Posts tagged with "legacy"

Best

by Lex Gillette

While baseball is a game of averages and football is played 60 minutes at a time, the long jump really is broken down by one simple column on the leaderboard, “Best.”

“Best” is the distance of your longest jump that day. That’s it!

If the number you post in the Best column is higher than everybody else’s, you’ve won. It’s one of the things I love about my sport. You’re judged solely by your greatest work.

Recently, at the 2019 World Championships in Dubai, I came away with the gold medal and a Championship Record of 6.45 meters, a little over 21 feet. But I also had the second shortest jump of the competition. In fact, that was my first attempt. You want to talk about a rocky start. Sheesh!

But I knew, even after that terrible jump, that I still had an opportunity to put forth my best jump.

The Competition

In the long jump, you initially get three attempts. After your third attempt, the top eight marks move on to the final round, and the competitors with those marks receive three additional jumps.

Now, the interesting thing is that of the eight who make it to the final round, all jumps are a part of the decision-making process. If you had your best jump of the competition on your second attempt, and that just so happened to be the best jump out of the six, then that is still your best for the day.

Indeed, like the sports mentioned before, my best was THE best for the day. My second and third best jumps were the 10th and 11th best jumps, respectively. That terrible first jump? It was the 41st best jump of the day.

If we averaged my jumps, it was comparable to an eighth place finish when compared to the leader board. But in fact, my overall average was the sixth highest average of all contestants. If only the top eight competitors move on to the final round of the competition, and we had gone by average, I would have been in ninth place and headed for the airport at the end of the third round.

That’s all interesting speculation but it all comes down to this:

In Dubai, my best was enough for the gold medal.

“It’s amazing how often opportunity is disguised as hard work.”

I’ve found some variations on this quote, but this is the one I’ve always heard, and the long jump is the perfect expression of how I view opportunity.

Like I said above, for each competition, you are only judged by your best number. I’m very fortunate to have posted good numbers in many of those boxes. But here’s the thing.

That’s not by accident.

That’s not luck.

I worked for those opportunities. I perfected my timing. I determined the ideal number of steps in my run. I practiced my form, my reach and my landings. I did countless box jumps and sprints and cleans and squats. I showed up time and time again to be prepared for my opportunity in each and every competition.

When you put the work in, you will have more opportunities. There’s just no getting around it. And the more opportunities you take advantage of, the more you, and everyone else, will see how you get it done when it matters most.

When your best isn’t THE best

Winning a medal at the Paralympic Games, it takes dedication, it takes some commitment, it takes seriousness. It’s definitely not an environment made for messing around.

You have to go out there and compete to the best of your ability. You’re going against athletes from all over the world, and that medal means something. Getting on that podium, that means something for your country, for yourself, for your family. It’s an achievement. It’s a huge accomplishment.

At the Paralympic Games, the ultimate Paralympic competition, I have won a Silver Medal in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. I’ve been to all the major international competitions since 2004, and I’ve won gold at every other competition.

Having the opportunity to go to Tokyo this year is very important to me. It’s a checkmark that I haven’t been able to put in that box yet. I want that opportunity. I want to know what that feeling is like, to stand at the top of the podium at the Paralympic Games with a Gold Medal around my neck and the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ playing over the loudspeakers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely proud of all four of those silver medals.

But I know I’d feel differently if I missed my gold medal opportunity because I didn’t prepare enough, or I didn’t apply myself. I didn’t train hard enough, or I didn’t do precisely what was outlined on the weight room regimen each day.

I know I’d be disappointed in myself if I ate junk food five or six times a week, didn’t fuel my body properly, or if I didn’t get enough sleep the night before a competition. Those would be things I could easily look back on and say, “Hey, I need to work on that” or “That’s why I don’t have Gold.”

But that’s not what happened. I put in the work. My best in those four competitions was, on average, five inches too short.

Am I okay with that? No. The competitor in me is going to Tokyo, my fifth Paralympic Games, and I’m getting gold. I’m continuing to put in the work for another opportunity to do that.

But can I live with that? Yes. But only because I know I put in the work, and I’ve taken advantage of my opportunities.

Incidentally, it helps that my lifetime best is the World Record 6.73 meters (22 feet, 1 inch). I know that in the entire history of the sport my best is THE BEST. (World Records deserve all caps. Don’t you think?)

But it all comes back to that simple principle of the long jump, rewarding our best efforts. Oftentimes our biggest wins in life are less about our averages than it is about putting forth our best effort when opportunity presents itself. So, put in the work, create those opportunities, and give it your best.

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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: Lex long jump picture by Joe Kusumoto; Dubai by the Numbers infographic created by EtterOps using Canva

Live Forever

by Lex Gillette

“The goal isn’t to live forever; it is to create something that will.”

– Chuck Palahniuk

This is one of my favorite quotes, and one that guides my actions every day. In order to leave a lasting impact on this earth, you must travel along the path, bringing others along with you as you move forward.

It does no good if I win gold in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games and not share with an up-and-coming athlete the best practices that will aid their athletic success. Team USA will be around long after I’m done with the sport. It’s only right to help develop new talent so that our country can continue to be successful for years to come.

I have a lot to offer up-and-coming athletes when it comes to training, competing, and (of course) vision.

But beyond that, I am a lesson in longevity and perseverance. I’ve medaled in four Paralympic games, and I am now training for my fifth. At the age of 35, I’ve just brought home my fourth consecutive world championship and set a new championship-record distance of 6.45 meters (a little over 21 feet for those who are metrically-challenged). And I am still the world record holder in the long jump in my category.

Let’s just say, I’ve been around the block.

A pinch of reality and a dash of humility

Oftentimes, highly successful athletes are insecure. It seems they’re afraid that if their “secret to success” gets out, someone else will come along and take their crown.

Listen, just because I give you the recipe, doesn’t guarantee the food is going to taste the same as when I cook it. And if you do improve on it, if it does taste better, I hope you plan on sharing some with me!

Athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before. At the Paralympic World Championships in Dubai last week, there were a total of 43 new world records that were set. 43!

Eventually, my world record will fall, but how great of a legacy will I have if I help usher in the new generation of American long jumpers to break that record?

It would mean a lot to the visually impaired who are inspired to try new things. It would mean a lot to me, to know that I can continue to give back to the sport that’s given me the world, even when my jumping days are done.

Champions are champions because they understand that building well-rounded people is much more important than building individual success.

Champions are champions because they recognize that to help others allows a greater number of people to thrive and operate on a grander scale.

Champions are champions because they understand that legacy has no expiration date. It will live forever.

Lead by example

So, get out there and compose new music that ignites inspiration. Write a book of life lessons geared toward building human beings who value character over currency. Create an after-school program to foster academic excellence in students living in underserved areas. Or simply offer someone an uplifting word they can latch on to as they navigate this crazy world.

Some things are here today and gone tomorrow, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I challenge you to find that one thing that will live forever, and ever, and ever.

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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: Infinity symbol by 463259 on Pixabay; Lex Legacy image by Joris Debeij