This reading group guide forTwo Foot Fred includes a Q&A with author Fred Gill. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
A Conversation with Fred Gill
In Chapter 1 you reference a documentary that you produced. What is this documentary about? Do you have any plans for its release?
It was something in my gut that I felt I had to capture. One purpose (which I know now, and didn’t know then) was to capture my mother on video before she passed away. The filming also helped me in writing the book. There are no plans to release it anytime soon, but who knows what the future will hold. Clips of it could also show up in other projects. You and your family have developed many creative accessories to help you throughout your life, such as the walking sticks made by your grandfather and loops sewn into your pants by your mom. Given your business background and entrepreneurial spirit, have you ever thought about how you might be able to use your talents to make these items widely available to others with a similar disability?
Absolutely. It all funnels back to the nonprofit I am founding, the Freddie Foundation, and the ability to assess the needs of others due to working through my own needs. These experiences have given me a unique perspective, and I look forward as my platform expands to help many children and adults come up with unique and creative ways to live their lives as “normally” as possible.
In chapter 4 you write about your experience as a Boy Scout and achieving the highest level of scouting, Eagle Scout. Do you think being involved in Boy Scouts as a child has impacted how you, as an adult, set and achieve goals? Do you ever think about that missed aviation merit badge?
Yes! But, I appreciate my Eagle Scout status far more as an adult than I ever did as a kid. At that time in my life, Scout meetings were merely a Thursday night that could have been spent watching TV. Later, it was more adventurous and much more interesting to me. Being an Eagle Scout is something that can never be taken away. I have had many conversations with people across the country and they are ultimately surprised that I achieved Eagle status.
You discuss some of the hardships early in your life that came from relying on friends to help you with everyday, but often very personal, tasks. How do you think having to trust others around you during such an important time of development for a young man has affected your personality and your ability to make friends?
Fortunately, those needs throughout the last twenty years have become less and less. Today they are almost nonexistent, which has given me extraordinary freedom. At the same time, it allowed me to realize who my friends really are. It was and still is a great filter. Much different from childhood, on the issue of trust, today I do not have a need that is any different from yours. We all have had experiences with the lack of, or the embracement of, trust. My trust is no longer correlated with any physical need. However, it does often rear its ugly head when it comes to emotional trust.
On page 117 you write, “[A] job meant money and money meant freedom.” Do you still see money this way? How do you define success?
That was written from my teen point of view. It meant that money gave me the ability and freedom to buy gas, drive, and be independent. Today money is not the goal, but it could be a fun result. Success and subsequently, making money, is the by-product of doing something fun that you love. I now know that both money and success will help me help other people who are less fortunate.
Looking back on your experiences with Fred N’ Toby’s, what is one thing you know now that you wish you had known then?
If I had known it, I would not be where I am now! But if there was one thing, I remind myself as much as I can that you can’t be everything to everybody. That applies to lots of things in life, whether it is cooking the perfect steak in the restaurant business, writing a book, or entertaining people. Once you master one thing, then you can move on to something else. Otherwise, you are using the shotgun approach; whatever sticks may not be your favorite thing to do, and you are stuck in a spiral of searching for your calling in life. What’s your most memorable performance with Big & Rich? If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Waxahachie, Texas, at Country Thunder. We missed multiple flights due to a huge storm, and when we got there a foot of water was on the ground. I didn’t even get my scooter out of the bus. It was raining and there were only three hundred people who ventured out of their campers, but we performed as if there were 300,000. We gave them everything they came to see and more. Due to the terrible weather, we were one of just a few acts that performed that entire weekend. It really was one of the hardest pounding shows we’ve ever done and probably ever will do.
The “wild” Fred would have said the Playboy Mansion. The new (and yet childlike and precocious) rock-solid Fred says someplace that is deprived of entertainment and music in general. To perform for such a crowd and bring them ninety minutes of heart-pounding entertainment would be awesome.
You are very open about your struggles with alcoholism. Was it difficult to share this part of your personal life? What advice would you give to someone struggling with his or her own addiction or sobriety?
First, I don’t use the term alcoholism. I say I am an addict. No, it was not difficult. Instead, it was extremely liberating. Advice: Awareness is 99 percent of the battle. Once you are aware of it, you can make the commitment to take steps toward the healthiest choice for you. Addicts are always going to be addicts, but they can choose to manifest their addiction into eating healthy, working out, philanthropic work, etc. There are many positive ways you can fulfill an addiction, but you have to stop worrying about other people’s approval.
You’ve overcome a lot of adversity in your life. What’s one thing you’d still like to conquer?
Getting married and having a family.
What made you decide to write your memoirs now? Why was it important to you to tell your story? What projects are you working on now?
It is important that my book is released now because I have come full circle. I hope my story will compel others to think, “Maybe I have a situation I am not in control of that I need to investigate further. Maybe there are steps I can take to better my life and the lives of the people around me––or remove people around me who are not bettering my life.”
I am still very much entrenched in the marketing of my book. I also have several music and movie projects that I will soon take a look at to see which will have the most relevance for me in the future.