TEACHING PEOPLE TO SEE

How to Deliver When It Matters Most

By Lex Gillette

Be a rockYou’ve heard the phrase before, “Say what you’ll do and do what you say.” This is how you become reliable. When you’re reliable you can be trusted. When you can be trusted, people believe that you will deliver when it counts.

There’s a common sports phrase, “clutch time.” It means that when time is of the essence, and the game is on the line, you need someone to produce results. Outside of sports, you still want to foster that reputation for getting it done and avoiding the “unreliable” crown. Here are three things that will help you establish your reputation as reliable and trustworthy.

Be 100% sure you can deliver

Think about this. You plant a bunch of apple seeds in the soil. You water and care for them. A tree springs up from the ground and grows. Eventually, you walk outside to pluck one of the fruits only to realize that there are oranges hanging from the tree limbs, not apples.

That’s crazy! We should be able to trust an apple seed. It has one purpose: to fulfill the promise that when we put it into the ground, it will eventually bear apples for us to eat.

You need to be 100% sure you can deliver on what you promise.

For example, let me ask:

  • Knowing that you promised friends you would go to the movies with them that night, would you tell your co-workers that you’d stay late and help complete a project due the next morning?
  • Would you tell your boss you will write up a new proposal by close of business that day knowing that you have to pick up a family member at the airport at 3 PM?
  • Would you promise your partner a date night knowing that your rec league soccer game ends just a few minutes before you’re supposed to pick them up?

Your answer for all of these should be a resounding “No.” Particularly if you want your partner to stay your partner. (Sheesh! Do you have a death wish?)

Listen, don’t make promises you can’t keep. People expect you to produce the fruit you say you will bear.

Say “No”

Honestly, I feel like I’m coaching myself right now. I have a very hard time saying no.

If you’re like me, we get into these moments where anything seems possible. We really, sincerely want to help and say yes to everything.

  • Yes, I can help you do that.
  • Sure, I’ll meet you for coffee.
  • I absolutely have time to help you get that done.

Nine times out of ten, any single one of these requests is a small thing. But we say yes to so much that our schedules get weighed down with the promises we’ve made. We feel the stress of getting things done for other people as well as the stress to accomplish our own tasks.

Repeat after me – “No.”
Felt good, didn’t it?

It’s okay to say no. If you walk away from this post with no other insight, please remember to use this word. It will save both you and the person you’ve made promises to.

You’re saved because you’re not stressed or in a time crunch from the additional items that overwhelm your workload. They’re saved from your inability to put in the appropriate amount of time and effort required to satisfy your promise.

Saying no doesn’t always mean never. It can mean not yet. Circle back to the people who seek your help or offer them another time to check in with you. At a later date or time, you may be able to give a confident yes.

When you’re 100% sure you can deliver, you give your complete attention to the task and their needs. Saying no when you can’t do something will reflect far more positively on you than saying yes. Use the word.

Be honest

If you can’t do it, say so. Often people want to be everything to everybody. That’s just not possible. Nobody can be a master of all. I’ve tried. (See section on saying “No.”)

In my experience, you’ll be far more appreciated if you can stand there and say:

  • “I can’t help you because I know nothing about calculus.”
  • “I’m really not comfortable talking to you about those things, and I don’t want to be a part of that conversation.”
  • “I appreciate what you’re trying to do. But I don’t have the bandwidth to help right now, and I don’t know when I will.”

Some say that honesty is the best policy, but I heard Dr. Myles Munroe say, “Honesty is the only policy.” He contends that if you say, “the best policy,” you’re implying there are other options to choose from.

There is no better option when you’re faced with a request for help. Choose to be honest. Honesty can never undermine trust.

Don’t promise things that you can’t deliver, learn to say no, and be honest. If you follow these three rules, you will put forth your best effort in any aid you offer. That means you’ll have people calling on you because they know you’re reliable, trusted, and can deliver when it matters most.

___________

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.

Sight vs. Vision

by Lex Gillette

These two things wrestle with one another constantly.

Sight absorbs the visual elements of this world.
Vision unveils a world that can exist.

Sight reveals boundaries in our path.
Vision sees beyond boundaries.

Sight shows you what you do not have.
Vision gives hope to weary eyes.

 

Sight is present.
Vision is future.

The distinction between the two has been a crucial part of my journey. One that started with the loss of my sight and the revelation of my vision.

I can remember those last days when I could still see. I would follow my mom out of the doctor’s office sobbing with uncertainty and the unsettled feelings that lay within. I couldn’t quite understand what the doctor’s diagnosis was, but the tone of his voice revealed that it wasn’t good news.

With each visit, I would be asked to read the letters on the vision chart, and each time, it became harder to see. Eventually, I couldn’t make out the letters anymore.

In the visits to follow, the doctor would shine a light in my eyes and ask that I let him know when the light was on or off. Eventually, it became a challenge to even do that. I felt it coming. I knew I would have to live my life without sight.

Are you going to lean toward what you can see now, or what you see for the future?

As challenging as it was, losing my sight turned out to be a big blessing. It forced me to cultivate a vision of hope. A vision that was fed by my mom’s tireless push to give me agency and make my own way in life.

I could no longer read printed books, but my mom found someone to teach me braille. I could no longer see to walk by myself unassisted. My mom found a specialist to help me use a mobility cane. You know, the white ones with the red tip?

These two new skills, these new ways of gaining sight, changed how I thought about the future, how I viewed the future to be, and what it meant to be blind.

Now, I understood that I could graduate from school. I had a way to do the work. I could walk down the hallways at school. I could get on and off the school bus unassisted. I could navigate the mall on my own. The absence of physical sight was replaced by a vision of hope.

I began to lean toward what I saw for the future, and I began to understand that vision had no limitations.

Vision

What You See and What You Want

I know it’s a challenge at times. Something looks pleasing to the eyes, or sounds too good to be true, and you want it. You want it right then and there. Just reaching out and grabbing it, you can satisfy that immediate need.

Ultimately, a vision is even more appealing. A realized vision is a culmination of hope, work, sweat, and commitment. People inherently know that the fruits of that labor are much sweeter than instant gratification. However, many never achieve these goals, because they can’t keep that fulfilled vision in their minds while they do the work.

How many times have you walked into your room and flipped on the light switch? Probably more than you can count. It’s easy. Eyesight reveals the switch, and you turn it on.

You’re benefiting from a vision cultivated by Thomas Edison. He refused to allow the sight of failure after heart-breaking failure to overpower his vision. He had hundreds of near misses. It took him thousands of attempts to get it right, but we now have light bulbs because of his unwavering commitment.

Sight shows us what is.
Vision shows us what can be.

I invite you to close your eyes; remove yourself from the images in front of you. Open your mind and envision yourself as you travel through a space of endless possibilities, and no boundaries. Where are you going?

The duel between sight and vision will endure. You will have to decide what you want. Just remember, it’s not always what you see now that matters most.

___________

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.

FIND YOUR WINGS

by Lex Gillette

One of my first jobs was as a DJ for a local radio station back in North Carolina. I was one of the youngest people to ever get on the airwaves. I was around 10 years old or so, and my 12-year-old cousin, Calvin, also known in our family as Chubby, was my co-host.

We played all the top hip-hop and R&B hits from artists like Boyz II Men, Notorious BIG, 112, Outkast, Mariah Carey, and Snoop Dogg. We even had prize packs for callers who would ring in to answer music trivia. With all this activity, we had to have commercial breaks to pay the bills, but we did our best to keep those short so we wouldn’t lose listeners.

It’s funny how two young kids could take on this type of job. Well, we weren’t technically employed. We weren’t even being broadcast anywhere, but you couldn’t tell us any different. We had an old tape player, some blank cassette tapes, and we would record our favorite songs from the radio.

If you grew up in the 90s, you probably know about tape players. You press the two buttons together and the machine would record. In between our recorded songs, Chubby and I cracked jokes or pretended to be callers dialing in for music trivia. To us, we were the best voices on the air. Talk about good times. Imagination is bliss.

A great imagination allows you to go places and do things without limits or expectations. At the time, Chubby and I were probably doing something that most people wouldn’t expect. Our imaginations ran wild.

You have no idea of what is possible until you allow imagination to take the reins. As we get older, most people begin to move away from imagination. “Why indulge in something that isn’t real?” they ask. “That’s not realistic,” they add. “You’re dreaming,” they say, swatting away your imagination with the palm of their hand.

To those naysayers, I’d like to say, “That’s right. Chubby and I were dreaming big.”

My years of being a DJ did so much for me. It fostered my love of music. It gave me time with my older cousin. It fed my confidence, gave me a stage, and let me know I could craft my imagination into something real.

Imagination colors the experiences of our everyday lives, but it also gives us the vision for change and innovation. I’d loved to have been the person who thought:

  • “Hey, this tape machine is big and bulky. How about we think of an option that is smaller that can produce the same outcome?”
  • “Hey, this cassette tape is only 60 minutes long. How about we figure out an option that extends our recording time?”
  • Or better yet, “Hey, let’s figure out a way to get our radio show from the cassette tape onto the computer.”

(If I had figured that last one out, I would have been invited to give my TED Talk ten years earlier!)

I understand there are many, many moments when we need to think realistically. However, the realm of non-reality reintroduces us to a land where imagination is the spoken language and creativity is currency.

Muhammad Ali once said, “The man who has no imagination has no wings.” It’s okay to step away from reality and bask in the rays of imagination. To move forward and redefine the possible, you need to spend some time in your imagination. That is where ideas are born. That is where you find your wings.

You can go places and do things no one would expect. Just cling to imagination. Now fly!

___________

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.

YOU DECIDE AND NO ONE ELSE

by Lex Gillette

During the lead up to the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, my mom and I were fortunate enough to be one of the main stars for Procter and Gamble’s Strong campaign. In the 60­-second TV commercial, viewers were taken through my life’s journey, experiencing every twist and turn as I went from sight loss to top-level competitor for Team USA.

The beautiful thing about this is that my mom narrates the commercial. I’m biased. (Hey, it IS my mom!) But I must say that her vocal variety was absolutely flawless. At one point in the TV spot, you hear her say, “Elexis, it does not matter what anyone says. You decide what you can do and no one else.”

You may think it’s a cliché but think about it. How many times have we allowed another person’s words to rule over our life? How many times have we let another person’s opinions validate us? How many times have we given someone else permission to make decisions on our behalf?

We must step away from giving others the power to validate us. The same people you allow to build you up will be the same ones who can tear you down. That very statement spoken by my mom is a compass that continues to guide my life daily.

There have been times in the past when I caught wind of outsiders questioning how a high school teacher could allow a blind student to run down a narrow runway and hurl himself through the air.

Yeah, at first, I thought it was crazy too. But I began to believe in my abilities even when the rest of the world didn’t. With every stride down the runway, and every jump into the sand pit, I realized my mom was right. I decide what I can do, and no one else.

What are you battling right now?

Whose inaccurate opinions are keeping you from leveling up in life?
I dare you to go after that job that someone said you could never get.

Were you told you’re not athletic at all?
I dare you to go out for that sports team anyway.

What do you mean you’ll never find a solution to the problem?
Just because someone tells you this, doesn’t make it true.

I dare you to live your life boldly and unapologetically. I challenge you to pursue your vision with everything in your being, and never stop until it has been achieved.

In the pursuit of your vision, remember my mom’s words. “It does not matter what anyone says. You decide what you can do, and no one else.”

___________

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.

REMOVE THE BLINDFOLD

Listen, I love getting on stage and speaking in front of audiences of all sizes. During a competition, I’m able to communicate with a crowd, however, that communication is nonverbal. Spectators are able to see my hard work, my grit and determination, my love for track and field. When I’m behind a microphone on stage, I now have the opportunity to articulate in words what goes on in sport and in life. I get to express the true meaning of what I do, and why I do it. It’s so so much fun to be in that position.

What really gets me going is when I have the opportunity to utilize experiential learning activities to teach participants a lesson. In these moments, I’ve discovered that I learn just as much, if not more, than the actual participants. This was the case last week when I had the privilege of working with some high level Walmart executives.

The Walmart team was comprised of about 18-19 people and they were eager to get an idea of what we would be doing. Wesley and I gave a brief introduction, and afterwards, we took to the track to give them a taste of the “guide running experience”. In this activity, one person acts as the sighted guide, and the other person is the blind folded athlete. The two have to be connected at the hand with a tether, just as we would in a Paralympic race. On your mark! Set! Go! The pairs then walk, jog, or run from the starting line to the finish line. I can imagine that this is a sight to see.

At the conclusion of the activity, we debrief. How did you feel having to run with a blind fold on? Was it frightening? Why? As the guide, exactly how difficult was your role? How did your communication change during this activity? The answers that I hear are very interesting, but this one really blew me away.

Someone mentioned how there are times where you expect a person to see things how you see them, and for whatever reason, they don’t. It’s like a blindfold is covering their eyes. Those words echoed in my mind. How many times have we expected others to automatically understand where we’re coming from, our thoughts, and our prospective? A lot. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work like that. We sometimes need a guide, that person who will connect with us and help us gain understanding. It takes patience. Communication helps also. We can’t assume that people are seeing what we see because there are times when they are behind the blindfold. Offering insight surrounding your prospective helps eliminate confusion and increase discernment. So the next time you expect someone to see a situation as you do and they don’t, take a moment and recognize that this is your opportunity to help remove the blindfold.

GREAT THINGS REQUIRE GREAT LABOR

#TeachingPeopleToSee

We live in a world where a lot of people desire immediate results and instant success. We’ve gotten to the point where everyone is focused on a sprint, when it’s really a marathon. I remember the days when I desperately wanted to be sponsored by big-time companies. I wanted it to happen immediately. I felt that I had the accolades and resume to acquire support from companies like Nike and JBL. What I quickly realized is that it would take much more than medals and records. It would take a bit of work, and it would also require much patience. Always know that, great things require great labor.

What Do You See?

#TeachingPeopleToSee

I was asked to speak on Capitol Hill last Wednesday for a panel discussing the importance of early childhood education programs. The idea was to shed light on the need for high quality learning at an early age through resources like Head Start, a program which I participated in as a kid, and how Congress should continue supporting these opportunities to help our kids develop the skills that will give them the best chance to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally.

I have vivid memories of this time in my life because I still had sight. I remember reading and writing, I remember learning the colors, and to this day, if someone mentions blue or green or red, an image of those colors pops into my mind. As I mentioned on the panel, one of the biggest things that I gained from Head Start was finding my imagination. I gained the ability to see past reality. I learned to think differently, and think creatively. I think we can all agree that as a blind athlete competing for Team USA in the long jump, I have to think a little differently, right? Right. Those experiences helped shape my entire life, and I’m now flourishing in a world that tells me repeatedly, “You can see”.

I posted a clip yesterday of the quote that states, vision reveals where you can go, what you can do, and who you can be. The mind is a powerful thing. High quality learning is extremely critical for the personal development of our youth, and as we continue to grow and develop, we must make it a daily routine to learn, to try new things, to step outside of the box. Through these experiences comes power, a power that is available to us all. You gain vision. You begin to see past your current reality. You start to forget about, what is, and begin focusing on, what can be. You begin to see where you can go, what you can do, and who you can be. Tap into that power. Now tell me, what do you see?

I Am Not Vision Impaired

#TeachingPeopleToSee

I’ve been writing blog entries on a weekly basis surrounding my #TeachingPeopleToSee initiative. Now, instead of writing my thoughts on each quote, I thought it would be great to take a stab at recording audio clips of me speaking on the inspiration behind each quote. Check out this one entitled, I Am Not Vision Impaired.

Your Actions Should Say “I Can”

#TeachingPeopleToSee

I remember competing in the long jump in an indoor meet eight or nine years after I had lost my sight. We were at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and at this time, Coach Brian Whitmer was my long jump caller. In other words, he was responsible for clapping and yelling so I would know where to run and jump from. It started off terribly. Coach Whitmer’s claps were muffled by cheering fans. We were indoors. His voice was echoing through the stadium. The long jump runway and track were separated by stanchions. I ran into those. I just couldn’t get it together. Not too far away was a gentleman who said something along the lines of “what is going on?”. “This kid shouldn’t be doing this. He’s going to hurt himself.” This is what prompted me to post yesterday’s quote “I’ve had a lot of people say, you can’t, but my actions always seem to say, I can”.

One thing that will never change is that everyone will have an opinion. People talk. They’re going to have their thoughts on what you can and cannot do. Sometimes they’ll imply that you may not be able to conquer a certain task. There’s a saying that I’ve heard over and over again growing up and it goes a little something like this, “I can show you better than I can tell you”. I was 17 years old, competing for Athens Drive High School, at the great UNC, and I believed in something so much that I wasn’t going to allow someone else’s words to impede my progress. For the record, Coach Whitmer and I were able to make the adjustments and we finished the competition successfully with no bumps or bruises.

Who cares what the outsiders say. Actions speak louder than words, right? “How are you going to graduate from college? no one in your family has achieved that to this point.” Bury your head in the books, assert yourself, and soon you’ll show them that celebratory strut across the stage. “You haven’t made a putt from this distance ever. What makes you think it’ll be different this stroke?” Wait a minute, watch this *as ball rolls across the green into the hole*. “Why are you competing in long jump? You’re blind. It’s dangerous.” It may look dangerous to you, but I don’t see any issues with it, ha! You’re going to have others who say “you can’t” but your actions should always say “I can”.