Posts tagged with "business"

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.

Tethers

by Lex Gillette

Have you ever seen an athlete who’s blind race with their guide in an official Paralympic competition? There are several things that you notice immediately.

First, the athlete wears a blindfold. That is a requirement in Paralympic sport for athletes who compete in the 11 classification. Next, both competitors, athlete and guide, are connected at the hand by a tether.

Back in the day, tethers were made from absolutely anything – lanyards, shoelaces, anything of that sort. Typically, there was a loop at either end of the string so that the athlete could place a couple fingers through the loop on one end, and the guide could put a couple of their fingers through the loop on the other end. This kept the athlete from going astray.

In 2018, if my memory serves me right (Give me a break, I’ve been doing this since 2004!), the International Paralympic Committee decided to regulate the length and type of tethers used in competition. Now, when we report to the call room for competition, identical tethers are given to each tandem for that race.

As you watch that race, you see the tether and you become aware of how closely the athlete and the guide are connected. It’s a relationship that allows them both to pursue and achieve athletic prominence.

Tethers of Another Sort

If you’ve seen me compete in the long jump, then you know that Wesley, my guide, stands at the takeoff board. In field events the guide is not allowed to move. And although we are not physically tethered, Wesley and I are still connected.

I listen to the sound of his voice and the clapping of his hands. I’m listening intently with each stride down the runway. My ear is tethered to his audible calls.

A tether is a symbol of connection. In life, when we’re connected with others, we feel involved, a part of something bigger, and our value increases. Contrary to that, when we’re disconnected, we may feel frightened, isolated, and alone.

Whether we are utilizing a physical tether or an audible one, a tactile one, or even a written one, these connections are important.

Tethers at Work

Imagine that you’re an athlete and you’re toeing the line for the 100m final. You’re blind, and your guide is standing directly next to you. The starter calls, “On your mark.” The two of you lower yourselves to the ground and you place your feet into the starting blocks. The tether is then attached to both of your hands ensuring that you’re connected for the race.

Once everyone in the race has taken their position the starter says, “Set.” You and your guide raise your hips and press the balls of your feet into the blocks.

POW! The gun goes off and the two of you shoot out of the blocks and begin your trek toward Paralympic gold. The sound of the crowd intensifies as you barrel your way down the track. Although the sound is deafening, you find comfort in knowing that you’re tethered to an individual who is guiding you to glory.

Now, you’re a long jumper. Your guide positions you in the correct spot on the runway. Your guide then jogs to the takeoff area that is 100 feet away. A voice echoes through the stadium. “Are you ready?” You get into your starting position, foot back, slight bend at the waist.

Your guide yells, “You’re pointed straight ahead!” From there a loud voice and the constant clapping of the hands fills the air. You take off in that direction. Only this time, a deafening crowd causes you to lose track of your guide. You’re now disoriented because your tether has seemingly been detached.

In the long jump, a screaming crowd can interfere with an athlete’s ability to perform at their highest potential. Most crowds understand what is going on during the long jump and they will accommodate by remaining silent so athletes can hear their guide.

It’s such a cool thing to witness 80,000 people grow quiet. Your guide’s voice is the loudest thing in the stadium. The claps are rhythmic, and they usually echo off the walls. You make your way down the runway, you jump in perfect silence, and when you successfully land inside of the sand pit, the place erupts in cheers. It’s one of the best feelings out there.

Connection

You see it between a quarterback when he throws the ball and it reaches the right spot at the right time for a receiver to pluck it out of the air. You see it between a pitcher and a catcher. You even see it between a parent and a child in the park or at a store. They’re all connected, and it’s more than simple communication. It’s guidance. It’s a common goal. It’s trust.

In business you strive to have a team that is connected. Sure, we’re able to achieve things on our own, but as the Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can achieve so little; together we can achieve so much.”

Tethers come in both physical and figurative form, and they’re designed to keep us connected. Guidance that we receive from a mentor tethers us to future success. Advice and encouragement that we get from coaches serve as a tether to big plays on the field. Direction and insight that we receive from our managers tethers us to professional success.

Tethers.

Connection.

Without it, we struggle to navigate through our lives. Without it, we spend more time wandering around instead of stepping in confidence toward our goals. Without it, a vision cannot be realized.


___________

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: All photos by Joe Kusumoto

My Vegas Adventure

by Lex Gillette

In June of 2017, I competed in the National Championships in Los Angeles at UCLA’s Drake Stadium. That was the qualifying competition for the World Championships which would be held in London.

I thought I was going to have a stellar performance, but it turned out to not be a great day. I didn’t jump as far as I wanted to. After that competition, I felt like I was in question. I didn’t feel confident and was worried whether or not my performance would be good enough to get me on the world championships team that would be headed to London a month later.

Long story short, I just needed to get out of town, clear my head; just get my mind off competition and track and field.

Thankfully, I did have a trip scheduled to Las Vegas. One of my friends was celebrating his 25th birthday. After competing so horribly in L.A., I needed a trip, and Vegas was the answer. (And no, it was nothing like the movie “The Hangover.”)

The Vegas Quest

This was the first time that my friend had been to Vegas. It was him and a couple of his fraternity brothers and me, and I was the only one who had been to Vegas before. So, they were taking it all in, all the lights and all the sounds and smells. It was destined to be a great time.

We got some food. We chilled out. Later on that evening, we decided to get dressed up, go out on the Strip, and walk around for a bit. We walked into the Bellagio, and these guys wanted to go into some of the designer stores there: Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton. While we’re in the Louis Vuitton store, I found a backpack.

Now, I’m fascinated with backpacks. I love them. I think a lot of it is because as someone who’s blind, I love to have my hands free. It allows me to walk around and use my hands and use my cane.

And this is no ordinary backpack. It’s Louis Vuitton. It’s made from gorgeous leather, and I’m touching these backpacks and feeling the straps and feeling the pockets and just imagining all of the things that I could put in there. I could easily take a weekend trip and perfectly pack a Louis Vuitton backpack, take it with me and be a stylish dude, the most stylish guy wherever I’m going.

My friends had been asking about and marveling about the prices all night. Typically, I don’t ask for a price unless I’m really interested. So, I asked. The associate told me and I was like, “Alright. Well, let’s get out of here.” There was no way in the world I was going to pay that much money for a backpack

We ditched the shops and hit the Strip, walking around, seeing the sights, and playing a little blackjack. That was fun, and I won a few dollars. I actually won a couple hundred bucks. So, that’s always nice. Thinking I can justify some more food or even more blackjack.

We get back to our hotel, and my friends’ flights leave the following morning around 9:00. My flight wasn’t scheduled until the next afternoon around 2:00. They got up and left for the airport, and I’m there alone.

Alone with a couple hundred dollars of blackjack winnings, five hours, and a very distinct, tactile memory of Louis Vuitton leather.

To be continued….

The Cane

Let’s back up a little bit. When I was a kid, and I lost my sight, I had an orientation and mobility specialist who taught me to use a cane. He taught me all the techniques I would need to navigate and explore the world.

Now, as an adult, I talk a lot about how challenging it was for me to get out of my own way and actually use the cane. In my head, I was thinking, “A cane? I’m not 70 years old. I’m not looking for my AARP card or my Social Security check. I don’t need a cane!” When, in actuality, the cane was the very thing that helped me gain more independence.

I’m about 6’2”. My cane comes up to my chest. It’s long and tall, but it lets me know what’s in my path. I can tell when I need to step down off a curb or navigate stairs. I can feel if I’m about to walk onto grass or gravel. It gives me so much information.

When I got to the point where I was all right with the cane, and I really started to use it, I realized the cane had so much power. For me, it became a symbol of freedom. It was independence.

It gave me the autonomy to walk around my school, then my neighborhood, then all around Raleigh, North Carolina, and eventually down the crowded Las Vegas strip.

The Quest Continues

I was at the hotel trying to figure out what my next move was going to be. At first, I was just going to walk around on the strip, but I got into this mental space where I could not get the previous day’s competition out of my mind. I could not push back the thoughts about how poorly I competed.

I thought to myself, “Man, you could use some retail therapy.” For those of you who have been to Las Vegas and won a little bit of money, you know there’s something encouraging about having Vegas’ money in your wallet. Sometimes it prompts you to buy something you wouldn’t ordinarily buy.

I remembered that backpack at the Louis Vuitton store, how nice it felt. My friends had told me it was mostly blue but had some red and white on it too. Being a Paralympic athlete for Team U.S.A., that resonated with me.

I thought, “Man, that would look really nice on my slender frame.” So, I get it in my head that I’m going to get from my hotel to the Bellagio, to that Louis Vuitton store, and I’m going to walk it.

But even with my cane being a fantastic tool, I needed more than simple directions from the concierge to get there. There’s this company that I work with called Aira. What they do is connect blind and visually impaired users to human agents via there phones, usually with a pair of smart glasses. This way the agents can see where the user is and help direct them to where they need to go.

I didn’t have my glasses with me (lesson learned: take your glasses to a new city), so when I connected with Connie via my Aira app she had to direct me by viewing my surrounding through the camera on my phone. She was great! She mapped out the route via computer and told me how long it should take to get there. Louis Vuitton, here I come!

Connie helped me right out the door, through the hotel and out onto the Las Vegas strip….in early June. It was hot. I mean, one-step-below-hell hot. But Connie had my back, and we were off.

My cane kept me out of immediate trouble, but there were other things that Connie had to help with. My phone camera wasn’t quite as efficient as wearing the smart glasses. There can be some issues with clarity and depth-perception for the Aira agent, but we were doing pretty well…until the escalators.

I’ll just say that going up the down escalator was not a workout I was fully prepared for that day. A few more little glitches here and there, but I got to the Bellagio unscathed. Then, a new obstacle presented itself. I doubt there are few things as comical as watching a blind man negotiate a revolving door.

I stood there, and I’m listening and listening as it makes the ‘whroom, whroom, whroom’ sound. Every time it made that noise, I knew that’s probably the opening I needed. I finally got up the courage to go. After that next ‘whroom,’ I stepped in there. I mistimed it and got squished in between the door and the wall a little bit, but I was able to weasel myself out of that. I pushed until I felt the air conditioning on the other side, and I quickly stepped out. Now, I’m inside the Bellagio Hotel. Bingo!

Connie’s still there with me, but my cell phone signal wasn’t very strong. She told me she saw the store, directed me there, and I let her go. I walked in, cane in hand. An attendant immediately came to me, and I told her I knew exactly what I came in here to get. She got the backpack for me. I felt it and checked it out. Yes, this was it.

She told me the price. I couldn’t completely believe I was doing it. I knew that I was going to have to starve myself for two months, but I wanted that backpack. So, I swiped my card and walked out of the Louis Vuitton store with my brand new backpack.

Before I could even get to the airport, there were more issues that came up. I didn’t know there was a designated rideshare area at the hotel. I didn’t use any fancy apps to find that information. I relied on asking the people around me, but my first ride abandoned me before I could find them.

Now I had no ride, and I’m thinking about my flight. My departure was fast approaching. I was getting nervous about making it to the airport on time. The thrill of navigating Vegas by myself and buying the backpack was pretty overwhelming, and it’s the thing I will always remember most about that day. But when I finally got to the airport and found out I had missed my flight, I was hot, tired, and just plain ready to go home.

But I had my Louis Vuitton backpack!

The Tools

Thinking back on my Vegas Quest, I think we all benefit from different tools. We all have canes. We have Aira or other resources that allow us our freedom and independence. But we sometimes just don’t recognize them as such.

We live in a world where people are constantly on their cell phones. Whether it’s on social media, talking, texting, or whatever, but your phone is a cane too. It’s a device that can lead you to new paths or even give you a straighter path to your destination. It can awaken you to new possibilities and totally shatter the barriers and limitations that you might have.

Every time you’re at school or work, and you have a pen in your hand or a keyboard on your desk, that’s a cane. That’s freedom. That’s independent achievement. If you write stories, dissertations, song lyrics, or even a business plan, that’s you breaking down barriers. You just have to view it as such.

Grab your cane and go. Grab whatever it is and go, because that’s going to be that one thing that helps you move forward. It’s going to help you see more than you ever thought you could.

You may have books in your room or in your classroom that you have never read. Read those. Those could be your cane. They could be the one thing that creates that path to help you navigate through your obstacles.

There’s so much knowledge, so much wisdom out there. We fail to use it because we look at those things the same way I looked at my cane when I was first introduced to it as an eight-year-old. “I don’t need this. I can figure it out on my own. I’m not old. I don’t look cool with this. This just isn’t me.”

When we have that mindset, we gyp ourselves. We rob ourselves of opportunities, rob ourselves of blessings, rob ourselves of possibilities, rob ourselves of broken barriers, rob ourselves of furthering our visions and shattering our limitations.

It could have been easy to surrender to those excuses and never use that cane. But when I made the decision to see it for what it was, I was able to travel, to broaden my world and my experiences. It’s funny that being blind and using this cane has helped me see so much of this world in such an intimate way.

I think it’s the same for a lot of us. We have phones. We have pens. We have books. We have computers. We have each other.

Grab your cane and go. Grab your cane and go.

___________

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: Rough Landing photo by Joe Kusumoto; Lex Feet & Cane photo by Joris Debeij, Las Vegas Sign photo by tookapic on Pixabay.

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!

___________

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

It’s Okay to Fail

by Lex Gillette

I was listening to a YouTube video recently where successful people were giving their insight into how we acquire success. Spanx founder Sara Blakely spoke about a regular conversation she would have with her dad.

He would ask her weekly, if not daily, “What did you fail at today?” He was often disappointed if she didn’t have an answer. However, she eventually encountered failures each and every day. The two of them would talk about each of those daily failures and they would celebrate them with smiles and high fives. Often, they even laughed about them.

Her dad knew that if his daughter wasn’t failing at something, she wasn’t putting forth enough effort, and she was taking no risks. She goes on to say that it altered her definition of failure to mean a lack of effort. What a great lesson for a child with so much promise. What a great lesson for all of us!

Unfortunately, we live in a time where failing is looked down upon. It’s a problem when we mess up. Consequently, most people are now afraid to fail, afraid to make a mistake, afraid to be vulnerable.

Our society sheds more light on the wins, the victories, the successes. We give more attention to the winner, and not the person who comes up just short. We give business owners amazing praise for increasing their company’s revenue in each quarter of the year. We’re amazed with a coach’s ability to lead their team to a perfect record in an NFL season. It looks bad if my record has a blemish or two on it.

What’s wrong with failure?

First, failure hurts. It doesn’t feel good to work hard and not get the result you want. This is readily evident in the sports arena. Second place is often far more painful than third place.

Secondly, we’re conditioned to believe that it is a problem when we fall short. A quote I recently posted in my social media reads, “It’s okay to fail, but giving up? That cannot be the option.” You’re going to fail at something. That’s inevitable, but you cannot quit. Failure paves the way to a better life.

I have failed

I began competing in the long jump as a junior for the Jaguars of Athens Drive High School. From that point, do you know how many years it took for me to win my first gold medal in a major international competition? Eleven. In all those years, do you think I never missed the sand pit at the end of a jump? (That hurts just thinking about it.) Do you know how my career was faring all that time? I tried my best, trained my hardest, believed in myself with all of my heart, but I came up just short of gold time and time again.

What kept me going was knowing that one day I would stand at the top of the podium. Not only did I realize that I would stand on the top step, but I knew that I would experience a lot of failure before I got to that point.

It’s okay to fail. All the most profitable and successful people in the world have failed at some point, but they learned something each time. I urge you to point out those moments when you’ve failed. Shed light on them and then figure out a way to overcome them.

Right that wrong.

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t feel embarrassed.

It is through failure that we’re able to realize our wildest dreams.

___________

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 missing the pit edited by EtterOps from footage in P&G promotion at https://www.ispot.tv/ad/AC51/procter-and-gamble-raising-an-olympian-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.

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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.

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.