Being the first legally deaf player in NBA history, with 80% hearing loss, I have many people asking me: “How did you do it? How did you achieve your ‘unattainable’ goal of playing in the NBA?”
I know they wish that I had a magic wand to share with them. But I do not.
What I have are Five Principles of Perseverance, and I will share Three of them with you.
Accountability was first exemplified to me through the actions of my mother. And there is no better way to teach someone than through action.
The reason why I am hearing impaired is because I was born in my grandmother’s bedroom in a polygamous commune with no regard for RH incompatibility. My mother was a negative blood type and my father a positive, which is not a big issue anymore in our modern day world of health and medicine. Yet, it almost killed me.
I was nearly dead and saved by a small town resident from Johns Hopkins, who specialized in RH, because he was an RH baby himself. After two weeks in an incubator, undergoing several complete blood changes, I was still alive with no scientific explanation. My bilirubin titer count was 45. At 35, most babies are dead.
I should have been dead, and the doctor told my parents as much when he released me from the hospital, saying he didn’t dare publish this in the Journal of American Medicine, because he knew no one would believe him.
The only reason why I am alive today, is simply because I chose to be. Remember this concept of “choice” as we will address it further down. I chose.
The doctor was prophetic when he warned my parents to be on the watch for signs of hearing loss among other severe symptoms.
When I was 20 months old, as an aftermath of the RH factor, I was diagnosed with 70-80% hearing loss.
My mother could have felt shame and guilt and blamed herself, or even been angry with the leaders in our commune who gave poor medical advice. But instead, she chose accountability. All she could do to ameliorate her lack of follow through as a parent was to own up to it in her actions by having me fitted with hearing aides when I was 20 months old and at the same time enrolled in speech therapy until I was 15 years old. There were no amenities to learn sign language in this part of Montana as I was the only deaf kid within a 100 miles.
I resented my mother for many years for making me go to speech therapy, because it was a constant reminder that I was not normal. I just wanted to be normal.
Being a leader is lonely. You are never going to fit in- But that is not your path.
My mother never backed down. That was her atoning and taking accountability for her initial shortcoming as a parent. She owned her part. She could have felt guilt and blamed others, but how would that have helped or empowered me to be a leader of my own life? How would that have been accountable?
People of other deaf kids through the years have asked my mom through defeat and exasperation, “How did you get Lance to go to speech therapy? How did you get him to wear his hearing aides?”
To which my mother replied, “It wasn’t an option.”
When I began playing basketball at the age of 14, I wasn’t very good, and people were already telling me that I would never be able to play collegiately because my hearing wasn’t good enough. People have been putting limitations on me all of my life. I guess I just never cared to listen, I couldn’t hear them anyways.
With that being said, I made a promise to myself:
If I was going to play basketball, I was never going to use my hearing as an excuse if something “bad,” or disadvantageous occurred. I was so committed to that promise that through the years, when I misheard a play, because a coach was so stubborn and refused to use hand-signals, I would never ever say, “I didn’t hear the call.”
I would simply say, “Sorry Coach, I forgot the play.”
I was never going to prove people right with my excuses. When I own my shortcomings, I can then fully take credit for my success, and every success is that much sweeter and gives you that much reward for persevering.
I define integrity through a question I ask myself everyday:
Lance, are you the same person in every room that you walk into? Are you the same person no matter who is in the room, if they have money or not? Do you treat everyone the same?
Are you the same person in every room that you walk into?
Through childhood experiences and playing for many coaches that changed faces when the media cameras were on as opposed to a very different face when the locker room doors were closed, I have learned that integrity is maybe the greatest Achilles Heel of most who want to be in leadership positions.
Yet, it should be the easiest.
No man can serve two masters, especially if those two masters reside within the same psyche!
When you function from a place of integrity, you cannot fail. This is a promise I give to everyone. I cannot say where you will land, but when you are in your authentic space, genuine in your integrity, it is that much easier every morning to lace your shoes up one more time.
Integrity is the daily choice to remain consistent in who you are, no matter who is watching, despite the never-ending temptations of immediate short-term gain.
3- Be A Leader Of Your Own Life
We humans have this irrational fear of failure.
Because we are afraid of what other people will think of us. It is that simple.
But who are you chasing your dreams for? Yourself, or them?
Be bold. Always, be bold.
Failure is growth. Failure means you are stepping outside of your comfort zone.
We were not born to be caged within our comfort zones.
To me, the only definition of failure, is mediocrity. Are you settling within your bubble, within your comfort zone? Professionally and personally?
If you are, then you are not living. You are not being a leader of your own life.
Leadership is a hot word right now and everyone has different takes on it.
For me, with my experiences playing all around the world, being a team captain on most of those teams, I have learned that the essence of Leadership, is Perseverance.
And the essence of Perseverance is Grit.
And the essence of Grit?
Do I choose to pick myself up, one more time? Time and time again?
Let’s talk about choice.
The Essence of Grit is Choice.
Every goal I have written down in my life has come true. I have placed them above my light switch, where I read them three times every time I touch the switch.
But I write them like this:
“I, Lance Allred, Choose to be the first deaf player in NBA History.
I, Lance Allred, choose to be a best selling author.
I, Lance Allred, choose to be one of the greatest communicators in the world.”
I empower myself with the accountability of choice.
I take full ownership, through choice, of my success and my failures. I am a victim to no one. I choose my fate. I write the script for my life.
I choose to get up, one more time. Time and time again.
It is my choice.
It has always been my choice.
Just as it is yours: Do you choose to get up, one more time?
Lance Allred is the First Deaf Player in NBA History, Keynote Motivational Speaker and Best Selling Author
Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook: @lanceallred41
Watch his TEDx smash hit “What is your Polygamy?”