10 Big Ideas from Blind Ambition

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Patricia lost her vision as a young child.

Rather than give up, she used this pain in her life to become an example of what’s possible, and to inspire others to push past their limits.

Walsh is now an award-winning engineer, a champion paratriathlete, and a former Microsoft employee.  She left Microsoft to start her own business, become a professional speaker, and train as a world-class athlete.

She has raced in marathons, ultra-marathons and IRONMAN triathlons.  In 2011, Walsh set a new world record for blind triathletes, shattering the previous male and female records by over 50 minutes.

In the book, Blind Ambition: How to Envision Your Limitless Potential and Achieve the Success You Want, Patricia Walsh shares her story of overcoming her perceived limits and how she uses goals to survive and thrive in business, sports, and life.

1. Fuel. Fire. Blaze.

Walsh uses a simple framework for setting goals.  She works backwards from her Blaze goal which is her burning desire or most important outcome.

She then breaks that Blaze goal down into simple milestones which are her Fire goals.

And then she further breaks those down into day-to-day tasks and supportive goals that become her Fuel goals.

Via Blind Ambition:

“How exactly do you put the Fuel, Fire, Blaze goal hierarchy to work in setting and achieving your highest-level goals? It all begins with defining a Blaze goal.  Determine your Blaze goal by considering your deepest, most sincere passions.  Envision the change that you want to make in your world, or the one thing that you most want to attain in life.  Let’s assume, for a moment, that your Blaze goal is to earn a promotion at work, and the increased responsibilities and pay raise that go along with that.”

“Once you have figured out what your Blaze goal is, then you can take the next step: setting your second-level fire goals.  Your fire goals are the milestones you need to achieve to facilitate your forward motion toward the achievement of your blaze goal.  To reveal your Fire goals, ask yourself, ‘What steps must I take to support my dream?’ Your fire goals must be linked to specific milestones that will support the Blaze goal.  In the case of a Blaze goal of getting a promotion, your Fire goals could include improving your measurable work output, taking on a leadership role on a new initiative, or expanding your depth of specialized knowledge.”

“At the bottom of the hierarchy are the day-to-day tasks—the Fuel goals—that you’ll need to carry out if you are to accomplish your Fire goals.  In the case of a promotion at work, these day-to-day tasks could include completing components of important project, contributing to a trade publication to become recognized as an expert, or taking advanced classes in your field of expertise.  Fuel includes anything that can support your highest-level goals.  This could include joining a professional association or finding a mentor to offer you guidance.  It is the day-to-day efforts that will contribute to your success.  Fuel goals are the stepping-stones to accomplishing a higher-level goal.”

Walsh shares an example of how she applies the Fuel. Fire. Blaze. approach to her goals:

“Today, my Fuel goal is the day-to-day relentless workouts, the unceasing nutrition management, and the sacrifice of my social life.  My Fire is the races that I participate in and the world championships that I win.  My Blaze will be bringing home gold for my country in 2016.  Gold in 2016 hits me at the heart level.  I want to make my family and my extended network proud of what I have achieved.  Equally important, I want to be a catalyst for a societal incineration of the negative perceptions of people with disabilities.  I want to change the perception so that people are not surprised to see me—and others like me—do well.”

2. We All Struggle with Blindness

Walsh shares a story of a woman who trained to make the 21-mile swim across the English Channel.  In her first attempt, after months of preparation, she made it six miles before giving up.  In her second attempt, and many more months of training, she gave up after 12 miles.  In her third attempt, she swam more than 20 miles, and gave up 400 meters away from achieving her goal.

There was a thick fog near the shore, and she couldn’t see how close she was.

Via Blind Ambition:

“I keep this story at the back of my mind for those times in my life when quitting seems to be the only option—when I’m beyond exhaustion, when pain racks my body, and when everything within me is screaming for me to stop.  When I find myself at the end of the rope and about to let go, I remind myself of this story.  I know that, although I can’t see through the fog that permanently envelopes me, my goal is within reach.  I just need to push away the doubts, ignore the pain and exhaustion, and keep my focus on forward motion.

The truth is we all struggle with blindness.  None of us knows what will happen next in our lives, our work, and our careers.  We all are enveloped in some sort of fog.  The outcomes are always unclear, and victory is never certain until we cross the finish line.  We all struggle with doubts, negative experiences, and incomplete information.  But if we are to achieve the goals we set for ourselves, we must ignore the noise and push ourselves ever forward until we accomplish what we set out to do.”

3. Bet On Yourself

If you don’t bet on you, who will?

Bet on yourself and fail your way forward.  You’ll learn from your failures and that’s how you’ll reach new levels and achieve more with your life.

Via Blind Ambition:

“We all have people in our lives, who, whether intentionally or unintentionally , try to steer away from doing the things we want to do or are capable of doing, because they hope to spare us the pain of failure.   I have a message for these well-meaning people: everyone fails, and it is through failure that we learn the things we need to know if we are to avoid failing again and be able to enjoy the sweet taste of success.  Understand that in many cases, what is a breakthrough to you may appear to be a breakdown to the outside world.  You must be accountable to yourself if you are to live up to your full potential, which means having some faith in yourself and in your abilities.  When you know that what you’re feeling is a breakthrough, then muster the courage to welcome risk into your life and bet on yourself.”

4. Forget Your Limits

Step out of the box, or better yet, don’t put yourself in the box, and don’t let others box you in.

Via Blind Ambition:

“This is a long way of saying that we create our beliefs about the world within us, and this includes your place within it.  So, when someone tells you that you should ‘know your limits,’ what exactly does that mean? And who exactly is that cautionary morsel intended for? My personal belief is that you should forget your limits—you should ‘unknow’ your limits.  Yes, perceived limitations can protect you from the hurt of failure, but failure is part of life.  Trying to protect yourself from the risk of failure serves only to stop you from making an attempt, and what possible good can come from not making an attempt?  To not make an attempt is to hope that good things will find you.  Prosperity isn’t going to seek out someone who is afraid to take a risk.  Prosperity finds those who make a bet on themselves by abandoning their limits from time to time.”

5. Practice Life without Limitation

Overcome your limitations by practicing life without that limitation.

Via Blind Ambition:

“But here’s the trick: perceived limitations can e lifted, diminished, pushed aside, and forgotten with the help of awareness, strategy, and a desire to overcome.  This was certainly true for me, and it’s a common theme among many people who have achieved truly remarkable goals, whatever those goals may be.”

You will become good at the behaviors and activities that you practice, and the more you work at them and practice and hone your skills, the better you will get at them.  It therefore follows that if you hope to overcome a perceived limitation—that you’ll never get ahead at work, or that you’ll never find the right mate, or that you’ll never have a chance of winning a triathlon—a good place to start is by practicing life without that limitation.  Practice what it is like to live free of that limitation.  This may mean working harder at first.  It may mean being more efficient.  It may even mean recruiting friends, family, work, colleagues, or even strangers to help.  It doesn’t matter what it takes.  Do whatever you need to do to position yourself to feel capable of the task at hand.  Everything else will fall into place.”

6. Practice Self-Reflection Daily Against Your Core Values

Life is filled with distractions.   Our days can pull us off in all directions.  Use self-reflection to identify distractions and to identify ways to spend more time in your core values.

Your core values are where your strength and passion will come from, as well as enjoyment in the journey, no matter how tough the challenges get.

Via Blind Ambition:

“You core values give you power and strength.  When you diverge from them, you undermine your foundation.  Practice self-reflection to check whether you are living your values on a daily basis.

Finding success in my Blaze goal requires ongoing self-reflection.  This reflection helps me honor my core values of integrity, humility, and failing gracefully by doing regular check-ins on my own success.  Am I truly living up to my own full potential?  Am I truly being the source of encouragement to others that I hope to be? Am I truly demonstrating the respect that all my competitors in athletics and in business deserve? Practice self-reflection daily to catch any divergence from your core values early on.”

7. Be a Lifelong Learner and Self-Educator

Success is a numbers game and the more you learn, the better you get.

Never stop learning if you want to bring out your best and master the game of life.

Via Blind Ambition:

“Many of the most successful people have had very difficult pathways to the great success they eventually achieved.  Richard Branson is dyslexic and did poorly in school.  Bill Gates’s first business—Traf-O-Data—failed.  Fashion designer Vera Wang fell short in her quest to make the U.S. Olympic figure skating team.  Steven Spielberg was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts—not once, but twice.  J.K. Rowling was a single mom living on welfare when she wrote the first Harry Potter book.  Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor who said that he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas.’

Those who succeed are not those with a perceived natural ability, as defined by Carol Dweck’s idea of a fixed mindset, but rather those who are willing to adapt, change, and flex along with the needs of their organization.  In my own experience, the one skill you need to develop that will launch you toward your goal is the skill of being a lifelong learner and self-educator.  Whatever your industry, whether it is building cities, cultivating coding skills, or designing the latest telecommunications technologies (or anything else), your success will depend on your desire and willingness to develop the personal strengths required to accomplish the task at hand.”

8. We are Alone in the World Without Our Support Networks

We get by with a little help from our friends.

Via Blind Ambition:

“We all need support networks; without them, we are alone in the world.  Invest in your support network by consistently, predictably being the person you want to be.  When I desperately needed help, when I had no idea what to ask for, I didn’t have to ask.  When my own capacity to be resilient was stretched to the breaking point, my support network helped relieve the tension.  My support network of coworkers, friends, and family members came through better than any insurance policy ever could have.”

9. Resilience is the Key to Well-Being and Balance

Resilience is a skill you can build to help you bounce back when you fall down or get knocked off your path.

It’s not how hard you fall.

It’s how high you bounce.

Via Blind Ambition:

“Resilience is a key factor in obtaining and maintaining credibility in the workforce, a positive trajectory toward our goals, and our ability to cultivate well-being and balance.  That having been said, life is hard—even when your life is filled with good things.  There is so much push and pull in our daily lives.  It is our capacity for resilience that enables each of us to thrive.  Resilience is the glue of our emotional and mental health that allows each of us to bounce back and resume our former shape, and the toolkit that we always carry with us for recovering from the challenges and adversity that are inevitable.”

10. Take that First Stab at Something

Just get started.   It’s so easy to get stuck before you even get started when you go after your goals.  Instead, just take the first step and you can correct your course as you go.

Via Blind Ambition:

“Doing anything worthwhile will require effort—there’s just no two ways about it.  Even so, it is sometimes hard to know where to start.  Taking the first step is the hardest part because it’s easy to feel intimidated by the enormousness of the task at hand.  A well-kept secret, however, is that there is no harm in taking that first step—there is no wrong answer.  Whatever place you pick as your starting point will have an associated learning curve.  It is said that showing up is 90 percent of completing a task.  I agree wholeheartedly.  In fact, I would go a step further and argue that even more important than showing up is taking that first stab at something.”

So many limits in this lifetime are self-imposed or imposed by others.

The most important limits are the ones that you set for yourself or the ones that you break free from.

Be limitless, and you’ll find ways to realize and maximize your full potential.

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