Welcome to Job Insights Extra, part of the Job Insights Podcast with Serina Gilbert and Jeff Thompson, a podcast focused on the world of employment, career pathways and gainful and meaningful employment.
The Job Insights Extra podcasts are success stories, interviews and demos that enhance the experience of reaching that career you want.
In Job Insights Extra episode #2 we share the insights from Team Sea To See, a team entered in to the Race Across America (RAM). The team of 4 will tandem bike race across America dipping there wheels in the Pacific Ocean and racing non-stop to the Atlantic Ocean. While they were in the Blind Abilities studio promoting the race, they hung out to talk about a topic they feel is very important. We asked them what advice they would give to a student transitioning from high school to college and the workplace?
Jack Chen, dan Berlin and Tina Ament each took turns talking about their personal experiences and gave us some very good insights and we are glad to share the conversation with you all on episode #2 of Job Insights Extra.
You can check out the Race Across America podcast with Team Sea to See on Blind Abilities.
And check out Team Sea to See on their Facebook page.
You can learn more about Rebranding Disability Through Achievement on the web at Lime Connect
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Job Insights Extra #2: Advice from Team Sea to See on Transitioning and Rebranding Disability Through Achievement
Jeff: Welcome to a Job Insights Extra and today I want to share with you some job insights that came from Jack Chen, Dan Berlin, and Tina Ament.
They’re three quarters of the team of Team Sea to Sea, and they’re entering the race across America this summer and some of the feats these three have been in is quite astonishing.
From climbing Kilimanjaro, to racing in ultra marathons, world champion Hill climber, Google lawyer, a US attorney, co-founder of a major food company, the list goes on and on.
And be sure to check out the podcast with the Sea to Sea race across America.
I’ll put the link in the show notes and you’ll learn so much more about each of these individuals and the feats that they’ve accomplished.
While I had them in the studio I asked them some questions about transition age students and employment and I really appreciated them taking the time to answer these questions and being willing to share their experiences and advice with us, so please welcome Jack Chen, Dan Berlin, and Tina Ament on transitioning students and employment.
We hope you enjoy and thanks for listening to this episode of Job Insights Extra.
Job Insights is a podcast that is helping you find careers and gainful employment through innovations and opportunities and you can find the job insights podcast on blindabilities.com, part of the Blind Abilities network, and as part of the Job Insights podcast we will be bringing you the Job Insights Extras consisting of interviews, demonstrations, and news surrounding employment, careers, and jobs.
With host’s Serina Gilbert, and myself, Jeff Thompson.
And you can contact us by email at email@example.com, leave us some feedback, or suggest some topics that we cover, you can also follow us on twitter at Job Insights VIP.
So while we’re here I want to take this opportunity to ask you a couple questions about transition and employment and some words of advice.
Dan there’s a topic that you brought up and it’s about people not knowing what they can’t do, something of that nature, can you explain what you meant when you said that?
Dan: Yeah it’s so, it’s so true in human, you know our existence, and so often I mean, none of us know what we can’t do, we all know what we think we can’t do, but until you put it out there and actually try it, actually go for it, we really don’t know what their limits are.
And so often what we’re pushing up against as blind individuals just happen to have it highlighted more than others, but this is universal, we’re pushing up against our perceived limitations.
That’s something that all of us can challenge, that’s why this message can be universal, you know beyond blindness, beyond disability.
We catch a lot of attention because we’re a cyclist who was blind, or a runner who is blind has done X Y Z, and I hear the comments all the time from folks that say yeah, I can’t believe you run a marathon, I can’t believe you did an Ironman, I could never do that, and that label right there, it’s like, you know no, you probably could do it, you just, it would need a lot of work and and you know we tend to limit ourselves quite a bit right there.
And it’s so freeing to have those limitations removed, just that idea that you know we really can do whatever we want to do, it’s just where we’re going to focus and whatever we’re going to put into it, so attitude, effort, and discipline is really what it all comes down to.
Jeff: Dan, you mentioned at around age 30 you went through some vision loss and that you said you weren’t even much of an athlete, now I don’t know what not much of an athlete at the level that you’re at right now means, but could you explain that?
Dan: Yeah definitely, you know I started losing my sight when I was 7, and it was a slow progression all the way up through my 20’s and by 30 I was pretty much legally blind you know early thirties.
I was an amateur athlete, I was the type who would run two to three times a week 2 to 3 miles a time, I jogged for 20 minutes on the treadmill, I go to the gym once or twice a week and lift weights up until I was about 39 years old and then I had moved from New York City to Colorado, given up a lot the public transportation, was feeling pretty down, I mean I was, I was really low for a while, my whole family had moved out here with me, for me to start my own company out here.
I realized at some point that I needed to take on something to kind of turn my mental state around and that’s when I just started, I started running, I started just running around my neighborhood you know three miles at a time.
Soon realized I needed to find a goal and so signed up for a half marathon and took it from there, so I’ve been running now, I did my first half marathon, well it’ll be seven years ago, let’s see I’ll be eight years ago in September, so I’ve really started what I would consider converting myself into an average middle-aged dad about eight years ago into what I would define myself more as an athlete now, and it was completely done just by saying, I was going to do it.
I joke with everybody, I definitely don’t have the genetic gifts for running or pretty much any endurance sport, but I have the willpower to do it, and you know will trumps skills almost any day.
Jeff: Mm-hmm, now you also climbed Kilimanjaro, I mean is it just because it was there, or did you go down to your local gym and just start wall climbing and want another challenge, how did that come about?
Dan: Well you know it’s because it’s there.
Jeff: Well there you go.
Dan: Just kidding it’s, yeah that’s it, no it was just a challenge, you know was something that you know I love mountains I moved to Colorado like I said about ten years ago now and after being out here, I love being in the altitude, I love being in the mountains.
You know for me what a lot of this comes down to is this idea of setting a goal and going out there and focusing on it and seeing if we can achieve it.
Part of the excitement is you know is one of my good friends has a quote that he often says “if something excites and intimidates you it’s worth doing”
Jeff: Mm-hmm, that’s a good one.
Dan: And that’s what RAM is to me, that’s what I think RAM is to all of us on the team.
None of us are sure we can do it, but we’re all excited by it.
Jack: And I think it’s a really important point Jeff to drive home is, a lot of people count themselves out before they even get started right, I mean they ask the question can I, but they don’t say I can, and so I think that for all of us, I think I would say, where our blindness started, our lives really began, and what I mean by that is, it’s easy for folks and this is not just cyclists of course, but for anybody to have something significant happen to them, and in their lives, or to be treated in a particular way, our fifth grade teacher told me very specifically that, you know you don’t have to work so hard, government’s gonna take care of you, don’t stress out, don’t, don’t work so hard in school, because that was a kid who I really wanted to do well when I was younger, and I struggled, and so the mentality sometimes sets in that, well I do have certain limitations and I should really count the costs, and, and for me I’ve come to the point now where I say, well rather than thinking first about whether I can do something I say, how can I do it, you know, so it’s not can I, but how can I?
And that extra word adds an incredible amount of power and success in one’s life, and that’s kind of one of the things that we want to communicate.
Jeff: Well put, very well put Jack.
Tina, being that you lost your eyesight early on, how did you overcome the obstacles that you faced?
Tina: Well to some extent, with a lot of help, a lot of support from family.
I grew up in the days when my parents fought to get my sister and me into public school and we sort of fought for every you know, between them and, and, and us individually, we fought for every little thing, and on the be careful what you wish for side, you know there were, there was a lot of bullying, you know back then teachers didn’t care if kids picked on us, there was no stigma attached to bullying or any of that, so a lot of it was between that and being military kids who had to move all the time, you just had to learn how to jump in and swim, like essentially.
I think having sports and activities was a way to belong and I can remember when I was a, in fourth grade and I had a little bit more vision than I do now being forced into gym class, and the day that we were doing soccer drills and I actually saved a goal and the class cheered for me was you know one of the greatest days of my life.
I mean who remembers a silly a PE class in fourth grade, but I do because it was sports was a way do you belong with my sighted peers and I think it’s so important for anybody with a disability or, to have the chance to fit in because it’s, it’s such a big part of growing up in the states and you know, sports, music all these kind of activities that kids do, my parents and my sister and I both, we had to push ourselves to get off the sidelines and be able to do something to belong.
So I think you know, doing sports through, for me I’m a very competitive person, so like Jack, I always wanted to do well in school and was sort of you know very self motivated to do well, but it was hard and you did have to deal with low expectations, because a lot of teachers and and people didn’t expect much of you, and you know you had to find it within yourself to decide, hey I’m gonna go for what I think is important because, you know nobody’s going to tell me.
Jeff: Tina what advice would you have for someone who is transitioning from high school to college to the workplace, and has their job sights on employment?
Tina: Be your own best advocate.
I think that the hard thing about leaving high school is, and then about leaving the education environment going into the work environment, is that the older you get the less built-in support systems you’re gonna have, so my advice would be to learn early on how to advocate for yourself and how to dispel people’s assumptions about you.
When I started at my law firm out of law school there had been another blind attorney who worked there before me and he had left to go and teach and I started maybe six months after he did, and I got put in the same office as he had been, and I remember one of the partners coming in and saying, don’t let this firm decide that you are Max, you’re not Max, you’re you, and not that Max wasn’t a great guy and had a lot of you know great talents, and, and nothing against him, but you have to overcome people’s assumptions that either, they know what’s best for you, or whatever some other blind person did is what you do.
So I would say learn how to self-advocate and learn how to recognize people’s assumptions for what they are because sometimes you won’t necessarily see them unless you’re on the lookout for it.
Jeff: That’s a great point, how about you Jack?
Jack: One of the things that’s absolutely key is to find people who have done this thing, whatever it is that you’re doing before you, if that’s possible.
And one of the great things that I’ve also been involved with is creating a network of people who have incredible talents who have disabilities.
It’s called Lime Connect and its motto is to “rebrand disability through achievement” and one of the the great things about this organization is there are ten thousand, ten thousand plus other people out there who have disabilities who are doing what you’re doing, and who can act as a resource, and you know when you go to your first job interview and they ask you a question that you don’t know how to answer, like for example they come to you and say, hey, well how are you going to draw this drawing?
Well you go back to your network and you say, hey guys, anyone else face this issue, how did you deal with it?
And just being empowered by having this as a resource is incredible, incredibly valuable I think.
I know I didn’t have that when I was growing up but, sounds like Tina didn’t have that when she was growing up, but now there are resources available just, you know, quote unquote click of a mouse.
You can find people who are similarly situated with you or people who’ve gone before you so, finding those individuals who know what you’re going through and can help give you some advice and some support along the way, that our resources are out there, so go find it.
Jeff: Dan, I know these are two tough people to follow, but you want to give it a shot?
Dan: Tell me about it.
Yeah sure I mean, I have a little bit different perspective too because I lost my vision a little later in life so I was into my career and working hard at it.
I hid it for years you know kind of that fake it to you make it mentality, and then I had an epiphany at one point, I had this whole change in attitude that was so great for me, and the advice I would give to someone is to be yourself you know just be comfortable in your own skin, you know at the end of the day, you are who you are and nobody can change that.
The second thing is, with that in mind, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You know if you need some help, if you need to tap into your resources, if you need to ask somebody, hey can you tell me where this is, don’t be afraid to ask.
The third thing is, use the limitation as your advantage, you know, one of the things that whether we like it or not, and it’s just what Tina was alluding to here is, the standards are set lower for people with disabilities.
So not that, we have we do not have to live up to these standards, but that’s our benchmark now.
So it gives us the opportunity to achieve above and beyond these standards, so look at this as an opportunity.
Opportunity that the shackles are off, my expectations are low on what I’m going to do, so I’m just going to blow it out of the water.
Because my my downsides of being wrong is quite minimal, so take advantage of that, you know just go for it!
Tina: I would sort of add to that I, I think the one thing that sometimes you know I let for me or discourage me as, you know as I said before people are always making assumptions about you and the first thing they’re going to make an assumption based on, is that you’re blind or differently-abled, and so much of the time I mean, you don’t know how many times I get on to public transit and somebody says, do you know what stop you’re going to?
As though I would get my fare card, dress up and work clothes, and get on the train having no idea what stop I wanted to go to,
So it’s it’s sort of like half the world assumes that you’re feeble-minded, and then a quarter of the world assumes that you’re some sort of superhuman like you must have Steve Austin bionic man hearing and of you know computer chip implant for a memory because you actually get up and function in the world, so a lot of the time I just have to remind myself not to let either of those assumptions you know, or people say like, oh well you’re just so much more doggin and determined because you do your sports, it’s like well no, I’m not a Superman, I’m not a bionic woman, I don’t have a Harry Potter time turner so I can do twice as much training as anybody, I’m just a person who doesn’t see, and so when you strip away a lot of the assumptions, you have to remind yourself, like I’m not as great as some of them think and I am not as feeble-minded as some of them think I am.
But you have to I think really look to your own self to try to decide where your self-worth comes from because assumptions that a lot of people make about you are so bogus and so out of hand that if you listen to them you’ll drive yourself crazy.
Dan: To put that into you know perspective too, in our modern capitalistic business world here too, I would love nothing better than all my competition to underestimate what we as a company are capable of doing, and then you get out there and you just outperform it.
It’s one of the classic mistakes that people make you know in life and in business, and it’s one of those things where we again can turn the disability, we could turn the perceptions others have of us into a positive.
Jeff: That’s great, turn it into a positive!
Such a great opportunity to talk to Jack, Dan, and Tina, team Sea to Sea in the Race Across America this summer.
That’s Ram, Race Across America, we’ll be covering it, stay tuned, and such a great thing that they shared such great advice, such transferable advice, it’s not just for school, not for employment, but life itself that they shared with us today.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Job Insights Extra and be sure to check Job Insights on the Blind Abilities Network.
We hope you enjoyed, and until next time, bye bye.
When we share what we see through each other’s eyes, we can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations and the realities of blind abilities.
Jeff: For more podcasts with the blindness perspective check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter at Blind Abilities, download our app from the app store, Blind Abilities, that is two words, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening!