TEMECULA – Temecula resident Lynn Effinger was the keynote speaker at the 2017 Kiwanis California, Nevada and Hawaii District Convention in August at the Nugget Casino and Resort in Sparks, Nevada.
Effinger spoke about his life story from his book “Believe to Achieve – The Power of Perseverance,” choosing to meld the importance of member recruitment with his personal story about the power of perseverance. More than 800 Kiwanians were in attendance at the Inter-Club Luncheon when he spoke.
While Effinger has been involved in the housing and mortgage servicing industries for nearly four decades, his passions are community service and public speaking. He said the two subjects go hand in hand, especially as a member of the Kiwanis Club of Temecula Valley in Division 37 in Southern California.
“I joined Kiwanis in my community because of their mission to improve the world one child and one community at a time,” Effinger said. “Our club in Temecula is comprised of diverse, dedicated and committed individuals who really enjoy the camaraderie we share and the many community service projects we are involved in. I have been a member of other service clubs and I have been the guest speaker at others as well, but Kiwanis, to me, much more exemplifies the meaning of community service and fellowship with focus on the needs of children.”
Effinger is also the former producer and host of “Real Estate Matters,” a weekly radio talk show in San Diego, and the former founder, editor and publisher of Escondido Magazine. In addition to his varied vocational experiences, he also lectures as a motivational speaker, giving his live presentation to service clubs, corporations, trade associations, Key Club events, high schools and other organizations across the country, which he has done for more than 20 years.
“I became a motivational speaker not because I chose to be, but rather because I was compelled to do so,” Effinger said. “It all came about because at a very young age I discovered that I was ‘different’ than the other kids in my neighborhood.”
Effinger was born without a left hand. Growing up is a challenge for everyone, he said, and he recognized that his physical situation is less daunting than others have endured but that it added to his challenges nonetheless.
“I came to see that I had a choice to make,” Effinger said. “I could either sit in the corner of my room feeling sorry for myself, or I could just go out and do whatever it was that I really wanted to do.”
He chose to get moving. Effinger played five years of Little League Baseball, starting at age eight. He played in the outfield, at first base and even pitched some. But it was his hitting ability that earned him the most accolades and self-esteem. At age 11, his batting average was over .400. By the time he was 12 years old, his average nearly topped the .500 mark. Of course, this milestone was in Little League, but it is still an impressive batting average for a young person, especially one who only has one hand, he said.
While in high school in Long Beach, California, Effinger began playing to football, he said. As he entered his freshman year, he set a goal to play on the varsity football team as a senior. He said many years later, one of his high school football coaches told him that he was the most determined athlete he had ever coached. Effinger earned a place on the varsity football team as a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School as a running back.
The team came from behind to win the Moore League title that season. In the process, Effinger was named “most inspirational senior player” and the “most courageous football player of the decade” by the Long Beach Century Club. He was also given his school’s first “Courage Award.”
It was after that championship season and just before graduation that Effinger said he first felt compelled to become a motivational speaker.
“I was called out of class to go see one of my football coaches,” Effinger said. “He asked me to talk to another student who was missing fingers on one of his hands who was in his office and in some trouble. Coach wanted me to tell this young man about my experiences playing sports and other accomplishments, so I could try to explain the difference between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ attention.”
Effinger said he did not feel like any kind of role model at the time, but did as his coach requested.
“After I spoke with the student, coach pulled me aside and told me that I now had a responsibility,” Effinger said. “He said that responsibility was to help others learn how to overcome adversity to achieve success. I was 17 at the time and didn’t want the responsibilities I already had, but I asked coach how I was supposed to accomplish this. He said that was for me to figure out.”
It took a few years, but when Effinger was 23 years old, married with a son and another child on the way, he had an epiphany that would change his life forever, he said.
“I decided to get into the best physical shape of my life and try out for a semi-pro football team with the intent of then earning a tryout with an NFL team,” he said.
Effinger said that he felt if he could by successfully achieve these lofty goals, then he could demonstrate to others that through hard work, determination and perseverance one could overcome tremendous odds to achieve greater goals than anyone thought possible. He felt that was the way to fulfill the “responsibility” that Coach Crutchfield had given to him, he said.
Effinger worked out for over six months in preparation, and he not only made the team on the 1974 Southern California Rhinos semiprofessional team, he became their starting fullback and scored a decisive touchdown in the championship game, which the Rhinos won. He was also named “most inspirational player” by his teammates and coaches. He received a letter from George Allen, the former head coach of the Washington Redskins, inviting him to participate in a free-agent tryout camp.
“Every single goal I set that year came true for me,” Effinger said. “It was a life-changing experience that led me to tell that story over and over again to anyone interested in hearing about it, and it became the basis for my motivational presentation and my subsequent book.”
Through his motivational speaking activities, Effinger has helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for various charitable organizations. He often donates up to 50 percent of his speaking fees to charity, and he recently pledged to donate half of his speaking fees going forward to his club’s foundation to help with scholarships they give to local high school students.
Over time, Effinger realized that it was not the experience of getting an NFL tryout that fulfilled the responsibility his coach gave to him, but it was his continued pursuit of sharing his motivational story and of being involved in community service that did.
And now, in addition to serving as membership chairman and marketing communications committee chair at his club and being involved in their community projects, Effinger also serves as the president-elect for 2017-2018. He is also proud to serve as the Key Club adviser at Great Oak High School in Temecula and continues to speak at Kiwanis and Key Clubs throughout the western United States, as well as other organizations whenever asked, to give his inspiring presentation. It is just one of the ways he contributes to the mission of Kiwanis International. For his contributions to his Kiwanis Club in 2016-2017, Effinger was named Kiwanian of the Year by his fellow club members.
“When I get involved in something meaningful, I go all-in,” Effinger said. “And I am certainly all-in with Kiwanis.”