Get to know NSA’er David Resnick

December 1, 2016

David Resnick grew up in Great Neck, New York and was never able to hide his stuttering as it was much more severe growing up than it is today.  Nonetheless, he didn’t let it hold him back from doing the things he wanted.  “I’ve always been a person who does stuff anyway,” says David.  When he was a high school senior he played the national anthem on the guitar, Jimmy Hendrix style, in front of the whole school, and followed the performance with a speech about ‘how to rock out’. Most high school seniors are conscientious about what others might think, but David did it anyway- stuttering and all.

As it turned out, others thought of his speech and performance as brave and an inspiration.  Fellow classmates complimented him afterward, saying that they appreciated that he talked and didn’t care how he sounded.  But he did care.  “I just cared more about doing it, so I plowed through,” recalls David.  And that’s how he continued to live. Even still, when opportunities arise, he does everything he can no to be held back by his speech. “Maybe there have been missed opportunities, but not many,” he states.

Refusing to pass up any opportunity for fun despite his stuttering puts an interesting twist on David’s projected personality.  David admits, in retrospect, that stuttering had a huge effect on the way people viewed him.  He became a caricature version of himself to try to keep things fun and light.  He was always joking around and having a good time, never letting off that stuttering bothered him.

“I think the crying happened on the inside. I never did cry myself to sleep about it [stuttering]. But there was pain.”  David recalls: “Every time I stuttered it mattered to me.  I wanted to sound good and come across as confident, but every time I stuttered it was like a little dart had been thrown into my back; it hurt.  Yes, it stung and it was uncomfortable, but it was not something I would cry about at the moment.  But after so many darts in your back, it weighs on you. It debilitates you and I think it debilitated me.”

With guidance and encouragement from his mother, also a psychotherapist, David says that he always considered himself to be a fairly self-aware person.  When he was 16, he attended a 3-day intensive therapy program.  He met a few people there who stuttered, but it was a strictly therapy setting and not a support group, so they didn’t talk much to each other.  Through his 20s, he had hardly any experiences with other people who stuttered.  David says, “I didn’t realize just how much I had been hiding from myself with the stuttering until I met other people who stuttered and started talking about it. It kind of showed me that no matter how much you think you know, you should keep an open mind and stay open to new opportunities”.

David received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from Bard College in New York.  In his late twenties, he started to gain confidence about his abilities. For five years he was a VJ (video jockey), and also produced visuals at Coachella, at the Whitney in NY, and worked with Diplo, Yo La Tango Band, and Enrique Iglesias. It was during this time on the road as a performer and meeting celebrities that David really began to change from the inside out.  David says, “I started focusing more on who I am and my expression on the world as opposed to being this goofy guy who is avoiding his stutter.” It was at the end of that chapter that he discovered NSA and started fresh.

David was thirty years old when he first discovered the National Stuttering Association.  In 2009 he met Mitch Trichon at a mutual friend’s birthday party who invited him to a local NSA chapter meeting in New York.  Two months later he was on a flight to the NSA’s Annual Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

David recalls: “The NSA is near and dear to my heart.  At the 2009 conference, the love started on my first day in my first workshop, called “fearless stuttering”, led by Kenny Koroll and Samantha Genusso. At the end of the workshop there was a Q & A, and I stood up in front of sixty or seventy people. As I stood up, I didn’t feel like I was being judged or hurried and rushed. I felt like I had all the time in the world to get my words out, and I started crying because I had never felt like that. It was a super powerful experience”.

After the conference, as is common, David felt a crash after coming down from such an amazing high.  He sprang into action and created a way for people who stutter to connect online.  He co-founded Stutter Social, an online community for people who stutter to join ‘hangouts’, a free and fun way to have a video chat with up to ten other PWS at a time. Stutter Social is still going strong, so check out the calendar to find a hangout time that works for you. (www.stuttersocial.com)

Later on, leaving New York, David moved to the west coast where he received his Masters in Computation Engineering from U.C. Irvine.  Today, 36-year old David is CEO of Bestr, a tech startup company.  Bestr is an app where users can request and exchange recommendations. Part messaging app, part social network, and part bookmarking tool, the app collaboratively builds lists and allows users to store and organize favorites easily.  “David explains, “I had asked a friend of mine from L.A. where to find the best tacos, and she recommended a great place.  A few weeks later I wanted to go to that awesome taco place again, and I looked for where I had written it down but I couldn’t find it. All I wanted to do was eat tacos, and I couldn’t find the name of the place. That is how I was inspired to start the app.”

David wrote to a few of his friends who were designers and specialists in computer science and after a couple of months of brainstorming about the solution to his taco problem, they came up with a plan to raise the fund necessary to begin production on the sophisticated product.  In order to fund the project, David and his team had to pitch to a number of private investors in a highly competitive field.  The pitches were done in person and it was important for David to put his best foot forward.  Stuttering was not going to hold him back, and he had to prove that it wasn’t going to hold the project back either.

When asked about advertising, David says, “I typically advertise by talking about Stutter Social. I am the co-founder, and that’s how I advertise it in the meetings with investors. Sometimes I’ve straight up said ‘By the way, I stutter, so if you see that now you know’, because the most awkward thing is when you start stuttering and the other person doesn’t know that what they are seeing and hearing is stuttering, and it can create an awkward tension. Advertising was a hard one; it took me probably two, maybe three years of working on it until I felt completely comfortable advertising.”

“I definitely used all of the resources in my arsenal to communicate how I wanted things to go in these meetings, and the biggest part of that is advertising. I learned through the NSA that it was saying, ‘Not only am I a person who stutter, but I started something that connects people globally (stutter social)’. They perceive it as a weakness, but I made it a strength. If I did not have these experiences in stuttering support, I would not have been able to pull off the successes that I’ve had so far“.  David is excited about Bestr which is now a five-person company, but has the potential for huge growth.  The app should be available around November 2015.

Because of David’s fantastic story, outgoing personality, and strong drive, he was invited to be a speaker at the TEDx Culver City event.  David’s talk, Using Technology to Build Empathic Resonance, included information about Bestr, the NSA, and Stutter Social.  David shares, “I’m all about creating experiences for people where they can connect, create opportunities within shared interests, and have an experience that brings some sense of connection, and ultimately more love. The 2009 NSA conference opened me up to this kind of thinking.”

When asked his goal for the talk, David says, “You don’t see a lot of people in the spotlight stutter. Joe Biden does not stutter on camera. Shaq doesn’t stutter on camera. There is still a stigma. Even when it is seen, the story seems to be about overcoming stuttering. That is fine by me if you want to hide your stuttering, but I have yet to see a person on mainstream stuttering where it isn’t a joke. So I have a goal of getting to that national spotlight and stuttering. That doesn’t mean I want to stutter or I love stuttering, it means it’s okay.“  David’s Tedx talk can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQLIWWob8BY&feature=youtu.be

Speaking of love, David divulges that for most of his life, it was hard for girls to take him seriously.  “They would hear me play music or sports where I was feeling good, then we would get talking and I would crack a joke in order to not stutter, and it would blow the whole thing.”  After attending his first NSA chapter meeting in 2009, David created an online dating profile and, for the first time ever, included in his profile that he stuttered. “It was a big change for me because typically if I met a girl, it was something I did not want to discuss; it was the elephant in the room. After attending just one NSA chapter meeting, there was a sea change for me.  I put it in my profile and I let it stay there”, he recalls.

This shift in openness about his stutter did the trick.  David met his now-wife, Dana, just a few days later. They went to dinner in Manhattan and she was aware that he stuttered coming into that first date.  David remembers, “I asked her about it afterward, and she said that it took her a couple of dates to really get acclimated to it, but that after a couple of dates she stopped hearing me stutter.”

David’s wife Dana works in the arts as well as a theatre director as well as a professor of acting at a university. She and David have now worked together as well after he wrote the music for a few of her shows.   They have a beautiful 16-month old baby girl named Avalon.

David proudly relays the NSA’s motto: If you stutter, you’re not alone.