Posts made in October 2019

So Fortunate

by Lex Gillette

As I sat on the bench outside a building in the Paralympic village, I listened to an African athlete speak of his family and hometown. I was absolutely astonished to hear what his day-to-day life was like back home.

We are undoubtedly aware that there are places that don’t have the luxury of vehicles, television, and computers, but actually meeting someone who lives so simply and talking to him about his experiences is incredible.

We both spoke of our joy in competing at the Paralympic Games for our family and countries, but his situation was a bit different. How he finished in his events would dictate not only his future but the future of his entire family.

If he were to win, he guaranteed the necessary funds for food and clean drinking water for his family. The only substantial lifestyle change my finish would dictate is what sort of vacation I’d go on after the competition.

I shudder to think of what a poor finish might do for an athlete in a similar situation to his, but I am extremely thankful that I spoke to him. Hearing his experiences cemented one thing in my mind. I am so fortunate.

Do you want fries with that?

Walking into the cafeteria to eat dinner, all I could think of was the coming meal. I had been in the Netherlands for a week prior to the games, and there was no change in the food. We had eaten the same thing every day.

While my team and I talked about the foods we missed and wished for a better dinner, I listened to the athletes around us. I heard cheerful voices and words of gratitude. Yep, you guessed right. Many of them were happy to even be getting a meal.

As I sat there, I was overwhelmed by realizing how powerful a thing it is to have the option of ‘deciding’ what I want to eat every day. Many people around the world live without this privilege and count themselves lucky just to be eating.

Listening to their appreciation for even a simple meal recalled my earlier conversation with the African athlete. On average, our experience here in the United States is so different. Just knowing this, you have to realize that you and I are so fortunate.

Being an athlete

When you compete around the world, you realize that being an athlete isn’t just about jumping further, scoring goals, or winning races. Being an athlete is about learning.

Every time I’ve stepped outside the country in my 16 years of international competition, I learn about others. Through their stories and their experiences, I learn more about myself. The common denominator in this whole equation is how fortunate I feel to live the life I do.

The simple joys of life

Several international competitions have had less than ideal lodgings, and I have traveled to a few countries where the food wasn’t the greatest or might have been outside my comfort zone. (Did you know they eat guinnea pigs in South America? I hear they’re delicious, but I can’t see myself eating one.)

Many of the athletes from other countries were ecstatic to experience simple meals and a roof over their heads. They reveled in what we take for granted every day.

I’ve met a handful of athletes who were desperate to win a medal and ensure financial support for their family and friends. I’ve met athletes who are totally satisfied with a life free from electronics, the internet, and other distractions. I’ve had conversations with people who live life on the simplest of terms.

These are the sorts of things that I encounter when I travel which is why I love it so much. I meet true athletes, I meet people who really know what it means to live life, and I am constantly reminded of how blessed we are.

We are so fortunate.

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Lex Gillette is a professional keynote speaker, 4x Paralympic Medalist, and 3x Long Jump World Champion who is currently training to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. He has been wowing audiences of all sizes with his athletic gift since 2004, and he has been inspiring audiences on the corporate stage since 2013. His ultimate goal is to teach others to look past their current reality and challenge them to see further than they ever thought possible.


Photo credits: B&W photo of Lex by Joris Debeij; Long Jump image by Joe Kusumoto

Don’t Go Broke

by Lex Gillette

If you’ve ever been to the South, then you have to know that there are some pretty funny sayings and expressions that are thrown around.

“You’re from my neck of the woods,” meaning that you’re from my area of town.

If you’re like “a bump on a log,” it means you’re absolutely lazy.

“Well that just dills my pickle,” translates as, “That makes me really happy!”

If someone’s upset, “She’s pitching a hissy fit.” If she gets even angrier, “She’s pitching a hissy fit with a tail on it.”

But if there’s one expression that’s universal and decidedly not funny it’s, “I’m broke.”

Having no money is rough. It weighs on you in ways that affect everything from health to education to self-esteem.

Money isn’t the only currency in our lives. Keep this in mind, a lot of people in this world “go broke,” not because they spend all their money, but because they fail to spend any of their time.

You realize how much something is worth to you when time is the currency.

When we look at a day, we’re all equals. We each have the same 24 hours to spend. It’s easy for us to throw money at our favorite foods, hobbies, and charities. That’s a simple transaction, but it really costs you something when your time is on the line.

For the past five years, I’ve been an athlete-mentor for an organization called Classroom Champions (CC). CC pairs Olympians, Paralympians, and professional athletes with students in underserved areas around the country and abroad.

As a mentor, I teach kids about important skills such as goal setting, perseverance, teamwork, courage, and healthy living. Each month during the school year is dedicated to one of these topics.

My job is to record a video lesson and explain what that skill is, how it looks, and how I use it in my life as an athlete, speaker, and human being. At the end of each video lesson, I give my students a challenge, something that they can do to apply that skill.

My students then report back to me on what they learned and how they applied the monthly topic to their daily lives. Students may record videos, write essays, or in the case of my most recent students in Phoenix, AZ, record a podcast. (It may come as no surprise that I prefer podcasts to videos.)

It was really exciting to listen to those kiddos chat about the short- and long-term goals they set for the year, how they persevered through their challenges, and how they thought more about their health than they did before.

Being a part of this program takes time. But you can tell how much this program is truly worth to me when I’m donating my time as the currency. These kids are so worth it. I thoroughly enjoy giving my time, sharing my experiences, and teaching skills that help them succeed.

It would be really easy to throw a few dollars at CC and hope that the funds would do the trick (and make no mistake about it, money is needed). But it’s relationships that make a lasting impact. The time we spend with these bright young minds is what makes a difference to them, and it’s what they’ll remember moving forward in life.

You can make more money, but you can’t make any more time.

Don’t short-change yourself because you fail to spend your time wisely. Failure to give your time can leave you and others “broke.”

Remember, even if you give a little, it means a lot. Take time to chit-chat and understand your colleagues at work. Spend the extra few seconds to ask the cashier how his day is going. Thank a police officer for her work.

And when it comes to the people who matter most to you, be absolutely certain you spend time on them: laugh and play with your kids, take time out of your day for your spouse, remind your family how much they’re worth.

Don’t go broke. Spend your time.

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Lex Gillette is a professional keynote speaker, 4x Paralympic Medalist, and 3x Long Jump World Champion who is currently training to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. He has been wowing audiences of all sizes with his athletic gift since 2004, and he has been inspiring audiences on the corporate stage since 2013. His ultimate goal is to teach others to look past their current reality and challenge them to see further than they ever thought possible.


Photo credits: Clock image by EtterOps

Catch Up to Your Vision

by Lex Gillette

And in those days, rigid patterns of segregation existed on the buses, so that [we] had to sit in the back of the buses. Whites were seated in the front, and often if whites didn’t get on the buses, those seats were still reserved for whites only, so [we] had to stand over empty seats. I would end up having to go to the back of that bus with my body, but every time I got on that bus, I left my mind up on the front seat. And I said to myself, “One of these days, I’m going to put my body up there where my mind is.”

~ Martin Luther King

Recently, I was listening to Martin Luther King’s autobiography. This paragraph moved me, certainly with its social importance, but there was more to it. There was tenacity and belief and motivation there. History has shown us that Dr. King had commitment, perseverance, and courage. We cannot deny that. All those things became real for me in that final sentence:

And I told myself, “One of these days I’m going to put my body up there where my mind is.”

How powerful is that?

Vision and action

I’m a huge believer in vision. Vision allows us to see things that aren’t yet in existence. It’s in my tag line. My speeches are centered on vision and how to take action. I use vision as an athlete, and I consider it essential to motivation.

Listen, everyone has visions, desires, and aspirations. For most people however, there is a gap between where their minds are, and where their bodies are.

To achieve these things and close that gap, you need to put forth effort. I’m not trying to scare you; striving for something more is scary enough on its own. But you need to know that it takes a lot. It will not come without effort.

Think about all it took for Martin Luther King to help push equality forward. Clearly, he had a vision, and he helped change the entire landscape of our country. He didn’t sit around doing nothing. He worked tirelessly, sacrificed, and put it all on the line.

Here’s the thing. He may not have been able to see all the fruits of his labor, but you cannot say he lacked vision or motivation. Certainly, he opened up that front seat for others.

Play catch up

We must catch up to where our minds are. We’re thinking five, ten, twenty years ahead and that’s a good thing. But it does no good to just think about it. Vision is nothing if we don’t act.

My mind is on winning gold in Tokyo next summer. I’m putting in the effort I need to put my body on the top of that medal stand because that is where my mind is.

If you want to know what that effort looks like, it’s five days of training a week with three to four hours each day. And I don’t just jump. I run 150-meter sprints or 80-meter uphill sprints or I do hundreds of repetitions for my abs. I go to the weight room and do power cleans, squats, weighted box jumps, single leg box jumps, leg presses, calf raises, and medicine ball throws. I do my best to consume the right foods, and get the appropriate amount of rest and sleep.

My effort is specific and intentional, and that’s what I need to do to close that gap.

Your mind is on Wall Street. Catch up to where your mind is.

Your mind is on creating an innovative piece of technology that will change how we live and think. Get up. It’s go-time.

Your mind is on being the first to do something that has never been done. Catch up to it.

Wherever your mind is, get your body there. The time is now. Let’s go!

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Lex Gillette is a professional keynote speaker, 4x Paralympic Medalist, and 3x Long Jump World Champion who is currently training to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. He has been wowing audiences of all sizes with his athletic gift since 2004, and he has been inspiring audiences on the corporate stage since 2013. His ultimate goal is to teach others to look past their current reality and challenge them to see further than they ever thought possible.


Photo credits: B&W photo of Lex by Alex Ingram at Art Is Being; vector drawing of MLK from Pixabay