Blind Ambition

It has been said that life is not just what you make it, it’s what you make of it in your mind. Few people, of any age, have mastered the mind over matter approach as 23-year-old Robert Jones has. Blinded by a stray bullet at age 10, Jones sees tragedy — not in what happened — but in what might have happened had he not been shot.

It was April 4, 1990 — an ordinary Tuesday in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, a local housing project. After school, Jones and his friends had gone to the video arcade and were headed back to his grandmother’s to get some money when a gang member’s bullet changed his life forever.

“We were waiting for the elevator in the breezeway,” Jones recalls. “I bent down to tie my shoe and when I stood up, I got hit. The bullet went into my left temple and came out through my right eyelid. It took my sight immediately.”

The target of that bullet, a rival gang member sitting on a nearby bench, was unhurt. “I thought something fell on my head,” says Jones. “That’s how hard the impact was, but I never lost consciousness.”

Released from the hospital a week later, Jones and his family went about the business of piecing his new life together. The changes were not dramatic, but they would prove to be critical. He enrolled in a different school, and he started taking piano lessons, thanks to a retired blind woman, Virginia Rice, who offered free lessons to visually impaired students. With music as his anchor, Jones began to float.

He started performing in church and his developing talent became local news. As his neighborhood became increasingly violent and drug-ridden, many of his childhood friends were sucked into the street life. Jones, meanwhile, continued to rise, becoming a champion on Chicago’s open mic circuit, working as a songwriter and producer for Trakz Inkorporated Music Group and, in June, graduating with a degree in music business from Chicago’s Columbia College. He is currently in negotiations to launch his own record label.

“I have the strong belief that God won’t give you anything that you can’t handle and at the tender age of 10, He decided I could handle this,” says Jones. “He also knew that, without it, there would be nothing but tragedy for me. If I hadn’t been shot, I wouldn’t have been introduced to music and I would’ve been right in the thick of all that other stuff because that was all I knew.”

Jones hopes to enter medical school next year in pursuit of a degree in psychiatry. His plan: to combine that knowledge with his passion for music and the inspiring perspective shaped by his life experiences to become a motivational speaker.

“I know my story inspires people,” Jones says. “That’s a potent force. How can I not use it to do as much good as I can?”

“My message is simple: Because I’m blind, getting through every day is like a war for me. I get bumps and bruises,