Some people’s apparent handicaps are real keys to their success. Why do I say “apparent”? It’s because for some people with disabilities, what others see as handicaps, they see as opportunities to gain an advantage in life. They reconfigure their seeming disadvantages as benefits.
I believe this unique perspective reflects key elements of Vail Horton’s outlook on life. Vail was born with a severe physical disability: he has no legs. But don’t think for a minute Vail goes about living as if someone took out his feet from under him.
I had the opportunity to eat lunch with Vail this week. Vail, old friends David Austin, Brad Harper, and I grabbed a bite to eat in downtown Portland. While enjoying a bulgogi burger at a Korean diner, I experienced a rare treat, as Vail shared his energizing perspective on life.
Check out the video below to hear firsthand from Vail and those closely connected to him. Vail’s wife says that her husband has a deep “pool of reserve.” Vail’s “patience,” “humility” and “endurance for the twists and turns of life” are noteworthy. It is doubtful that he would have such a deep pool if he had not faced great obstacles and apparent roadblocks along life’s path.
Vail believes everyone has a disability that keeps them from doing certain things. In Vail’s case, he has not allowed his disability to keep him down. He even claims that being “low to the ground” is a real plus, as it is makes it easier for him to wrestle on the floor with his young kids! Vail lives victoriously rather than allow potentially disabling circumstances to victimize him.
We need people like Vail around us to inspire us to make the most of whatever resources we have to hand and be resilient when facing hardships. In a society where we easily avoid or patronize those with disabilities, we should realize that our imagined normalcy may stand in the way of us truly succeeding. Vail’s resume includes being the CEO/Founder of Keen Healthcare and Incight Foundation. Not bad at all for a man without legs. What Vail lacks for in limbs, he makes up for in hard work and creativity. Vail’s wife claims that “If he can do it…, what are my issues? Why aren’t I?”
In no way should this discussion be taken to suggest it is appropriate to discount the need for empathy in engaging people with disabilities. Rather, we all need empathy and encouragement to be the best we can be rather than make excuses for possible handicaps. If Vail chooses not to make excuses, but draws from a deep pool of patience, humility and endurance to gain mastery over his seemingly disabling circumstances, we who are “able-bodied” would do well to cultivate Vail’s “able-minded” outlook. Only then can we become truly mobile, as we navigate what appear to be crippling circumstances that life puts in our way.
No matter life’s hurdles, grueling training and trials, keep your eye on the prize and the finish line. Don’t look back, below, or from side to side. Offer one another an assisting hand along the way, but never make excuses for apparent handicaps. Such difficulties may become the ultimate keys to your success.