She inspires us because despite physical challenges, Ashley Fiolek, a 19 year old Millennial woman lives her passion everyday.  As usual, the first Success Magazine edition of 2011 is full of great informational and motivational articles.  One of the articles that particularly resonated with me is the one written by Alice Daniel in the Your Personal Best column.  The name of the article is “Off the Beaten Track“.

It spotlights a young woman who happens to be deaf but yet manages to be a two-time Womens Motocross champion.  I have to admit that I was not familiar with the sport of motocross but from the article I now understand it a bit better.  Basically it’s a race,  where dirt bikes  speed down a beaten track with very sharp corners.  Apparently, the sport is known for its distinctive sounds as engines roar and bikers zoom past other bikers.  But Ashley Fiolek has proven that assumption to be wrong since she can’t hear those distinctive sounds. The article goes on to explain how Ashley’s family first discovered she was deaf and how from a very young age she never let that stop her from communicating and living her life.  In fact, Ashley believes that her inability to hear all the loud sounds on the racetrack contribute to her success.  Instead of getting distracted, she “feels” the vibrations of the bike and that tells her what she needs to do.

Ashley has gone on to win various championships and she was the first woman motocross racer to be signed to the Honda Red Bull Racing team.  Awesome, isn’t?  What I like about this story aside from it’s very inspirational message are 2 things:

First, it shows the strong family ties that Millennials have with their parents.  From an early age, Ashley’s father, a former amateur racer, put her on a motocross and she started competing at age 7.  When her parents discovered that Ashley was deaf, they moved to Florida so she could attend teh Florida School for the Deaf & Blind.  In 9th grade, they began to home school her so she could be more active in the motocross circuit.  Her mom is always close by and helps her with whatever she needs.  Millennial parents go out of their way to ensure their children have the best experience and advantages they can possibly have.

Second, the story shows the possibilities that Millennials have.  They are fearless.  They have the support of parents that encourage them to fulfill their dreams and are there to help them do that.  Millennials are creative.  Look at how Ashley has turned her passion into a strong brand by being the first woman to be hired by a motocross racing team.  Imagine how she will inspire other young women to follow their dreams and more importantly, to go into the sport if that is their desire.  Finally, it shows how giving Millennials are.  In addition to racing, Ashley is very involved in speaking to young audiences that are deaf and, like most Millennials, is actively involved in charities.

Ashley shows the characteristics in most Millennials: optimistic, fearless, bright, creative & giving.  When harnessed correctly, those characteristics are powerful & are a huge benefit to any organization.  But first, you have to know it’s there and you have to know how to tap it.  Sadly, many organizations are not doing that because instead they focus on what Millennials DON’T do instead of shifting the mindset & seeing what they CAN do if only that talent gets tapped. 

As 2011 begins, let Ashley inspire us all to see the possibilities and not let our personal challenges hold us back.  For those leaders that have Millennials in their teams, take a step back and really get to see and get to know your young workforce.  They have a lot to offer and, like Ashley, they can be groundbreakers if given the right opportunity & direction.  Be the one to open the door to that possibility.   It will be a game changer  and a win-win for everyone.