and emerging thought leader. Thomas left his career as a certified public accountant in 2015 to become a keynote speaker, diversity & inclusion consultant, and certified human potential coach. His mission is to educate and motivate people to reach their full and true potential.
He is the author of the award-winning, best-selling book, “Come to Life! Your Guide to Self-Discovery” and recently became the only Toastmasters International Accredited Speaker with autism in the world!
Thomas has spoken at the United Nations TWICE…once on World Autism Awareness Day last April to share his knowledge and firsthand experience about assistive technology and successful law enforcement interactions for people on the autism spectrum…and again last December for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities where he discussed practicing diversity and inclusion in employment.
You can also see him on the TEDx stage in his talk titled, “How To Come To Life.”
Thomas currently lives in Santa Clarita, California, with his dog, Bridget, and has just received Junior Chamber International’s “Ten Outstanding Young Americans” (TOYA) Award!