Get Out of the Way!

November 26, 2020

I recently facilitated an online program for a group of professionals who work with students who are blind and low vision. The purpose of the event was to share my experiences as a blind student and to offer suggestions that might be useful for these professionals as they work with their students. This particular session was different. Why? I had a special guest who joined as well.

That special guest was my mom! I think that I have some pretty good advice to offer when it comes to helping the blind and visually impaired, but if you really want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; it was my mom who set the course for me. I followed her lead and the rest, they say, is history!

I thought it would be amazing for my mom to join me for the virtual program, and as I suspected, her input was incredible. It never gets old listening to stories of how she moved mountains to ensure I had everything I would need to be successful in life.

When I listened this time, I couldn’t help but notice a recurring theme. She would say things like, “I didn’t want to shelter Elexis. I wanted him to be a kid and have fun. In order for that to happen, I had to get out of his way.” Or one of her favorites, “I’m not going to be around all of the time, so I taught Elexis how to do household chores like wash dishes, vacuum the floor, and take out the trash. My goal was to teach him these things, and then, move out of the way.

”I’m not a parent, but I can imagine that letting go is hard at times. It’s a natural feeling to want to protect your little ones at all cost. But, when I think back on things, my mom made sure I was safe, all while having the courage to loosen the leash, and let me go. I’d say it worked out pretty well, don’t you think?

I’ve gotten this question before. Lex, what would you suggest we do to help others realize their own potential? Well, in preparation for Thanksgiving, let me pass along this recipe to you. It’ll help in cooking up a huge pot of success...

Lex on the track, he has a Chef's hat on and is holding a spatula and a ladle.

My Recipe for Success

Step 1: Give them the power. Our goal should be to enable others, to give them an opportunity, to assist them in seeing what’s possible. Empower your family, your friends, your team mates, and your colleagues. Provide a safe space for someone to stand on their own two feet, to try new things, and to think on their own. I can't stand it when people take full control and they don’t allow me to do anything whatsoever. Give up some of that control, empower others, and help them harness and unleash that potential that lies within.

Step 2: Be a guide for them. One of the chapters in my book is entitled "Where’s Your Wesley?" Wesley is my guide and friend who helps me compete. He provides support, and with his support I’m able to fly. I leaned on the strength that my mom provided. I lean on Wesley in competition. Allow others to lean on you. Provide guidance and advice that will help them understand which direction to go. Be that solid foundation on which they can stand.

Step 3: Get out of the way. That might sound a little harsh, but it’s true. At some point you must, in my Mom’s words, "move out of the way." Just watch me compete in the long jump. Wesley yells and claps his hands, so I know which direction to run. I’m running full speed down the track and directly toward Wesley's voice. At the precise and perfect moment, Wesley gets out of the way and I fly. If he doesn’t move, I’ll run into him. It’s likely I’d hurt myself, and him. Please don’t be the person who refuses to get out of the way. That’s a collision waiting to happen.

There you have it! Three simple steps that have helped me be successful in life. Three simple steps that will help you, and others, realize the potential that lies within.

Sadly, there are people out there who could care less about the steps above. They’d rather give someone a fish, instead of teaching them how to fish. They’d rather practice dependence instead of giving independence. Essentially, they'd rather employ you in tasks that get you out of their hair or even just in order to give you something to do, instead of deploying you out into the world with your own strengths and with your own vision of what you're capable of.

Most would consider my story to be about achieving successes as an athlete, but look a little deeper than that. It’s really the story of a child who was empowered, a kid who had support, and it’s the story of a group of dedicated folks who knew when to get out of the way, and let that young boy fly.

And look what happened.

I’m still flying to this day!

Special thanks to the authors of my wonderful photos: Lex & Mom by P&G, Chef Lex photo by Alex Ingram - Art is Being and designed by EtterOps LLC.