Posts tagged with "Paralympics"

So Fortunate

by Lex Gillette

As I sat on the bench outside a building in the Paralympic village, I listened to an African athlete speak of his family and hometown. I was absolutely astonished to hear what his day-to-day life was like back home.

We are undoubtedly aware that there are places that don’t have the luxury of vehicles, television, and computers, but actually meeting someone who lives so simply and talking to him about his experiences is incredible.

We both spoke of our joy in competing at the Paralympic Games for our family and countries, but his situation was a bit different. How he finished in his events would dictate not only his future but the future of his entire family.

If he were to win, he guaranteed the necessary funds for food and clean drinking water for his family. The only substantial lifestyle change my finish would dictate is what sort of vacation I’d go on after the competition.

I shudder to think of what a poor finish might do for an athlete in a similar situation to his, but I am extremely thankful that I spoke to him. Hearing his experiences cemented one thing in my mind. I am so fortunate.

Do you want fries with that?

Walking into the cafeteria to eat dinner, all I could think of was the coming meal. I had been in the Netherlands for a week prior to the games, and there was no change in the food. We had eaten the same thing every day.

While my team and I talked about the foods we missed and wished for a better dinner, I listened to the athletes around us. I heard cheerful voices and words of gratitude. Yep, you guessed right. Many of them were happy to even be getting a meal.

As I sat there, I was overwhelmed by realizing how powerful a thing it is to have the option of ‘deciding’ what I want to eat every day. Many people around the world live without this privilege and count themselves lucky just to be eating.

Listening to their appreciation for even a simple meal recalled my earlier conversation with the African athlete. On average, our experience here in the United States is so different. Just knowing this, you have to realize that you and I are so fortunate.

Being an athlete

When you compete around the world, you realize that being an athlete isn’t just about jumping further, scoring goals, or winning races. Being an athlete is about learning.

Every time I’ve stepped outside the country in my 16 years of international competition, I learn about others. Through their stories and their experiences, I learn more about myself. The common denominator in this whole equation is how fortunate I feel to live the life I do.

The simple joys of life

Several international competitions have had less than ideal lodgings, and I have traveled to a few countries where the food wasn’t the greatest or might have been outside my comfort zone. (Did you know they eat guinnea pigs in South America? I hear they’re delicious, but I can’t see myself eating one.)

Many of the athletes from other countries were ecstatic to experience simple meals and a roof over their heads. They reveled in what we take for granted every day.

I’ve met a handful of athletes who were desperate to win a medal and ensure financial support for their family and friends. I’ve met athletes who are totally satisfied with a life free from electronics, the internet, and other distractions. I’ve had conversations with people who live life on the simplest of terms.

These are the sorts of things that I encounter when I travel which is why I love it so much. I meet true athletes, I meet people who really know what it means to live life, and I am constantly reminded of how blessed we are.

We are so fortunate.

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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.


Photo credits: B&W photo of Lex by Joris Debeij; Long Jump image by Joe Kusumoto

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.

A DAY WITH MY CLASSROOM CHAMPIONS!

Since 2014, I’ve had the privilege of being a mentor for Classroom Champions, an organization whose mission is to educate students nationwide on the importance of pertinent life skills like goal setting, perseverance, courage, and healthy living. Each month, I record a 3-5 minute video focusing on the topic for that month, and I speak on how that particular skill is incorporated in my own life. At the end of each video, I give my students a challenge. That gives them the chance to implement that skill into their own lives. That video is then made available to the classrooms around the country that I have been assigned to. My students will then send to me anything from video responses, Powerpoints, to essays, outlining the work that they did to apply the monthly theme to their lives. Classroom Champions lasts for the duration of the school year, and as you can imagine, those final days of school make it really tough to say good-bye to the students.

Toward the latter part of the school year, some classes are fortunate enough to receive an in-person visit from their mentor, and this year, I was the lucky guy who got to visit my students who attend Oak Grove Elementary in medford, Oregon. Listen, these classroom visits are so exciting and full of energy. After exchanging videos and having live Skype calls during the school year, meeting in person brings the mentor-student relationship full circle. As soon as you walk in the door, it feels as though you’re simply catching up with old friends. This classroom visit was nothing short of amazing! Check out this article that gives a great illustration of the day that I spent with my students of Oak Grove. I’m very fortunate to be apart of such a great organization. Always remember that kids really do have what it takes, they just need someone in their corner to help them see their potential.

WORKOUT OVERVIEW FEBRUARY 2018

I want to win a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games for Team USA. It’s that simple. The vision is so strong that sometimes I literally space out and imagine someone placing the medal around my neck, handing me flowers, and raising that American flag high for all to see. The icing on the cake would be hearing the national anthem echo throughout the Paralympic stadium. That’s what I want, and that’s what I’m training to achieve. I understand that it’s not easy, but it’ll certainly be worth it in the end. Here’s a little peak of the work that I put in from the month of February. Enjoy!

Workout Overview January 2018

Training for the Paralympic Games is no easy task. I put my body through rigorous workouts five days a week, but let me tell you, every single time that I step foot in the Paralympic stadium I come to the realization that it’s all worth it. This strength training from January is going to help me soar toward my goal of making it to the top of the podium in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. Check it out!