Blindness gave me vision. Now I want to show you what I see. That may sound odd, but it’s true.
I was born with perfect sight, but also with a rare, genetic eye disease that caused the slow, progressive deterioration of that sight. I was diagnosed with this blinding disease when I was 13, somewhat by accident. That’s another story.
Life was pretty good at the time. A childhood actor, I starred in more than a hundred commercials growing up. Then I got my lucky break, landing the series regular role of “Weasel” on NBC’s sitcom Saved By The Bell: The New Class. I felt invincible, the world in my hands.
The diagnosis changed all that. It brought fear into my life, visceral and inescapable. I began to notice the erosion of my sight. Then the strange side effects started, objects blurring and morphing into other objects, puzzle pieces of images shifting and rearranging themselves, my sight a conscious effort to analyze conflicting clues. I felt I was running a race against blindness. I was desperate to squeeze what I could out of life before blindness put an end to my independence and my achievements.
I ran pretty fast. I graduated from Harvard at age 19 with an honors degree in math and computer science, then founded an internet advertising technology business that recently sold for $230 million. After a couple years I returned to Harvard for law school, graduating magna cum laude and earning a coveted spot as a U.S. Department of Justice attorney, litigating appeals across the country in my early 20s. I also served as a Law Clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (At the time I boasted that I worked for “every woman Justice in the Court’s history!”)
My greatest achievement, however, was to stop running, to turn to face my fears about blindness eyes wide open, to learn to see beyond those fears. Paradoxically, blindness showed me how. More precisely, going blind did.
What does it feel like to see? I’d bet it feels automatic to you. You open your eyes and there’s the world. Seeing is believing, sight is truth. It’s that simple, right? That’s what I thought.
But my eye disease gave me a peak behind the proverbial curtain of reality. I saw clearly that sight is not objective truth or universal fact. It is an experience constructed in the brain. It is a masterful, immersive illusion. It is a reality we manufacture in our minds but experience as a direct representation of the world.
That was the beginning of eyes wide open. With this insight I studied my “reality” with great care. I challenged myself to notice all the other ways in which I was shaping this “reality,” perceiving mental constructions of my own making as external and unalterable limitations on my life. That’s when it hit me.
I knew blindness would ruin my life. When blindness caught up with me I would live a small life, sad and alone. That lie was my reality. Why? My fears made it so, drowning me in awful mental images and assumptions. But what did I know about blindness? Nothing. I faced a choice: persist in the reality of my fear or choose to create a better one for myself, let the prophecies of my fears fulfill themselves or take responsibility for my own fate.
How do you limit yourself? If you look at your life eyes wide open, you’ll see that you’ve accepted as reality the awful fictions of your fears, your assumptions, your biases and prejudice. You strive for unattainable perfection, tell yourself what you can and cannot do, misconceive your luck and your success. We all do it. We don’t all see that we’re doing it, however. Not yet.
Everyone can learn to see eyes wide open. It is a learned discipline that can be taught and practiced. My eyes wide open vision was born of the unlikely blessing of blindness. Yours doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to go blind to see what I see.
Eyes wide open, I made the right choice. I live a blessed life with a miraculous woman as my wife and partner, and with our four beautiful children. In 2011 I escaped a big law firm career I found unfulfilling and bought a struggling construction company in Orlando. With business partners and a team of dedicated, talented managers I’ve turned the company around, growing it tenfold in five years, earning a reputation for excellence and innovation in our industry. I am happy, deeply so. I am grateful, deeply so.
Today it is my calling to show you what I see, to explain how to live and lead eyes wide open. Become the accountable creator of your own reality. It will bring you joy, connection and success at work and at home. I guarantee it. I’ve seen it happen in my own life.
Eyes wide open is a blessing I want to share. That’s why I’ve written a book about it, Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles And Recognizing Opportunities In A World That Can’t See Clearly, which you can preorder here. It’s why I spend most of my time meeting with groups big and small, corporations and associations, leading conversations about eyes wide open and delivering Keynotes. It is why I’m starting this blog.
I hope you’ll join the conversation. I urge you to do so. It’s eye-opening.
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