When I hear people complain about the myriad of challenges they face, and what holds them back from creating the life they dream of, many are not referring to physical challenges. Instead, they’re grappling with deep internal blocks, fears and limitations. But what happens when those internal challenges are overlaid with physical ones, such as blindness? How do people come to terms — in productive, inspiring and empowered ways — with serious physical challenges that alter how they live?
Highly empowered and positive individuals and leaders use their challenges as a way to strengthen who they are , and build more accountability and courage in how they interact and engage — with themselves, others, the world and their highest visions. Isaac Lidsky is one of those leaders. Dispelling any notion of disability, Isaac has forged his true vision and mustered the bravery to shatter adversity.
A blind CEO and entrepreneur, Isaac is now leading ODC Construction (Florida’s largest residential shell contractor), and author of the new book Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can't See Clearly. A dynamic speaker whose viral TED Talk reached more than 1 million views in 20 days, and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School (magna cum laude), Isaac is the only blind person to serve as a Law Clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court. As a child actor, he played “Weasel” on NBC’s “Saved By The Bell: The New Class.” Isaac lives in Windermere, Florida with his wife and their four children (including triplets).
Isaac shares his keen insights to share about opening our eyes to overcome the blinders in the way of seeing life — and our role in it — as clearly as possible.
Here’s what Isaac shares:
Kathy Caprino: How did going blind help you to see how much more you could achieve in your career—with such a remarkable number of diverse accomplishments?
Isaac Lidsky: What we see feels like “truth”— something out there that is objective reality, that is factual, that is universal. But as my eyes progressively deteriorated, I literally saw firsthand that the experience of sight is altogether different. It is a unique, personal, virtual reality that is constructed in the brain, and it involves far more than our eyes. I began to search for other ways in which I was misperceiving as objective “truth” the beliefs and assumptions that were in reality creations of my own making — creations I could change. This was the “eyes-wide-open” vision that enabled me to take control of my reality and my destiny.
Caprino: What was your primary motivation to write “Eyes Wide Open”?
Lidsky: When I was diagnosed with my blinding disease, I knew blindness would ruin my life. I was wrong. I lost my sight, but I gained the eyes-wide-open vision to define and create the life I want for myself. It turned out to be a profound blessing, one that I want to share with others so they, too, can make use of the insights I gained with blindness, can see what I see and choose how they want to live their lives.
Caprino: What are some signs that many people today can’t (or don’t) see clearly?
Lidsky: I think the test is simple: What are the differences between the way you’d like to live your life and the way you actually live it — the differences in terms of who you are, your career, how you treat others, how you allow others to treat you, how you spend your time, what you accomplish? If those things are different and you aren’t doing anything about it, you’re not seeing your life very clearly.
Caprino: What kind of vision is essential for people to reclaim their most meaningful senses?
Lidsky: Clarity of vision demands that you are absolutely honest with yourself and accountable to yourself—for your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, actions. We do ourselves great harm when we lie to ourselves. It’s even worse, though, when we avoid facing ourselves altogether. I think introspection is a neglected skill that is critical.
Caprino: If fear and external circumstances need not rule our reality, and (as you note) it is how we respond to these circumstances that matters most, what might be an example of a positive, constructive response?
Lidsky: The biggest challenge is that our fears can lead us to buy into a false and awful reality. We fear the worst, assuming we’re going to face it. But most fears are born of, or at least fueled by, ignorance—the things we don’t know. The trick is to be crystal clear on what you truly know and what you think you know. When we’re afraid, we need to take in as much information as we can, expand our view, question everything. But fear too often has the opposite effect.
Caprino: Isaac, can you explain your tips for how we can reframe our fears as fiction, and offer any suggestions for those who may feel confined by their fears or circumstances?
Lidsky: You are lulled into playing your part in the awful reality of your fears by perceived heroes and villains. This is how our fears become self-fulfilling—when we abdicate responsibility, blaming and celebrating others. Look for heroes and villains in your life. They’re figments of your imagination. You are the creator of your reality. You and only you.
Caprino: What role, if any, do you think luck has in achieving our goals?
Lidsky: Of course luck plays a major role in life. But luck is a lot more complicated than we think. We’re too quick to characterize events of chance as “good” or “bad,” and we mistakenly see simplistic causal relationships between events not in our control and those that are in our control. The truth is that most often we will never know which is which, and almost always we play a substantial part—we determine whether events are “good” or “bad” in our lives.
Caprino: Why is it so important that we hold ourselves accountable for our choices, and do you have a favorite example?
Lidsky: Sure, I’ll give you an example: When my triplets were born, it would have been pretty easy for me to beg off diaper duty. Blind guy changing diapers?! A messy enough proposition that my wife would have understood—she would have given me a pass. But I was brutally honest with myself, and I realized a couple things.
First, it wouldn’t really be all that difficult for me to figure out a system to get it done—no more difficult than it is for a sighted dad. Second, it was important to me to be helpful to Dorothy and involved with the childcare. I would have done myself a real disservice by surrendering to some notion that I wasn’t capable. There’s lasting damage when we make such limiting assumptions about ourselves.
Caprino: Is there anything you wish you had known as a young entrepreneur, i.e., lesson learned later in your career?
Lidsky: It took some time for me to learn that a good leader aims to serve his or her team—the job is to empower your team to succeed and to help them do it. We tend to focus on what we might accomplish or contribute ourselves—on our performance—and expect others to assist us. But that’s backward from the perspective of effective leadership. A leader succeeds when his or her team succeeds.
Caprino: How has parenting changed your outlook on life?
Lidsky: Being a father is without question the most important and rewarding experience of my life, and also the most difficult by far. For me, being a father has taken my personal accountability to a whole new level. We teach our children far more with our actions than we do with our words—they learn from our example. I know I need to exhibit for my children the behaviors and techniques I want for them in their lives—I can’t just talk about those things. It’s quite a responsibility. It raises the stakes tremendously.
Caprino: How can each of us apply “Eyes Wide Open” thinking today, to advance our goals in business or life?
Lidsky: It starts with defining those goals. What is it that you truly want to accomplish? Who do you want to be and how do you want to live your life? Can you commit to your answers, make the choice to work toward your goals? The rest is noise.
Read the original article on Forbes.