Take the Blinders Off: An Interview with Terry Kelly (Part 1)

The following blog was written by June Converse. 

Terry Kelly wrote “The Power of the Dream” and before I write about that journey and the song’s impact, it’s important to know who Terry Kelly is – to truly know the man behind the lyrics. 

Terry’s personality and outlook are exhilarating but it’s his soul that shines and it’s that soul I hope I can do justice. 

Because Terry Kelly has things to say WE ALL NEED TO HEAR

The Basics

One of eight children, Terry grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. Before he was 2-1/2 years old, he’d lost both eyes to retinoblastoma. 

After kindergarten, Terry attended the Halifax School for the Blind1 (later named Sir Frederick Fraser School for the Blind) which was 35 hours from his home. He hated being so far from family and friends and was sure to let his parents know how mean they were. Ultimately, he admits, it was the best decision. “At the school for the blind, no one felt sorry for me. Nobody cared that I was blind. When a kid jumped off the diving board, I did too.”

In 1978, he met Anne2 when Terry was training for the Paralympics where she was officiating and volunteering as a guide runner. They married 15 years later, settled in Nova Scotia where they raised three sons (including a set of twins).

Mind Sight Specialist

When you ask Terry about his career, he happily explains that he is a singer/songwriter who uses his talents as a motivational speaker. But then his voice lights up and he says, “I am a mind sight specialist. I teach people how to see in their mind, how to see themselves, how to see others, how to see the world. Being blind in your mind is more debilitating than being blind in your eyes.”

“Being blind in your mind is more debilitating than being blind in your eyes.”

 

“I Can’t” Language and “Feeling” You Can

His talks revolve around “I can’t” language and how important it is to get rid of that voice. “Stop telling yourself ‘I’m no good at this’ or ‘I’m so stupid.”

“I teach people how to visualize being able TO DO IT” (emphasis added). “I can teach that because I know it’s true. Rather than want to play basketball and telling yourself you can’t, visualize being able to do it – picture yourself actually doing it.”

We’ve all heard that before. But Terry added an element to this advice that totally altered the “I can’t” statement. “It [the visualization] must include a feeling. There has to be an emotional attachment to developing the [right] mindset. Visualizing yourself achieving something should – must – be an emotional experience. Feel the excitement. Thought + Emotion + Action equals Outcome.”

“Thought + Emotion + Action Equals Outcome.” 

 

The Dream Adjustment

“You dream of playing basketball. Set the goal. Identify your gifts. Then be willing to make a dream adjustment. Put a beeper in the ball and then you can be a basketball player.”

“When my son was growing up, I played hockey with him, but this was before the beeper in the puck had been developed. Instead, we used a tin can with marbles. Then we added beepers to the net. We’d get confused on the score, but my favorite hockey teams do that too. I could hear the puck. I could hear the nets. That is a dream adjustment.”

“I make Dream Adjustments in almost every aspect of life.”

Dream Adjustments are for everyone. When speaking, he’ll often ask the audience if they had a dream when they were younger that they never achieved. “A fantasy? Did you stop because you have a job, you’re too busy, too old, or you believe it’s too late?”

“What if you do a Dream Adjustment and find a way to do it a little differently? Don’t be debilitated by a disease I call ‘excusitis’. Figure out a way to make a dream adjustment … there’s no need for an excuse.”

“Don’t be debilitated by a disease I call ‘excusitis’. Be a solution builder.”

“I was always taught to be a solution builder. I was taught – and I teach – that you can figure out a way to make it happen. If it ends up being something that isn’t going to happen. That’s fine as long as I checked every angle!”

No Excusitis for Terry

Terry has a lot of experience making his dreams come true. He doesn’t struggle with excusitis. In 1980, he was one of the first 3 people who are totally blind to run a sub-five-minute mile at the Paralympic Games in Spain. He held the Canadian record in the 1500m. “We were trailblazers back then for a lot of people who weren’t running competitively.” He also played goalball at the 1980 Games. 

He’s completed the Camino de Santiago (“The Way of St. James”) 800km hike in Spain. He’s ridden horses through the Andes Mountains, regularly downhill skis and hopes to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro3 (which had to be postponed due to COVID).

“I did an interview on the TV, and someone asked me what I was going to do next. I said, ‘Skydive’. Well, my insurance agent said ‘No way. If you do that jump, we’re cutting you off.’ So, it’s on hold but the dream is still there.

Camp Abilities’ fight against excusitis has led to a great friendship between Terry, Lauren and the Camp Abilities mission. 

Camp Abilities and Terry Kelly

Terry met Lauren Lieberman (the founder of Camp Abilities) over 25 years ago, only one year after the first camp. “We just connected with a bang. Just like that!” Terry told me.

Terry has seen the camp develop and grow each year and several things really shine for him:

    • Camp Abilities teaches the athletes to “focus on their gifts and to make blindness secondary”.
    • Lauren’s follow-up with the athlete’s families, teachers, principals, etc. is really important. “[The athletes] have to deal with [people] who are frightened to death of having a kid go for a run or jump off the diving board.” Lauren’s reaching out to people who are obstacles helps everyone know that When We Believe, We Can Achieve.
    • “The one-on-one relationship with a coach is the most amazing component of Camp Abilities. Camp Abilities gives [the athletes] the skills and the competence and the belief and the knowing they can participate.” 
    • Camp Abilities helps the kids (and their parents, teachers, coaches) become DREAMERS who climb mountains.
  • Camp Abilities eliminates “excusitis” and mind blindness. 

 

Until COVID, Terry had been to every Brockport camp and plans to return in 2023.

 

Next Time: Dreaming and The Power of the Dream

 

~ submitted by June Converse

 

<<<Notes>>>

1Canada only has one School for the Blind now and Terry thinks this is a shame because so much can be learned in an environment where you are held accountable, and your situation is not unique.

2Anne Kelly is as delightful as Terry. They are a dynamic team and Terry was careful to remind me that it’s Anne with an ‘e’. One day I hope to write an article with her as the focus. 

3Terry called the Kilimanjaro hike “a little thing” he wanted to do. In the next blog, we’ll discuss mountains.

 

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