Ryan Gambrell knows something about adapting to take on life’s challenges.
Because of a bone growth disorder, he stands just four feet tall—but he’s never let that hold him back. He took up martial arts when he was four years old and made the US Men’s Karate Team as a teenager and young adult. Through his involvement with Challenged Athletes, he discovered the world of adaptive surfing and now competes as a member of the USA Adaptive Surf Team.
“Being involved in sports and competing has given me a lot of experiences that I’ve used in other life situations,” he says. “Overcoming adversity and achieving the goals you set for yourself are useful in any area of life.”
He took what he learned from sports and applied it to his career. Gambrell, who received his bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications from San Diego State University, spent much of his career in management and production, but decided he wanted to be more involved in the creative process and start his own design business. To make that happen, he earned a professional certificate in graphic and web design from UC San Diego Extension.
“It’s been a game changer. It’s allowed me to change the direction of my career to work in the creative industry in the way I wanted,” he says.
It also started him on the path to being an instructor at Extension: He currently teaches an introductory course on Adobe Photoshop. In his spare time, he’s a motivational speaker for children with disabilities, and he gives his students the same advice he gives the kids he works with.
“To ride the best waves in life, you first have to be willing to take a few waves on the head,” he says. “You have to be willing to put in the hard work and recover from the wipeouts that happen along the way.”
This story first appeared in UC San Diego Extension's Winter 2019 edition of Accelerate Magazine, produced in collaboration with San Diego Magazine. Read more from Extension including being part of the solution to the opioid crisis, the power of storytelling, and the beauty of bookmaking, or check out the latest edition.
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