Do you let outside circumstances, situations, labels, people’s perceptions define your destiny? OR Do you look inside and choose to rely on the power within to guide you to your destiny?
A few years ago, I attended the National Optometric Association’s Awards Banquet with my husband and thought it was going to be a typical banquet experience. The featured speaker was Tom Sullivan. I had not heard of him but was intrigued by the description provided in the program- “Being blind has never kept Tom Sullivan from competing in a world where he realized that to be equal, for him, meant that he must be better. He has proven that one need not be limited by a handicap.”
Tom was escorted on to the stage, introduced, and immediately he kicked off the presentation displaying his melodious voice. Not surprising that he had been invited to render The Star Spangled Banner at the 1976 Super Bowl Game Bicentennial Celebration and that his regular appearances on the Tonight Show had garnered him a national reputation. Then Tom began sharing his personal stories, chocked full of humor to motivate us to recognize that “ordinary people can indeed do the extraordinary.” As a young boy he found himself fenced in his backyard, but refused to be fenced in by his blindness. Together, he and his father, created “Sullivan Rules” so that he could play baseball with the neighborhood boys without the benefit of seeing the ball. One of the Sullivan’s first rules is that any negative can be turned into a positive.
Time and time again, Tom’s capacity to look inside and rely on the power within resulted in him defying what the outside world would say was impossible. I was in awe… Tom graduated first in his class at Harvard University. His best-selling book, “If You Could See What I Hear” became a motion picture in 1982. Tom composed and performed much of the music for the film. Tom became a regular morning fixture in the homes of millions of Americans as a special correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America. He was nominated for two Emmy Awards and has acted on TV series, such as Designing Women, Highway to Heaven, Fame. Tom fell in love, married Patty and they have two children.
Tom challenged us to take PRIDE- our personal responsibility for individual daily effort, connect it with our purpose and passion to achieve extraordinary results.
As Tom exited to a standing ovation, he had demonstrated in just 30 minutes the power of our internal spirit. He had chosen not to let labels, boundaries, naysayers prevent him from his destiny. He had chosen to experience love, travel, serve and teach others. That night I was inspired by an ordinary man who chose to be extraordinary. Whenever, I find myself permitting the outer world to tell me “no,” “not you,” “it can’t be done,” I remember Tom and reach down within and choose to be extraordinary.