Persevering Through Tough Times: Ms. Wheelchair USA

Which are you using more of: your gift or your talents?


Yvette Pegues—founder and CTO (chief transformation officer) of Your Invisible Disability Group, and Ms. Wheelchair USA—discusses her strategy for persevering through the unexpected changes she faced during an illness that left her wheelchair-bound. Inspiring and full of optimism, Yvette shares that prior to her illness, she used only 20 percent of her gifts and 80 percent of her talents. When faced with adversity, she realized she needed to swap those percentages, and use more of her gifts to help herself—and others. By her example and leadership, Yvette helps others assess their talents and gifts, and advises them on how to best leverage them to achieve their goals.

When I was working for IBM and when I worked in the technical field, I realize now, in retrospect, that I was using 80 percent of my talent, my skill sets, things that I acquired and only 20 percent of my gifts, things that I was born to do. It just felt right. I mean, isn't that the America we live in? Right? You go to school you graduate, you get a good job and you get a white picket fence with two kids and a dog. 

But, after my injury, after this situational leadership found me, then I had to really step up while I was sitting down and I switched the numbers. I started using 80 percent of my gifts because I had to, and only 20 percent of my talent. Talent gets me in the door, but the gift is who I am. It's in my DNA and it doesn't change because I'm sitting instead of standing or because I have a brain injury or a spine injury. People believe that leadership is about leading people. It's really about breaking your own fears and breaking your own limitations and breaking your own records and allowing people to see that it can be done.

Because I said I wanted to change the image of disability, I figured I needed to create an image. So wasn't until a year into my disability that I even got on social media. As a technician, people were just amazed that I didn't have Facebook and I didn't have Twitter. I didn't see a need for it because I work with technology all day, but the best thing I could have done was created a Facebook or Twitter handle because people have reached out to me and said, "You know what, you've changed my life, you're inspirational. I have Chiari too." 

So I think to lead is to be transparent, to allow yourself to hurt on the outside. Because until you ask, until you hurt, until you are brave enough to be human in public, then no one will know that life's not perfect. So I was really excited that the situation changed my life, my life course, and my family and I hope to leave little pieces of this experience everywhere that I go. Because I don't expect that there will be major change while I'm alive. This may take another 25 years to impact the ADA, but I'd love to leave the country, the world, my family, my city better than I found it.

Yvette Pegues

Yvette Pegues, M.Ed., is celebrated worldwide for her first responder efforts helping neighbors and nations from Oklahoma to Haiti in the face of crises. Yvette is recognized as one of the nation’s leading authorities on traumatic bra...

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