No Need for Sight When You Have a Vision®
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AHRA keynote speaker inspires administrators to push beyond boundaries.
“There is no need for sight when you have a vision.” That is the inspirational mantra central to Lex Gillette, the keynote speaker at the AHRA 2021 conference in Nashville.
Mr. Gillette, who has been blind since the age of 8, is a long jumper for Team USA. He has achieved medal winning performances at every major international competition he has attended to date. His ultimate goal is to earn a fifth consecutive nomination to the Paralympic Games team and make a successful landing in the gold medal position on the top of the podium at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics on Aug 24.
Imagine being blindfolded and running – as fast as you can – and then jumping when instructed. Imagine the fear and anxiety flooding your veins as you run. Will you trip over something? Veer off the track? Miss the sandpit when you land? And one other thing – you have no context for what a sandpit looks like…or a track. It took a tremendous amount of courage – and trust in someone else – to take the first and subsequent leaps into his future and on to Team USA.
Mr. Gillette credits his mother for giving him the foundation to live a life that is not limited by his blindness. Early on she encouraged him to “learn and know as much as possible so you can be successful in life. You decide what you can do, no one else does.”
His foundation solidified when Brian Whitmer, a coach in his public school, pushed conventional boundaries, questioning why the young Mr. Gillette was told to sit in study hall rather than participate in gym. Admittedly, some activities were hard. With a gentle smile and self-deprecating remarks, he recalled repeatedly missing the basketball net. But then one day, he flew – 10 feet to be exact – from a standing position.
Coach Whitmer saw no boundaries, only possibilities, and began training Mr. Gillette. The training required Mr. Gillette to have total trust in his coach. “We all have that time when we have to trust someone, to give them control and that is hard,” he told the audience.
And it is perhaps even harder at times to trust ourselves. Those are the times you need to ask yourself, “if I don’t give myself a chance, what opportunities am I throwing out the window?”
Coach Whitmer’s belief in Mr. Gillette led the athlete to trust in himself. Mr. Gillette relayed his experience to encourage radiology administrators to “show up in others’ lives as a guide. Be the person who empowers someone else.
“My coach made me forget that I was blind. That is the power we have when we make an authentic connection. We help people forget their shortcomings. Open the door for them so they can see what’s possible,” emphasized Mr. Gillette.
And expand your own vision. Continually learn and discover new things. When you hit a barrier or limitation, challenge yourself to crush them and move forward. Be an inquisitive problem solver. And never lose focus on your vision.
“Sight is revealing what is,” explained Mr. Gillette. “Vision is what can be, what we can do, where we can go and what we can become. You have no need for sight when you have a vision.”
Mr. Gillette, I believe you just gained several hundred new fans who will be cheering you on Aug. 24.
Katie Kilfoyle Remis is the editor Everything Rad.