Posts tagged with "positivity"

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

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

Classroom Champions

by Lex Gillette

Six years ago I received an email telling me about a mentoring program. Classroom Champions is a nonprofit organization where athlete mentors are paired with students of underserved schools across the nation. The mentors are responsible for helping the kids learn about pertinent life skills inside and outside the classroom.

At the time, I was training for the Rio Paralympic Games. Although I thought the program sounded interesting, I didn’t think I would have enough time to devote to it. So, I put it to the back of my mind.

Several months later, I received a tweet from Steve Messler. For those of you who don’t know, Steve Messler is a Gold Medal bobsledder. He was a pusher on Team USA’s four-man team that won in Vancouver in 2010.

Steve wanted to set up a phone call. During that call, I learned that Steve was the CEO and President of Classroom Champions, and he was very interested in getting me involved.

While we were speaking, I thought back to the initial email. Emails are often impersonal and just don’t have the same kick that an actual conversation does. I heard the fervor in Steve’s voice, how passionate he was. He and his sister, Dr. Leigh Mesler Parise, founded Classroom Champions and have grown it into an international organization affecting change in classrooms and donating needed technology. He is a strong advocate for the power of sport to make the world a better place.

During our phone call, he said, “You know what, Lex? I really would love for you to be a part of this program. I think that you have a lot to offer the children we serve. I think that you would also get a lot from the program as well. I just feel like you would be a great asset to our team, and we really want to go into schools to help kids to dream big. We want them to see that they matter. We want to enrich their lives and put them in a position where they can go out into the world, they can flourish, and they could be the best versions of themselves.”

He’s the head of this great organization and his passion was, and is, infectious. By the end of the conversation I found myself saying, “You know what? I would love to be a part of the program.”

The Program

Classroom Champions is a year-long program. Each month is dedicated to one skill. For example, every September, we have our goal setting month. We want to start those kids off learning about short-term and long-term goals. Oftentimes in life, goal setting is the trampoline that bounces us up to the next level. From there, we cover subjects like diversity, community, perseverance, teamwork, courage, friendship, and healthy living. We end the year with, “We are champions.”

For example, when we talk about goal setting, I tell my kids about short-term goals and long-term goals. At the end of the video, I say to them, “All right, guys, I want you to write down what your long-term goal is for the school year. Then I want you to write down three short-term goals that you can achieve along the way that will ultimately help you accomplish your long-term goal.”

As part of the program, they either write down their answers or they record videos. As a blind mentor, I love the videos. I’m able to listen to what the kids are saying. Being able to actually hear my students throughout the year helps me out a lot because it enables me to hear their vocal variety, their vocal inflection, how they speak, and the words they say. For me, having that vocal feedback builds an image of who my kids are.

Since the program is virtual, I have a lot of reach throughout the country. I’m located in San Diego, California, but I have had classrooms in Seymour, Indiana; Camden, New Jersey; Phoenix, Arizona; and even right up the road in Los Angeles. I contribute the videos monthly, but I also do a live chat with my kids once during the fall and once during the spring.

2014 was my first year with Classroom Champions, and I’ve been totally locked in ever since. To say that the program is near and dear to my heart is an understatement. When I began to lose my sight when I was eight years old, I totally remember how important it was, how crucial and critical it was to have a mentor.

Nothing comes close to the direction you receive when someone is consistently there and is dedicated to helping you along. You know you have someone in your corner, someone who is going to support you, someone who will take you under their wing, and they’re not going to allow anything to happen to you that would have a negative impact.

I feel that same responsibility to the students I mentor in Classroom Champions. I don’t want anything to happen to these kids. I don’t want them to fall by the wayside. I don’t want them to fall through the cracks.

What I do want is for them to be equipped with absolutely everything I can possibly provide. I want them to go confidently into the world. I want them to realize how amazing they can be in their communities and in their lives.

My First Year Highlight

During healthy living month, which is typically during the month of April, there is a contest. During this contest, specific classes are nominated and the ones that are chosen will get in-class visits from their mentors. That’s an exciting time of the year, and I love that opportunity to go and visit one of my classrooms from the year.

When you work with students for an entire year, you learn a lot about them. You don’t just learn who they are inside the classroom. You learn who they are on the field of play, and they tell you about their families.

They tell you so much information, that visiting them in person feels like visiting a good friend. It brings that relationship full circle. You can’t help but want to see them succeed. You want to see them go out and do awesome things.

During the 2014-15 school year, I mentored Mrs. Jennifer Regruth’s class in Seymour, Indiana. (Shout out to my kids at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School! Although, they’ve probably moved on to middle or high school by now.) Mrs. Regruth’s class won the contest to have me visit them at the end of the school year.

Classroom Champions scheduled all my travel. They made sure I was able to get there safely. But when Mrs. Regruth picked me up from the airport on that day in 2015, I didn’t realize how impactful that day would be.

Before we even got to the school, they had a firetruck pick me up. I arrived at Brown Elementary with the horn blaring and the siren wailing. The kids were outside the school, and they were yelling, “We want Lex. We want Lex. We want Lex.”

At that particular moment, I understood not only how much of an impact I could make, but how much more of an impact that the kids had on me. After more cheering and a ride up and down in the fire engine’s ladder, I made it inside.

And as they have done in American elementary schools since the founding of the United States, we did the Pledge of Allegiance. I was petrified when I heard we were going to do the Pledge, and I was totally sure I would screw up the words. Fortunately, after saying the Pledge for so many years in elementary school, I found it’s seared into my memory. I even remembered ‘indivisible.’

One of the kids from my class, named Faithe, was well beyond her years. Some of the things that she wrote and said were so eloquent and profound. I would just marvel, “Are you sure you’re really 11 years old?” Faithe led the morning announcements for the school. She had a special write-up for me specifically, introducing me to the rest of the school.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the mayor came to the school and read an official proclamation naming May 18th of 2015 ‘Lex Gillette Day.’ in Seymour, Indiana.

From that point forward, it was a day full of major fun. We played tee ball, basketball, and kickball. We did an in-person Q&A where I got to answer a lot of the questions the kids weren’t able to ask throughout the year.

Mrs. Regruth’s class and I were in close contact during the year. Oftentimes during the week, they would send me a question of the day or a question of the week. I would respond to them on Twitter and let them know, “Yeah, I use an iPhone. I have a computer.” I even answered one of their questions about what I remember seeing before I was blind, “Yeah, I remember how to write my name with a pen and pencil.”

One of the best things about kids, is their lack of filters. They had genuine questions not just about my athletics, but how I saw the world without sight. They asked if I had pets or what my favorite foods were. It was the little things that taught us about each other and allowed our relationships to grow that year.

Oh, and the letters! Mrs. Regruth and her class had all written letters to me and had them transcribed into braille. It was absolutely amazing to feel their words and curiosity for myself.

They were very smart kids. Prior to us really getting to know each other, Mrs. Regruth asked the kids what they thought blind people were like. Questions like: How do blind people live their lives? How do they get around? What do you think about blind people? What is your perception of people who are blind?

Many of their responses were very much from the view of someone losing their sight. “Blind people probably feel alone. They probably live in darkness. They’re probably scared.”

Now in their letters and during my visit, I marveled at how drastically their responses had changed:

    Damen: “When I think of a blind person now, I think of Lex-how he set his goals and he is trying to reach them.”
    Brandon: “I don’t feel that scared if I went blind, because, like Lex said, ‘Blindness just might be another way to see.'”
    Daetona: “I have learned a good lesson about don’t judge people by how they look or why they look like it.”
    Breanna: “…and you don’t worry about what something really looks like-you judge by heart…”
    Isaac: “Blind people can do whatever they choose to do.”
    Katya: “I don’t think you can be blind. You see right through a person- who they are.”
    Aiden: “NEVER judge a book by its cover. I HATE when people are labeled, so I think blind people are the same of me or anyone else. Having Lex made me change my mind about people.”
    Elanis: “There is nothing different about blind people except they can’t see-they can do everything we can do.”
    Rylin: “I think even though Lex is blind, he can actually see with his mind.”
    Savannah: “Now I’m not so sorry anymore. I can’t believe what I can learn from blind people.”
    Brooke: “I learned when you are blind, you can still get around, you just have different tools!”

I still remember very clearly that Faithe had written something that, for her age, was very masterful. She said, “At the end of the day, if you can see from your heart and feel from your heart, you can do anything! Why? Well, the heart is the most powerful thing because without a heart, how can you love, and love is the biggest thing in the world.”

I think that, as individuals and as people, we’ve totally strayed away from that concept of seeing with our hearts. With a world that can have so much hatred, so much wrongdoing, and so much craziness, I think love often escapes us. Thank you, Faithe.

The day I spent in Seymour, Indiana with Mrs. Regruth’s class, was a day of no limitations, no boundaries. Nobody said, “You look like this, or you look like that.” There was no discrimination. There was none of that.

We were just all human beings having a good time, enjoying each other, understanding each other, and learning from each other. It was a culmination of open discussions about the skills needed to live our best lives. It was a celebration of what can happen when you genuinely want to learn about somebody, when you genuinely want to help someone. It was the realization that we’re all here viewing the world with our different perspectives, and when we put them all together, we’re all able to see more.

That’s what those kids did for me in my first year with Classroom Champions. They showed me something that I couldn’t see myself. They probably didn’t even realize how much they taught me. They cemented in me a value I carry on in all my speeches, my interviews, and my relationships…

Together, we can teach people to see.
___________

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: Classroom photo by Lex Gillette; Lex B&W photo by Alex Ingram – ArtIsBeing

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.

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.

___________

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

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 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 Joris Debeij; Long Jump image by Joe Kusumoto

How to Deliver When It Matters Most

By Lex Gillette

Be a rockYou’ve heard the phrase before, “Say what you’ll do and do what you say.” This is how you become reliable. When you’re reliable you can be trusted. When you can be trusted, people believe that you will deliver when it counts.

There’s a common sports phrase, “clutch time.” It means that when time is of the essence, and the game is on the line, you need someone to produce results. Outside of sports, you still want to foster that reputation for getting it done and avoiding the “unreliable” crown. Here are three things that will help you establish your reputation as reliable and trustworthy.

Be 100% sure you can deliver

Think about this. You plant a bunch of apple seeds in the soil. You water and care for them. A tree springs up from the ground and grows. Eventually, you walk outside to pluck one of the fruits only to realize that there are oranges hanging from the tree limbs, not apples.

That’s crazy! We should be able to trust an apple seed. It has one purpose: to fulfill the promise that when we put it into the ground, it will eventually bear apples for us to eat.

You need to be 100% sure you can deliver on what you promise.

For example, let me ask:

  • Knowing that you promised friends you would go to the movies with them that night, would you tell your co-workers that you’d stay late and help complete a project due the next morning?
  • Would you tell your boss you will write up a new proposal by close of business that day knowing that you have to pick up a family member at the airport at 3 PM?
  • Would you promise your partner a date night knowing that your rec league soccer game ends just a few minutes before you’re supposed to pick them up?

Your answer for all of these should be a resounding “No.” Particularly if you want your partner to stay your partner. (Sheesh! Do you have a death wish?)

Listen, don’t make promises you can’t keep. People expect you to produce the fruit you say you will bear.

Say “No”

Honestly, I feel like I’m coaching myself right now. I have a very hard time saying no.

If you’re like me, we get into these moments where anything seems possible. We really, sincerely want to help and say yes to everything.

  • Yes, I can help you do that.
  • Sure, I’ll meet you for coffee.
  • I absolutely have time to help you get that done.

Nine times out of ten, any single one of these requests is a small thing. But we say yes to so much that our schedules get weighed down with the promises we’ve made. We feel the stress of getting things done for other people as well as the stress to accomplish our own tasks.

Repeat after me – “No.”
Felt good, didn’t it?

It’s okay to say no. If you walk away from this post with no other insight, please remember to use this word. It will save both you and the person you’ve made promises to.

You’re saved because you’re not stressed or in a time crunch from the additional items that overwhelm your workload. They’re saved from your inability to put in the appropriate amount of time and effort required to satisfy your promise.

Saying no doesn’t always mean never. It can mean not yet. Circle back to the people who seek your help or offer them another time to check in with you. At a later date or time, you may be able to give a confident yes.

When you’re 100% sure you can deliver, you give your complete attention to the task and their needs. Saying no when you can’t do something will reflect far more positively on you than saying yes. Use the word.

Be honest

If you can’t do it, say so. Often people want to be everything to everybody. That’s just not possible. Nobody can be a master of all. I’ve tried. (See section on saying “No.”)

In my experience, you’ll be far more appreciated if you can stand there and say:

  • “I can’t help you because I know nothing about calculus.”
  • “I’m really not comfortable talking to you about those things, and I don’t want to be a part of that conversation.”
  • “I appreciate what you’re trying to do. But I don’t have the bandwidth to help right now, and I don’t know when I will.”

Some say that honesty is the best policy, but I heard Dr. Myles Munroe say, “Honesty is the only policy.” He contends that if you say, “the best policy,” you’re implying there are other options to choose from.

There is no better option when you’re faced with a request for help. Choose to be honest. Honesty can never undermine trust.

Don’t promise things that you can’t deliver, learn to say no, and be honest. If you follow these three rules, you will put forth your best effort in any aid you offer. That means you’ll have people calling on you because they know you’re reliable, trusted, and can deliver when it 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 of Lex and Wes Williams by Joe Kusumoto.

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!

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

YOU DECIDE AND NO ONE ELSE

by Lex Gillette

During the lead up to the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, my mom and I were fortunate enough to be one of the main stars for Procter and Gamble’s Strong campaign. In the 60­-second TV commercial, viewers were taken through my life’s journey, experiencing every twist and turn as I went from sight loss to top-level competitor for Team USA.

The beautiful thing about this is that my mom narrates the commercial. I’m biased. (Hey, it IS my mom!) But I must say that her vocal variety was absolutely flawless. At one point in the TV spot, you hear her say, “Elexis, it does not matter what anyone says. You decide what you can do and no one else.”

You may think it’s a cliché but think about it. How many times have we allowed another person’s words to rule over our life? How many times have we let another person’s opinions validate us? How many times have we given someone else permission to make decisions on our behalf?

We must step away from giving others the power to validate us. The same people you allow to build you up will be the same ones who can tear you down. That very statement spoken by my mom is a compass that continues to guide my life daily.

There have been times in the past when I caught wind of outsiders questioning how a high school teacher could allow a blind student to run down a narrow runway and hurl himself through the air.

Yeah, at first, I thought it was crazy too. But I began to believe in my abilities even when the rest of the world didn’t. With every stride down the runway, and every jump into the sand pit, I realized my mom was right. I decide what I can do, and no one else.

What are you battling right now?

Whose inaccurate opinions are keeping you from leveling up in life?
I dare you to go after that job that someone said you could never get.

Were you told you’re not athletic at all?
I dare you to go out for that sports team anyway.

What do you mean you’ll never find a solution to the problem?
Just because someone tells you this, doesn’t make it true.

I dare you to live your life boldly and unapologetically. I challenge you to pursue your vision with everything in your being, and never stop until it has been achieved.

In the pursuit of your vision, remember my mom’s words. “It does not matter what anyone says. You decide what you can do, and no one else.”

___________

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 jumping by Joe Kusumoto.

The Day I Met Jon Gordon

I was cycling through my Twitter timeline when a tweet popped up from Jon Gordon. The same Jon Gordon who has written titles like the Power of Positive Leadership, The Energy Bus, and the Carpenter. The same Jon Gordon who travels around the globe speaking to audiences on the power of positivity. Jon had tweeted something about walking on the streets of San Diego. I responded to him and said, “How long will you be in town? I want to meet you.” He replied to my tweet by saying he would be speaking at the Hard Rock Hotel and would finish at 5PM and head for the airport around 6:15PM or 6:30PM. Not really sure what sort of response I was expecting from that initial ask, but I was pretty stoked that he replied promptly and so positively. See what I did there?

I stay about 30 minutes from downtown, which is where the Hard Rock Hotel is located. it was 2:45PM or so. I still had some appointments in sports medicine that would take up the next hour. I kept asking myself, should I go? Something deep down inside told me that it would be stupid of you to not go and meet this guy. I want to positively impact the lives of people around the world, and Jon Gordon has been doing this for years. This is your chance to talk to, and learn from one of the best. Decision made.

I scurried out of sports medicine back to my room, showered, threw on some clothes, and called an Uber. Hard Rock Hotel, here we come! As we drove on the 805 north, I pondered the things that I wanted to ask. How did you become so successful? What steps did you take to get to this point in life? How can I impact more lives? So many things cycled in and out of my head. The car slowed to a stop at the destination, and I hopped out.

I stood on 5th avenue for a few minutes, and mapped out the plan in my head. Once inside the Hard Rock, I would find Jon, chat for a few minutes, and then head back home. Sounds easy enough. I whipped out my phone and called AIRA, an app that gives the blind and visually impaired real-time auditory assistance from a human agent who can see my surroundings through the phone’s camera. I was on my way. Using AIRA, I was able to cross the street and find the entrance to the Hard Rock. Now inside, I wasn’t sure where to go, but AIRA directed me to the front desk and I asked the gentleman behind the counter if he knew of any ballroom events that had just concluded. I really wanted to say, best-selling author and keynote speaker Jon Gordon and I had an exchange over Twitter and he told me to meet him here after his presentation, but I’m sure the gentleman would’ve gave me the craziest look known to man. That would’ve been a look that I wouldn’t have been able to see, but I know I would’ve felt it for sure. he responded by saying there were two events that started a couple hours ago, but he wasn’t exactly sure which room they were held in. Finally, he told me, “You can see if it’s down this hallway. Go straight that direction, turn right, and there’s a room toward that end of the hotel. If it isn’t there, try walking up the stairs and you’ll see a ballroom on that floor. If neither of those work, then I’m not sure where else it could possibly be.” So many great directions for a blind person: “You can see” if it’s down this hallway, and go straight “that direction”. I thanked him for his help while chuckling in my head. AIRA directed me down the hallway and instructed me to turn right. I heard no audible cues that would resemble an event. It was actually pretty quiet. I hit a u-turn and headed back toward the main lobby. AIRA then directed me to the stairwell that was to the right of the main entrance. I climbed the stairs, reached a landing, turned left and climbed another set of stairs. Once at the top, AIRA told me to scan my phone left and right. My assistant let me know that there was a ballroom not too far ahead. Would this be it? I approached the door and instantly recognized the sounds of plates being cleaned from tables, people standing around chatting, and others were leaving. I stepped inside and stood awkwardly trying to figure out who I could ask for help.

I heard a female voice from my lefthand side, but she was on the phone. As soon as she said good bye, I stepped in the direction that her voice had come from. She saw me and asked if I needed help with anything. “Is this the event where Jon Gordon was presenting? I’m supposed to meet him here after his presentation.” She said yes, asked me for my name, and directed me to a seat. I thanked AIRA and disconnected the call. About five minutes later, I felt the presence of someone walking up. The person sat down and their phone began to ring. “Hi, this is Jon Gordon.” Oh man, it’s him! He was sitting next to me. Jon let the caller know that he would need to give them a ring at another time. Jon said hello to me. I formally introduced myself and we began to have one of the best conversations. I’m assuming he had seen my Twitter profile as he asked me about the Paralympics, training, and life in general. I finally got to my question. As an aspiring speaker, how do I get to where you are? How do I get more speaking opportunities? His answer was very simple. Speak as much as possible. Leverage social media and let your followers know when and where you’ll be speaking. The more you speak, the better you’ll get. Jon then invited me to the restaurant downstairs. As we walked out, he asked if the elevator would be better. I replied that I had taken the stairs to get to the ballroom, and he sounded a little surprised. That made me think of the quote “There’s no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.” We approached the top of the steps and I felt that he was a little hesitant. I confidently stepped forward down the stairs. The best way to ease a person’s nerves is to simply show them that everything is okay. I run stadiums for training so navigating the Hard Rock’s stairwell was a piece of cake. We made our way down the two flights of stairs and into the restaurant. We picked up the conversation where we left off. Jon then grabbed his phone and he recorded a short interview with me. He asked me about how I lost my sight, how did I overcome blindness, how did I get involved with the Paralympics, and what drives me. Had it not been for those questions, you would’ve thought Jon and I had known each other for years. Time seemed to run away from us, and shortly thereafter, we were in the lobby once again, this time to wait for his car to the airport. I thanked Jon for his time and wisdom. What blew my mind next is that he offered to exchange information. That’s a no-brainer. I took out my phone and that led to another conversation on how I use my phone. As I was ordering my Uber, I showed him how I navigate the different options and select the one that I want. Jon sent a text to my phone. I verified the number with him and he confirmed it was his digits. Boom! His car pulled up, we hugged, and went our separate ways.

As I stood there waiting for my Uber, I couldn’t help but be amazed. The last hour of my life was pretty doggone exciting. I met someone who has a huge impact in the lives of many, and he took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me. He gave me useful tips on how to become a better speaker. He shared the knowledge that he has gained during his career. The guy who speaks to us, and teaches us on the power of positivity, is the same man that I met. Jon Gordon lives out everything that he teaches on stage, and in his books. The craziest thing about this whole ordeal? Our meet up started from a simple ask on Twitter.