Angela Winfield: The Power of Thinking Less and Believing More
What would you think if I told you that you had the power to live the life of your dreams? What would you think if I told you that you had the power to overcome what you think are obstacles and to achieve what you think is impossible. And what would you do if you actually believed this?
For me, making the shift from thinking about what I thought was possible to actually believing that it was worth finding out not only changed the course of my life. It’s the reason I’m alive and here in front of you today.
Let’s go back to 1998. I’m fourteen years old and I’m living in my parents’ house in Newburgh, New York. I’m in my bedroom lying in bed and I’m thinking, I’m thinking really, really very hard about what could possibly be out there in the world for me. I’m legally blind, I’m black and I’m a woman. I know the statistics – 80% of black women in America do not have a college education. Seventy percent of working aged adults who are legally blind do not have a job. What did I want? What do I want? I wanted to be an attorney. (Laughs). And I was thinking, was thinking that it wasn’t going to be possible for me; that it was not possible for me. So I downed a combination of pills that I thought would kill me. Don’t worry, I survived. (Laughs).
Fast forward 6 years. I’m 20 and I’ve just returned home from college. Am sitting on my bed because I just lost my sight forever and I’m totally blind. Not legally blind anymore. Totally blind. And I get to thinking again. Now what is really out there for someone like me? But something different happened this time. I started to hear the whispers of the people that had supported me up to that point. I heard the whispers, ” You can do it. You can do whatever you put your mind to. You can create a life that you love living.” And I stopped thinking and started listening. And when I listened, I started to believe and I wondered what if they’re right, what if they’re right and that belief grew and I believed that it was worth finding out. So what did I do? I took action. I started moving. I went to London for a semester. I came back, graduated from Barnard college on time with my class. Went to Cornell Law School. Again, graduated on time with my class. Took the New York State bar exam. Passed first try. Got a job with one of the top law firms in upstate New York. I bought my first home. I started a real estate investment company. Bought some more properties. I started a motivation company and a coaching company. I got married to the man of my dreams. He is right over there. (Laughs).
I started serving and giving back to my community and I’m in line to be the youngest and first ever minority or disabled president of my local United Way. I did all of that not because it was possible. Who thinks anything like that would be possible. But I believed it was worth finding out. And when I share my story with audiences inevitably at least one person would come up to afterwards and say, “Wow! You’re so inspirational! Wow! That’s an amazing story.” And to tell you the truth, it makes me really angry because they say to me, they say, “You know, I don’t think I could do what you did.” You know why that angers me because I didn’t think I could do it either. But I believed it was worth finding out and what’s even truer is that I am not special. Yes, I have my own unique gifts, talents and abilities but so do you and the thing that allowed me to overcome what I thought were obstacles was something called the human spirit and it’s much mine as it is yours because if you are human, and I think you are, then you have this and you can use it to overcome obstacles.
So if you feel inspired by my story, if you feel moved by my words, if you feel that you need to share this message, then you share it. But to me, those feelings that you have, that’s just proof – that’s proof that you’re not only thinking what I’m saying is right. It’s proof that you believe that it’s the truth, that you believe it’s worth finding out. So what I urge you to do is to identify the things that you dream of having, that you think for whatever reason you can’t have and ask yourself one question: is it worth finding out? I assure you the answer is yes. Yes, it is worth it. Thank you.