Craig MacFarlane does over 200 speaking gigs every year. His frequent flyer miles rack up quickly and the Marriott hotel chain knows him well. For any speaker in high demand, frequent travel is just part of the package–and it certainly can be rough at times due to layovers, long delays, and canceled flights. For Craig MacFarlane, travel can be especially challenging at times. One airport blends into another because Craig is totally blind. He navigates his trips without the use of a guide dog or cane.
Craig and I crossed paths on Facebook when I saw a YouTube video of him barefoot water skiing. Never mind that barefooting is a freaking hard sport when you have normal vision–Craig does it with no vision at all. I mean no vision, nothing, nada. Craig became blind at the age of two and has no memory of being able to see. If you ask him if he “sees black,” he’ll tell you he has no concept of color and wouldn’t be able to answer that question. Craig pretty much defies limits. No vision? No problem. Craig took up wrestling at the age of seven and started racking up medals. He carried the Olympic torch in 1984. He learned to snow ski, decided to compete, and took the gold. He switched to water skiing, won another gold, and became a ski jump performer at the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Show. His career on the water ended when he attempted to do a back flip off the jump and crashed. Craig ended up with a torn hamstring, busted shoulder and three broken ribs. He turned his attention to a brief attempt at a music career (he can sing and play 11 instruments) and then went off to work for Edward Jones for over 18 years.
For those of you who love golf, well, guess what? Craig does that too. By now, you’re scratching your head thinking, “How does a completely blind guy play a sport that relies on vision?” To start off, Craig has his playing partner line him up with the hole and he lets loose on the ball. How well he plays depends a lot on how accurately his playing partner lines him up. His best score so far has been a 91. Not too shabby for a guy who can’t see when his ball veers off into the rough.
From the time he was a youngster, Craig was driven by an intense desire to measure up to his peers with normal vision. He pushed himself above and beyond, not only to win gold, but to win acceptance among those with sight. “We never reach our full potential if we haven’t clearly defined that ‘why’ factor,” Craig said. “Everyone needs to soul search and find out the ‘why’ factor–why do you do what you do? To get to your ‘why,’ start at the end and then work back. How do you want people to remember you? What is your legacy? Knowing this will help you determine the bold steps you need to take to get there, and that includes not staying in your comfort zone. When we are comfortable, we become complacent. Challenge yourself from within to go above and beyond.”
Fear is what holds most people back from reaching their full potential, Craig explained. Here, he shares more:
So many people throw the towel in the ring prematurely. Simply put, a lot of people don’t have what I call ‘intestinal fortitude’ to fight through the low moments in their life and consequently, they never come close to reaching their potential in all aspects of life personally and professionally. I think that fear of failure hamstrings a lot of people. It’s important to find your purpose and what you’re interested in. What this does, it lets you cope and deal with down moments–because you have a vision, you have a purpose, and that enables you to pick yourself up when others simply don’t. It’s really important to believe in yourself. I’m a big believer that everyone has a gift. Find your God-given gift–then use it to the best of your ability. Never be afraid to fail temporarily, because all successful people have failed. You have to be willing to fall, stumble, and get back up again. Those are the people who really really succeed.
Today, Craig works as a full-time speaker traveling all over the world to spread his message of P.R.I.D.E.: Perseverance, Respect, Individuality, Desire, and Enthusiasm. Craig was fortunate to be mentored by several prominent friends, including Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mario Andretti, and President George Bush to name a few. President Bush wrote the foreword for Craig’s new book: Craig MacFarlane Hasn’t Heard of You Either.
As busy as he is with all the travel, Craig loves nothing more than coming home to his wife Patti and their four children. “My greatest satisfaction is just with my family. We get away to Sanibel Island and totally unplug. Going there really throws another log on the fire for me–it really makes all the travel, all the difficult moments worthwhile–and puts them into perspective. Sometimes we can get the most satisfaction out of the most simple things–it doesn’t have to be material things–it has to be things that really touch and impact your heart. At the end of the day, find what it is that makes you happy, find what inspires you, find what enables you to push yourself to the next level of success and when you find all of that, you truly will be at peace with yourself.”