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Turning Obstacles into Opportunities


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Imagine in your youth discovering you had a condition that would result in the complete loss of your vision by the age of 20. For business leader and tech innovator Chad Foster, that was a devastating reality —one he initially thought he might not ever overcome.

On this week's Motivational Mondays, Chad shares his remarkable story of overcoming self-doubt and adversity by shattering traditional thinking of what he and others thought was possible.


Many people who know Chad's story are unaware that his loss of vision stems from a condition—retinitis pigmentosa, which he was diagnosed with at just three years old. As might be expected, Chad admits at first he did not handle the situation well. Back in those moments of first coming to terms with his blindness in young adulthood, he candidly expresses, "It's a terrifying experience."

Today, reflecting after some extraordinary accomplishments, Chad refers to that time in his life as an era of invaluable life lessons learned through that experience. Expanding on this sentiment, he shares, "It's a really difficult time because you have all of these hopes and dreams for what you want to be when you grow up. I was going through that very tenuous period in my life where I'm trying to figure out what do I want to be when I grow up? And it wasn't blind."

For Chad, this triggered an unexpected "odd period" of questioning his self-identity. After losing his vision, he became overcome with fears, uncertainty, anxiety, embarrassment, and even shame about his situation.

It's surprising that someone might feel shame over an unavoidable medical condition, but Chad admits, "I was ashamed of the fact that I didn't have eyesight that was as good as it used to be, or as good as my classmates or peers. So it was a challenging time for me."


For all Chad has endured, to say he overcame a challenge is an understatement. But he decided he would not be a victim. Instead, he chose to become an inspiration for millions of people. As a leader, his role is to guide teams on how to overcome obstacles to achieve success. Leadership is most authentic when it's rooted in personal experience distinguishing between those who talk the talk vs. walk the walk.

Chad’s journey allows him to lead by experience having gone through very difficult days in which his future seemed uncertain. However, he went on to become the first blind executive to graduate from the Harvard Business School Leadership Program and he later wrote groundbreaking software that Oracle initially said was “impossible” to do.

Chad explains, “It all begins with defining our expectations for ourselves... I could have chosen to accept the expectations placed upon me by society, you know, and then some of that is, well, okay, you know, you went blind, and maybe you'll be content with reading books on tape or whatever the case may be. You have to just define your own vision for your future. I had to figure out what I could live with."

Though Chad's circumstances are unique, his approach to success in the face of adversity can be applied universally. He recommends that you ask yourself, what are your standards? What are you willing to accept and unwilling to tolerate?

Chad advises, "...once you figure out what that is, a big part of it is holding yourself accountable to take that next action, whatever that next goal is. And so, for me, I had to relearn how to learn in college. I had to switch majors, and it turned out I was a better blind student than a sighted student."


Chad’s new book, Blind Ambition, is full of his perspectives on overcoming life traumas, difficulties and embracing the mindset of going from victim to visionary. With such a robust story with many prolific examples to share, Chad offers one key lesson he hopes readers will take away after reading his new book:

"How you choose to look at your situation, and that as a choice — It can either limit you or carry you forward. I chose to look at my blindness initially as a burden, but now I've found out that it's actually a blessing..."

Chad further explains that "blessing" has forced him to reevaluate his focus, efforts, and determination to navigate life with a sense of gratitude.

To reinforce this idea, he shares, "It's learning to appreciate the things that you have and how I learned that the hard way, but that really is the anchor for everything. And especially our perspectives."


NSLS Members be sure to listen to the bonus episode where Chad shares the importance of having a support system and his leadership approach to keeping teams motivated.