Posts tagged with "truly see"

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

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.

___________

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.

___________

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: 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.

___________

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

Don’t Go Broke

by Lex Gillette

If you’ve ever been to the South, then you have to know that there are some pretty funny sayings and expressions that are thrown around.

“You’re from my neck of the woods,” meaning that you’re from my area of town.

If you’re like “a bump on a log,” it means you’re absolutely lazy.

“Well that just dills my pickle,” translates as, “That makes me really happy!”

If someone’s upset, “She’s pitching a hissy fit.” If she gets even angrier, “She’s pitching a hissy fit with a tail on it.”

But if there’s one expression that’s universal and decidedly not funny it’s, “I’m broke.”

Having no money is rough. It weighs on you in ways that affect everything from health to education to self-esteem.

Money isn’t the only currency in our lives. Keep this in mind, a lot of people in this world “go broke,” not because they spend all their money, but because they fail to spend any of their time.

You realize how much something is worth to you when time is the currency.

When we look at a day, we’re all equals. We each have the same 24 hours to spend. It’s easy for us to throw money at our favorite foods, hobbies, and charities. That’s a simple transaction, but it really costs you something when your time is on the line.

For the past five years, I’ve been an athlete-mentor for an organization called Classroom Champions (CC). CC pairs Olympians, Paralympians, and professional athletes with students in underserved areas around the country and abroad.

As a mentor, I teach kids about important skills such as goal setting, perseverance, teamwork, courage, and healthy living. Each month during the school year is dedicated to one of these topics.

My job is to record a video lesson and explain what that skill is, how it looks, and how I use it in my life as an athlete, speaker, and human being. At the end of each video lesson, I give my students a challenge, something that they can do to apply that skill.

My students then report back to me on what they learned and how they applied the monthly topic to their daily lives. Students may record videos, write essays, or in the case of my most recent students in Phoenix, AZ, record a podcast. (It may come as no surprise that I prefer podcasts to videos.)

It was really exciting to listen to those kiddos chat about the short- and long-term goals they set for the year, how they persevered through their challenges, and how they thought more about their health than they did before.

Being a part of this program takes time. But you can tell how much this program is truly worth to me when I’m donating my time as the currency. These kids are so worth it. I thoroughly enjoy giving my time, sharing my experiences, and teaching skills that help them succeed.

It would be really easy to throw a few dollars at CC and hope that the funds would do the trick (and make no mistake about it, money is needed). But it’s relationships that make a lasting impact. The time we spend with these bright young minds is what makes a difference to them, and it’s what they’ll remember moving forward in life.

You can make more money, but you can’t make any more time.

Don’t short-change yourself because you fail to spend your time wisely. Failure to give your time can leave you and others “broke.”

Remember, even if you give a little, it means a lot. Take time to chit-chat and understand your colleagues at work. Spend the extra few seconds to ask the cashier how his day is going. Thank a police officer for her work.

And when it comes to the people who matter most to you, be absolutely certain you spend time on them: laugh and play with your kids, take time out of your day for your spouse, remind your family how much they’re worth.

Don’t go broke. Spend your time.

___________

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: Clock image by EtterOps

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 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 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 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 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.

___________

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: Close up of Lex in goggles by Joe Kusumoto. Eyes closed on the starting blocks by Alex Ingram, Art is Being.