If you’ve followed this blog, or watched me on Facebook or Twitter, or if you've known me personally for any length of time, you know that I don’t do anything in halves. Whether I’m teaching a Bible study, conducting a podcast or even visiting Disney World with my kids, I am focused on that activity with my heart and soul, to the exclusion of all else. You also might have noticed that I never back away from a challenge. In fact, I thrive on situations where the odds are long and the goal seems all but impossible to achieve. Some might call that boundless energy and enthusiasm, and some might call it just plain crazy. Whatever you call it, that inexhaustible passion and willingness to challenge the status quo have served me very well throughout my life.

I can vividly remember flying to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2001 to meet with a group of business people. As I stepped on the plane, I had a moment or two where I questioned what exactly I thought I was doing. I was a young guy with a growing family, and while I had been an entrepreneur since I was thirteen, I’d never walked in to a boardroom before. I wasn’t even a high school graduate. How could I possibly think I could walk in to a room with well-educated, seasoned business men and hope to get anywhere at all. In that moment of doubt, I could very easily have turned around and headed home with my head hanging in shame because of all the things I lacked. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had an idea … a dream, a vision, and nothing was going to stop me from pursuing it, especially not my own self-doubt.

You see, there was this magical thing called the Internet which was rapidly becoming a staple for people of all walks of life. Everybody likes shopping. Everybody likes music. Everybody likes communicating with people, right? On the Internet you could get all that and more, at least if you were sighted. But what if you were blind? If you were a blind person like me, with a love of gadgets and a willingness to try new things, then you could get on the Internet, at least if someone bought you a thousand-dollar screen reader and paid for your training in how to use it. But what if you didn’t have such a benefactor? What if the only technical gadget you could operate was the radio? What if you were retired and buying a very expensive computer and a very expensive screen reader wasn’t in the cards? What then? At the time, those were the thoughts that kept me up at night. I recognized that the Internet wasn’t just a fad, but rather that it had the power to open countless doors for the blind population. But as a community, we weren’t going to get very far if most of us had no access to the Internet in the first place. I knew someone had to get the ball rolling to fix that, and since I was the one thinking about it and praying about it, that someone might as well be me.

So, with a great idea, big dreams, and very little else, I set out to make my vision a reality. I wanted to see blind people using all kinds of technology just as easily and affordably as our sighted counterparts, and from that idea Serotek was born in 2002.

Getting things started was not a piece of cake. Michael Fox was the tough business guy who presided over my meeting in Minnesota. He asked a lot of critical questions and dared me to defend my plans. I was glad he did so, because he made me drill down to the details and convince myself even more of the potential of my business venture. After I passed his initiation we became great friends, and the strength of this friendship helped shape one of the most innovative companies in the assistive technology industry, even by today's standards. Beyond his support and friendship, Michael Fox has served as my mentor, and I can say without any doubt that neither I nor Serotek could ever have come this far without him. We have argued pretty heatedly over the years, but it is with his support, guidance and tough love that I have gained a better understanding of business, and have grown tremendously as a person as well.

Eleven years after that fateful trip to Minnesota, Serotek, and technology in general has changed pretty dramatically. The company has grown from selling a single standalone product to a trend setting corporation with six products spanning multiple platforms and a media outlet that is consistently praised as one of the best in the industry. We were the firsts to go where no traditional vendor had gone before. We dared to eliminate the screen reader software maintenance agreement. We defied conventional business practices and gave you a sophisticated product at a fraction of what the old establishment was charging.

It’s not just Serotek that has grown and thrived. Companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft have finally embraced the idea that blind people should be able to use off-the-shelf technology accessibly without any additional cost to the user. In 2001, it wasn’t common at all to meet a blind person who not only had a computer, but knew how to use it. Now, blind people stroll around gathering information from their environments using the smart phone in their pocket. Thanks to Serotek, they visit a friend’s house and use the computer there just as easily as they use the one or two that they have at home. We’ve come a very long way, and as I survey my domain and the tiny corner of the world I inhabit, everything looks better than most blind consumers would have dared imagine just a few years ago.

So now it’s time to pat myself on the back and breathe a sigh of relief, right? I did what I set out to do. Not only do I have a desktop computer that’s accessible and easy to use, I also have a whole bag full of gadgets that are fully accessible from where ever I may decide to work. They are all off-the-shelf, not from some company that “makes products for the blind.” I’ve not only learned how to advocate for myself but provided a platform for others to do the same when things aren’t accessible, and I belong to a community of blind people who recognize the power to change things with a single voice, and are just as passionate about using their voices to make a difference as I am. Leveraging the talents of an amazing team of dedicated blind people and the priceless guidance of my dynamic co-founder, I helped build a corporation that dared to poke the status quo in the eye. We recruited a team whose dedication, passion, and expertise is unparalleled in this industry. This team has taken my God given vision and not only lived it, but taken individual ownership of it as well. They have brought it to fruition in ways that neither I nor anyone else could have ever thought possible. As I look at everything that we as a team have accomplished over the last eleven years, I am both proud and humbled. Still, I am only observing from my tiny corner of the world, and I know that there is so much more of the world to explore, and to change.

I am truly honored that the Serotek team has walked with me on this journey of turning a dream in to reality, and there is no better or more capable group to carry that vision forward. I can look at myself and my team and know with full confidence that my purpose in creating Serotek has been more than fulfilled. If I chose to, I could continue running this business for another 11 years of my life. I could get up in the morning, design interfaces for new and innovative software, manage all the intricacies of development cycles and timelines, and motivate the team to keep striving for greater heights. I could do that, but I can’t do that and be true to my heart felt passion toward our community. I could do that, but, it isn’t what puts a smile on my face and a fire in my belly to change the world. And make no mistake, the world does need changing.

Today, thanks to the advocacy efforts of so many remarkable people, in the industrialized world accessibility is becoming the norm rather than the exception. Still, blind people do not all live in industrialized societies. In fact, there are lots more blind people in developing countries, if for no other reason than that living conditions can be so deplorable that the idea of managing a medical condition is far-fetched at best. What is being done to provide the blind population in those countries with the same advantages we have here? What is being done to make sure that those blind people can embrace opportunities beyond begging on the streets for survival? What is being done to teach the children and the culture around them that they are just as smart and capable as anyone else, and that dreams don’t have to exist only in their minds and in more affluent countries? What is being done to introduce those blind people to successful role models? The answer is simply: not enough.

It is now these thoughts that drive me, inspire me, keep me asking questions, and keep me up at night. And just like 12 years ago when I considered starting Serotek, I have realized that if I’m the one dreaming about it, thinking about it, praying about it, I’m the one who needs to do something about it, with God’s leading. I believe God has a plan for each and every one of us. I think if He gives us the power to dream it He gives us the ability to do it even if we sometimes don’t live long enough to see the completed picture.

“Okay Calvo, that’s a really motivational diatribe, but what are you getting at?”

Good question. The upshot is that I have made the decision to step down as CEO of Serotek. In the months ahead I plan to tackle a number of personal and professional goals. I plan to focus more on public speaking. I believe I have a story that could inspire others to pursue their own passions. I plan to finish my book: “Lack of Sight Doesn't Mean Lack of Vision.” I am also excited to take over as Executive Director of the AIR Foundation, whose mission is to educate the world that accessibility is a fundamental human right, not a privilege. It is my dream to see every blind person with the power of technology in their hands, not just those blind people who were born in a geographic location where technology is more readily available because it is a more lucrative market for business. It is my dream to see every blind person find the power within themselves to be proud and confident in who they are, blindness and all.

While I am stepping down as CEO I remain a board member and shareholder at Serotek. This is not the end for me and certainly not the end for Serotek. My partner and friend, Michael Fox, the same guy who challenged me to stretch myself as an entrepreneur, will be heading up the company in the interim. We've worked shoulder to shoulder in making this a venture uniquely different from anything in the blindness field. Michael brings more than twenty-five years guiding large and small companies to successful momentums, and I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that he will carry the ball forward with grace and purpose. I encourage you to stay tuned to this blog and SPN to hear more about the exciting things the Serotek team has in store.

This is a new beginning for the Serotek family, a fresh launch for the AIR Foundation, and a daunting but exciting new thoroughfare in my life’s journey. You’ve come with us this far, and it is my hope that you will continue to be as dedicated to the dream of universal accessibility as I am. Thank you for walking beside me. Thank you for your overwhelming support. Thank you for taking up the cause to walk even further to make our vision come alive.

August 05, 2013 by Mike Calvo | Comments (2) | Calling | mission | dream | vision

Get MP3 (24 MB | 31:43 min)

Welcome to the first monthly episode of the Blind Jesus Freak Podcast. We will return to a weekly format in September. This week, contemporary Christian artist Ginny Owens joins Mike Calvo and Jamie Pauls to discuss the topic of worship. What is it? Why is it so important? How does it work? We may not have all the answers, but everyone shares from their hearts in this podcast and we trust that God will be glorified as you listen. Enjoy and please do leave a comment.

Scriptures On Worship

2 Chronicles 20:21-22 (KJV) 21And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever.

22And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.

Psalms 99:5 (KJV) Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.

Psalms 96:9 (KJV) O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

Psalms 99:9 (KJV) Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy.

Matthew 14:33 (KJV) Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

John 4:23 (KJV) But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Romans 12:1-2 (KJV) 1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Please tell all your friends about us and feel free to follow us on Twitter or send us an email with any questions. Also feel free to leave a comment here and be sure to check us out weekly or better yet, add us to your favorite podcast software.

June 21, 2013 by Mike Calvo | Comments (0) | Podcast | worship | summer | music

Summer is the time when everyone loves to be outside with friends and family, take vacations and clean out the garage. Well, ok, so maybe we're stretching things a bit with that last chore, but you get the point. We recognize that schedules change during the summer months, and The Blind Jesus Freak Podcast is making a bit of a change as well. Our podcast will be moving to a once monthly format for the next three months. We aren't setting a date in stone to record live for each month, so you'll need to check our Web site or follow us on Twitter to find out when our next podcast will record. We'd love to have you join us live, but we realize that many of you are unable to do so. If you prefer to listen to us using your favorite podcast software, be sure to check our feed regularly as we will certainly be updating our content. While you wait for the next podcast feel free to browse many of Mike's past teachings and even listen to some of the older podcasts.

Please remember that everything besides recording of the podcast will be the same so please don't stop sending us your prayer requests and comments. Thank you for your loyalty to this ministry.

May God richly bless you all, have a wonderful summer, and be a Freak About Jesus!

Please tell all your friends about us and feel free to follow us on Twitter or send us an email with any questions. Also feel free to leave a comment here and be sure to check us out weekly or better yet, add us to your favorite podcast software.

June 04, 2013 by Mike Calvo | Podcast | Summer

Get MP3 (24 MB | 36:23 min)

Title: Must We Suffer in Silence?

The topic of suffering is not often discussed in many churches, yet the Bible guarantees us that we will be required to experience it in our Christian walk. In this week's podcast, Mike Calvo shares from his heart what God is teaching him about suffering in his own life and in the lives of all Christians.

Here is a scripture along with several Facebook posts from Mike dealing with the subject of suffering:

Bible Gateway passage: 2 Thessalonians 3:5 - New International Version May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Facebook posts from Mike Calvo Fortunately the good news of the Gospel is not an admonition to: "Hold on to God with all your strength and willpower and you'll be okay." The good news of the Gospel is not some encouragement to view your suffering in the right way or understand the theology of the cross more deeply. No, the good news is that God is hanging on to you! He's not waiting for you to save yourself or mature in to someone who no longer needs Him. He will never let you go, no matter what! Jesus will never ever leave you nor forsake you!!! Nothing you can do or not do can separate you from the love of Christ!!! In fact, the only thing God needs from you may be the only thing you have to offer, your death. Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to reward the rewardable, improve the improvable, or correct the correctable, He simply came to take a stand on a death He can use instead of on a life He can not.

Grace is available because Jesus went through the valley of the shadow of death and rose from death. To your pane the gospel says, "you will be healed." To your shame the gospel says, "you can now come to God with confidence!" To your rejection the gospel says, "You ar accepted!" To your lostness the gospel says, you are found and I won't ever let you go!" To your sin the gospel says, "you are forgiven and God declares you pure and righteous!" To your death the gospel says, "you were once dead but now you are alive!" Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the true path through suffering.

Please tell all your friends about us and feel free to follow us on Twitter or send us an email with any questions. Also feel free to leave a comment here and be sure to check us out weekly or better yet, add us to your favorite podcast software.

Surprised by Grace (Unabridged) By Tullian Tchividjian
Glorious Ruin (Unabridged) By Tullian Tchividjian

May 31, 2013 by Mike Calvo | Comments (0) | Suffering | Faithwalk | Church

Get MP3 (19 MB | 28:13 min)

What does a true friend look like? How could Jesus ever consider us a friend? In this week's podcast, Mike and Jamie discuss these questions and share some deeply personal life experiences that graphically demonstrate the power of true friendship.

John 15:13-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB) 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. Don't forget to visit us on Tuesday nights at about 9PM. Eastern for the live recording. Please tell all your friends about us and feel free to follow us on Twitter or send us an email with any questions. Also feel free to leave a comment here and be sure to check us out weekly or better yet, add us to your favorite podcast software.

May 23, 2013 by Mike Calvo | Comments (1) | Podcast | Friends | Friendship | Jesus