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Chad E. Foster: “None of us are perfect”

Self-love comes from learning how to accept, embrace, and love ourselves — even with our imperfections. None of us are perfect. We all have flaws. The key to self-love is learning how to love our flaws. While I constantly strive to be a better version of myself, I love myself with my imperfections — even with my total blindness and […]


Self-love comes from learning how to accept, embrace, and love ourselves — even with our imperfections. None of us are perfect. We all have flaws.

The key to self-love is learning how to love our flaws. While I constantly strive to be a better version of myself, I love myself with my imperfections — even with my total blindness and what it implies.

Growing up this way was not so easy. As my condition began to worsen, I was embarrassed and even ashamed of my disability. It was not who I aspire to be. Lots of kids participated in show and tell day in school. Some kids wanted to be a firefighter. Some kids wanted to be a nurse. Some kids wanted to be a teacher. How many kids got up there and said, when I grow up, I want to be a blind guy? Becoming a blind adult was not the most desirable outcome, but it had become my reality.


As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Chad E. Foster. Although Chad E. Foster lost his eyesight as a teenager, that didn’t stop him from becoming an executive for Red Hat, the world’s largest open source software company and securing over 45 Billion dollars in contracts throughout his career.

He is the first blind graduate of the Harvard Business School leadership program and did what Oracle said could not be done; he built a software solution that created job opportunities for hundreds of millions of people. His direct and confident style, combined with a go-for-it inspiring belief system (he is an avid downhill skier… and that’s not a joke), has made him a high-impact speaker for leaders at companies such as Google, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, GE and Microsoft.

Can you imagine going blind as a teenager? When most people were preparing for the adventure of adult life, Chad E. Foster was watching the world he grew up with fade to black. But that didn’t stop him from becoming the first blind person to graduate from the Harvard Business School leadership program and climbing the corporate ladder as a successful Finance/Sales executive. He works at Red Hat, one of the most innovative Tech companies and the world’s largest open source software company. With determination, ambition, and drive, he created what Oracle said would be impossible. He gave hundreds of millions of people the ability to earn a living by becoming the first to create customer relationship software for the visually impaired. With speaking invites from London to Beijing, and the Atlanta Opera crafting a story inspired by his journey, Chad inspires people to overcome their own blind spots. You can follow him @ChadEFoster and see his videos on his website .


Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.

My life changed completely when I lost my sight. I started off with a set of expectations based on my upbringing and abilities, however, after losing my eyesight while at university as a young adult, I was forced to reexamine my life and its meaning.

Many people are given the option to choose their path in life. They could be a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, or perhaps an athlete. Others, like myself, are left with fewer options due to extenuating circumstances, such as a life-changing disability. While in college, I decided to enter the business world because I thought it was flexible enough to allow me to pivot in any number of directions.

After going blind, I did not know what I could do — never mind what I wanted to do — and I had fewer options than most. Business was a broad enough field that, once I learned what was possible without eyesight, I would at least have options for professional fulfillment. And with the advent of the Internet and the booming technology landscape, there were a number of tools on the rise that could help me master the craft of information, which became my path to professional fulfillment.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?

My current project is writing a book, and I’m also speaking on stage much more often. I’m convinced that my “why” in life is to use my “gift” of going blind and of having learned so many valuable life lessons to reach and inspire others.

Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?

Self-love comes from learning how to accept, embrace, and love ourselves — even with our imperfections. None of us are perfect. We all have flaws.

The key to self-love is learning how to love our flaws. While I constantly strive to be a better version of myself, I love myself with my imperfections — even with my total blindness and what it implies.

Growing up this way was not so easy. As my condition began to worsen, I was embarrassed and even ashamed of my disability. It was not who I aspire to be. Lots of kids participated in show and tell day in school. Some kids wanted to be a firefighter. Some kids wanted to be a nurse. Some kids wanted to be a teacher. How many kids got up there and said, when I grow up, I want to be a blind guy? Becoming a blind adult was not the most desirable outcome, but it had become my reality.

My self-image never factored in the circumstances of going blind. In order to make this new image acceptable to me, I needed to figure out how to make it work. I had to figure out how to make blind look good. The technical term is called cognitive reframing. Now, what that really means is that I’ll learn how to tell myself better stories about my circumstances. And once we learn how to do that, we can start to imagine a future where our unchangeable circumstances become bearable. In fact, they become opportunities for growth — -possibly even gifts.

According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?

Society obviously places expectations on us for looking a certain way. Social norms reinforce these expectations. While I think it’s healthy to want to improve oneself, it’s unhealthy to not practice self-love, but these are not mutually exclusive points of view.

Now, I want to be a better version of myself each and every day. I want to look better, feel better, and be just a little bit smarter. That’s why I get up every day at 5am to work out. It’s why I take a very measured approach to the food I put in my body. And it’s also why I constantly read to improve my thinking across a broad range of topics. However, I do this while loving myself.

I approach issues that are inside my sphere of influence differently than those that are not. If I cannot change something, I do not worry about it. If I can influence it, such as my muscle tone or body weight, then I take it seriously, hold myself accountable, and work towards improving it. This allows me to productively use my energy while maintaining a healthy mind.

Using this approach is why my blindness does not bother me whatsoever. I cannot change it, so why worry about it. It’s also why I refuse to apologize or bee ashamed of my circumstances. Being born with this eye disease is the way I’ve been made. No one asked me about my preferences before I was born. If I had been asked, I would have been glad to tell them no thanks. Because I cannot change it, I’ll be damned if I’m going to feel the least bit bad about it.

And interestingly, now that I cannot see, I’m more inclined to meet and engage others in a more meaningful way. When we can see, we all — whether intentionally or not — filter those around us based on appearance. We often choose partners and/or friends based on appearance. Without eyesight, I am free from these biases. I am able to get to know the people behind the appearance more so than those who can see. This gift has given me a greater appreciation for each individual and the differences among us all.

As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?

Self-love leads to peace of mind and self-confidence. Self-confidence leads to higher levels of performance. Higher performance leads to more fulfillment. Being fulfilled leads to inner peace, and who does not want to perform at a higher level with inner peace? The foundation of our psychological health, our inner peace, and our life’s meaning, is self-love. Besides, if we do not love ourselves, how can we expect others to? No matter what happens in life, I’m going to be authentically and unapologetically “Chad.” If that does not work for some people, that’s okay, because it works for me!

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

Typically, it seems like they are too scared of getting outside of their comfort zones. This may be due to anxiety about starting something new, and it may also be due to self-doubt. They may not think they can find someone who really appreciates them in a way they think they deserve. Self-love allows self-confidence to flourish, and by doing so, enables us to live life on our terms.

When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but for our relationships, too.

What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?

If we look back on our lives 30 years from now, will we be content that we were the very best version of ourselves? Is it possible to be just a little bit better? Just a fraction more disciplined? A little bit more well read, or in shape? If we really believe we have reached our pinnacle in life, where growth is no longer possible, what is left in life? Life is about growth and getting outside of our comfort zones. Once we stop growing, we start dying.

If we are fortunate enough to live a long healthy life, and in those retirement years, will we look back grateful that we pushed ourselves to our limits? Will we have regrets that we did not stretch far enough? I’d much rather look back on my life knowing that I tried everything I aspired to do. Sometimes I failed, and sometimes I succeeded, but I will know that I lived my life to its fullest. I left no life experience on the table. That is the peace of mind I cherish.

So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?

If we do not love ourselves enough to be with us, how can we expect somebody else to want to sit with us? We have to love ourselves — alone and with companionship — to the point where we attract others to us because of our self-comfort.

How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?

When we know ourselves and what things are important to us, it’s easy to relate with and engage others in a meaningful way. Relationships will go beyond surface level, and into deeper and more rewarding levels of mutual admiration and appreciation.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

Individuals need to be able to create separation between themselves and social expectations. Instead of comparing ourselves against others in society, we should start comparing us to ourselves. Meaning, it’s not about how we stack up against others as much as it is how we stack up against ourselves over time.

Not everyone starts from the same place. Many start from a position of advantage,while others are disadvantaged. It is less about our current state — beauty, wealth, health, and other social pressures — and more about the progress we make along our journeys.

Consider someone born into a wealthy family with all of the privileges it affords. If that person were to attend a prestigious university and go on to lead a successful career, would that be the same as someone who was born into a poor family, who put themselves through college, going on to climb the corporate ranks? It’s all relative. It’s less about our situation or destination, and more about our progression.

We have to stop comparing ourselves to everyone. And, society — with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — does not make this easy. Society constantly deluges all of us with how everyone else is doing, And of course, no one is posting their worst moments online. When people are having a down day, and all they see online are everyone else’s best moments, it exacerbates the problem.

What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Exercise

Daily exercise feeds me in so many ways. Not only do I look better, but I also feel better because I summon the discipline to wake up early every day to do what most cannot make time for — taking care of myself first thing in the morning. I cannot overstate the fulfillment that this creates for me. I find tremendous satisfaction knowing that I take care of myself before I move on with my day to take care of others — family, company, friends, etc.

It boosts my energy levels, amps up my endorphins, and gives me a natural high that carries me throughout my day. And because I do it first thing in the morning, I don’t neglect myself. Leaving it to the end of the day would put it at risk of being displaced by other priorities from work or family.

2. Meditation

Similar to exercise, I also meditate regularly — usually after my workout. Meditation helps me create better awareness, time and space to practice mindfulness, and be more at ease with the ups and downs of life.

Once the day starts — waking up the kids, or the first meeting — it’s a non-stop windsprint to dinner, and having this time for myself at beforehand is just what I need to make my life routine sustainable.

3. Love for Learning

I simply cannot learn enough. I often find myself reading audio books when in the shower, during workouts, during flights, and just about any other time where I can get my Bluetooth headphones/speaker and a good book. I am constantly looking for an edge to be a better parent, person, or professional.

My humility allows me to realize that I do not have all of the answers, and I harness my genuinely curious and open mind to reinvent myself by learning as much as I can about the world around me and my place in it.

4. Dare to Be Great

We have to take some chances in life. Take chances to have an impact. To make the world a better place. After all, who is striving to be ordinary?

5. Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone

In order to love myself, I realize that I have to grow. I have to continue improving myself. As noted from the other keys to my self-love — exercise, meditation, learning, and being great — it’s important for me to continue evolving as a person. To be a better version of myself each and every day.

This requires that I get outside of my comfort zone. Life without discomfort is a life without growth.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?

My favorite resource for self-psychology is meditation. Currently, I use the app Headspace to guide my meditation journey. It’s helpful to have a meditation guide on my phone that I can carry around with me everywhere I go, and ensure I maintain awareness, balance, and peace of mind no matter what life throws my way.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it

None of us has to be wealthy or powerful to accomplish that, but we have to be willing to commit to the effort of doing so. Through my professional endeavors and my personal life experiences, I have been privileged to meet others who are committed to using their own talents to accomplish that.

Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

If you never dare to be great, you will always be mediocre. We all have to take chances. We can live carefully, safely, and timidly, but if we want to do something extraordinary, we will have to take a few chances. This involves getting outside of our comfort zone. In order to make a difference in the world, we’ll have to take chances — and dare to be great!

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

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