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Get Out of the Way!

Lex is walking from left to right across the track with his arm around his mom's shoulders. This is a still from the P and G commercial Lex did.;

I recently facilitated an online program for a group of professionals who work with students who are blind and low vision. The purpose of the event was to share my experiences as a blind student and to offer suggestions that might be useful for these professionals as they work with their students. This particular session was different. Why? I had a special guest who joined as well.

That special guest was my mom!

I think that I have some pretty good advice to offer when it comes to helping the blind and visually impaired, but if you really want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; it was my mom who set the course for me. I followed her lead and the rest, they say, is history!

I thought it would be amazing for my mom to join me for the virtual program, and as I suspected, her input was incredible. It never gets old listening to stories of how she moved mountains to ensure I had everything I would need to be successful in life.

When I listened this time, I couldn’t help but notice a recurring theme. She would say things like, “I didn’t want to shelter Elexis. I wanted him to be a kid and have fun. In order for that to happen, I had to get out of his way.” Or one of her favorites, “I’m not going to be around all of the time, so I taught Elexis how to do household chores like wash dishes, vacuum the floor, and take out the trash. My goal was to teach him these things, and then, move out of the way.”

I’m not a parent, but I can imagine that letting go is hard at times. It’s a natural feeling to want to protect your little ones at all cost. But, when I think back on things, my mom made sure I was safe, all while having the courage to loosen the leash, and let me go. I’d say it worked out pretty well, don’t you think?

I’ve gotten this question before. Lex, what would you suggest we do to help others realize their own potential? Well, in preparation for Thanksgiving, let me pass along this recipe to you. It’ll help in cooking up a huge pot of success…

Lex on the track, he has a Chef's hat on and is holding a spatula and a ladle.

My Recipe for Success

Step 1: Give them the power. Our goal should be to enable others, to give them an opportunity, to assist them in seeing what’s possible. Empower your family, your friends, your team mates, and your colleagues. Provide a safe space for someone to stand on their own two feet, to try new things, and to think on their own. I can’t stand it when people take full control and they don’t allow me to do anything whatsoever. Give up some of that control, empower others, and help them harness and unleash that potential that lies within.

Step 2: Be a guide for them. One of the chapters in my book is entitled “Where’s Your Wesley?” Wesley is my guide and friend who helps me compete. He provides support, and with his support I’m able to fly. I leaned on the strength that my mom provided. I lean on Wesley in competition. Allow others to lean on you. Provide guidance and advice that will help them understand which direction to go. Be that solid foundation on which they can stand.

Step 3: Get out of the way. That might sound a little harsh, but it’s true. At some point you must, in my Mom’s words, “move out of the way.” Just watch me compete in the long jump. Wesley yells and claps his hands, so I know which direction to run. I’m running full speed down the track and directly toward Wesley’s voice. At the precise and perfect moment, Wesley gets out of the way and I fly. If he doesn’t move, I’ll run into him. It’s likely I’d hurt myself, and him. Please don’t be the person who refuses to get out of the way. That’s a collision waiting to happen.

There you have it! Three simple steps that have helped me be successful in life. Three simple steps that will help you, and others, realize the potential that lies within.

Sadly, there are people out there who could care less about the steps above. They’d rather give someone a fish, instead of teaching them how to fish. They’d rather practice dependence instead of giving independence. Essentially, they’d rather employ you in tasks that get you out of their hair or even just in order to give you something to do, instead of deploying you out into the world with your own strengths and with your own vision of what you’re capable of.

Most would consider my story to be about achieving successes as an athlete, but look a little deeper than that. It’s really the story of a child who was empowered, a kid who had support, and it’s the story of a group of dedicated folks who knew when to get out of the way, and let that young boy fly.

And look what happened.

I’m still flying to this day!

Special thanks to the authors of my wonderful photos: Lex & Mom by P&G, Chef Lex photo by Alex Ingram – Art is Being and designed by EtterOps LLC.

A Message from Lex

This video was recorded on 3/21/2020 in Chula Vista, CA.

Since this video was recorded…

Our big question about the timing of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games has been answered. They have been pushed back to August 24th through September 5th, 2021. 

Thank you for all of the kind messages, texts, tweets, and  comments surrounding the delay. I know that this news causes different reactions from athlete to athlete and it’s tough news for many, but for me, the vision still burns brighter than ever and that’s what keeps me going.

And I ask that if you message me or text my phone from here on out, don’t offer me words of apology. I want to hear your words of affirmation. The way I see it, there’s an additional year to train.

How are you looking at the world today? What words of affirmation have you given yourself during the last several weeks? Remember, your vision can actually benefit from you taking a deep breath and honing your focus. 

So, create your own affirmation and say it out loud. It’s okay. Nobody can see or hear you right now anyway. And it will make you feel better!

Best wishes for good health, and please, everyone stay safe.

Lex

Lex Gillette is a professional keynote speaker, 4x Paralympic Medalist, and 4x 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: Video taken by Lex Gillette

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 4x 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: Close up of Lex in goggles by Joe Kusumoto. Eyes closed on the starting blocks by Alex Ingram, Art is Being.

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 4x 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 credit: Lex with arms spread by by Alex Ingram, Art is Being.