"You're In Charge" with Glenn Pasch
"You're In Charge" with Glenn Pasch

Episode 149 · 3 weeks ago

Raising a Child with a Disability: Embracing What "Could Be" versus What "Should Be"

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This comment hit me like a ton of bricks. We often get caught up focusing on what should we all be doing versus what we could do. 

Kristin Smedley, author, advocate and mother to two blind children shares her story about how she came to terms with this. When her first son was diagnosed as being blind, she fought her emotions of all things he should do but won't be able to. 

It was his ability to embrace the life he knew, where he was so happy, that opened her eyes to possibilities. Then when her second son was also diagnosed, she was ready to help him and his older brother focus on what they both could do, if given the tools and assistance.

How much do we who have all our senses miss because we focus on what we think we should be doing, in many cases to please others and in doing so miss the world around us. 

A wonderful story about her journey as author, advocate and leader in the blind community focusing on changing the perspective of others.

One of my favorite conversations. Enjoy. Please share this one out. 

About Kristin

Kristin Smedley is the Best Selling author of Thriving Blind: Stories of Real People Succeeding Without Sight and a TEDx speaker. Kristin won the Champion of Hope Award and coordinated the first legislation in US history to be submitted in Braille. Kristin spoke at the FDA to achieve the first ever FDA approved gene therapy to treat blindness in the USA. Kristin co-founded Thriving Blind Academy to solve the unemployment, literacy, and financial crisis in the blind the community.

www.kristinsmedley.com

facebook.com/thrivingblind

About Glenn Pasch

"Everyone finds themselves in charge at some point in their lives. Yet many of us lack the skills to generate consistent results. My goal is to help you learn the skills to adapt and grow in your personal and business life.”

Glenn Pasch is CEO of PCG Digital, a full service digital marketing agency that specializes in helping businesses create and deliver customers raving, recommending & returning for more. He is author of 2 books including "The Power of Connected Marketing" and has spoken and educated audiences throughout the US and internationally.

Thanks for making this a top 30 podcast in Personal Development space

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Let’s Connect:

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/glennpasch/

Personal Website http://glennpasch.com/

Company website: https://pcgdigital.com/

For many, having a disability can be seen as a disadvantage. Well, my guest today wants to challenge that thought. She says that having a disability can actually be an edge for your success. Kristen smedley is an author and an advocate in the blind community because two of her sons are blind and once she embraced that actuality and flipped the Lens through which she saw this disability and not the life that they should have had, but now what life they could have and embrace that, everything changed. She is truly one of the most passionate individuals that I have run across and had the pleasure to interview on the podcast. She is the author of a book called Thriving Blind. She is doing so much in the blind community to break down the barriers, to help organizations and businesses as well understand having a disability as an egg and those people could be a benefit for your team. So I'm so excited. Can't wait for you to meet her. Please let's just jump right into today's episode of you're in charge now what with author Kristen Smedley. Okay, Kristen, let's just jump right in. I again. First off, thank you for being here. I have watched your journey online and, uh, once you told me, yes, you'd be on the show, of course I went out and got your book called Thriving Blind, which I recommend everyone. I will link it into notes. But really what compelled me was not just the story, and we'll get into that, but it was an admission that you made in the middle of your Ted talk where talking about your son being blind and you feeling there was a switch all of a sudden where you realized you were only seeing it through your Lens, how you saw his life was going to be versus. Actually he was embracing the life that he had, and I think it's a really relevant point because I think we do that a lot. We do it in business and personalize as we project our own thoughts onto situations. So talk to me about that, because I think that's sort of the you know, the Real Lynch pin of this conversation. Yeah, well, Glan, thanks so much for having me on to talk about this because, Um, you know, I'm sure a lot of your listeners tuning into a show like this and the and the content that you provide everybody to make their lives and businesses better are are similar to me in in you set a goal, right, you make a plan, you achieve, and a lot of us are are, you know, high achievers or or maybe recovering overachievers, wherever you may be on your journey. And that was me. I I always had a lot of success growing up because I followed a formula, you know, I was taught. You set the goals, blah, blah, blah. So then when I go in and my biggest dream ever and I accomplished everything. I I landed the job, married the guy, built the house, everything, and then my biggest one of becoming a mom. And when I'm you know, when you're me, most people just want a healthy child, right, you just wanna, you know. And then you're me and you're like, okay, healthy child. Then by nine months, I have nine months to think about this and I'm thinking Philly's picture, even quarterback. You know, I've got the big plans and and this this beautiful, healthy baby, comes into the world and then I hear Oh, and he's blind. That was not in any of the plans, that wasn't in any of the bloops, that wasn't in the research. It was nowhere and I was so unprepared I had never been so unprepared. That wasn't my style. So I did, for for three and a half years, Um, UH, kick the wall about that and and kept trying to drive my agenda and dreams into the situation and see how they could still be possible. And every single day I was pissed because it was impossible to have that happen. And then it was that one day, like you mentioned in the Ted Talk. You know, it was my Michael coming to me and saying, isn't this the best day ever? And when I stopped with my Lens and looked through Michael's Lens, blindness was not a barrier for him. He just accessed the world differently and I was so I was so tangled up in but he'll never, but he'll never, buff he'll never. I was in the in the in the work and brilliant resilient that I do. We call it that could be, should be like I wanted. I looked at it as it should be. For so long I was missing what it could be. And I think that we do that in our professional lives all the time. Something happens, pandemic happens. Uh. You know, people aren't coming back into the...

...workforce. It shouldn't be like that. We pound our fist right, it shouldn't be. But then when you back up and look through the different Lens and you see what could be, or must be open to what could be, that's when you started to climb out a little bit. See, I and and I absolutely agree. I think the pandemic, for all of its challenges, I think that forced everyone to take a moment, because everybody was on that machine of what they think is important or their strategy or their plan, and there was a, you know, a lot of success. But it's when you face adversity you do have two choices. You either buckle into it or you, you know, have to figure out a new way to strategize. And again, I want everybody to you know, I don't want people to get caught up into, you know, the idea of the blindness, but that idea of he didn't know any better, meaning that was his world and it was a great day. And I remember you talking about him coming and say mom, are you in here, and you're like yes, I am, and he's going to play with his toys and he's just having a phenomenal day and it was our anger and it was our being upset and I love what you're saying that idea. Well, it shouldn't be this way, but it is. And once we embrace the is and we say okay, how do we move forward? And he became your guide in a weird way, you know, because I remember, you know, him taking your hand and saying, come on, we're going, versus you say no, you can't. And I think that's a really important lesson for all of us as we moved through our lives. Yeah, you know, I was just listening to Um, I'll think of his name in a minute, but it's the editor of entrepreneur, right, and he was talking about this concept of when something happens and there is a change. Now, that was a big change in plans, right, that I'm now going to parent a child. I have no idea how to parent, we said, we we attached all focus on is the loss, as opposed to looking at the opportunity. So in that moment that you reference, when I had that change in perception of blindness, I just stopped that three and a half year focus on loss and said, well, I have no idea what he's going to be able to do, but I'm gonna. I knew that my what I could do, what was in my control, was get him all the tools of blindness, get him everything he needed to access a world not built for blindness. And then, I'm telling you, when I sat back and said, let me just see where this kid is going to take me, and and the places that we have gone and the soaring he was able to do. And I know that US parents do this with all the love and kindness in our hearts. We put these dreams on our kids that they're gonna have bigger lives than we had, more opportunity than we had. And I'm telling you, from talking to parents of blind kids, cited kids, everybody, I do believe that most of our kids struggles in this world right now are because they are walking. I mean, you imagine a backpack. They've got their dreams and our dreams and if we would just take ours out of the bag, watching what they do with their own hopes and dreams and going after and being motivated is unbelievable. And I always say my Michael's two now and he's working full time. He graduated college. Now that beat all the horrible odds that are out there in this world. For Blind people. But watching him go after this stuff and what he's accomplished, Glenn, I couldn't have dreamt that in a million years. I still would have been like please, play baseball, please play football. And here he's done all of these incredible things and impacted all these people and he's just getting started. Exactly. I had to get the weight of my dreams off of him. Well, and and there's two things that, uh, that I thought of when we were going when you were talking about that. But that idea of it's a funny thing because my son has challenges too, and and that's why I also connected with your story and people always say to me, well, you know, don't you wish he didn't have those? And the funny thing is is I'm I've sat and wondered what type of person would I be if he didn't have the challenges, like, if everything was quote unquote normal, would I be the person I am? And I'm not even thinking about what person he would be, I'm thinking about me selfishly, and I go no, I think I'm a better person because of those challenges, because you have to exactly what you did in your description is you stopped worrying about your dream. But what you did, though, was you unleashed your power. Right, that power. You said,...

...of I set my goal, I have a plan, I'm gonna work hard, I'm going to achieve but you pivoted it too. Well, let me go understand about blindness versus being stuck in the Oh. This is horrible. It's the reality of it is. Let's go out and proactively figure it out, and I think that is an amazing journey, because you now unleashed your skill and your gift to provide that opportunity for your sons, both of them, to too sore and to embrace and not look at it as a limitation, because you stopped thinking of it as a limitation. You know what, you're exactly right, and I joke sometimes, but I'm completely serious that, Michael, having that moment where I changed how I looked at things. It didn't change me as a mom, it made me a mom because, honestly, I would have been through my life as the freaking cruise director. I'll making your plans and you're gonna here's what we're gonna do every day, right, and that's what a mom is. That's not what a parent is. A parent is the guide a parent is. Let me get you access to the tools you need for your life. You're the hero, not me. You know so that I've often said that moment made me a mom, did not change me as a mom. And from that moment on, and people say you're the greatest mom, no, I'm a mom. I finally, I finally started fulfilling my role in the way that a parent is supposed to be. And I say that you know not that parents ned to go, oh, I'm terrible, I don't do that. We just have that innate. We want to do it for them because we're older, we know better, we know about this world and the world sucks and you're gonna get hurt if you try that. But when you back up and stop being the cruise director and let them figure that out, and it's hard, I mean it's going to go through their dating lives and you watch you they're dating and you're like, well, this is gonna be a train wreck. But then you just have to back up and say, okay, I'll send a good country song and that doesn't work out, but but to your and again that that that idea of taking your dreams off of your kids and you know you mentioned sports and both of your sons play. All your children played sports and I remember, I think in your uh Ted talk, talking about you played sports as well. You were, you know, soccer, I believe it was I had to learn. I read a book about, you know, about coaching, and a gentleman saw it on Ted talk, talking about how a f of kids stopped playing organized sports by the time their fourteen because of the pressure the parents put on them. And when they interviewed parents and say what do you want your kids to get out of sports, of course it was discipline and learning and teamwork. And when they asked the kids, the kids were like cool uniforms, I wanna have fun, I want to hang out with my friends, and there was such a disconnect. And even that idea of when you your kids done with a game, of course you want to help them. Well, you should have done this. Hey, I loved what you did that and all they want is ice cream, because that they forgot. And even out of the goodness of your heart, and that's why I want folks to hear that is even what you're saying, is that, God, out of the goodness of your heart, you want to help your children and in some ways they have to fall down. They have to figure it out, they have to figure out how to pick themselves up. So get out of their way. Give them, give them the skills to be good people, but sometimes they got to run into the wall. You'RE gonna be there to pick them up. But I think that's really hard. Like you said, it's really hard and I think it's amplified when you have a child with certain needs. You go on too hyper protection until you realize, you know what, we may be doing more harm than good. You know, there's so many points in there that we could sit and talk about for days. But the whole concept of youth sports right, the whole thing about like parents want them to win, win, win, but all the all the learning is in the loss. Absolutely come from when you lose the game and you talk about everyone's saying, well, kids aren't resilient, kids aren't resilient, then stop forcing them to win, because if they're always going to win, they don't know what to do when there's a lot they don't realize they got to go back to the white board and back to the play and look at what went wrong. And I'll tell you what, Glenn, my daughter who is now a senior in high school and is looking at getting offers from from colleges for basketball. I was a lifelong soccer player. Coached her for her whole, you know, juvenile years in in soccer, and then our world went upside down and inside out between soccer changed the ages and she had to move up to this team that was very toxic and she had always been with a really nice group of girls and Um, my, my marriage ended and things went off the rails right. So here's my eleven year old comes to me and says everything in my life is out of my control. What is in my control is I don't want to play on this soccer...

...team anymore, because that's the only thing that I can say no to, not being forced to, you know. And I was like, but, I said we I just sat at starbucks all day for me, for Carly Lloyd, holding your place in line, and now you're gonna walk away from soccer. And she said, I can't do it anymore and she wanted to just play for this one basketball coach who is the most phenomen he's just a good person, you know, and let these girls figure things out. They had fifty fifty seasons. All the time, when there was a loss or play didn't work, the girls would sit and talk and I'd hear them say things like, you know, you're not strong going left, but you are incredible going right, so we're pairing it. And they worked it all out themselves. And then my daughter fell in love with that sport and gives it everything she has. And I watched that Ted talk where he said all you say is I love to watch you play. Yes, that's the one, yes, that's the one, and I start doing that. I used to tell him, I used to that completely changed my philosophy and I would I would tell my son that I love watching you play. or we would set goals before we went there. As we're driving, because he played baseball and soccer and basketball, I said what are your goals today? He goes number one is have fun. I said, okay, what's your next one? Play as hard as I can, do the best I can. I said great, what's the third one? Listened to my coach and that was it. And so when we were done with the game, when we never talked about the score, never talked about plays, I said did you accomplish your goals? He Goes Yep, I had fun, I did this, I did and that was it. And then we never talked about again. And but what I found was hours later, a day later, he would come to me and he said Dad on this play, I think. But it was him reaching out and I think and and that actually taught me a lot of how to interact with people, even in general, but especially, you know, my employees are other people. When I go in and consult with uh, you know, companies, it was allowing them to find their own path to the question. Be there for them, guide them. But when you tell everybody what to do, the walls go up. But if you extend your hand, all of a sudden they find a way to come to you with what you want, but it's on their terms, and then real communication can begin. And there you go. That's it, the real communication. I mean between our kids, between co workers, between people that you lead on your team. It's communication. And I um in my uh presentations a lot and speeches. I talk about the because people always ask. The boys were on regular Little League Baseball teams and they both won championships. I mean three and a half or three and a half years apart in age, and they want you three years apart and everybody says how to work and I said, honestly, it comes down to communication. There's two adaptations that the Little League team made. One was that the boys were able to hit off a t now there was a conversation with nine year olds. We don't hit off teas anymore, you know. My son was like, uh, I want to swing at pitches like everybody else. I said that's great, but they're gonna throw three pitches and you're never gonna see them. You're gonna swing and missing, you're out because we're not changing that rule. It's not you swing until you hit it. There's three. How do you want to help your team? Right? And took Michael an overnight of thinking about and he said fine, I'll hit off the team. But the other one, this was the important one, that they played in the outfield with another guy, another player, and and I always say, I put them in the outfield because I spent so much money on your teeth, on braces, that there was no way I was risking and in field hit and knock a MIT. So so they were in the outfield and what happened? This was beautiful, especially as we're talking about youth sports and parents that don't shut up on the sidelines right they live. Parents learned real quick that when there's a blind kid in the outfield playing with another guy, what would happen was that ball would say, come out to center field where they were. The decided kid would field it and give it to say it was Michael out there, and hand it to Michael. Where the play was that one guy, if it was second base, one guy would call Michael's name and Michael could throw it on a dime to him from wherever he was listening. But the parents, nobody could make a sound or Michael wouldn't know where to throw it, you know. So it was. It was absolutely wonderful for all the parents who would scream and yell and Holler all kinds of stuff. They just had to shut up so that we could make the play. But that that communication. And then little by little, I actually Um there was a moment when the dad that that I was so nervous bringing Michael with his cane and all to this team because there's his dad with the Star pitcher and all, and he was like what is wanting here? Like I'm like, I swear it'll be fine. It'll be fine. At the end of the season, when we won the championship in extra innings, that dad came to me with tears in his eyes and he said, Kristen, I I had my biases about this when...

...you showed up, and he said, and and all of our kids are these, you know, these spoiled kids that would get everything they want in this town. And he said in your son, one inning at a time, one player at a time, changed everybody's view of what this should be. And it was unbelievable to watch that transformation of all of these kids. And really what a what a youth team is supposed to be, right with the communication and the cheering each other on. And okay, you can't see the pitches, so you use a t okay, that's cool. You know just it was really it was really, Um, quite a learning experience. You got me choked up here, but, um, I want to pivot because what that just showed me, and and I know this is a passion of yours, because all of those biases are in the workplace and, as you said, there's such a high unemployment rate for people who are blind, and it's probably it's a combination of why do I don't want to have to deal with the changes or I don't have time. I I mean there's could be a million reasons. You know more than I do, but talk about that. What. What? What is? What's the failing of all of us in business for this and it? Do you see any movement or change? Because, as you said, your son's working, but I believe the statistics you were saying in some of my research is almost to the people who are blind. Maybe it's a little less. Are Unemployed. Yeah, it's Um Se is the unemployment rate that's been sitting there for entirely too long. Is the dropout rate of college flying kids, and I have one in now and one graduated Um and and the study was just released in twenty one from written international at the cost of of this unemployment and mental health and all of the things of blindness to to the U S and Canadian economies is thirty one point seven billion dollars. That is but I'll tell you what, Glenn, I am telling you with certainty from all the things that I've seen and done in research and whatnot, that thirty one point seven billion dollars. The majority of that is this bias that blind people are less than blind people couldn't possibly blah blah, Blah Blah from the general public and the employers. But the saddest and most frustrating part of this is that the people that are blind themselves believe this because they've been fed this for so long. You know. So it's this. It's this combined issue of it's not like we've got one point seven million blind people are saying I can do anything, just give me a chance. It's not happening because they have been fed this and to your point of and you know what's being done about it. This is where I get a little fired up. I was just in a meeting for the short film that we have coming out about this, because there are there are agencies and organizations that have been around for a hundred years and and nothing's moved the needle on this. Why is that? Why is it not move the needle? The blind community is very siloed. There are organizations that refuse to talk to each other. There are state agencies that have told blind people don't mess with this, because you're getting a reliable check every month for being disabled. You know, nobody likes the disruption, but now look, my heart hurts in a lot of ways for things that the pandemic caused in my family, in in economics and all in communities. But one of the most beautiful things that has come out of that is people are open now to a different point of view. They're open now to say we've on things the same for so long. I'm ready to see a pivot and this is the moment when I can see that the tipping point is going to happen. And think about it. My my son is twenty two. All the kid my oldest son, all the kids that grew up with him, they see blindness the way I see it, it gives somebody an edge over everybody else. They watched you go out achieve them. They were on the baseball teams, the football team, that the wrestling team with him. They're like wow, if you're blind, you really have an advantage in this world. It's a new way of thinking. You know, no, and I and I agree, because I think to that point. I mean my company went fully remote and we've stayed fully remote. Now we still have an office and we downsize and people will go to it if they feel like I need to get out of my house. I can't stare at my own four walls. But it's allowed us to hire also around the country, because we decided where my brother, who's my partner, was so entrenched, then people have to be in the office and I...

...was like no, not really. We'd have arguments and now it's Oh, I love remote and so, you know, it becomes that pivot. So to your point, I think individuals have a lot of choice now because there are options where they could work remote, they could go, do you know gig economy? There's a lot of differences, but I still think it's it has to be the business owners and the organizations that look at this labor pool and it could be, I'll plead, ignorance. Uh, is you don't know that that that Labor pool is available or how to access that Labor Pool. And so I think it's both, uh, from an education standpoint from the community. But to your point is, if everybody siloed or everyone's told don't rock the boat because then you're gonna lose X, then that goes back into well, at least I have this versus well, what could I get right? This is what I should get. What could I get if I had the opportunity? So I think there's a there's a lot of opportunity here to excuse me, to to help this and I think what you're doing bringing this to light is amazing, because that's a lot of labor and, to your point, is a lot of very, probably hard working, educated people who just want a chance and we have to we have to figure out ways to to communicate that message out there. And and it's interesting. So the short phone that we're putting together as a short and along and we're, you know, debating these topics of title, but but the working title of the one is the edge. So in my opinion, from what I've seen success of people that are succeeding with outside and my son's watching how they've done things. You know, people think that that someone that's been blind since birth has such a disadvantage and I see the advantage. And I mean you think about the top five things you're looking for in a really great employee, the problem solving skills, the creative thinking, the teamwork and knowing how to get along and charisma, all of those things. My boys perfected that for years in K to twelve they've had to deal with teachers with there by all the things right and they were managing their education teams by high school. That's why they can go through college and they are so much better prepared for college than than the average kids stepping on a campus because of all the work they've done leading up to that. But, Um, not only do they have those top skills and they've been practicing them and fine tuning them for a long time. When a company hire somebody like that on their team, they then end up with the competitive edge because now they've got the top problem solver, creative thinker. But to your point of but people say that that must be expensive to have a blind person coman or how they even going to get to work? And how are these you know, because I have one kid that loves to go into an office and one kid that loves the remote issue right. So really, and that whole term a reasonable accommodation scares the crap out of people. That means expensive, that means lawsuit, that means and then you have a thing like salesforce, you know, that tool that so many people know that's fully accessible to screen readers for the blind. So there are, are, you know, blind executives all over the country and the world that are using that tool and I'll bet you a million dollars people on their teams they don't even know that they're blind, you know, because you can access it. The barrier is removed. So now, like the biggest thing that we have coming is the short film and Thriving Blind Academy to put this out there. Of when all things are equal, when that reasonable accommodation, that is not this mega thing that you're so scared of. When that's in place, then you watch the blind employees, when all things are equal, start rising above and give you that competitive edge. It's a concept that I'm telling you. Before the pandemic people were looking at me like what are you talking about? Now that the world was flipped upside down and inside out and the new lenses that people are looking through? Oh okay, tell us more about that. No, and I think you're you're absolutely onto something because, as you said, the pandemic forced everyone to take a moment and rethink. You know, as we started out the conversation, you know, instead of well, this is the way it's always been, you've had to say, well, we have to think differently or else we're going to go out of business. A lot of my clients I have a lot of automotive dealers and so some of them are were in the you know, the New York, New Jersey area, and they were shut down and they're thinking we have to sell. How do we do this? So all of a sudden they solve problems and I think and they haven't gone back. Some of them have fallen back, a lot of them continue on going. Well, what's the next challenge? Because things were shaken up. I think the more that you can dispel those myths of cost and how is someone going to do this and sell them on? Well, what's the wind for you? And realistically there's accommodation is already...

...out here. You don't it's not something you have to create, it's they're already here and then all of a sudden they go oh, okay, very similar to the coach that you spoke about about your son's team. Over time you now just look at them as part of the team. It's no different than someone who has a specific skill in one department and a specific skill in the other department and you just say fine, we'll make I want them on my team. I just think the more that we can allow organizations understand this labor pool is out here, m HM, and they will give you that edge, and I love the title of it. I think that's an amazing opportunity. And yes, even there will be people that you're going to have to win over in the community to say you can do this and not full prey to as long as I get my check, I'm safe. But I think there's there's so much upside and I think you're right. This is the time because everything is a little bit on its head. So why not? Yeah, I think it's it's important too for companies and organizations to also take a look at what they've been doing so far and where can they remove barriers, like I'm thinking. You know, Michael is at his dream job at Disney. He's in the live entertainment you know he's he's a sound guy. You know this kid. He actually has a financial advisor. Now, well, that must be nice, you know, at twenty two years old and he that guy's calling me. Last weekend I'm texting Michael. I said Hey, you gotta, you gotta call this Guy Back, and he says, I'm sorry, I'm not taking calls for two days because I'm hanging out with Darius Rucker and his crew because he's setting him up down in one of the parks in Disney world. That's what he's doing right now. But when he got into into that job two and a half months ago, the reasonable accommodation was the screen reader software for the company. The company insists that you use their laptops. Well, they needed this two hundred dollar program the amount of offices that Michael had to call to make that happen, and then it turned out was the I t department holding it up and they said to him what, we have by law four months to make that accommodation. and Michael's boss actually called him and said I just went on the website and downloaded the program get on there and downloaded. But it was another month and a half before they went through all of their system to make that happen. Now what does Michael Do? He is so motivated. This is the job of his dreams. He had workarounds. He's like, I've done this before, all these different workarounds in his own technology and asking for help from a coworker like all of those. So then you know, the boss is like wow, you have had a commodation in place. What are you going to be like exactly exactly. And and that is the frustrating thing because that is a default, what you just said, and and folks listening, I would look at your own businesses for this. But that person saying, well, we have four months, versus let's get it done right now. You know that idea. Well, I have four months, so it's not a priority, when this could move your business forward, this could help your team. I mean it that. That's incredibly frustrating, but it happens a lot because everyone's in their own little silo and and it's very frustrating. But to your point, I don't see how they're your son's boss wouldn't be excited to say, man, if I can get you this done, I'm gonna Unleash you on this, and what about this? And and it seems like the way his brain solves puzzles or challenges. Um, you know everybody's gonna want him to, you know, move up and address this and almost now you're gonna the edges. Whoever has Michael on your team is going to win. Exactly. Pretty Amazing, exactly, and that actually his professor at Penn State, that that new Michael's current boss, and and Um introduced the two of them. He said to him, I don't know how he figured stuff out, but way do you see what this kid is going to do for your department? Like he's spent three years with them and he still says, I have no idea how he did the stuff he did, but wait till you see what he's able to do. Yeah, and then that's the thing and the department rising the top. But you know, even to take this out of the blindness world, think about the biases that we grew up with. I mean, I'm a single mom now. I grew up with that bias of Oh my God, a single mom is like tired and overwhelmed and too much. Now I'm like, you want something done, call a single mom right, like three kids, full time, you know, downsizing. I'm managing budgets, three college tuitions, doing this myself, and you, you you got a problem, you call me. Well, they that is that. That is the old saying is, if you want something done, give it to a busy person. Yeah, yeah, and I'm like, I know how to prioritize. Now the same thing we were talking about earlier. Would I be the person that I am now had that not happened? Five years ago. No, I wouldn't. Now I'm like I can be much more efficient. I've got five massive rejects happening all the same time. Not overwhelmed, energized.

You know, it's very different now, as I've watched us being able to handle downsizing, moving colleges and you know what? But the thing I do have to mention in this, and it's important for everybody to understand and implement this in their own lives, is you have got to build a team of some really cool people around you and lean on them. And I don't care if it's two really great people or twenty that are really great. But the things that I've been able to do because I've got people that I can call and say when I'm stuck in family court and uh, and you know, my podcast partner lives near the high school and picks up my kid from s a t s. those kinds of things are are life saving. Right. It keeps your mental health in check, it keeps your productivity and check and it's a give and take. And My my son, Michael, actually is a Valedictorian at counsel rox south for his graduation and his speech was about building a team. But he added at the end. He said, but you need to also have your head up and see who needs you on their team, to be out there helping as well. It's a two way street and I think if we went about things a little more like that, we wouldn't have the struggles that we have or wouldn't take us so long to come out of them. Right. No, I I agree. I you know people have and I'm sure they've said this to you too. You know, I had people with, you know, my son who went through his you know, he had chemo, and people are like, how do you deal with this? And they look at you and put you on this weird pedestal, saying how do you deal with that? And I'd say, you know, like I I use the word Chit scale of life. So we have to watch our language, but meaning that where I am there's people looking up at me and but I'm looking up at someone else and saying wow, how are they, you know, doing what they do? So it is that support. Someone's always reaching their hand back to me to help me. So it's incumbent of me to reach my handback and help someone else. But I agree with you. You can't do the US alone. You need those people that just to call up and I have a circle of friends who I call up and they'll just say how you doing? I'm like, I'm not, I'm not doing well. You know, my brain hurts. I got this, and it's just allowing that space for someone to just listen and then go what do you need? Like nothing, just needed event and they're like okay, and then they call you or to you to to your point is, I need someone to pick someone up. I need to be able to do this. I need some it takes that. But you to your point is you have to be willing, and I love what your son Said, picking up your head to see who you can help. You know, it is a give and take. It's it's incumbent on us to be able and what you're doing with just sharing your story so beautifully, you know, and so openly um it. It has, I'm sure, impacted tons of people. I mean it's impacted me, hence why we're here, but it's impacted me beyond that, not just a connection of children with, you know, some disabilities, but it's that idea of it. It's okay, that's your world and it's it's taking control of it. And not letting it burden you down, but, more importantly, being an example to others and help them through their struggles. It may not be their son is blind, but their kids probably have some struggles and they may need your council. Like you're saying, let's not get caught up in that. Let's talk about just raising kids in general at fifteen, sixteen, Seventeen and sending them to college. There's so many similarities that we can help each other and share with each other that there's a lot of times we don't, and I think it's really important that we do. You know, I think that, as I look back on stuff, one of the pivotal moments in my life, where I see it, where it took off two sore to where I am now, is when I had the opportunity to write the book, because I was still kind of stuck in the I was supposed to have this other life, you know, and it kept coming around in all different ways about writing this book and, as we were joking before we hit record, I mean I still have there are still English teachers all over this county that can't believe I shut up long enough to write something and didn't just talk my way out of something. But it was a moment of I just had this, and I know it was nothing other than a divine moment, where it was like, look, I was still so mad that there was no resource when when I heard that diagnosis, there was nowhere to go. And now I had met so many people on my journey that were succeeding with outsight and taught me how to raise my kids. WHO WOULD I be if I didn't turn around and be that resource? I was so mad I didn't have right and that was a struggle for me to sit down and honestly, the most interesting part of that, without getting too deep and philosophical, it was when there was a short window of time that my ex husband had some custody of my kids and I was so scared and devastated about that that I was about to lose my mind. And that was...

...the moment when it became who am I to not be the resource I never had. So I wrote thriving blind on the two nights a week that I didn't see my kids for a couple of months, and then that becomes one of the most impactful things that's ever happened in the blind community. Right. It kept me saying and being productive and having a level head when my kids did come home, that I could just, you know, love on them and give them everything they needed. And it just I thought, wow, here I am, you know, okay, agreeing to be of service, but really that book writing, it served me. It was an incredible cycle how it came to be sure, I am sure it was very cathartic for you to write it. And again, uh, I so highly recommend this book and watching the Ted Talk Um now link id all in the show notes, but you know, just your introduction talking about it just the way. I love the way you write and the interviews with the the individuals in the book are phenomenal, like really amazing people like that, the things they've accomplished. You know, the teacher whose teacher of the year. You know, just wow, just unbelievable. But your story of going into that auditorium and seeing the two different children and how that and then and then just people reaching out to you to help you and that openness is just going. It just made me go. I didn't have that situation, but I had that situation walking into chop and I had that like Whoa, and then the flip side it's six eight months later, I noticed those people coming in with the deer in the headlights look and you just went over and said, okay, I'm going to help you through, because someone was there for me. And I think that's what this book, and I'm sure it's had such an impact, and what your passion is and what you're doing. It is a resource for people to just believe that there's more were on the other side, and I think if people can get out of that what it should have been into what it could be, I think this book and what your mission is just man, and I'm telling you everybody, I don't care what you don't need to have, you know, disability or whatever, just read this book because this will get you out of your own head to stop blaming the world about what your life should have been, really embracing what it could be and moving yourself forward. So Bravo. Really really appreciate that. I appreciate that so much. I'm like beside myself excited now that that is becoming a children's book. M Now what it did for you in terms of how it opened your mind and and and all of that. Imagine that now for first graders that they never develop a bias about challenge in the first place. Exactly, exactly and it and what I love about this is that it can be. The challenge in this story just happens to be blindness, but this challenge could be anything, and opening up people's minds too. It's just their challenge. You have challenges. Everyone has a challenge. You know, it could just be your challenge could be I don't like speaking in public. Okay, your challenge could be everybody told me I was stupid. My challenge was everybody told me I was great and everything was easy and now it's not easy. I mean a million different things, but it's this idea of not blame, not looking at others. As you know, they they have disabilities. You know, realizing they have an edge on you. So you know you you better pay attention. You better pay attention because they might have the edge. You think you have it all sewn up and they have an edge. So I really appreciate that. So, UM, as I wrap up with this, I usually Um, we'll, we'll get everybody how to connect with you, but I usually ask people a few questions at the end that are just random questions, get to know you a little bit. So just don't overthink them, just jump right in. So first one is um I always I like asking this question a lot of people because it gives me a good perspective. So your daughter right now, seventeen, looks like she's driving. But you know, like we were talking about, I'm fascinated with that ten eleventh great mentality, you know, Fifteen, sixteen. So if you look backwards at the fifteen or sixteen year old uh yourself, what's the trait that's still there, like that's been there the whole time? And then on the flip side, if the fifteen sixteen year old version of you saw you now, what would they be most surprised at? This is such an interesting question because I had to go back and uncover all of this and when I was in the deep pit of fear and sadness with my divorce, I actually went back to women. Would I the happiest when I was ten years old and playing soccer? So I play soccer three times a week now. My nearly fifty one year old...

...knees were not happy about that, but whatever. But I would say that fifteen sixteen year old kristen was the most optimistic person ever and I am still that way now. That disappeared for a while, but it's back and that, I realize, is my biggest fuel tank. Like I've joked that my memoir could be called deliriously optimistic, because that is the fuel that, Um, that's what keeps me on these, you know, Jillion projects and working sixteen hours a day and loving it. Okay. And so what would the sixteen year old kristen seeing you now and go? Wow, I didn't expect that, Um, that I'm raising a really good basketball player, because I was terrible. I was recruiting for basketball because of all my other sports skills, and the coaches, I'll never for at their faces. They were in shock that I could be that bad at basketball. But uh, to be uh, you know, she'd be really shocked that I have raised two very successful blind sons and and a cited, oh my gosh, an a sighted daughter, that all three of them are incredible humans, even with all of the challenges. I don't even think that fifteen, sixteen year old kristen could imagine the stuff that we've been through and that I'd stays optimistic and smiling her and that her parents were really, really cool people. She didn't think so bad then all right. So, Um, give me something that you're reading or listening to that's inspiring you, that you'd like to share. I am obsessed with Lewis House and the guests on School of greatness. What's that? I think it's a school of greatness. Is that the one? Yeah, yes, and I think it's because, you know, he's he's really diving deep lately into how the your brain works and, Um, the stuff that we're not just putting in our brains, but the stuff that you're eating. I'm really learning a lot. Is I'm about to turn fifty, one about how how my brain works best and the fuel that I really do need and the things I don't need. That makes sense, but don't know. I and I love his podcast. I love the way he interviews in the style I've I've I've picked up some traits from him, so I'll be happy, Tessa Louis. Thank you very much. Um, okay, so let's talk about one place that you haven't traveled, because now that you're speaking all over, it could be a world. One place that you haven't traveled yet that you'd love to go to. You know, it only keeps coming up to me and this is what's so funny, Glenn, before I went to Vancouver to speak at the Big Vision Research Conference right before the pandemic and they featured my Ted talk and whatnot, I had never left the United States and my oldest son had been the England like there, and I had no desire. I'm like, I don't know anything about anywhere else, like I am. It was enough for me to move out of Philly to the Midwest for a little while. I had to come back. So I didn't understand it out there, but, um, I didn't want to travel. Now I feel like when I did Vancouver and back by myself, you know, and and figured all out, customs didn't quite understand. I just acted like this this goofy philly girl that I just kept saying, I don't know, I'm a Philly girl, could you love me, you know, and every thought that was charming and funds or whatever. Um, after I did that and I started realizing, man, there are, the Vancouver harbor itself is so gorgeous that I was like, I need to see more places like that and experience more places. And interestingly, my boys love to travel. Because I think that the disconnect is we see the pictures and we read about they like to be in a place and hear the people's accents and feel the temperature. They just like to experience it fully, and I was never really super up for that. Now I'm like, Oh, I want to do that too. Yeah, Vancouver is one of my favorite cities. I've been there multiple times. Oh my gosh, it's gorgeous, gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. All right, two more questions. Um, if all of your close friends, family, people who really know you, I put him in a room and said, describe you in one word. What's the word they would use to describe you? I would hope that they would say happy. Right now, okay, it's happy. Was Gone for a couple of years, Um, and I and the funny thing is there's almost nothing, there's almost no boxes on my wall ch act right now of all the things that I have going on...

...and I actually am enjoying the process of making things happen and not just looking at that finish line and standing there. So good, good, well, I like happy, happy, he's good. Um. Okay, last question. We've talked about a lot of things and, as I said, I am I cannot thank you enough for being here. This has been a really great conversation for me personally, so I appreciate that. But people listening, if there was one thing that you hope they would take away from this conversation, what would that one thing be? Check how you're looking at things. Check that Lens that you're using to look at your own challenge, to to look at somebody else in front of you and and check what what is the Lens that you're using? Is it all of the information that you you do not have and you're you're a little cloudy on that Lens and can you can you just put a new Lens in there? That opened your eyes in your mind to a different a different perspective. Love that. Love that. Well, as I said, I could sit here and we definitely could get into a ton of different conversations. So I really do appreciate that, Um. So please tell everyone, and I'll list a lot of things in the show notes too, but tell people how they can connect with you, Um, follow you, you know, understand more about what you're doing for the blind community and all of us in general. I am, I believe, on every platform that I'm on, including Tiktok, and that's pisting off my daughter that I'm getting pretty good at Tiktok. I'm Kristen smedley everywhere and it's Kristen with an I n Um us I ns are very particular that you don't spell it with an e N. Smedley pretty much everywhere you can. The thriving blind community is big on facebook and Thriving Blind Academy Dot Org is the new platform that is Um has launched and is is gonna be. It's the game changer for this community. Can you can go on there and see the different programs Um? We're adding features all the time. The Children's book, the film, it's all coming out there great and we'll link everything in the show notes. So again, thank you so much. Folks. Please follow. Please go listen to the Ted Talk. Please get the book thriving blind. You will not. I will tell you it will definitely change your view on just life in general. It is very well done and, like I said, I appreciate your time. So audience, you know the drill. Please understand there is someone in your network that could benefit from this conversation. Please make sure you share this out. Be that person that's gonna pass it on and help others. As we ask all the time, please subscribe, please rate the podcast. That helps us out there and, as always, uh, there's a lot of places for you to consume content, but the fact that you spend time with Kristin myself today, we both appreciate it so much. Thank you so much for your attention. Thank you, Kristen, for all you're doing. I wish you nothing but continued to set success. You are a blessing to everyone that you run across, and so for all of you. I will see you next week on another episode of you're in charge now. Thanks again. See You.

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