Craig MacFarlane has amassed an amazing list of accomplishments in his life, including being an Olympic wrestler, a water ski jumper and a singer, that are made even more incredible by the fact that he is blind.
MacFarlane is visiting the Kenai Peninsula this week to share his inspirational story of overcoming adversity and the wisdom he has gained from his experiences.
MacFarlane, 38, has spent the last 12 years touring the globe as a goodwill ambassador for Edward Jones Investments. He has spoken at three consecutive Republican National Conventions, several national organization meetings, over 200 schools, and at several other venues. He made his first Kenai Peninsula speaking appearance at the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce weekly luncheon at noon Tuesday at the Riverside House.
He told the crowd a little about his life, shared some of his humorous, memorable and inspirational moments and imparted his message that people can overcome adversity by not giving up on their goals.
"Everyone has down moments, days when they don't want to try," MacFarlane said. "We have to let those moments serve as stepping stones. ... By doing so we become better people."
While not everyone faces with the challenge of blindness, everyone does faces some sort of adversity in their lives, he said. Having goals, even short-term ones, are invaluable in overcoming those adversities.
"It gives us a reason as to why we should push ourselves on days we'd rather not," he said. "How we deal with struggles and challenges will determine how successful we become."
MacFarlane, originally from Ontario, Canada, lost his sight at age 2 after an accidental eye injury. While attending a school for the blind in Ontario, he began his impressive athletic career. MacFarlane started wrestling at age 7 and represented Canada for 11 years in international wrestling competitions.
He was on Canada's Olympic wrestling team by 1980 and won the 1981 World Championship of Wrestling. He has taken up water ski jumping, golf, track and field, ice skating and other sports, and has won 103 gold medals for his efforts. He has toured with a band and recorded an album, counts among his close friends hockey great Wayne Gretsky and the elder George Bush and is living proof of the advice he dispenses in his motivational addresses.
He shared his interpretation of the word pride with Tuesday's Soldotna audience.
The "P" in pride stands for perseverance, which is what pushes people to achieve their goals through the hard moments in life, he said.
Respect is what the "R" in pride stands for.
"If we don't believe in ourselves, we can't expect anybody else to believe in us," MacFarlane said.
The "I" stands for individuality, which is knowing your own abilities and not letting someone else tell you what you can't do.
"There is no one else in this room who knows what you're fully capable of achieving, so don't throw the towel in the ring too early," MacFarlane said.
Desire, the "D" in pride, is measured by the size of a person's heart, MacFarlane said.
"Desire, to me, is an attitude, that passion we have," he said. "I have never met a champion that wasn't passionate. Attitude is paramount."
The "E" stands for enthusiasm, which ties the other elements of pride together, he said.
Visualization is another important aspect of achieving one's goals.
"If you can't imagine yourself doing something before you do it you have a hard time harnessing that nervous energy," MacFarlane said.
After his presentation to the chamber lunch audience, MacFarlane spoke at the Soldotna Senior Center at 1:15 p.m. and at the Kenai New Life Assembly of God Church in Kenai at 7 p.m. Today he will speak at the Kenai Senior Center at 10:30 a.m., the Kenai Chamber of Commerce meeting at Paradisos Restaurant at noon and at the Boys and Girls Club in Kenai at 4 p.m.
He will be in Homer on Thursday, speaking at the Homer Rotary Club luncheon at noon and to the American Legion baseball team at 1:30 p.m. at the American legion facility.
The events in Kenai are open to the public; the Homer engagements are by invitation only.
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