News and Updates

3 black teenage boys face the camera wearing blindfolds. 1 in front with the other 2 over each shoulder.

I Wish the World Was Blind

With all that has been going on in our country, and world, I figured I’d take the opportunity to speak out.

When I say speak out, I literally mean that.

I’ve been a part of Toastmasters for the past couple years. If you don’t know Toastmasters, it’s a global group of individuals who work to improve their public speaking skills. I figured joining the group would help me increase my speaking abilities. Similar to training, in order to get better you need to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

In September of 2020, I decided to embark on a new journey, the journey to become the Toastmasters’ world champion of public speaking. There are multiple levels that you must win beginning with the club level. Your local Toastmasters club has a contest. You have to write a 5-7 minute speech, present it in front of the group, and the judges select a winner. I won my club competition.

I then moved on to the next round, the area competition which was held last October. I won that round also.

Some of you may have registered and logged on for the division level which was held last month in March. If you were there, then you were able to celebrate with me as I won that round too. Now, I’m on a roll!

Next up? The district level. I’m facing off against winners from other districts across the state of California. Then comes the regional contest or quarterfinals. That round will then have me battling other speakers from different regions across the globe. Then will come the semifinals, and the finals.

The Toastmasters International Speech Contest is a time for speakers to share something impactful, a message that will resonate across the land. Without giving up all of the goods, I believe that I have a strong message:

I Wish the World was Blind.

That might be a little bit off from a grammatical standpoint, but that’s my title and I’m sticking to it.

Today, we’re seeing it all unravel right in front of our faces. There has been blatant mistreatment and murders committed by law enforcement. We had a very interesting presidential race and I think I heard the outcome was rigged? Tons of things going on in our country and world. As I talk about in my speech, I wish the world was blind.

We just might live in a better place if people could see beyond what is in front of their eyes. If you could see more of my character than my color, things would be better. If we didn’t operate with so much pride, we just might be even more productive. If we weren’t so focused on imposing our beliefs on others, we just might be able to work through imperfections.

It’s truly a shame to know that our world is evolving in so many ways, but when it comes to matter of race, growth seems to stall.

May 15th is the next round of the International Speech Contest. I’ll be there, dressed to the teeth, and ready to go. I’d love for you to mark your calendars, register for the event, and root me on as I go for the title.

It’s going to be a great day for sure, but most of all, you’ll get to learn why I wish the world was blind.

Photo credits: Blindfolded youth photo by Asiama Junior from Pexels

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.

October is the Best Month

Photoshopped pic of Lex dancing with a party hat on, confetti falling and balloons. In big letters, "Happy Birthday to Me!"

A lot of people out there enjoy the month of October because of Halloween. I personally love the month because it means it’s time for a celebration…a birthday party!

Yes, my birthday is October 19, and even though COVID killed any real get-together this year, I was still showered with virtual love and kindness from family, friends, and loved ones (see a couple below). Oh, and I received some awesome gifts as well. Can’t forget that!

There’s one gift that I really want though, and it won’t be ready until next year. Let me set the scene for you.

I went to my first Paralympic Games in 2004. 19 years old. Fresh out of high school. First time in Athens, Greece. Heck, first flight across the Atlantic Ocean. I remember walking into the stadium and hearing the fans, the cheers, the excitement. I remember running down that runway and soaring to my first Paralympic medal. It was silver. Not bad for a first shot. Right? I don’t think so, especially when I had been working with my guide for about two weeks prior to the competition. Of course, I wanted gold, but it was my first Paralympic competition of any kind.

2008 was my second Paralympic Games, and my first-year training at the Olympic Training Center in California. This was the year when Wesley and I began to work together full time. Fast forward to the competition in Beijing, China. I remember being in the silver position. The Chinese athlete was sitting in the gold medal position. I had one last shot to take him down. I took off down the runway. I’m moving like the wind, as fast as lightning, and something weird happened. I usually take 16 strides in the long jump. Once I take that last step, I should be smack dab in the middle of the takeoff board. Well, on this day, I messed up. I made a huge mistake and leapt from step 14 and not 16. This basically means I’m much further away from the long jump pit, but it also means that I lose that distance because the officials measure from where the takeoff board is. I was so sure I would nail that jump and take down the Chinese competitor in his home, but I jumped the gun. No pun intended. I ended my second games with another silver medal.

In 2012, I got injured two weeks before our Paralympic trials. I’m off the track for about four or five weeks. When I finally return, I have about five weeks to get ready for London, my third Paralympic Games. Let’s talk about that injury though. I strained my quad during a race in Canada. I remember feeling the pop. I fell to the ground. I immediately knew that something was wrong. Team USA had me on the next flight out of Canada to begin the healing and recovery process. I returned, took an MRI, and received the dreadful news. A torn quad. Fortunately, I work with some of the best pros in the business, and they whipped up a plan that would have me ready to compete in London. At that point, I’d never really been injured. Although my medical team had gotten me back on my feet, I began to second guess myself, and wondered if I could hit it as hard as I did before. Will the leg give out? Will it affect my jumping abilities? Just for the record, my left leg is my jumping leg. I had injured my right quad, but I wondered if that would have some sort of negative impact on how far I could fly. Long story short, I make it to London. I compete, and once more I land in the silver medal position on the podium. Third time, but this one felt different. I didn’t know how I’d be able to compete having had to sit out for a month. Then I only had about five weeks to prepare for the biggest stage. I’ll take it.

2016. Rio de Janeiro. If you don’t know the story by now, open my book and read chapter 8. By far, one of the most heart-breaking things I’ve been a part of. I believed that was my gold medal, and for reasons outside of my control, I didn’t get it. Another silver medal goes in the war chest.

Panasonic birthday image from Twitter. PIc of Lex and it says, "Happy Birthday to Team Panasonic's Lex Gillette. We hope you're running and jumping into another great year! - Panasonic"

The greatest gifts are the ones we give ourselves…

I’ve been competing for 16 years now. I began training for the Paralympic Games in high school. I’ve been doing this for half of my life. I won plenty of gold medals, at every level: national championships, Para-Pan American Games, World championships. But the one that is missing from my collection is a gold from the games. That’s the birthday present that I really want. I’ll have to wait until August to have an opportunity to get it though.

People ask, “Are you annoyed with always getting silver at the Paralympics? Does it sting sometimes?” Yes! I don’t go into competitions saying, “I gotta get that silver today!” I train to win gold.

Think about it. You study to ace the test. You cram knowledge in your head to pass the bar exam, to get your nursing certificate, or earn your insurance license. It takes work. And I’ve put in A LOT of work. Yes, I haven’t aced my test yet. But do you know what? I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe if it’s something you really want, you go after it relentlessly until you get it. Winning a gold in Tokyo would make for a great story, wouldn’t it?

I received some remarkable gifts this year. But I’m working hard to get myself the gift that I’ve been wanting for almost 20 years…the gold medal and Paralympic Champion crown. When that happens, October 19, 2021 will be a birthday bash to remember!

Don’t Let Life Throw You a No-Hitter

We all have favorite colors, our favorite foods, favorite shoes, and even favorite people. Guess what? I have favorite sounds. And some of those sounds are associated with baseball.

Hitting a home run ball has an unmistakable sound. A batter stands at the plate, swings, and a loud thud echoes through the air when full contact is made. The crowd noise starts off as anticipation. Then, as the ball travels farther and farther, cheers grow louder. As soon as the ball clears the fence, the entire stadium erupts and music blasts as runners head to home plate.

That’s not the only sound baseball gives me. What about the sound when the pitcher throws a dart past the batter, and it hits smack dab in the middle of the catcher’s glove? STRIKE! “Get him outta here!”

It was a no-brainer for me when I was asked to throw out the first pitch during a AAA game between the Charlotte Knights and [the Durham Bulls]. This was my opportunity to create one of the very sounds that I love so much. It was also another opportunity to conquer something new and exciting.

4-panel shot of Lex practicing his pitching, 2 left panels from Lex's point of view as he pitches, 2 right panels show Kelly's point of view catching the ball
Click to watch some highlights from Lex’s practice session.

 

The Windup

I learned that one of our strength and conditioning coaches, Kelly Ahner, had played ball back in her hometown. She offered to help me work on my pitch. (Come on now, did you really think I’d go out there without any sort of practice? Never!) Ashley Renteria, a strength and conditioning intern at the Olympic Training Center, agreed to come out and help also.

This is how we did it. There’s a ton of land at our training facility, so we found an open space, measured 60 feet 6 inches, I stood at one end, and Kelly set up at the other end with her glove. She would yell “Right here Lex, right here!” I would dial in to where she was perched and throw the ball in her direction.

I’ll be honest, the first few times were a little off, but my excuse remains true! Hey, I’m blind!

Seriously though, once I got a feel of how far she was and where I needed to throw the baseball, I began to hear that sound that I’ve come to love so much. Wind up, rotate, release, and strike! Smack dab in Kelly’s glove! Wind up, rotate, release, and strike! Smack dab in her glove!

The Pitch

When the day came for my first pitch, I was a little nervous. I got a few practice sessions in, but it’s a little different when it’s time for the real thing. I was escorted out onto the field and took my position on the mound as the announcer introduced me.

Then it was time.

The place went quiet. The catcher began to hit his glove repeatedly so I would know which direction to toss the ball. I locked in, cocked my arm back, and let it fly. Smack dab in his glove! Strike!

I love that sound.

He Swings and Misses

Let’s think for a moment though. Have you ever had a great opportunity come your way and failed to capitalize on it? Yeah, me too. What about a second shot at something great and it still didn’t turn out in your favor? I can relate.

Guess how many years it took for me to win my first gold medal at a major international championship? One? Nope. Two? Shaking my head. Try nine. It took me nine years, and although I made the podium in the preceding years, I never stood on that top step.

Keep Swinging

How did I keep going? I refused to believe that I would not win gold. I had faith and trusted that it would happen. I continued to fight, to push, and I refused to quit.

If your vision is extremely vivid and clear, then don’t settle for anything less.

Where do you see yourself and your opportunities right now? If your current view doesn’t align with what you see in your vision at this very moment, then you’re not supposed to remain where you are. Believe that.

When things don’t go your way, say to yourself, “This is not where I’m scheduled to be. My vision shows me in a better position.”

Keep working. If the next opportunity comes your way and you fail to capitalize on it, say to failure, “You will not keep me from realizing my vision and purpose. I see something greater.”

Imagine you’re standing at the plate, bat in hand, waiting on that pitch. Failure cocks its arm back and rifles the ball toward you. Strike! The ball smacks the catcher’s glove. Sheesh, another opportunity lost.

You know what coaches say to batters who are in a slump? Keep swinging. It’s the same in life. I’ve swung and missed many times. You probably have too. Opportunities have flown right by us all, right? Guess what? Keep swinging.

We all miss a pitch or two (or nine). It’ll be frustrating. It’ll disappoint you at times but keep swinging. You may strike out here and there, but never allow life to deal you a “no-hitter.” Stay focused on your vision and purpose.

I promise, if you fight through the slump, if you keep swinging, you’ll eventually make contact. Hear those cheers? That’s your success, and it’s flying right out of the yard.

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: Baseball by Ernesto Rodriguez (@Lernestorod on Pixels.com), video stills by Lex Gillette; book cover photo by Joe Kusumoto.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2020

It's Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), and that is so exciting. What it all boils down to is creating access for all.

Like I mention in my video, there are lot's of great technology resources out there that help me. From screen readers like JAWS and VoiceOver to the smartphone app Aira, I can access so much more of the world than ever before!

So, all you creators out there, all you doers and shakers, coders and makers, take a few moments today to think about what you're putting out in the world and what you can do to give EVERYBODY the autonomy to utilize your tools and to share your vision.

And for a great lesson in accessibility, try the T-Base Communications GAAD Quiz.

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

A Quick Memory Fix

Email your good memories to Lex at Lex@LexGillette.com.

A quick memory fix…

For my last post, I reminded everyone to take a deep breath to help them with the stress that goes along with times of uncertainty. This week, I want to share another technique I use to keep my spirits up.

It’s as simple as remembering a good day.

Oh, and listen for an opportunity to win an advanced, autographed copy of my upcoming book, Fly! Find Your Own Wings And Soar Above Life’s Challenges.

Lex Gillette Fly!



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 by Lex Gillette, cover photo by Joe Kusumoto