Takeaways from Adrianne Haslet’s presentation

By: Kathryn Tremblay, Co-Founder and CEO Altis Recruitment, an affiliate of excelHR

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Lately I’ve been noticing we’re all—my team, community and myself—feeling a little shaken and in need of a lift. When I thought of someone who could energize and inspire, one person came to mind: Adrianne Haslet.

I’m a forever fan of hers and have followed her story on Instagram for years, watching her conquer each new challenge that comes her way. And there have been a lot of them.

In 2013, on the very day she won the title of one of the world’s best ballroom dancers, she was standing near the Boston Marathon finish line when the bombs went off, taking away her left foot.

She’s since turned that horrific experience into an opportunity to create an incredible life of gratitude. She has turned it into a chance to give back by sharing messages of resilience, belief in oneself and inclusion, and advocating for amputees and persons with disabilities. At a small, exclusive event last week, Adrianne recounted her journey to dancing again and running the Boston Marathon as a bladerunner.

You may wonder how this relates to staffing? I’m in the career business and believe we all have an opportunity to create an amazing future for ourselves and others. I was thrilled to see how Adrianne rallied us around that idea. We came away buoyed with optimism for the future and important ideas around inclusion.

Since this was a very exclusive event offered only to my team and a small group of my community members, I thought I’d share my key takeaways with you here.

Top 12 takeaways from Adrianne Haslet

1. Look beyond the here and now to see what’s possible.

While wheeling herself around in her tiny hospital room, Adrianne focused on one day running the marathon. It took years to get there and a lot of hard work, but she created that future. Lesson: We can all feel confined these days, with lockdowns, small home office spaces, barking dogs and screaming kids. It’s important to look beyond the confines of the present and work to create a positive future

2. Be open to the helpers in life.

After the bomb exploded, disoriented and covered in dust, Adrianne realized she had lost her left foot. An off-duty doctor carried her to safety, tied a tourniquet around her leg to prevent further blood loss and saved her life. Lesson: Be open to receiving help from others.

3. Share your dreams with others because they will hold you accountable. 

Days after losing her foot, Adrianne told both her doctor and Anderson Cooper she’d dance again and run the Boston Marathon, and once she said it, both goals became real and she didn’t stop working until she achieved them. Lesson: If you doubt you can achieve something, share your dreams with others. Their conviction will cheer you on and hold you accountable. 

4. What gets you to the finish line is nothing compared to what got you to the start.

In 2016, at the start of Adrianne’s first marathon, she doubted she could run the race. However, after crossing that finish line, she acknowledged that her journey to get to the start—the pain, training, grit, stamina and practice—was much more important than finishing. Lesson: When facing adversity, think of the progress you’ve made, rather than where you’re headed. Just keep moving forward.

5. To encourage resiliency, focus on what you’re doing in this moment.

In 2019, Adrianne was hit by a car while crossing a street, sending her back to the hospital for three months. She was very disheartened at the setback, but her coach reminded her: “You’re doing everything you can in this moment to be your healthiest self to attain your future goal.” Lesson: Resiliency can be as simple as sitting at home during yet another lockdown and saying to yourself, “I am doing everything I can do right now to get through this.”

6. “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Advocate for inclusion.

In 2020, Adrianne finally succeeded in seeing a Para division created at the Boston Marathon—the first of its kind in the world, including the Paralympics. She advocated hard for this division because amputees and persons with disabilities need to see others like them succeeding. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” she says. Lesson: If you don’t see yourself in the room or in a place where you think you belong, make yourself seen in that room or in that place.

7. Be inclusive of race, gender AND ability.

Persons with disabilities are the largest minority in the country. Lesson: To be truly inclusive, we must say, ‘We’re inclusive of every race, gender and ability.’

8. Shift from, “poor them” to “that’s cool!”

Adrianne wants society to get to a point where, instead of thinking, “Poor them” when we see an amputee or a person with a disability, we think, “Cool! I wonder if they’re an athlete?” Lesson: Instead of teaching children to not stare at persons with disabilities and amputees, teach them to treat everyone equally, make eye contact and smile.

9. When someone says something can’t be done, it’s a reflection of their limitations, not yours.

While recovering from the bombing, Adrianne was told she would never dance or run again. She says it was the doctor’s limitation, not hers, and only because he had never seen an amputee do those things. Lesson: When we say something can’t be done, it’s because we can’t see it. We need to continue to prove to others that things can be done and believe in the conviction of others.

10. Our lives can change in 3.5 seconds. Use time wisely.

Adrianne went from a world-ranked ballroom dancer to an amputee in 3.5 seconds and says it is up to us to make every second count, “because believe me, they do.” Lesson: Our time is our greatest gift, because when you give it, you can’t get it back.  

11. To avoid spiraling into negativity, remind yourself, “This is just a moment.”

While she admits to not always being optimistic, Adrianne says it helps to mentally interrupt herself when she’s down to say, “This is just this moment.” Lesson: Don’t let a negative thought or interaction rule your day. Acknowledge it’s just a moment and move on.  

12. Choose your closest circle wisely.

Adrianne’s closest friends are her “lockbox,” the people with whom she shares both her dreams and doubts. She has chosen them carefully. Lesson: When choosing your circle, take inventory of how you feel after hanging out with someone. If you’re drained afterward, maybe it’s not the best person for you.

This coming April, Adrianne will run her third Boston Marathon in the new Para category and, of course, hopes to WIN. We’re ALL cheering her on!

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