Hawaiians know it as the shaka, meaning hello or symbol of okay. I know it as the Hang Ten gesture, used by surfers to communicate “hang loose.” It can convey good, how are you, or a host of other greetings — all through the hand gesture of a raised little finger and thumb.

Legend has many origin stories for the gesture, but the Polynesian Cultural Center attributes it to Hamana Kalili who lost three fingers of his hand in a sugar mill accident, leaving him only the thumb and pinky. He used his remaining digits to communicate when the sugar cane rail cars were cleared for departure and others copied his shorthand, much like using a thumbs-up sign.

Kalili could have seen his loss of fingers as a shortcoming but instead turned his accident into a distinctive greeting that is still used far beyond the islands. Do you have a liability that instead may become a unique calling card if you embraced it? Perhaps you could hang loose about your misfortune and turn it into a signature feature.

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